Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Remembering Her

Today is the 11th anniversary of my mom's passing, and to this day I can't seem to use the word death to refer to the loss.  I miss her terribly, occasionally lapsing into moments of self-pity when I hear peers tell tales of weekend or holiday adventures with their own moms. I was only 34 when she died, and I never imagined I would lose her then.  We discovered she was sick and in less than 2 months she was gone.  Our relationship was not perfect, but how many mother-daughter relationships are? Today I will honor my mom by remembering some of her best qualities and reminding myself to nurture those qualities she passed on to me. As my grandpa used to say, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree!"
Joan Marie Patitucci was
A creative woman who loved to take on new projects: sewing, baking, making hair accessories for grandchildren, putting together cookbooks of beloved family recipes
A generous and loyal friend who could always be counted on to listen to tales of friends' hardships and joys
The most thoughtful gift giver you could ever meet: she would not rest until she had found
"just the right gift" for every person on her Christmas list. 

A fun grandma: my kids tell beautifully sweet stories of their "graham cracker" reading them bedtime stories, playing card and board games, taking them to places like the zoo
A loyal mother defending her kids to anyone who dared to speak poorly of them
A proud mother who sometimes had trouble expressing how proud she was to us, but who we often overheard bragging about us to others. 
A sharp woman with a keen sense of humor
A devoted wife and excuse maker for my dad's flaws of any kind 
An amazing cook, somehow managing to please all 5 of her kids at dinner, and if not, she could whip up breakfast for dinner for a reluctant eater like my brother who seemed to know how to get her to make him french toast for dinner when he didn't like the main course!
Of course there are so many more wonderful qualities about my mom that I will think of after I post this. And that's the great thing about editing.
But, for today, I hope that anyone who reads this will do 2 things: First, reach out to someone: mom, sister, grandma, anyone who has played a role of mom for them and tell that person how much they are loved. Second, take the time to let your own children know how much joy you have known in loving them.  I plan to do both today.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Forgiveness... a Gift to Myself

I have been thinking long and hard about writing a letter of forgiveness; today, on the eve of the last day of the year, I managed to do it! For 30 years I have held on to a painful experience of my past because I was ashamed and too intimidated to confront someone who caused me great pain at the very vulnerable age of 16. Why was I afraid? Because this man was someone of high importance and authority: a highly renowned specialist in the medical field of endocrinology. I was raised to believe that adults would always be believed over children and that if you had a complaint about an adult," Keep it to yourself." For years I have pushed the thoughts of confronting this man to the back of my mind. But now, for my own closure and peace of mind, I will send this letter, addressing the variety of ways he left a mark on my life. It may not lead to an apology on his part. It will likely be ignored. Knowing that my message was delivered will give me peace, because perhaps this man will realize the impact of his irresponsible actions on his patients. And, maybe, I will be able to forgive and let go of the pain. Tomorrow I mail the letter and forgiveness will set me free.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

From Frustrated to Flourishing

I have been doing a lot of reading on staying positive and living a flourishing life. This week as my life is filled with some challenges, that, individually do not seem so important, but together seem to compound each other, I am trying to find ways to calm down, clear my head, reduce stress and enjoy the day.
Today I am : waiting for my car in the shop for the 3rd time after a “check engine” light came on, and waiting for A T and T to come out for the second time this week after our internet is intermittently failing. In the background of my mind, I am worrying about whether I will have to rent a car if my car takes too long to repair, the related cost of that, helping my daughter find a new place to live away at school, and the financial implications of that! and just generally worrying about financial issues as tutoring, my second job, is a bit intermittent in the summer.
None of these issues are life shattering, and in the grand scheme of things, they are really quite minor. But, for some reason I find myself teetering on the edge of crying, yelling or throwing what I would compare to a two year old’s temper tantrum. PMS? Perhaps, but nothing that a little chocolate couldn't counteract!
In a book I continue to refer to, especially in times like these, Positivity, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson discusses using healthy distractions as a way to avoid ruminating or dwelling on negative thoughts that leads us into downward spirals. Here are some ideas that I have come up with to help me “snap out of it!”

• Read a book
• Jump on my Elliptical and listen to music ( 2 positive activities together surely will help me regain my positivity!)
• Do my new Billy Blanks Advanced Tae Bo Dvd: Surely the challenge of this new workout will consume my mind and body, while also stimulating my endorphins.
• Meditate: I really need to begin this practice!
• Connect with an old friend: email and make plans for a get-together
• Allow myself to become mindful of the moment: what is going right today? As I write this I am reminded of so many parts of my life that are going so well. My kids are both strong and flourishing in their young adult college years, my husband is wonderful, loving and supportive, and I am in a career that is a calling and a source of profound meaning.
* Write: writing always seems to help me gain perspective.

Now that I have written all these “healthy distractions” and taken the time to stop and ponder their value, I suddenly feel like I can take on the day! So.. what are some of the healthy distractions that get you back on track when the stress of life becomes a bit overwhelming?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Flow" Time : Don't Miss Out

I have been listening and reading a few positive psychology books lately that have reminded me of the importance of "flow", a state of engagement where one is completely involved in a challenging, encompassing activity researched and written about extensively by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
There are a multitude of activities that I enjoy but somehow put aside when the demands of everyday life take over. In creating the list below, I am reminding myself to take the time to do these mostly flow-inducing activities. If they aren't challenging enough to create flow, I know that they are activities that fuel me in a positive way!
  • write
  • doodle, draw, create
  • connect with friends
  • workout
  • write ( yes, I said it again!)
  • research areas of interest
  • integrate ideas into outlines for future writing
  • read
  • listen to new and interesting podcasts
  • run on the beach
  • listen to music
  • go to hear live music
  • watch the sunset

So what fuels you? What activities put you in that state where you are so engrossed that you lose track of time? What are your excuses for not doing them? Here are some of my half-baked excuses!
  • I don't have time! This is perhaps the most lame excuse of all, as most of us have at least 30 minutes in our day that we can commit to an enriching, fueling activity that will help us to be more productive and fulfilled.

  • My partner won't understand my need for this time. If you take the time to engage in an activity that produces "flow", it is likely that you will be happier, calmer and more able to engage in fuller interaction with your loved one. Communication is the key here so that both partners get the time they need in the relationship.

  • I'm too tired when I get home from work. The great thing about flow-inducing activities is that they require that you simply "begin" doing them. If they have been meaningful and enjoyable before, why not just put one foot in front of the other and begin? I have had countless times of being "too tired" but when I get started I suddenly get a burst of energy.

  • I don't know what brings me flow. Now is the time to explore! Brainstorm activities you enjoyed before life's responsibilities got in the way. Numerous people have told me, "I'm not creative!" but then they remember spending hours doodling and drawing as a kid. Find that inner kid! He/she has the key!

Today is all we have. Make it count by fully engaging in life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Riding the Wave.. 5 tips to Being Your Own Life-saver

My husband and I often talk about life's challenges and the differences in the way we deal with them. I lament the fact that I seem to wear my heart so openly on my sleeve where others can easily see it, throw it to the ground and stomp on it. Fortunately, this doesn't happen all that often, though a particular parent has a grand time trying her best with her bullying behavior.
One day, while talking about our different strengths and how they play out in difficult situations, my husband used an analogy that "stuck" for me. He referred to the way that I handle highly charged emotional situations as, "riding the wave." While others crash and burn, he said, "you graciously ride the wave" and "somehow you manage to just safely come into the shore." Sometimes, like right now, I feel overwhelmed by the weight of all that I have to do. I do not feel like I am riding anything! The end of the school year is rapidly approaching and I feel like I am drowning.
I came to the conclusion, today, that I must be my own "life-saver." Although I have a wonderfully supportive husband, amazing friends, family, and teammates, I cannot expect anyone to rescue me! So how can I ensure that I continue to ride the wave without crashing?

These 5 ideas will help( if I do them consistently, of course!)

1) I must exercise at least 3-4 times per week to ease stress and anxiety, not to mention get me ready for summer!
2) I need to have my lunch and clothes ready the night before a school day so that I don't have to run around frantically before I leave the house in the morning.
3) I will remind myself that other peoples' crises, often resulting from their own procrastination, does not mean that I have a crisis. I will help when I can, but I will not take on others' responsibilities.
4) I will eat well and nurture myself. It's so much easier to eat "junk" when stressed or short of time! I need to be carrying healthy snacks and eat something before the starvation hits!
5) I need to be sure I am getting enough sleep! Sleep is incredibly powerful in affecting our outlook on life.
And with that thought.. I am off to bed right now!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Am I the only one with Tweeter's Remorse?

I blog on Blogger, tweet on Twitter and frolic with family and friends on Facebook. My life is quite busy, with teaching and tutoring, so my online social time is somewhat limited; perhaps that is a good thing! You see, I am quite a reflective person, who sometimes gets stuck in her head pondering endless possibilities. Although I have a high need to communicate my ideas and thoughts, I am also highly sensitive, leading me occasionally down a path littered with land mines: intense moments of self-doubt and criticism. One of those moments today inspired me to stop and wonder: Does anyone else worry about what they put out there for the world to see? Has anyone posted something and, just as they would after making a very important purchase, suddenly shut down the computer, or put away the iphone only to have tweeter's remorse over something they had shared? The little voice inside my head does a thoroughly good job of raking me over the coals after I share a link to a blog entry or post an idea or original quote. I wonder if anyone else suffers the following thoughts:
Did that post make me look/sound: not smart enough, silly, self-indulgent, pathetic, condescending? and the list of fears goes on. I have even giggled to myself: Does that post make my butt look big?
In order to avoid that gut-wrenching feeling of dread, here are a few questions I ask myself before I send off my messages to the world through the realm of social media.

1) Would I have said that to a real-life person? I imagine myself at work or with my family and wonder if I would have had the courage to say those words.
2) Does my message match my values and beliefs? Conversely, am I putting something forth to shock others or persuade them to follow a path I don't necessarily believe in?
3) Will my future life be affected by any mindless statements I once made? As a teacher, certain aspects of my life, like it or not, are judged by my audience. Yes, I have private, free time, but there is no guarantee that something I post will not be linked to me in a public way. Am I proud of how I represent myself?
4) Am I reinforcing helpful or healthy ideation?
5) Does my message enhance relationships with new friends by offering support, advice, or humor to help someone get through a rough patch?

I suppose I do think too much.. but maybe reflection isn't such a bad thing. I suddenly feel the urge to share this post, and for once, I don't think I will analyze it.

In the words of Michelangelo:

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Positively Pissed!

Today I finally got my taxes done. Yes, yes, I am a procrastinator.. especially when I feel that bad news is on the horizon. I am pretty thoroughly annoyed with a system that encourages hard work, yet penalizes you when you fall into some arbitrary tax bracket. I work 2 jobs: as a teacher, and as a tutor/coach, and I hit an income level last year that "dis-allowed" my write off for student loan interest. I am sick about this! I took out a loan for my masters degree several years ago and I will be paying this loan off for many years to come. Up until now, the interest was deductible! But now, because I worked my a@# off , working sometimes 14 hour days, 6 days a week, I am penalized. I don't mind paying my fair share! But seriously...
The extra money is my "in case my kids in college need my help" money and I am not complaining! I love the work I do and it fuels my soul. But getting penalized by taking away a write off for loan interest that was accrued in educating myself to "do good for others" ???? Like I said.. it makes me feel a bit.. well.. perturbed.

So.. what am I going to do about it? Well, thanks to the wonderful release of writing, I feel much better for this rant. I am now going to put on my ipod, jump on my elliptical and sweat out the anger. I will let you know if it helps :-)