Firebirdlifecoach's Blog

Pursuing a Passionate Life

Make a Wish… March 13, 2014

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birthday cakeHere’s an article of mine which was just featured on the Divorce Support Center website. http://divorcesupportcenter.com/

My sons aren’t “little” anymore, though they were when their father and I got divorced. And that was scary! I think the single biggest issue for their father and I

when we decided that our marriage was simply not going to work, was how to end it in such a way that the impact did not negatively affect our children. It wasn’t easy.

Because truly, with the exception of possibly ending an abusive, volatile relationship – how could a divorce negatively affect the kids? The very nature of the beast requires significant changes at the very core of our lives for all of the parties involved, and the importance of stability at home is probably felt most acutely by those who have the least control and resources with which to understand it – the children.

In fact, it is probably true that many couples, stay together “for the children,” despite their own personal needs and desires to separate. Not too long ago, that was probably “the norm,” but not so much anymore. And I am not going to digress here into the “rightness” or “wrongness” of a couple’s decision to remain married or not, there are enough eager voices out there who are willing to judge the life choices of others, mine is not one of them. But I will say this, if you are a parent whether you choose to divorce or stay together – you absolutely have a responsibility to do your best to give your children what they need to grow up into confident, healthy and well-adjusted members of society.

So what does that mean exactly? Well, in the case of divorce, it means keeping your children out of the emotional fray, letting them know how much they are loved, providing as stable and consistent a home life as possible, fostering healthy relationships with both of their parents, being there to support their emotions, and finding other outlets to deal with your own: for starters.

And you may not want to hear this but if you thought that parenting was challenging before, you better brace yourself for the challenges of single-parenthood, which is not to say that it won’t at some point become easier and more normative. But if the situation allows it, the reality is, they still have another parent and is your best option. It isn’t always easy; after all your emotions are running high, too.

But you are the grown-up, and your children need you now more than ever to act like one. Agreeing with your spouse to put the needs of your kids first – is the first step. And you may need to remind yourselves, over and over, and in countless ways, what this actually means on a day-to-day basis – but you will be rewarded in the long run.

Last week was my son’s nineteenth birthday. It was his tenth birthday since his father and I separated. And I was a bit surprised when about a week earlier he had asked me if his dad could join us for dinner. I said, “Yes.” And though clearly it wasn’t the “nuclear family” of yester-year, it was a pleasant evening. I made his favorite dinner and his dad made his favorite cake. I don’t think any of us, for even a moment were fooled by the guest list into thinking that we were the same family that we had been years before, and yet we were still a family inextricably and forever bound to one another.

It was awkward and fine. But most importantly, my sons were both happy, and that’s what it’s all about.

 

My Pride November 14, 2013

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IMG_0617Beautiful, handsome young man,
Towering over his mama.
Quietly traveling along his life’s path.
Responsible, wise, intuitive.
Slyly funny, loves to tease,
A closed mouth grin, sideways glance and twinkling eyes.
Sometimes unapproachable; a feral cat,
Interacts on his own terms.
Internally driven, externally achieving,
So bright, so confident, so calm.
Bursting with pride,
Overflowing with love,
Mama’s baby-boy.

 

Walking Down Internet Memory Lane March 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — firebirdlifecoach @ 10:08 am
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path

One could certainly debate the pros and cons of social media and its all pervasive impact on life as we know it. There is no question that it can lead to: a seemingly bottomless pit of time wasting, a propensity toward the “over-sharing” of life’s minutia and what amounts to an internet version of unhealthy, addictive behavior.  But in my mind it also provides an opportunity for connection that simply did not exist just a few years ago.  As someone who is at just the right age to have enough technical know-how to take advantage of what the internet can provide and a clear memory of what life was like before we were all constantly “connected” I can say that social media has provided one benefit that far outweighs its detractions – finding lost friends.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of reconnecting online with the person that I really consider “my first love”. As I was working on my business network site on LinkedIn, his name popped up as someone I might want to connect with – (though how they know that, both puzzles and creeps me out a little bit). Nonetheless, more than thirty years since I would have last seen him, and almost forty years since we were “an item” we connected for a brief but pleasant email interaction. And honestly, it was great! No, I am not still mooning for a “lost love” or wanting any more than this superficial conversation presented, but had it not been for this social media site I would have spent my life never knowing what happened to him. Sure, life would have moved along smoothly without ever knowing, but now I have what can almost be described as a sense of closure.

Several years ago, I was re-united with another old friend from my college years who I had lost track of, when our lives became full with children and families and life activities and the letter writing which had finally been reduced to holiday updates eventually stopped altogether. And for about 2 – 3 years it was great to once again know and connect with this person from whom I always received a great amount of inspiration, laughter and genuine warmth. When he suddenly died of a heart-attack last year, I mourned his passing with the many friends and family who also cherished his life, and was grateful that we had had the opportunity to re-connect again before this most final disconnection. There is no denying the intensity and deep connections that you forge in your younger years and how significantly they can impact your life even if circumstance and priorities separate you over time. Old friends know you in a way that new friends never can – and social media allows you an opportunity to acknowledge their importance.

Sure, I am lucky; my reconnections to my past have mostly been positive ones. I have not stumbled into any frightening, unhealthy stalkers. Aside from some of the minor annoyances of irritating posts on Facebook from people whose, let’s just say “approach,” is at odds with my own, social media has treated me pretty well. I have a greater appreciation for some people than I had, had years ago – and most importantly I have been able to connect with some folks who were and are very important to me. I am not a “collector”, one of those people with a hundreds or thousands of “friends” who they may simply have attended the same high school with, it’s not about the numbers really. Though I check in regularly, I don’t really care for the trivial updates about every aspect of your existence, and I could absolutely live without the constantly forwarded quotes and cute animal photos in favor of more authentic and original material.  But a little here and there is just fine.

Most significantly, over five years ago I reconnected with someone who has indeed, changed my life. An old friend, I had known since grammar school, someone I always felt “connected to” despite our lives taking us in different directions. Built on an old stone foundation of mutual respect, fundamental understanding and positive regard we have forged a new and deeper relationship then either of us could have imagined in an age before social media discovery would have allowed. Not everyone is going to find “true love” on Classmates.com, and probably it’s a good idea not to try. It’s not about re-living your glory days, or going back in time. It’s about being able to connect in the here and now, to those people who have moved and shaped who you are today. There are definitely undeniable upsides to being able to connect with the people who really meant something to you over the years, to say “hello”, to share your friendship, to let them know that you are grateful to have had them in your life, and once in a great while to be able to say “I have waited for you all my life – and I didn’t even know it”.

 

 

Happy Birthday to You May 24, 2010

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It’s my sister’s birthday today. I am waiting for a decent hour to call her and wish her a “happy birthday” in case she’s decided to take advantage of the moment and sleep in late. She is my next oldest sibling and growing up, she is the one of my three siblings that I interacted with the most. There is a decent age spread between each of us so my oldest two siblings were out of the house and in college when I was still pretty young. Though we definitely played together when we were young we also fought a lot and really didn’t start to “like” each other until I was in high school and she left for college. Now as adults, we live in different states and though at this juncture we have pretty regular contact with each other that hasn’t always been the case, despite the fact that nothing significant has ever happened to pull us apart and then back together again. It just seems to be the pull of the tide of our relationship.

Siblings relationships are funny. I have a good friend who is incredibly close to his older brothers and they continue to both socialize and work together. They are all friends with each other’s friends and their bond is incredibly tight. I have other friends who have little or no contact at all with their brothers and sisters and still others who have primary contact around family holidays but light contact at other times. I find myself looking at my sons who were once the world to each other and who are now growing in their own separate directions. When they are together – they are pretty close, recognizing and accepting each other’s differences and still presenting a united force against their common nemesis – me.

I hope that when they grow into men that they are always close – loving and supporting each other through life’s diverse moments – but who knows – they could grow to be distant and uninvolved with each other’s lives. As a mom, I do what I can to foster their bond, and that’s about it – because really how their relationship grows over time, doesn’t have that much to do with me. I am not sure what causes two siblings to grow into adulthood as best friends and what causes them to become indifferent strangers, but I do what I can to support the former orientation.

As children, our families are our world – friendships are peripheral. As we grow we create our own families, by choice of partner and the family we create together and by choice of friends who we bond with in profound and meaningful ways in many instances. There are many senses of family, and how we experience and define it has a myriad of possible faces. It would be nice if that family of origin always remains tight, but sometimes it is the family we create, however we define them, that becomes the real connection in our lives. Whatever the source, however it is defined that deep connection with other people is the key. Knowing that there is someone out there who has your back, who wants the best for you and who loves you even when they know the aspects of you that are less than appealing is what is important. Loving and caring for others really allows us the opportunity to be experience what it is to be human – and opens some of the deepest parts of ourselves to the possibilities of life.

So on that note; happy birthday sister of mine, may the year ahead truly bring you great happiness and fulfillment.

 

New Take on Brush with Greatness April 22, 2010

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A friend of mine recently catered an event where a number of internationally known ecumenical leaders were present, including the Dalai Lama. His tale about the experience included recollections about the strict security, the atypical menu and the Dalai Lama’s exuberance for the food. It was indeed an excellent “brush with greatness” (or in this case with “holiness”) story, and it got me to thinking; what are the impressions we leave on the people whose lives we brush against? Or taken slightly differently, what mark do we make in our own lives?

Though the people we meet and interact with on a daily basis may know us on so many levels that their picture of us is well-rounded and filled not just with our “high points” but our foibles as well, that doesn’t mean our impact and impression on them is not great. Each of us has a remarkable impact not just on our own selves but on those around us in both lifelong and transient ways. So what is does that impact look like? Yesterday, I had a bit of a “tiff” with my fifteen your old son – not about anything of great substance but about some “little stuff” in our shared experience and upon reflection I really was not happy with how I handled it. I can blame on being over tired and distracted by a number of issues I was trying to juggle at the time, but the truth of the matter is I just wasn’t really thinking clearly about what I wanted to accomplish in that conversation and how to get it done in a way that was clear, considerate and respectful. At his end, he too was over tired and distracted by thoughts of what he would prefer to have been doing in the moment and the result was – less than ideal.

I recognize that many of our interactions with others are going to be less than perfect. That’s just the way life is – and hopefully in the big picture our overall assessments of one another will be marked more by our love, admiration and respect for each other than by frustrations with each other’s impatience and disappointments. Still and all, I am striving to be mindful of how I impact the lives of the people in my world, from the clerk at the check-out to my beloved sons, and I hope that my overall footprint is a good one. There is an exercise I have come across in my studies of having people write their own eulogies. It’s a powerful one when you think about it – isn’t it? How would you summarize the life you have led and how you lived it? Does the story you write resonant with the life you are leading today and if it doesn’t what do you want to do to get it in-sync with the words you would like to be able to write? Each day we have the opportunity to add new details to that story – and you never know, likely you will be the brush with greatness (at least in a “less-than-famous” sort of way) in the lives of other people around you. The impact we each have is great – why not strive to make it the one we would like it to be?

 

Read Any Good Books Lately? March 26, 2010

“Never judge a book by its cover.” It’s a sage old piece of advice that we all have heard and most of us have had the experience of witnessing the validity of, but how often do you find yourself guilty of doing just that in order to make a quick assessment of any given situation? I think a lot of us rely on our short-hand observations in an effort to be efficient in the investment of our resources. There are a lot of opportunities within the course of a day to go deeper but we resist because we don’t have the time or the desire to exert the energy it would require. It’s easier to make a snap judgment, get in and get out and not risk the entanglement that might ensue if we were to take the time to go below the surface. But what price do we pay for the “the fly over” approach to living?

When I was in graduate school, I held several jobs to pay the bills while I put myself through school; one of those positions was as a chef for a catering company. The caterer I worked for had a solid reputation in the greater Boston area, and we did a lot of work for some very high-end events and clientele. For the most part I was in the kitchen, and did not have to interact with the guests very often, but when I did I often felt the same sense of being dismissed and disregarded as the hired help. It’s a service industry – and I was one of the hired help – pure and simple. People who in a different setting would sit beside me and eagerly engage in communication with me took a look at my chef’s coat and black pants and made the assumption that they knew all that they needed to know about the person in front of them. Conversely, I dismissed them as elitists who cared more about appearances than substance. No need to give anybody the benefit of the doubt in either direction, right? Now granted I was there to do a job  not to “make friends” but it was clear that there would be no blurring of the lines between guest and employee if the opportunity presented itself.

But I wonder what would have happened if either side extended itself beyond the existing boundaries. Who could I have met that would have had a positive impact on my life? Whose story would have moved me – who would have considered themselves lucky to have had the opportunity to meet me? I’ll never know, but I have plenty of opportunities everyday to explore beyond those same boundaries in other situations I find myself in. Maybe I would be “un-moved” but maybe I would make a new friend. Every day we are presented with opportunities to “go deeper” the question is how often are you willing to take the risk? We get out of life what we put into it. Sure we have to manage our limited resources and make investments based on instant assessments of risks and benefits everyday – but how often are we missing out on the best story we have ever heard because the book jacket is not to our liking? You never know until you crack the cover and dive in…

 

Witnessing the March of Time March 22, 2010

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In some ways time seems to pass so slowly that it is as if it has stopped all together, and in other ways you feel like it is fast-forwarding in front of your eyes. This weekend I travelled down to Connecticut to celebrate my mother’s 85th birthday. While there, my family got together to take her to a birthday brunch in her honor. And as we sat around the table sipping Bellini’s and enjoying nicely prepared food at a lovely little restaurant I couldn’t stop my mind from considering the passage of time. Other than my mother, the gathering included my siblings, their spouses and one of my nephews (the other eight grandchildren, spread across the Eastern United States were not able to be present for one reason or another.)

It was like so many other gatherings of family in recent years, family dynamics scripting the interplay between characters in an ongoing and predictable story. In other ways I was very aware of all the changes in the players who are the people I have known all my life. Though we all interact with one another in varying though constant ways, we do not get together every day and the space of time fast-forwards the action in chunks rather than giving you the slow progression of the story line. Talks of possible wedding engagements, college graduations and career developments for the younger generation of the family – caused me to once again have to do the reality check that I was part of the middle generation of adults not the young woman visiting from college herself. And the milestone of turning 85 firmly planted my mother in the older generation that I had for a long time resisted seeing her a part of.

What was most notable to me were not the physical changes that we are all going through, but the other less obvious changes in the characters at the table. We are all the same people we have always been and yet we are all different from the people I would have described ten, twenty or thirty years ago. And these changes were not simply about life stages as much as they seemed to be actual personality shifts. As if traits that had been present in a quieter way had shifted position internally and birthed a new participant. It is possible that it is more about the lens through which I now view this group of people – but it is not all about that. We have changed, we have all changed. Some relationships have strengthened and others have grown more distant. The ingredients of our days and focus of our energies have transformed, it is the old familiar group and a new cast all at the same time.

It was another reminder that all is always in a state of flux. You can speculate about the future but you cannot predict it with certitude. Relationships and people will morph and change and you will change along with them. Make the best of all the moments of your life because you never know what the next will bring; it can be a bit unsettling at first, but it is not dull and the possibilities can be very exciting. Happy Birthday Mom…

 

Friend or Foe? February 2, 2010

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Think for a minute about the people you surround yourself with and what their effect is on your life. Who are these people and what sort of impact do they have on you? Cuz it’s really important. Most of us lead a very busy life, that’s just the way we roll in the new millennium. Endless streams of commitments and responsibilities fill our days and our free time is precious and hard-won. So don’t we owe it to ourselves to fill it with people who make us feel good about ourselves? What purpose does it serve to fill your life with people who are draining, demeaning or difficult?

No one person is perfect. We all have our rough patches and we are not all easy to get along with, it’s just the simple reality. It is necessary to accept that imperfection is just part of the human experience and learning to work in an imperfect system is part of the game. But we all deserve to be treated respectfully. We hope that our friends see in us the qualities we want to see in them. The suggestion here is not that we must constantly be surrounded by people who stroke our egos and flatter us with false platitudes. The idea is to have people who encourage you, who care about who you really are and who support you even when they don’t agree with you. And don’t expect them to be mind-readers, tell them what you need and don’t expect to always get what you want.

Our friends are the people with whom we can make lasting memories, not just a collection of names of Facebook. Think about how they impact you, do they shore you up and drive you forward or do they hold you back and tie you down? You have the choice to work within the given relationship, attempt to fix the parts that aren’t working for you, reject the things that are not, make the situation better or move along. As with everything there are no right answers.