blood moon

Total Gratitude Tuesday – Volume 1

Hi all!

In case you didn’t see the announcement last week, I’ve moved my “Total Gratitude” posts to Tuesdays. I’m now part of a weekly newsletter roundup with other bloggers that posts on Thursdays, and I didn’t want the two to conflict content-wise.  So here we are at the beginning of the week and maybe that will be an even better time to share gratitude – when we haven’t quite hit the halfway mark to the work week!

So here’s what I’m thankful for this week:

fall wedding

One of my favorite people on the planet, my cousin Natalie, is getting married this weekend and I’m thrilled that I’m able to go. She’s one of those people’s who genuinely a good soul and I’m so happy that she’s found the man of her dreams and they’re building a life together. And I feel really blessed that I get to be a part of it.

blood moon

I don’t know if you were lucky enough to be able to catch a glimpse of the Super Blood Moon on Sunday night, but my family and I did and even though it hid behind the clouds part of the time, it was magnificent! I’ve been feeling a lot of transformation energy just under the surface lately and it all seemed to come to a head under this gorgeous blood moon. It gave me an opportunity to get rid of some old resentments, sweep out some bad energy and prepare for the next phase of my life. If you’d like to see a really beautiful animation of the moon’s path that night, click on the photo and you’ll be taken to a time-lapse video. (The photo is also from CNN. None of mine turned out at all!)

Moscow Mule Mug

And lastly, this gorgeous thing! As part of the product reviews I’m doing for my other blog Mama Bear Tried It , I got this beautiful copper Moscow Mule mug at a discount. I have wanted one for awhile, but they’re somewhat expensive, so I was hesitant. I didn’t realize they’re used for drinking a specific alcoholic drink – the Moscow Mule. I had just heard about the health benefits of drinking out of copper drinkware. I haven’t had it long enough to tell if the benefits are true, but I can say the mug is gorgeous and keeps water cold for quite a long time.

That’s it for this week! I hope your week is amazing and full of lots of things for which you can be grateful! Comment on the blog post, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to let me know what you’re grateful for! – Mama Bear


Everything That Came Before “But” Isn’t True

So this happened to me today…

taye diggs is following me

Yep – out of the clear blue this wonderful, gorgeous, intelligent, centered, amazing actor who I have admired for two decades found me on Twitter and decided to follow me. And I was fucking ecstatic. There’s no other way to put it. I was seriously doing the Snoopy dance. I went over the moon yesterday because I got to 100 followers on Twitter. Not a big deal to everyone, but it was to me. And so I posted to Facebook how over the moon I was about it all, and a close friend shared it with her friends and then it happened.

The attempted buzzkill.

And it started with that passive aggressive “I’m not trying to be mean BUT…” thing that people use all the time when they really are being negative and judgmental but just want to add that disclaimer so they can backpedal later. It’s happened to all of us. But people need to understand this one fact:

Whatever came before the word “but” is a lie.

“I’m not racist but (followed by just about anything).”

“I’m not being sexist but why was she dressed like that?”

“I’m not trying to be mean, but someone built like that shouldn’t be wearing that swimsuit.”

“Not to be rude but those drapes are really tacky.”

If you have to quantify your statement in such a way, you might as well just not say anything that came before the word “but”. No one is going to hear any of that anyway. What they’re going to hear is “I am a racist. I am being sexist. I am being mean. I am being rude.” And it’s going to hurt their feelings or at the very least their opinion of you.

I’m not implying that people shouldn’t be honest. I value honesty as much as the next person. But there’s a time and a place for it. And usually, the way that I measure whether it’s the proper time or place is by asking myself this question: “Where is this coming from? Is it coming from a place of love? Jealousy? Self-righteousness? Or just a need to have my voice heard?” And if I’m not coming at it from a place of positivity or love, then there’s probably no reason to say anything at all. Whether I agree with what the person is saying or doing, it’s okay for me to keep quiet. If my thoughts aren’t going to help that person grow or feel good, I can keep my opinion to myself.

It’s not always easy and I get that. Often my kids and I don’t agree on music, as often happens with parents and kids. And sometimes I do get judgmental and share my opinion when I don’t need to. I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to adopt the attitude that if I don’t have something nice to say, then I don’t need to say anything at all. They’re entitled to their opinions as I am to mine, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is entitled to mine, too!

And when it comes to someone celebrating something in their life, no matter how small or how trivial it seems, then I’m all for celebrating it with them. I truly believe that a happy life is made up of small moments, small victories – not waiting for the big ones to celebrate. So yeah, I am celebrating the fact that in this great big world of 7 billion people, all of them constantly swarming round and round on social media, a celebrity that I greatly admire somehow found me – a middle-aged blogging mom from the Midwest with 100 followers – and decided to reach out just by following me. Two years ago, one comment, one attempted buzzkill would’ve knocked me off my temporary high onto my ass and back into reality. Depression had me feeling that fragile. And what would that person have gained? A momentary flash of self-satisfaction? Honestly, I don’t even think it was a conscious effort from this person to do anything at all. I just think that people are so programmed to instantly respond to anything they don’t understand or can’t share in with cynicism and derision that they don’t even think before they speak sometimes. But how sad is it that someone’s knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s moment of happiness is to try to somehow pick it apart?


There’s a happy ending to all of this. Because I’ve been working so hard on being positive and coming at the world from a mindset of happiness and love, it only gave me a moment of pause. And then I was right back up to shaking it off and doing my Snoopy dance. Whether or not it’s a big deal to the rest of the world, having Taye Diggs follow me on Twitter IS a big deal to me. And I’m not going to apologize for my enthusiasm. I’m not going to make excuses for why I get excited over silly things. I am going to toot my own horn and enjoy the tribe of people I’ve surrounded myself with who are right there alongside me Snoopy-dancing and celebrating my small victories while I celebrate theirs. And we’re going to build a tribe so big and so bright and so happy that all the “buts” in the world can’t penetrate it.

And did I mention that Taye Diggs is following me on Twitter now?

Have a beautiful, sparkly, Teflon-coated, crazy happy week! Because I said so.

Love – Mama Bear

Liebster 2

Liebster Award

Liebster 2

I’ve been blogging for a little more than two months now. Well, technically I had a personal blog for a couple of years that I very occasionally wrote on, but Mama Bear is only a bit over two months old. It began as a way to share some of what I’ve learned in dealing with depression – what worked, what didn’t and maybe help other people so they wouldn’t wind up wasting 30 years searching for answers the way that I did. After just a short time, I realized that it was something I was truly passionate about and I decided to put my energy toward making this my work. I know it’s going to be a long road, but it’s been fun along the way.

So imagine my surprise when, just last week, I was nominated by a fellow blogger for the Liebster Award. The Liebster Award is given to new bloggers with a small following to help promote and grow their blogs. I was nominated by CindyLynn Calzone at Hometown Queen Bee. She runs a great lifestyle blog about parenting, decor, and just generally making women remember that they don’t have to stop being fabulous just because they’re moms (and who couldn’t use a bit of reminding about that every now and again!) Please go check out her blog and support her – it’s the perfect mix of glam and fun! And thank you so much, CindyLynn!

In return for being nominated, I am required to choose ten other bloggers to nominate. Talk about a rough task! I saw lots of wonderful blogs, but had to narrow it down to just ten bloggers. I think this group makes up a great cross-section of the amazing work that bloggers are doing every day. Congratulations, nominees! Remember to read the rules below.

Summer Heide at

Evan Palogan at

Aoife Carney at

Rebecca de Berry at

Kaley Johnson at

Memory Jora at

Tyler Charles Austen at

Raffa Vasso at

Meredith Morrison Barbee at

Charles Patrick Sumiran at

leo toast

Now for the rules:

1. Post your award to your blog.
2. Answer the questions you were given by the person who nominated you (they’re listed below).
3. Nominate a small group of other new bloggers you’ve discovered.
4. Create 10 new questions for the nominees.
5. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link their blog.

Now here are the questions I was asked and my responses:

1. What is your favorite part of being a blogger? My absolute favorite thing about being a blogger is when someone tells me that something I’ve written resonates with them somehow. The thought that sharing my life and my experiences with someone can actually help them or get them through a rough time is precisely why I’m so passionate about blogging.

2. What do you find most challenging about blogging? Definitely being authentic and transparent about the messier, not-so-pretty parts of my life. But I’m discovering that the more real and honest I am about how I feel and what I’ve experienced, the more people respond to what I’m writing.

3. Is blogging your hobby, career, or an extension of your business? Blogging started as a hobby but is becoming my career and will eventually also be my business. I have lofty aspirations!

4. How long have you been blogging? I had a personal blog that I wrote on occasionally several years ago, but Mama Bear has only been around for 2 months.

5. How much time a day or week do you spend working on your blog? Honestly, most days it’s several hours. I’m either tweaking things in the settings or layout, or I’m reading about how to improve or I’m writing content. I’m a perfectionist and I want to do the very best I can at it.

6. What are your favorite things to blog about? I love to blog about humorous situations or at least things that I can put a humorous spin on. I think keeping a sense of humor in life is key to happiness and sometimes, even survival!

7. Where would you like to see your blog headed in the next 6-12 months? I’d love to see my readership expand a great deal and I’d like to start offering digital products and begin writing a book based on the blog.

8. What are your five favorite blogs?

9. What social media platforms do you use to promote your blog? List them 🙂

I use:






Google+ :

10. Tell us one little unknown fact about yourself! In addition to being a blogger, I’m also an amateur genealogist with a tentative link to an ancestor who came to America on the Mayflower. Don’t be too impressed just yet – he was an indentured servant who was a drunkard and evidently caused a lot of ruckus in the Plymouth colony!

Now nominees, here are your questions to answer:

  1. What do you consider to be the purpose of your blog?
  2. What are your long-term goals as a blogger?
  3. Who is your audience? That is, who do you blog for?
  4. What is your favorite quote and why?
  5. Who is your favorite author?
  6. What’s your favorite post you’ve ever written? Share the link.
  7. What are your 5 favorite blogs?
  8. If you could go back in time, what 3 things would you tell your 15-year-old self?
  9. What’s your favorite social media platform?
  10. How did you choose your blog’s name?

And that’s it! Congratulations and happy blogging! – Mama Bear




Liebster 2

Total Gratitude Thursday – volume IV

Here it is Thursday again already – can you believe it? I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week. I definitely have!

So here’s my gratitude list for this week…as always, feel free to share your list in the comments or on my blog’s Facebook page. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to catch all the latest and share with friends.

Liebster 2

I just found out today that I’ve been nominated for the Liebster award! It’s an award given to newbie bloggers by other bloggers to encourage, honor and get more exposure for their blogs. There will be a longer post on this next week because this weekend I’m going to…


Bloggy Con 2015! Yep – my first blogging conference and I am so excited! I’ve been to other conferences, so I know how enthused and energized it makes me to spend time with other people who are passionate about the same things that I am. I can’t wait to learn more about blogging and find other blogging moms to network with. And it’s at Cedar Point on the first of their Halloweekends, so how cool is that?

I also found out today that I’ll be a contributor to a new blogging newsletter put together by a group of female bloggers! I’m so honored to have been selected to contribute my work. And all of this came about because I decided to take some risks, say “yes” even though I was afraid and take a leap! This is totally how I’m feeling today:


And one little small thing – I am an obsessive list maker. I make lists for everything. I’ve even been known to make lists of lists I need to make. And there are few things in life as satisfying as checking off everything on your to do list. Unfortunately, there are plenty of days when the list grows so long that completely everything on it is unlikely, and that drives me crazy! So here comes Target’s One Spot to save the day with these little pads of awesomeness:

to do pad

What’s even better is they’re small, so you can’t make a list a foot long and disappoint yourself when you can’t get to everything on it. C’est parfait!

embrace the journey journal

Another of my obsessions – blank books. I’ve been in love with them since I was a girl. There’s no way I’ll live long enough to ever fill all of the ones I already have, but I don’t believe there’s such a thing as too many. This particular one was a gift from my daughter and I think it perfectly embodies my attitude and purpose. Love it!

And finally – total gratitude to compassionate and dedicated medical professionals. I had to visit my local Urgent Care this week for a minor health issue, and the nurse practitioner definitely went above and beyond to help me understand what was going on and how to help myself. Even though they were incredibly busy and it was right in the middle of lunch hour, she took her time and showed concern for how I was feeling and that made such a difference. I admire anyone who’s called to help others in the medical field but especially those who have a true passion for it. I do think that emotional care is just as important as physical care, and her demeanor helped on both counts.

So that’s my list for the week! Hope you have a wonderful, joy-filled weekend! – Mama Bear

journey of thousand miles

It Ain’t Easy But It’s Worth It

Teddy Roosevelt

I use a lot of quotes in my writing. Actually, I use a lot of quotes in everyday life. They’re all over my social media accounts, stuck to my fridge, written on sticky notes all over my planner and calendar, written in journals…I’m a fan of quotes. I’ve found that they’re useful in getting my point across more eloquently than I’m able to sometimes. But even I find myself getting irritated at them sometimes. I find my inner cynic scoffing, “Oh yeah, because it’s really THAT easy. ‘To see the rainbow, you’ve gotta stand some rain.’ As if.”

You ever do that? I do. I don’t like to admit it, but I do. Okay yeah, sometimes the pop psychology, bumper sticker slogan positivity stuff can get to be a bit much, even for me. And when your Facebook feed and your Pinterest boards and your Twitter and Instagram are full of that kind of happy-go-lucky optimism, it can get to be too much. Because no, it really isn’t that easy. You don’t just go from miserable to happy overnight.

But here’s what we’re missing sometimes. Having a positive attitude and being positive in your day-to-day life doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the difficulties in life. It really doesn’t. I’m acutely aware of all the suffering in the world – I really am. I don’t live in some bubble where it’s all sunshine and rainbows all the time. I just choose not to dwell on those things. I know for a fact if I do that for very long, I’ll be right back in the clutches of depression, trying desperately to breathe and roll myself out of the quagmire. And I’ve made a conscious decision that I’m not going to live my life that way anymore.

Being happy is the ultimate goal in life, or at least it should be. And everyone has an equal chance at that goal. I’m not saying everyone is living in equal circumstances because that’s simply not true. But there are people living with far less opportunities than most of us have, who have lived through far more trauma than we have who are happy. They are that way because somewhere along the road, they made a conscious effort to do what it took to be happy. Was it difficult? I’m pretty certain it was. Thing is, you’re going to live on this planet for a set number of years. You’ve got a choice what you do with those years. You can spend them doing things that contribute to your happiness or you can do the opposite, but the first step is in realizing that the choice is yours. In my case, the decision to finally take action came after years and years of feeling miserable, not believing there was any other way to live my life. And finally coming to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I knew deep down there had to be another way.

The bottom line is this – happiness isn’t just for people who have had easy lives. A lot of them aren’t happy. You can have all the money in the world, be the most beautiful person on the outside, live in a luxurious home, have beautiful friends, lovers and children, have all the world at your feet and still be miserable. On the other hand, you can be living in poverty, without the proverbial pot to piss in nor window to throw it out of and be happy. Don’t believe me? Check out the documentary film, “Happy” . It’s absolutely true. But you have to want it. And you have to put in the blood, sweat and tears to get there. It’s not easy but it’s so worthwhile. The first step is realizing that it is a possibility. Don’t let the idea that it’s difficult put you off from starting the journey. You must be tough or you wouldn’t have made it this far, right?

Take that first step.  – Mama Bear

 journey of thousand miles


Introducing: Mama Bear Tried It!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Just a quick plug for my new blog Mama Bear Tried It. A few weeks ago I got turned onto doing product reviews, and I have to admit – I am hooked. The basic premise is that you get discounted products from companies that want consumers to test what they’re selling, and in exchange, you vow to submit your honest and unbiased reviews. If you’re interested in how it works, what you can receive or any new products, check out the blog in the weeks to come! There will be lots of information about product review sites, products and giveaways!



Total Gratitude Thursday – volume 3

Hey everyone! How was your week? Did you accept the challenge from the last blog post – making a connection with someone this week? How did it go? I had a really good heart-to-heart with one of my oldest friends and it really was the highlight of my week.

And here is my gratitude list for this week…don’t forget to comment with what you’re grateful for!


1. Old friends – There’s something so incredibly comforting about being able to talk to someone without having to explain everything about yourself. It’s that shared connection where someone just understands you and accepts you for precisely who you are.

2. Experts who are willing to share their wisdom – As a new blogger, I’m learning new things every day and without people who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise, it would be much harder. Lately I’ve joined several Facebook groups and the help and camaraderie I’ve received have been such a tremendous help.

dog biscuits

3. Random Acts of Kindness – Yesterday, our pug Sammy nearly made it onboard our UPS driver’s truck. After being kind enough to help me wrangle him back toward the house (and pugs are notoriously hard to wrangle), we got a good laugh out of it. Today, I went out front to see a package with two little dog biscuits laid on top – from our UPS driver. Always keep your eyes open for people committing acts of kindness and never pass up an opportunity to do them yourself when you can. Such small acts can make such a big difference.


4. Live theatre – Just when I was thinking I could *really* use a night out, Fate intervened. I got a call yesterday that I had been picked to win four free tickets to a live sketch comedy show. And as it just so happens, I’m free tomorrow night! Support local theatre whenever you can – they work so hard at what they do and the support means the world to them!

tobacco candle

5. Candles – There’s absolutely nothing like a really good candle to make a home feel cozy. My niece got me one this week that’s scented like tobacco. It takes me back to when I was a little girl and my grandpa would smoke his pipe. Nothing brings up good memories like a favorite scent!

6. This powerful video, which went viral this week.

Leave a comment and let me know what you’re grateful for this week! And have a happy weekend! – Mama Bear

life shrinks or expands

Live (and Love) With Courage

Risk to Bloom

I don’t usually do this kind of thing, but today I feel compelled to share about a movie I just watched called “Hector and the Search for Happiness”. Now this blog really isn’t about product or movie reviews, but sometimes something just fits, and believe me, this movie does.

Here’s how the movie opens:

Once upon a time, there was a young psychiatrist called Hector, who had a very satisfactory life. His world was tidy, uncomplicated. And he liked it that way. He took great comfort in its predictable patterns. Patterns his girl friend Clara was happy to maintain.

Hector was like so many of us, going through the motions in our lives, safe in our cocoons, really afraid to take too many chances, to step out of our comfort zones. Let’s face it, doing things that make us uncomfortable, taking chances, thinking too hard or digging too deeply can lead to chaos. It can make life messy. And it’s scary. So we play it safe. And for a lot of us that’s especially true in our relationships. So we live life just skimming the surface.

And we wonder why we’re not happy. What are we doing wrong? Why can’t we be happy? There has to be an answer, right?

Well, maybe the answer is more money. More stuff. Another vacation. Moving to another city. More “friends” on social media. A better job. Another drink. Another pill. A different pill. Another kid. A dog. Or maybe a cat.

We spend so much of our lives in the pursuit of happiness. Or at least we think that’s what we’re doing. We think we’re running after happiness with both hands, but it always seems to be out of reach. So what is it we’re missing?

In my opinion it boils down to one simple concept: connection.

As it turns out, the people who wrote “Hector” agree with me. Without giving too much away, Hector discovers that without deep, meaningful, imperfect, soulful and sometimes chaotic connections to others, we’re missing the entire point of being here. And we’re never going to find happiness. And true and deep connection is what’s missing from so many of our lives.

Think of it this way – how many times in a week do we see absolutely horrifying statistics in the news? __ number of Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives. ___ people suffering during an outbreak of _____ . ____ dead or wounded in a mass shooting.  Or on the flip side, ____ dogs rescued from a puppy mill. A family of ___ rescued from a fire. And the statistics leave us momentarily shocked and saddened, or if they’re positive, give us a little bit of feelgood, but then we click on something else and go on about our day.

Then someone posts a photo of one child in a hospital bed, tubes and bandages all over, his mother sitting by his side and the story becomes real. This kid isn’t a statistic. This is a real person, with a name, with parents that care for him, whose pain we can see and on some level, understand. Some part of our souls connect with him or with his parents.

Or we are brought to tears by video of a group of people standing by the side of the road at the border in Hungary, waiting for hungry, terrified families from Syria to arrive. And suddenly those Syrians aren’t just a statistic anymore. They’re families – mothers and fathers and children trying to escape war and devastation and keep their families safe. We’ve connected to them on a spiritual, human level and it’s made a difference. Hopefully those kind of connections inspire us to take better care of one another but at the very least, they remind us of our humanity and that we’re more alike than we realize sometimes.

And what about in our personal relationships? So often we hold just a bit of ourselves back. Let’s face it, loving someone, connecting with them with our whole selves, can be so frightening. When we open up, when we expose the tenderest parts of ourselves, we also open ourselves up to hurt and abandonment and betrayal. But if we don’t?

Best case scenario? We end up like Hector. Living a comfy life, skimming the surface, never really risking anything or diving too deep. And then we’re gone. Worst case scenario? We end up in intensely unsatisfying, stale, loveless relationships. We might even end up in dysfunctional or abusive relationships.

We certainly don’t end up happy.

A lot of us talk about this in terms of putting up walls. And we convince ourselves that those walls are there for our protection. We want people to love us, but we make them jump through hoops and climb those walls to prove themselves. And if they can’t or won’t? Well then it all just became some sort of sick self-fulfilling prophecy, didn’t it? Our inner scaredy cat tells us that we were right all along – it’s not worth it. Nobody is going to stick around. No one can love us like that. It’s not worth it to take the risk or to open ourselves up.

I’m here to tell you it’s absolutely, positively, unequivocally worth the risk. We can’t truly live without connecting to others, without being open to the idea that making the leap, taking the chance is going to end in something truly wonderful and lasting. Does it mean you’ll never get hurt? No, it doesn’t. But what it means is, the connections you’ve made with others in your life will bring you the strength, the happiness, the connectedness to get you through. And it means that the lessons you learned by taking a chance will help you the next time. Not everyone will treat your open heart with kindness. But if you don’t try, you’ll never find someone that will.

life shrinks or expands

I tried for a really long time to convince myself that the walls that I built were for self-protection, and that they served a good purpose. They kept me from getting hurt when people left, or disappointed me in some way. But what it really did was keep me in relationships that weren’t healthy and make the people I loved most question why I was always hesitating, holding back. And I really don’t want to live that way anymore. But I won’t lie – it’s been scary trying to make these changes. People are perfectly within their rights to reject me or to be skeptical or suspicious of the change. And like I said, opening up means I risk rejection or hurt. But I’d much rather risk that than risk living my entire life feeling that I’ve only just skimmed the surface of what my life could’ve been.

I think Hector must’ve discovered the same thing:

Once upon a time, there was a young psychiatrist called Hector, who was very satisfied with his life. His world was complex, sometimes even chaotic. And he liked it that way. He took comfort in the rich, random patterns of his life.

So my challenge to you this week is simply this: Make a connection. Connect on a deeper level with just one person in your life. It can be your significant other, your child, a good friend. Don’t hold back. Wear your heart on your sleeve and let them in. Or if you aren’t quite ready for that, make a connection on another level. Join a group online for people that you have something in common with or maybe look through the newspaper for events in your area where you can connect with others. Or just go hang out at a coffee shop or library or a park and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Don’t be afraid. The more you open yourself up to connect with others, the better and bigger your life will be. I guarantee it.

And don’t just take it from me. Watch “Hector and the Search for Happiness” (it’s on Netflix) and you’ll see what I mean.

Have a beautiful, connected, heartfelt week, my lovelies. I’ll see you soon! – Mama Bear



Total Gratitude Thursday – Volume II

Here we are again – it’s Thursday! You know what that means – the work week is almost over and the weekend’s just over the horizon. (And a long weekend, too!) And here on the blog it means it’s time for Total Gratitude Thursday!

This week I gave myself an additional challenge – to use only my own pictures, instead of those I found on the Internet. Now that means that the quality of the images is quite possibly slightly lower, but it also means they’re more meaningful.

When I sat down and thought about what I wanted to include this week, I had a momentary panic attack. I want to do this weekly, but how in the world am I going to find enough stuff to write about? And then it hit me: that’s the entire point! It’s easy enough to come up with the big things – my house, my family, my health. But once you get past those, you start to spend more energy really thinking about your life and you have to notice the little things. And if you are ever having a rough day, or are depressed, sometimes those little things are all you can come up with, and that’s okay! That’s why the practice of writing down things you’re grateful for is so important – it forces you to think hard and really look for the good things in life, even if it’s much harder some days than others! So keep looking, keep writing things down and making yourself aware of all that you have in your life that’s good. Or if you’d rather – just take photos of them!

So have a wonderful weekend! Here’s Total Gratitude Thursday, Part Deux:

  1. Cafe au lait – I never really liked coffee until I went to Paris, and now I’m hooked. It seems strange to say it, but some of the best times we had in Paris were when we just sat at a cafe for hours on end, people watching and sipping a cafe au lait, or hot chocolate or a glass of wine. The French really do know a lot about the importance of savoring life.
  2. Edith Piaf – Her music stirs me on a cellular level. There’s such raw emotion in everything she sings and “La Vie en Rose” never fails to bring me to tears. Such a tragic life but such a wonderful gift.
  3. Flowers – Is there anything better than having flowers sent to you? Such a sweet reminder that someone is thinking of you with love. These were from my childhood friend Val and they’re just perfect.
  4. Grumpy Cat – I loved that little kitten from the moment I saw her. She reminds me that it’s okay to be grumpy sometimes and you can still be cute with a frowny face. (And evidently I look like her when I sleep, so…)
  5. Manicures – Such a simple thing but it gives me so much joy! As women sometimes I think we get so caught up in taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves. Getting my nails done every couple of weeks is how I spoil myself just a little, and I have to say, having beautiful nails can make me feel good even when I’m all sweaty on the treadmill in sweats with my hair in a ponytail. (And my manicurist Sara is the bomb!)
  6. Robin’s eggs – I hadn’t seen one in years, and then this spring my son and I found one outside in the yard. We later discovered we had a robin’s nest in our little tree in the side yard and we got to watch as one of the babies learned to fly. It took him a couple of tries and he had some bumps along the way, but he didn’t give up! There are lessons everywhere we look!
  7. Soba noodle bowl – Panera decided to bring this bowl of awesomeness into my life last winter and I’m completely addicted! It helps me eat healthier and it’s simply the ultimate in comfort food. I love it when something tastes good and is good for you!
  8. Sammy – I mentioned pugs last week, but specifically, this is my Sammy. And I say he’s my Sammy because even though he belongs to our family, he’s a total Mama’s boy. His real name is Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. (If you’ve never seen “Everything is Illuminated” go do that RIGHT now!). We got Sammy from another owner and he came to us with a lot of issues and was very anxious and fearful. But he’s come a long way and now he’s the ultimate cuddle pug (and a total goofball). He’s the very definition of unconditional love.
  9. And then there’s Suki – she’s Sammy’s sister (they’re actual brother and sister from the same litter). We got Suki as a puppy and she’s been an absolute delight from the very beginning. I think she’s possibly the cutest dog I’ve ever seen and she’s also the sassiest. She keeps her big brother in line with just a look (sometimes she’s a bit more forceful about it) but she’s also a total sweetheart.

So tell me – what are you grateful for this week? Look me up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or just let me know in the comments section of the blog. See you soon! – Mama Bear


How to Figure Out What You Want to Be When You Grow Up – Pt. 1

Go After Your Dream

That’s a pretty bold claim, isn’t it? I mean, show of hands – how many of you know what you want to be when you grow up? Second question – how many of you ARE what you want to be when you grow up?

Obviously, this is a blog so I can’t see how many of you held up your hands (also, I guess I should’ve warned you not to actually do that unless you’re alone – you’re gonna scare somebody) but I’m guessing there weren’t a whole lot of you. And I get it. I really do. It took me until the age of 45 for me to figure it out and guess what? This blog is it!

So how did I figure it out after all that time?

First of all, it wasn’t easy. If you’re like me, you started getting the questions your last few years of high school. “What are you going to do after you graduate?” And rather than being honest and admitting how much that question scared the hell out of me and that I had no idea at all what I wanted to do, I usually gave some lukewarm answer about college and maybe tossed in some acceptable day job to shut people up. The summer after junior year, I hit crisis point. My parents were laying it on pretty thick and I felt a lot of pressure to pick something, anything, just so they would get off my back. And that pressure lead me to make a huge mistake – I signed up to join the Army.

Now, I’m not implying that joining the military is a mistake, but for me, it would’ve been disastrous. If you haven’t caught on by now, I’m a bit prissy, I’m not at all comfortable with guns, I cry when someone gets in my face and I am not overly fond of manual labor. Luckily, about six months later, during my first few weeks of senior year, after having handled an M-16 for the first (and only) time, I figured out that it had all been a really bad move for me, and I dropped out.

So I was back at square one. My next genius move was to sign up at the local community college – my dad’s alma mater. I also signed up to major in my dad’s preferred career – accounting. You guessed it – my second stab at figuring out what I wanted to be was also made just to please my parents. Accounting would’ve been equally disastrous a career as the military.

But luckily, fate intervened. I found out I was pregnant soon after graduating high school. Admittedly, I didn’t see that as a stroke of luck when I got the little + sign on the pregnancy test, but it was. Because after giving birth, I found something I was really good at – being a mom. I wound up having three kids total, and in between raising them, I struggled with the idea that there must be something else that I’d be good at; something I could turn into a career. I worked part-time jobs and went full-time once or twice but nothing ever stuck. We’ve homeschooled our kids, too so that made having one of us at home pretty important. So I’ve been a stay at home mom most of my life, and have never really regretted it. But I knew the time would come that I’d have to figure it out, and that hit really hard once my youngest entered high school. I have an Associates degree in Communications, but that doesn’t necessarily make you someone that headhunters are going to fight over. I’ve been out of the workforce for awhile, and that gap in employment isn’t going to look great on a resume either. My prospects looked pretty bleak – at least to me. I even tried direct sales a couple of times – wow, talk about a bad fit!

Meanwhile, my husband and friends and family have been in the background all along, chirping quietly about writing. And it’s something I’ve always loved to do. The problem was, I had a very narrow view of what being a writer meant. To me, being a writer meant you wrote books. And I knew I didn’t have it in me to write an entire book, at least not a fiction one. Writing fiction or poetry or anything of that nature isn’t the slightest bit enjoyable to me. But all along, I was writing in my journal, writing a personal blog, writing letters, writing long-winded comments on other people’s blogs and articles and I was getting a lot of praise for what I was writing.

So what in the hell took me so long to figure it out? Why didn’t I just listen when a bunch of people told me I was pretty good at writing and maybe I should give it a shot? Two reasons: lack of self-confidence and narrow-mindedness. In short, I didn’t think I could do it and I didn’t bother to think that maybe I could use my writing skills in ways that I’d actually enjoy!

And those two things might be the biggest dream-killers out there – not thinking creatively and not being confident in yourself and your dreams will ensure you stay right where you are in life. For instance, let’s say you love cooking and you’re good at it. But you don’t have the time or the funds to go to cooking school. Does that mean there’s no way you can use those skills in a productive way? No, it doesn’t. You could open your own catering business. You could open a cupcake store or bakery. You could work in a restaurant. You could even write a recipe book or blog about cooking or make cooking videos.

The world is full of so many more opportunities now than it was even 10 or 20 years ago! With the advent of the Internet and the ability to harness the power of the Internet to reach people, the possibilities are limitless. But that also means that you can get easily overwhelmed at all your possibilities. So how do you narrow down your options and figure it out for yourself?

The first step is to quiet your mind a bit. Let go of your parents’ aspirations for you. I know that’s hard to do. None of us want to feel that we’re disappointing our parents, but in the end, you’re the one who’s going to be doing the work so you have to do it for yourself or you’ll never be fulfilled. Let go of “keeping up with the Joneses” (or anyone else). Let go of what your spouse/kids/significant other/boss/pet hamster wants for you or expects of you. Also, let go of society’s expectations and their definition of success. Let go of all of that and just be quiet and listen to your soul for a minute.

What do you want to do? What makes you jump out of bed ready to take on the world? What inspires you? WHO inspires you? What are you passionate about? If you could do any job in the world without having to consider the financial aspect of it, what would you do? What do you do for fun? What makes you feel successful? What was the last thing you did that made you feel really happy and whole?

I mean it – sit down and ask yourself the hard questions. Write down the answers. Or if you deal better in visual images, make a vision board. Don’t know what that is? It’s a kind of visual collage of what you’d like to have more of in your life.

Now – is there an image or response that keeps popping up repeatedly? Then that is something you need to think harder about and expand your thinking upon. I’ll tell you what happened when I did this for myself – writing and helping people keep coming up over and over again. And then I considered the fact that I have a very short attention span and a 10-year book project just was not going to work for me. And I noticed that I spent a lot of my spare time reading other people’s blogs. Right in the middle of all that frustration and confusion, those three things were staring right at me – writing, blogs and helping people. Also, I have a real tendency to give advice whether people want it or not, so that figured in as well!

And here I am. The woman who never had a clue what she wanted to be when she grew up. The woman who never made any plan farther out than six months. The one who really figured she was just going to float along from job to job until she was too old to work anymore. I have found my passion. Has it made me rich? No, it hasn’t. But that’s not to say it can’t. It’s just not where my focus is right now. I have found what I want to be and that’s the first step. I have confidence that the rest will come along as I continue to plan and work hard and stay passionate about what I’m doing.

If you’re where I was and still haven’t figured out what you want to do with your life, stay tuned. We’re going to go on this journey together, step by step. And by the end, I hope that you’re able to find a way to find what makes you excited about your life and what you’re doing with it.

Also, here’s some Ryan Gosling to inspire you.

What Do You Want

Sit down, ask yourself the questions and report back with your results in the comments section, on the Facebook page, or on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you! – Mama Bear