About Maureen Umehara

I’m a mom, wife and Expressive Therapist who enjoys being creative through art and writing. I also love having insightful and inspired discussions and building community. Looking forward to hearing about you! Learn more about me here.

25 Things I Want My Daughters to Know

Have you read the book or seen “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch?  If not, let me share a little about The Last Lecture.  It is a tradition at Carnegie Mellon for teachers to do a “Last Lecture” where they are asked to imagine they are going to die soon and clarify what would they want to say or teach for their last presentation.  In the case of Randy Pausch, he was actually dying of cancer when he gave his “Last Lecture”. His personal experience made the lecture all the more poignant. Many people connected to his lecture on YouTube, ultimately making it an internet phenomenon. As a result, Randy had many tv appearances on a variety of news outlets. He admitted that while he was presenting as an instructor to his students, his lecture was also a way of leaving a legacy and some wisdom to his kids.

This made me ask myself, if I only had a few months to live, what would I want my daughters to know?  Thankfully I am lucky that I am healthy and  I intend to be with them to help them through any growing pains (as well as celebrate their joys and successes).   But knowing what thoughts I would want to impart onto them can make me more clear in what’s important to not leave unsaid. So I decided to write them a love note sharing some things I hope will help them down the road. Here it is.  What would your love note be to your kids?

To my beautiful, sweet daughters,

First and foremost, I know I say it all the time, but I love you. You are beautiful inside and out. You’re both smart, kind hearted and thoughtful. I am so proud to be your mom.

I was thinking the other day that there are some things I wish I knew when I was younger.  So I was thinking that it would be good to start to write down some of the  things I’ve learned from experience. Maybe sharing it with you will save you some heartache someday or help you follow a dream or enable you to accept your fears and do something any way.  Even just you knowing I love you so much that I’d sit down and write this for you is enough for me.   Here are a few “words of wisdom” I wanted to share with you….

  1. Inner beauty is so much more important that outer beauty. But you already know this one.
  2. Listen to your gut and stand up for what you believe in (not just against what you don’t believe in) or you might regret it.
  3. But pick your battles, not everything is worth fighting for.
  4. While you may disagree with and annoy each other at times, remember to love and respect each other.  I hope you grow up to be each other’s best friends.  As I always say when I see you hugging and playing together, “I love that you love each other.”
  5. No one ever got anywhere by just complaining. Think of what can be done to improve whatever it is you are upset about.   One rule of thumb I have is if I complain about it three times then I have a choice to make.  I can quit complaining and accept it or do something about it.
  6. Don’t waste your time gossiping.  There are so many more interesting and helpful things to talk about.
  7. Follow your passion. Try a bunch of things so you can find out what it is.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in the process, that is how you learn.  If you’re not making mistakes and feeling like a fool once in awhile you’re not challenging yourself enough.
  8. Always remember the saying “This too shall pass”.  This relates to sad and happy occasions.  Sometimes when you’re hurt or sad it will seem like you will feel that way forever. You won’t.  Give yourself time and things will change, they always do. The same holds true of when you’re happy.  Cherish every moment that makes your heart sing. Time passes too quickly not to stop and appreciate the moments and people who make you smile.
  9. When you’re frustrated, believe you can do something to change the situation or yourself for the better. But don’t waste your time trying to change other people.
  10. Don’t strive for perfection.  Just strive to continue to do your best and learn from every experience. I hope you will always remember the question I often ask you both, “What did you learn from this?”
  11. If you don’t have confidence in a skill, then have the confidence that you can learn it. Don’t let the lack of a skill stop you from achieving your dreams.
  12. Love lots and let your heart be broken.  I was afraid too often in my life and missed out on some living when growing up. Don’t let fear stop you from doing things you want to do and meeting people you want to meet.
  13. Even if you are afraid at times don’t label yourself as “shy” (or any other limiting label).  Realize you may just need to learn some new skills or gain some experience in order to feel more secure and confident in what you want to do and who you are.
  14. Be vulnerable. This is something I’ve learned late in my life.  I thought being emotionally independent showed strength.  But being vulnerable is not a weakness.  It takes courage to be vulnerable.  Often times the only real way to build true intimacy is by letting yourself be vulnerable.
  15. Don’t just rely on others for love and acceptance.  Accept and love all of yourself too.  Be vulnerable with yourself about who you are and accept all the good and all the imperfect in yourself.  Other people aren’t perfect either and they can’t always be there for you.
  16. People aren’t prefect and will let you down. It’s the ones who will build you up more than let you down that you want to stick around.
  17. Say nice things to yourself.  You are always going to be with you. You might as well be a friend to yourself.
  18. If other people criticize you, assess if it’s true or not.  If it is, you can choose whether to work on that weakness. If it’s not, realize that it’s not about you, it’s just their weakness and insecurities talking.
  19. Compromising is so important in relationships.  It’s good to find a balance of what you want and what others want.  However, there are some things you should never compromise….don’t ever feel you have to compromise your values or beliefs to please someone else, which ultimately means don’t compromise yourself.
  20. This is one of my new favorite quotes by Doctor Suess:   “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
  21. If you ever feel like you don’t belong  somewhere don’t take it personal. We all feel like we don’t belong sometimes.  Think of the ugly duckling story.   He didn’t know he was a swan and was hanging out with the ducks.  What a joy when he discovered other swans like him who understood him.
  22. It’s important to have friends who have things in common with you. It’s also important to be around people who don’t think like you do.  That is a great way to expand your perspectives. If you only hang around people who agree with you, you won’t be challenged to have new thoughts or perspectives.
  23. Here are two of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” and “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
  24. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you don’t agree with someone you don’t like them.  A person is more complex than one issue.  At the very least, you don’t have to agree with or like other people, but you should make an effort to show them respect.   A little respect can go a long way.
  25. If someone doesn’t respect you, you can turn the other cheek from the next room. You don’t have to stoop to their level and return the hurt, but you also don’t have to stick around and continue to be hurt.  Make good choices about who you spend your time with. Whether you’re aware of it or not, who they are will affect who you are.

I wrote at the beginning of this letter that I hoped some of the things above would help you avoid some heartache.  Scratch that. Sometimes we only learn things by experience which can include heartaches. It may also be that you will only truly understand some of these ideas after experiencing more in your life. My hope is that while I can’t stop you from having heartaches, hopefully when you do go through heartache, these words might help prepare you and maybe comfort you in some way.

Oh and just because I wrote some of these words of wisdom (or rephrased wisdom shared through the ages) doesn’t mean that I am able to live them every day.  All we can do is strive to do our best to live authentically while trying to make the world a better place, hoping we learn something in the process and gain some true friendships along the way.

Also, I’m sure I could have written a whole book because there is so much to learn in this life.  But this is a start.  I would love to hear or read your words of wisdom some day.

With all My Love,

Mommy

P.S.- No matter what life brings you, may you alway find the fun and joy in living.

 

 

 

 

Randy Pausch is sadly no longer with us. He lost his battle to cancer.  However, his example and message continue to touch many hearts, including his kids. What are some things you would like to tell your kids? Please share your wisdom in the comments. Then be sure to share them with your kids through words, letters or whatever way you can. Just be sure to share them. Your child is too precious and life is too short not to do it.

 

 

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How Do You Teach Your Children to Listen…to Themselves?

Often we are concerned about whether or not our children are listening to us, their teachers or any other authority figure. Listening is an important skill. However, while it’s important to learn listen to others, it’s also important to learn listen to ourselves. How do you teach that?

While one daughter was at an afterschool activity, I was waiting with my other daughter.   The activity was taking longer than I expected and she was doing a really good job waiting and getting her homework done. I told her that when she got her homework done she could pick something from the snack machine. We usually don’t do this, so this was a special treat.

After getting her homework done we went over to the snack machine. She very quickly was overwhelmed with all the choices. She picked about 10 things that she thought she would like. To help her make her choice (and so we weren’t there all day), I told her to turn around from the machine and close her eyes. I told her to think about what she might want and see what popped into her head. This time only 2 things popped into her head. She was then able to pick one.

Sometimes we can be so overwhelmed with what we see as choices that we lose touch with ourselves and what we really want. So it’s always important to stop, take a break from distractions and check in with ourselves. What I taught her was an intuitive way of decision making. We often learn about logical processes ( such as pro/con etc) in decision making. Intuitive and gut feelings can be helpful too. In fact, while this simple technique can be used for making simple choices, it can also be used when feeling peer pressure. That is one of the most important times to listen to ourselves.

 

If I were writing a story then the story would probably end here. But life isn’t a story is it? It just keeps going and so did our learning for that moment. Learning to listen to ourselves was only lesson number one.

My daughter sat eating her treat for a little bit. She then said, “Mommy, sometimes my mind plays tricks on me.” Of course I asked her what she meant by that. She proceeded to say, “Sometimes it makes me think I want something but I really want something else.” She clarified, after eating her treat, that what she really wanted was the other option. Which led us to two more lessons in life:

Lesson number two- It’s sometimes really hard to figure out what you really want.

Of course I also discussed with her…

Lesson number three- Sometimes we need to learn to appreciate what we have and not keep focusing on missing what we don’t have.

Who says you can’t get anything healthy from a snack machine? How about some healthy perspectives and conversations?

How do you teach your child to listen to themselves?

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Dealing with Real and Imagined Storms

Everyone in New England (and other parts of the world) experienced hurricane Irene…and everyone experienced it differently. I’m not just talking about how the hurricane hit each town (as some were more affected than others). I’m also talking about how each person perceived the storm.  Some people were on a fearful high alert, some were clueless and carefree, and others were somewhere in between.

I would say one of my daughters was on the fearful side.  Even before the storm hit she was thinking of impossible scenarios.  Our imaginations can sometimes be our downfall.  In my daughter’s case, storm or no storm, she often creates what our family now calls “What If” questions. “What if this happens?” or “What if that happens?” with detailed, imaginative scenarios.

Her question before the storm was “What if a tree fell on my bedroom?”. Interesting enough the idea of self-harm didn’t occur to her, just that her room and the stuff in it would be ruined. She was able to describe the image she saw in her head of opening her door and seeing a tree in her room.  Just thinking about it made her upset and on the verge of tears.

Now, as a mom, I can relate to imagining negative scenarios or as I put them, having “worry thoughts”. Sometimes, moms and worries are often synonmous.  But I know that in the long run worries, if left unchecked, can be unnecessary and somtimes harmful. So when I realize I am getting stuck in a worry I try to do something about it.

I have tried to share with my daughters some of the things I do to help myself:

1) I ask myself, “Is this worry really possible”?  Sometimes it’s just my over active imagination creating something which has a slim chance of happening. So I need to let it go.

2) If it could happen, what could I do to help improve the situation?  I usually feel better if I have a plan.

3) Better yet, what could I do to prevent that situation?  For example, if it’s something like a fear that the kids will get hit by car while playing outside, I can do something such as make sure they play away from the road and get one of those yellow ‘kids playing’ signs for the road.

4) After doing my planning, I can then let it go.  Of course this is sometimes easier said than done, though.  Here are some tricks I do to let it go:

I blow the image away.  Yes, one thing that makes us emotional about ideas is that we get attached to them.  So I imagine the image moving away from me.

If you are still having trouble detaching, here’s a trick from a neuropsychologist called Neuro Linguistic Programing.  It’s a study in how to manage our brain for peak performance.  If you’ve heard of Tony Robbins you might know some of the techniques.  One technique is to play with the image.  If the image is bright make it dull. If it’s colorful make it black and white. If it’s scary, change it to make it silly.  The fear images we create in our head aren’t real. They are a story we create in our head. We therefore have the ability to change them. If you were listening to a song on the radio that you hated would you keep listening or change the station?  If you are drawing a picture you don’t like, can’t you change it or start drawing a new one? We can do the same things with the images in our heads.

You can also “Give it up to God”  as some people say.   Often we don’t have control over life and need to accept that. Prayer can be a way of feeling supported and feel that there is something greater than ourselves. You can also use a particular prayer called The Serenity Prayer which is used in AA,  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Another way of letting go is humor.  Humor helps us detach from a situation and see it in a different way.   When my ideas didn’t work to sooth my daughter regarding the hurricane (or actually help her soothe herself) I took another approach.  I simply observed to her that the image she was thinking about hadn’t happened and look how upset she was.   She replied, “It could happen”.  So I replied, “We could also win the lottery.  Should I dance around like we won the lottery because I can imagine winning?” (insert very silly dance and a celebration as if we won the lottery)”  This brought some giggles.

While my silliness helped my daughter, my own response made me think. How often do we put ourselves in a bad or sad mood over worries about things that haven’t even happened (and often never happen)?  What if we used that energy to imagine positive things that could happen? Imagine our different mindset and feelings if every day we imagined the wonderful things that could happen to us and our kids.  We could also just use gratitude to appreciate the wonderful things, big and small, that DO happen every day.  It’s your choice what you focus on.

Yes, it’s good to be prepared.  But let’s not waste our lives thinking only of worries and missing out on the joy in life.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” ~Leo Buscaglia

 

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Are You the Trash Can of Your Family?

I was running on lack of sleep, so perhaps that would explain my laughing outburst. But this story I’m going to share, while it made me laugh, also made me think.

Getting up at 4am in the morning is not my idea of fun.  I am soooo not a morning person. But as a parent sometimes you do those things that you don’t want to do because you love your kids, right? My daughter was going on a trip for her school band and I volunteered to be a chaperone. It was an all day event where her school band would do a competition and then get to go to a theme park afterward.  Luckily in my tired stupor I was not driving, we were taking the trip on a bus.  As the bus started to take off I was zoning out looking out the window and overheard a conversation between a father and son.

son: “Hey Dad”

dad: “What?”

son: “Here’s my trash.”

dad: “I don’t want it. What am I going to do with it?”

son: “Where should I put it then?”

dad: “I don’t know, put it in your pocket until we stop”

It was when I heard the,”I don’t want it. What am I going to do with it?” comment that I just started cracking up laughing.  As a mom I just expected the dad to put his hand out to get the trash (mid-conversation and without missing a beat of course).  As I was laughing, the dad quickly figured the reason for my giggles and said “Yeah, my wife probably would have held his trash, but I’m not a trash can” (or something like that).  This made me laugh even harder.  My laughter was because he did something I didn’t expect.  He didn’t do what I and many moms would do…automatically hold something for his kid.

This made me think,  “Why don’t I say no when my kids ask me to hold something?” They are no longer toddlers who can’t hold something without putting it in their mouths or dropping it. What was stopping me from saying, “No, you can hold it.”?

My "Mommy Purse"

This lead to the question, “How often do I automatically hold something for my kids that they could hold themselves?”  Now this is a farther reaching question than just trash.  Really the question could be, “How often do I do something for my kids that they could just as easily do themselves?” Examples of this might be related to holding trash but also  helping them clean their rooms, getting their breakfast ready, clearing the table or simply holding things for them when we are traveling. In fact, I have even been known to buy huge purses in the past ( dubbing each with the name “mommy purse”) so I could hold all the things my kids may need or may give to me.

http://acobox.com/node/4861Really as parents it is not our job to do everything for our kids, it’s our job to teach them to do things.   Of course sometimes it’s just easier to “do it ourselves”.   But this “just do it ourselves” behavior unfortunately then perpetuates the habit of being the “martyr mom” who does everything, which doesn’t help mom or the kids.   Just take a look to the left of the picture of a mom who is doing everything. How happy does she look? How do you think that burnt out mood would affect her family? Maybe if the kids helped, mom would be happier and the kids would learn some important skills.

I made a pact with myself that day to become more aware of this habit I have of holding trash and other things for my kids.  I did ok to start.  However,  the other day we went to the playground and we all brought water bottles.  My older daughter automatically gave me her bottle and the younger one whined, “Who’s gonna hold mine?”. I put my hand out and started to carry them to a picnic table.  I stopped mid-way as I struggled not to drop the bottles and the camera I was holding. Then I realized, I’m doing it again! I could have easily told them to run their water bottles over to the picnic table. Instead I let them dump their stuff on me.  So I asked my husband to take a picture of me with all the water bottles. I wanted a visual reminder of how I hold things!

So, yes, it takes awhile to break old habits.

But you know what? I am changing slowly. In fact, I decided to make it harder for myself to say “yes” when they ask me to hold something in my purse. I bought a smaller purse so I wouldn’t have room for so much stuff! Now when they ask  me to hold something I can honestly say, “I don’t have room in my purse!”  Ok, sometimes I still say, ‘Yes” but at least it’s now a conscious “Yes” so I am not always unconsciously being a dumping ground.

And by the way, when I told my daughter (who was also on the bus) about the dad who wouldn’t take his son’s trash, she laughed too. The kids know what they are doing.  They just need to break the habit too. I want my kids to grow up learning to take responsibility for themselves and their things. My trying to not be their habitual “trash can” is a step in that direction.

I said in the beginning of this article that “As a parent sometimes you do those things that you don’t want to do because you love your kids, right?”.  This doesn’t mean that we always need to do things we don’t want to do just because we love our kids. Sometimes because we love our kids we let them do some things for themselves they may not want to do.

renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.netAre you the “trash can” of your family too?  What are you holding or doing for your kids that they could do themselves?

picture credit:  trash can- luigi diamanti /FreeDigitalPhotos.net, “A Busy Mom”- http://acobox.com/node/4861 , question mark renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Some Inspiration, Some Girl Time, Some Networking AND a Discount

 

There’s something about the experience of being in a room full of women.  Nothing against men, but you have to admit there is a different energy. Women need one another for the support and laughter that gets us by and adds joy to our daily lives.

 

Women’s Club SWANS is having an event on May 19th where you have an opportunity to not only  connect with other women, but also be inspired.  Attendees will have the opportunity to chat with other women over dinner and also gain some insights from speaker, Patricia Raskin.

 

Patricia Raskin will be presenting on the topic “Staying Positive in Challenging Times”.  As president of Raskin Resources Productions, Inc, Patricia is an award-winning media producer, veteran radio broadcaster, speaker, media coach and author who focuses on the positive side of life. So she has a lot of experience staying positive and helping others do the same.

 

In her 25 years in radio she has interviewed many inspiring people including : Mariel Hemingway,  Jane Seymour, Joan Lunden, Debbie Ford, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Thomas Moore,  Dr Mehmet Oz and Dr John Gray (just to name a few).  She has a lot of insight to pull from not only her own experiences but also the experiences of others.

 

Women’s Club SWANS has hosted  these dinner events for the last 4 years to help women connect and be inspired. Women from in and around RI can benefit from this social and business club.    While networking is often only associated with business, women often network about other things than business as well.  What makes this club unique is that it is open to women of a variety of ages and backgrounds to “network” about whatever interests them or even to just to enjoy socializing. So women do not have to own a business to attend or be a member. However, those women who have businesses have opportunities to promote them.

 

On May 19th, women will meet at the Water Street Café 36 Water Street, Fall River, MA  from 6pm to 9pm to enjoy dinner, Patricia Raskin’s inspiring presentation, and have opportunities to connect with other women in the area.  Admission is $20.00 members/$30 non-members (additional fee may apply).  Pre-registration is required. Here’s more info about the club and the event.

 

As the director of Women’s Club SWANS I wanted to offer Amomknowsbest.com readers a special discount of $5.00 off a non-member admission. Just use discount code “momknows” or use this link to register. Discount is good until 5/15

 

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The Difference Between Nice and Good

My daughters are sweethearts. They are both thoughtful and kind to others. I am so proud of them.  One of the things I’ve tried to teach them is to be nice to others. A motto I say to them is “You don’t have to like everyone but you need to respect everyone.”  I truly believe in this motto, but I started wondering if it needed more clarification.

Both daughters have had trouble with difficult “friends.”  Both girls continued to deal with these “friend’s” behaviors without doing anything back. That’s what we’ve been taught, right? Turn the other cheek?  Well I think there needs to be a balance between “being nice” and “being a good person.”

To be nice to others seems to be at times a  pleasing behavior.  My girls didn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings (even though other kids were hurting theirs).  Somehow being nice meant –to my kids –that other people were first.  Is that really what I wanted to teach them? That the other persons feelings were more important that theirs? That they had to be “nice girls” no matter what?  No, I want them to believe that while it’s important to respect others, it’s also important to respect themselves.

A nice person will act a certain way in order to not hurt someone’s feelings or make them uncomfortable.  As a result, sometimes “nice people” can be fake because they are more concerned with appearances than the truth.  Additionally, sometimes people who “act” nice don’t always even have  good intentions.  So being “nice” maybe isn’t always so nice.

Now, being a good person means to me that your intentions are good.  You look for and act toward the greater good. Your intentions are to not only help yourself but also others in the process.   However, sometimes being good also means doing what is not popular.  Sometimes doing what is right is unsettling and upsetting to others. Hence, sometimes being good you can’t be “nice” and please everyone.

Sometimes you need to say “No” and sometimes you even need to raise your voice.  When my one daughter’s “friend” would cry when she didn’t get what she wanted, my daughter would give in and do what her friend wanted.  It seemed to me that my daughter was being emotionally blackmailed. My daughter just thought that letting her friend cry wasn’t nice.

I still want my girls to be nice, but not at the expense of doing what’s right.  We certainly should try doing and being good in a respectful way. However, I clarified with them that  our first priority should be to be good (do what’s right- including, at times, standing up for themselves) and our secondary goal should be to be nice (act in order to please others and not hurt their feelings).

So how about we say…It’s nice to be good and good to be nice, but sometimes being nice is not good and sometimes being good you need to not be nice.

Utimately I hope my girls learn that we can’t always gage what we should do by how we think others will respond.  We need to listen to our internal compass and be true to ourselves. That being said, I realize that no matter what I do I can’t always protect them from some things in this world. I  can guide them, but sometimes they need to explore the path on their own. Sometimes that means getting hurt.  Hopefully they will learn from each experience and grow from it.

What do you think? Do you think there is a difference between being good and being nice?

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