The truth is...

Often I think social media and the blog·o·sphere do a heck of a good job of putting lipstick on pigs.  The social media happy spin.

Even I have asked people to read a book on authenticity with me and take a 12 days of kindness challenge; I've posted holiday baking, the kids end of year shows, and all the festive goodness of this time of year.  But behind it all, I'm also doing the social media spin/lipstick on the pig.  

So here it goes:  The truth is I am very, very sad.  I lost my friend and colleague, Robert, last week.  I told my children that he went to bed and didn't wake up; but the reality is he took his own life.  Suicide.  I am not trying to lie to my kids - they are very young and I am just not ready to start talking with them about suicide as part of life in any way. 

I am lucky to have known Robert.  I feel genuinely blessed to have had him in my life the past two years.  Two short years.  Robert hired me as a marketing independent contractor to work with him for his fitness company.  We spoke on a weekly basis for work.  We planned, schemed and dreamed.  But we also talked often about fear and regret; we talked about living outside of our comfort zones and learning how to grow.  

In the past eight days I have run through the gamete of emotions and questions.  Why was he so happy on Friday and then Monday completely without hope?  I look through my missed calls and wonder what if I'd answered those calls... what if I had sent him the reminder text on Sunday evening instead of Monday afternoon?    

What if.

And why.  Why is totally out of my scope of understanding.  I will never understand because what I thought of him, and what he thought of himself, were not the same thing.  I saw an incredibly talented, intelligent and kind person.  I saw a man with so much information and insight.  He knew everybody, he remembered everything, and he could tell story after story about traveling and fitness without missing a beat.  

While he was interesting, he was also interested.  He would ask about my life, my family, my goals.  He would question my plans and nudge me into directions I hadn't really thought all the way through.  He asked, no kidding, the best questions - he was incredibly inquisitive -of anyone, too, not just me.  We would be on the phone with someone and Robert would expect a certain outcome; he could ask the right questions to create the outcome he desired.  Sometimes, even if he knew the answer, he would still ask the questions and get me thinking about it and then I start questioning, why do I think that, and then before I knew it my perspective on the situation was broader.  

The small glimpses he shared with me about his sadness were just that - small glimpses into his reality.  Never enough information that I ever thought he was where he was.  Now though, that he has taken his life, I replay our conversations in my head and I think and wonder, "Oh Melissa..that..that one was a bad day for him."  

We talked often recently about direction for the business.  We talked about how to keep growing and thriving in an industry that is always changing.  We talked about our immediate actions and our long term goals.  Maybe while I felt hopeful for the future he felt anxious about it?  The simple fact is, now I will never know.  And it makes me incredibly angry that I do not get to talk to him anymore.  My heart breaks for his broken heart and I ache for his family.  

In October Robert was here in my home, having dinner with my family, and playing piano with my daughter.  He said, "Let's set up a zoom video conference for me and the Goose to practice again...she has an incredible ear, Melissa."  I've watched the footage of him standing beside her, in his comfortable way, umpteen times.  I've listened to his voicemail and scoured the email threads - looking for something unknown.  

I still talk to him when I am working.  He always says the same thing, "Listen...we will never know until we try...Let's do it once, and then go from there...If we get 10% I'm happy..."  Listen.  Listen.  He said listen incessantly.  "Listen, I think it's a good idea, but I've been down that road before... Listen, I don't want you to get too excited about this...Listen, one good post is all we need this week.  Listen, recovery is as important as the exercise."  

Now that I've taken the lipstick off the pig.  There is something else I'd like to mention.  If you see me, you don't have to look at me like I'm broken.  You can simply say, "How are you doing today?"  It is not an imposition to be asked questions about him or about what I'm feeling that day, because I'll be honest some more - every day I have felt different than the day before.  I am sad, but I am trying to keep my light shining because I believe 100% that God put me on a path to meet Robert and I will follow His lead.  I pray for the ability to continue Robert's mission; I can only say that it was an honor to work along side him for the brief time I could.  
He was the best mentor and I miss him.


You Have to Work Hard at Being Happy

When it comes to a good day or a bad day, how much of it boils down to perspective?  I have come to a place in my life where I believe that 90% of my day is determined in my own head. How I interact with the world around me, how I respond, how I proceed through decisions - all impact my perception of my day.  

First of all, I believe that I can control the outcome of my day. I wake up, I think through the first steps of my day and sequence it out to set myself up for a positive day.  This morning, for instance, I woke up and laid in bed thinking about the day.  My mind touched on each hat that I wear and what I need to accomplish first in each hat:

  1. Coffee, prayer, meditation
  2. Get the laundry going
  3. Make lunches
  4. Test a sale & make adjustments
  5. Check weekend sales & open rates
  6. Finalize play list
  7. Wake the kids

The first thing I do, everyday, is always #1.  I set my day by connecting with God, giving thanks for the blessings on my mind each day, and I meditate on my intentions for the day.  Each day my intention is to work hard and shine kindness into the world.  

Often my intentions are met with resistance and my light turns off.  I get angry.  I lose my patience.  I feel misunderstood, like my boundaries are being pushed, or I simply disagree with someone.  But the overall goal for the day is to come to terms with the resistance and settle it before the day ends. For me, this doesn't mean that I need to settle it with the person, if one is involved, by the end of the day.  Settling it, for me, is coming to a peaceful understanding of how I can exist with it.  How can I come to terms with, or process, the issue?

I process in two ways: talking about it & praying over it.  This morning "My Book" (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) said:

Many people's decisions are a combination of their habitual responses and their desire to please themselves and others. This is not My way for you. Strive to please Me in everything, not just major decisions. This is possible only to the extent that you are living in close communion with Me...A quick glance at Me is all you need to make the right choice.

In essence, I felt comforted by the simplicity of how to check my own behavior. What will work for Him is what feels right for me. In the making of our days, a quick glance in His direction can lead us down a path that allows us to be true to ourselves and a positive influence in the world around us. On good days, these choices we make are easier than on the bad days.

And there are really bad days, right?  Days when the server crashes, the car crashes, the airplane crashes.  It is those days when leaning into God for support is incredibly important and also incredibly hard.  We ask over and over, why why why is this happening?  And unfortunately there is never a reason for the why.  There is only: how we can cope, come to terms with, or respond to the heartache or trauma. How can we set our minds to have more control of the way we respond, react, and behave?

I've had a some experience with traumatic situations, bad days. Sick or injured children with unknown resolutions, sleepless nights, days spent in tears, weeks spent in sadness. The only way I have ever made it through any of it is by leaning into God, allowing other people to help me, and giving myself the space to feel awful and fall apart.

I think Dolly's message speaks to me because how we approach the good and the bad days really does matter - our perspective can tip the scale in our favor if we let it. If we choose to lean in, if we choose kindness, if we choose forgiveness, if we choose to set our mind and create our intention for the day, even on the bad days, the load is a little bit lighter.


Making a Life

When I was a little girl I loved Dolly Parton.  She was my idol.  I sang 9 to 5 until my heart was content. One fine summer evening I parked it in front of my grandmother's TV set, turned on HBO and followed Dolly's career on to The Best Little Whore House of Texas.  It might not have been the best message for elementary school, but I adored her.  

She seemed so strong and confident in both films. As if she'd take no shit from anyone.  She had a strut about her, a bold, emblazoned gate that caught everyone's attention.  She is a savvy, business woman.  If you peruse her Wikipedia page, the list of her accomplishments is long.

From time to time when I need a powerful message, I'll google Dolly quotes.  Because she never fails to inspire me.  This month there are four that I find particularly helpful in conquering new goals, staying true to myself, and living life.  

"Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life."

I find this particularly powerful from her because she made quite a living.  "American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, actress, author, businesswoman, and philanthropist..." a powerhouse of a woman.  

But something not accurately described at times is her marriage.  This woman made a life with one man for 51 years.  A very private man who didn't want to step out into the limelight with her.  51 years.  Talk about making a life.  Look her up for her philanthropy and the list is nearly as long as her career!  

What women are girls looking up to now?  First, I believe they are looking up to US.  It is on you to show up for your daughter and teach her to love herself, empower herself, make a life, and be kind. If you could use a little motivation to do that for yourself from time to time, I understand (why do you think I'm googling Dolly Parton in the middle of the night?)

So ask yourself, are you making a life?  Here is what I want to hear:  

I'm trying.  When you can say, "yes! I am trying!"  Then you're on the right path.  Maybe trying for you is getting through couples therapy, signing a new lease, setting up doctors appointments, working overtime to save for college, learning a new braid, painting with girlfriends, dancing in your kitchen, traveling the world, chairing that committee, carpooling, paying the bills --- WHATEVER IT IS --- you have to make a life.  YOU CANNOT ALLOW IT TO HAPPEN TO YOU.  You are the main character in this show, and if you will own the role, pull up your big girl pants and take responsibility for all the good, bad, and ugly parts - YOU WILL SHINE.


Can you spell h.y.p.o.c.h.o.n.d.r.i.a.c?

The scariest thing just happened to me.  Well.  Maybe it isn't THE scariest thing.  Everyone is safe, Grandma, don't worry.

The thing is I know this happens to people all of the time.  But for a minute I'm allowing myself a moment of worry.  Which I know I shouldn't do.  But I'm a parent.  Worry is my middle name.  Chalk it up to being a busy, multi-tasking woman.  Chalk it up to being human.  Or....worry.

I work out of my dining room because the office in the basement is lonely and it doesn't afford me the ability to keep a watchful eye on my children.  I set up shop in the dining room and this is where I spend a sound forty three hours of my week.  In the midst of that I also run the household.  Kids up, fed, dressed, teeth, catch the bus, teach a fitness class, and then back to my perch here in the dining room.  The doorbell here and there, then lunch for the little guy, then a call from Boss #1, then conference call with Boss #2.  And so on.  You get the picture.

Tonight, I am switching from mode #1 to mode #2 and getting a sale set up to begin tonight at midnight.  I pull up the email with the CDs for the sale, I quick stop to put meat on the stove to start lasagna for dinner.  Thankful for the no-boil Barillas in the cabinet.  Then I sit back at the computer to run through the email and pull up the sites I'll need to make the sale arrangements.  Check on the meat.  Back to the sale.  Find the email with the pertinent details, hit "print."  Check on the meat.  Add the sauce.  To the printer, no email.  Back to the computer to look at why it did not print.  "Printer is offline".  I click, "print test page".  Go back to the kitchen to move on to the next step with the lasagna, but the sauce isn't ready.  So I turn to go back down to the printer.  I turn the corner toward the office and then it is blank.  Gone.

Why am standing in the hall?

Totally blank.  Then I get a little bit nervous.  Trying to think why did I come down here.  What is down here that I need.  Laundry?  I turn around to go back to the kitchen hoping something there will trigger why I walked down the stairs.  Nothing.  Totally gone.

I check the sauce, sit down at the computer to try and fix the printer and then it hits me.  The test page.  I already printed the test page and that is why I went down the stairs.

I know that this happens to everyone.  I know it happens to me all the time - that oh I forgot my phone minute or the I left my glasses downstairs or forgot to bring the mail in.  But I swear to you tonight it just felt awful.  Like the purpose was totally gone.  Vanished.

And so then I try to calm myself down with logic.  Mel you're running a million directions.  You're mind can only manage so much.  But then it's still there.  That minute when I totally lost it - went totally blank.

I thought writing it down would help me feel better.  But guess what?  It didn't.  I'm going full blown hypochondriac on the blog right now.  People forget things all the time.  Where did that piece of information go?


But first I was an...


Many years before I was The Mama Bird, I was Aunt Sa.  My first niece was born in 1998 - the year before I graduated from college.  She attended my graduation in the sweetest little white dress, with the most darling little curls, barely walking, in her little white shoes.  In two days I will watch her cheer at a Big 10 football game.

Time has flown.

Since then, there have been A BUCKET OF additional nieces and nephews added all of whom I see on a regular basis.  I could tell you little stories that have touched my heart about every single one of them.  But today I want to tell you just one that happened this weekend at my house.

My youngest is 5.  He loves his cousin Bivy.  He wants to be by her side whenever they are together.  At dinner Sunday night I walked into the dining room to see him smiling, sitting next to her.  Then he got up and said, "Bivy, I have to show you something!"  He left the dining room, went to the refrigerator for milk, got a cup out of the cabinet,and then walked back to the entrance of the dining room.  He placed the cup on the floor and looked up at her and said, "Bivy, are you watching?"  Then he poured his own glass of milk.  She said, "Wow, Critter, I can't even do that."

It was totally darling.

But then it got even cuter.  I sat at the table a moment and listened to them talk about the honor of pouring yourself a cup of milk, without spilling it.  Another of my nieces said, "You know what I do, I put the cup near the sink so then if it tips over it is real easy to clean up the mess."  The Happy Critter and Bivy were impressed by her intelligent suggestion.

After everyone left and I was cleaning up the house, that little moment struck me again.  How incredibly sweet it is to be proud of the things we accomplish.  How incredibly ignorant I am for not acknowledging better the small tasks he is checking off his own list every day.  Sometimes the youngest gets the short end of the stick - fewer accolades with everyone else already able to do everything on their own.  This year he has learned to buckle his own seat belt and pour his own glass of milk, and he is so proud of himself he showed off to Bivy.

They really are the sweetest things.  These kids.  Their moments.  Cherish them, mama birds.