Unconditional Love

This is an excerpt from a creative memoir I wrote for my boys called Letters in my Pocket. The narrator is Nick, and Stephen finds letters in his pockets from my dad about life lessons:

Love. Can love be unconditional? Our mom and dad tell us that it can and no matter how bad anything is we can always go to them. We tested that when we first moved into our new house on Carpenter Way in 2004. Stephen and I were outside throwing a baseball. We both used to play for Halfmoon Baseball. I liked being with my friends more than the game, and I quit when it changed to kid pitch and three strikes. I needed more than three chances to hit that ball.

            Not Stephen. He’s a lefty and has a good eye. He would swing and that ball would rocket toward the outfield when he was only in T-ball! Plus he had an arm that could throw the ball from third base to home.

            Anyway, we were tossing the ball and I got bored. I walked around the house thinking about where I could hide it from Stephen. On the back of the house is this straight white tube that blows out smoke. I placed the ball in there and pushed just a little bit. Stephen saw me. So much for hiding it. I stuck my fingers in to get the ball and it stuck. My jaw dropped and my heart tripled beats. I was in trouble. Supportive brother that he is, Stephen ran to let Mom know what I did.

            My parents were a little upset, but they hoped I learned my lesson after the $80 service fee to remove the ball. It is on my shelf to remind me to think before I act. But after Poppa’s note, it also reminds me that my parents’ love can get me through anything.

            Stephen’s lesson was a little harder learned. We love going to the driving range to hit golf balls with our dad. Right now we are outside hitting them into our woods, but make sure we give each other plenty of room. Last year I whacked Stephen in the head with my club. What can I say? I’m a klutz. I take after my mom’s side, but don’t tell her I said that!

            Dad is installing a wood floor in our dining room. He told Stephen not to break anything. Mom warned him again because our neighbor has been asking us to not hit any kind of ball into her yard. I’m inside getting a drink. Stephen stomps in shortly after. His cheeks are red. I decide to have a seat and wait for the show.

            “I don’t want to hit the ball anymore, because I don’t want to break anything,” Stephen says.

            “OK,” my mom answers.

            Mothers—they have some crazy way of knowing, give you that ‘I know what you’ve done’ look, and then wait you out. It didn’t take Stephen five minutes. Show time.

            He whispers something in Mom’s ear, wraps his arms around her waist, and tucks his face in her armpit.

            “What?” she asks and leans closer. She kisses his head and the three of us go outside.

Holy cracked fog light Batman! Stephen shattered Mom’s fog light on her Dodge Durango. Stephen was swinging his club and, when he swung back, he hit the car.

            Mom tells him how proud she is that he told her and she didn’t find out on her own. She also says he would need to tell Dad. He didn’t want to because he thought Dad would be angry. Stephen tells Dad, but he doesn’t want to take responsibility for what he did—like it was the golf club’s fault or something. Mom and Dad say he would have to pay for it and since it was an accident, he would help Dad install a new one. Stephen flips out about that. Dad hugs him anyway. Even though he admits his mistake, he still needs to be responsible and fix it.

            I expect to find Stephen in his room reading a letter from Poppa about listening to your parents and taking responsibility. Instead, he’s playing his Nintendo DS. I guess my parents got it right. A car can be replaced and a ball can be removed. But Love? I imagine Poppa would say that the world would be a better place if we had a superhero whose power was love.

Our love for others is tested, when life doesn’t go as planned or bad things happen. They can be small like breaking a headlight or betraying someone’s trust. The most important lesson I could ever have taught my boys was unconditional love. Love that is not subject to any conditions, unreserved, wholeheartedly, absolute, unrestricted, eternal.

2001 camping Lake Placid

I’m not sure I always made it clear that my love is unconditional as my showing disappointment or my actions might make my son feel like love is based on him doing what his parents want. Finding balance with supporting your child and wanting the very best for them is often at conflict. What I feel is best for my son might not be what he wants or thinks is best for him. When kids are younger, we lay the groundwork for values, integrity, hard work, kindness, and raising our kids how we believe is the right way.

If the most important lesson is unconditional love, the hardest one is letting them live their own lives. Building that foundation and then giving them the space to forge their own path is so incredibly difficult! I can’t force my son to live the life I see for him any more than my parents could for me. We could spend our whole life making our children feel inadequate by forcing our expectations on them.

Or we could communicate our love. Some things are better off being said. Making sure my son knows how much his parents love him without a doubt or expectation attached is key to him finding his truth and his place in this world.

Like Nick said, a broken car light can be fixed. Not sharing our love would cause permanent damage. Don’t wait. Tell someone you love how you feel and don’t place conditions on it. Enjoy the love as it is. Cultivate it, nourish it, and watch how that love grows.

 

Monthly Journal Workshop-Giving

Tonight’s monthly journaling workshop at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library was simply gratifying for all! Half of the participants were brand new and the other half were regulars who have committed to taking time for themselves.

The theme was gratitude, giving back, and being good to ourselves. Sometimes the best way to feel better is to give and remember what is wonderful in our lives. Here are some of the participants’ journal entries!gratitudesarahl

The month of Thanksgiving is the perfect time to start a gratitude journal. Waking up with the intention of striving for happiness changes your attitude and sets up your day for something great. When you take the time to journal on what was positive in your day then you are happier. Your world becomes a better place. You are creating precious and wonderful memories.

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Everyone wrote about their volunteer experiences and other foundations they would like to get involved in. Giving back has a way of creating gratitude. Helping others can have a healing effect. Knowing you are having a positive impact on someone else lifts your spirit.

Giving to yourself is probably the hardest way to make a difference, but it can be the most impactful! When we are kind to ourselves, we can give more to others. But who is the first person we forget about when the holidays or life gets too stressful? Ourselves! Write about what the holidays mean to you and about what kind of holiday you want to have.

Then give the gift of doing something for yourself. You are worth it.

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It can be as simple as being in the moment. Sometimes a pop, clink and fizz is needed to get through that stressful moment!

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Positive and genuine affirmations are huge gifts to ourselves.

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Buy that sweater you have been wanting, take the time to read a book, and treat yourself like the special person you are!

What are you grateful for?

How do you give back?

What will you do to be good to yourself?

Especially during this holiday season, take the time to journal and be kind to yourself. It’ll make a difference in your life and the world around you.

Next month’s journal workshop is December 13th! Take the time and register for you!

www.cphlibrary.org

Thank You for Your Service

home of the free

When I was in college, I applied to join ROTC to help pay for my tuition. I didn’t really think about my commitment or what I might be called to do. I was in very good shape, loved a challenge, and was in major debt. As it turned out, I developed health issues about the same time, so wasn’t accepted.

I have often wondered how my life would have been different had I joined the military. Then I wonder if I would have had what it took to defend my country. I think of it like defending my children and family no matter what the risk. For someone in the military, it’s like everyone in the United States is a part of their family, and they would give their life to defend them. So many do, and I am grateful for everyone who has served in the military to keep me and my family safe.

I worry about how soldiers survive their experiences in war. How the trauma of what they are called to do permanently affects them. How it changes them and their families. According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, every 65 minutes a veteran commits suicide. I can’t begin to understand what a soldier has gone through, but my heart breaks for everyone who is affected and for the lives taken too soon.

Our military deserves financial and emotional support so that their families are taken care of when they are overseas, and that when they come home from protecting their country, they receive the emotional support they need. Our military protects our way of life and should be honored, protected, and taken care of at home as they do for us.

So today especially on Veterans Day, I thank everyone who has ever been in the military, served in a war, died for our country, and has protected our way of life. I am free, because you are brave, strong, and courageous. I am proud to be an American.

Build Community with a Solid Foundation

foundation

My dad was a carpenter who built houses from the ground up. He knew a house was only as strong and durable as its foundation. If any of the columns were off kilter, then so was the house. Each column stood alone, but also in conjunction with the others to support what was built on top.

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This concept of a solid foundation is integral to an empowering yoga practice. Each of us can stand alone, but the energy skyrockets when we are together. Each of us holds the other up. If our individual foundation, our True North alignment is off then we are not as strong as we could be.

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Thanks to the influences of two of my favorite yoga sisters, Kayla Marie and Jess Padula, I have been reading Brene’ Brown’s latest book. I have enjoyed her other books, but this one is making me think all the way down to my personal foundation.

She writes about True Belonging. My interpretation is being my authentic self, living in my True North, speaking and acting in my truth not only when I’m alone, but also when I am with my community. Wilderness is her main theme and that “Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness–an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching.” (36) The wilderness can be scary, but we brave it to stand in our truth.

In order to build my community of writers, martial artists, yogis, family, cancer patients, etc. I have to be willing and able to stand in my truth, living my life with authenticity. In order to do that, I need to know what I believe in, what I value, who I am, what matters to me, and how all this leads me along my soul’s path.

Even though that path may change, my internal truth and compass stay the same. Only when I am standing in my truth, can I serve as a solid foundation in my community. When we all stand in our truths, we create an unshakable foundation, made up of unique, beautiful, amazing, and special people who are not afraid to be who they are.

This doesn’t mean that I live in perfection. The truth is I am far from perfect and I am perfectly fine with that! I am vulnerable. I hurt. I make mistakes. I fail. But I do all that, because I refuse to live a false life. I refuse to live the life that others think I should live, because it fits into their plans.

When we stand in our truth as a community, we are like the trees from Peter Wohlleben’s book, The Hidden Life of Trees. Our roots combine, we support and lean on each other simultaneously, and we revel in one another’s growth.

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So where does that leave us? How do we find out who we are? Journaling is one of the ways I have identified my truths. You can do the same. Here are some prompts to get you started:

What and who matters to you? Career? Partner? Children? Family?

What do value? Friendship? Family? Success? Honesty?

What is something that you never compromise? Your word? Honor? Promises? Reliability?

How would you describe yourself? Kind? Hard working? Compassionate? Stubborn?

Daily journaling shows us what really matters. Journal for seven days in a row about whatever comes to your mind. At the end of the week review what you have written. You will read about what is really important to you or what is preventing you from being your true self. It may be a combination, but you are on your way to your authentic self.

Also, I highly recommend reading both of these books!

 

Halloween–Gratitude Day 31

“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: The more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given to you.”

-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Author of the Simple Abundance Series

me and my boys halloween 2001Never does this quote mean so much to me as on Halloween night. For every day during the last month, I have found something or someone to be grateful for. It has open up my heart to all the abundance and love I have in my life. It also has opened up opportunities that I may not have risked trying for in the past.

A gratitude journal directs me to the positive moments, memories, and birthdays that October encompasses. Although not always successful in keeping a smile on my face, by reflecting on what I am grateful for, I realized how many blessings I have in my life.

It doesn’t negate the pain my family and I feel during this rollercoaster of a month. Nine years ago, we held Nick’s funeral on this very day. My whole family spent the night with us, and we dressed up and went trick or treating. Halloween was Nick’s favorite holiday. The actor in him loved dressing up, participating in the school parade, having pizza at night, then walking through the development.

Now I look forward to the the neighborhood kids coming to the house. It’s amazing watching them all grow, and I am grateful they are healthy and can enjoy this holiday.

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I also had the pleasure of having two of my book fans stop by today to get some candy and their copy of my book. It’s a joy to have so many kids around me.

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Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the best types of journaling I have ever done. I hope you try it and see how the abundance in your life grows.

I am grateful to everyone who has loved and supported my family this month and always. You have our heart.