Mercy Me! I've got work to do.

Mercy Me — I've got work to do! making the world a better place – starting with me.


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Why you should consider a life makeover

Whenever I feel like things in my life are more chaotic than calm, I say I need a life makeover.

I wake up and have no gas in the car, no milk for the kids, no idea where my keys are and no sense of how I will ever get through the day’s to-do lists – mostly because I have no idea where I put it.

Well, ever since I finished my year of doing Works of Mercy I have felt as if I needed a blog makeover.

I have thought a lot about whether I want to keep Mercy Me! going and, if so, what I want it to be.

Towards that effort, I have rewritten my About Me page so many different times I was starting to feel like Sybil battling multiple personality disorder.

But makeovers are far different than mental illness, although sometimes they do make you feel a little crazy.

Whether you are trying to change your look or your outlook, makeovers really aren’t about becoming someone else. They are about refocusing on who you are and reevaluating your life to make sure who you are and how you are living are in alignment.

I know that’s not how the makeup gal at Sephora would explain a makeover. But despite her efforts, finding the perfect shade of lipstick is often the result of trial and error and the help of a really honest friend.

I think the same is true whether you want to makeover your family, your spiritual life, your career or, in my case, this blog. We evolve, and giving ourselves a makeover is just part of being mindful about the way we want to live and the things that need to change to make that happen.

For the direction of the blog, please check out the makeover of my new About Me page https://mercyme40.wordpress.com/about/, and if you have not already signed up to receive the blog via email, please do so.

From what I understand, Facebook has changed its algorithm to make it harder to see posts from businesses or blog sites. While I have no idea what an algorithm is, it sounds like it could be related to Ebola or worse, algebra. Either way, signing up for email is really the only way to ensure you will receive posts.

I hope you will also take some time to reflect on your own life. What do you like about it? What needs to change to make you like it more? What is no longer serving you that you could let go of? Do the people you cherish know how you feel?

It’s never to late to live the life you want, until it is. So consider giving yourself a makeover.

Or if all that feels too overwhelming, just go buy yourself a new lipstick … and smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Why firewood is the perfect birthday gift – 5 ways to live simply

My birthday was last week and instead of getting diamonds, pearls, or even something useful like shower gel, I received a box of firewood as one of my gifts.

Yep. Firewood.

I would show you a picture of me posing with it on the big day, but somehow no one managed to capture the surprised look on my face.

Surprise isn’t really the right word either. I was more confused than surprised. I wondered, is there a diamond wrapped in the box of firewood?

No, it was indeed a box of firewood.

Believe it or not, it was actually one of the more thoughtful gifts I have received from my husband.

The other gifts did not include lighter fluid, matches or charcoal either. In fact, over the years, he has bought me lots of nice presents that did not involve kindling.

As I grow older, or just grow, I find that I want fewer things. The material becomes immaterial as I focus on creating moments that matter instead of curating a collection of more stuff.

I want to live more simply, and my feeble attempt to express that has been to tell my husband that I want to live like people do on a farm.

That’s what the firewood was all about. It wasn’t so we could have a fire this winter and talk about what crops we were going to plant in the spring. It was about giving me some of the simplicity I crave.

He knows I am kind of over my suburban lifestyle.

For one, I am tired of buying in bulk. It’s heavy. I feel like I need a farmhand just to load it all in my car.

Then, there is the waste. My Sunday ritual now includes throwing out all of the food we didn’t eat during the week. This week that included smoked salmon, two hard-boiled eggs and some left over quinoa. I am of the generation that grew up being guiltily reminded about the starving children in Ethiopia so I cringe every time I throw away food.

And while I am grateful for health insurance and good medical care, my children have had more x-rays, cat scans and seen more specialists than I have in all of my 42 years.

On the farm we would just see the doctor if we were dead, dying or bleeding to death, and the doctor would make house-calls. We would not have to drive across town to a medical complex and hunt for a parking a space that will fit our tractor-sized SUVs, only to have to crawl out the hatch back since all the spaces are made for compact cars.

Instead of waiting for the doctor in your own bed like on a farm, you go wait in an icy room with a bunch of magazines about crafts you can’t do, recipes too complicated to make and fashion that nobody could actually wear off of a runway. Eventually you see the doctor, but that’s only a blink of an eye of the whole experience.

But alas, I don’t live on a farm and thus will take my son to an orthopedist tomorrow – in my own SUV.

After listening to my conversations about farm living, my son has told me he can’t do chores on the farm with a separated growth plate in his right shoulder. I explained that on the farm he would just have to use his left arm, and like Gloria Gaynor, he would survive.

While I, myself, might be a little bit like Eva Gabor on the seventies sit-com Green Acres if I actually had to live on a farm, the concept of living more simply appeals to me.

So I have been trying to take small steps that really don’t require overalls or a move to the country. The only thing they entail is a decision to live mindfully.

Here’s my list of some ways I want to live:

1. Shop locally. I have always tried to do this, but have made more of a concerted effort lately. I know there is Amazon.com, mega malls and credit card points, but there are also small businesses who thoughtfully help you as you shop. They aren’t worried about making commission. They are more interested in conversation. One of the best things about shopping locally isn’t just supporting neighborhood retail and all they offer communities. It is that they carefully wrap whatever you purchase in crisp white tissue paper and put it in a bag that’s made out of paper. I love that. It feels so special — like you just sold the farm to make that purchase and they recognize that.

2. Buy what you need. I am not going to say much about this because the truth is we don’t need much. Not things. We need friendship, family and fellowship. We need love and mercy. We need God and goodness. We need conversation and conversions. Other than that, we just need a toothbrush, a little food, and some good wine.

3. Use what you buy. The waste drives me mad. It just feels gross, indulgent and disrespectful. I am trying to be more conscientious when I shop. I am trying to buy better food. Food that feels special. Food that looks beautiful like it was grown on a real farm. One night, I bought 4 chocolate covered strawberries for our dessert. One for each of us. It was perfect and somehow felt decadent to have only exactly what we needed.

4. Offer thanks. There is so much to be thankful for and you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to acknowledge your life’s blessings. If you don’t think you are blessed, go outside. Feel the sunshine on your face – or the rain. Feel the breath you inhale. Feel the gentleness of the wind. Feel alive with possibility. Just let yourself feel — until you get it. Feel the fullness that is gratitude.

5. Light a fire. You don’t necessarily need firewood to do this. You just need a spark – something that gets you excited, people who make you feel warm; passions that make you feel purposeful. Life is short, and we really never know how short either. Birthdays are finite. So it is important to live it like it matters, so the people in it know they matter. IMG_1825

Because in the end, whether you choose city life or green acres, it won’t really matter. It’s the time you spend enjoying moments such as sitting by the fire with someone who somehow always knows exactly what you need – that will ultimately matter.

Those moments are the best gifts you can give, and the best gifts you can get.

Do you have any ideas to share on ways we can all live more simply? More deliberately? Be a good farmer and share your crop of ideas with us!


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5 Things I learned from my middle-schooler about life

I don’t think I ever learned in school a fraction of what I learn from my children. Childbirth alone was an education – even with the epidural.

From their birth on, my boys continue to enlighten me. Recently, my 7th grader switched middle schools and in doing so taught me a few new lessons about life.

  1. Change is okay. You know that song by Davie Bowie, Changes? Ch ch ch ch changes – turn and face the strain… Well, first off it turns out I have been singing it wrong my entire life. Who knew? I thought it was “strange” not “strain!”

 

After all, change is strange. My son had been at his school since pre-school and only had two more years left before he would graduate to go to high school. He loved his friends. He did well academically. I did not see any reason to change.

But he did.

He was open to the experience of an academic magnet school, to be the new kid, to start over.

Starting down a new path is probably one of the bravest things we can do. To risk the unknown is scary. To walk away from the safety, the comfort and the convenience of our situations to try something unfamiliar can be daunting. But by allowing the possibility of failure we also allow for the greater possibility of success.

Ch ch ch ch changes…

  1. Listening is really important. While we did not consider the magnet option until the beginning of the summer, I could hear the need for change throughout the past school year.

 

Only I didn’t listen.

When he talked to me about being bored at school, I thought he was just being a typical adolescent. I was not as open or as patient with him as I should have been. I thought the problem was with him. Rather it was with me.

We all go into situations and conversations thinking about our own point of view, and often are not very open to hearing anything, which doesn’t support that. However, listening to another perspective with the intent to understand is often more enlightening than interpreting conversations into our own viewpoints.

  1. Pigeonholes are for desks, not for people. I assumed my son would never consider leaving his school because I thought I knew him.

 

After all, he is my child and we have spent a considerable amount of time together.

I would have told you that he would NEVER switch schools. And, that he would be traumatized from that kind of change.

But I saw him from my own perspective, which is colored from my own experiences. I would have been devastated to switch schools at his age so I assumed he would have too.

One of the greatest things about life is that we can start over. We don’t even have to wait until tomorrow. We can start anytime we want. We tend to get stuck in our labels and in our self-defined regimens. Worse still is that we pigeonhole others.

We fail to see the multi-dimensions of our neighbors and ourselves. I am a mother, a Christian, a writer, a friend, a wife, however I am not singularly any of these things and together I am more than the sum of these parts.

Free yourself and the people in your life from the constraints of what you think you know. If you want to change, then change.

Fly free, little pigeon.

  1. Fight for what you want. Once I realized that my son needed something different than what I planned for him, I dedicated myself to making sure he had it. It wasn’t easy. There were forms, rules, bureaucracy and waiting lists. So, I made phone calls to guidance counselors, principals, county school administrators. I showed up uninvited and unannounced – I asked questions and asked for prayers (from the people working in the public school office no less — they probably prayed that they would never have to see me again.) I did everything I knew to do that remained in the bounds of sanity.

 

But the truth is, it was out of my hands once I turned in the application. Still, I couldn’t be complacent when my child wanted this so badly; when he felt like it was what he needed.

So I fought.   Often, it really isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about knowing you did all that you could. It’s about showing someone else that you believe in them; that they are worth it to you; that even if you don’t prevail, you persevered.

There is really no losing that kind of fight.

  1. Endings are really just new beginnings. I hate when things are over. I get nostalgic and weepy. I cry until my eyes burn and my head aches. I don’t know if that is normal, but it’s just what I do so I try not to beat my self about it.

 

So of course, this was no different.

But I realize he couldn’t embrace all that awaited him and remain where he was. He was indeed giving up a very special community of friends and teachers, a place where he had been loved and cherished, a place I knew he would miss.

Still, at the moment of his goodbye he was on the cusp of a new beginning.

Sometimes in life we have to let go of something so we can make room for something else– new experiences await, new friendships, new ideas. The possibilities are endless and they begin with an ending.

So those are the most recent lessons I have learned as a parent. I am all the wiser for what my son taught me and only hope to be so brave as “I turn and face the strange… ch ch ch changes”

I really think “strange” sounds better than “strain.” I think I am just going to keep on singing it wrong.

Sorry, David Bowie.

 

Often children are our best teachers.  What have you learned from your miniature-guru?  And, perhaps just as important, do you think strange makes more sense than strain?!  Ch ch ch changes…

 

 

 

 

 


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One word you need in your life right now

The transition from summer to fall is always difficult for me. September through December is jam-packed with, you know….everything.

Seriously, if I listed it all out, you would be breathing into a paper bag right now. I know because I just wrote about half of the activities here and had to run to the kitchen to look for a bag. Of course, I could only find plastic bags, which seems like a suffocation hazard. So, I decided it would be better to just delete that paragraph and save you all from hyperventilating and searching in futility for a paper bag.

Bracing myself for the upcoming chaos, I tried something last month that I had not done before.

I picked a word.

It was not just any word, either. It was a word that conveyed a feeling of “you’ve got this, boss.”

To find your word, ask yourself what you need in your life right now. What do you want more of – or less? What do you want to remember? Or forget? What do you wish to cultivate in your life and what do you need to make that happen?

It could be peace, friendship, forgiveness, faith, gratitude, strength, compassion, healing, or determination. It could be anything. But, it has to be yours.

What is it that you need?

I love all those words. Still, the word that I thought of was confidence.

I knew I needed confidence to juggle all I had to do during the upcoming month – not just the to-do lists, but all those unplanned moments both welcome and unwelcome which make up a life.

Confidence was my word. It was my comfort. Everyday I would think about it. I did not set aside time to do it. I simply kept it in my company – a polite companion with which I traveled.

Whenever anything went wrong, I thought of confidence.

For instance, I was on deadline to turn in a news story and had 3 percent charge left on my laptop. I went to plug my computer into the charger, only to realize that my darling cat used the cord for a chew toy. A tantrum, a trip to Best Buy, and $90 later, I had a new cord and turned in my article – with confidence.IMG_1443

During the same month, I also made a huge decision to switch my middle-schooler from the school he had been attending since pre-kindergarten. I needed confidence that I was making the right decision, and that if I wasn’t – if I was making a huge mistake, it would be okay. I could come up with a new solution.

Because the truth is, I knew I could. I always step up. I always get things done. Most often, things work out. I needed to honor that and have more confidence in my abilities to juggle the demands of life.

It’s not like having the word changed the way I handled anything, but it made me believe more in my capacity to cope.

I told a friend of mine with a recent cancer diagnosis about what I was doing and the word I chose. He thought it was a great idea and chose discipline as his word. He needed it to follow the healing regimen assigned by his doctors.

His daughter heard us talking about it and decided her word would be strength. As an athlete she meant it in the physical sense. But she also said she wanted strength to deal with the pressures of high school.

I thought the simple act of picking a word worked so well that I decided to do it again this month.

I chose positive. Three days in – I can tell you, I hate the word.

However, the fact it challenges me to understand what I am supposed to feel positive about when I am cleaning my child’s vomit off the floor at 5 a.m. (because nothing says back to school like the stomach virus) makes me feel like I chose the perfect word.

So what is your word going to be? I hope you will share it in the comment section. I would love to check back next month and see if choosing a word helped any of you.

I am positive it will.

See, it’s working already.