This Is The Year I _______.

Well, first of all, it should be the year I “say more” on this site! I allowed myself to drop the habit of blogging before it had even begun. I vow here and now to do better in 2013.

I’ve been told that if you really want to be great at something, you need to have continuous practice. So, not only do I promise to write more here, but I have a new blog that will be focused on writing memoirs – the lessons, tips, and struggles that I found and learned on my own writing journey. This may be my defining year as a writer, as I intend to complete my birthmother story that was sparked in part by my blog post, What Kind of Person Am I?  This project did not get as much attention as it needed last year, but I have set a firm goal to have it finished by August 2013. Its original purpose started as a gift for my oldest son, who was adopted at birth, but I have had requests to make it available to a wider audience and the story has grown to be so much more than I imagined, and so…this is the year I become a self-published author.

I also plan on completing the next segment of my college education this year. I enrolled in a local college this past fall and completed 15 credit hours toward a business degree. I have another 15 credit hours to go of core business classes for the spring semester. After that, I will decide if it is worth taking General Statistics and an ethics/philosophy class next fall in order to earn a piece of paper with the words “Associates of Business Degree” printed in a fancy font on it. It may be a choice between that and my sanity. I don’t have to think about that right this minute, but no matter what I choose to do…this is the year I become more educated in business.

Just for fun, this is the year I am going to (attempt to) learn to speak Spanish. Muy bien, si?

Even more fun, this is the year I become a grandma. This one will be the most exciting and easiest goal to accomplish (for me)! 🙂

How will you finish the sentence?  This is the year I _____.

What Kind of Person Am I?

I have a new friend who was adopted and has recently happily reunited with her birthparents/firstparents. Growing up, she often wondered what kind of person gives up a child. As a birthmother, I feel like I can shed a little bit of light on that question, which many adoptees may be asking themselves. In preparation for the possibility of one day reuniting with my birthson, I have been reading countless stories of other birthmoms out there and I’ve discovered a common factor.

What kind of person gives up a beautiful human being to virtual strangers?

An overwhelmed one. That is the simple answer. As far as my personal story, I was overwhelmed by the circumstances I created around me. As a young college girl, I blindly ran through my days, trying to escape the responsibilities of life and school, searching for love, but not loving myself enough to really be open to the possibility. I married very young to a very wrong person, and rather than discovering that escape route, I found myself handling a lot more responsibility than just going to school and making a decision on what to do with my life. Fast forward in time to  1 year and 3 months after saying “I do,” I finally left the abusive relationship with a 9-month-old baby, discovering a couple of months later that another was on the way. I was an uneducated, single mother, living in a town where I had no family and not many close friends; I was seriously overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by a lack of financial means, social support, and fear of not ever being able to provide a “good life” for my children.

Some of the stories I have read are truly tragic. The so-called “baby scoop era” where countless women and young girls were forced to place their babies in closed adoptions because they were unmarried and their families didn’t want to carry the burden of shame by which our society judges such “sins.” Overwhelmed by the demands of their parents and society, many of these birthmothers were forced to relinquish their rights to their babies involuntarily.

Some were not cut out to be parents or became pregnant by criminal means. Overwhelmed by the responsibility of following through in a role they did not want.

Poverty, lack of social support systems (perceived or real), parental or societal pressures, and any combination of these aspects can contribute to a person’s choice to keep or relinquish a child, and even without the help of society’s prying eyes, many of these birthmothers judge themselves harshly. They live with so many regrets and so many “If only…” statements playing in their mind. I can say that living with the knowledge carries its own punishment. “How many kids do you have?” Silently subtract 1, when you give your answer. Cautiously remembering to alter your history, adjust your life story… After all, you can’t include your birthchild’s story into the pregnancy discussions that women share with their friends countless times over the years.

Because what kind of person are you?

For so many years, I’ve been burying that question deep inside my heart. Now, I’m facing the possibility of reunion and even though it is the day I have been looking forward to for so long, it terrifies me. Guilt that I never acknowledged has surfaced unexpectedly, so I’m trying to embrace the lesson and to forgive myself for the difficult, yet at the same time wonderful choice I made 18 years ago. Wonderful because even today, with the roller coaster of emotions that have been riding through my heart and brain, I am grateful that I was able to give quite possibly the greatest gift a person could give to another. I am grateful for the hopeful couple I met through the agency who have loved and raised him and given him every opportunity that any parent would want for their child. I am grateful that he is a healthy and happy young man with a childhood full of joyful experiences.

To my dear, new friend, and to everyone else out there who may be wondering or discovering for themselves, the kind of person who gives away their child may not be that much different from you. 🙂 Love and light to us all.

A Fall From Pollyanna’s Wagon

I’ve been enjoying the benefits of practicing positivity, laughter, and “not taking things personally” a la Byron Katie, but my practice totally went out the window a couple of days ago when I was snowballed by multiple crisis-level events. Okay, so that is a slight exaggeration, but it certainly reminded me of how quickly and easily stress levels can go up and allow negative emotions and reactions to rush in.

In any case, on that day: an annoying computer issue started it off; multiple arguments with my son did not help; watching the UPS truck drive off after trying to deliver my package to the wrong apartment only exacerbated the situation; and to top it off, my bread machine pan failed and leaked the liquid contents into the bottom of the machine and all over my kitchen counter. Oh, and all this *made* me late to Michael’s guitar lesson, so I also lost money on the deal. Ack!

While waiting for Michael to finish his now 15-minute lesson, I pondered how I could have changed my responses and better managed the events of the morning. Certainly it isn’t too much to ask a 15-year-old to perform some basic chores and to expect him to be keeping up with school assignments, right? (That last question is screaming for a “sarcasm font.”) None of these things (and there were actually a couple more that I excluded because I don’t want to be a total bore here) are all that major, really. Inconvenient, yes. But not traumatic. Perhaps it effected me so because they all happened essentially within a few hours. In any case, I forgot and took things very personally indeed. Was I stressing over the idea of not having enough time to do the things on my list, and so the universe responded accordingly, showing me exactly what that looks like? Well done, Universe. Well done.

After doing some quick research for a new bread machine, that evening I left to try to find one locally. I was not really expecting to find the one I wanted, but thought I’d give it a try. Perhaps I really just needed to get out of the apartment for a little bit. Driving down the dark road towards my town’s “Shopping Nirvana” area, I reflected again about my responses and what I could have done differently. I do tend to over-analyze at times, but this time it hit me.

I could have used Laughter Yoga to help me through these experiences like I had with my car! So, cloaked in the safety of a winter night, I thought about the arguments with my son and laughed. I thought about my bread machine and laughed. I thought about the UPS non-delivery and the other issues from the morning and laughed, laughed, laughed. Well. I car-laughed. With my mouth shut. It was pretty dark, but I didn’t want to take any chances. 🙂

Even though I did not find my machine in a store, I did reclaim my positive state of mind, released the negative tension I had created, and scrambled back up on that wagon of positive possibilities. It was, after all, another amazing day. 🙂

When Life Happens, Laugh!

A funny thing happened after Laughter Yoga class yesterday…

Someone backed into my car by accident and put a rather large crack in the bumper. It is difficult for me to remember my first reaction because it wasn’t a traumatic feeling. Of course I wished it hadn’t happened, but it did. So, we had a little laugh about it, discussed insurance, hugged, and went about our respective days. The rest of my day was enjoyable – errand at a local shop, trip to the library to pick up some books, and back home to log back into work before the evening routine of dinner, reading, and bed.

I can’t help but be reminded of the last time something like this happened in my life. About 7 years ago a van backed into my car, leaving a dent in the rear side panel. I witnessed the entire event and after realizing that the man was not going to stop, tried to chase him down, yelling the whole way. Oh! I was so mad! I reported the incident to the police. I fumed about the incident for days and relayed my story to every sympathetic ear who would hear it. And every time I saw the dent, I was reminded of that feeling of anger and helplessness.

Perhaps it helped yesterday’s experience that the person remained on the scene, but I believe it’s much more than that. I still remember my first reaction from that day 7 years ago before the man drove away. And it wasn’t anger; it was fear. But that fear quickly stoked itself into anger and that anger didn’t let up it’s grip on my mood very easily. In sharp contrast, I have no traumatic feelings associated with the accident yesterday. In fact, I completely sympathize with the person who hit me. No fear and no anger. What I remember is a mostly pleasant day with wonderful memories of friends, laughter, discovery, and routine.

So what made the difference? About 5 or 6 years ago, I started on a personal journey to find more happiness within myself, to choose positivity where possible, to flow with life’s changes, and to drop the victim mentality of “things happening TO me. ” It hasn’t always been easy, and I forgot more than I remembered at the beginning, but with practice it became easier. I think all of these things have been instrumental in allowing me to face my daily challenges, big or small, with more patience, compassion, and love. I still forget at times (don’t ask my teen-aged son how patient I am…) but I’m not finished with my practice.

And Laughter Yoga doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

Begrudge No Longer

I once thought of myself as the type of person who never held a grudge. Growing up as a people-pleaser, I seemed to be very quick to forgive my friends and siblings for any perceived slights if they would just please play a game with me today. I would accept poor treatment as my due and so, when it came time to experiment with love, my boyfriends were forgiven just as easily and my proverbial cheek was turned again and again.

Thankfully, I have grown to be a much more healthy person since those days, but I am eternally thankful for the lessons that life keeps assigning to me, and don’t begrudge my experiences.

Looking back, my initial steps in healing this personality trait was to become a lot more protective and loving towards myself and to not allow others to treat me any differently than how I would treat them. Sort of the Golden Rule reversed. That was an excellent beginning and one that sustained and fulfilled me for many years. However, it was also very simplistic and not nearly comprehensive enough. For example, the next step was realizing that not everyone wants to be treated the same way I do. Imagine that, right? Context is everywhere! Amazingly, this lesson took me a few years to really “get” and because of my stubbornness, I missed out on developing some important relationships. It also brought home the fact that I can and do hold grudges.

Grudges get really heavy with time, and they tend to bleed into other areas of your life and relationships. I must have loved some aspect of being a victim in those stories of mine. Once I dropped the burdens and saw them for what they truly were, I realized deep down that they were MY life lessons and had nothing to do with THEM at all. I only wish I was a quicker study…

I have had to learn many layers of this particular life lesson to have gotten where I am today, and I’m not convinced that I have mastered it yet. I’m sure the universe will test me again and perhaps I will pass the exam without having to analyze and adjust my reactions. One can hope. 🙂

The Pomegranate Way

There are many paths to any goal. The way I am going towards achieving my soul purpose and finding joy is completely different from anyone else’s, and just because I am happy with my progress and the view of the world from my path, doesn’t make it the only way, or even the best way to get to the proverbial prize.

I have been learning the “many ways” lesson in other facets of my life, and am finding that some of these lessons can be rather subtle. Obvious ways are in terms of religion, politics, and lifestyles. Some of the more subtle aspects come out to play when someone in your household or life doesn’t act, say, or do something in the way that you feel is best. Kids can be the best teachers of this lesson. 🙂

However, with all of that being said, I can say that there is a single best way to harvest seeds from a pomegranate – under water. I de-seeded one for the first time ever this last week and made a fantastic apple and pomegranate crisp out of it. My way to serve it was with real whipped cream with a dusting of fresh nutmeg over top. Another Heavenly Moment! This is going to be another fall favorite of mine. 🙂 The recipe below is the original. Since it only called for 1/2 pomegranate, I doubled the recipe. It isn’t lasting long, so that was a good call.

Brenda’s Apple and Pomegranate Crisp (found on allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

4 medium apples – peeled, cored, and sliced.
1/2 pomegranate, skin and light-colored membrane removed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh is best!)

~

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 cup white sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (mine had salt)

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Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375* F (190*C). Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish (Even though I doubled it, I was able to fit the whole thing into the same size dish.)

In a large bowl, toss together the apples, pomegranate seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

In the same bowl, stir together oats, flour, and sugar. Rub in the butter between your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the fruit. (I just stirred it well with a spoon and then spread it over the top.)

Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until the apples are soft. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Again, my way is warm with whipped cream (add a bit of powdered sugar before you whip) and dusting of nutmeg.)

Creative Meditation

It’s hard to avoid the topic of meditation these days. It’s no longer “just for yogis” anymore and has hit mainstream health markets in a big way. The health benefits of meditation are proven and encompass both the mind and body, and, it’s free – Bonus! There are DVDs, CDs, books, classes, internet sites, and so on to instruct one on how to meditate, but I have always struggled with these traditional forms of meditating. My mind seems to be constantly on the move, which may be why my mouth is so active. This would explain why I regularly seem to be inserting one or both of my feet into said mouth after some “witty” thought takes the closest exit and bypasses the brain. Perhaps I’m here to learn how to be apologetic, because I sure have gotten a lot of practice at it. But I digress…

I have had some frustrating attempts at watching my thoughts and letting them go… It all sounds so easy in theory. Perhaps I have a fear of having an “empty” brain. I’ve gotten quite attached to all the clutter up there…after all, you never know when you might need THIS thought, so isn’t it best to hang on to it? Lately it has become easier for me, but I no longer listen to what has worked for others. I have finally tuned in to how my mind wants to meditate and it doesn’t want to be “controlled” or “tamed” as espoused by many methods.

For one thing, I don’t usually have the time to just sit and meditate in a quiet room, which is a common prerequisite for the more traditional practices. I have a homeschooled teenager and a Chihuahua in a small apartment, after all. Peace and solitude can be hard to come by. Besides, if I have time to sit in a quiet room, I want to take advantage of it and read! I don’t take those blessings for granted…

I’ve recently discovered that I have been meditating for years. I’m drawn to activities that nourish my creative spirit, and have come to the realization that they ARE my meditations. Stringing beads and wrapping wire are one of my forms of meditation. The flow of thought that can be witnessed while being focused on the task at hand is a meditation for me. When I am able to cook at my own pace, instead of rushing due to a busy day, I am meditating. Repetitive movements while crocheting or knitting a blanket is a meditation. For me, it’s a conversation that once acknowledged, is calmed. If this doesn’t make sense, then it’s not your method. 😉

Since I have come to realize that meditation has made its way into my life in creative ways, I have incorporated it in other places such as in the shower and even while waiting in long grocery lines. It has certainly reduced my stress levels and I’m no longer anxious about not being able to meditate!

Do you meditate? Have you tried the traditional methods and found that you are one of those round pegs trying to fit in a square hole? Have you, too, found your own method of meditation?

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