Peace Begins with a Smile

This morning I woke up seconds before the alarm because the smell of hot coffee was really-really close by. My youngest daughter stood there holding a cup and saucer towards me with a great big smile. We were leaving Disney today and that always makes me a bit sad, but smiling is such a great way to make other people feel happier.

••• Okay, this didn’t happen. I woke up feeling sad that it was our last day in my favorite place in earth. The kids were feeling bummed and scrounging leftover stuff to eat. I was packing last minute buttons, lost earrings and absolutely precious scraps of paper and discarded bottles of half used nail polish that must not be forgotten. But all the while, in the midst of travel chaos, I was desperate to bring home a bit of “disney magic” in my own heart. •••

So I made it my goal to remember the magic of Disney all day and find one thing to be grateful for each step of the way. Below you’ll see an itinerary of sorts with examples of where I deliberately chose the attitude I wanted to have instead of just waiting to see how I felt like feeling:

7:00 am 🧳 all six of us took our bags down to the lobby where a nice Disney worker checked them through to our destination. As each bag passed from my hand to his I felt their weight and the gratefulness in my spirit that I no longer had to carry or keep track of them. Did you know that putting these small pauses between actions can provide you with fresh energy for the new task ahead? It’s true! If you just completed a task and without pausing to realize it is done you might miss the sense of accomplishment you should be enjoying! So with a mental slam of the football into the end-zone I collected our boarding passes and lead our crew off to the hotel lobby to await the airport transfer.

7:30 am 🚃 the Magical Express arrived to whisk us from the Grand Floridian to Orlando International Airport. My mind so desperately wanted to cling to our vacation but I didn’t want my day to be filled with loss, I wanted to enjoy today just as much as I enjoyed yesterday. After all, this is another day of my precious life! I’ve found the best way to get out of my thoughts and into the present is to connect with my senses… you know: touch, smell, taste, sound and sight. So I forced myself to look out the window and do you know what I noticed? Palm trees. I remember looking at those same palm trees as we drove to and from the Orlando airport as a child. We when to Disney World 2-3 times a year when we lived in New York and I remember thinking how amazing palm trees were. There are no palm trees in New York. And when I saw them I knew Disney was close by. But guess what?! I live in Arizona. I have palm trees right beside my own pool. There are palm trees all around our town. And as each palm tree passed the window I no longer felt sad, because if you look hard enough you can find the magic of Disney everywhere. 🌴

8:30 am 🚫☕️ we arrived at the airport, got through security, took a tram to our terminal and got ZAZA coffee because there was no Starbucks in the terminal. Starbucks is easy because the kids know the menu and it’s simple to grab breakfast or snacks for the plane. But a Cuban coffee shop? Not as easy. As we waited in line I talked over the menu with the kids. Guava pastries? Quesitos? El Macho? But I can’t really describe what guava tastes like, or explain why they make pastries with cream cheese or figure what the difference between our bread and Cuban bread is. The kids had no idea if they would like anything here and had more than a million questions, but do you know what? I listened to the kids. Really listened to them and they weren’t complaining. They were confused. There was a Wendy’s right across from ZAZA and I suggested Brian take the kids there. Instead of getting flustered about how I was going to get my coffee if they couldn’t find anything to eat or judging them for not being adventurous with breakfast or being lost in my own pre-coffee cloud, I listened to them. So I got my coffee and they got their hash browns and we were all happy (well, as happy as you can be without Starbucks). 😉

10:00 am ✈️ to Denver International Airport and slept on Brian’s shoulder the whole way! Remember how I connected with my senses on the bus ride to the airport and turned a sad trip into gratitude? Well same thing here. I could just say whew, glad I caught up on my sleep but instead I saw the love and attention in this simple experience. I spent three hours on the shoulder of the man I care so much for. The person whose attention I crave the most in this world. And in that light, this flight brought such joy and peace to my heart. I wished the flight was longer!

12:30 pm ☕️ arrived in Denver and started looking for lunch… but what I really wanted was Starbucks. Should I wish away lunch hoping for coffee? No. I shouldn’t pass over any moment I have been given, hoping for the next. So here’s the trick… I am not my thoughts. I may observe the fact that I want Starbucks, but I can listen to that thought. It is not me. I am separate, and by watching these thoughts come and go I am present. I am not stuck in those ideas or allowing them to drag me down a hole like Alice chasing that white rabbit. So I had a lovely taco salad and afterwards, we tracked down a Starbucks. And in reality… I think I enjoyed the taco salad more!

3:00 pm ✈️ to McCarran International Airport was spent creating this blog post. I love writing. No secret about that. I write stories from the dog’s perspective and read them to my kindergartner’s class. I write diaries and short stories and letters to friends. But today… I’m writing to you. After all, the activities we enjoy connect us with our inner purpose and bring us fully alive. I’m sure you know that feeling when you’re in the flow of an activity you excel at, that you love, that feeds your soul. People who run talk about this feeling all the time. How they forget the world as their feet pound the pavement and the miles slip away. You’ve probably heard a runner describe this. Personally I don’t believe them. Running is a horrid torture that couldn’t bring such lovely feelings. But writing can! Oh all right, it’s all different for everyone I know. But running..? Alright. It’s things like this that help us lose our smaller self. The part of us that overthinks e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g and worries and can never decide. On the other hand, I find my happiness soars when I add activities into my week that expand my passions and shrink my neurotic tendencies.

5:00 pm 🎡 arrived in Las Vegas and as usual… this city is a spinning top waiting to be flicked off the table by a toddlers thumb. At least that’s how it feels to me. So as I stepped off the plane I ran over the words of Thich Nhat Hanh in my mind: walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet. I usually pound the earth trying to race my kids to the nearest restroom and then lumber heavy-footed to get my baggage and drag it to the car. But tonight I was trying something new. I want the lightness of Tinker Bell mixed with the lame man Peter healed at the Beautiful Gate.

6:00 pm 🚘 started the drive home after meeting Kayana’s mom and sister in the airport. Which was actually such a lifesaver since we never would have fit our luggage in the trunk. (Guess when you bring home two more suitcases than you left with there can be space concerns…) On the way home our youngest decided she never wanted to travel away from home again and vowed to kiss the floor when we got back. Poor thing. It’s hard being 7. Actually it’s hard being every age. We all have things that pop up in life that throw us more than we would want or expect. I always try to understand, validate, create safety and encourage growth. For example:

  • I can see how traveling so long can be exhausting.
  • Feeling the way you do is completely normal.
  • I promise to get you cozy and tucked in your own bed as soon as we get home.
  • And I want you to know how proud I am of you for all you did this summer. You are growing into such a wonderful young lady.

Oh course this technique needs to be done in my own life as well. Speaking into children’s lives is important as a mom but I need to do the same thing in my life and my husband’s. We are all pretty similar in our need for understanding and support as we grow and change all throughout life.

8:00 pm 🐯🐺 we got home and spent the next 13 years hugging the cats. Okay not really, but boy they sure missed us! As I got the kids ready for bed I tried to get them to focus on their own lives, right in that moment, just as I had been trying to do all day. Avoiding getting lost in memories of our summer travels. Avoiding becoming stuck in worries about the coming days or churning thoughts of the school year to come. Avoiding lashing out with judgements and reactions to perceived attacks from other tired siblings. For tonight let’s just rest our tired bodies and enjoy the feeling of our own beds. Tomorrow will be a whole new day. Claudia is sleeping in our room tonight because lots of change needs lots of cozy. Madeline is falling asleep. Beatrice is falling asleep. The house is quiet again.

So there you have it! We’re all finally home and going nowhere before school starts again. Thanks for sharing all my vacation posts over the past month. It’s been fun writing it all down and now I have a gift to myself that I can re-read whenever I need a mini trip. If you’re local I can’t wait to see you all again and to my friends far away we need to plan more trips in the future. But before I plan anything else I’m going to need a good nights sleep. Big hugs to all!

Disney World. Period.

This is a public service announcement… If you get your period at Disney World you will find vending machines for feminine products in every bathroom, but:

  • they only take quarters
  • you need two quarters per item
  • the machine will probably be empty

Then you will hopefully run into a restroom attendant who can open up her secret supply closet and hand you one. Just keep in mind it will have a cardboard applicator. And you must retrieve BOTH halves. That’s pretty crucial for those used to a single smooth applicator. See, I’ve got your back here.

After you use that may I suggest you head to your nearest gift shop. There you can fix yourself up. Depending on how bad off you are you may need to buy new shorts, underwear and a box of real tampons. Hopefully you don’t need new shoes & socks but if you do you can get them. And Aleve. Get that too.

Now that you are properly cleaned up and put back together I recommend getting to the nearest Starbucks for a venti iced americano ASAP. This step is very important and can not be skipped. At this point you may carry on with your vacation.

If I could make a suggestion to Disney it would be this… offer a small kit to women on their period. Make it available at first aid. It should contain 2 tampons, 2 pads, new panties, chocolate, a gift card for a free Starbucks and an extra fast pass card. All this should be placed in a cute Disney ziplock bag (which you can use to hold your dirty clothes). Honestly. We’d be so thrilled to have someone looking out for us when we spend our lives looking out for other people.

And honestly I think this is such a good idea I may start making these kits. We all need someone looking out for us. Especially when we’re bleeding and in pain right?! It simple human kindness. At least in my version of the world.

Sparrows and Chickens and Tadpoles – “oh my”

Today was our day at the Animal Kingdom and quite honestly it has always been my FAVORITE park. It’s no secret that I love animals. I adopt, foster, rescue or buy everything my parents (and now my husband) let me.

As a child I found a bird on the side of the road with a broken wing. I knocked on doors until I found someone home who could give me a shoebox and some old cloth. Then I careful lifted the bird inside and took it home to my mom and pleaded with her to take me somewhere to save it. We found a wildlife sanctuary who would take it and drove there. They showed me how they would set the wing, and after a sizable donation from my parents they agreed to keep it.

Next I adopted a small baby chick. Our class hatched them for a lesson on … something … but mine hadn’t hatched on time. Everyone else had cute little fluffy yellow chicks popping about in their hands and my egg just laid in the incubator. The day we were sending everything back to the farmer mine hatched. But it wasn’t yellow, it was black. And it didn’t pop about, it was crippled. Both feet were clenched tightly closed and both legs were bent. When the farmer came to collect everything he made it clear that he wasn’t going to raise the black chicken and asked if I wanted it. Of course I did!!! So I came home from school with a very unhealthy small bird. We tried to feed it and tried to keep it warm. I even exercised its small legs. But it died in a few days. We had a whole funeral service and buried it in the back yard.

Then came the tadpoles. About 3,756,343 of them. One summer, when we lived in New York, it was time to open our pool. The day before the pool service was going to arrive we noticed tiny little critters swimming about in the water. And not just one! The pool cover was swimming with tadpoles. Oh no! What was going to become of them? My parents told me the pool service would just dump the water off the cover into the pool, add plenty of chemicals and the tadpoles would filter out. WHAT?!? They were going to kill them?!? Not on my watch. I recruited family and friends to skim them all off and filled plastic baby pools with them. They were saved!!! But then I had to raise them. I had to keep the water at the correct temperature by adding ice and cover them with cheese cloth to keep our predators. When they started growing large enough I decided we better release them into a local waterway. I convinced my family to help me do this after dinner one night. We filled buckets and buckets and buckets with tadpoles and water. Then we drove them over to a drainage pond nearby, and started dumping. Before we finished carrying ALL the buckets, the police showed up to see what in the world we were dumping in the water under the cover of dark. Oh yeah, that might have looked suspicious. We showed the officer the tadpoles and told him the story. He looked rather amused but told us not to make dumping buckets of things into water at night a habit. My mother assured him that this was not a regular thing with us.

Then it was Raptor, the biggest and meanest cat in the feral cat pen. My hubby said we should get an outdoor cat to chase off the pigeons who had taken over our pool. So I headed to the humane society and asked for their largest and worst cat. It took about 20 minutes for them to catch this “monster” using a snare pole and drop him into a crate. They had me sign a paper saying his name was “Davis” and told me not to touch him. I took him to my car and drove him home – putting him in the greenhouse with food, water and a litter box. I named him Raptor, because he was huge and mean. But then… over the next few days I began to notice that perhaps he wasn’t a monster. He let me pet him. He meowed loudly when I would leave. And soon he let me hold him. Then he met our girls. Soon I realized he was an extremely misunderstood cat, and I began to love him so much. Unfortunately he got very sick shortly after we brought him home. I took him to the vet and then we let him live inside our home. He was diagnosed with cancer and soon he died. But Raptor was finally loved, and he knew it.

So animals have ALWAYS been my calling. Genesis 1:28 says: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” When God created us we were supposed to watch out for the animals; protect them. We were representing God to them. Standing in the gap. And for this reason if an animal comes to me for help I don’t say no.

A few months ago a dog followed my middle daughter and our nanny home from the park. It was scared, hungry, emaciated and very smelly. But I could tell it needed help and had come to our home for a reason. So I took her inside and we named her Sweetie. She had been lost for ages. There was almost nothing to her. We took her to the vet and there was no micro chip. I wasn’t surprised. I asked them to keep her for me overnight and I would get her in the morning. The next day we picked up sweetie and got her groomed. Then I bought her a collar and leash. I spammed all my local friends to find her a home and by the end of the day she was a loved member of a new family.

Tonight I sat in the room pictured below. It’s the lobby of the animal kingdom lodge in Disney World. We ate dinner in their Afro-Indian restaurant called Sanaa, and watched beautiful savanna wildlife walk around outside the windows. And I felt so grateful that I am not the only one in the world who takes the time to help the animals.

We all have so many gifts and talents to share. You might not save the tadpoles. But you might give a compliment to a nervous person in a dressing room. Or maybe you can tell a joke to a sad friend. Maybe volunteer to read at a hospital or teach math to kindergartners. But whatever it is… find your thing. What you have a passion for. What you can’t help doing. And then seek out opportunities to get involved. The world is huge and time is limited. So if it sets your soul on fire don’t wait another day. Explore your passions and make this world a better place… because it had you in it.

Beauty Secrets are the Best Secrets

Darling. Your skin is fabulous but it’s completely neglected. Sit down.” These were the words I heard as I walked through the Guerlain shop in the French pavilion in Epcot. She motioned for me to take a chair, and I gladly did. Picture this. It was 3 in the afternoon. The humidity here in Florida is about 500% and the temperature is 100°. I had sweat dripping down my back and plinking off my butt. I have no idea what my face looked like but I would have to agree that my skin had been neglected big time since I swiped a clearasil pad across it this morning.

I couldn’t exactly follow the steps that came next but this magical woman rubbed cream, massaged, applied serums, held pressure points and moisturized my face. It was heavenly to be quite honest and I didn’t pay attention because it was so relaxing. Of course while I was being pampered my husband was working with a French gentleman to discover a perfume that would best suit me. They ended up spraying me with three on my right arm. Then two more on my neck. So as I was being beautified my husband kept taking my arm and sniffing it from wrist to shoulder and then nuzzling my neck.

Of course when the beautician showed my my face I was absolutely stunned that it was ME staring back. That woman looked refreshed!!! It must have been those amazing lotions and potions… or all that sniffing and cuddling.

So my husband bought all three perfumes that they sprayed on my arm, because he really liked the way they blended together. I added the skin care regime to the pile because I figured if it could fix me after a day at Disney in the blistering heart maybe I wouldn’t turn into a troll after all. So the receipt was signed and the bottles and jars were hand delivered to our suite. So if you will now excuse me I must go and follow all the instructions that have been written out (she knew I wasn’t paying attention). Oh and next time you see me the radiance if my complexion might be too much without sunglasses. 😉 #beautysecretsarethebestsecrets

Where Did Today Even Go?

I was FULLY intending to tell you about something brilliant tonight, but instead I’m admitting to being just another exhausted mom. Why?

  • Last night I was woken up around 1 by Claudia because she wanted to sleep with me. About 2 she woke me up again to tell me she was going back to her bed.
  • Madeline climbed into my bed about 3 because she saw a long flying bug and wondered if it would sting her. (I think she dreamed it.) She then poked me every 15 minutes or so to see if I was asleep. I always was. About 4:30 she went back to bed.
  • At 9 I had the kids ready to go to breakfast with my parents, brother & his family (but they canceled due to being up all night). I totally understood that one! But since we were ready, we went to breakfast anyway.
  • About 11 we went to look for new sneakers for Beatrice who now needed to wear women’s size EIGHT! We wear the same size shoe. Found two pairs on a BOGO sale at Famous Footwear.
  • Took Madeline over to TJMax to use the potty and then got suckered into staying there until 1 looking at things like sleep masks for the girls. Honestly, I’m for anything that might keep them in beds.
  • Then home for lunch, stopping to get Diet Coke along the way because – caffeine!
  • Made lunch for kiddos from leftovers and relaxed for a few minutes (really, just a few minutes).
  • It was now 2:30 ish and my parents cleaning lady arrived so I quickly cleared off the bed & closed suitcases in my room and checked the girls room as well.
  • Took Kimber (my parents Akita) to the vet together with my mom. Kimber needed a cytopoint injection for allergies. (The girls stayed home with grandpa while we did this.)
  • Got home about 4 and we needed to meet my brother & his family for taco Tuesday since we had missed breakfast with them. Planned to meet at 5 so we had about 30 minutes. I genuinely have no recollection of what I did during that time. None.
  • Got in the car and headed to Cozymels. After being there for about 15 minutes Claudia said she was sick. Then she started crying. I took a look at her and she had a fever. Ugh. She was begging to go home. My mom took her out and I got a mango & strawberry frozen margarita.
  • As we were finishing dinner at about 6:30 Claudia and my mom returned. Claudia said she was feeling better. She wanted dinner. So we got dessert and she got dinner. We were driving home about 7:30.
  • While driving home (I was in my dad’s car with Madeline & Claudia) Mom called and asked if they could go out looking for earrings for Beatrice. She said she needed some. No. Just no. I didn’t think tonight was a good night for an earring emergency.
  • About 8 we all got home and by 9 the girls were snug in their beds asleep after stories and songs. Well, kinda. Claudia begged to sleep with me since she actually wasn’t feeling very well. I really really wanted to say no, but I said sure and gave her a hug.

By 10 pm I very much hope to be in my bed SNORING, but honestly I also want to watch a little bit of a show and pretend I’m an adult with at least a tiny life of my own. Not sure which one will win out. Hugs mommas! Our job is far from easy and I’m cheering you on!!!