MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS: EPISODE FOUR

Holy fuck you guys. It’s fucking Christmas time all fucking ready.

Can you fucking believe that?

OH MY GOD IT FEELS GOOD TO SAY FUCK so much again.

If you kindly follow my blog you may have noticed I haven’t written anything since… June-ish or so. I promise you it’s not because I didn’t have anything to say. I have ALL THE THINGS TO SAY. It’s because I’ve been up to my MOTHER FUCKING EYEBALLS in parenting, work, other work, some other work, and some more work after that.

Sigh. More on that later. Continue reading

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STORIES

The holidays come with a lot of stories each year.

No, not Santa stories. Not Hanukkah stories. Not even family blooper stories, although all of those do get shared as well.

Instead, it’s the stories I tell myself — I’m not giving my kids enough. I’m giving the kids too much. I don’t give the kids enough consequences. I give them too many consequences. If my kids love their stepmother, it means they love me less, and that I am insufficient and inadequate. If they miss their dad, it means I’m not doing my job well enough. I can’t fully forgive him for the hurt he caused me because he doesn’t forgive me either. He doesn’t deserve to be happy, but I do.

I’m not doing enough, there is more for me to do here, and there, and there, and also there. I am only of value if I am doing something. Nothing I do is ever enough to be excellent.  

I’m too different for the rest of my family to like me. They just don’t get me, and they don’t want to. I’ll never be the kind of normal required to be loved fully by my parents.

Yes. Those stories. Those scripts. Those tapes. Those records.

Continue reading

ME, MYSELF, AND I

Tuesday, 9:15 pm., January of the New Year.

Me: Various sighs, groans, furrowed brows and a giant flop on the couch.
My husband: raised eyebrow, turn of the head, “what’s up babe? What’s coming up for you?”
Me: glare. Then a loud, overstated,
“IT’S AFTER 9PM, I’VE BEEN UP SINCE 6 AND IT’S THE FIRST TIME I’M SITTING DOWN ALL DAY AND DOING SOMETHING FOR ME AND NOT SOMEONE ELSE!”
Insert long pause here as I realize two things.
  • I’m throwing a tantrum. Like my seven year old, who, coincidentally, is also too old and too verbally skilled to be throwing tantrums.
  • The person responsible for this reality is, um, well, me.

 

 

I seem to have misplaced my reset button these last few months. My daily time-out has been cancelled, my movement break on hiatus, my life force source in dormant mode. Continue reading

Make a Mess

Burned turkey, raw turkey, turkey jerky, turkey in the snow, turkey on the beach, turkey from the store, turkey in Nebraska, and Hawaii.Turkey on a hilltop, turkey in a valley, turkey with my family, and turkey with my fRamily. Turkey for five, turkey for thirty-five, turkey in silence, turkey in jest, turkey served by me, and turkey served to me. Turkey with my ex-husband as he avoided my family, and, tomorrow, turkey with my new husband as he meets them.

So, yeah, I’ve done Thanksgiving a few different ways, in a few different places, with a few different people. It’s very. . . Michelle of me.

However, these three things still hold true— pie, messes, and uh, turkey gratitude. These, I can count on being at the table each year.

And so, in tribute to said symbols of my past, present, and future Novembers, this year, I’d like to focus on the last two, particularly, Continue reading

OH TANNENBAUM

So, um, according to my calendar it’s December 1st today.

December. First.

As in, the last month of this year. As in, just 31 days of 2014 remain. Well, like 30 and few hours at this point I suppose, but still. . . damn.

What the hell Mother Nature? Slow your roll already would you? I mean. Crap, what’s it gonna be January before we know it?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that’s how it works.

I can deal, though, actually. Mostly because I can’t FUCKING WAIT for 2015 to get here, as a matter of fact. Cannot.Wait.

Not because I’m over 2014, not by any means; 2014 kicked some serious ass.

However, there are so many amazing things happening next year I can hardly stand it. I’m bursting at the seams with excitement over the unbelievable, out of this world, downright miracles are that filling up my google calendar like it’s 199. . 9… errr…. 2015.

Gratitude seems an entirely inadequate expression of how I feel right now about what has happened to date, and what is yet to happen still.

I am awed. Humbled. Most incredibly honored to be living the life I love right now.

The whole concept of visualizing to materialize has most clearly been at work, because, well, I’ve got my (sparkly) red pen out baby, and I’ve been kicking ass and taking names all year.

Quite literally.

And all I can say is call me a Monkee, cuz’ people, #imabeliever.

Once I got a grip on my current reality, became clear about what I wanted, set my intentions and took positive action to move toward that, then, well, shit started happening.

Funny how that works out, that whole ask and you shall receive bit, isn’t it?

This understanding has been life changing for me; I’ve had a permanent shift in perspective. I can quite honestly no longer see the world as I used to.

It is so much more beautiful. So much more mysterious. So much more full. So much, well, joyful.

As a result of that shift, as one of the many things that has changed is my attitude about the holidays. That, I am actually quite over, actually. The yearly vomitrocious expulsion of Christmas crap from garages and attics, the nonstop live retelling of “The Berenstain Bears and The Gimmies,” and those fucking Christmas commercials.

Buy this. Get that. Have that. Save money buying people you barely know shit they don’t need.

Wrong, people; we are doing it wrong.

The stuff is not the point.

So, this year, I’m taking a page from my own notes and changing it up, again. I’m ditching the hypocrisy and working to create a more authentic experience.

The kids and I are doing the Twelve Days of Giving again, and you can follow us on instagram @ictfd #twelvedaysofgiving if you’re so inclined. In fact, we’d be tickled pink (red?) if you’d copy the idea and do it with your own family and friends too.

We decorated our house very simply, choosing just a few treasured pieces to display and setting the rest aside for donation or to use another time.

We are adhering to a few yearly family traditions like the advent ornament calendar, singing badly to Christmas music in the car, taking lights walks, and my Daughter and I are holding our annual date to the Nutcracker, fancy dresses and all.

My parents even kindly arranged for us to go cut a Christmas tree up in da’ mountains with them this past weekend (so, yes, we decapitated a tree in the forest. By ourselves. With a real saw. Yup. Not sure yet how I feel about that yet. I’ll let you know when my fingers thaw out next Spring).

But, speaking of said evergreen, what I DID very deliberately and conscientiously decide to do with oh’ tannenbaum this year, is turn it into something meaningful, rather than simply a big (pleasant smelling) needle dropping shrine for all things glass, shiny, and color-coordinated (don’t even pretend to be surprised about that part— I don’t.do.messy.trees — there isn’t enough yoga in my day to ground down that inner feng shui freak).

My children are both familiar with the law of attraction, how we invite that who and which we are. They know how to create a vision and set goals, and are (altogether too) familiar with purpose.

They get it. They don’t always apply it, but they get it.

So, in any case, we dialed it up a notch and made that concept into a “Thing.” Like a real thing, like a BFD, actually.

This year, we created a Tree of Possibilities together for Christmas.

That’s right, we made a miracle tree right here in our living room.

It’s amazing. Beautiful. Shining from floor to ceiling with opportunity and light.

Using blank ornaments and tags to record affirmations, wishes, goals and action statements, we created an image of our own future, sending out positive intentions to the universe.

With each addition, my heart felt lighter. With each heartfelt expression, their smiles grew brighter. With each placement, our awareness heightened.

It was nothing short of magical.

This morning they were content to add one each of their special ornaments, but were absolutely delighted to create a statement on a tiny scroll for their day, again taking positive action for their own happier reality.

My daughter wrote “I will be kind to others.” My son scribed “I will be nice” (he’s only six so, you know, cut him a little slack). I wrote “I will live the life I love: yoga, writing, wellness.”

It is, as my daughter said, “the best Christmas Tree EVER.”

The law of attraction is at work in our hearts, minds and spirits. May the year bring us (and you) all of that, and so much more.

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GIVE ME LOVE

So, the holidays are here again.

Joy.

People are gathering together in spirit and in plenty for the next few weeks and it’s lovely. It’s also a time of excess for most. Excess spending, excess food, excess emotions, and excess alcohol consumption (generally to deal with said emotions).

Tis’ the season of overdoing it, or something.

So, while we’re all filled with the holiday spirit(s) these next few weeks, we spend a lot of time with people. People we love, people we like, people we’ve never met, people we never wanted to meet, people we can tolerate in small quantities, and well, people that we spend the other 364 days of the year avoiding.

You know what who I mean?

Button pushers. Irritating people. People that send you running for the Belvedere before you can say “Bob’s your uncle” (because, um, actually, he is).

These are the people that you just downright wouldn’t choose to spend time with, like ever, and for a variety of reasons. Maybe they have a lot of negative energy. Maybe they go out of their way to be difficult and offensive. They badger you with questions, make passive-aggressive remarks, put you down using lots of “jokes,” and purposely make statements in your presence that they anticipate to which you will respond.

Ya feel me?

Sigh.

Here’s the thing, no matter what flavor of shut-the-fuckupcakes you’d like to serve them, or where you’d like to place the mistletoe for them to kiss your ass under, remember that they are actively seeking engagement with you. They want your attention. It is intentional. Purposeful. And it stems from a basic human need for connection.

In other words (not mine),

“Every action is an expression of, or a cry for, love.”

The reason Uncle Frank is so annoying probably has something to do with his self esteem and he’s learned to manage it through negative attention seeking behaviors that feed his ego.

Aunt Susan makes condescending remarks about your “hippy-dippy cosmic lifestyle” and lack of  “real” job because of her own insecurities.

Your cousin from Back East whose dark commentary streams from the chair in the corner all evening? He feels like he doesn’t belong.

Your sister who performs the whole night, interrupts conversations and tells loud stories and jokes using all of her appendages, ensuring she is constantly the center of attention? She wants to know you love and accept her.

Your mother, who drives you bat shit crazy, does so because of her own guilt, perception and needs, not yours. Granted, it may feel a bit less like a Hallmark commercial and more like a Steinbeck re-enactment, but at least she’s trying.

Love prompts us do some stupid ass shit.

Yes, even you.

Newsflash, you fit into one of the previously mentioned categories for someone else. You might be the irritating one. The loud one. The attention seeker. The avoider. The overachiever.

Just like you don’t like everyone, um, not everybody likes you either. And, to add salt to the wound, the things that bother you most about someone else, are probably things you see in yourself.

Gulp.

Let’s add a serving of humble pie to scarf down before and after Nana’s famous pumpkin pastry, shall we?

So how about this- how about we choose not to bring a few things to the table with us this year?

How about this year we don’t invite:

  1. Expectations
  2. Judgement
  3. Assumptions
  4. Agendas
  5. Boxes
  6. Fixed mindsets
  7. Lists, timelines, deadlines, and itineraries

Instead, let’s show up with:

  1. Mindfulness of the current reality- however and with whomever it shows up
  2. Positive perceptions and intentions
  3. Acceptance
  4. A willingness to see and serve
  5. An attitude of gratitude
  6. A growth mindset
  7. A open heart, schedule, and presence

Want to create a different experience this year? Try looking for something else. Chances are, if you look for love, you’ll find love. If you look for softness, you’ll find a feather. If you seek peace and serenity, zen will find its way to you.

If you let go of your expectations of how things “should” be, what you wanted to happen, what you always do, and simply CTFD and let it be as it actually is, you just might find yourself smiling at the dinner table. Like for real, and not just because your brother just opened the third bottle of zin.

Try it, see how it works. The worst thing that can happen is you’re just as miserable as you always are, and hey, at least you know how to cope with that (I hope).

Speaking of coping, for the really difficult people in your lives, like the ones that drain your energy to the point of exhaustion, here’s some related reading to help you out (possibly literally, as in, out the door to a place that’s healthier for you).

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/03/6-tips-on-how-to-deal-with-difficult-people-karen-naumann/

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/how-to-deal-with-difficult-people/

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/07/how-to-deal-with-an-emotionally-difficult-relative-alice-williams/

relationships1

 

Good luck to you all, self included.

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BABY GOT BACK

Change. Get used to it.  This post can now be found here.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/07/baby-got-back-falling-in-love-with-my-new-body-michelle-sweezey/

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

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ALL THESE SMALL THINGS

You know what hurts more than stepping barefoot on a lego? Stepping barefoot on TWO legos. No- it’s barbie shoes- evil plastic particles that they are. Wait, nope, actually, I think it might possibly be barefoot on metal toy airplanes. Yes, That. They draw blood even so for sure that wins.

Guess what sucks more than a rainbow loom bracelet in the washing machine? A rainbow loom bracelet in bathtub drain (yeah. Just try to snake that mass out. Good luck.).

Know what’s better than playing the “matching game” with lids, markers,  and crayon halves? Markers that work. Crayons still intact in their original (singular, and wrapped) state.  Oh, and a pad of paper that DOESN’T have exactly one line drawn, dead center, on every page.

Consider also the fact that I am 99.99% sure that the following things all move faster than my son when asked to return his toys to their designated homes, put away his laundry or, gasp, get dressed:

  1. molasses in january
  2. turtles walking backwards
  3. runoff from the polar ice caps

Ya’ feeling me?

I am so.over.this.bullshit.

ENOUGH WITH THE STUFF!

My children, God bless them, have: a) more toys than they have space to contain b) a total lack of understanding of the direct correlation between the care and status of their belongings, and, unfortunately (for them), c) a mother who believes in the general approach of  “a place for everything and everything in its place.

This trifecta of facts creates quite the catalyst for contentious debate in this household. A real surprise, I realize. #spoileralert.

Beyond my giant dislike for clutter, my kinda sorta love affair with baskets and labels, major obsession with affinity for creating and maintaining creative, beautiful and useful spaces, I have been slowly working on shifting our life from one filled with “stuff” to one filled with experiences.

This means that in addition to offloading material possessions, one small kitchen appliance/pair of $200 jeans/leather club chair at time, I have also been busy building a different repository.

We have been working on developing an attitude of gratitude since December (see here); as well as living every day, to the best of our abilities, to the maximum level of awesome.

Seriously. We are rarely home (yet- yes, they still manage to tornado their bedroom in the the small amount of time we are there. Sigh. More on this later) because we are busy making memories, being silly or exercising together, spending time with our friends and family far and wide and exploring the beautiful world around us.

My kids are learning great new habits, seeing new perspectives and developing a more healthy understanding of the value (or lack thereof) of material stuff.

It’s not perfect. We’re not “minimalists” by any stretch of the imagination, but we’re creating a healthy balance with small steps. Our paradigm is slowly shifting.

We are learning that less is more. Truly

We downsized our home even, three times, from 3000 sq ft, to 1800, to… 800. Why? Because we don’t need a bunch of empty unused space. Is it ideal? No. There are days I miss having a dining room, or a kids play area, or a big kitchen, but lucky for me, I have friends that do. Great friends. Friends I would travel to the ends of the earth and back for in a heartbeat. And those friendships are something worth keeping. That, is a collection of value.

As much as I love, love, love my suede turquoise heels, those beauties are not gonna ride with me when my soul leaves this earth. Bad news for Cole Haan, good news for me.

At the end of our lives, we will remember our experiences, the people who shared them with us, and the way we felt. Let us devote our our time, energy, and well, money, to building things that are sustainable, lasting and genuniely valuable. Costco might miss you, but your friends won’t.

minimal2

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BLUCK YOU

When my son was really young, say from about age 18 months to three or so, he had a favorite word, unique as his personality, and dropped more frequently than names on the red carpet. He would say it when he disliked his food. He would say it when I asked him to do something. He would say it when he was tired, hungry, mad, crabby or otherwise dissatisfied.

“BLUCK!”  He would shriek. “BLUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKK!”

An adverbial variation occasionally included “blucky,” (okay, more like “BUH-LUCK-EEEEEEEE”) but no matter the form, it was enunciated with such profound intonation that you practically felt it. Like a big blob of green blobby bluck, right there, smack in the face- “BLLLLLLLUCK!” Translation? “This is total bullshit and I don’t want it.”

Well this charming onomatopoeia, as it were, is a word that we’ve kept in our family vocabulary since; we use it for special occasions, when we really mean it. Like um, now.

This week- you get a big “BLUCK” from me. Yep. That’s right “BLUCK YOU” week.

Why? Well, this seems to have been my Mental Toughness Test Week. My “how much more can you take before you snap at someone, Michelle?” “how ‘chill’ are you this morning, cranky pants?” “just how far will you push yourself, big stuff?” week.

Must have just been that time, again. Thanks Universe. Things were really going too smoothly there. Appreciate it.

As a point of reference, consider things like this scenario:

It’s Mother’s Day and we are at my friends house for a dinner gathering celebrating us mamas. Things are going quite well until my darling son decides to a) play freeze tag in the house and then, b) NOT stop to open the screen door before going outside, but rather just go ahead and run right through it. Yes, that’s correct. He ran right through the damn thing, ripping it from its frame and landing with a rather loud thud on the front porch. Wasn’t that a lovely mess to clean up, on both a metaphorical, and quite literal, level. We are clearly the best dinner guests ever.

And then this:

Tuesday morning. I’m trying to work. Kids are trying to kill each other. Standard protocol really. Finally, at 8:51, nine minutes before school starts and after asking three hundred and thirty seven times for them to put their shoes on I start “raising” my voice, like… to the level that the neighbors three four houses down can probably hear me. My daughter yells back at me (duh, like I didn’t know that was going to happen) and I retort, at full volume “I’M THE ONLY ONE ALLOWED TO YELL IN THIS HOUSE!” This is followed by some red cheeks (mine), total silence for three seconds, and a few snickers (not mine…). Way.to.go.Mom.

The rest of the week was similar. I almost lost my cool, recovered, and hit repeat. And so it continued. Over. And over. And over. No wonder I’m so tired.

The good news? It’s almost over. The better news? So far everyone is still alive…

Actually, the best news really was the recovery. The benefit of working through your shit is you recognize the kind of manure in which you’re standing and can reflect on how you might avoid stepping in the same crap next time. Each time I failed, I learned, I shifted my energy and my attitude, and I grew. And, bonus points- I articulated that to my kids.

This week was actually a pretty good lesson in learning to reset.

So good, in fact, it even crept up in our evening prayers. Each night we pray for three things- one thing we are grateful for, one thing we’d like help with, and one thing with which we’d like to help someone else. This week, there was a whole lot of time and energy given to part two. It was a regular house of mirrors up in here, what with all the self-reflection going down in this casa. In fact, I even overheard my daughter say at one point, “well I know what I’M going to be praying about tonight.”

Wow. So um, I guess this whole learning to hold it down, let it go, and be a better person nonsense is working. PHEW.

How do I know?

In the smiles I get when I apologize. In the hugs I get after the tears of frustration are wiped when homework time is over. When my almost nine year old still blows me a kiss when she walks into her school even though we quarrelled on the way there.

I know when I hear my six year old ask for God’s help in learning to slow his body down, and when he thanks Him for the “the opportunity to spend fun time with my Mommy, my sister and my friends.” When I read my Mother’s Day poem (see below), and know, no matter what, my kids know I love them.

I know I’m making progress, that even though this is hard, that even though I fail, that a lot of things in life are  “blucky,” it’s worth the effort.  I am reminded when a friend reaches out and says “thanks for being there when I was struggling; I appreciate you.” I feel it when I push through my fatigue and reach new levels of fitness. When I labor through a difficult practice and am rewarded with pure light and bliss in the aftermath. There is no challenge without reward and no benefit without a cost. Balance. Flow. Give and take. Lows, but also highs.

 

So, in carrying those lessons and reminders forward,  here’s hoping for a “bluck-less” weekend ahead, for us all. Fall if you must, but keep your eyes, and your perspective, always looking at what’s right there in front of you.

photo (19)

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CLOSING TIME

I made a tough trip last week; a nine hour round trip drive to say goodbye to someone truly wonderful whom I love dearly. Someone who had a tremendous impact on my life and the way in which I interact with others. Someone who taught me grace, and humility, and above all, love.

My Grandma June, whose spirit, acceptance, and kindness I felt from the very minute we met, is gone.

That was a moment I’ll never forget, the day I met her.

It was late spring in 1986, and I was getting to know the family of my Dad-to-be.  I was pretty stoked to meet this lady, even in my youthful innocence, because my Dad is a pretty awesome guy. Like, if I could go to the Dad Store and pick out a Pop, I’d pick him, hands-down, every time. So, in my five year old head I figured she must be pretty amazing too, you know? Seemed logical to me. Still does, actually.

In any case, I remember being there, in her house up on the hilltop, its grand windows framing the commanding beauty of the green valley below and the blue mountains beyond.  I was crouched behind the boxy tweed couch, playing in a giant toy box full of treasures she kept there to entertain all six of her (current) grandchildren, already feeling myself at home as I tinkered.

I can recall clearly my dad entering the room, his long strides carrying him across the floor before he knelt down beside me. I remember our introduction, and I can envision my big smile as I looked up to see her, my joy at the occasion obvious. Those things I can see. But, almost thirty years later, I can still feel, in my heart of hearts, the giant hug she gave me; her warmth still lingers.  And my ears? They still ring with her first words to me, “It’s great to meet you, call me Grandma June.”

I’ve never known her as anything else since then.

This was a woman who embraced me, fully and with open arms, from the get go, no questions asked. I was never treated as a step-grandchild or in any way as less of “real” family member. I was just her Granddaughter and she was just my Grandmother.

I delighted in her company. I marveled over her sparkling silverware, her shiny china, her delicate teacups. I listed to her stories of moving to Alaska before it was a state, spending dark and frigid days working in a dry cleaning shop while my Grandfather built his business. I laughed at her tales of international adventure with her best friend Jane. Jane and June, best friends for life. What an inspiration they were, those ladies, independently traveling the world well into their eighties.

I spent summer days and nights traipsing through her house with my cousins, lounging in the depths of the giant orange flowered couch cushions watching “satellite t.v.,” (which, when you grow up on a farm in the middle of nowhere is quite a luxury, let me tell you), and spending hours upon hours learning card tricks on the pea green carpet that cloaked her massive living room floor. I recall nearly every holiday seated around her dining room table enjoying home cooked meals and learning which fork to use, and when. No matter how many people came Grandma always had a seat for everyone, even if it meant she had to wait to eat.

I cannot remember my childhood without her. She was always there, always. Feeding a crowd, taking my cousins and I shopping, dropping my friends and I off at the river for a day of inner tubing, loading a crew of kids in the back of her pickup truck to go into town for ice cream. She was always ready. Always smiling. Always love.

Over the years although I moved away I would visit every few months, and make a point to see her. To visit with her, to hear more stories, to share more smiles, to give more love. She would make me eggs and coffee each morning, despite my protest that I was happy to make my own breakfast. And the toast. Oh, the toast. White “Lumberjack” brand bread buttered just right. There was something so perfect about it; to this day nobody makes toast quite like that, perhaps because all others lack her secret ingredient of love.  Each time I left she would thank me for visiting, but really, I was the lucky one, getting to spend that time with her, what a gift.

At the end of my life, I can only hope to be known in this way by my friends and family. I want to be remembered as she is. As good, and kind, and generous. I want the people in my life to know, with that same steadfast knowledge and security, that I love them, so very much.

I have written about this before, about the legacy I’m leaving for my children. This is yet another reminder, another lesson from the universe to live, and to live well.

What lessons am I offering my progeny? What memories am I creating for them? When they grow older and have children of their own, what stories will they tell of me? What will they say I taught them? What will they say they remember doing with me, for me, and because of me?

What kind of imprint am I making?

I may never know the exact answer, but I know for certain that this powerful premise impacts my day, every day, all day. Who am I to them is the sum of my words, my actions, my habits, attitudes and beliefs. It is the example by which I lead, not that of which I speak, that they will carry forward.

Of Grandma June, I remember only good. Only love. Only happy.

If, when my time on earth is over, I have lived as she lived, with such profound value and admirable action, then I will have done well. The world benefitted from having a woman like June Sweezey in it. My life, and the lives of so many others, are better, because of her.

Life is short my friends. Be amazing. Live joyfully. Live kindly. Give love, receive love, be love. Live today as if it’s the day you’ll be remembered, because it just might be.

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