New Year: How to Do Less, Not More

KissThere are too many moving parts. It’s like water that’s reaching a rapid boil. Bubbles, too many to count, furiously rise to the top demanding action. This is how the busyness of life feels. In 2015, I’m turning down the heat.

Why now as so much is happening and it’s incredibly tempting to add yet more to life? When I feel behind and about as productive as a rock?

This Christmas was unnecessarily busy with anxiety in the air over event timelines, presents, and cooking mass quantities of food (thank you, Grammy). Stuffed with shiny gifts, my spare room looked like an Amazon warehouse. The kids’ new toys and wrapping paper scattered everywhere looked like a tornado went through. There were too many distractions to just enjoy being still and pondering Christ’s birth. I vow next year will be much simpler. Pizza on Christmas Eve anyone?

Another reason to simplify, do less, and be more present is because my memory capacity must have been so overloaded with super mommy tasks that I can’t remember when my boys were babies. They are only 2.5 years old now! I see pictures, but it feels like it was another life, so long ago. I only remember flashes of stressful or joyful moments, not what they felt like, the sounds they made, or a satisfying feeling of just being with those once tiny creatures. Busyness will rob you of your mindfulness. Steal your heart memories.

So now my vision is to strip down the monster machine that churns out my life and rebuild it with only essential parts. I’ll toss out success-driven productivity, extraneous material distractions (hubby, do we really need to buy a TV for our bedroom?), the need to over-clean, and my To Do list junk that’s only there so I don’t feel worthless in the eyes of the world.

1 Jn 2:15, 17: Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

What will I keep as my essential parts? My life mission – my children. I am charged with the most complicated, challenging, and rewarding task of raising my boys to be high-functioning, loving, faithful men who will witness to the world by following God’s will for them. I will be accountable one day for what God has entrusted to me. Now I give them my best self, a mommy who has made space to tickle and wrestle with them on the floor, laughing and loving while the laundry and bills wait.

Surprise face

I want to untangle complications and relationships. I want to support my husband and be a present, loving partner. I will nurture self-care – faith, exercise, sleep, healthy eating, connections, my own space to recharge. If I don’t pursue this, I know I will find myself acting like a “B” and hiding in the pantry eating chocolate.

That’s it. Less, not more. No expectations beyond fueling love and service for people in my life. I encourage you, dear friend, to examine your life and simplify. What are your true essentials? How do you define your authentic value? In 2015 I wish you abundant love, mindfulness, and a simple life you design with your heart and God’s whisper in your soul.

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Christmas through a Child’s Eyes

Christmas candleI can only imagine what my own children will begin to experience this first year they understand Santa, Baby Jesus, and Christmas magic. But I can speak clearly from my own experience of the thrill of these special days when I was a child…

Long before Christmas, my countdown started for the day we could decorate. It was a haul carrying up endless boxes from the basement, but I absolutely loved spending hours with my mom transforming our house into a Christmas wonderland. My dad always pleaded for simple decorations but his request was ignored as I put out every knickknack I could find.

The next big thrill was the arrival of my two grandmothers, grandfather, and uncle. Watching for their cars from the window, I would squeal as I saw them drive up to our house. Nana made the most wonderful pressed butter cookies and an assortment of other Italian pastries that must have taken her days to bake. We descended upon them instantly.

The Christmas lights coating every exterior tree, bush, and sometimes outline of our house were stunningly beautiful to me. Filled with happiness and anticipation, I would sit alone at night looking at the glow from our living room window. Equally as special were the old electric candles brightening each window. I would fall asleep staring at them, comforted by the joy they signaled was coming.

Christmas Eve we would dress up for dinner at a nice restaurant and then attend the vigil mass. It was a privilege and a celebratory treat fitting for Jesus’ birthday. After mass I reveled one last time in seeing the promise of the Christmas lights on all the homes we passed while driving to the tune of Christmas music. At home we ate more cookies, set out some for Santa, and settled in together for a TV show.

Interestingly, my fondest memories are not of opening presents. Instead, what I hold most dear about Christmas is simply being with family. I loved giving gifts more than receiving. Too young and without money to shop on my own, I would look around our house to “find” gifts for my family members. One year I wrapped up a thin olive colored belt of my mother’s to give to my uncle. He was so kind to feign delight at receiving a woman’s belt!

After gift giving, I remember laughing hysterically as my uncle, a true comical character, acted out commercials in costume with props for silly products he invented. We filmed him with a monstrous VHS camcorder and replayed the show for everyone’s entertainment.

Christmas day culminated in a dinner feast. Eight people in total, we wouldn’t fit at the table in our little dining room and so we moved spare tables together in a line across the family room. The wood burning fire was crackling as songs played and candles lit much more delicious food than we could eat. The grandparents would speak some Italian and I would learn a few words, good and bad.

It was always tough to let Christmas slip away after the day had ended. But I can still feel it, even after my grandparents have long passed, my parents have moved away, and I have a family of my own. I wonder, what will my children remember about our Christmases now?

I hope they remember what I have held in my heart: family togetherness, love, hope, joy, excitement, peace, laughter, warmth, goodness, and generosity. I want this for my children which means I must be watchful not to succumb to the busyness of the season, the overwhelm that rushes and frustrates me, the distractions that leave little energy for the most loving and holy details of Christmas.

My gift to you, dear mom, is to rest. You have done enough now. Delight in your children these precious days and love the experience you have with them. Don’t worry about imperfections and what’s incomplete. You have done your best. Give your heart to your loved ones and be at peace making beautiful Christmas memories that will shape their future.

Ethan and SantaHayden and Santa

 

Fight for What You Need

woman praying

Health, faith, rest, friendship, chocolate. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what we moms need to thrive. Make no mistake. This is an ongoing battle. You have to fight for what you need because who you are, your very soul, depends on it.

The battle is fierce internally and externally. On the inside, we feel selfish for taking time for ourselves. However false this belief of selfishness is, I can’t help but feel tremendous guilt indulging in hours of freedom. I feel sorry for whoever is left at home with my 2.5 year-old exhausting bundles of crazy energy! That’s MY job. I’m responsible for their care. The negative gremlin voices grow louder and do not relent: How dare I be off joyriding or sleeping! There’s so much to do, I can’t be lazy and stop moving. I must do it all right now or I’ll be an ugly failure. Sounds silly but in my mind it’s the stark truth.

And then there’s the battle with the world. Engaging in our needs and desires costs time and money. You’ve got to stretch schedules, impose on others, and coordinate as many details as a military invasion just to carve out a space to enjoy yourself or nurture a healthy body and soul. Damn. Many times it’s just easier to run head first into the wall and say forget it. But at what price?

When your fire to fight for what you need cools to the dim glow of a dying ember, you are no longer the beautiful source of joy, love, and strength God designed you to be. You dangle dangerously close to the precipice of depression and anger. The empty void where you no longer feel confident in knowing your passion or loving who you are. When you shut down from the struggle, you distance yourself from God. The road to sin widens and your soul is at risk.

Our children absorb this. What messages are you sending them? You’re too tired, unhealthy, overwhelmed, or quick to anger. Or maybe you’re just not present in your own mind and heart even though you’re standing right next to them.

The battle of self-nurturing vs. motherly responsibility is fierce. But you do have a choice. Get to know yourself again. Make a list of your interests and activities that would help rejuvenate you. Find a way to integrate what you need most into your life each week. It may not be a lot and it might strain your wallet, but please, dear friend, fight for what you need.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

You are like a rose bush. If you don’t prune the bush and fertilize it, it will wilt and merely exist with diminished blooms that have been gnawed by disease and strangled by weeds. If you believe in caring for a rose bush in your yard, if you care for your friends and family, care for yourself.

Fight valiantly to thrive and bloom beautifully dear friend. Give the gift of your best self to your family. Feel enough joy in the blessings of your life to give daily gratitude to God and to open your heart to all He dreams for you to be.