Senior Kindergarten to Senior in Highschool: It Happened in a Blink

 

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Emily and her Dad, circa 2004

I remember the day clearly. Getting my five-year-old ready for her first day of Kindergarten. Dressed in a stretchy, striped skirt, pink top and her signature style (at the time), several necklaces. Her blonde hair cut short in a bob…tights and patent leathers with straps, Emily was ready for school.

My heart was full of excitement for her, yet etched quite close, was the bittersweet feeling of knowing that this was the first big door she would enter through: school. And, these steps would move her farther from her father and me, from hearth and home to, ultimately, her own independence. I got choked up, turned to my husband and said, “It happened so fast. I can’t believe she’s going to Kindergarten. She is going to be grown up and gone before we know it.”

To which my sweet husband calmly replied, “Dear, she is only five, this is just the beginning. We have lots of time…” squeezing my hand tight to reassure me. Though, I think deep down, he shared this sense of knowing that our little “boo” was really growing up. She gave us each long hugs before she turned to meet a sea of new faces, seemingly curious and unafraid….

Fast forward to this morning. Sporting black jean shorts and the “seniors” shirt that all the girls planned to wear, her long, blonde hair straightened for the occasion, a bit of makeup on her summer sun-glistened face. My sweet, smart, stunning 17-year-old daughter had gotten herself ready for school. Backpack in tow, lunch (still happily made by me), and iPhone in hand to record the events of the day. Emily yelled good-bye to her father and allowed me to give her a good luck hug. Then, we were off…me driving her to her first day of school this year. The 13th year in a row that I have driven her to her first day. Each time, a rite of passage on its own merit, but this year tinged with something more.

The knowing that we have almost gotten her to the end of the road. The road that ends in high school. In our small town. The road that safely takes her to and from our house where she loves to regroup and recover from a long day at school or nights out with friends when she has to put herself out there. Home has become a safe haven for her and for that I am very glad.

Next year’s proverbial “drive” to school will take her down a new road. Unchartered territory to (hopefully) the college of her dreams. Where, we will drop her off, say good-bye and not see her for several months. We won’t have to pick her up after school or make her dinner. We won’t get to hear about her day or know exactly where she is or what she is doing at pretty much any point in time. The house will become more quiet. No more stories of high school drama, Instagram slights or loud music while she washes the dishes. No more hours to days of little to no conversation as she nests in her room focused solely on her teenage world; followed by the pleasant surprise of her broken silence and deep conversations about specific events in her life, reminding us she still needs us.

What I will miss most though is quite simply her presence. Her energy and adventures bring life to the house. I will miss her company. She is a beautiful, creative, thoughtful girl and I am not yet ready to say goodbye to her…even though it often feels like she is a renter in our home. Off with friends more often than not, usually present for family dinner — some nights engaged and talkative, others for the sheer obligation of it.

This is also the first time in a long time that I have begun to mark the passage of time in very small increments, like when she was in baby…first smile, first time she slept through the night, first word, first time she rolled over on her own, first Halloween, first Christmas, first playdate, first time we left her alone, and on and on. With each passing year, the acknowledgement of these firsts became few and far between…until they are now lasts. Last time I will drive her to the first day of school, last school photo, last action movie with dad, last family outing to Apple Holler, last Homecoming dance, last spur of the moment trips to the mall… and, marking these lasts feels even more bittersweet than marking the firsts.

But, now it is also her time to shine and my husband and I have parented in such a way that we want her to feel completely free to do so. She has a solid foundation, a good sense of herself and healthy boundaries. She is curious and ready to explore beyond the nest of our home, our town and even the state we live in. And, we applaud her for that knowing and that courage.

This point in life did seem to happen in a blink. Hopefully the next 18 years will move more slowly for me as I move into my new role of observer and advisor vs. being in the trenches with her, taking care of her most basic needs.

While I know it sounds cliché, time really does go by too fast, but now I often see it more in my life than hers. I see the short side of the stick for me and my husband while she has so many more milestones to reach…college graduation, a serious boyfriend or two, travel, engagement, marriage, babies and all of the other unpredictable life events that will challenge her and, at times bring her great joy and, at others, deep sorrow. Ultimately, she will learn to navigate and live within life’s hills and valleys, traversing on her own and then with her family. Throughout this time, she will hopefully reach out to us via text, phone call or visit and allow us in. Just to enjoy this part of life with her, and, of course, provide her with guidance. 

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Emi and Me, circa 2016

For, she will always be my baby. No matter how old…when she is 50 and I am in my 80’s, she will still be my child. My heart. My most precious gift.

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The Last Gift: My Dog, My Writing Companion

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Daisy & Me

We recently had to put our beloved dog, Daisy, to sleep. Usually a prolific writer, I am struggling to get words on a page. Words are not enough. Words don’t do justice to the depth of feeling that I still have for my dog who often lay by my feet or curled up next to me on the couch, keeping me company while I wrote. Seemingly knowing when I was stuck, she’d give me kisses, reminding that I was not alone.

Both my childhood dog, Kahlua, and my dog in adult life, Daisy, offered me the unconditional love and uncomplicated companionship that I have yet to experience with humans. A good dog is truly the best life has to offer–wanting nothing but love–to give and receive it. Daisy embodied that quality right up until the end.

 

She died one week after her 12th birthday and one week before my 50th. She had battled illness for several years, but other than slowing down a bit, Daisy never lost her main joy in life…to give and receive love. There is an emptiness in our house now. A quiet. Her dog bed is the only physical, daily reminder of her absence, but we don’t yet have the strength to put it out of sight. We aren’t ready to completely accept that she is gone. I sometimes wonder when she will come back home.

While my dog Kahlua became my “confidante” during my teens when I needed someone to listen without judgement, Daisy became my number one companion as I committed my professional life more towards solitude as a professional communications consultant and writer. She kept me company in my home office and I walked her whenever I faced writer’s block or needed a change of scene. My days never felt lonely even when my husband went to work and my daughter was in school. Daisy was always there.

Now that she is  gone, I feel a void inside my heart and inside my house. She really was my faithful companion. We walked many miles together on this road of life–hiking through forests, sauntering along bike paths, running in parks and sinking our feet (and paws) into sandy beaches. Her favorite, though, was going to town where everyone knew her at the stores. Daisy loved town…but she loved people more. She loved everyone, but mostly, she loved love.

She never shied away from a pat on the back or a neck rub or a hug. People often mistook her for a puppy. She had the love and innocence of a puppy. Towards the end, she became the quiet observer. Spending most days lying on her bed motivated to get up only by food. When the tables turned, we joined her on her dog bed…wrapping ourselves around her, petting her, loving her…unable to process the fact that her illness was taking over, that she was quite sick and it was likely her time to go.

Now, sudden and unexpected waves of grief hit me and I long to hold her. It feels like my heart just might crack open. Yet I know that this abiding love, entangled with deep pain, was her last gift to me. My writing companion left me with a grief so profound that I must stay open-hearted to feel it; I must move towards solitude to process it; I must tap deep into my soul where my creativity lives…so that I can continue on this path of life as a writer and a person capable of giving and receiving unconditional love.

I believe that when the pain hits, Daisy is pushing me to my best self, my most creative self, where I am centered, imaginative and free. And, her absence reminds that her gift of companionship and unconditional love will reside within me forever.

 

Writing & Yoga: Where There Is No Before & No After

I landed handstand this morning. Holding perfect balance for 30 seconds or more. Staring at my hands with my feet over head, I felt the delicate relationship between effort and ease; strength and softness. And, I was fully present, alive and in my body. In this moment, in this space where I literally turned my world upside down, I felt myself in the NOW. A space where there is no before and no after.

I need to be rock solid present to land and hold handstand. Whenever I do, I credit the teacher for guiding me to a place inside myself where I can access a deep sense of inner calm. With sheer focus, determination – and a lot of core strength – I can pop right into it. This morning’s handstand evolved easily after an hour of yoga. Where, over the course of 60 minutes, I let go of the voices in my head; the judgment; the “you cant’s” and “you aren’t good enoughs” …

I sweat, moved, twisted and stripped myself down to the real me. To my center where I am focused. I am present. And, I know that I can do anything.

Life is like that … the constant stream of technology, of daily living, of chronic “breaking news” stories. We live in a world where the cycle of thought rarely stops. Where we have a 24/7 information stream at our fingertips. Where the external world is constantly pulling us away from our inner worlds.

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Me, Curacao 2013

Being pulled by the mighty vortex…we lose ourselves. Our inner purpose collides with the outer world. And, unless we find a way to reign it back in, it’s no wonder we get lost. At least that’s how it is for me. So, I practice yoga…and, I write. And, these two seemingly opposite activities…bring me to the same place. That sweet spot inside me. Where there is no before and there is no after.

 

REST & RENEW: THE POWER OF RESTORATIVE YOGA

Much has been written about the power of the mind/body connection. As a yoga practitioner for 20 years and yoga teacher for eight, I know there’s truth to the benefit of moving the body and breathing in specific ways to help calm what yogis call Chitta Vritti or mind chatter. This chatter is constant, even though we are often unaware of it.

Practicing yoga is one way to clear the mind and create more space within for creativity and productivity. As the saying goes, what “we pay attention to grows.” By participating in mindfulness activities, you can train your mind to shift from negative thoughts to positive ones, from fear to calm, from non-stop chatter to clarity.

Starting a yoga practice is easier said than done. That’s why I am sharing with you a simple, restorative yoga sequence to gently release tension in postures that allow the body to rest and revitalize.

You don’t need any special props, but if you have a yoga mat, use it; otherwise, dress comfortably and have two firm pillows and a timer nearby. Set up near a wall with empty space.

  1. Begin in Child’s Pose.

Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. If you can’t sit on your heels, place a pillow (or two) between your heels and your bottom.

Hold that position for 2 minutes. Take deep inhalations (listen for the sound of your breath, feel your belly expand like a Buddha belly) followed by slightly longer exhalations to release toxins in your body. Notice where you are holding on to tension (lower back is common) and visualize your exhalations travelling there. Notice what happens. Continue this type of breathing awareness for the next two poses as well.

  1. Next up is Reclining Butterfly/Supta Baddha Konasana

This classic restorative posture stretches the inner groin, thighs and knees. It also helps reduce stress, mild depression and cramps. Click Supta Baddha Konasana to view details on how to set up and plan to rest for 5 minutes.

  1. Now move into Legs Up the Wall Pose/Viparita Karani.

In order to more easily get into this pose, start off sitting sideways next to the wall with your feet on the floor. Place one hand at your low back, lean back and pivot your legs up the wall. Once your legs are against the wall, press your forearms into the ground to help move your bottom as close to the wall as possible. Lay on your back with your legs resting up the wall.

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The benefits to this pose include reduced backache and headache and is a wonderful antidote to insomnia. Legs up the wall pose can be combined with the other poses if you have more time or done on it’s own if you are short on time.

At first, aim to hold Viparita Karani for 2-5 minutes and build up to 10 minutes or longer. As soon as the weight of your legs becomes too much, roll to your side in the fetal position and rest for 8 deep inhalations and exhalations before doing the next pose.

  1. Finally, sweet Savasana!

Every yoga class ends with this quintessential posture that allows the body and mind time to integrate what has shifted internally. Lie on your back. Close your eyes. Turn your palms face up. Take one deep inhalation through your nose and a long exhalation with your mouth open and sigh. Repeat three times. Then, let go of the pattern of your breath. Let your thoughts pass by like clouds in the sky. This is your time to completely relax in a state of deep relaxation. Stay for 5-10 minutes.

This sequence can be followed whenever you need to unwind! Let me know what you think.

 

 

5 GREAT Books On Writing

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A writer’s guide to writing well!

 

Sometimes, reading is the best way to break away from a writing rut or sheer procrastination. What these writers reveal is not a secret pathway to the vault of writing effortlessly, but rather share that good writing takes work. That, we must all work hard to write well every time we approach the page.

Following are five books that have guided me over the years – serving up plenty of wisdom along with a hefty dose of encouragement to remind me that every great work takes effort, commitment and a willingness to never give up:

  1.  1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

“Your writing, and your life, will be good and get better if you just take it word by word,” said Anne Lamott acclaimed author of Bird by Bird – a must have for every writer who has ever needed a quick shot of inspiration and humor…mixed with much wisdom on the art of writing. If you only read one book, read this one.

  1. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard is a wise and wonderful writer whose poignant book analyzes a “life well lived” sprinkled with quotes about life that point out the balance we seek between productivity and being present for a full life, such as:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

3. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

On Writing Well was written 30 years ago, but remains a gem of a writer’s guide. A must have for it’s sound advice and clarity. This book is a classic that provides the fundamentals of writing. “The life changing message of On Writing Well is to simplify your language and thereby find your humanity.”

4. The Elements of Style by William Strunk & E.B. White

If you haven’t read this book yet, you need to read it now. Or, at least, have a copy at the ready to refer to for anything from the 49 commonly misused words and expressions to the 57 most often misspelled words. This book was first published in 1920 and greatly expanded upon by E.B. White for publication in 1959, which became the first official edition of “Strunk & White”. In 2011,Time magazine named it one of the 100 best and most influential books written about English since 1923.[1]

5. Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This book is full of wisdom – for both men and women – and speaks to the importance of reflection. This timeless classic speaks to the value of discovery found in life’s simple moments and allows the thoughtful reader to delve deep to discover his or her own creative well that lies within. Another book to be read time and again, not just to re-ignite your writing, but re-ignite your Spirit.

If there is there a book about writing that you can’t live out, I’d like to hear about it!

7 Quick Tips to Get You Writing, Right Now

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by Wendy Cullitan

If you are like most people, bringing pen to blank paper or opening an empty Word document makes cause to pause. Just getting the first sentence or paragraph might take all morning…or even all day! If you are on deadline or just want to avoid procrastinating, follow these quick tips:

  1. Don’t start at the beginning. If you have a topic in mind, you don’t have to craft the perfect first sentence before moving on. In fact, just skip the lead-in, which is generally key to grabbing your readers’ attention. Start with the second paragraph. As you begin to formulate your thoughts, ideas for the first sentence will be revealed. Trust me.
  1. Set the Mood. Pick a time of day when you know you are the most clear-headed. For me, that is early in the morning accompanied by a cup of coffee and a slow burning candle. You want to set yourself up for success, so create an ambience that allows you to come from a place of calm, where your worries or burdens can be set aside while you write.
  1. Set a timer. If you sit at your desk and stare at your computer with no limit, it will take much longer to find the inspiration you need to get started. So, get comfortable, make sure you have everything you need, set a timer for 60 minutes and start writing.
  1. Don’t worry about grammar. If you want to get to the heart of any great idea, it won’t be nestled in a basket of excellent grammar. IDEAS are what you are after…as you begin to write without concern for spelling and grammar, you will open the door to creativity…and you just might surprise yourself!
  1. Take a break. After an hour of writing, if you find yourself in the zone, by all means, keep writing! Otherwise, take a short break…get up, take a 15-minute walk outside, refresh your coffee, splash your face with cold water, reset your timer…and write on!
  1. Get Inspired. After you’ve pounded the keyboard or finished your work for the day, plan some time away to refresh your brain. Jot down a list of places nearby that inspire you. If you need some ideas, check out this article on inspiration. Then, schedule an few hours or a whole day to explore places that might generate your next great idea. Don’t forget to bring pen and paper to jot down your thoughts!
  1. The Next Day. Read what you have written with the eye of an objective reader. Edit your work. Check grammar and spelling. If possible have a second set of eyes read it. Perhaps this was a short project and you can turn in your work.  Or, just repeat steps one through five to keep your writing juices flowing!

Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Note: These tips are effective whether writing your first novel or writing website content or marketing strategy for your boss!