Category: happiness

Surrounding Yourself with Good: How we Chose our Children’s Godparents

This post has been brewing in the back of my head since before my daughter was born. Sometimes people walk into your life and create what at first seems like a subtle ripple in the waters of your life, and only when you look back do you see that what started as a ripple, actually became a tidal wave.  A tidal wave of acceptance, warmth, humor, and love; a wave that picked you off your feet along the way and swept all those tangled weeds of self-doubt away with the tides and leaves you feeling whole. 

When we were expecting our daughter, my husband and I began what became a lengthy discussion as to who we wanted to be our daughter’s godparents. The role of a godparent was extremely important to me, because I am who I am in no small part thanks to the role of my godmother and godfather. My godfather passed away when I was very young, but to this day I remember his humor, patience, and kindness. My godmother was a constant presence in my childhood. She was patient, kind, and unafraid of questioning my sheer determination on every front, even in my rebellious teens. Her compassionately-spoken word, even if it was correcting an erroneous belief or behavior, somehow checked me and made me think about the person I wanted to be, and how my words and actions were interpreted. We didn’t always agree, but she made me think about my beliefs, and made sure that my passions were well-founded. Was she perfect? No, but she was still our saint. She was my mother’s closest friend, and a soul-sister if she ever had one.

So, when choosing our the godparents for our daughter, my standards were pretty high, but we were both very realistic and treated this matter very carefully. In many respects, we are lucky. We have a wonderful group of intelligent, loving, caring friends, but this only made the choice more difficult. In the end, our choice was perfect. We chose two people who embody the following statement to the fullest:

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you,
even when you don’t see it yourself.” -Edmund Lee
On so many occasions, these two individuals have shown how truly they are dreamers, believers, and thinkers. But even more importantly, we see every day their capacity for love, friendship, compassion, joy, camaraderie, humor, and the joy in learning and sharing that love of learning with others. They take joy in the accomplishments of other people and exude love and acceptance in a way that I have always found inspiring. They laugh easily, love easily, step in to lend a hand when needed, and were some of the first people to teach me the concept of paying it forward. 

One has been like a brother to me for nearly 16 years, and the other has been like a sister since I first started training at martial arts. And something I noticed about these two folks in particular – by being around them, I was becoming a better person. 

When we settled on their names unanimously, we were gleeful.  It took us a while to ask them, since we were fearful that, after all our thought, they might say no.  Turns out, they said “yes” within a minute, and I cannot describe the a surge of relief I felt. Our children are the most precious things to us in this world, so knowing that if something were to happen to us, that they would be left in the care of these two amazing individuals, alongside their equally amazing children? They would be raised in an environment of loving support, tolerance, and kindness? I can’t describe the relief. No one can love a child like their parents, but I know these two would be as damn close as you could to loving our children like their own. Because that’s how they roll!  

These two have been more than a safety net – they have been an anchor. When you feel like you might get lost at sea, it is so helpful to have those friends who will tell you the truth, and will also give you the mirror so you can see for yourself that your world isn’t as dark as it seemed.  

So, remember, when you’re looking at the people you hold close, the people you spend the most time with, ask yourself – do they see the greatness within you? Are you able to be unapologetically YOU around them? If not, find those people who are the dreamers and the doers around you – they’re the ones who make you feel good about yourself because they are simply good to the core. 

Those people are the people you want in your life. More than that, they’re the people you want in your children’s lives.

Writing, Parenting, and the Struggle for Self Improvement

Well, I am feeling increasingly like a real writer, mostly because I spend most of my free time (when I’m not chasing Amara, cleaning house, doing laundry, running errands or just sleeping) writing.

While writing the story, “Under the Shadow of the Moon”, I went through my usual process:
1. Wrote the story, feeling absolutely brilliant and clever.
2. Edited immediately after, still impressed with my own cleverness and astounding writing acuity.
3. Waited the requisite minimum of three days (I call this the “Three Day Rule”) to let the story sit.
4.  After the minimum of three days passed, I began the real round of editing. At this stage, I usually question my sanity – I mean, how on earth could I possibly have thought myself incredibly clever having written the drivel and inanity that streamed across the page? 
5.  Waited the required time it takes me to remind myself that there must be some merit to the story, if I took the time to write it (and enjoyed the process).
6.  Final step? I rolled up my sleeves and finished editing it to the point I was happy with it again.
Even after the editing process is complete, I usually have a number of improvements to make, but that’s actually awesome. It means I’m improving, and really, isn’t that the goal of being a writer? Heck, being alive?
Part of my renewed vigor at writing is because I enjoy it and, even when I’m not writing, I feel like I am a writer. I owe it to myself to do something I love, to hone this skill, and to show Amara that it’s okay to follow your dreams, even if it takes you a long time to get where you’re trying to go, or maybe never get there at all.

Sometimes it’s just about the journey.

And that really cuts to the crux of it. The other driving force behind my renewed vigor has a lot to do with my goal as a mother. To show my daughter that it never hurts to put yourself out there, even if the criticism can be stinging. When it comes down to it, we do have some choice in how we respond to those negative voices outside of our head. We can grow from it, or choose to let it stop us from being who we want to be. 
We actually had a conversation about this a while back with Nick’s folks. Times change, and each parent tries to do their best raising their children. I know I will (and probably already have made) many mistakes, as all parents probably feel like they do.  My story as a parent is still being written, but I hope in the end I will succeed at my primary goals as a parent:
1. Love.  My primary goal is that Amara know she is fiercely loved.  I want that love to carry her and fill her with confidence, because in being loved and in loving, she can go anywhere and be anything, with a happy heart.

2. Confidence and Fearlessness. I want Amara to grow up unafraid. I don’t mean I want her to ignore danger or the wisdom being aware of your surroundings brings (see the Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker). I want her to have the courage to be herself, in spite of the many obstacles life may throw at her. I want her to know that fear should not be a driving factor in her life choices – whether it’s the fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of your own voice, or fear of breaking the mold. Fear shaped my childhood, and grappling with fear has shaped my adulthood. If I can give her the confidence to follow her dreams and the ability to recognize the inhibiting effects of fear, well, I’m on my way.

3. Compassion.  Compassion is a difficult one to teach, but it really starts with recognizing your own feelings in every equation, then adding empathy to the mix. Everyone is fighting their own battle. It’s easy to get caught up in our own day-to-day struggles, and to fall into the “This is so hard.. Why did x do y and hurt my feelings?” We live in our heads, experience our lives through “me-centered” lenses, and we have to acknowledge that our experiences factor into who we are and how we see things. But we also have to realize that we are just a small piece of the equation. To really experience empathy, you have to break out of your own head, and imagine what it’s like to shoulder someone else’s burden for a while, and see if we are still upright.  Everyone crashes. Everyone hurts. Everyone laughs. Everyone cries. Everyone has someone who loves them, and everyone loves someone so much it hurts. If I can help her see how connected we all are…
4.  Let her be her. I don’t want Amara to be some “better me.” Mostly, I want her to be her. I want to let her discover the world, enjoy it, feel the grass between her toes, and show the world who she wants to be. Does she want to dance? Then, by god, I will move the world so she can dance. Does she want to sing? I will do what I can to make that dream come alive. Does she want to do martial arts? Soccer? Write? Whatever path those two little feet take, you can bet I will do my best to clear the way – but not stand in the way. Nor will I turn into a “helicopter parent.” When it comes down to it, she’s the kid and I’m really along for the ride.

So, those are my four primary goals. Who knows what the future will bring. I just know I’m a pretty lucky mom.

-The Rambler