#JOY IS UNDERRATED -PUT IT ON YOUR LIST

Do you wake up in the morning and ask yourself, “What will I do today that will bring me joy?”
On any given day, I have a list of things I MUST get done and somehow a pleasurable activity like reading a good book, a bubble bath, flipping through a magazine, or dancing – rarely make it to the list.

How about simple joys:

Writing down what you’re greatful for
Really noticing the miracle of nature
Listening to music – really listening
#Meditation or
Smiling at a stranger.

Make some time for JOY each day and you and everyone around you will be happier and joyous!

New Beginnings

“Go get your mirror. Take it down from your shelf. Now look in your mirror and say, “I love myself.”  These lines are taken from my book, LOOKING IN THE MIRROR.

Each year we put so much pressure on ourselves to start a new goal. Start here; with loving your self. Until you master that, your dreams won’t feel as great if they do come true. So look in the mirror and as you brush your hair or teeth, take that one minute to really look at yourself, and reflect on your goodness, or the fact you deserve forgiveness, or list your accomplishments. Start off each morning with “I love me.” The rest will follow.

It is so much easier to attain your goals for 2014 when you believe in yourself. It is so much easier to believe in yourself when you love and care for the human being you are or strive to be.

Happy New Year and good luck. I hope all your dreams come true. They will – if you stop dreaming and MAKE them happen with that healthy sense of confidence you will attain by taking the time each day to appreciate who you are!

IS DADDY REAL?

Like many children in the world, I grew up without a father. I never met him. My mom said I met him when I was five, but I don’t remember. Funny, since I remember so many things at that age.

I was told he didn’t want me or love me and once I was born, he left. I wasn’t even shown a picture of him until I was about eight. My grandmother showed it to me like it was a top secret document stolen from the CIA.

All my life, when people asked, I would say, ” I have a mom but I don’t have a dad.”  Most everyone would reply, “Sorry!”

Recently, I said the above in front of a friend and he gave me such a huge gift. He said,       ” Just because you’ve never met your dad, doesn’t mean he wasn’t real.” Someone said it out loud, without any judgement, without any horror stories about him. I never had the opportunity to have the perspective my father was real; a real person, not a monster.  I mean I knew he existed and people told me he was my father, but I never felt I had the right to truly claim him as my dad. It always just felt like a word to me “dad.” Underneath, I felt I never had a father because I never knew him.

I felt like a whole person when my friend Kevin said that to me. Sure, I heard it before, but not without some bitterness attached to it. It sounded so different coming from a friend or maybe it was because it came from a man.Whatever it was, I heard it, really heard it, for the first time.  I had a mother AND a father. Whether he acknowledged me or not, a fact is a fact, and the fact is, I have a dad, just like everyone else. In that moment, I felt like nothing was missing in my life. I have a real dad and not even he could deny it (were he still alive). WOW. It was a nice feeling. It didn’t matter he died before I could ever reach out to introduce myself to him. The fact is he was real; not just a title or a word. He was my father.

For those of you who never met your dad or the father of your children is not around, remember what Kevin told me – for me, it was one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard.

Your children are always going to want to love both parents, good or bad. Let them. Support them. Validate them. Both parents are real, no matter what they’ve done.

FOR GRANDPA HERB – IN THE END IT’S ONLY ABOUT LOVE

Grandpa Herb has died. He is being buried today. With him, all the love, peace, and family will be there as he returns to the soul of the universe for his next journey.

My daughter’s grandfather and I locked horns early in life. He disapproved of me because I wasn’t Jewish and felt his attorney son could do so much better than some poor, part black kid, from a broken family in the Bronx.The icing on the cake was I always wore a cross (still do), went to church on Sundays, and spent twelve years in Catholic school.

I was so insecure about myself, I agreed to have two weddings, one on Friday night for my side, cleaned my gown on Saturday, and had a wedding for Randy’s side on Sunday. His parents made up some story about my parents being Spanish Jews to save face for friends and family.

Obviously, I should have known then his son didn’t love me enough to accept me for who I was and I certainly had no love or respect for myself either. I reconverted to the Catholic church eight months after we were married and later on God gave us the gift of our daughter, Rachel.

Needless to say divorce was inevitable and Rachel and I lived a wonderful life together of love and fun. Financially it was hard but I was grateful for this incredible child.

As the years passed, Rachel’s grandparents remained kind to her. Years later, Grandpa Herb, after our horrible parting of the ways during the divorce: restraining orders, break-ins, taking Rachel and threatening not to give her back neither to his son nor myself, etc, etc., walked up to me at an event and said, ” You did a great job with her.”

In that one sentence he displayed all that mattered to him was Rachel. That still could have been true without him giving me credit for doing a wonderful job raising her. He could have just said hello or said nothing. Instead, he chose to be a man with integrity and speak to me with kindness.

It’s funny; although I know a long time ago he didn’t want me around and maybe he still felt that way, all I remember now, is he loved my daughter, got a kick out of listening to her imitate Forrest Gump’s, “Life is like a box of chocolates”, he built an amazing built-in fish tank, and paid me the best compliment a mother can ever receive.

What will people say about you when you die? If those who you have harmed or who you have had misunderstandings with, can say, ” I loved him/her in spite of our differences”, you have lived a life of grace. I’m glad I had a chance to say, “Thank you” for Herb’s compliment. It meant the world to me. But most of all, if not for him, there could never be a Rachel.

Rest in peace Grandpa Herb.

 

The Cost of Not Teaching Your Children To Love Themselves

The week before July 4th, for the second time, I tried to take my life. The first time I thought about dying, I was eight years old. A girl in my Catholic School class was hit in the head by a swing. I never liked Regina Rowland but the day of her funeral, buried in her Communion dress, I was asking God why He didn’t love me enough to take me instead of her.

The worthlessness I felt then continued into my adulthood and I finally have a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder. Between the abandonment of my father and a stressed out mom who thought constant beatings and emotional and verbal abuse were a form of discipline, I grew up feeling worthless. I fight the feeling now but at times there are triggers that bring me back to the worthless feelings and/or the feeling that something beyond my control, is my fault anyway.

This is such a morose subject matter, especially while I am trying to sell children’s books, but if I can drill into parent’s heads what you do now, as your child is young, has an impact on them for years to come, it will be worth it.

Save your child years of pain. Just love them now. Love them and find a way to deal with your problems without putting them in the middle of your mess. Get help. Explain things to them. Tell your child when there is chaos, it is not their fault. It’s not too late. It’s never too late. Most of all, if you’ve made a mistake, admit it. Be an example to your child. Caregivers are their heroes. They depend on you for the most basic of things: food, clothing, shelter, most of all love.

Let them know whatever happens in life they need to love themselves first. The rest will come! Is it ironic I wrote “Looking in the Mirror” to teach children to love themselves and yet I struggle to love myself? NO, I say. It is the very reason I wrote the book. I know how important it is. I see how different my friend’s lives are and my daughter’s life is because they have a healthy sense of self.

Suicide and depression doesn’t make you crazy. Halle Barry once tried to kill herself. Justin Beiber’s mom tried to commit suicide. Joey Pants wrote his book on depression. Ms. Zeta-Jones suffers from depression. Millions of people have issues. Try to take care of your children the best you can when they are young so they have the best chance to grow up as healthy as possible. That is a parent’s responsibility. If something is wrong, seek help a.s.a.p.

For the most part, I live a fairly happy, zany, life. I enjoy my daughter and my home, and I have the best friends in the world. I wish those lapses in judgement, those memories of the past, those feelings of worthlessness that can be triggered just by someone blowing me off, didn’t exist, but they do. I’m working on it and one day I will appreciate the wonderful human being I know deep down inside I am and I’ll be able to say, ” Hey, I love myself anyway!”

 

Mom lets six year old cut her hair – BRAVO!

I remember when my daughter was seven and she wanted a bob. Her hair had been to her  tush since I could remember and it was beautiful. Everyone always commented about how beautiful her hair was. I didn’t want to cut it and I asked Rachel why she wanted to cut off her beautiful hair. She responded with a reasonable answer: “I’m tired of having to sit still for one and one-half hours while you blow it out. I just want something different” I told Rachel I would give it some thought as she reminded me it was her hair.

The following week, I went for a trim and told Cherylyn, my stylist, my conversation with Rachel. Cherylyn had really long hair. “If she wants to cut it. Let her. You don’t want her to think she is only pretty because of her long hair. You want her to think she is pretty and worthy no matter what she does and it grows back.” This was the way I had been raising Rachel anyway and I caught myself worrying about what everyone’s reaction would be. I realized at that moment Rachel was confident enough to try something new and I was proud of her.

I went home and told Rachel she could cut her hair any way she wanted to. She would still be the same gorgeous person with the same great heart. She cut her hair; loved it for a while, then started growing it back. It was a great experience for both of us. It taught us so many principals like respecting each other and what really makes someone shine. Parenting isn’t just about saying “yes” or “no”. It’s about listening.

Bravo to the mom who let her daughter go to a salon to cut her hair. One day your daughter might be the next CEO of her own company or the best stay at home mom ever. As for my daughter Rachel, she always does the right thing and is studying for her Masters at NYU. I think there is something to be said for moms who participate in letting their daughters make healthy choices for themselves.  BRAVO!!

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR CHALLENGE for SANDY HOOK

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For all the sweet little children and their parents, all the teachers, all their loved ones, for every person affected by the horror of Sandy Hook, I feel the only way to truly honor those who have passed in this tragedy is by making a difference.

To keep the “monsters” away, we have to stop creating them. The only way we can do that is by being invested in our youth and in mental health.

Have you ever seen a happy and kind bully?

If children are taught to love themselves, they will feel better about life, about their neighbor, and about the world around them. Unfortunately, some children don’t have parents who care enough about them. Some children are born with a mental disorder or due to trauma develop some issues. There can be many reasons a child is sad, angry or doesn’t fit in. So many of us think it’s not our problem until a child with unattended problems becomes an enraged adult.

I am creating the:

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR CHALLENGE for SANDY HOOK

 

There are seven special books. Each one has one single letter I wrote and initialed in red, in back of the book. Together, the letters spell I LOVE ME (also the words in the last page of the story). During the year, a panel will choose one letter from an individual, a school, a book club, a team, an office, etc. describing how they made a difference by making sure every child knows he/she is special and/or every child has the best opportunity to receive the tools they need to grow up happy.

 The challenge can be accomplished by:

  • Making a difference in one child’s life who truly needs help
  • Coming up with a solution so every child is aware of self-love like every child is aware of brushing their teeth in the morning
  • Finding a way to improve health coverage for mental health for all – no matter your financial circumstance for those who didn’t have this opportunity.
  • Creating a bill which makes it mandatory for children to receive psychological exams as well as annual physical exams – perhaps parents too!
  • Any other way you can think of to create permanent change

All entries are due by December 31st. Mail to: Looking in the Mirror, P.O. Box 2192, Huntington, CT 06484

Each Valentine’s Day the story of the winner with the most change provoking act or accomplishment will be read in honor of the children and teachers who died on December 14, 2012. The first book with the letter “I” will be given out next year, February 14, 2014.

Let’s see which state, school, person, etc. wins the most letters and makes Valentine’s Day a day of love for Sandy Hook. It gives us seven years to come up with a solution or solutions and make real change. Let’s truly honor those who suffered at Sandy Hook.

NOTHING WOULD MAKE ME HAPPIER THAN FOR A SOLUTION OR ALL THE SOLUTIONS TO BE PUT INTO PLACE BY NEXT VALENTINE’S DAY. I WOULD LOVE TO GIVE OUT ALL SEVEN BOOKS NEXT YEAR!!!

Let Valentine’s Day be the day we love all children a little more by asking:

  • How have I been as a parent this year?
  • Do I take the time to ask my child about their day? Are they happy?
  • Is there a child I know who may need my help and I’ve just been ignoring the issue?
  • Is there anyway I can volunteer my time to help in the field of mental health or bring awareness to the problem?
  • Is there a parent who is overwhelmed and could use some help?
  • Do I think the child next door is being neglected or abused?
    Additional prizes and awards may be announced To purchase a copy of “Looking in the Mirror” go to www.jeanninemarieauthor.com.  A percentage of all purchases go to charities supporting the well-being of children. It is my hope I will eventually be able to give free books to all children in need.

GIFTS

Gifts come in many forms. They come wrapped up in boxes with shiny paper and pretty bows. Some are big. Some are small. Some of them are so beautiful, we cry with joy. Some of them – just make us cry! Some gifts are funny. Some are boring or even ugly. But  being in the company of people who would even bother to give you a gift, is in itself, a gift.

This season, don’t complain about your gifts. Be grateful for whatever you receive. Focus instead on what you have to give; and the best thing that you can give……….. is love.

Happy Holidays from my bunk to yours, with love.

Jeannine Marie