When I was little, my Mom told me that if anyone asked me to keep a secret, it never excluded my Mom. I could always tell her. It was our clandestine little pact. I could promise my friend not to “tell a soul”, and I could say it confidently, because my promise to my Mom far exceeded any other promise: a secret promise superior to all other secret promises (cue dramatic music).
I like to look back and acknowledge clever parenting techniques from my Mom and Dad. My Mom was able to have an eye on me and my friends’ dramas and give me advice to avoid trouble. Now, whether I took that advice was another story, but it was her way of keeping tabs on me and the happenings in my little world. And it worked. I confided a lot to my mother, and in turn, she was able to guide me.
If any of you know me at all, you’d know that I really wasn’t much of a troublemaker, so I didn’t give my Mom a ton of grief to begin with. But I have to ask myself, was it because I kept myself out of trouble, or was it the secret pact with my Mom that helped me to stay out of trouble? I like to think a little of both.
Thanks, Mom, for initiating that secret pact.
A lot of my friends are mothers, and I want to just encourage them that so many of their parenting techniques, no matter how amazing, just may not be appreciated by their chicklets. At least not yet. But I believe they will be.
Much love to my mama friends…
I really enjoy sending old-fashioned snail mail. I mean, let me be honest with you: I even just love the phrase “snail mail”.
Recently, a friend of mine discovered a box of letters that her grandmother, Mimi, (who has now passed) had sent to her throughout the years. She showed me a picture of the beautifully typed pages: it was line after line of carefully typed Hungarian, her native language. It went straight to my heart in an incredible way. (And not just because I’m smitten with old typewriters, and clearly, Mimi had used one.)
So yes, what an impact those letters made! I wasn’t even the recipient, and I felt a little misty-eyed. No doubt my friend was even more affected. More than just paper – those letters became memories, feelings, and love, carefully composed. I think each one was like a mental hug tucked into an envelope.
I want to be like my Mimi. No, I can’t speak Hungarian, but isn’t it neat how she created a piece of the future for her granddaughter? I wonder, did she realize she was initiating a wave of comfort for her granddaughter that would reach out far beyond her own life span? And it was at a time when my friend really needed it.
And it’s something all of us can do.
I want to keep alive Mimi’s same spirit. Little did she also know she would encourage me to continue to send postal mail and even give out handwritten notes, especially when expressing affection and encouragement to others. Because I believe those messages will then stand out among the various digital fonts and emojis that come streaming in at us throughout the day (and no doubt start to blur together.)
No, I’m not going on a digital strike or anything in that direction. The only “strike” I want to make is a difference in a typical day of someone I care about. Just as Mimi did. Will you consider joining me?
One of my friends was experiencing back pain. I spent a chunk of the day with her, and I noticed she was obviously hurting, but she was doing something else. She kept talking about her “younger years.” Too many references to the good old days, and I had to interrupt her and say, “Why are you talking like this? Where is this coming from? Do you suddenly feel old because of your back pain?”
And we both laughed. Really loudly.
It seems we are just conditioned to assume certain situations mean “old.” For my friend, back pain was one of them. I’m guilty of it too. I was recently diagnosed with tendinitis in my left hand and had to strap on a big hand brace. I told my sister I felt like I was ninety. She had the right attitude with her no-nonsense response:
“Seriously, Gina? Tendinitis is so common.”
And just like that I realized I had fallen into the same trap many others do: associating negative physical problems with getting “old.” I had to counter myself with this: Do people in their late teens and early 20s experience back pain and tendinitis?
And in my dramatic moment to my sister, I was so negative and talking in a way I never want to. I’m thankful my nieces and nephews hadn’t heard me. Because I don’t want to perpetuate that cycle of thinking. While sporting that brace on my wrist, I realized two healing and challenging truths:
And so, I changed how I talked about the tendinitis, and I felt more positive overall. Did it heal my wrist? Maybe not, but it helped heal and challenge my attitude. Jim Morrison said it best, I think: “There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” Changing myself might not seem like I’m doing much, but it’s a powerful first step toward changing the world for myself and others, like my nieces and nephews.
I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely finding myself in the kitchen more and more during the quarantine. I find comfort in creating and eating yummy, home-made food. The problem for me is finding too much solace in food, if you know what I mean. But there are so many delicious comfort foods! Pancakes, cookies, spaghetti, tacos, pie, ice-cream etc… (I could do the backstroke through the list!)
I have a chef friend in London who is also a health coach. She wrote an excellent article about stress eating, “Overeating & Emotional Eating During Difficult times.” I highly recommend giving it a read. It really helped me understand some reasons as to why I’m so quick to bite into that delicious, homemade blueberry muffin (I LOVE blueberry muffins). The article also shares some techniques to help keep us from mindless eating.
For example, by asking simple questions such as “Why am I craving this?” and “What am I really craving?” We might be able to stop some of our needless eating and focus on what we REALLY need. And it may be that blueberry muffin, but it may not be.
And there it is again…another nudge toward living intentionally: to pause, and really think through our potential actions and the potential consequences. In this quarantine time, many of us feel like life is one giant pause. And it can be incredibly frustrating. But my friend’s article was a reminder to me that pauses can be a good thing. A healthy thing.
When used carefully, a pause can keep us from choices we regret. And while it might be (relatively) unhealthy food, it could be something even more. Something bigger. Something that can change the direction of our life in an profound way.
In essence, I’ve realized that this current quarantine should be used carefully. I want to step into the future with purpose and intention and wisdom. I don’t want this pause to go to waste. I don’t think any of us do. So may we use this time wisely, carefully, and maybe ...with that blueberry muffin as our treat.
“I know you can’t solve my problem Gina, but just listening to me really helps.” My friend was facing a difficult situation, and she said those words to me.
And she was right. As much as I wanted to, I had no solution for her. Unfortunately, we live in a world with problems that aren’t always easily solved. Oh, how I wish it were different. I feel so helpless at times.
However, I think I had forgotten the power of commiseration. By telling me that my listening was valuable, my friend pointed out that I still had something to offer. Shutting my mouth and hearing her and only saying, “Yeah. That’s awful. I hate this too,” is more helpful than I realized.
I have my go-to phrases where I tell friends not to worry. I say (big smile): “We survive and come through hard times stronger!” It may be nice and true, but it also sounds like a cliché, unhelpful greeting card.
I think about past conversations when I’ve vented to close friends, and how much I benefited when they would enthusiastically agree, “WOW! THAT’S TERRIBLE.” One friend especially! To this day, I know her eyes will get big and she will really emphasize her words of concern for me. I am so comforted by it, because I feel she is jumping with me right into the mess. And it is soothing for three reasons:
Isn’t it nice when we can help solve other people’s problems? But if we can’t, or we aren’t asked to, empathy is still such a powerful gift.
During this hard time, when pain is all around us, and we can’t magically make everything better, I needed to be reminded of this fact. And I thought I’d share, in case you needed it too.
Stay safe and take care of yourself and others…
Donuts. Such a role they have played in my life! And not just the calories – I’m talking life lessons here, people. Ha! Just to include a lighthearted entry, I’m sharing three of many lessons I’ve learned as a result of donuts (or doughnuts, if you are classic, and prefer the less Americanized, original spelling used exclusively before the 1800s.)
When I lived in Turkey, traditional donuts were harder to come by. But, when my dear friend (you know who you are) texted that she had brought a treat from Istanbul for me, I certainly didn’t think it was a donut. YES, it was a fantastic surprise. It’s in the picture above – that cheerful pink confection with sprinkles. Oh yes, sprinkles. How many friends will hand carry a fresh donut on a plane? Who does that? My friend, that’s who. I was beyond delighted. That donut spoke more words to me than a Hallmark card about friendship. I knew then that she and I were friends for life.
I wanted to be a fun Aunt, so on the way to my sister’s I picked up a half dozen donuts. Once at her house, I asked her if the kids (who were circling me like puppies) could have one. She said yes, so without hesitation I directed the chicklets into the kitchen and plopped a donut on a plate for each. Later, when they were pinging off the walls like yoyos, my sister asked me in horror how much donut I had given them. Apparently “a donut” in her household means “a piece of a donut”. We are talking fractions here, not a full donut. Oops. We all went to bed tired that night (might have been a sugar crash for some of us?). Now, I’m a more careful Auntie with dessert distribution to the little ones.
This is a little embarrassing, but I’m going to share it anyway. My husband brought home a half dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. They were the old-fashioned sour cream cake kind (cue angel music), which I don’t have a lot of self-control around. I opened the box, smiled at the donuts, and in my quarantine state of mind thought, “Today is going to be THE DAY.” I’m going to eat as many donuts as I want. I’m an adult. Why not? So, I did. Honestly, it happened so fast. Then I felt like a plastic container of kindergarten paste: slow, thick, and sticky. I was sick the rest of the day with a stomachache. Self-control lesson learned. (At least where donuts are concerned.)
I hope this little trio of stories cheered you up. Unlike John Belushi, I can’t say, “I owe it all to little chocolate donuts.” But, I think I do owe something to those little pastries. As I get older, I love to see how even the unexpected things in life can be our teachers. And it’s incredible.
Stay safe and take care during this quarantine time…
Please note: I had a rough time composing this blog. I think because I don’t want to sound cliché, but I do want to remind myself and others to be more mindful of our capabilities. Hope you are encouraged!
I take vitamins tablets every day. I’d almost forgotten the struggle it took for me to learn to swallow a pill when I was little. In order for me to ingest an aspirin, my Mom had to crush it in a spoon of jam*. Yuck. But that was the only way to get it down me. Now, I daily take tablets for health, and I think little of it.
What about you? Do you have a similar story? What about the huge deal it was to ride a bike? Pull things in and out of a hot oven? Maneuver a washer and dryer? When learning them, these tasks were probably difficult for us.
I think we don't give ourselves enough credit for what we accomplish each day. There are of course the obvious tasks, but I'm talking about the smaller tasks we don't give much thought to: blending a fruit smoothie, successfully picking out a ripe watermelon, or knowing when the oil in the pan is warm enough to fry the burrito.
There is an artist, Gemma Correll, who illustrates badges of honor we could award ourselves such as I “did the laundry” and I “got out of bed.” (She recently created a great set for the current quarantine time.) The point is, the rewards are cute, and they make me laugh, but they send a message: we do so much and we do it well, even during this time when we are confined to our homes and restricted to only certain activities. We shouldn't underestimate ourselves.
Stay safe and take care...
*To this day I have a hard time putting a spoon of jam in my mouth, even if it is the sweetest jam and there is no aspirin inside it! :P
Creator of Love, Auntie.