the nest

the nest

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How do we raise strong, confident, caring people who will grow up to make the world a better place for all? How much is nature and how much is nurture? Can someone who has grown up in less than ideal circumstances change their path? How do we parent our children throughout their life so that we give them the support and guidance they need, without smothering or controlling them?

Too many big questions for 5:30 in the morning!

Being a parent is hard. Being a teacher is hard. Being anyone who is responsible for guiding and teaching the next generation is HARD. If it is so hard, how have we as a species survived?

I can't even begin to dive in to all the questions above this early in the day, but maybe it's not really that hard. Maybe we (and our 21 century lifestyle) have made it harder.

~ Love unconditionally

~ Hold people accountable for their actions, then push the "re-start" button

~ Don't do things for children that they can do for themselves (even if it gets you out the door faster!)

~ Feed them good food

~ Provide them with plenty of fresh air and exercise

~ Teach them how to say "please" "thank you" and "I'm sorry".  Don't demand that they say these
      things... teach them by example.

~Teach them how to make eye contact and have a conversation with others.

~Teach them how to give a firm handshake

~ Don't make all their dreams come true. That's their job.

~ Be the person you want them to be - they will learn by watching YOU
~Explore the real world, not just the virtual one

~Don't ignore or avoid technology, but set clear limits on it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

different but good

This Thanksgiving marks the first holiday in 25 years that we will not be with at least one of our three children. When this first sank in, it felt very strange. What would that be like? Then it felt strange because I felt ok. Shouldn't I be sad? I've been turning it around in my head for a few weeks now and here are some of my thoughts ~

     It's just a day. I'm thankful everyday for my children, my family, my friends. Any chance we have to be together whether it's for a big feast or a quick dinner in the middle of the week is a chance to be thankful and enjoy time together.

     As a family, we have created a way of being that includes welcoming others to our table AND accepting the kindness of others to join them at theirs. Living far away from family means that our holiday table has often included a changing guest list - last Christmas was the first ever that we had Christmas Eve with just the 5 of us and it was odd. We also have not always been home, so while we have our traditions, they have remained flexible, making it easy not to get locked into "but we have to do it this way," kind of thinking. This year, Jeff and I will be in Canada with part of his family and will celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday! Child number one will be house/dog-sitting for us, and is thinking about hosting a "friends" Thanksgiving. Child number two will spend the holiday with her boyfriend's family and child number three will be with my brother and his family. While we will not be together, we will all be thankful and enjoy the company of people we appreciate and care for.

     While I have moments when I miss my children terribly, most of the time, I'm living my life, of which they are a part. They are not the center. I love hearing about the people they are meeting and sharing time with. I love that my son is finding enjoyment in hosting and feeding people in the same way that his Dad and I do. I love hearing stories from people who host my daughter's about their comfort level in engaging in conversation with friends AND strangers.

This year I will give thanks that those I love all have some place to be where they are loved and appreciated. I will give thanks that my children are growing into loving, compassionate, giving people who are comfortable sharing their gifts and their table with others.

There is comfort in tradition and in family rituals for sure ~ growing up, my family's Christmas celebrations were filled with consistency and tradition which I loved and found comfort in. When I began my family, I tried to create some of these with my children. What I've realized however, is that when we become too attached to tradition, it can limit our ability to open ourselves to new people and new experiences. In today's ever changing world, we need to be opening ourselves to others, not closing them off. The political climate would suggest we need to isolate ourselves from others to be "safe." This is so wrong! The more we can learn about and engage with others, the more we eat, drink, sing and dance with others, the more we open ourselves to those who are different, the faster the walls that divide us fall away. It is much harder to hate and hurt those you have shared a meal with. It is harder to turn away from someone you have made music with.

This Thanksgiving I will miss my children at the table. I will talk with them all and look forward to seeing them in a few weeks. I will enjoy time with my husband, my in-laws, my nieces and nephews. I will relish our time together and over the next month will look for ways to help other's feel loved and cared for.

I will remind myself that it's one day. I will remember to be thankful EVERY day. I will give thanks.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Deep breaths...

For much of the past year, I've felt like we were living in some bizarre reality show. There have been times when I've seriously thought that life in the time of Trump has just been some crazy social experiment to see what people would do when faced with an insane leader.
Unfortunately, it is what it is. I have spent hours raging against the complete and utter idiocy of 45 and those who support him. I've despaired over the increasingly loud voices of those who hate and ridicule and blame people different from them for the crappy state of their life. The amount of energy that I (and so many of you!) have spent trying to keep up with the tweets and temper tantrums and lies is overwhelming.

Today while scrolling through Facebook I came across the following article How to Stay Sane if Trump is Driving you Insane: Advice from a Therapist. It was just what I needed to read this morning.
Using the therapeutic method of DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), the author, Robin Chancer, takes us through the following steps;

1) Radical Acceptance and Dialectical Thinking, and 
2) Attention is Everything.

Having had some exposure to DBT I am even more impressed with it's potential applications to everyday life!

Radical Acceptance - Coming to grips with the reality of what is and recognizing what we can and cannot change. While the reality is that 45 is currently the President and I can't do anything about that, I can support those who are attempting to hold him accountable for his actions and I can take action steps like calling my representatives and sharing my perspective with them. I can join in solidarity with my brothers and sisters when there are opportunities to protest. I can speak openly on social media and share information and perspectives that might help others stay informed. I cannot, however,  make anyone else change their minds

Dialectical Thinking - People are crazy complex! We are both good and bad, selfish and selfless. It can be so easy to paint others as "bad" or "wrong" but in reality, they are people like us. As much as I would like to suggest that 45 is evil incarnate, he is human and just might have some redeeming qualities. I don't know what they are, but it does me no good to refuse to acknowledge his humanity. It's also true that while we might work for good, there is no guarantee that our efforts will pay off. We might campaign for reasonable gun control, but because of factors out of our current control, we don't get the result we want. We can stomp and pound and pull our hair out, but sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we will not be successful.
Finally, we are responsible for our world! We can say "God has a plan," or "everything works out in the end," or "you can't change fate," but the truth is, we are responsible. I sometimes think of the idea that we are "God's hands." Whatever you believe, we must take an active role in creating the world we want to live in and leave to our children. While we cannot control others, we can control ourselves and how we interact with and contribute to humanity.

Attention is Everything - Mindfulness. The author describes this as "the art of shifting attention." I love that! If my attention is completely focused on the ways that the world is falling apart, I'm ignoring the unbelievable beauty that is out there! While our current leaders are failing to accomplish much of anything, and there seems to be an increase in racist, nationalistic, misogynistic behavior, there is also a dramatic uptick in giving, protesting, sharing and defending. #metoo has brought about a flood of stories from women of all ages and the Pandora's Box that is the shame we feel around sexual harassment and assault might never be closed again. Re-directing our attention away from the horrible things that are happening won't make them go away, but neither will staying obsessively focused on them. Shining a light on the positive things happening brings attention where attention is due. The more we support and share those "good" things we see and hear, the better we feel and the more we can impact on the world in a positive way. We become proactive rather than reactive.

It can be so easy to feel hopeless and helpless. On a personal level I can get sucked in so quickly to all of the YUCK. When I pull myself out of the pit and remember a few simple things, I find the sun is brighter and the world is better.

1) I cannot control anything other than myself and my actions.

2) People are inherently good and at the same time we are all flawed.

3) I have a responsibility to play my part in this world we live in. 
           I AM NOT responsible for anyone else's happiness or success.

4) Focusing my attention on the positive actions of myself and others is always more powerful 
            that focusing it on the negative. 

5) The more the darkness intrudes the brighter I will shine my light.

Read the whole article if you like. It really is powerful. If you find yourself wallowing, consider thinking through the ideas above and see if you feel differently. I did.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The wheels are turning and the nights are sleepless

Since I last wrote, the wheels in my brain have been spinning! I'm one of those people that doesn't sleep when my brain gets busy and lately it's been busy a lot. I've been working through my empty house, creating new teaching space in a new location, mulling different ways to communicate the importance of Early Childhood Music and Movement to potential new families, trying to wrap my brain around the rapidly changing world of Social Media and how it pertains to marketing, creative budgeting so next month's tuition payment doesn't bounce, and on and on. That doesn't even touch on the middle of the night musings about 45, N.Korea, football, the National Anthem, patriotism etc.

I know that in order to sleep well, I need to have enough physical activity during the day, I need to not drink coffee after 2 pm, I need to step away from my phone and other screens about an hour before I go to bed AND I need to re-focus my brain by reading something completely unrelated to my work or current obsessions.

When I do all those things I generally sleep pretty well. When I don't, all bets are off. While I don't love the sleepless nights, I have to admit that sometimes that is when I am the most focused and productive if I just give in, get up and go to work. The quiet of the house and the silence of my phone make it easy to not get distracted. I don't want to wake up my husband or the dogs, so I don't get up and do things like unload the dishwasher, or choreograph large movement pieces for classes.

A week or so ago during one of those sleepless nights, I realized that I wasn't moving forward on the Coaching business in a way that felt authentic to me. I was trying to focus in on finding individual clients. I was focused on creating something completely different from the work I already do. In the quiet of the night, I knew that while Coaching is different than the work I do as a Music Together Director and Teacher, it doesn't have to be completely separate. In fact, I already use Coaching skills with parents in my classes and with my teachers.

As I started to explore those ideas I realized that one of the things I do well is facilitate groups. I love retreats. Why not create a retreat for women looking to explore what's next in their life? Spending a day (or a weekend) really digging in through the use of music, movement and other creative outlets. Discovering what holds us back and what we need to move forward. Discovering what brings us JOY and how to begin taking the steps to re-focus and move forward with living the life we want.

THIS feels authentic. THIS feels like me. Over the next few weeks I'll be working on planning the details and hopefully sharing them with you by November.
Please don't hesitate to be a part of this creative process. If you have ideas of things that you would find inspiring, comforting, engaging, or challenging let me know.  In the meantime, I will continue to post in The Nest and to blog here, moving myself and hopefully you, a few steps closer to joy.

Monday, September 4, 2017

true confessions

I've been avoiding blogging since my last post for many reasons. The biggest? I've been fooling myself for the last year and didn't want to admit it. For over a year I've been building up to the launching of my last "chick" into the world. I went on and on about how ready I was to graduate from HS. To be done with driving to activities. To be done making breakfasts, lunches, last minute trips to school. To be done with committee's. To be done with raising children.

What a load of crap. For the last 24 years the most important work I've done is raise my children. I've done lots of other things too, but to be honest, they all came second. In fact, I used my children as an excuse any number of times for not doing "more." I needed to be available to them. THEY CAME FIRST.

A week and a few days ago, we dropped the girls off at school - Katy for her Senior year and Helen for her first year. We've talked and texted several times since then, but for the most part, they are living the next part of their life. I'm drifting a little.

It doesn't help that this time of year is always a challenge for me. I love the colors of fall and the cool temperatures, but my mood takes a tumble every damn year. Never so far that I can't function thanks to a little medicinal help and my Happy Light which I'll begin using soon, but far enough that I feel like a fuck up. My mouth sinks into the gutter. Sorry mom.

I don't need anyone to tell me I'm good at anything. I know I'm good at many things. I know I'm respected and loved. I know all of these things. What I don't do is believe it. I'm almost 50 and while I love what I do professionally and believe it to be important work, I've treated it like a hobby. I've made very little in terms of money. I've run my business in a haphazard way. I've given away huge amounts of my time to excellent causes and I've wasted even bigger amounts of time on things I can't even remember at this point.

I've spent time building up others while hoping that no one realizes that I can't seem to finish anything I start to save my life. I have fantastic ideas! I start awesome projects! When I get bored or distracted I either let them fall apart or I try to get others to take over. Most of the time they eventually fall apart.

The truth is I'm a Mom. I'm a really good Mom. I know I have more to offer the world, but right now I'm mourning the end of chapter. I knew what I needed to do. I knew what was important. I knew I was needed. Now I'm drifting a little.

Last Spring I jumped into the idea of coaching. While I'm not throwing it in the trash I am rethinking what shape this work will take for me. It was a giant distraction from the transition my family was going through. I didn't want to see that the intensive part of parenting was ending for me. I didn't want to contemplate what was next; I just wanted to jump in. Not only did I decide to start coaching, I joined a town committee and then a commission. I filled up my life with more "busyness."

I've avoided thinking about the seismic shift in my life that has taken place. When I was in college and graduate school I had every intention of being one of those women who did it all. One who successfully juggled a career and a family. When the reality of raising children clobbered me on the head I realized that I couldn't do it all. I felt like I was failing everyone. Something had to give. I came across a book called "Sequencing" by Arlene Rossen Cardozo. The idea that I could have it all, just not at the same time spoke to me ~ LOUDLY.

We figured out how to make it on mostly one income and I dove in to mothering. Because I am who I am, the actual amount of time I was strictly focused on parenting was probably 2 months, but in terms of priority, it became my first priority from then on. Now when I can fully shift back to myself and my career I'm terrified. I've been working all along, so the fact that I'm a little paralyzed right now pisses me off. I should be thrilled!  I can work uninterrupted on all the marketing and staff development projects I've thought about and talked about for years! I can explore adding Coaching to my work life as I am excited to share what I've learned with others about creating your own life. I can clean my house and know that it will stay clean.

The fact is I will miss the chaos. I will miss the constant interruptions. I will miss the demands on my time. I will miss the hugs and snuggles and "I love you's". I will even miss the drama that went with raising teenagers.

I am looking forward to the ability to get more done and grow my businesses. I am afraid that now there is no excuse if I fail. Before, I could blame my lack of focus or productivity on the never ending distractions that go with working at home with children. Now I'm the only one distracting myself.  I'm turning a bedroom into an office space for myself in the hopes that if I have a room to "work" in that is separate from the rest of the house, it will be easier to ignore things like dishes in the sink, or laundry or dogs. Only time will tell.

At the end of the day I know I have a pretty great life. I love being a mama and I know I will always be one. The reality of my empty nest was way more emotional for me than I expected. I raised my children to leave me. That's the whole point! Raise them up and send them out to make the world a better place. While their adult journey's are just getting started, all three of them are on track to do just that and I couldn't be prouder. I'd be lying though if I said that I'm not sad to see them go.                                        

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Today's the day...

The world has been crazy lately. I've taken a dive back into political activism. I'm horrified by some of the racist, white-supremicist, awful things that are taking up oxygen currently.
I'm also amazed at the kindness and beauty that continues to surround us all. The ugliness is getting a lot of air time, but the beauty and goodness will prevail.

I choose to believe this. Call me naive if you like, but I believe that there is more good in the world than bad. I won't believe otherwise. If I did, I'm not sure I could leave this morning to bring my youngest child (and her older sister) to college half-way across the country.

I know that there are good people EVERYWHERE and that if and when my newest chick to leave the nest needs help, guidance, support, ANYTHING, some good person will step up and help. It's what we do. It's what I have taught my children and it's what I have witnessed over my increasingly long life.

I'm not suggesting that there is not ugliness and hate in the world ~ our current political leaders lack of moral leadership seem to have brought much of the hate that has been simmering underground, to the surface. As much as it winds me up and stresses me out, maybe it's a good thing. It's easier to fight something you can see.

Like generations before us, we will look at those who would preach hate and violence, and we will continue to preach love and non-violence. Hopefully we will learn from our past before too much damage is done.

Here's what I want to tell my daughter as she heads out into this complicated world of ours.

LIVE your life. Don't be afraid to make mistakes or to get hurt. This is when we learn the most. Take care of yourself. Take care of others. Believe in something bigger than yourself and trust that you are loved and cared for. Look for the Helpers. Mr. Rogers words continue to ring true. If you are afraid, or confused or just need a hand, look for the helpers. They're EVERYWHERE! Be a helper yourself.

Stand up for yourself and others. Eat healthy foods, drink lots of water and take your vitamins.

Don't forget to sleep.

Remember your hat when it's cold.

Never ever forget how very much I love you and how very proud I am of the powerful woman you are becoming.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Out of the Nest Coaching is a thing!

I'm too wound up to sleep at the moment, so I thought I'd pour out a few thoughts here! The last several months as I've been working on developing my ideas for a Coaching business have been exciting and terrifying at the same time. Once in a while I just laugh at myself because when I begin to doubt myself and have second thoughts, I'll come across something I wrote about taking chances and being courageous! I sometimes have to remember that I better "walk the walk if I'm going to talk the talk."

So much is converging right now. I'm launching Helen off to college. 2 weeks from today we leave CT to bring her and Katy to Luther College in Decorah, IA. Katy for her last year and Helen for her first. While I'm launching them I'm launching this newest venture. At the same time Fall is arguably the busiest time for my Music Together work as well. Perhaps loading myself up with tasks is a way of distracting myself from noticing the now 3 empty bedrooms... I can't say I'll miss the endless hours of driving children to various places, but I will miss the conversations and even the silence that took place in my tired minivan. There will be less laundry and fewer dishes. There will be fewer snacks in the house to spoil my healthy eating plan, and it will be so quiet. My son, who still lives in CT, has promised his Mama that we can do Sunday dinners at least a few times a month. That will help when it gets too quiet.

Right now I can honestly say it will all be fine. This is the purpose of parenting - to raise and launch the next generation. The generation who will save the world from the mistakes of those before. I'm confident that my children and many others I know, are going to be tomorrow's leaders. They are a generous, compassionate, fierce group of human beings who, despite the challenges they face, will rise and make our world kinder and better than we could ever imagine. They get climate change, and equality and social justice. They will be ready when this latest bubble of crazy pants people supposedly making decisions for all of us finally go the way of the dinosaur.

I could say all that if I could speak with the giant lump in my throat right now. 12 days from now my girls will return from Camp Calumet where they have been working all summer. 2 days after that we will pack the van and head to IA. I expect the lump I have right now to stay with me for much of the trip.

So many of my friends are in this same place right now. Some are sending their first to college, some their second, some their last... That empty nest is really here this time. I'm glad I can fill it up with new friends and ideas. The Nest will be a new place to engage in thoughtful conversation, give support and the occasional nudge. Knowing that there are those who will catch me if I fall makes it easy to let myself fly  - out of the nest. I hope you'll trust me to catch you when you're ready to join me.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Trusting your kids to "do the job"

There is nothing like pulling together a group of people to create something and then letting them go! This past weekend was the Ellington Community Theatre production of "Annie!" As some of you know, one of the hats I wear is 'Producer' of ECT. Over the course of less than two months, we take a group of 75 people ranging in age from 5 - 50+, and put a show on the stage! In addition to the 75 participants, there is a staff of 9 and at least 30 volunteers.

My job is the hardest and the easiest - ultimately I'm responsible for the end result. If participants (or audience members) are unhappy, the buck stops with me. That is a lot of pressure! However, when I find good people who know their job and then get out of the way and let them do it, I can sit back and "enjoy the show!"

I think maybe we all need to take on the role of Producer more often in our lives - find people with the skills needed for any particular job and then trust them to do it.

One of my frustrations with education lately is the constant second guessing of teachers. We hire people to teach but then we micro-manage them and fill their days with paperwork, testing and reporting, so they can't actually do the thing we hired them to do. We get in the way!

We do the same thing with our partners and children. We give them jobs or assume they will take care of certain tasks, but then we get in their way and try to control how they do it. I've been guilty lately of doing this with my young adult daughters and $. I have raised smart, thoughtful girls. They are fully capable of figuring out a budget and managing their resources. They might have to mess up a few times, but this is the time to do it - emptying your checking account when you are 18 and don't have a mortgage to pay is way easier to deal with than when you HAVE a mortgage, or car payment, or what have you.

Money is a hot button issue for me - I am often stressed about it and my children know it. My son has figured it out (as far as I know!). As a college student he took full responsibility for all non-school expenses after a number of arguments about how he was spending his money. This was probably the single best thing to happen to our relationship EVER. For whatever reason, I haven't drawn a line with his sisters, but it's time to do that. By holding onto that control, I'm holding them back from learning valuable lessons about being an adult. This is the time when mistakes will have the least impact.

I'm also telling them I don't trust them to "do the job" of being a young adult and all that entails. I think because money has been tricky for me, I'm afraid that I haven't taught them what they need to know ~ my guess is that it's the opposite. I trust them in so many other ways, it's time to trust them with their finances too.

Monday, July 17, 2017

my new world order...

July 17th! How did it get to be July 17th?? Between final dance recitals, graduation, parties, guests, travels, running my current business and prepping to launch my new business, I could use a nap!

The only way that I can function these days is by chunking my time~ One of the luxuries of working from home the way I have been for years is that I've been able to manage lots of different things at one time ~ this hasn't always been the most productive strategy, but for the most part I've been able to keep my family humming along and my business floating above water.

Now that guests AND kids are gone for the summer, I have found that too much flexibility for myself has become a liability! The last few weeks I've been working on deliberately chunking my time for different tasks rather than trying to multi-task everything. Wouldn't you know it works?!?

When I focus my attention in blocks of time for different parts of my life - coaching, Music Together, self-care, home-care - more gets done and I feel more calm and focused.

Having a home business can be such a great way to balance you life, but it can also turn into a never ending hamster wheel of crazy!

I have gradually stopped answering my phone when I am not "working" unless it is someone I can identify. I have responding to e-mails as soon as they come in. Instead, I'm responding to phone messages and e-mails when I can sit down and focus on the task at hand.

I love hearing how other people organize their time. What's your strategy? If you don't have one currently, what has worked in the past? Is there a strategy you've thought about trying, but just haven't done it yet?

I'd love to hear from you ~ you never know who you might learn from!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Out of the Nest and into the World

May 31st my middle chick turned 21. June 12th my oldest chick turns 24. June 13th my youngest chick graduates from HS. Chick number 1 lives on his own. Chick number 2 will be home for just over a week before heading to NH for the summer and then back to IA for her Senior year of college. Chick number 3 leaves the end of June for NH and then to IA to begin college.

By the end of June my nest will be empty. Aside from visits home and perhaps a few months here or there when they need a place to "land," my chicks will be launched.

This whole blog began 6 or so years ago when Chick number 1 was a Senior in HS. When I look back I realize what an amazing journey it has been! I have grown and changed more since my children began their transition to adulthood than I ever imagined I would. My attitude towards life, politics, parenting and myself has grown-up along with them. I am both more AND less tolerant. I am more careful with my words, but more willing to share those I choose. I am more patient with children who are learning how to be in the world and less patient with grown-ups who don't know how to behave in the world. Mostly I love and appreciate myself and my life more and more everyday. I feel more responsibility to my local community and the worldwide community.

When I began writing it was about launching my children and myself into the world. Now I'm ready to share what I've learned to help others do the same.

I look forward to transforming the focus of Out of the Nest to helping other women both settle in to feel safe and supported, as well as brave and strong enough to jump out into the world when they are ready. I will be there to jump with you or to catch you.


Friday, May 19, 2017

The first day...

Today is the first day of my 50th year.

Today my youngest child will attend her Senior Prom - as a family, this is Prom number 9.

The "lasts" are coming fast and furious this month! The last HS musical last weekend, the last Chorus Concert yesterday, the last Prom today...

This time is full of mixed emotions. I am so ready to "graduate" from High School. 10 years has been a good run, but I'm ready to move on. At the same time, these years have been full of music, friends, community and love as my children have grown into amazing young people, both because of and in spite of the community they grew up in.

I'm ready to shift my volunteer focus away from school events and committee's towards community events and committee's. I'm ready to dive more deeply into life as an entrepreneur. With fewer "mom" demands on my time I will have fewer excuses and look forward to holding myself accountable for using my time well and growing my business.

I'm sad to leave these days behind. I'm not sure if it's because I've loved them or because I'm afraid I didn't love them enough. "The days are long but the years are short." I don't know who said it first, but it's true. I've always been guilty of looking ahead ~ just look at birthdays! 29 was harder than 30, 39 was harder than 40 and I suspect 49 will be harder than 50.

This year, my 50th, I want to continue to focus on being in the moment. Planning for the future, but really seeing what is happening around me and being PRESENT. Rather than fretting about being almost 50, I want to enjoy 49.

As the "lasts" continue this month and next, I will enjoy them all. I will cry and laugh and probably take too many pictures. I am so proud of the children I have raised and enjoy them more and more as adults every day ~ the years to come will be different for sure, but I'm excited to follow the journey's of each of my "chicks" and am excited to continue my own journey as it diverges from theirs.

Here's to a new year of taking risks, learning new things and enjoying every minute!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Don't mess with the Mama

In our backyard we have a pavilion - picture a 3 bay carport with a fireplace at one end. It sounds like an awesome outdoor living space, but really it's on it's last legs. What it does best is house the 10-12 nests that are built in it each Spring.

Every Spring my husband fights a losing battle with the Mama birds. They build the nests, he takes them down, they rebuild them faster and quickly lay their eggs. Before you know it there are baby birds cheeping away and I won't let him take the nests down anymore.

Those Mamas are a force to be reckoned with! They are absolutely confident that their nests belong in the eaves and no matter what happens they successfully launch dozens of baby birds every year!

As I'm working on developing my focus as a coach, I find myself looking more and more at ways to empower and strengthen women. Right now in our world it can seem terrifying to be a woman. The current political climate threatens to pull us backward. At the same time it is so exciting as more and more women are finding the confidence and strength to jump into the political fray. I'm confident that the current assault on women's rights and protections is a last gasp from an old guard. 

Women are like those mama birds; persistent and determined. No matter how many times we are pushed back, we will come back stronger than ever. We will become more efficient and connected. We will support each other, sharing ideas and resources to lift everyone up instead of stepping on others to move ourselves ahead.

This is the community I want to build. One that supports and empowers. One that reaches out to women of all demographics to give them confidence and support to trust themselves as they create a life for themselves and their families that feels good.

It's time for us to stop following rules that make no sense. It's time for us to create work and family structures that make sense in our world today, not try to fit into ones that worked 50 years ago. It's time to ask the question "why?" whenever someone says "because that's how we do it" or "because that's the rule." It's time for us to stand together as a community to make the world better for everyone, not just the privileged few at the top. Don't mess with the Mama.... She is stronger and more determined that you will every know.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Happy May Day!

May is here!
May is always a big month for me. There is something about the new babies, flowering trees, warmer temperatures and new energy that gets me going.

May is my birth month. It's the month of Mother's Day and the birth month of child number 2. It feels celebratory and inspiring. It feels validating.

This May will include a series of "lasts." Our last Prom. Our last HS musical production. Our last HS concert. While we are ready to graduate from HS for the last time, I would be totally lying if I said that each of these "lasts" weren't tinged with a little sadness. I want to relish each of them. I want to fully experience them with my child so I can really and truly say goodbye to this chapter of my life.

This month I also dig deeper into creating a new professional path for myself. My Music Together work just gets richer and more satisfying and will continue on. In addition to this work I'm beginning to explore the world of Life Coaching. I'm in the early phase where I'm creating an identity and a focus. Who is my ideal client? What can I teach them? How can I support them? What do I have to offer? Lots of questions to answer! Having a coach to take me through this process is certainly the only way I would actually make it happen, but at times it feels indulgent. I need to own the investment and take full advantage of the opportunities to learn and grow if I am to be successful. I don't have to do it by myself.

While my momentum is building, I'm still finding myself "hiding" in my nest ~ putting off my list of "to-do's" in favor of snuggling with the dogs. Watching netflix with child number 3. I don't quite trust my wings yet. To feel safe I need to build my network of support. Those who will catch me if I fall. Isn't this what parenting is all about?? I feel almost as if I'm 18 again and ready to leap... but not quite.

As parents, we create a "nest" for our young ones. A safe space to learn and grow. Some children can't wait to jump out and others need a little more time to feel safe. Either way, we want them to know that they can always come back if they need to ~ to re-group, re-charge, re-focus.
Sometimes they jump before they are ready ~ we want to catch them when they fall, but some fall too fast.
Sometimes they get stuck and refuse to jump ~ a nudge becomes necessary to get them moving! If they don't trust themselves, we need to help them along by making it clear that WE trust them. We know they have what it takes to create a life for themselves. If we have done our job as parents, they will trust US, take a breath, spread their wings, and fly.
One way or another, our children will grow and go. When that happens it's back to us. Deep sigh.

In less than 6 weeks, Helen will graduate from HS. Both girls will spend the summer working at Camp Calumet in NH as they have before, and then will head to college; one for the first year, and one for the last year. My truly empty nest begins soon.

Here's the thing though. There will always be room in my "nest" for anyone who needs a place to re-group, re-charge, re-focus. Sometimes it will be my children. Sometimes it will be friends. Hopefully it will be future clients. A "nest" isn't just a physical home for me. It is a metaphorical "safe space." A judgement free zone where you don't need to apologize for resting your "wings."

Through the season of new life, new energy and new beginnings, I will be taking time to sink in to my "nest." I will continue to develop my skills and "muscles." I will continue to soak up the "lasts" with Helen and will be available to her as much as I can be to enjoy it all.

In June, she and I will both fly out into the world. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Tomorrow I jump.

I've started this post multiple times over the past month - in my head of course - but haven't just sat down to write. When my oldest was getting ready to graduate, I had to write. I had to process. I cried all year long. When my second was getting ready to graduate, I needed to write too, but I was less teary. I'd been through it once before and had realized that while graduating was big, it was more of a starting point than an end point. My first had left, but stayed in contact. With the second I was as excited about the adventures to come as I was about the "end" HS graduation represented.

Now, after 10 years in High School, the youngest is getting ready to fly. She is finding her way and while there have been plenty of struggles, the path is pretty clear and as she heads into the last few months her excitement about the life to come is beginning to outweigh the "senioritis" that marked the first half of the year. As a family, we are ready to "graduate" from HS for the last time!

This time around my attention has not so much been on launching child 3 out of the nest, but launching myself. Life has been pretty great up to this point and I've been able to do work I love while being the available parent at home. That changes next year. The time spent driving kids, running errands for kids, cleaning up after kids, feeding kids, nagging kids and on and on, will be over.

So much of what I love about parenting will continue ~ loving, listening, laughing, advising. The time intensive part is wrapping up. We have made the choice over the years to work with a smaller family budget in order to make it possible for me to be available as our children were growing. While I wouldn't change that decision for a minute, I would be lying if I said it wasn't a struggle. We have more debt than we would like and the stress we have experienced around money has taken too much time and energy.

I started looking at the years ahead. So much time to dig deeper into my business! It's time for me to increase my income so we can eliminate the debt we've taken on and build on our future plans to travel and someday retire. Let's be honest. No one goes into Early Childhood ANYTHING to make money. Why not take this time to dive into a whole new career? Not so easy. First, I LOVE WHAT I DO. Loving what I do makes me a happier person and when I'm happier, my family is happier. Second, like so many women who have stayed home to raise families, I've been out of the work force long enough that I'm both over-qualified and under-experienced for the few jobs that have any appeal to me at this point in life.

How do we move into these next years???? For so long, I've had my sweet little business, but have primarily been Andi, Katy and Helen's Mom. For many women it's even more dramatic. So many spend the years of childrearing completely focused on raising their families, volunteering in their communities and taking care of everyone but themselves. Years of education get dusty on a shelf and dreams of careers fade away.  Music Together has given me a professional community to connect with and opportunities to grow and I'm certain that having this work has made me a better Mom. I have opportunities to move forward within this community as I train to be a Teacher Trainer and find ways to nurture and grow my business. So much to look forward to!!

So what's with the complete lack of focus and motivation lately to do anything other than stay home with the dogs and the last of my chicks, binge watching shows on Netflix and ignoring the list on my phone of things that need to be attended to?

I'm not afraid of sending my children out into the world. They are more than ready and I'm excited to see where life takes them. I'm afraid of heading out into the world myself. For 24 years I've had an excuse to "back out" whenever life felt overwhelming. "My family needs me." "I need to be available to my kids." Excuses that have sheltered me from both the risk of failure, but also the risk of success.

For years I've said to myself, "You have so much to offer, but if you really dove in, the kids and family would suffer." What a load of CRAP. Let's be honest. I'm a lousy cook - I don't keep a particularly clean house. It's fine, but I certainly don't spend a whole lot of time on it. I am really good at laundry. That's my claim to fame at home. I'm a pretty good chauffeur too, but I've been hiding behind my children for years and now they are on their way. Jeff more than carries his load at home and has always been 100% behind whatever makes me happy. The only thing that has held me back is that FEAR.

FEAR that I'll fail. FEAR that I'll succeed. FEAR that people will figure out I have no idea what I'm talking about. FEAR that I'll disappoint.

This is the year that it changes. I'm jumping out of the nest with Helen and am moving forward with my life and career. Tomorrow I start a year of working with a Coach ~ building my business and creating additional ways to use the skills and knowledge and passion I already have to expand what I can offer to the world and increase what I contribute to my family.  For years I've made excuses. I've had a difficult time claiming the title of "small business owner." I haven't taken myself seriously or in anyway "owned" who I am and what I am capable of. I've found my voice, but now all that talk needs to be turned into action.

Tomorrow is the day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Expand your definition of Valentine's Day

I love Valentine's Day ~ not because of the Hallmark Holiday, chocolate, flowers, romantic love stuff.
I love LOVE. All kinds.

LOVE makes the world go round.

LOVE me do.


When we limit "LOVE" to romantic love we diminish all the other kinds of love that surrounds us.

I LOVE my husband.

I LOVE my children - fiercely.

I LOVE my friends - girl friends, boy friends - all of them.

I LOVE my students and their families.

I LOVE my siblings and nieces and nephews and in-laws.

I am LOVED by so many in return.

I LOVE Valentine's Day because it reminds me that LOVE is something we all need AND we can all give. LOVE is free and it grows exponentially.

Try it today - LOVE someone you don't know today. Buy a cup of coffee for a stranger. Hold open a door. Smile and say HELLO. It's amazing how little it takes to warm someone's heart.

If you are feeling sorry for yourself because you don't have a "Valentine," choose one! Pick someone who could use a Valentine too and show them some LOVE.

Valentine's Day can be all about consumer gluttony and romance and all that. If it works for you, great!

If that kind of Valentine's Day doesn't work for you, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater! Join me in expanding the definition of Valentine's Day to the one use in schools everywhere when EVERYONE gets a Valentine from EVERYONE!

Claim Valentine's Day a reminder to show the world that you know how to "share the LOVE."

LOVE you.

Monday, January 30, 2017

From nice to nasty...

"I'm not nice, I'm not good, I'm just right..."  

 the Witch    "Into the Woods"

When I was small, I wanted to be liked. I wanted people to think I was nice and smart and pretty. I wanted to be popular. The focus of many things I did was to please others. My biggest fear? Disappointing my parents. My next biggest fear? Making anyone (other than my siblings!) mad at me. In school I followed directions, followed the rules, followed the crowd. When the popular girls got Guess jeans, I had to get Guess jeans. When they cut their hair like Farrah Fawcett, I cut my hair like Farrah Fawcett. The only reason I didn't follow the crowd when they made questionable but typical choices for HS students like drinking or smoking pot, was because of my biggest fear. Remember? Disappointing my parents.

Lately, the Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods" has been running through my head on an endless loop. When I was young I would have been Cinderella - nice. Unwilling to make waves or even make a decision because it might be the wrong one. Like so many girls, I thought I needed to be nice and pretty first, smart second. The influences of the world can be huge when you are a child - you listen to everything. Today with the internet and social media it is exponentially harder to not hear and be influenced by "the world." 

As I grew there were times when something didn't seem right and I began to experiment with pushing back and questioning what I was hearing and seeing. A Liberal Arts education opened my world a little bit to one where perhaps there were more important things than being nice and pretty. I began to form my own opinions on topics of importance. Reproductive rights, education, politics, religion. I still resisted speaking out too loudly except for with a small group of trusted friends, but in my head and heart, a passion for equality and social justice was starting to burn.

When I became a mother at 25, I tested the waters as an advocate. The hormones that raged through me as I nurtured and gave birth to my first born pushed me to question hospital protocol that seemed contrary to all I had read and learned about childbirth. I formulated a birth plan that helped my husband and best friend protect me from procedures I didn't want. I didn't push too hard though as I still didn't want to make anyone mad or upset with me. I questioned some of my carefully researched plan and ended up medicated and feeling like I'd failed. Looking back, it was clear that the only thing that kept me from a C-Section was that plan and being able to point to it to protect myself and my child from procedures that had no merit, but at the time I felt like I'd failed.

When my child was born, I took a step away from "nice." As I held his warm body in my arms I felt the first stirring of the mama bear in me who would do ANYTHING to protect my child. No nursery, no circumcision, no formula or water - he would have only the nourishment I could provide and he would stay with me. When despite difficulty and pain, my little one had gained a pound in a week from the milk I provided, my confidence in myself grew exponentially. Not only did I grow this magical being in my womb, I was now capable of providing all he needed to grow and develop - so powerful!

The Baker's Wife in the musical is much more ambiguous than Cinderella. She is flawed and bossy. She will do anything to have the child she desires. She is the first to indicate that the "end justifies the beans (means)." He ambition to have a child and live a bigger life than she has hurts those she loves, but at the same time she would and does give her life for them. As a young mother I was still uncomfortable with the idea of disappointing, angering or hurting others, but with a child to protect and care for, my priorities began to shift. I began to work more earnestly at finding ways to advocate for what I believed in while keeping the peace in relationships when I could. 

At the same time I was mothering, I began work as a therapist and youth advocate - my voice for justice became louder and more confident around issues that affected children and families. My desire to do this work while continuing to be "nice" took a toll on me and my family as I held it together in the world then came home and "let it all out." Like the Baker's Wife I was critical of my husband and would pick fights and make demands. Like the Baker, my husband loved me and support me anyways.

Child number two came along and having gained confidence in my body and my intuition and knowledge, I took control of her birth. I found caregivers who respected and support me and when she burst into the world, my arms were the first ones she knew. She was a mighty little being and her demands to be cared for while exhausting, pushed me to be focused and to trust her needs and my ability to meet them. Upon her entry to this world, I felt strong and powerful! "I am woman, hear me roar!" 

Over the next 20 years, another child arrived and choices were made around work and family that were not what I imagined when I was in college and pictured a career saving the world, but they were choices that made sense and taught me much about love and priorities. These 20 years continued to be filled with challenges that pushed me to think less about being "nice." Raising 3 children with varying temperaments and needs led me to challenge so many systems and protocols that made no sense. We researched vaccinations and chose a Doctor who respected us and worked to vaccinate our children in a way that made sense to us rather than insisting that we follow a schedule that we were uncomfortable with. When our second child, as an infant, refused to be cared for by anyone other than me, I proposed a schedule to my employer that allowed me to bring her with me to work until she was 9 months old. When our first became increasingly unhappy in school, we opted to pull him out and homeschool him for a year until we found a school that better fit his style of learning. 

When our second child lost herself during her Jr. year of High School and was hospitalized, we stood outside the doors of the locked psych ward and refused to leave without her. We trusted our intuition that her needs would be better met with caregivers we found outside. We signed the form they gave us saying we were taking her against medical advice and never looked back. She rediscovered herself with much support and continued her journey to becoming the amazing young woman she is.

When our third child followed her sister and lost her way Jr. year, we dug in, did the work, pushed those in her wider world to give her the support and care she needed to find her path once again. 

For many years my children pushed me to question my need to please. While I wanted them to do things because "that's how it's done," they made me ask why. When my little boy said "why do I have to keep doing these worksheets when I already know how to solve the problems?" I couldn't answer him any longer. When my infant declared loudly that she would stay with no one but me, she pushed me to create a new reality where my family and my work made sense. When the powers that be said they knew my children better than I did, my CHILDREN made me question everything. "Just because," or "because I said so" or "because that's the rule," were not acceptable answers.  

My youngest is months away from leaving the nest. All three of them are on paths of their own choosing. They are thoughtful, smart, caring, compassionate people who refuse to do things just because it's the rule or because someone told them to. I don't agree with them on all their choices, but they have learned to present their arguments and they push me to challenge my preconceived notions of life. While I thought I was teaching them to be "nice," the life they pushed me to live "showed" them that being "nice" and being "good" are not always the same thing nor are they the same as being "right."  

Over the last several months in particular, all they have taught me has begun to push me out of the nest. The election of 2016 and the inauguration of someone who is bent on destroying all that is good in this country has propelled me to stand up and speak out. There have been those who have suggested I am no longer "nice." I've begun to take that as a sign of strength. When "good" is on the line, "nice" is no longer enough. The witch sings "I'm not nice, I'm not good, I'm just right." She is the one who challenges the world and all it's flaws. She is the one who reminds us that it is not what we say, but what we do that children are learning from. They are watching and listening.  

"Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do children will learn..." 

In these precarious times, I've decided I would rather be "nasty" than "nice" if I must choose. I would rather be on the "right" side of history. If being "nice" means sitting by and watching as evil begins to take over our world, I won't do it. I no longer care if my growing passion for activism pushes some to "dislike" me because I speak out. I want my children to see me walking the walk and talking the talk. They have taught me that while compassion and empathy are critical, just being "nice" is not enough. When I started my journey from "nice girl" to "nasty woman" I didn't want to disappoint my parents - this still holds true. What pushed me to own and proudly accept the title "Nasty Woman" is that now, I don't want to disappoint my children. 

Yesterday my son called me "fierce." 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


I've been trying to write since January 1.
It seems like a good day to post. I read several great blogs and editorials about resolutions, not making resolutions, hope for the future, despair for the future. There is always a plethora of posts about being healthy in the new year. Getting organized in the new year. Posts about depression. Posts about the election and upcoming inauguration... I couldn't hear my voice in the cacophony.

Since January 1st, one theme has popped out at me from a variety of places - the internet, books, friends, church - our need for community.

My son shared a NYT article on FB called  "How Social Isolation is Killing Us". It talks about how social isolation is as bad for our health and longevity as obesity and other health risks. He shared another research article a while back that looked at rats who were given the choice of plain water and water with cocaine. The hypothesis was that they would become addicted to the cocaine water. The rats were in two environments however, one with no "friends" and no stimulation and one with other rats and an interesting, rich environment to explore. Those living in a "community" did not become addicted to the cocaine water. More and more we are seeing that social connection is protective against addiction and other illnesses. I'm also currently reading "A Man Called Ove." For those of you who haven't read it, it's about a grumpy old man who's wife has passed away and he just wants to kill himself. There's more to it than that, but I'm only a few chapters in. Suffice it to say that the "community" keeps interrupting his plans.

Earlier this month two things impacted my "village" that continued to make me think about "community."

My middle child was driving with a friend from CT to IA to return to school. Not an easy drive when weather is precarious. I remembered that one of my dear friends from H.S. in Minnesota, lives about 3 minutes off I-80 in Ohio. I connected with her through the magic of Facebook, got her contact info to Katy and so she and her friend Diana had a warm, welcoming place to take a break after driving through lake effect snow. She welcomed them with drinks, sandwiches, hugs and a clean bathroom. That night my husband and I marveled at how amazing it is to have the "nationwide" community that we have. We or our children could go almost anywhere in the country and we would be able to connect with someone from our past or present. Someone in our "village."

Wednesday we got word that a long time church family friend had passed away. She was entirely too young at just 66, but we knew she had been ill for some time. While it was so sad, it was not unexpected. Over the next few days I found myself remembering Sue snuggling my children as babies. I remembered Christmas parties in her beautiful Victorian home that she and her husband lovingly restored. I remember knowing that she was one of those surrogate "aunties" for my children who's extended family was far away. She loved them, laughed at them and indulged them.

Sunday morning I walked into church and saw these people who I love. My community. I struggled all morning not to cry as every time I opened my mouth to speak or sing, I felt overwhelmed with love for them and sadness for us all at the passing of our friend. The sermon was about how we each have gifts to contribute to the community. The COMMUNITY.

I am so blessed to be a part of a wide range of "villages" and I treasure them all. I am more determined than ever to infuse my work and life with opportunities to give to my communities, to build communities for others to be a part of and to be watchful of those who don't seem to have their own. On the other side, we also have to be thoughtful about our communities and cannot allow ourselves to just blindly follow the direction our community is going. We all must participate and speak up.

When I think about what is most distressing to me about the current political climate, it is the division that is being stirred up. The President-elect and those he is choosing to surround himself with seem more focused than ever on dividing us through fear rather than uniting us through compassion and caring. Their focus seems to be destroying some of the very safety nets that define us as a national community - Repealing the current healthcare plan without a replacement will pull the net out from under millions of people who will lose their healthcare. This is just one example. More educated people than I have written about the ways that 2017 could destroy the progress we've made towards inclusiveness and equality for all.

A new community is rising that is not worthy of our support. You could call the KKK a community. Jonestown was a community. Charles Manson's "family" was a community. We must be vigilant that the communities we are a part of are working for the good of all. When communities rise around a demagogue or a theme of divisiveness and hate, there is something wrong. Some suggest that we must "come together" as a community to support the incoming administration. I would suggest that we must stand together against the "community" that is rising around the racism, misogyny, xenophobia and generalized hate and selfishness of our incoming president and his administration.

The communities I am a part of will stand up to care for, nurture, guide and support those who would fall. Next Saturday I will join a community of hundred's of thousands around the world, coming together to speak out and stand up for what is right. Some would say we are sore losers. Some would say we need to get over it and move on.

I would say we will never get over it. We will NEVER stop working for what is right. We will NEVER accept the lies and deception. We will rise as a community to create a world where all are valued, all are welcome, all are loved.