Year of Yes

If this is the first time you’ve visited my blog, welcome! And let me catch you up. I LOVE the topic of saying yes to life. (If you haven’t already, please check out my other saying yes related posts such as Say Yes and If Not Now, When?) I also happen to have loved the show Scandal. So, when I discovered that Shonda Rhimes, creator of Scandal, had written a book about saying yes, of course I had to read it!

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person, by Shonda Rhimes, is a different kind of “say yes” book than A Place of Yes, by Bethenny Frankel, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post (A Refresher on Coming From a Place of Yes.) Whereas A Place of Yes is a mix of Bethenny Frankel’s life story and lessons on how to improve your life based on her advice, Year of Yes keeps to the narrative of Shonda Rhimes’ personal story, challenges and victories, as she completed the obligation she made to herself to say yes for one year. (Spoiler alert: She changed so much for the better in that one year that the “year of yes” has been extended indefinitely.)

By committing to saying yes, Rhimes was forced to face fears (such as being front and center instead of behind the scenes, giving speeches and making tv appearances), face her health (such as admitting she pushed down unpleasant emotions and buried them with food in an attempt to numb herself), and face truths (such as finding that people she loved were actually toxic in her life.)

Rhimes also writes some things I LOVE about being a mother and being YOU at the same time. She defends that a mother who brings store-bought treats to the school function and the mother who brings homemade treats to the school function are equals. On page 109, she writes, “Perhaps you think that it is important to your child’s personal growth to bake goods in your home. More power to you, my sister. I will defend your right to home-bake whatever you damn well want to home-bake. But I will take off my earrings and ask someone to hold my purse for the verbal beat-down we will need to engage in if you try to tell me that I must define my motherhood in the same terms as yours.” She continues, “I am not telling you to do it that way. You go bake your ass off. But we all have to acknowledge that our way is not the way.”

Other standout points for me in her book are about how difficult it is for her (and many women) to take a compliment or accept her professional achievements. She writes about how hard it is to accept and own our beauty and greatness. We worry about what others will think. On page 186, she admits, “I am scared people will think I like myself too much.”

We’re taught to be humble and modest. Those are good qualities to possess, but we’ve taken it too far when we diminish our accomplishments and talents and can no longer fathom that a compliment given to us can be true. Rhimes writes that she used to answer interview questions about her success by saying she has just been lucky. Now she answers, “Lucky implies I didn’t do anything. Lucky implies something was given to me. Lucky implies that I was handed something I did not earn, that I did not work hard for. Gentle reader, my you never be lucky. I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass (p.180-181).

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person is not a “how to” book, but rather a “what I learned” book. And the overall takeaway from Year of Yes is how saying yes to your life, getting out of your comfort zone, getting out of your numbness, facing your fears and experiencing the resulting power and freedom after doing so, is how you find your true, authentic self. It’s how you develop into the best version of yourself, which you were always meant to be.

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My Son Almost Got Hit By a Car…and Other Potential Perils of Being a “Go-Go-Go” Parent

The team was already gathering when I pulled up to the school with my son. I said, “Okay, we’re here,” and he looked up from his phone, scrambled to get his things together, and jumped out of the car. In my side mirror, I saw a van pulling around us and I yelled, “Wait!” at my son, but he’d already slammed the door and didn’t hear me. That nano-second played out in slow motion as I watched him never look, running in front of the van to join the team. Thank goodness the driver of the van was looking straight ahead, saw my son, and slowed for him.

Had this been a sitcom, there would have been a laugh track played as the disheveled boy ran to practice, probably dropping something along the was. The sitcom mom would smile and shake her head and be off to her next busy mom task.

My life is no sitcom, but what it is — and probably yours too — is a daily attempt to be a nurturing, productive role model for my children. I want my boys to see and hopefully model my work ethic as they grow into young adults. But this episode with my son brought to my attention that I also have to teach them the strategies that allow me to be so productive.

Before I share about strategies, here’s another story. After I dropped my other son off at camp, I was walking back to my car. Another mom and her son were hurriedly speed-walking toward the camp drop-off spot. The mom had a can of sunscreen and she was spraying the boy’s arms and legs (or at least she was spraying the air around his arms and legs) while they were in motion. A couple of us witnessing this scene chuckled as she looked up, laughed, and said, “We are SO late!” It was a funny sight, and again could have included a laugh track and been a funny scene in a busy sitcom about parenting. But the thing is, she wasn’t “SO late.” In fact, she was less than 5 minutes late. She was simply caught up in the “go-go-go.” Driving away, I began thinking about what we are modeling for our kids.

Some of us are naturally type A personalities. I am. I enjoy being a productive “go-go-go” mom taking care of my three boys, working, working out, etc. I’ll point out here that I am a “go-go-go” mom, meaning I like to accomplish as much each day as I possibly can. However, I do not encourage overscheduled, “go-go-go” kids.

The two stories I shared earlier reminded me that we, as parents, should also teach our children the strategies we use to be productive. Otherwise, we might just be raising kids who feel stressed out trying to follow in our productive, “go-go-go” footsteps. So here are three strategies I am working on with my kids (and it is a nice refresher for me too as I practice what I’m preaching!)

  1. Prepare the night before. Sometimes we think we’ve got this, we can just wing it in the morning, but even if we can, why not prepare the night before and have a calm, easy-paced morning? (If you’re wondering how to model this for your kids because you’re so used to just doing the prep work behind the scenes, here’s how I’m doing it. I’m talking out loud about what I’m doing and why. “Ok, let’s go ahead and pack lunch tonight so we’re not rushed tomorrow.” And I’m asking the boys questions to keep them listening. “Do you want pb&j for lunch tomorrow? Great. Can you please pull out the stuff to make that?” For us this week, we’re looking at the forecast. “Let’s put the sunscreen bottle on the counter so we don’t forget it in the morning.” And we’re planning clothing. “You’re running tomorrow. Make sure you have clean socks.”)
  2. Take a breath, collect your thoughts and your things before leaving the house/car. Even though we prep the night before, we need to take a pause and make sure we’re not running out disheveled. (Again, I actually practice this with my son, having him pause, put his phone in his bag before opening the car door, and remind him to be aware of his surroundings — to not almost get hit by a car!)
  3. Ask what’s more important. Sometimes even with preparing the night before, we find ourselves running late — because we’re human and maneuvering in a world full of other humans. We grown ups know how to prioritize and get our day back on track, but we need to model this strategy for our kiddos too. (Especially since I will have young drivers in a few years, I am modeling how to prioritize when in a rush.) By asking the question, “What’s more important?” we can model how to prioritize. When asking the question, make is consequence- based. (If my son is playing a video game and I ask what ‘s more important, the answer is always going to be the video game. By comparing consequences, kids understand what you’re really asking. And yes, my son will still say the video game is more important, but he gets this smile and change of tone that let’s me know he understands and just doesn’t want to admit it.) So I model this consequence-based question while driving by asking, “What’s more important, that we get there on time or that we get there safely?” or “I could go faster, but is trying to make up time worth getting a speeding ticket, which will make us even more late?” The desired outcome, of course, is that when our kids are faced with making important decisions on their own in the future, they will weigh the consequences and choose wisely, especially when it involves operating a 2-ton motor vehicle!

I know , practicing these strategies with our kids is not sitcom-worthy. Adding a laugh track to making a pb&j in advance or practicing good decision-making is not going to make it any more fun. But, practicing these strategies may help prevent a drama — and I think all parents will agree that preventing drama where we can is totally worth the effort!