Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year, New You

The changing of the year is a natural time of reflection to look back upon the successes and difficulties you experienced in 2010.

Let's approach 2011 with the attitude that the worst of our problems are now behind us. Take a big, cleansing deep breath. Let go of the problems. Watch them float away as you exhale. Wipe the slate clean and know the challenges you faced in 2010 have made you stronger and taught you valuable lessons.

Instead of becoming bitter as a result of your challenges, open your heart with compassion toward people in similar situations and let go of any blame or feelings of victim hood.

This type of a positive outlook will attract love and a peaceful, prosperous 2011.

Happy New Year!

--If you would like to work with someone on cultivating this positive attitude in 2011, contact me! I have programs in place to guide you on your journey.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sledding!

Today I read the quote "When was the last time you did something for the first time?" by Kobi Yamada. It reminded me about our recent sledding adventures.

Moving back to Illinois has been such an adventure for us -- sharing new and old experiences with the kids.

Sledding has definitely been one of them. Although it's not a first for me, it's like a first, because it has been so long! It's exhilarating -- flying down those big hills, trying to steer with no steering wheel, letting out girly screams, snow flying up in your face!

We've got three different sleds right now, so we all take turns on the different sleds and try find as many different ways to go down as possible. I can't say I can pick a favorite, but one of my favorite ways to go down the hill is on my belly on our purple penguin blow-up sled. It seemed like such a crazy thing to do, at first -- to go head first -- but, wow, what fun! I think I'm addicted!

Part of what makes the experience so great, aside from the rush, is that everyone around us is having fun, too.

I was so moved by watching the adults -- they are having as much fun as the kids during this so-called "kids activity." I hear the joy in their laughter and recognize the exhilaration in their voice. And it's fun to watch them "help" their kids discover different ways to fly down the hill!

I was sure during this fun-filled time to also take a moment to look around at the beauty of the landscape -- the sun was shining, the sky was bright blue, the bare, brown trees surrounded the hill, the snow was crisp and white. The snow hill was peppered all around with people sledding down and walking up. The voices of everyone around us were cheerful, joyful and excited. How wonderful! Happy Winter! Enjoy this video clip Paul bravely took while sledding on the disc!

video

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I could be saying, "WTF"

When I moved back to Illinois, I thought I was going to enjoy a lot of time with my family -- I had visions of family bar-b-que's, adventures to area attractions and lots of snuggle time with my new nephews. I am certainly doing that, but it's not turning out quite how I imagined at the moment.

I am sharing this story to teach what I am learning about how to deal with life and hopefully inspire others who might need to hear a positive message.

There are several things causing stress, but two that are pretty big. My sister is pregnant, and her baby has been diagnosed with the same disease that took her first-born child up to heaven less than two years ago. The doctors said it most likely wouldn't happen again and seem to be as shocked as the rest of us that it did. This time around Kara and baby are getting much better care -- unfortunately the specialists are in Philly, not Chicago, so she is experiencing stress surrounding the extra travel and time away from work.

The other biggie is that my dad is fighting lung cancer. He was diagnosed just before Thanksgiving. I know he will beat it, but I also know we have a battle ahead of us. 

So, when we are faced with stressful life experiences such as these, what are we to do? 

I choose to look to my faith. Although I very much feel the stress from these two events, I know what to do to help reduce it -- pray, meditate and live in the moment. I also need to have a positive attitude.

I have learned to never underestimate the power of prayer, that sometimes I need to stop talking and listen and that living in the moment is the only answer. If I were to crumble to the ground from the stress and not enjoy the time I spend with my family, I would be missing out on life -- my life.

As far as my attitude, it is tempting sometimes when the stress feels so overwhelming to wonder, "What in the world is going on?" I didn't anticipate any of this happening -- maybe my move from Florida brought it on, because ever since I've gotten here, "bad" things have been happening. 

But I know better, and the thought I most often have is, "Thank God I am here." Could you imagine if I was in Florida and all of this was going on up here? It's validation to me that God has a plan for everything, and he made sure I would be here right now. Thank you, God.

--Written with love and devotion for my family ... xoxoxo

Friday, December 3, 2010

Preparing for our First Snowy Day

Tyler's first snow experience at 2 yrs old.
We are so excited here at the Haisman household! Weather forecasters predict snow will begin falling tonight around midnight and will accumulate to 3-5 inches by the end of the day tomorrow.

Paul thinks this is perfectly scripted for our first snowfall -- it's a Friday night -- so the weekend is at hand! It's at night, so it won't interrupt any activities, and in the morning, we will all wake up to snowy white grounds -- this will be the first time ever for Tyler and Alyssa!

(For the record, Tyler will tell you he played in the snow when he was 2 years old. He did. But, of course, he does not remember it. He's only seen pictures!)

Paul and Tyler have a plan to wake up at 2 a.m. and sneak outside for some fun! Mommy and Alyssa are not invited!

Alyssa's snow pants aren't pink.
Alyssa, my 5-year-old, is having a fashion meltdown because her snow pants aren't pink! Seriously! She cried about it. What is a mom to do? Do they make pink snow pants? I'm sure they do, but these were a generous hand-me-downs, and we are using them!

As if the pink issue wasn't enough, she also protested that they were the overall type. She's no farm-girl?! Paul had to make up a story about how Tyler's snow pants were going to fall down and expose his bare bottom because he doesn't have overalls. That made her laugh and seemed to diffuse the situation. Oh my goodness. Too funny!

So, Paul got the kids all excited and had them get all of their snow clothes out and put them next to their beds! How cute!

Stay tuned and we'll share some of our first snowy adventures!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is it Possible to Live in a State of Thanksgiving Gratitude All Year Long?

Happy Thanksgiving! Since feeling thankful is on everyone’s mind, I thought it would be a great time to talk about gratitude – the kind of thankfulness you have all year long.
http://www.allaboutgratitude.com/


Gratitude is being thankful for what you have in your life on a daily basis – even in the face of adversity.

Of course, we all have challenges in life, but it’s how we choose to look at them that makes or breaks us. A wise man once told me, “You become what you think about.” So, if you’re thinking about how horrible a certain situation is, you are creating more of that. However, if you can start looking for the good in the situation, you will continue to find more of the good.

Living in a state of gratitude focuses you on the NOW – not on the past that you can’t change – and not on the future that you have no control over.

Today is a great day to practice living in the now. Enjoy this time with your family and friends. Thank those who have made a big impact in your life.

One way to stay in a state of gratitude all year long is to keep a gratitude journal. Spend a few minutes each day writing about all of the things you are feeling grateful for in that moment.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Will You be Lured Away from Your Thanksgiving Celebration to Appease the Retailers?

This morning I saw a headline in USA Today about more retailers opening their doors for shopping on Thanksgiving Day.

Experts are saying Thanksgiving is not as sacred a day as it was even a few years ago.

The story also says that opening on Thanksgiving is an experiment to see how “penny pinching consumers” will respond. I question this approach.

One of the great things about Thanksgiving is that it exemplifies what a true holiday means – spending time with friends and family – usually without the giving and receiving of gifts. Yes, gifts are a wonderful way to show someone you love them, and we certainly experience plenty of that at Christmas. But the unique thing about Thanksgiving is that it is not associated with gifts.

Thanksgiving is a fantastic time to slow down and appreciate all that we have in our lives. It’s the only “official” day of the year for it. But, now that retailers are inviting everyone out of their homes, away from their families, on Thanksgiving, will the holiday lose its meaning? Will people be so tempted by the opportunity to save a buck that they won’t even take this one day to appreciate all they have in their life? Is everyone going to be in a hurry to down their turkey so they can be first in line for the “door buster” sales?

It will be interesting to see how consumers respond. Will the retailers win out by offering deals sweeter than Thanksgiving dessert? I would ask us all to think about how quickly we want to rush from our special Thanksgiving celebrations to the stores. Don’t get me wrong! I am all about saving money – but I’m not going to sacrifice my family time on Thanksgiving Day to save a few bucks.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

You Get What You Give

Have you ever heard about the law of attraction? It basically says, "You get what you give." That means if you dish out negative words, thoughts or actions, you will attract negative words, thoughts and actions back to you.

It's all about the energy. Do you want to be surrounded by positive energy or negative energy? It's your choice.

Let's use Facebook as an example. When we post negative comments and thoughts, we feed our life with negative energy. How? Because then everyone around us feeds off of that negative energy with their negative comments. But, when we post positive comments, we feed our life with positive energy. Because then, people will post positive comments.

I know it's difficult. Trust me. There have been times even in the last few days when I felt so frustrated I wanted to shout out that frustration to the world, and Facebook seems like a good place to do it because you have an audience who will validate you. Facebook gives us a sense of immediate gratification because of our friends' replies, but our problem is not solved, and those negative feelings are still there. Plus, we've given all of our friends the gift of negativity in their day.

This is not to say we should not write about anything negative. But, there is a place for it that will be more therapeutic than just shouting it out to the world.

Where is that place? Your journal. Go ahead. Get your journal and write out every negative thought you have. Get it out of your head. That is awesome, therapeutic work. Then, shift your thoughts to gratitude for what you do have today. Finally, come up with an action step to take in the direction of shifting your negative situation to something that suits you better.

You see, shouting out those negative thoughts is a call asking someone to please say something to make us feel better. But, the truth is, we are the only ones who can make ourselves feel better.

Give this technique a try. And if you need help, call on me!

Sending positive energy to everyone today!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What to do When You are Overwhelmed

I was recently feeling so overwhelmed I turned to my life coaching tool box. In it I found a great way to help free my mind -- a life inventory.

I got out my journal (where I keep all of my thoughts). I grabbed my purple pen (a spiritual color for me). I put myself in a mind frame of asking for divine guidance. Then, I did a brain dump. I started writing down everything I want or need to get done this week.

I wrote down 37 things. Some things are simple tasks, some are more complicated -- things like playing with the kids, cleaning the house, working on marketing my business, finding a babysitter for the kids, exercising....and on and on.

It felt great to get it out of my head and onto paper where I could actually see it. Then I began to analyze my list. I asked myself, "What are the most important things?" I ranked playing with the kids way up there, but I realized I often let all of the other less important things get in the way of that.

Writing a life inventory really helped me see where I am spending my time versus where I want to be spending my time. It also empowered me to cross a few things off the list. It gave me permission to say "no" to less important tasks that don't fit in with my priorities.

It also allowed me to receive help. I was not expecting this! I shared my list with  my husband, and, wouldn't you know it, he took one of the things off the list for me -- getting the oil changed in my car. What a huge gift! Really! I'd been putting it off for many reasons.

I felt so much more at peace after this process. I think it's something I should do sooner, rather than later next time those feelings of overwhelm start creeping in!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oops! I messed up!

shirt.woot.com
I had an experience last week that made me feel very grateful for my life coaching tool box. The life coaching tool box is where you go when you have a problem. It is filled with tools to help bring your mind from chaos to peace. The problem I had was that I needed to say, "I'm Sorry."

So, what happened, you are wondering. Well, I received a call from someone I am close with. That person asked me a question that sent a dagger straight through my heart and severed several nerves. Ouch! That hurt.

Instead of remaining calm, cool and collected, I answered the question sarcastically. I got terse and asked the reason for the question. My words and my tone let that person know I was annoyed.

I hung up the phone and complained to my husband about the nerve of this person. Then I went to bed and slept on it...knowing I had some work ahead of me. The next morning I got up and got out my trusty journal. This is where the life coaching tool box comes into play.

I first journaled my feelings about the situation -- the good, bad and ugly. Then, I put myself in that person's shoes and realized that call must have been difficult for them to make. Next, I looked at what I could be grateful for with the situation -- among other things, this person had the courage to ask the question. And, we can always be grateful for the opportunity to say we are sorry. Finally, I worked on my action plan. It was to write out my sincere apology and call that person back and give it.

Why write out an apology? It's really important to get clear on what you are going to say before you say it. In my case, I needed to take responsibility for my actions. Apologize for my words and my tone. Explain why I responded that way. That I was being selfish. That I would do my best not to respond that way in the future. That it is not my intention to lose my cool. That I don't want them to be afraid to call me, because they will get a crabby response.That I love them. Lucky for me, my apology was accepted, and it was a nice conversation.

Although it's difficult, saying you're sorry is actually a very beautiful process, because it allows the person who messed up to come down from their throne, clear the air, and show the person who got the brunt of the mistake that they are loved. It works to establish trust between the two people -- that they are both human, but that they are willing to admit mistakes and forgive one another. It allows both people to let that experience float away instead of having it drag them down with resentment. Isn't that a beautiful thing?

If you need help mastering the art of saying "I'm Sorry," contact me.

Written with love for everyone I've had to say I'm sorry to! :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rihanna's new song exposes a secret!

http://www.rihannanow.com/
Lately I can't get that new Rihanna song "Only Girl" out of my head ... "Want you to make me feel, like I'm the only girl in the world..." I love it! It's got a great beat, and it's fun!

But, besides that, while listening to some of the lyrics, I realized she let the whole world in on a big relationship secret. Are you ready for it?

One of the primary things a woman desires from her partner is to be made to feel like she is the only one in his world. The most important person in his life. That he notices her and that he thinks she is beautiful. That he is grateful for her.

What can a woman do to let her partner know she feels this way?

One surefire way is "to be who you want to be with." If you are a woman reading this article, and you would like your husband to treat you like you are the only girl in the world, start treating him like he is the only man in the world. Be consistent. Stick with it. Give it at least three weeks, then ask your spouse if he noticed anything different. Talk about your experience. See what happens. Keep me posted! I'd love to hear about your experience.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anger Strikes at Starbucks

I witnessed an incident at Starbucks that inspired me to write. A girl and her friend were sitting outside enjoying some coffee, when the mother of one of them walked up and a fight ensued. The girls were probably right around 20 years old.

I tried not to listen, but it was difficult. The gist of what happened is that the daughter wouldn't tell her mother where she was going, who she was going with or when she was going. She refused to check-in with her mother. Her mother said she wanted to know where the girl was so she didn't have to worry. They were so angry with each other, I could feel the heat.

http://www.freeimages.co.uk/
I felt bad for them both and wished they knew a better way to deal with conflict.

While listening to them, some of the first thoughts that came to my mind were respect and control. Both parties need to have respect for each other -- the daughter, who is presumably living under her mother's roof, and the mother, because her daughter is an adult now.

Both are using control to irritate the other. The mother is being controlling with the way she is demanding to know many details about the daughter's where-a-bouts, and the daughter is being controlling, by purposefully withholding information. It's a power struggle.

I wondered what would happen if each of them put themselves in the other person's shoes. If the daughter could ponder what might be going through her mother's mind, and how her mother might feel with no idea where her daughter is or who she is with. What if the mother could reflect on her younger years when she wanted freedom and flexibility from her parents? Could this be how her daughter is feeling now? 

Even when there are years of resentment built up between people -- as was evident with this mother and daughter -- every one of us has the power to change the course for the better. One day at a time. One interaction at a time.

Let's imagine a new scenario. The mother comes up to the table and vents her frustration to her daughter. Instead of firing back, what if the daughter acknowledges her mother and says, "I love you, mom. I can see you're really upset by this. Can we talk about it later tonight?" No matter what the mother says -- even if she continues to fire back -- the daugher remains calm, loving and consistent in her request to continue the conversation later. Because, the truth is, no good will come out of a volatile conversation where one or both of the people involved are overly emotional and not thinking clearly.

Think it's impossible? It's not. Yes, it takes practice. Yes, it takes self-control. No, it is not easy. But, is the end-result worth it? YES! We can all start healing difficult relationships in our lives by handling difficult conversations like this one in a new manner.

-- Written with prayerful hope for this mother and daughter to heal their relationship.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Living Large! A Celebration for Tyler and Alyssa

We had parent-teacher conferences at Tyler and Alyssa's school yesterday. I left there feeling so fantastic that I knew we had to celebrate!

I keep tabs on the kids' school work, I volunteer in Alyssa's classroom, I try to attend the field trips, and I periodically set up playdates with the kids and their parents. So I feel like I'm aware of how they are doing academically and socially. I have my eye on them! :)

But to sit down face-to-face with the teachers and hear the amazing things they said about how Tyler and Alyssa are doing felt so wonderful!

Especially because of our move. Of course, Paul and I were worried about what would happen if we moved. How would the children adjust? I believe we are getting our answer! They are doing just fine!

It's not magic that they are adjusting well, though. It's because of the conscious efforts of their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and teachers. Everyone has been so encouraging, welcoming and helpful.

So, yesterday at 3:00 we decided to hop on the train to meet Paul downtown for some Chicago-style fun! We toured the John Hancock Observatory and learned about some of the City's landmarks.

We stepped inside the American Girl store at Water Tower Place for Alyssa. You should have seen the smile on her face!

We grabbed dinner at a really cool-looking Cheesecake Factory at the bottom of the Hancock Building.

Then we walked down the Miracle Mile in awe of how the lights from the buildings twinkle in the clear night sky. The air was crisp ... our steps were light ... it was so much fun ... wow, what a gorgeous night!

--Written with love and gratitude for all of the people encouraging us and helping us adjust to our new home. Thank you!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What are the Sparrows here to teach me?

Do you believe God uses nature as a tool to communicate with us? I do. Whenever an animal starts making its presence known to me, I try to look it up. It's as easy as typing "spiritual meaning (insert your animal here)" into Google and finding a reputable site.

I've had many an animal to Google in the past couple of years. The most recent one that came to me was the sparrow.

While I was growing up, my Grandmother always fed the sparrows in her driveway. Now that I am living in her home, I am the one feeding the sparrows. The kids and I have been doing it all summer long, but it didn't occur to me to look them up until this week. Why? Probably because they're such an ordinary bird. Nothing exotic.

Well, wouldn't you know it. Those darn sparrows do have a message for me. Because the sparrow is small, part of its spiritual significance is to remind me that I do not need a big house or flashy car to be important.

Very interesting considering we are living in my Grandmother's modest home while we work on selling our Florida home. As the market has continued to decline over time, the price of our home has had to go down right along with it -- making us realize we are not going to be able to buy the Northern home we have been dreaming of. We have had to scale down our expectations quite a bit. We're OK with that and are actually thinking smaller is better, anyway...perhaps it will allow us more of a travel budget to get back to Florida and visit family and friends there!

The sparrow also brings spiritual messages of simplicity, and boy are we enjoying that here at my Grandmother's house. Most of our belongings are still in our Florida home, so we are making do with much less. Guess what!? We are doing more than "making do," we are actually doing very well. Paul loves his job, the kids love their school, and I'm busy with my business and enjoying being near friends and family.

Here's to the sparrow!

-- Written with love and honor for Grandma who always took care of the birds.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why is it so difficult to live in the moment?

What does it mean to "live in the moment?" To me, it means to try to enjoy each moment of our day. To enjoy each task. To find fun in everything we do. To find the gifts in every experience. To be present with ourselves and with our loved ones.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I was walking to the park with the kids. It is SO easy to get caught up with everything we have to do that we often miss out on life itself.

One of the ways I try to live in my moments is by taking the scenic route to school every day. There is a faster way, but we have found a way that we really enjoy and that provides a view that we love.

I also make stops from time-to-time to look at wildlife or interesting construction projects. One morning this week we stopped at a park that had frost all over the ground.

Tyler and Alyssa have never seen frost before. So I pulled over, parked and sent them running in the field to see what it looked like up close...to touch the grass and see what it felt like. It was a beautiful sight, really, and I realized that we were living in our moment. We took a detour from the road we were headed on for just a couple of minutes to explore and play!

How will you play today?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Husband and Wife Ironing Controversy

Photo from http://www.oneinchpunch.net/

One of my clients had an interesting controversy about ironing and her husband that I wanted to share. Her husband hates ironing. So does she. Neither one of them is good at it.

Leah had this internal, old-fashioned voice inside that told her she should be ironing for her husband. That is what she saw her mom do. That thought is an old agreement she believed about what she thought roles and responsibilities are for a stay-at-home mom.

But in the real world in the 2000's, Leah does not like ironing. She barely irons her own clothes. Also, she works from home and does not think she has extra time to iron for him during the day -- when she isn't taking care of the kids, she is working. Some of her thoughts were, "He doesn't iron my clothes, why should I iron his. We are in this 50-50. I work just as hard around here all day as he does at work."

Every time her husband picked up the iron he ended up swearing and getting totally frustrated. Because of Leah's internal beliefs that she should be the one ironing, she felt a dagger go into her heart every time she heard him get pissed off as he was ironing. Part of her felt bad, like she should iron for him, but another part of her thought he needs to be responsible for his own ironing, just as she was hers.

This went on for years. Like more than 10. And they never really talked about it. It was just an experience that kept occurring.

It recently came to light again. Leah heard her husband complaining about ironing more and more. But she didn't say much other than to suggest he look for a tutorial video on YouTube. He did that, but didn't really find anything helpful.

photo from http://www.oneinchpunch.net/

Finally, one day, Leah decided to try to help make her husband's ironing experience better. She went out and bought him a new iron and ironing board. Her husband was excited about the new purchases and hoped it would help, but it only helped a little bit. He still got frustrated when he ironed.

Leah's next idea was to take his shirts to the cleaners to be professionally pressed. She did that and surprised him one day. It worked! He loved the surprise! They talked about the expense, which neither one of them had too much of a problem with, considering the frustration the ironing caused.

Finally, knowing he was in a good mood about the subject, Leah was brave enough to be honest with her husband. She said she had this old-fashioned, internal belief that she should be ironing for him, but that she did not want to. She said it felt like a dagger in her heart when she heard him get frustrated about ironing, because she thought the swear words were aimed at her. She said she didn't want his ironing to be her responsibility, but she wouldn't mind dropping shirts off at the cleaners and picking them up. He said she was awesome. That made her feel very relieved.

The moral of this story is in communication. Leah should have been more honest with her husband a long time ago, but she wasn't because she was afraid to rock the boat. Instead, she let this pattern repeat itself for more than 10 years and grate on both of their nerves. Now the issue is out in the open, making it easier for both of them to be honest.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ouch!

Ouch! That hurt! Today I saw some new recent pictures and a virtual tour of our Florida home, and it stung. Looking at the pictures made me feel a little bit sad. It made me miss the house and our life in it.

It looks so beautiful -- inside and out. I love what we've done with the place, if I don't say so myself!

On one hand, it was nice to see the lawn was green and the pool was blue ... rather than green, but, seeing all of our furniture and belongings there was difficult.

I know it's just "stuff" and that what really matters is we're all healthy and together. Most of the time I think positively like that, but sometimes it's difficult.

It's stressful that the house has not sold yet, because it represents a huge piece of unfinished business -- and our largest asset. Questions arise, like how much will it sell for? When will it sell? Will we have enough for a down payment for a new home? Should I buy Alyssa a new baby doll stroller since she keeps asking for the one in our Florida home? How much should we spend on decorating the place we are in now? How long are we going to be here?

I hadn't thought about how much I missed our house until I saw it in pictures today.

Seeing those pictures did more than make me feel sad though, it actually taught me something. I realized that although I always loved our home, I tended to look at its imperfections, rather than its overall beauty. Instead of seeing a beautiful family home, I often saw dusty shelves, vacuuming that needed to be done and kids toys that needed to be put away. Now I look at the pictures of our home, and I see beauty.

Today I acknowledged there are a lot of things about this situation I don't know, but I realized there are a lot of things about this situation I do know. I know another family will eventually walk through the front doors and fall in love with the house just like we did. I know God is in control and that He works in His own time. I know we are all together, happy and healthy. I know my family has been hugely blessed by the opportunity to live in my Grandmother's house during this time.  I know it's not the house that makes the home -- it's the people in it. I know I'm home as long as I have my family. I know home is where the heart is.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Parenting Dilemmas

It's been an interesting week for me -- I've been deliberating about whether to send Alyssa to school for half-days or full days.

My initial thought was to send her half days this semester and full days next semester.

The class she is in is a full day class. She was the only one leaving after half the day.

But, after the first week, Alyssa expressed her preference to go for the full day. She said she didn't have enough time to play when she left after a half day.

Part of me was jumping for joy at the thought of having from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. every day to work and get my stuff done. But, part of me felt I should keep her with me as long as I could...to completely fulfill my stay-at-home-mom duties and to continue to mold and shape Alyssa with our family values.

Ahhhh....the dilemma.

I spoke with her teacher about it, and she thought Alyssa would do fine, so we decided to try it for a few days this week. Of course, Alyssa took right to it.

On the first day she was going to go the full day, she flat out told me, "Mommy, if you need to cry you can bury your face in my princess pillow." Seriously?!?! My four-year-old just said that to me?

Then, she gave me a plastic fairy window decoration she made and said if I miss her and feel sad, I can squeeze the fairy. Oh my word. The things that come out of this kid's mouth!

All week long, Alyssa continually expressed that she loved to be there the full day.

This morning I said, "So, before I make my final decision, I want to make sure you would prefer to be at school in the afternoon, instead of home with mommy." She said, "Yes, mommy."

I said, "OK. Give me a hug. I love you. Thank you for being honest and sharing your preference with me." We hugged for a minute, and when I let her go, I noticed she had tears in her eyes. I think she realized it was a big decision and that mommy would miss her.

So, I guess that's it. She's going full days. In some ways it feels like the end of something -- my official "stay-at-home mom" days. But, I know it is so much more than that. This is a beginning. For me. For Alyssa. For our whole family.

We have just moved across the country. The kids are adjusting BEAUTIFULLY to their new school -- so much so that Alyssa wants to be there all day. What more could I ask for? My children are thriving here! This was my biggest fear about moving -- "What about the kids?" I guess I have my answer! Thank you, God! xoxoxo

Monday, August 30, 2010

New School, New Adventures!

It was such a joy watching Tyler and Alyssa adjust to their new school last week. It is awesome having them in the same school!

Tuesday was the funniest day of all. We laughed so hard as we listened to their stories about seeing each other and interacting (or not) during the day!

It all started when Alyssa couldn't find her snack in her backpack. Her teacher sent her down to Tyler's class to "borrow" a snack from him. She found some crackers and ate them all, except two. She put them back in Tyler's lunch box.

They told me about this when I picked Alyssa up from school at 11:00, but what they didn't tell me was that Tyler was not in the classroom when that happened. So, imagine Tyler's surprise when he opened up his lunch box to find a snack-size Ziplock with only two crackers in it! LOL!

Then, at one point, Alyssa snubbed Tyler in the hallway -- he said hello, and she ignored him! Later when we were having the conversation about it, he said, "By the way, what were you doing in the hallway alone anyway?" Apparently she was walking a friend to the office for an ice pack.

The reason Tyler saw them in the hallway was because he was going to get a new pair of shorts -- apparently he slid down the slide right into a puddle of water. The office staff got him a "new" used pair to borrow. The funny part about that story is that I didn't know about it. So, when I went into the school later in the day to purchase an additional pair of shorts for Tyler, just because we needed them, they said, "Oh, he already got a new pair today!" Imagine my surprise! Too funny!

It was a nutty, funny, crazy, joyful week! Hopefully this week will be just as fun!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Remembering Grandma D

This is Grandma & Grandpa DeBruyne
last summer at my brother Dan's wedding.
Grandma DeBruyne passed away overnight. She was technically my step-grandmother, although, in our family we didn't use that "step" title. Everyone was just family. The only reason I mention it now is to share the story of her love for me and my brother and sister, who were brought into her family when we were young.

I was about 10 when I met Grandma DeBruyne; my brother Erik was 6; and my sister Kara was 2. Grandma and Grandpa DeBruyne accepted us into their family like we were their own. Like we were always there. If an outsider attended a family event, they would never have known we weren't always there or meant to be there...because we were. We never, ever felt like "step" grandchildren.

How lucky were we? To be accepted into a family like that? Things could have been much more difficult for us if they weren't so loving. By the way, that family was huge! Grandma and Grandpa DeBruyne had 8 children. At the time there were 18 grandchildren!

We spent time with them on every holiday and many other family celebrations in between. Most of these celebrations were held at their welcoming home. Christmas was always one of our favorite times -- as much of the family gathered as could, and the gifts were many. I swear they took up a quarter of the living room!

Grandma and Grandpa DeBruyne always gave flashlights on Christmas. All kinds -- big and small and unique styles, too! They were different every year. We grandkids always looked forward to them. Grandma and Grandpa were very practical like that.

When I got married Grandma and Grandpa gifted me with the flowers for the wedding -- she owned and operated a flower shop. The flowers were absolutely beautiful -- any bride's dream! She pulled out all the stops! I was so lucky.

I'm so grateful for the time Grandma D was in my life. She was a very special person. So, it is with a heavy heart that I say, "Goodbye Grandma, and thank you so much for your love."

--Written with love and admiration and gratitude for Betty DeBruyne

His and Hers top 10 Lists of Why to Buy 11471 Persimmon Court

Paul and I have a beautiful home for sale in Fort Myers that is in need of a loving family! 
We are so fortunate to have lived in this house and raised our children there for the first several years of their lives. It is a fantastic family home! If it were not for Paul's exciting new job, we most certainly would not be leaving the house at this point in our lives.
We know that men and women look at different characteristics when they go to buy a house, so we each made our own top 10 list of our favorite things about the house! Check it out and share this with anyone you know who might be searching for a home in Fort Myers.

The Husband’s Top 10 List of Reasons to Buy 11471 Persimmon Court
1.       Brand New Multi-Color Tiled Roof 2010!
2.       Lightweight Corrugated Hurricane Panels (Google storm stoppers)
3.       Cable wired in all rooms
4.       Wood-burning Fireplace
5.       LifeShield wireless home security ready
6.       Red Sox Stadium Coming Soon!
7.       Heat Exchange Unit (air conditioning heats hot water)
8.       Heat Pump Pool Heater
9.       Newly Resurfaced Pool
10.   Newly Rescreened Lanai

The Wife’s Top 10 List of Reasons to Buy 11471 Persimmon Court
1.       Beautifully Landscaped Pie-shaped Yard
2.       Split Floor Plan
3.       Large Kitchen opens up into Family Room
4.       Vaulted Ceilings create Openness
5.       Nicely Painted and Clean
6.       Lots of Sliding Glass Doors for light
7.       Fully Re-modeled Master Bath
8.       Heated Pool
9.       Fenced, Private Backyard (one of largest in Gateway)
10.   On a Cul-De-Sac with fantastic neighbors

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Window

Today the UPS driver came to the door to deliver a book from Amazon. No biggie. They usually drop and run, right?

Not today. After ringing the doorbell, the man stood there. I'm guessing he's around 40 based on our conversation.

I greeted him with a smile and walked out the door to accept the package. He handed the package in my direction, but he did not actually give it to me. I looked around wondering if he wanted me to sign something, but, there was no sign of anything to sign. He just stood there holding the book.

I looked up at him, and he looked at me. He very politely and carefully said, "Do you happen to know Irene?"

"Ohhh." I said, finally understanding what was going on. "I'm her granddaughter. She's living in Wyoming with my Aunt right now. She has Alzheimer's Disease, but she's doing well." I felt my face smile a big, huge smile, knowing he would feel better about her whereabouts.

With a very relieved look on his face he said, "Oh. Oh. That's great. I'm glad she's OK." He went on. "I've been delivering packages here for about 20 years. I got to know Ralph pretty well, and through Ralph, I got to know Irene. Ralph was a really good guy."

Everybody we meet around here says that about my grandfather -- and they don't just say it normally. They say it with reflection and emotion and admiration. It's unreal.

But, the UPS driver? Really?! First, it's amazing that someone would have the same job for 20 years ... but it's also amazing that my grandfather had such an impact on him. My Aunt told me he cried when they told him about my grandfather's passing. Wow.

It just makes me think of what a gift it is to be living here in my Grandparent's house. To meet all of these people who were impacted by them. It's like a window into their life. Every time something like this happens -- and it happens quite often -- I feel so warm, like one of them is hugging me. I feel so lucky. So lucky to be living here right now. What a gift!

Written with unconditional love for Grandma and Papa ... all my love ... Kristina

Monday, August 16, 2010

Treasured Friends

I wanted to write about a recent visit we shared with some great friends -- the Norman family.

We were friends with the Normans for about 13 years while living in Florida. We knew each other for quite a while before we had children.

When we started having children, we happened to have them right around the same time, so we shared tons of fun on the kid front -- birthday parties, baptisms, play dates and more!

Eventually, we started a poker group and played together once a month with 2-3 other couples. We were all good friends and spent all kinds of time together.

About two years ago, the Normans left Florida for D.C. Keith took advantage of a fantastic job opportunity. Logically, I knew I would be OK, but when they left, a part of me felt my life would never be the same without them. We shared some of life's most precious moments together. I considered them family.

Of course, we've kept in touch across the miles and got to see them last year when they came back to SWFL for a visit!

Little did I know back when they moved, that our family would be moving out of the state, as well. As luck would have it -- if you believe in that kind of thing -- Liz just happens to be from Peoria and visits Illinois often!

They came to visit us last week as part of their summer vacation! How sweet is that?! What a GIFT! Here we are ... two families from SWFL meeting up in the Windy City!

It felt so wonderful to be able to share our new surroundings and my old stomping grounds with them. My heart felt huge and satisfied and fulfilled with them here. I felt hope for the future and validation that good friends can always be good friends if they try.

The Normans are very special to us. The kind of friends who have always been there ... and always will be. We are so grateful for them!

Written with love and gratitude for all of our friends ... We love and miss you all! Please come visit!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

5 Steps to Peace After Anger Strikes

What do you do when someone makes you angry? Whether it's your spouse, friend or co-worker. Sometimes we lose our cool, blow our tops and say or do something to retaliate. Or maybe we do the opposite -- we just hold it in and don't deal with it. Either way, you are left feeling badly...and those bad feelings don't just evaporate. They must be dealt with.
Here are 5 simple steps to take the next time someone makes you angry. Try it and see if it works for you!

1. Immediately after the event, get pen and paper and write down exactly how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Get all of the negative feelings out. For example, "I am so frustrated." "I am so pissed off." "I can't believe she said that to me." "I can't believe he did that." "What a jerk!" Just get it all out! Write until you can write no more about it.

2. Now write down your intention for how you desire your relationship with that person to be. For example, "I intend to have a peaceful, loving and honest relationship with my spouse." or "I intend to have a positive, professional relationship with my coworker."

3. Next, write down everything you are grateful for when it comes to this person and this experience that has caused you grief. This can be tough, but it's important for you to soften your heart and realize there are gifts that come out of every negative situation. For example, "I am grateful I have a husband." "I am grateful he loves me." "I am grateful he helps around the house." Write down everything you can think of that relates to this relationship and the situation at hand. Once you have done this, you will be able to take the fourth step...

4. Write down what action steps you can take to own your part of the negative experience and move forward. You can't control the other person, but you can control yourself. What can you do? A big action step is to apologize. Maybe you could have done a better job communicating. Maybe you forgot to do something you said you would do. Or maybe you shouldn't have lost your cool. There is always something we could have done better.

5. Take Action. Now is time for the hard part. The apology. Yep, even though that person made you angry first. You are going to apologize first. And, when you do apologize, don't try to defend yourself by explaining why you did what you did -- especially if it puts blame on the other person -- that won't help. Just sincerely apologize. Tell that person you love them and that you will try to do better next time. Then, listen to what they have to say. Acknowledge your error. Tell them again that you love them and you will try to do better next time. Repeat this as many times as needed.

Some situations certainly will be more complex than a simple apology. Let me know if you need further guidance.

Written in honor of my family and friends -- the people I intend to experience loving, peaceful, honest and fun relationships with....

Monday, August 9, 2010

You Get What You Give

I've been trying to decide what to write about for days now. I haven't had any hugely interesting storeis to tell...but one concept keeps coming to the forefront of my mind, and that is "you get what you give." Basically, treat others the way you want to be treated.

This is such a basic concept, but one we don't always remember. Many of us talk about how we wish people would treat us. What we don't realize is that we have the power to influence this. When we catch ourselves wishing someone would treat us differently, we should stop and ask ourselves, "Am I treating him or her the way I want to be treated?"

Happy, silly parents = happy, silly kids!
Let's think about this in terms of our children. What happens when we lose our cool and snap at them? Do they smile and tell us they love us? No. They snap right back, don't they? So, imagine what would happen if we took a deep breath and thought about our words and tone before we snapped.

I have been teaching this concept to my children. Here's an example. Alyssa is working on the computer, and in a whiny, yucky voice she says, "Aaaarrrrrrgh...this computer keeps doing this wrong." Then she looks at me as if she is waiting for me to jump out of my seat and run over to help her.

Only, at this point, I won't help her because she didn't speak nicely or use the word "please" or even directly address me. She simply complained. She made my skin crawl. I am now feeling totally frustrated and annoyed because she came at me with negativity. As a result, my response is equally rude. I say something like, "Alyssa, mommy is trying to do her work, and you are making me crazy with this computer stuff."

Imagine how this situation could have gone better if Alyssa would have said, "Mom, can you please help me? I'm having computer problems." I would not have felt that negative energy coming from her, and I most likely would have been much happier about helping her out.

Now, I can't expect a 4-year-old to know this already -- I'm in my 30's and just learning it. So, I look at it as an opportunity to teach Alyssa that she gets what she gives. If she wants mommy to respond with love, then she should ask with love!

It seems like every day is a new opportunity to be a better parent! Thankfully, our kids give us plenty of opportunities to try again!

Written with love and adoration for Tyler and Alyssa ... mommy's most influential teachers!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Never a Dull Moment!

There's never a dull moment! Last Friday was our big tree planting party, as you know. My first order of business was to pick up my 13-year-old niece, Katlin. She lives about 45 minutes away. My plan was to stop half-way there at Costco to pick up a nice ham dinner for her family since they just had a baby.

When the kids and I came out of Costco, the car wouldn't start. It was the battery. Why does that always happen as such a surprise!? You never know when those darn things are going to quit!

My first thoughts were panic -- "OMG! I'm only half-way to Katlin's. I've got to get her and get back to Arlington Heights to buy all of the food for the party tonight! I've got two kids in this stranded car. It's getting hot in here. I have cold food I just bought -- I don't want it to go bad. OMG! I'm hosting a party tonight! I have no time to be stuck here at Costco!"

I called Paul, who was downtown Chicago at work, and we talked about the options. As we were talking, we remembered Costco sells batteries. So, all I had to do was go into Costco, get a battery and find someone to install it for me.

I called my mom, who just happens to live in the town we were stuck in, and she said her significant other just happened to be working in town that day and might be able to swing by and put the new battery in for me!

Gee! Turns out I got stuck in a great place! Within one hour I had a new battery and was back on my way! We ran an hour behind our "schedule" for the day, but that experience gave us many gifts! Here are a few of them:

  • The opportunity to keep a positive attitude and realize this was not the end of the world.
  • The opportunity to keep my cool and show the kids calmness in what some would perceive as a crisis.
  • The opportunity to teach the kids that sometimes life does not go as planned, but it will still work out anyway.
  • The opportunity for my mom's significant other to help his daughter-in-law and grandchildren -- he was happy to do so ... and how funny for this to happen just after I moved back to Illinois near my family -- it helped me realize they really are here for me!
  • The simple amazement of how life works -- that truly was a great place for my battery to die that day!
In the end, the party went off without a hitch, and we all had a great time! 

I share this story because I believe we all have the ability to make life what we want it to be. We have a choice for how we look at our experiences -- big and small. Are they the worst thing that could have happened, or are they a gift in some way?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

As promised ... here are the tree speeches!

Tyler, Katlin and I wrote speeches for the tree planting ceremony. I was completely amazed at the depth of what Katlin and Tyler had to say. Check it out!

Tree Speech

By: Katlin Verley

Just a few years ago we had a tree with a memory in every root cut down here. The tree was here for longer than some of us have been alive, Every Sunday during Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall most of us remember coming and visiting Papa and Grandma's house and of course the tree was always there .

But it was necessary to cut down the tree for the house's sake and the rotting inside. Having such an empty yard feels a bit unsettling, for as far as I know most of us had some sort of connection to that tree.

Today were celebrating the planting of a new tree. This tree that we're planting symbolizes our family. The roots that grow in the soil will represent the strong Verley family. The trunk represents Papa and Grandma. The branches that grow off the trunk symbolize the different directions our lives go. And the leaves are our past and new family. And when the leaves blow off the tree, they get raked back up into a pile -- leaving us back together again.

We dedicate this tree to Raef, Grandma and Papa Verley. 

Starting now I proudly present the planting of our new family tree. Thank you Papa Verley, Grandma Verley and Raef for leaving such a large impression in our lives. We plant this tree here for you for an everlasting memory of the people who were most important to us and for starting our family and for coming to us a healer for our family means so much, because the past stay past and the present stays present we love you with all our hearts and cherish the moments we had together.

Now for Tyler's speech ...

Since this post is getting long, click here to view my speech, if you'd like. 

Friday, July 30, 2010

It's the Big Day

Ty and Lyss had fun helping transport the tree home!
The big day is here! The day of the tree planting party!

Today we are planting a Red Sunset Maple tree in honor of my grandparents and in memory of my nephew, Raef.

This is such a special party. For many reasons. First, that it was my 13-year-old niece's brainchild. Katlin took our idea of simply planting a tree to honor our grandparents ... to dedicating it to Raef ... to making it a family affair. She made all of the plans for the party. I've been honored to serve as her humble assistant!

She even made the call to my sister Kara to ask if it would be OK for us to dedicate the tree to Raef. She also worked with Kara to find the best date to have the party -- keeping in mind when the most family members would be around.

Turns out, the best day was today. Today just happens to be Kara's birthday. Hmmmmm....let me see here. So, we are planting a tree in memory of Raef on his mother's birthday. I love it! What a gift! It makes the day even more special!

Katlin also went as far as to write a speech talking about honoring our grandparents and Raef. It will bring tears to your eyes. Tyler jumped on the bandwagon and wrote one, too. I will share their speeches with you after the party. They are so beautifully written -- straight from the hearts of two amazing children!

Ta-Ta for now! I'm off to pick up Katlin and get this party started!!!

Written in honor of my beautiful and talented sister, Kara. Happy Birthday, sister! I love you!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Life is Wacky

I say that with the utmost amount of love...I say it to be silly...I say it as a creative way of expressing that life is so beautifully and amazingly interesting. You never know what is going to happen. And you should never say, "never." And you never know what you might love about what you said you'd never do!

Tyler playing my Grandma's piano.
First of all, there was a point where I said I would "probably never" move back to Illinois. Then, before we moved back to Illinois, I said I didn't want to live in my Grandmother's house for reasons I've already written about.

But, here I am...living in Illinois...in my Grandmother's house...and feeling very peaceful about it. We're settling in quite nicely.

At this point, I can't imagine making this move to Illinois without being here. I've come to realize that my heart feels really good in this house. It fills my soul to be here. It is a gift to be here. The memories that have flooded my mind over the past few weeks are incredible and comforting. It is a joy to share this house with my children and Paul.

Here's what my aunt (my Grandmother's daughter) had to say about us living here via email:
Grandma & Papa's house has always been the heart of our family. Where we could all go for fun times, to just sit and visit, for comfort, for a refuge...it was what they made with their love. They made a house their home. And they filled it with a loving family.

Grandma & Papa will forever be the circle that is around all of our families. They will forever be in that house -- Papa tinkering in the garage or sitting in his chair. Grandma taking care of him, or playing the piano, or both of them sitting at the kitchen table. Our memories of them are in their home, and now your family will make memories there. That is as it should be, it was meant to be this way, God is richly blessing you. You deserve so much, Kristina, you are such a special Grand-daughter.
 As you can imagine, this had me in tears. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever read about my grandparents ... and about our family.

Well, this Friday our entire family is gathering to plant a tree here in honor of my grandparents and in dedication to my nephew Raef, who is now watching us from above. May the memories and the love continue for generations to come...

Written in honor of Ralph and Irene Verley and in memory of Raef Garrett Young...all my love.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reconnecting with ... The Godfather

It is so fun to be back in Illinois experiencing some of my childhood favorites and seeing family again! I had the distinct pleasure of reconnecting with my Godfather, Mike, last week. It's been quite a few years since I've seen him.

The neat thing about my Godfather is that he has been friends with my Grandparents for more than 55 years. They became neighbors in Iron Mountain, MI when he was a kid.

As a young adult, he moved out of Iron Mountain, and, so did my Grandparents. -- eventually, they both ended up here in Northern Illinois, just minutes from each other. That was simply an amazing coincidence ... IF you believe in that type of thing!

It's fun to talk to him, because he has lots of stories about when my grandparents were younger.

One of the best parts of our visit last week was the list of restaurants he brought to share with me! I have to say, my favorite though, was him reminding me of my Grandmother's favorite bakery. She loves their chocolate cake donuts (which just happen to be my favorite). I made sure the kids and I stopped there the next day to take in a little more nostalgia! Yum!!!

This may not seem like a big thing, but as many of my readers probably know, I am all about the little things in life. What a gift it was to see my Godfather again, to hear some great stories about my grandparents, and then to share the memories with Tyler and Alyssa by taking them to the bakery! It just fills my heart ... and my tummy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

New Habits, New Fun

I knew from before we moved in that things would be different for us while staying at my Grandma's. First, the house is smaller than ours...no biggie, though, it has 3 bedrooms, so everyone still gets their own room!

Plus, it has no dishwasher. Yep. No dishwasher. I was kind of dreading that, but, as it turns out, it's just fine. I really don't mind doing the dishes, and it brings back childhood memories of us all chipping in after family dinners to get them washed and dried and put away. Not only that, but I have found that Tyler and Alyssa LOVE washing dishes!

It's not something I let them do a lot at our Florida home -- mostly because the counters were taller and the sink was deeper, so it was more difficult for them to reach. Plus ... we had a dishwasher!!!

This activity has also led to them washing the dinner table and helping set it and clean up. They did a little bit of that at home, but they are really embracing it now! What fun!

The other neat thing I discovered is that Tyler loves to make ice! Yes, the refrigerator at my Grandma's is so old it does not have an ice maker. I thought that might be a bit of a chore, but as it turns out, it's a great chore for Tyler! Yippee!

We are enjoying so many interesting experiences as a result of living at my Grandmother's house. These are just a couple of the daily ones!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A bit of Nostalgia

Well, we've made the "temporary" move to Illinois. It has been very interesting, going back to the place I grew up, now that I have children of my own. While we anxiously wait for our home in Florida to sell so we can buy a new home, we are staying at my Grandmother's house.

As luck would have it, she vacated her house just weeks before we needed a place to stay in the Chicago area. She is now living with my aunt in Wyoming.

I'm so grateful she is with my aunt and has care 24/7, and I know it is the best place for her to be right now, but on the other side of that thought is amazement at how life goes sometimes. I moved to Florida 15 years ago...never really thought I'd move back. But, here I come, moving back, and there she goes. On almost every phone conversation I've had with my grandmother over the years, she always said she wished we didn't have to live so far apart. I did too. I missed her a lot.

My grandmother has always been a very big part of my life. We spent almost every Sunday at her house growing up, and I would stay with her and my grandfather for a week or two during the summers. I have SO many memories at their house. Throughout my childhood, their house was a very comfortable place for me. How fitting is it that it is available to me now when I need it? It's really too much for words.

The experience has been surreal so far. All the memories in the house, the yard, the neighborhood. Driving down the street. I feel like I am moving in slow motion. I know part of that is because I just uprooted myself and my kids and moved across the country, but the emotions associated with staying here are impossible to ignore. I feel sad, because I miss my grandparents, but grateful that their home is available. I am also grateful, because it throws me smack in the middle of all these childhood memories that I can share with Tyler and Alyssa.

One of my most sentimental memories is of feeding the animals in my Grandma's driveway. She put bread out for the birds every day. We'd tear up the bread, then go inside to the window and watch them eat. Tyler and Alyssa LOVE this activity! I let them do the feeding, then we wait and watch! Birds, squirrels, bunnies and chipmunks all graze on the bread! What fun! It tickles my funny bone to watch Tyler and Alyssa enjoy this activity!

 Written in honor of my Grandmother and in memory of my Papa. Thanks for the memories...