Category Archives: Inspired by children

Aspirations for the New Year – 2011

Not much of a believer in New Year’s Resolutions, I feel that it is just a source for feelings of failure and regret.  Weight loss, financial freedom, spending more time with family – these seem to be the popular resolutions, but they really don’t provide a quantifiable result.  You never have enough money, lost enough weight or had enough time.   Not liking to commit to specifics, my aspirations are more open ended and simple for each new year – HAPPINESS!.

Happiness is a funny thing – it can be faked, it can be fleeting, and even hard to describe – almost like trying to catch a cloud.  For those who have found true happiness, they will tell you it lies within ourselves.  Sound like some philosopher?  Well, I used to believe that I didn’t deserve or know how to find this “happiness”.  I tried to force it, control it, buy it and even manipulate it – all to no avail.   I always had a constant feeling of wanting something different, something more.  During my journey of many twists and turns, I actually have found IT.  The struggles, heart ache, doubts and failures opened the doors to my inner happiness.  Sound strange?  If someone had told me that it would take all of these lessons to get to happiness – I would have abandoned this journey a long time ago.  BUT, if I had to do it all over again the exact same way to get to where I am today – I would say “Absolutely, let’s get started!”  Some might not see my life as successful, but I am proud of my journey and the knowledge I have collected along the way.  Someone once said, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”, that is a pretty good way to sum up my life.  Happiness is a choice, it involves taking chances, sometimes even going against the grain.  Over the last two years I have faced some of the toughest times I have ever had to face.  Staying true to myself, finding my inner strength and consciously choosing to be happy are what have gotten me through.

My only child was diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis in the first few months of her life.  No one in my life has ever faced as serious health condition of any kind, not even a broken limb.  I never dreamed of having to face something of this magnitude.  Sure, I went through the normal feelings of fear, anger, and denial that anyone goes through.  But, my daughter was only two months old, I didn’t have time to linger in the self pity.  I had to find an inner strength to be there for my husband, daughter and even myself.  Many people ask me how I can remain so calm, and I can only attribute it to the journey I have taken.

I wanted the fairy tale, much like anyone else.  It wasn’t in the cards, my first marriage fell apart.  We grew apart and couldn’t figure out how to get back.  I was scared to death, venturing out on my own, no home, no money, self employed, no health insurance and so much more.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it.  So, I put one foot in front of the other and re-invented myself.  Happiness was my beacon and guided my every step.  So, I left a corporate career as a programmer to start a professional pet sitting business – it just seemed to be the right thing to do.  No matter where I was or what I was doing, I would always stop to greet a dog or cat.  I have always been drawn to them, but never pursued a career working with them.  Growing up my parents pushed my focus to corporate jobs for the financial security they could provide.  So in turn, it was my intellectual focus – but my heart was not in it.  Starting this business that was going to take many hours of hard work and not much financial gain, made my family think I had lost my mind.  But, I knew in my heart that I felt so at home and happy with my business of caring for animals.  I managed to get my life back together through the help of many of my friends, my business and the support of my animal family.

Eventually horses became a big part in this equation, the life skills I gained of patience, confidence in my abilities and hard work are key to who I am today.  My path was not the norm – trainers or hours of expensive lessons on trained horses – truthfully I didn’t have the money for this path.  My passion was real and I had to follow my heart, so I found another way.  Many years of working for breeding facilities allowed me to watch, absorb and learn everything I could.

The first time I saw a “freestyle” dressage performance I knew – THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO!!!!  I still get chill bumps just thinking about it.  It takes years of practice, especially if you try to start your own untrained horse.  Unfortunately due to financial constraints, I couldn’t afford many lessons.  Learning came from watching, reading, studying and taking in advice.  Many people were at the ready to tell me to get rid of Dreamer (my Arab), and buy a trained (expensive) horse.  In my heart, I knew that path would be a cop out.  My true desire was to bring out the best in my partner (my horse), whatever that meant.  My little Arab wasn’t able to do a lot of the movements or even compete, her abusive past created many hurdles that couldn’t be overcome in the show ring.  But, she became my trail buddy and would do anything for me – in fact I was the only one she trusted. I was able to build a partnership of trust, which was very rewarding.  For example – she could be in a full rear and one tap on the shoulder with a stern “cut it out” from me, she would immediately calm down.  You can’t buy this kind of relationship.  I can even say that my struggles in training her sealed the deal, in five short years she taught me more that I could have learned from lessons.

Today, Dreamer is retired due to many injuries from her past.  In fact, later in our career I learned that much of her inabilities and previously believed misbehaving were because of the amount of pain she was enduring.  Many times I had vets and trainers watch her to see if she was in pain, no one saw it.  After over 5 years of riding, a Chiropractor/Veterinarian come out to adjust her and found that her pelvis had been broken during those years of abuse (before me).  The pain from this old injury are what had been affecting her ability to build strength in her back.  I was devastated to know that my years of riding were causing her pain from this old injury and no one saw it.  She loved and trusted me, she was willing to endure this pain for me.  Out of love for her, I retired her immediately to enjoy life as my companion.  I grieved the loss of my riding partner.  But her lessons continue on in my relationship with a rescued Standardbred from the race track.  She was only two years old and couldn’t make the cut for racing.   Without theses lessons, Angelina and I would not have developed such a strong partnership of love and trust.  We are working towards the dream I set a long time ago – freestyle dressage.  Angelina is only six years old right now and transitions in my life have slowed our progress – but I will never give up on my dream.  The moment of extreme partnership with my beloved horse is accomplished – you will hear my shouts of joy around the world.

Fast forward to my daughter who is now 2 years old and has some delays in her development due to her condition.  We are working with Neurologists, Pediatricians, and Therapists to help her catch up, but the most importantly I remember to be patient!  I work hard to understand her, even when she can’t tell me what she wants.  Body language, trusting my instincts and reading advice with an open mind are my communication tools.  It isn’t easy, but I turn to my lessons learned from Dreamer.  I get frustrated and even angry, much like everyone else.  Many times I find myself trying to compare her to other children and fall prey to the naysaying professionals – but I know in my heart that Dreamer and I overcame a huge obstacle and together my daughter and I will do the same.  Having fun, enjoying each other, loving her unconditionally and discovering new things with her are the most important thing I can provide.

The side benefit is the gift she has given me, healing of my inner child and finding a joy that I could never imagine.  Much of my life was wasted in a mire of criticism and self deprecation, I am free now.  One look in my daughter’s eyes melts away my pains.  We have managed to meet each new test or doctor’s visit with a fun, light and adventurous spirit.  It is my job to support, even admire, the courage and trust my daughter has shown through so many tests – MRIs, spinal tap, CAT scan, ultrasounds, EEGs, x-rays, blood tests, and so much more in her short life.  In the beginning, each visit to the hospital or neurologist would bring back the horrors I experienced in her first two months of life. I would walk in holding my breath, my bags packed in anticipation of a long stay, and an overwhelming feeling of numbness. Steeling myself against the next report of bad news.  The only thing important to me at that moment was that my daughter be happy and not aware of the pain and fear we felt.

This test has taught me to not try to control things in life, enjoy each and every moment.  No one has the control to stop things from happening – BUT we all have the strength to cope and make the best of the situation.  I work very hard at not trying to predict the future, because no one can tell you what it holds.  In the beginning my daughter’s neurologist didn’t want to give us false hope, so he made the worst case scenario very clear.  At only three months old, we were told that she might never learn to walk, talk, feed herself, or maybe even live past 5 years old.  The one thought that kept running through my head and became my mantra “I can handle this and anything that lies ahead.  I will be strong for my daughter and make the best of the life she has, be it short or long!”  She has overcome many obstacles and is blowing away the specialists with her progress.

So when someone asks me what my aspirations are for 2011, I can honestly say that it is to be “HAPPY”!  It is always my resolution and will always be my resolution.  The definition of what makes me happy is the only thing that changes.  Watching my daughter grow and thrive – makes me happy!  Playing, singing and snuggling with my daughter – makes me happy.  Sharing my love of animals with her and seeing her appreciate them as well – makes me happy.  Learning new things as I take this journey of discovery through a child’s eyes – makes me happy.  Having a loving home and family – makes me happy…..  These are my resolutions for 2011!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network blogging program, for a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

Advertisements

Unconditional Love – Is It Really A Mystery?

I received an update from one of my favorite sites this morning and it made me think.  Is unconditional love an urban myth?  Are we able to accomplish this?  What stands in our way of true unconditional love?

The topic of this article is Unreasonable Love.  These words are going to be engraved on a plaque to remind me everyday:

To love unconditionally means you don’t need a “reason” to justify loving. In other words…

  1. When you have a good reason to love, then you love.
  2. When you have a good reason not to love, you love anyway.
  3. You love for no reason at all.

I didn’t experience this type of love growing up, everything had a condition and you better be appreciative.  If you weren’t perfect, you were excommunicated.  I can guarantee any of the doubters that this type of love is cruel.  You might even find yourself excommunicated one day, from this type of love.

Why do we put conditions on our love?  The message I heard growing up, “It is tough love.  It makes you a better person.”  Their point was to make sure I learned to survive on my own and didn’t rely on anyone.  Another message constantly repeated, “Your family is the only one who will tell you the truth about yourself”.  There are some benefits to this type of lesson, but the downside is that you learn to be an island.  You don’t rely on anyone and you feel that you don’t need anyone.  Pretty lonely!  Is that the lesson to learn?

I ask myself “Why do we expect so much from those we love?”  Do we try to control them with love as the ultimate reward for compliance?  Is love meant to be part of the reward/punishment method?  We need to stop and ask ourselves – “What is my motivation for what I am doing?”  Maybe there is a better way to gain cooperation, without taking away love.

The time out process can be misused to demonstrate the withdrawal of love for non-compliance.  If our child is not behaving by our standards, do you really think putting them in the corner to be ignored is a good way to set an example of good behavior?  I have seen the threat of time out (isolation) being used in this manner.  Don’t get me wrong, getting frustrated and even angry is normal.  Refusing to love or saying things that are focused on withdrawing from them is not all right.

The process of time out, in my opinion, should be used as a way for your child to learn to stop, calm down, and rejoin the activity.  Nothing is wrong with hugging them, telling them you love them, and you are sorry they don’t understand.  Show them the correct behavior by example and calmly explaining it.  What is wrong with time out in mom’s lap?  You aren’t accepting the behavior, you are changing it through love.  Many times children are so excited they can’t control their emotions.  It is our job to show them the tools to regain this control.  Not isolate them!

During my journey to find myself, I have started to notice many of my lessons were learned from the animals that I saved.  They never rejected me and they showed me unconditional love.  Their hearts were always so full of love and devotion, they weren’t afraid to need me.  I was key to their survival and in some cases I was their last stop.

Just to name a few of them:  Dreamer, the severely abused horse who was headed for a very short life.  Horatio, you can see his story on an earlier post.  Desdemona, the road weary Pekingnese.  Drucilla, the one eyed, deaf, declawed, defenseless, homeless cat (her story is to come.)  Smithers, the bear like puppy with Parvo.  Slinky, the homeless cat who chose me (of course more to come about her as well).  Rosie, the lost, starved, unwanted, saddest hound I have ever seen (yep, I will write her story too).  Oh yeah, how could I forget Abe the retired gentleman who’s owners didn’t find a need for him anymore.  There have been so many kittens I have nursed to health and found homes (Stay tuned for the great story about 30 kittens I saved at one time).  Squirrels, puppies, homeless dogs …..  you name it.  I felt their need and I answered.

I mentioned before that I have been lucky to have met some inspiring animals in my life, that is so true.  These lost souls taught me to love, no matter what.  We all could learn a little from this.  Previous owners of these animals used the “Unreasonable Love” methods and almost destroyed their precious lives.  These animals could choose to never trust or love anyone ever again for fear of the same outcome.  But over and over they choose to love anyway, in hopes that someone will appreciate their love.

My debt to these wonderful creatures is something I can never repay.  They have given me the gift of unconditional love and taught me how to give it in return.  My efforts with my little girl are based on these lessons.  I have found a depth of love that I never knew existed.  I love her for who she is, what she is, and what she wants to be.  My only goal is to help her obtain her goals.  Support, unconditional love, loyalty, patience, forgiving, and understanding are my tools to accomplish this task.

Ask yourself what you can do to show unconditional love to your family?  Share some of your stories of unconditional love and how it made you feel?  What do you do when you find this love tested, how do you remind yourself to show love in all of your actions?

The Gift of Time

Interestingly enough spending time with the ones we love is the most important gift we have to give.  Unfortunately it seems to be the most difficult thing to give.

How many times do you say or hear, “I am sorry I haven’t (insert obligation).  I have been busy with (insert alternate obligation).”  We always have an excuse as to why we don’t have time to be with someone.  I have found that these “other” obligations are usually not as important as spending time with those who are important to you.

More times than I like to count, I find myself really caught up in a task when my daughter comes to me with a book.  My first instinct is to say “not now.”  I even get a little frustrated when she doesn’t go away.  Who is actually in the wrong here?  Me, of course.  My little girl is not even two and this time I have with her is fleeting.  Soon she will be an independent teenager who chooses to spend time with her friends, not her mom!  I will be begging for her to spend time with me, just as she is begging for me to spend time with her.

If you stop and ask yourself what is more important the task at hand or spending time with your loved ones – I think you will know what to do.  I now make myself take a deep breath, put down my work, and take the time to spend with my daughter.  The funniest part is that after a few minutes of cuddling, playing, and relaxing with her – I am in a much better place to finish my task.  I feel refreshed and renewed.

No amount of money in the world can replace the time that you spend with your loved ones.  People can’t be bought.  Memories, laughter, and sharing are the gifts that last forever.

This reminds me of a popular saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”