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How to Find Meaning in Your Roles

I’m taking an eCourse right now called Divine Purpose Unveiled! Ooooooh! At first glance, so… unlike “Practical Mommy,” don’t you think? One of the exercises in the course is to spend some time reflecting on the different roles you play. I don’t know about you but there are times when I feel like the overriding job description of my life is Master Juggler. Seriously though, all of us can list a multitude of roles: mommy, friend, boss, teacher, board member, volunteer, writer, sister, daughter, wife….

The insightful part of the exercise was examining these roles and taking the time to see what qualities (or gifts, I like to say), we get to express in them. Interestingly enough for me, there were some common themes throughout. When I really think about it, I express nurturing, supportiveness, teaching, and listening qualities in almost all of my roles, whether professional or personal (mommy, friend, daughter, sister, consultant). Seems self-evident in hindsight but when you write out this list LONG HAND in a journal and see it plain as day in front of you, it is a powerful thing! What a confirmation that WHO YOU ARE is not limited to your role or job… it’s WHO YOU ARE!

I’m taking a little longer than prescribed for the course but… hey, that’s the beauty of an eCourse! It’s like the Montessori method of self-help! I’ll write more about it soon….

So as you begin to integrate this additional role of mommy into your life, reflect on that. When you start feeling like there is too much on your to-do list, remember that whether or not you get to all those items has nothing to do with your success or failure as a fill-in-the-blank-job-here, even if that job is mommy. This exercise has really been helping me to focus on being that Best Self, regardless of whether I am talking to the cashier at the grocery store or make dinner for my babies!

Follow up… it’s now spring. I completed the course awhile back and talked more about it in this video.

If you have been looking for a compass for your life, this course is great. Here’s the link!

How to Keep Believing!

Have you read The Polar Express? I love that very last line, “The bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.”

The countdown to Christmas begins. Notes to Santa have been sent northward and my little ones wait excitedly, confident that Santa has his Garmin programmed for the right address. I still recall the first year that my daughter awoke to her first Santa gift. She had asked for her very own Christmas tree with lights and ornaments! She was visibly shaking as daddy carried her down the stairs and she spied the fully adorned tree. “He really came. He got me what I wanted!” She kept whispering.

As we get older, it seems that our minds get in the way… kids start to ask, “How is Santa in every mall at the same time?” or “How is Santa going to get in if we don’t have a chimney?” My standard response is… “Magic!” But this will only work for so long. In my house, I’m already scrambling because the requests to Santa have taken a bit of a too-magical turn. My boy wants a “come alive suit that will let me fly to Disney World” OR “a magic wand that can poof anything.” Ummmm…. those elves have their work cut out for them!

If we could only bottle up their faith! How can I protect their belief in magic, especially in a society that seems out to prove that it doesn’t exist? How do I encourage my children to dream, to imagine great things when the grown-up world urges us to stick to safe and sensible choices?

I still believe. I’ve written “letters to Santa” practically every day this year in the form of prayers and journal entries. Perhaps a little overkill, I know. BUT hey! I’ve gotten everything I’ve asked for… and there is no arguing the fact that I must be squarely on the VERY naughty list this year.

I believe that our ability to CREATE is magic — it’s the ability to see beyond a present reality to what COULD BE. Not so long ago, I fell in love… with a dream, a possible future. And it was that dream that allowed me to change my life. I’m so grateful for the strength of my imagination, because it was the thing that carried me through a very tumultuous period and got me to this side. It was my resistance to simply accepting reality that allowed me to see past fear and to “make my days replay my dreams.” (as my favorite singer, Christine Kane says). Isn’t that magic?

That my kids can immerse themselves in a world where almost everything “comes alive” and gives them magical powers is, in fact, the magic wand!

So… do the sleigh bells ring for you?

16 Things About Me

Zen Mommy

Suzanne, aka Zen Mommy

16 things about me:
1. I have a dad that can fix anything.
2. I never set a kitchen timer when baking and only burn things every 6th or 7th time.
3. When people ask how my day is going, my favorite answer is “Best day yet.”…but only if it is.
4. I am mother to nine, 4 children here on earth and 5 in heaven, a reality that living with has brought me closer to myself and the divine than any other.
5. Sometimes I feel like my heart is going to explode…but it’s a good thing.
6. I always forget my grocery list when I go to the store.
7. I am a closet artist.
8. A great joy in my life was backpacking solo through Europe for 6 weeks when I got out of college.
9. Also after college, I took a three week hike on the Pacific Crest Trail with a close friend.
10. I want to do all the things I did in my 20’s in my 40’s…and then some.
11. I love my age and always will.
12. I hope to be half as grace filled as my mom some day.
13. I have to remind myself to breathe and to listen all day, every day.
14. I believe the key to happiness is realizing we are not the circumstances of our lives…we are life.
15. My favorite poster is from 4th grade and reads “Smile, it makes people wonder what you are thinking about.”
16. It was not hard for me to write this list…I thought it would be but it wasn’t.

How to Spread Holiday Kindness

Emma publishes a great blog called Live Kindly. Sign up for her Daily Kindness reminder. I love it… short and sweet and… just enough to focus my day on something KIND.

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving

For the last ten years, I’ve hosted an elaborate Martha Stewart-style Thanksgiving feast. In typical Practical Mommy fashion, I had a checklist of things to accomplish to pull off the feat… (on T-day minus 3, I baked the corn bread so that on T-day minus 1, it was stale enough to make into stuffing!) But not this year. This year, the kids are with dad and by somewhat of a conscious choice, I have decided to spend most of the holiday weekend by myself. Whatever for?!! you may ask. Well, as part of my ongoing self-discovery I’ve come to realize that I have spent the majority of my life putting the needs of everyone else in front of my own. I think this is a common malady for women and mothers which is why I’ve chosen to share this revelation with you.

As I connect with more and more moms, I notice the pattern… the very thing that makes someone a good mommy (nurturing, giving, inner strength), is often times a liability for self-care. How many times have you tucked a little one (or a spouse) in bed with a fever and catered to their every need and yet did not think to do the same when you are feeling just as crappy!

This is especially true during the holiday season, when stress is high and agendas of different family members are not always aligned. Ever since I can remember, there has been little opportunity to ask myself how I would like to experience a holiday, and not feel guilty about it! When I was a little girl, it was… “What would make mommy and daddy happy? Or more aptly, “What can I do to make sure no one’s feelings are hurt?” and as an adult, “How can we celebrate so that my husband, in-laws, relatives, and kids can all enjoy this?” I’m not saying that considering other people’s feelings is inappropriate but it’s soooo much easier to dismiss or shelve your own feelings for “the greater good.”

A week ago, I got a not-so-gentle tap on the shoulder from the Universe in the form of a potentially life-threatening condition. It was my wake up call that the time for everyone else’s needs continually preempting my own is over. So I’m convinced that I was also given these blessed four days to do as I please! I get the opportunity for my pure choice! Maybe I’ll volunteer at Karen House, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Or maybe I’ll finally walk the labyrinth at The Mercy Center. I my choose to spend the whole weekend doing nothing productive (horror!) like… watching sappy movies and allowing myself to cry. I don’t know yet! The one thing I am NOT going to do, is make an elaborate, traditional thanksgiving meal. I don’t even like turkey! Instead, my grandmother’s famous spaghetti recipe is calling my name!

My message for every mom out there as the holidays descend upon us is to surely celebrate thanks-giving… BUT also spend some time thanks-receiving! Mommies, this week take an hour or three to do something JUST FOR YOU!

How to Personalize Your Christmas Card Greetings

‘Tis the season to spread holiday cheer! One of my favorite things about the season is receiving all those wonderful Christmas card greetings from my friends all over the world. Practically speaking, it’s tough to stay in touch when all of us lead such busy lives. But come December (at the peak of all the busyness) I can count on bushels of cards that remind of a great friend and maybe even give me an update on their lives.

The ones that are most meaningful to me are the ones that have been personalized. These days, there are a million services that make it easy to order cards that are as unique as you are. Almost any retailer (even Sam’s) has photo cards available for a song. I prefer to do all of my shopping online (Surprise! Surprise!), which minimizes impulse purchases and saves me money in the long run (Really!).

By personalizing, I mean something as easy as selecting and uploading a sweet pic of your babies from the recent past. I just loooove collecting these from all my friends because kids just grow so fast!

Shhhh! I’ll give you a sneak peak at mine… Personalize Your Christmas Card Greetings

It took about 20 minutes on Tiny Prints to browse, select, personalize, order and be done with this project. So get to it, Mommies! Can’t wait to see what you come up with for Christmas card greetings this year.

Share your holiday greeting ideas with us for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate from Build-A-Bear. That’s enough to buy someone special a holiday gift!!!

How to Fully Record Pictures of Birth

Home video, digital camera, disposable camera, black and whites, full color glossies, professional videographer, cell phone that takes pictures, the professional photographer you used for your wedding, your mother/husband/sister/cousin with a disposable camera in hand… How did you capture pictures of birth? More personally, pictures of your own childbirth experience? How did you capture your babies first moments in this world outside the peace and privacy of your womb??!!?

No matter how you answer this question, one thing is true; there is no one best way to “record” this precious moment in time…or is there? Maybe nary a photo exists from your baby’s big day. Regardless of the technology you may or may not have employed, here’s a tip on how to be sure you recorded your childbirth experience in a memorable and meaningful way for “posterity.” This is for your children and your children’s children after all…and you’ll be glad to learn it won’t cost you one red cent; a good thing in this economy, huh?


If you have pen and paper, then you have all that is required. Maybe you even kept a journal during your pregnancy. If so, use that. Find a moment to sit with pen in hand and recall all the wonders of the months, days and/or hour leading up to the big birthing moment. It doesn’t matter if your child’s birthday was a week, month or even a year ago. It can still be recorded, and I would like to help you do this if you haven’t already.

The Devil is in the Details

Write down everything you can remember. Truthfully, it’s the little things that you yourself will read years from now and think, “Wow, I’m so glad I wrote that down. I would have forgotten that!” Here are some questions to help you get your creative writing juices flowing:

Where were you when you finally realized you were going into labor?

Were you on your due date, early or late? When did your water break?

What were you thinking? What did those around you do/say?

What did you wear? What did you eat? What did you pack for the trip to the hospital?

And so on. If a detail comes to mind, write it down. Someday you will enjoy reading these little details to your child…and they will enjoy hearing them!

Know Your Audience

As any good writer would tell you, “know your audience.” Well, that’s easy. In this case, your audience is your child; a captive audience if ever there was one. The things that you remember when reflecting back on your child’s birth may seem small or silly even, but believe me when I tell you they will not find it silly to know that just moments before they made their way into this world you HAD TO HAVE a diet coke. What stories do you have to share from this memorable moment?

My friend Molly, the blessed mother of triplets Liam, Morgan and Sophie, told me that not a day after their babies were born, her husband smuggled a mini cooler into her room stocked with cold Corona Lights. Their MD had told them (off the record) that a cold brew-skie might help to get her milk flowing…and as there were concerns of jaundice not to mention three hungry little mouths to feed, her milk letting down was important; the sooner the better. Sure enough, hours after enjoying a beer with her husband while sitting propped in her hospital bed, Molly struck liquid gold and her milk was a flowin’.

Journaling Tips

We can’t let precious moments like these…drinking beer in a hospital bed with triplets just 24 hours old… fade into distant memories. We have a responsibility to write these down. Here are some tips if you are new to this whole journaling thing. J

1. Make it Personal: Write this story directly to your child. Dear ________, you were in some big hurry to get into this world!!! I was…” What would you like to know about your own birth if you could ask your mom anything? Write these things down for your child.

2. Be Fearless: Don’t edit out the not so pretty details either. If you were scared, worried, nervous…write it down. Maybe you were disappointed in the way things worked out…not going according to the birth plan you had created so intentionally. The truth shall set you free. This is a part of the experience. You and your child will enjoy remembering what actually occurred and how you might have moved through any rough patches that came up in the processes. This may even hold an important lesson for your child in the future on forgiveness and being with what is in life. Be real, be honest…be fearless.

3. Invite Daddy to participate: Your child’s father has a story to be told as well. Ask him to write his own account of the day and keep it with yours. Not only will he most likely get a kick out of being included in the babies journal (which, incidentally has so many bonding benefits I could write about this idea alone for pages…) but you two may even get a kick out of comparing what was going on in his world as you were having your very own unique experience of childbirth.

4. JUST DO IT: Like the Nike ad, and most recently McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin is famous for saying…“Just get ‘er done!”.

I am all for technology. Break out the video cameras or whatever. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…true. But in the case of pictures of birth, the visuals may well be enhanced with some narrative by you. So while after you are done snapping/filming away, remember to sit and record your childbirth experience the old fashion way, by putting pen to paper. Your baby will thank you. If you have an entry from your journal that you’d like to share, send it our way. Remember, it’s never too late to record your baby’s birth into this world…just do it.

Suzanne, aka Zen Mommy
In addition to mommying to two magical girls born in 2000 and 2003, Suzanne owns a holistic health center in St. Louis, Missouri where she practices as a physical therapist, Certified Infant Massage Instructor and health education teacher. Certified in a number of healing and life education approaches, Suzanne offers life coaching as Zen Mommy Coach.

How to Trust

My dad’s side is Roman Catholic. My mom’s side is Born Again Christian. I grew up thinking that at any given moment, half of the people I loved were going to burn in hell. Maybe that’s why I married a Jew. 🙂 Perhaps I was looking for a more compassionate God.

Seek and ye shall find, right?

God. Spirit. The Universe. Source. In my lexicon these labels are all synonyms, as is Intuition and Self. Even then, no words can really describe that… I can appreciate why in Judaism, one only refers to God by title, and not by name.

“Life’s metaphors are God’s instructions,” says Elizabeth Gilbert. I chuckled about that as I went down the 10-story slide at City Museum. When I first read the sign, I actually thought it meant a 10 slide presentation. Yeah! That’s where my head was.

And the sign at the top of the 10-story slide said “People with ankle problems or heart conditions should not go down.” Why? Because if you’re a control freak like me, you’ll try to brace yourself with your ankles and just might break them, that’s why! No, I didn’t break my ankles… but only because I was practicing my Yoga Breathing all the way dawn. Sliding down also took long enough for me to contemplate what God’s instructions were… er, of course… LET GO!

And when I did, it was actually kinda exhilarating and pretty… FUN!

I was blessed with many skills and attributes that led to a certain amount of worldly success and recognition. But over a period of many years, I realized that without knowing Who I was and for what meaningful Purpose these gifts and talents were for, all my efforts were like a hamster’s on a wheel. Yes, I rode the giant hamster wheel at City Museum that day too. What did I discover: not only do you keep going around in circles but this contraption actually requires going faster and faster just to keep up with your own effort. At some point, the hamster always collapses and just lets itself get taken a few full 360 degree rotations. I wonder if that’s fun.

It has taken years to “give up the driver’s seat,” I like to say. To trust and recognize that alongside my hamster-like self, was a Constant — my Self. As I nurtured this intuitive side, a whole world of magic opened up. I found that I could actually trust my heart, and this has actually always been so. In each of our hearts, the compass to our dreams has been embedded. Just like in the Pacific salmon. Just like in the whooping cranes. Just like the in monarch butterflies… we’re just the only creatures who’s heads keep getting in the way of our hearts.

No, that's not the 10-story slide. But it is at City Museum. 🙂

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon, co-creator of the Yoga Parenting course. Are you ready for parenting to be easier, more fun and less stressful?

How to Not Go Insane

Ever read this? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” I can’t remember who said this but I have heard it many times. Three separate times this week alone in fact, from three very different sources. You better believe my ears perked up. You don’t have to hit me over the head, or at least more than three times, to get my attention.

Insanity, now there’s a topic we all know a little bit about if we’re going to be really honest with each other. There is just something about the combination of sudden weight gain, postnatal hormones, sleep deprivation and being introduced to the toughest most rewarding job on the planet…parenthood…that can make a girl go a little mad.

Examining Our Lives

So maybe as moms and as women facing a large number of challenges in our lives, seemingly all at the same time in our life, maybe, just maybe we can glean something from these words of wisdom. I know for me this week, these words have helped me examine what my ways of “doing” and “being” are bringing.

Here’s a perfect example. I am a led foot driver. Most passengers in my car would attest to this. I realized even my kids had noticed when one day as I was driving on the highway and another car passed us, my kids yelled “Go FASTER mom, go FASTER!” Not only that, but I’m not a very good rule follower in general when it comes to driving. I have perfected the St. Louis roll…nearly stopping but not quite when I encounter a stop sign. You get the idea. And I never get tickets. But this week it all changed for me. This week I got not one but two tickets. One for parking in an area I KNEW I wasn’t supposed to park in because I wanted to run in and out of a shop; busted; the other for pulling one of my famous rolling stops, apparently less than legal.

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How to Get What You Want

Let’s play a game and see if we can make this happen by the time you are done reading this article. It’s a fill in the blank type game. Read the following question and answer it off the top of your head. Be as specific as you can and really do write this down:

If I could have just one thing I REALLY WANT right now, it would be:

(Fill in the blank here!)

Awesome. Now think for a moment why you want this. Will it bring you peace, joy or happiness? Usually yes, it would help bring some form of one of these three words. Which one of these is it for you? Or is there something else that has you wanting this besides peace, joy and happiness? Think about this for a minute and when you have it boiled down to one word or a short phrase, answer the following:

If I get what I REALLY WANT (line one), I will feel/be:

(Fill in the blank here!)

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