Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Day of Gratitude

This week I'm celebrating the magic of autumn with a photodocumentary: 
a big day of gratitude from our little family of three.

How did you spend your day of gratitude? 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big Dreamer

Every great dream begins with a dreamer.
 Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, 
and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. 
-Harriet Tubman

My daughter is a big dreamer.
I pray that I will always lift her up and won't ever crush her spirit.

She inspires me to keep reaching.
It's incredible how much I'm learning 
from someone who isn't even two years old.


What have you learned from a little one in your life?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Big Day with Oprah- Take Two

Did I mention I was in the same room with Oprah?!?!

Being present for the taping of two Oprah's Lifeclass episodes was just a bonus. And sitting next to my bestie in the front row (stage right) to boot! Dreams really do come true.

"My" shows already aired live on and will air on television (OWN- The Oprah Winfrey Network) in January 2013. I'll try and give you a heads up on an exact date if possible. But only if you promise not to laugh if you see me jumping around like a crazy woman.

The theme of my Lifeclass episodes was Living with Purpose and Rick Warren was the guest. Warren is the author of The Purpose Driven Lifethe #2 best-selling non-fiction book of all time. Second only to the Bible. I had forgotten that President Obama selected him to give the invocation at his inauguration (which, by the way, upset a lot of social progressives.)

I wasn't excited when I discovered Rick Warren was going to be the guest. I knew he was an Evangelical Christian minister at a religious right megachurch, and that made me a bit skeptical. (But it didn't really matter who the guest was because I was going to be in the same room as Oprah!) Of course, I shouldn't have doubted my Oprah. Warren turned out to be a great guest and I learned a lot from him. There were a lot of ah-ha moments, a lot of murmered mmm hmms, and a few Amens! from the audience. It was a great reminder for me not to prejudge the messenger; to just listen to the message and then let my heart judge it's truth for me.

Which reminds me of a great quote from another spiritual leader:
Believe in nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. -Buddha

Here are the notes (quotes, concepts, and meaningful phrases) I furiously pecked into my phone during the taping:

In the poker game of life, we are dealt five cards:
1. Chemistry- our physical make-up, appearance, DNA
2. Connections- our relationships
3. Circumstances- we give them too much power
4. Consciousness- how we talk to ourselves, the voice in your head
5. Choices- this card can make or break your entire hand

Nick Vujicic was dealt an incredibly rough hand. If you are not familiar with his story, please take the time to watch this YouTube video. The 4 minutes and 11 seconds will undoubtedly be the most inspirational of your day. It's a great reminder that 95% of the things we worry or complain about are miniscule in the grand scheme of things. Warren's only request for his appearance on Oprah's Lifeclass was to have Vujicic on the show. It was powerful to see him in person- he radiates positive energy and an authentic power despite his enormous physical limitations. (I am happy to report that Vujicic just got married and his wife is expecting their first child. Doesn't that make you smile inside?)

And now on to more show notes:

God's plan for us/ our life's purpose is like a Polaroid picture. It starts out just a shadow, and with time the picture becomes clearer and into focus. If you don't yet know God's plan for you, just wait. It will become clear in time.

Hope= Holding On Praying Expectantly

If you live by the approval of others, you will die by their rejection. -Rick Warren

The two things that will cause you to miss your life's purpose:
1. Envy- I must be like you to be happy.
2. People Pleasing- I must be liked by you to be happy.
You must live your life for an audience of one.

We often look for love in our accomplishments, acheivements, and appearance. To be authenically powerful (significant,) we need to find a way to give our gifts in service.

Stages of a Dream
Dead End (Death of a Vision)

I'm sure you can relate these stages to a situation in your own life. To illustrate the idea for you, I'll use the example of my dream to be a mama: Once Hubby and I decided to start conceiving, we were met with significant delays. Followed by significant difficulities. Then our dead end- IVF failed and we were told we wouldn't have our biological child without a miracle. Then 5.5 long (and yet now seemingly short) months later, a stranger birthed our baby. The baby destined to be our child. In fact, the one we were always waiting for, we just didn't realize it. Deliverance!

Miser- the root word of miserable. Not a coincidence. We receive by giving.

How do you find your life's purpose? Look at the things that shape you:
1. Spiritual gifts (I'm not 100% sure what he meant by this. Anyone have input?)
2. Heart (What are your passions?)
3. Abilities (What are you good at/ with?)
4. Personality
5. Experiences (Jobs, education, family, painful experiences)

Our greatest strengths often come out of our pain -Rick Warren

God never wastes a hurt. We might, but he won't. He will use it for good.

The way you serve God is by serving others.

It's all about love.

Humility- It's not about denying your strengths, it's about being honest about your weaknesses.

There are accidental parents, there are no accidental babies.

You can waste your life, or you can invest it. Invest in what will outlast you, people and love.

Please share if any of these notes touched you in some way. I know I'm going to buy the book. Anyone else? I'd love to have some people to discuss it with chapter by chapter.

*FYI: The first seven chapters of The Purpose Driven Life are available free on the book website.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Big Day with Oprah

Anyone who knows me well knows I *LOVE* Oprah. She inspires me to be a better person. And bloom. So after 6 or so years of trying to get tickets to her show, I was beyond excited when I finally won the ticket lottery. My mother-in-law had the misfortune of being next to me when I opened the email. Poor Miss Gwen may now be slightly deaf in one ear.

Looking back on my big day with Oprah, I realize it was a lot like another other incredible day in my life- my wedding day. Here are 12 ways how:

1. I dreamt about it for years. (When she decided to end The Oprah Winfrey Show, I thought my dream would never come true. Luckily, Oprah's Lifeclass on OWN- The Oprah Winfrey Network- sometimes has a live studio audience.)

2. The few weeks leading up to the big day, I was so excited I felt like I could have burst!

3. And there was that big question- what to wear? We were instructed to wear bright colors. No white, beige, or black. I choose a green Diane von Furstenberg dress. Green is Oprah's favorite color.

4. My best friend, Julia (who seven years ago was my matron of honor), was again by my side. And since the producers encouraged us to text, tweet, and post on Facebook during the taping, my sister (and maid of honor), Marilee, and my hubby were virtually present. They were both texting me and Marilee was watching the show live via  BTW-she saw me twice.

5. I felt like a VIP. Oprah must have heard I was a big fan, because somehow Julia and I scored pink wristbands. We had no idea what they meant at first, but I sure felt special having one. As it turns out, the pink wristbands allowed us access to the orchestra level. Score! And on top of that, by some miracle, we ended up in the first row, stage right!  (Maybe it was the strict timeline I made Julia adhere to so we could get there extra early.)

6. Just like at my wedding, I was overcome with emotion. The moment I saw Oprah walk out on the stage, a crazy person came out of me. 

I was jumping up and down and screaming and waving and screaming and jumping and waving. (Julia thought I might have flashed my backside to the row behind us. Jumping wasn't something I considered when I chose to wear a dress.) Even a production crew member commented on my enthusiasm and joked that I was already on Youtube. Oh my. I'm hoping if I embarrassed myself it wasn't caught on camera. I'll have to wait and see when the show airs in 2013.

See the two women in red tops and white pants in the front row on the right?
That's me, in the green dress next to them.
7. While I was in Houston for the taping, I was fully aware that it was a magical experience for me. I was living in the moment.

8. It was worth the wait.

9. That night I was physically and emotionally drained. So much excitement in one day.

10. The day after the taping, I had an afterglow. And then there was a day of the post-wedding blues- the emotional let-down that sometimes follows such a highly anticipated event. It was over.

11. But I'll always have memories of my big day.

12. And I checked off one more item on my life list.

Note: More on the the episode topic, Finding Your Life's Purpose, and the amazing Oprah's Lifeclass guests in my next post.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Life is a Roller Coaster

I'm immensely grateful to my readers who have been asking for a new blog post and a surgery update. Thank you for your interest and concern. It warms my heart to know that my words have been missed and that in my blogging absence, I've still been remembered.

Much has happened since my last post. Here are some highlights:

1. We put our little bird in preschool 2 days a week. With my newly cherished "me time," I've been working on my book and making progress. The first 50 pages have already been sent to my book coach. I plan to give you, my dear readers, previews along the way. Stay tuned.

2. After at least 6 years of trying, I got tickets to Oprah! I went this past Friday and it was amazing. That will be the next blog post I write. Hopefully this week.

3. Surgery update: The good news is that 2/3 of my surgery was successful. Yay! The bad news is that 1/3 wasn't. Boo! So I am in for another surgery. Boo! But I've been assured it will be significantly less painful and recovery will be only a day instead of a week this time. So, Halloween morning is the day. While you are eating your candy, think of me. I won't be eating anything but liquids and pureed foods. Boo! After surgery there is a 4-6 month wait to see if the bone around the cleft in my jaw healed correctly. If not, I am in for another surgery with a bone graft. I'm hoping it works.

4. And here's the big one: For those of you who have been following my (in)fertility and then adoption journey, you know it has been a roller coaster. I received crazy and unexpected news over a week ago that I could possibly get pregnant. I wasn't even looking for this information- it just fell out of the sky (or from my new Ob/Gyn's mouth.) Then, as easy as it came, it was quickly retracted when my lab work came back. I was elated for a week, then devastated again. While I wouldn't change a thing about how our daughter came to us, I am still grieving my inability to experience pregnancy, childbirth, and a baby that is 1/2 me and 1/2 my husband. I was again feeling it was hopeless, but some serendipitous events (you know how I LOVE those) have my mind and heart in a tailspin. Is the universe sending me signs? Did I give up on my body too soon? Is my dream of getting pregnant and carrying our biological child possible? I'm reevaluating, wondering, and very scared to even get on that roller coster again. But this time, it's different. While it would still take a financial and emotional investment, most of the pressure is off. We already have a child and I know that adoption is no less of a miracle. So I'm going to try take deep breaths, be still, and listen to what my heart has so say on the matter.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Prayers Please

I haven't written in while, but it's because most of my limited free time is now spent working on my book. Frankly, I am so far behind on making and mailing out gifts to friends and sending thank you notes and cards, that I am amazed I get to blog at all. Since we aren't ready to put Baby Girl into nursery school, I'll just have to blog less and be behind on just about everything. I remind myself that this phase in her life is so short and in time things will get done.

I do have a big (and unwelcomed) event coming up so I somehow found the time today to blog. I am writing to shamelessly solicit prayers, well wishes, and healing vibes.  Whatever positive energy you are willing to send, I'll take.

On Wednesday, I am having extensive oral surgery which will hopefully (fingers crossed) be the last attempt needed to repair my mouth. I was born with a cleft lip and I also have a cleft in my upper jaw. Even though my lip was fixed through several surgeries during my childhood, the cleft in my jaw has caused lots of significant (and expensive!) issues into my adulthood. The last surgery, at age 27, attempted to graft some of my hip bone into my jaw. It was unsuccessful. Let's hope this one is the last.

You would think that with 4 surgeries for this issue under my belt already, I would be a pro. But, as I cried to my husband last night, I am scared. I draw strength from the son of my high school friend, Jodi. Ari, who has VATER syndrome, has had over 65 surgeries already and he is only four. If that brave little boy can make it though all of those, I can make it through one more myself.

And I am in good hands. My doctor pretends to be tough, but he is such a softy. His assistant told me he moved us his shoulder surgery up just so he would be ready for my surgery.  My mother-in-law (Miss Gwen) is coming to take care of Baby Girl while I recover. I won't be able to bend over or pick her up for 3-4 days (which I can't imagine.)  But I am grateful for Dr. Parel and Miss Gwen and also my hubby who took the day off from work to take me to and from the surgery.

Last night, during my teary conversation with my husband, I told him something I wanted him to know- just in case. "If something bad happens during my surgery and I die, I want you to know that I died happy because I finally became a mother."  Now, I don't think I am going to die, but you never know. My husband is a surgeon, and he comes home with crazy stories all the time about people who died during seemingly routine surgery.  So when he tried to tell me I wasn't going to die, I reminded him of his stories and he was silent.

So, prayers please dear readers.  For me and little Ari.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Mommy Group Wedding

Somehow when I move to a new place, I find wonderful people who make each new location feel like home. Here in Dallas, that is my moms group. We tell people we are not a play group- we are a support group for moms.  Conveniently, our kids happen to play together while we have coffee, laugh, cry, problem-solve, and pull out our hair together. The most important advice I can give to a new mother is this: find a group of other new mothers and SEE THEM OFTEN. If you want to maintain your sanity and sense of humor, you need the support of a small village.

In our group, we are all first-time mamas who met in the most random ways (i.e. coffee shops, bookstores, or just walking down the street).  The formation of our group has been serendipity at it's finest.  Unfortunately most of us don't have family that live close by so we have become a support system for each other. And this summer, our village hosted a wedding!

Our savvy group threw a last minute celebration for our dear friend and fellow mama, Pilar.  Megan supplied her wedding dress and shoes, Anabel gave her a pre-wedding manicure, and I did the flowers.

Around ten of Pilar and Ruben's friends gathered in their living room.  Pilar sang a song through her tears.  Their one-year old son Antonio, who was ringbearer, had two feet to walk with the rings and fell on the way. It was perfect. I'm sure everyone else who was there felt as I did- incredibly special to be there to witness the intimate ceremony.

After nap time, we headed over to Deirdre's house.  Megan and Deirdre co-hosted the dessert reception and supplied food and champagne. The other mamas also brought desserts and ten or more babies provided the entertainment. It was a bittersweet reception as Pilar moved back to Wisconsin the day after her wedding. (She and Ruben are both professors and it has so far been impossible for them to find jobs both in their specialized fields and in the same state.)  While we mamas were happy to celebrate their love, we were also sad to bid her adios.

Muchas felicidades a Pilar y Ruben (y Antonio!!)  We all love you and miss you and feel blessed to have been a part of your wedding day. Our paths will forever be joined by the precious time we spent together with our babies during their first year of life.

Postscript: I wanted to write this post earlier, but my blog fell to the wayside this past year as I was finding a new life balance that included motherhood.  And this story was just too special not to write about. How cool is my mama's group? My life here in Dallas would not be half as happy if it were not for these special women.

Monday, February 13, 2012

HaPpY LoVe DaY

Valentine's Day isn't just about romantic love- 
it's a time to share hugs, kisses, kind words, and glittery cards with those we care about. 
So here are a few random happy things I'm sharing with you, my reader, on this LoVe DaY.

Baby Girl never met a puppy she didn't like. 

So we sent out 8 vintage-inspired sparkling puppy love valentines 
to special little friends who live too far away.

  We went a bit overboard with stickers on each envelope.  
Check out the stud muffin sticker- doesn't it make your heart smile?

When I was little, I wished my mom would cut my sandwiches into hearts.  And guess what?  
Now I can be that mom.  Here I'm spreading love with a PB and banana sandwich.

And saving the best for last...
Wendell Berry wrote "The Wild Rose" for his wife.  
It made me think of my hubby, so it's the Valentine message I'm writing inside his card.
And it's just so beautiful, I wanted to share it with you too.

Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart,

Suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade,

and once again I am blessed, choosing 
again what I chose before.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Too Much Knocking

I recently came across this quote and it smacked me in the face:

Many of us knock on the door but remain outside, because knocking and entering are entirely different actions.  Knocking is necessary, consisting of reading books, attending meetings, asking questions.  But entrance requires much bolder action.  It requires one to enter into himself, to uncover hidden motives, to see contradictions, and to realize the actual power for self-change.  -Vernon Howard

In regards to a certain dream of mine- writing and publishing a book- I've been knocking for quite a while now.   The above quote made me uncomfortable because I was made aware of my status- firmly planted on the welcome mat in front of a closed door.  I'm not sure what is stopping me (fear of failure probably), but I've decided the knocking stops here.  I'm taking a bold action towards entering: I'm going public, dear reader, and I'm letting you in on my secret.  I'm hoping your words of affirmation and the forced accountability that going public provides will have me soon crossing the threshold.

Here's the scoop:
All during my journey to motherhood, I was journaling.  Through the months trying to conceive, the etopic pregnancy and loss, the unsuccessful IVF, and then our adoption, I wrote to the baby girl that I knew would one day be ours.  I filled one journal and started another. While a few steps along the journey were posted on this blog, the most raw and private details stayed hidden in my notebooks.  I never posted anything about the esoteric ways I tried to increase my fertility, the challenging and sometimes insulting adoption process, or the sadness that occasionally still stabs at my heart when I see a pregnant woman.  My daughter will inherit the journals when she is mature enough to read them.  They are a testament to my deep desire to be a mother, my longing for her to come to us, the inner struggles one has when "choosing a baby" through adoption, and the challenge infertility and adoption place on a couple.  They are a heart-felt written record of all we endured to become parents.

During my journey, I did a lot of reading.  The most healing books for me were the memoirs of women who went before me.  I related to those women in a way that I didn't relate to anyone else.  Especially because so many people keep their baby struggles private.  To someone going through the journey, it seems as if everyone got, is, or can get pregnant without issues.  I believe publishing the journals would be healing for other women.  I believe this so strongly, I've asked my extremely private husband for his consent.  For our pain to help others, for our story to impart hope, well, that would make it all worthwhile.  Almost.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Authenticity with Alex

The journey for authenticity is a rich one because in a way you're never not you, and in a way, you can live your whole life without being who you are.  The question is- can your mind and actions be aligned with your deeper self?  When doing movement, the way to practice that is to notice when you're coming from you, your interests, passions, curiosity, and when you are copying, judging, comparing, channeling, and trying to be like another.  It's a fine line and a rewarding one to learn.
                                                                                                                      -Alex Iglecia

Isn't that an incredible quote?  I confess- I had to read it a few times before its fullness sank in.

I've been fortunate to have many inspiring teachers in my life, and Alex Iglecia is one of them.  I even trudged across Boston on dark and cold winter nights to attend his meditation class.  Alex is super intelligent, deep, and intense and I'm pretty sure I don't always get the full gist of what he says.  But I dig that he's frequently discussing authenticity, integrity, and how to continue evolving.

During a recent online conversation, I told him I'm choosing to view parenting as a spiritual practice. So far it's been a great lesson in mindfulness.  He responded with an enlightening answer, as always, "So is childing... it's certainly shift-worthy."  And that, my dear readers, I do get.  

I'm in the middle of reading Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabot-Zinn.  While I haven't finished it yet, I've already recommend it to several friends.  It's been healing for my "childing" and hopefully will make me more conscious at parenting.    

Monday, January 16, 2012

Proud to Be Colorful

Our little family is proud to be colorful.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude to those who stood (and continue to stand) for equality.  Many risked their lives and some were murdered for their beliefs.  It wasn't long ago, and it happened in our country of freedom.  The actions and sacrifices of those brave activists have enabled our family to live MLK's dream.

Personally, I think we'll know our country has overcome it's race issues when the mall Santa isn't always white and no one thinks it's a big deal.  I hope that happens in my lifetime.

PS:  For information on how to talk to your children about race, I recommend Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  Chapter 3, Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race, is fascinating and may be surprising to many parents.
PPS:  Thanks to my baby girl for lending me her dolls for this photo.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Feeling Grateful

I don't know if you are like me, but I find if I'm not mindful, it's way too easy to focus on the negative.  Our consumer-oriented culture continually reminds us of what we don't have.  But the antidote only takes a minute: I list what I am thankful for.  And just like that, my world is a happier, brighter, and more positive place.

Here are a few things I'm feeling thankful for today:
1.  Hubby has off for 24 straight hours!
2.  During his precious time off he woke up with Baby Girl so I could sleep in, solved my new phone issue, and made my gmail more secure.
3.  Baby Girl is taking a long nap so I can write this post.
4.  It's sunny outside.
5.  Reem had a healthy baby GIRL!
6.  Lisa arrived home safely.  (She was driving cross-country and made a 3-day pit stop in Dallas.)
7.  I'm writing again.
8.  We have enough.  More than enough.
9.  We are healthy.
10. We have each other.

What are you feeling thankful for today?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Winter Sparkle

Well, it's a new year and I'm feeling motivated to write again.  Maybe it's because I'm sleeping better (Baby Girl is now sometimes sleeping through the night) or maybe it's because of all your wonderful comments.  Thank you dear readers for your kind words- blog comments add sparkle to my day.

Since your words encouraged me to take steps towards one of my life goals (writing and publishing a book), I'm sending them back your way with the following quote:

When we are motivated by goals that have deeper meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing- then we truly live life.  -Greg Anderson

So here's to love expressed, meaningful goals, and big dreams.  And making someone's day a little sparklier.

PS:  I've been so inspired, I changed the look of the blog.  What do you think?  It took me much longer to figure out than I care to admit, but I finally got my own artwork up there in the banner.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Baby Steps to Big Changes

    Last week I witnessed an incredible event. My baby girl took her first-ever unassisted steps. The next morning, two Today Show guests- both had lost half of their body weight during 2011- encouraged others by saying, "Take baby steps." 

    And once again, I was humbled to realize that I am learning as much about life from my one-year-old as she is learning from me.

    As a dietitian and health coach, I have told many clients over the years to take small steps to achieve their goals.  But having witnessed Baby Girl's breakthrough the night before, it dawned on me that there was much more to this suggestion than merely the size of the steps.  

    So whatever your goals are for 2012, here is some advice from Baby Girl on how to reach your next milestone:
    • Prepare. First we did tummy time. She hated it and cried a lot but we did it anyway. Then she learned to roll over. Then stand, crawl, and walk with a walker.
    • Celebrate successes along the way.  She squealed with joy when using her walker for the first time and would shake her bootie when learning to climb.  She reveled in her progress and had fun along the way.
    • Find support. She held our hands, the couch, and the walker, before she could go solo.  At each milestone (and in between) I cheered for her.  I clapped and encouraged.  As my girl Oprah says, find people who are going to lift you higher.   
    • Set reasonable expectations. Baby Girl wasn't trying to win a race, she was just trying to go two feet to reach Auntie Lisa.  
    • Keep looking forward. Learn from the past, but look ahead of you.  And keep your eyes off the floor.
    • Expect falls.  Focus on progress, not perfection. Learn from your slips.  Cry if you need to but then get up and try again.
    • Don't worry if you aren't perfect.  It's okay to be wobbly.  It's okay to put your hands in front of you and walk like a mummy. It's okay to revert to crawling on occasion.
    • Have faith in the process and faith in yourself.  Many have come before you and succeeded and many will follow.  You too can do it.
    • And finally, let go of the coffee table and just go for it!