Tuesday, January 19, 2010

If I Had My Life to Live Over . . .

A commercial on television caught my attention the other day. It's a very simple commercial with a powerful message. It starts with a man reading a letter to himself. In this letter he tells himself how much he would like to quite smoking and how he wished he had never started. He explains that now he is having a baby, his need to quit is even greater. Then, with tears in his eyes, he ends the ad by saying, "From, Me," or something like that.

After seeing the commercial aired a couple of times, I found myself thinking, Wow, what would I say if I could write a letter to myself? Smoking isn't an issue, but nagging at my kids certainly is, as well as numerous other flaws I have in regards to motherhood. Then, I found this article I have saved for many years by Erma Bombeck that has a similar message. It reads:

"Someone asked me the other day, if I had my life to live over, would I change anything?

"No, I answered, but then I began to think . . .

"If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.

"I would have invited friends over to dinner, even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

"I would have eaten popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

"I would have taken time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

"I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

"I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

"I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

"I would have cried and laughed less while watching television--and more while watching life.

"I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

"I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

"I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

"Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

"When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, 'Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.'

"There would have been more I love yous . . .more I'm sorrys. . . but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute . . .look at it and really see it . . . live it . . .and never give it back."

Isn't that awesome?

As a very busy mother, wife and homemaker, I often try to stop and consider how I'll feel when it's all said and done, when my kids are grown and out of the house, and all I have left are memories of our time together. My biggest goal is to have no regrets. Now, of course that doesn't mean I will do it all perfectly; it just means, I will never let life control me, that I will be the one who chooses how my time is spent and that I will choose right most of the time. I decided a few years ago, at a time when it seemed motherhood was getting the best of me, to constantly keep this theme in mind, and to start NOW, while my children are still young and I have a chance to work on my weaknesses and make changes. I mean, doesn't that make more sense than waiting until they're gone?

So, if I were to write a letter to myself, or if, starting from this moment, I had my life to live over, this is what I would say:

"Dear Me,

Laugh more, and cry less.

When your children are upset and calling you every bad name they can think of, like 'dummyhead' and 'big fat jerk' and 'meanest mom in the world,' simply smile, hug them, and tell them you love them, keeping in mind it could always be worse, and probably will be some day.

Stop nagging--your children don't listen when you do anyway.

Instead of sending your children off to do chores, work beside them so they not only learn how to do it right, but they learn to enjoy it.

Save yourself a lot of grief and DO NOT sign your children up for piano lessons! (just kidding--it will be worth it some day, right?)

Instead of showering your children with rules and expectations, shower them with kindness and respect.

Remember to love them, hug them, kiss them, talk with them, listen to them, and spend TIME with them every day because they will be gone before you know it, and you never want to look back and say, 'If only . . .'


I've decided if I can simply write myself a letter like this, say on an annual basis, perhaps I really will be able to live with few regrets. Perhaps I can soak up all the good in motherhood and survive the bad with few battle scars if I simply change my perspective regularly. Perhaps I can even become a glimmer of the mother I've always hoped to be, so that one day, if someone asks me what I would change if I had to live my life over, I can say with calm assurance, "Nothing." Or I can write a letter to myself that says something like,

"Dear Me,

Good job!"

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Good Fortune

It's that wonderful time of year again--you know, the time of year when we get to look back on the mistakes of last year and determine to get our rears in gear for the next 365 days, hoping next January we will feel like new people. I often find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed and under qualified as I sit down to write goals for the upcoming year. As December came upon me this year, I actually felt anxious to take some time to reevaluate my life and set some simple benchmarks to help me prioritize my responsibilities better.

Then I had two surgeries in less than two weeks and Christmas and New Year's to plan, and my longing for some peaceful time to reflect and look to the future ended up taking a back seat. Finally, this past week, when my kids went back to school, I decided I couldn't put it off any longer; I mean, it's really quite ineffective to set New Year's Resolutions in May, right? I thought of the business of the upcoming months and realized if I didn't take time right now, it would probably be at least May when I did get around to it.

With determination and fervor, I marched to the junk drawer to find a pen and pad of paper to begin my quest. As I began rummaging through my messy drawer, hoping to find a pen that actually worked (yes, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps my goals should include becoming more organized), I ran across a small folded strip of paper. Of course, there were lots of scraps of wrinkled, folded paper askew in my draw, but for some reason, I felt intrigued to unfold it and see what it was; in fact, I felt a rush of excitement because this paper was just the right size to be a fortune from a fortune cookie, and as crazy as life had been at my house the past few months, I felt I could really use some good fortune.

I opened the paper, wondering to myself what amazing fortune it must have held for me to have actually hung on to it, since I tend to be the "throw everything that isn't absolutely necessary away" type. I held the paper closer so I could see the small words . . . then I took a deep breath, set it on the counter, and with tears in my eyes and an even greater resolve, I found a pen and paper and set out to accomplish my original task. This is what my fortune read:

"This year your highest priority will be your family."

I must admit I don't remember when I originally got the fortune, and I certainly don't remember stashing it in my junk drawer, but none of that mattered as I read those words that morning in my kitchen. All that mattered is that I had read them at just the right moment, at a time when I was about to sit down and map out my year, trying to figure out how to balance all the roles I play in my life. And I found myself feeling profoundly grateful I had had to rummage through my drawer for a pen, for those words were spoken to me at the time I needed them most.


I don't think I believe in coincidence. I had been praying for divine guidance as I set about making goals for this upcoming year, hoping to become better at the things that mattered most, mainly my role as wife and mother, and I felt this small fortune was God's reminder to set goals that helped me accomplish that. I have found it very easy to get caught up in the "thick of thin things," working tirelessly to make sure I fulfilled my obligations to others and never let them down, when sometimes in the process of trying to be everything for everybody else, my own family was left wanting.

When the holidays rolled around this past year I was determined to soak up the time with my children, to set aside some of my other responsibilities and simply enjoy my kids. It was wonderful (exhausting, frustrating at times, trying, but wonderful)! We played games, watched movies, built snowmen, went sledding, baked cookies, and many other activities, and although I was absolutely exhausted when it was all over, I was also happier than ever. I was reminded, once again, that I truly only have these kids for a short time--before I know it, they will be grown up and out of my home, and the last thing I want is to be left wishing I had spent more time with them, that we had laughed more, hugged more, and enjoyed each other more.

So this year, thanks to a simple reminder from a fortune cookie, my highest priority will be my family . . .

. . .I have a feeling, it will be my best year yet!