by Marilynn Halas on May 21st, 2012

It’s easy to look at a newborn baby and smile. Whether we know that baby or not, most of us feel a warm glow inside and feel a bit protective over a little bundle of soft, sweetness and unmitigated innocence. Many of us also feel the nostalgia of our own little bundles now beyond that stage and smile to ourselves in the happy knowledge that we will sleep tonight. Whatever we may feel, the baby is probably feeling pretty good. Clean, warm and maybe even enjoying the affects of a milk buzz, there is nothing quite like the first few months of life when everything is awash with rose colored potential and the abject certainty that we are loved.

I know of no baby that feels the least compunction to earn love. In fact, most of the babies that I have known have no problem pushing that love to the limits. Late night feedings, endless diaper changes and midnight renditions of any and every song you ever knew, make those first few months a little reminiscent of vaudeville; you know, three shows a night and no cover charge.

It seems like we come into this world expecting to be loved and for most of us; that is exactly what happens: at first. For many of us though, something happens somewhere between knitted bonnets and hoodies worn to middle school. Something happens that many people spend the rest of their lives trying to deal with, whether they know it or not. It might be a careless remark or a momentary lapse; or it might be abject heartache or even abuse, but somewhere along the way, many of us wonder if it is still true. We wonder if we are still loved.

Moms and Dads are experts at giving. We give time, money and most of all love. We love without condition and without an end, but how many of us can accept love in the same way we offer it to others? When I gave birth to my first child there was a poem framed in my hospital room. I have spent many years wishing I had written it down, but for some reason, childbirth distracted me. The poem was poignant. It was called something like “When were you still precious?”

The poem asked a really interesting question. Everyone was born helpless and the fact that we survive today tells me that someone must have been there to care for us and love us. At some point, everyone was precious. Loved. When did we stop allowing ourselves to feel that way? The poem asks was it when we took our first steps? The first day of school? Our first bad grade? When we left home? When?

The end of the poem asked an even more important question. “When will the child you love so much stop feeling precious?” Naturally, the answer is NEVER. The trouble is, we are not always with that little bundle. At some point, our bundle is at daycare, or on the school bus or in a dorm room. So how do we do it? How do we show our children how to feel loved and cherished all their lives? The same way we teach them everything else, by example.

When was the last time you got a compliment that you actually let yourself enjoy? Relaxed enough to remember that love is a gift, not wages to be earned? Most of us understand that children need love to thrive and so do adults. To feel loved is to feel safe and relevant. It is as necessary for our spirit as food and water is for our bodies. It is a gift from God.

Feeling loved empowers all of us; accepting love is a reflex we are born with, but one that can go dormant without constant use. So let’s make developing that reflex as important as developing any other part of our children and ourselves. Being loved is a gift; accepting love is a skill. A skill that all of us need no matter how old we are.

So let’s do more than just keep our faces to the sun; let’s actually absorb the light.


For Our Teenagers

by Marilynn Halas on May 14th, 2012

It is my great pleasure to introduce our own Liz Lezama as our guest blogger for this week. As many of you know, Liz is our intern extraordinaire and one of my favorite writers. I asked her to think about what it was like to be a teenager. After all, she was a teenager not too long ago. I wanted her to think about some of the things that used to worry her and what she wished she might have known. Here is the result. It may be a letter to herself at around 17, but it is a letter that might help all of us; teenagers and all who love teenagers. So, whether this letter gives you insights as an adult, or hope as a teenager yourself, spend a minute with my friend Liz. I guarantee you will be glad you did.

Dear teenage self,

As I move forward with my life and think back to my teenage years, which now seem so far away even though they ended a mere two years ago, I become aware of how fast life passes by. I think back to your reckless, free flowing behavior: days spent caring about absolutely nothing except for enjoying yourself—I regret nothing. I don’t regret the heartbreaks you felt, the friends you lost, or even the fights with family that made you feel like no one cared. I just want you to know that everything has a purpose and all of those things that you wish you didn’t have to go through will lead you to something much, much better.

A. You are not alone. No matter how much you think that no one else in the world feels as alone as you whether it be because you have a small group of friends, you don’t have a boyfriend or you think your family doesn’t understand you, you are not alone. Almost every other teenager feels the way you are feeling. That small group of friends that you wish were larger will remain your group of friends for a very long time. They will be the best group of people you have ever encountered and your closeness to them will only grow throughout the years. That boyfriend that you wanted but never got throughout high school will not cause you to grow old by yourself. You will meet a wonderful guy who will make all those torturous years of waiting more than worth it. As for your family, they will always be there for you. No matter how many fights you get into and how serious they may seem, they will never break the bond you have with your family.

B. Don’t be in a hurry. I know you want to grow up and reach twenty-one, the age that seems perfect. Well, I’m twenty-one and let me tell you, it’s a lot easier at your age. There are not as many responsibilities and not as much stress. Although I am appreciative of everything that twenty-one has brought me, enjoy your time of freedom while you can because when you blink it will al be gone.

C. You are perfect the way you are. I know you’re in high school and with all the cliques around and the appearances of perfection floating around it’s hard to believe that you are good enough, but being just like everyone else is not all it’s cracked up to be. Originality and uniqueness are hard to find in this world, you have it, don’t give it up.

I know that it will be hard for you to believe this because every little bad thing that happens feels like your world is ending, but to be blunt; you have not even begun to experience true pain, regret or unhappiness, just as you have only begun to experience the level of happiness, self fulfillment and love that comes with growing up. So keep on being a teenager—make bad decisions that will lead to better ones in the future, enjoy the free time because it will only grow shorter as time moves along and treasure each moment because those memories you are making are the foundations of your conversion into adulthood.

Speed Bumps and Stop Signs

by Marilynn Halas on May 7th, 2012

One of the most enjoyable parts of being a parent is when we get to say YES. Most of us relish those moments when what our child asks for lines up with what we know is best for them. Sometimes it’s an ice cream at the park or an extra five minutes before bed to finish their game, but either way, it’s a treat for us moms and dads to get to treat our kids.

Like all good things, treating and saying yes are best enjoyed in moderation. If we had ice cream everyday, we would have the teeth and weight issues that go along with it. If we added an extra five minutes every night, bedtime would become a joke and tired, unfocused kids would be all around us.

What makes it a treat, after all, is that it is different from the norm. So how do we figure out when enough is enough or when everyone needs a little treat and what the heck does any of this have to do with speed bumps and stop signs?

Years ago, my friend, Jill and I were talking about parenting our toddlers and we began to describe it in a very similar way. As much as we might wish to skip that part of parenthood, the reality is that sometimes, moms and dads need to be like stop signs. Certain rules of the road exist for the health and safety of everyone and now matter how often or creatively a child asks to get around them; just like a stop sign, they are non-negotiable.

You have to hold hands crossing the street. You have to have a check-up. You have to do your homework. These are things that are non-negotiable for many of us. Teaching your child that you are willing and even able to set limits for them does a lot more than just keep them physically safe. It keeps them mentally safe too. A young child counts on his or her parents to keep them safe, even from themselves. A child who knows that mom or dad is looking out for them can be bolder and more willing to take a risk because that child feels secure.

It is a much more peaceful home when a child understands what is expected and has a predictable routine. Your child learns to respect you as you show him or her that you believe in them, even in their capability to exercise self-control. Okay, so sometimes we have to be stop signs, but speed bumps?
Speed bumps are about the maybe moments. When a child asks for something you don’t usually allow, but you might consider, at that moment, you are a speed bump. Everyone has to slow down and proceed with a little extra caution. If you agree, full steam ahead. If not, stop sign. Showing your kids both means they appreciate the treat because they know you aren’t a speed bump all the time.

Showing your kids that you have a full range of responses, sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes just this once, teaches them how to respond to choices in their own lives. How to make good choices is a necessary life skill, in fact, it’s a major point of parenthood.

I believe in gentle, but firm stop signs. I remember a night when my calls to get ready for bed were met with sleepy heads insisting that they weren’t tired. No need for a big deal. I just explained to them that being tired was not required; it was still time for bed. They just smiled and off to bed. I guess they are used to their mom’s sense of humor.

I believe in regular and worthwhile speed bumps. I remember a day when everyone came home from work and school feeling overwhelmed and so we decided to make it a backwards day and have pancakes for dinner. No vegetables, no protein, just hot pancakes with melted butter and maple syrup. It was the perfect slow down for everyone.

So remember, speed bumps and stop signs can be great ways to keep our faces to the sun and let the shadows fall behind.



by Marilynn Halas on April 30th, 2012


         Mach one is the speed of an object travelling at the speed of sound.  Mach one is the last moment before the epic sonic boom when you reach just slightly above Mach one and you break the sound barrier.  Everyone gets excited at the idea of moving faster than the speed of sound, but that’s not what this post is all about.  This blog is about the last moments before that happens.  You know you will break through, but you haven’t done it yet.  You are still hurtling through space, gathering speed, but not quite there yet.  You are travelling at Mach one.

My husband is a pilot and aircraft enthusiast and so I enjoyed an amazing opportunity a few years ago.  While attending a convention, we had the opportunity to ride in an Air France Concorde jet.  We arrived at the airfield in a state of excitement and gratitude.  Twenty minutes later we were strapped in and cleared for take off.  The roar of the engines was the first clue that this was not an ordinary plane.  From a distance, the Concorde looked graceful and elegant, but from inside, it was a finely tuned machine of immense power under pressure.  If you think about it, parents are the same way.

If you ask any of us how we are, we are likely to say that we are fine and tell you our best good news about our kids or careers.  We manage our homes, families and careers with seemingly endless grace and elegance, but, like the Concorde, things are a little different from the inside.  From the inside, it is all about power under pressure.  We have the power to change the mood in our homes with just a few words.  We can foster feelings of encouragement, acceptance and love, or not.  Our families’ sense of well-being is directly affected by how we handle all that power under pressure.

There is no moment when the pressure is gone.  Pressures will mount from within and from outside our family.  Pressure is a normal and manageable part of life and teaching our kids how to channel that pressure into positive experience is a much needed life skill.  So what should we do?

I think we should remember.  Remember that we have been under pressure before and we will likely be under it again.  We have already come a long way and we are still travelling along, safely if not always comfortably, at the speed of sound.  We move at the speed of the sound of our words, our sharing and most importantly, the sound of our stories.

Here’s the thing about moving along at Mach one.  Even the magnificent Concorde shakes, heaves and lurches as it reaches the sound barrier.  In the moments before breakthrough, it’s easy to feel nervous, even nauseous, but that is okay.  That just means you are getting really close.  As you keep climbing and moving forward and shaking and lurching and wondering, don’t forget to remember how far you have already come.

You are about to break through.  Soon will come that thunderous clap; the sonic boom that both frightens and exhilarates.  Soon you will be soaring again in the smooth air with a great view.  Soon you will have one more memory to draw on the next time your aircraft experiences turbulence.  You are teaching your children how to fly.

Remember, whether you are just buckling up and taxiing down the runway, or already in the throes of Mach one; you can handle anything when you keep your face to the sun.



Heart Shaped Meatballs

by Marilynn Halas on April 20th, 2012

Hello!  It has been a while since I reached out to you and I could bore you with all the details, but let us just say I have not been enjoying myself at the spa.   My life has been a wild adventure in the last couple of months and so much of it is uncharted territory.

So, what does all this have to do with heart shaped meatballs?  That’s a fair question.  Let me explain.  I have learned, (Lord knows it is a lesson that seems to be running theme in my life), that life is short.  I realize this is not news to many, indeed, I thought I really understood that, but I am learning that there is more.  Life is short no matter how long you live.  No one knows how long it will last, but there is one thing you can surely count on; no matter how long we live, it will be over too soon.

Okay, so now what?  What will we do with that information?  Will we do anything with it?  After all, it’s a little disquieting to say the least.  Maybe the best we can do is put it aside and try not to think about it.  Maybe that’s best.  Maybe not.

The problem with ignoring it is that we put ourselves on the sidelines.  Ignoring means waiting.  Putting off the joy and fun that we might enjoy until later.  When is later, by the way?  What is this magical realm called someday?  Someday, I will travel.  Someday, I will have the time to make a fort with the kids in the living room.  Someday, I will have more time to giggle and be silly and be in the crazy moments fully.  Someday, I will let down my guard and slurp up spaghetti and not care about the mess. 

Here’s the thing; I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we have been sold a bill of goods.  If we wait for the right time, we will miss it.  Someday is an illusion.  Today, is what is real.  We don’t have to earn joy; it is a gift.  A beautiful present that many of us forget to open.  We put it aside until the laundry is done, or the homework, (ours and theirs), is finally finished.  The trouble is we are usually too tired by then and someday moves a little further away.

The kids grow, time passes and the fort remains unmade.  So, here’s what it all comes down to; heart shaped meatballs.  We have to eat.  Protein would be a good idea to feed the little ones, right?  Let’s claim some fun.  Make the spaghetti and serve it with the silliest meatballs your kids have ever seen.  (All you have to do is pinch the top and pull the bottom and presto, you have a heart.)  Then insist on slurping!  The scandalized and surprised looks on you family’s faces will be worth the clean up.

The Native Americans have a beautiful saying.  “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.”  Well, I don’t know about you, but there is plenty of rain around for most of us.  Let’s start dancing!


Even in the rain, keep your face to sun!