Sunday, August 20, 2017

Warm crow tastes better than cold crow

Have you ever held on to something for way longer than it served any good purpose? A resentment or guilt about something you had done? Have you ever experienced what it's like when you really let it go?

Many years ago, I made a big mistake at work - and it cost the company some money. I exercised some really poor judgement, and to make it worse, I never owned up to it directly. I let my boss think someone else was to blame, and never set the record straight before I left to take another job a few months later.

Instead of looking at what I had done, it was easier to think about what I imagined the management there had done to me (paid me too little, worked me too many hours and many other minor imagined injustices). The longer I let it go without owning up to it, the more I felt justified in doing so. I spent a lot of time, effort and energy thinking about this incident and the people I used to work for - every time I did, shame, guilt and resentment boiled to the surface.

Years later, I had a valued mentor point out that I was letting this incident take up valuable real estate in my head and that I had all the power in the world to make it go away. She suggested that I write a letter to them and own up to what I had done and offer to pay them back. She told me to pray about the situation, pray for the right words, and pray for all of the people involved.

Begrudgingly, I did what she suggested.

I'll admit that I didn't feel better instantly. I kept the people involved in my prayers for weeks. I still thought about that situation from time to time in the months after sending the letter, but then, somewhere along the way, it left me. I am not sure when, but it did and here's how I realized it.

Fast forward to this past weekend, when my sister (who still lives in the same town) ran into my former boss at a concert. She texted me to tell me - and it actually took me a few minutes to even remember who she was talking about. When I finally remembered who she was talking about, I didn't have an emotional reaction or weird feeling - there was nothing. No shame. No guilt. No resentment. Nothing.

My sister followed up with a photo of the two of them together, and it made me smile. My former boss looks great, and I told my sister to share my good wishes to her. It actually made my heart happy to see her smiling face, and I spent a few minutes thinking about the good memories of my time working for her.

If you had told me when the incident happened that I would be better served to own up to my mistake than to stay quiet, I would have told you that you were dead wrong. If you had told me that I could feel that way about my former boss, I would have told you that you were crazy. If you had told me that I didn't have to carry around those negative feelings for so many years, I would have argued with you that I was justified to do so.

I was wrong. It was actually more freeing to tell the truth and to own up to my mistake. The freedom I got from saying a few prayers and sending a letter was a thousand times better than the short term effort of doing so.

I've heard it said that "warm crow tastes better than cold crow" - and I know that to be true. It is way easier to make amends when the incident is still fresh and feelings are still injured. If I let it fester, I can turn it into something bigger and worse than it really is. Worse, if I let it fester, I can make it someone else's fault and convince myself I don't have anything to make amends for at all.

There's a 100% chance that I will make (many) mistakes again - hopefully, they will be new ones and not repeats, but I will make them. This experience was a powerful reminder that the real freedom comes from owning up to them and not in getting away with them.

Friday, May 26, 2017

What I learned after running through the airport

Anyone that knows me knows that I love a good plan and schedule. I live by my calendar and pride myself on being organized. Lately, that has become even more necessary due to my increased work travel. With life getting more and more hectic, it soothes me to be able to look on my calendar and know that everything is "handled".

For the past three weeks, I have been on the road for work and the mommy guilt has been strong. That got kicked up a notch last week when I got a note from Diana's school with instructions for this week's "end of year program". When I put it on the calendar at the beginning of the year, I thought it was some sort of classroom party, so it didn't register that it was, for all intents and purposes, a mini-graduation. I was scheduled to be at a conference all week (and had even told some of my colleagues that I would cover a big meeting at the conference so they could go to their own children's graduations). I figured Steven could bring the snacks or whatever we signed up to bring and that would be that.

Then, when the note came, I knew that I couldn't miss it. Flights were changed, plans were scrapped, meetings reassigned - but it was all going to work out, after a little scrambling. I got up before the crack of dawn to make my flight in order to be home in time, and everything seemed to be coming together until my flight from Phoenix landed in Atlanta.

I knew the connection time was going to be a little tight, but my heart sunk when the announcement came on that we weren't able to pull up to the gate right away. I was in the back of the plane and there were hundreds of people that were going to need to get off before I did. I looked at my phone for the gate for my connecting flight and it was in another terminal. My heart sunk again. I watched the status on my phone change to "Boarding" for my next flight and watched the clock tick forward over and over as I waited for the plane to pull up and the other passengers to get OUT OF MY WAY! (Side note: I didn't actually yell that, which is a testament to some major spiritual progress...)

When I was finally able to deplane, I took off running. Literally. It was not a graceful run, since I was lugging a heavy purse and pushing/pulling a rolling suitcase. Between my huffs and puffs, I muttered "Excuse me!" and "I'm sorry!" to everyone I passed or bumped, but I didn't look back because I was only focused on getting on that next plane. I hobbled down the escalator as far as I could hoping that shaving a few extra seconds off of my time would get me on the next tram to the right terminal, and just in the nick of time, jumped on the tram. When the tram stopped, I shoved my way off and started running again. First, up the escalator, and then, through the terminal, again muttering to everyone I passed.

All I could think was "please don't let me miss this flight, please don't let me miss this flight..." My mommy guilt kept my legs moving, faster than they have in a long time. In my head, I could hear my daughter saying "Mommy, why do you keep working all the days? When are you coming home?" I didn't want to let my girl down.

Finally, I arrived at the gate, right as they were making their last call. There was one woman in line ahead of me, and one person at the gate. Something was wrong with his ticket, so the flight attendant starting working on the computer trying to get it sorted out. I let out a huge sigh of relief and slumped over the handle of my suitcase. The woman in front of me turned around, placed her hands on top of mine, looked me in the eyes and said, "Breathe, baby, you made it." I just nodded and complied. "Take another one, baby. You're okay. I don't want you to fall out and miss your plane after all that running."

I apologized and told her that I didn't mean to be such a mess. I started to explain about my crazy three weeks of travel and having to change everything around to make this flight because I didn't pay close enough attention, and she stopped me and said, "Honey, it's always going to be something. You made it. That's all she's going to even remember. Don't pile on guilt that doesn't need to be there."

The ticket agent figured out the person's issue in front of us and we all made our way down the gangway. My new friend chatted as we walked down the aisle about her travels to see all of her grandbabies that were graduating and how proud she was of them. Her voice was so soothing that I felt my angst just fall away. Right before we got on the plane, she turned around and said, "I mean it, now. No more piling on guilt that doesn't need to be there. Remember to breathe, baby, and you'll be fine." She covered my hands with hers one more time, smiled, and took her seat.

I am so grateful for that woman. She recognized my angst and chose to reach out, instead of ignore. Her kind words of reassurance and the reminders to breathe helped more than she could probably imagine. It was a powerful example for me of the need to pay attention to those around us and look for a chance to connect and offer assurances. She could have been playing on a phone and not noticed or chosen to ignore the panting, hot mess of a mom behind her in line. Instead, she reached out, extended some grace and mercy and it made all the difference.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Back in the saddle

It has been way too long since I have taken the time to sit down and write.

For the past few months, there have been reminders of what I posted "on this day" from Facebook, and it brought back memories of events or moments that I had forgotten about completely. It started tugging at my mind that I needed to make the time to get back in the habit of sitting down to write from time to time. When I take the time to sit and write, I always have gained perspective on whatever has happened and always benefit from taking the time to pause and reflect.

Today, the sermon at church was about the magic that happened when the stone rolled away on Easter to reveal that Jesus wasn't in the tomb anymore and about how we need to let God roll away whatever "stone" is in our way and keeping us from being the person we want to be. One of the things our pastor admitted to struggling with was being in a hurry and not wanting to take the time to stop and reflect. It was like he was reading my mind - I can absolutely relate to that.

So, tonight, after a very lovely afternoon with family when S suggested taking Diana to a movie, I asked him to do that solo so I could have some time to myself.

There's this weird trick that my mind will play on me to keep me from doing something I enjoy - maybe you can relate. It tells me that I don't have time to do it perfectly, so I shouldn't do it at all. If I am not able to commit to writing again on a daily basis, then, my mind tells me that there's just no point in starting again at all. So, a week goes by. Then, a month. Then, because time has passed, I start to tell myself that the next thing I write better be extra significant to make up for the time that has passed. Then, a year passes, and before I know it, it's been two and a half years, and I have squandered all of the opportunities to capture those day to day moments that I have been enjoying revisiting.

This isn't a new phenomenon - I even wrote about it back in 2012 ( And it doesn't just apply to writing. As I said in that previous post, it's all or nothing with me with pretty much everything, but that isn't going to work anymore. I need to shift my mindset back to doing the best I can with the time and energy I have for the day and ask God to roll away the stones that get in my way.

So, tonight, I am basically breaking the silence. I don't know how regularly I can commit to writing, but the beauty of it is, that no one else is actually asking me to commit to anything! The pressure to do something perfectly or every single day is all self-generated, so if I can extend myself a little grace and take the pressure off, I think I will like being "allowed" to write here again.

Today was a day I want to remember. The sermon and music at the Easter service at church spoke to my heart. The weather was absolutely lovely. S and I took Diana up to Blountsville to spend time with his family, ate a fantastic lunch, and then, Diana got to swim in Nana and Big Daddy's pool. As you can see, she had a blast! When I look back in my memories from this day, I am going to be glad I took the time today to let God roll my stone away and help me to get back in the saddle.

First swim of the year!

Life is good!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Grace at the grocery store

This afternoon, I made my weekly trip to the grocery store. We have friends coming over for dinner tonight, and I had a long list of things to get for Christmas dinner too. 

I was hurrying through my list and getting frustrated by the fact that I had to go from end to end of the store to get things I overlooked on my first trip through the aisles. There were lots of other people in the store this afternoon, all on similar missions to mine, so I was held up more than once while waiting for another patron to make their selection with their cart parked out in the middle of the aisle.

When I was finally finished and ready to head to the checkout, each register had about 3 people waiting. I sighed and started to push my cart towards the front.

I heard this really loud jingling - like there were about a dozen Salvation Army bell ringers somewhere nearby - and looked up to see a dancing, stuffed elf hat on one of the shelves between me and the register. To my right, I heard giggling and saw a 10 year old boy dart towards the dancing hat - while leaving his cart directly in front of mine with no room to get around.

An exasperated voice said, "Tony, you can't leave your cart in the middle of the aisle! Come back here!"   When I looked to see the person attached to the voice, I saw a dad with three other kids in tow. The poor guy looked like he had been through quite the afternoon. 

In that moment, I knew I had a choice: I could either silently push past the abandoned cart with a grimace on my face, or I could offer a word of encouragement to a guy that was clearly having "one of those days". 

I put on my biggest smile, and said, "How could he not stop? It's a singing, jingling elf hat! No big deal - I can go around." The dad smiled a very relieved smile, and I saw his shoulders drop about 6 inches. The little boy came back to his dad with a grin on his face and started dancing along to the music eminating from the hat. We all just laughed!

It was a small moment, a tiny gesture, and honestly, not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things - but it gave me pause. In EVERY moment, we have choices like that: we can grimace our way through or offer a smile and kind word, we can sulk in silence or pick up the phone, or we can walk away mad or turn and try to have a civil conversation. I think it all adds up. After that brief encounter, I was in a better mood and carried that home with me. I was excited to share that moment with my husband and with you, and I know that the dad with four kids was grateful to have a positive interaction rather than a negative one. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The best non-advice I ever got about parenting

The dang Huffington Post always sucks me in with their headlines: "The 4 Things You Must Never Say To Your Daughter" or "The 7 Ways To Make Sure You Have The Perfect Child", or something along those lines. Whoever they have working for them to write those headlines deserves every penny. I always find myself clicking through to read the wisdom promised to be shared in the article they've posted.

The funny thing is that I have never finished reading one of those articles or blogs and really felt like I have just unlocked some secret about parenting that is going to alter the course of my life forever. They are entertaining. I relate to a good deal of them, a least a little. Earth shattering? Life changing? Not hardly.

Actually, some of the best parenting advice I ever got was from someone that was basically telling me to ignore parenting advice, in general. Here's what happened:

Right after S and I found out that we were pregnant, we went to S's friend's child's birthday party. Soon, all of the attendees found out that we were expecting, and the advice starting FLOWING. Now, I didn't want to be rude, so I politely listened, smiled and nodded. I even thanked most of the people that offered the unsolicited advice - most of which directly contradicted anything said by the person before or after.

I was beginning to feel slightly overwhelmed, and then, the sister of my husband's friend pulled me aside. I fully expected to get another dose of parenting wisdom, since she had just had a child of her own a couple of years prior. Instead, she said something that I locked on to and haven't let go since.

She leaned in, looked me in the eye and asked, "Jeannine, do you have a couple of really good girlfriends?"

Confused, I said, "Of course, I do. I have some of the best friends in the world."

Smiling, she sat back and said, "Good! Have they have kids?"

Still confused, I replied, "Yes, some of them have."

Smiling even bigger, she asked, "Do you like those kids? Did they turn out pretty well?"

Now, totally confused, I simply answered, "Well, yeah. Most of them are great!"

She slapped her hands on her legs and stood up, satisfied with my answer. "Perfect. Then, ignore these people. Listen to your gut and your girlfriends. Call them when you want advice, and don't get bogged down in what anyone else thinks, especially perfect strangers at a kid's birthday party. Keep your circle small, and you'll be fine."

I laughed and let her help me up out of the chair. I understood. We started to walk back towards everyone else at the party, and then, she suddenly turned with an extremely grave look on her face. She had one final thing to share.

"Oh, but they are dead right about Kegels. Those things are SERIOUS!"

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Why I was so excited to bake muffins with Diana

Mother's Day is bittersweet for me again this year. I absolutely love being a mom, even when it's really challenging, but I hate that my own mother isn't here to see her namesake becoming this spunky, fun little human.

On Friday afternoon, Diana's school had a Mother's Day party. We ate snacks together, and the kids presented us with these sweet little collages that they made. Instead of heading back into work after the party, I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon with my little one as my own Mother's Day gift to myself. 

We went for a walk, we colored in a couple of her favorite coloring books, we played tag, we ate pizza together, and then, we got to do this: 

My husband snapped this photo with his phone from the other room. That's Diana and me making muffins together. It was our first attempt at baking together, and my heart is still full because of it. 

It might seem like a little thing to most people - why get so excited about muffins?? But for me, it felt like I was carrying on a family tradition.

My mom was an incredible baker and cook. She was MacGuyver in the kitchen - she could whip up pretty much anything from nothing, and it was always really good. She loved the act of creating something that would bring people happiness and comfort, something that would sustain and nurture. We had a giant cookie jar in our kitchen, and it was always full with something yummy. When she died, many of the condolence cards mentioned her skills in the kitchen. 

I loved to be in the kitchen with my mom. Who doesn't love to watch a master artist apply their craft?

One of my favorite memories of my mom was from a random day after middle school, when I came banging through the front door before my brother and sister got home, and she was singing along to Lionel Richie on the radio and setting out all the ingredients for us to make her trademark chocolate chip cookies. When she saw me come in, she didn't stop singing, she just grinned and motioned for me to join her. (I still get choked up with I hear "You Are"....)

Over the past 14 years since she died, when I've struggled with missing her or needed to feel connected, I have often resorted to stepping into the kitchen, pulling on an apron, and getting my hands busy making something from her baking repertoire. 

On Friday, I was loving the time I got to spend with Diana, but found myself thinking about how much I wished my mom was still around to be a part of her life. Instead of wallowing in that or letting it ruin an otherwise really lovely afternoon, I decided to show Diana how her grandmother would have loved to be spending time with her. 

So, I pulled out the ingredients to make muffins and all the bowls, spoons and muffin tins, I plopped Diana up on the counter, and held her hands as she put in the eggs, water and oil. I held the bowl as she sloppily stirred everything together. I found myself saying the same things to her that my mom used to say to me: "Make sure you get you get all the lumps out", "don't eat too much of that now or you'll feel sick", and "great job, sweetie, great job." 

Diana loved it. As a matter of fact, she loved it so much that we made two batches! Then, when we were done, I wrapped them up, and we delivered them to our neighbors to say "Happy Mother's Day" to them because that's what my mother would have done. 

Today, I am grateful for having had a mother that taught me about the love of baking and of caring for others with her example of a life of service and sharing, and for the fact that while she's not here anymore, her legacy can live on and on if I choose to share it with her granddaughter, Diana, and all of you.

Monday, May 5, 2014

What I learned from my 20 month old

When I started thinking about becoming a mom, I was more focused on what I could teach Diana than on what she would teach me. Little did I know that she would be one of the greatest teachers I could have hoped to have.

Lately, she's taught me a great deal about patience by being absolutely uninterested in doing anything quickly or that doesn't suit her agenda. She's taught me to enjoy the little things by showing me her fascination with picking up rocks out of the backyard to see what's underneath. She's taught me the fun that can be had just by making noise.

However, the biggest lesson that she's imparted on me in the past few months is to take the time to celebrate each individual step in a process.


This kid LOVES to play with blocks. She likes to stack them up high and knock them down. She loves trying new designs and configurations. She even loves the act of dumping them out of their bag. But what she loves most is taking a moment to pause and celebrate each piece as it goes into place.

What an awesome way to go through life, and definitely a good lesson for this mom to learn.

I don't know about you, but I am usually so focused on the destination that I forget to celebrate the little achievements along the way. I tend to get so focused on what I think the end result should look like that I forget to get excited about watching the pieces come together.

Diana is not at all worried about what the final product will be. Instead, she's PUMPED about getting that one piece in place, and stops to cheer herself on before moving on to the next piece. What would it be like if we did that, as adults? 

I don't know yet - but I am going to find out!