To Unite Our Country, We Must End the Blame Game

Maria Shriver Ive Been Thinking

What an interesting week!

It’s fascinating to watch the political conventions from one’s own living room. It’s a window into a party that few are invited to; a window into a part of our country that one doesn’t always get to see every day. 

And that’s good. It’s good to see every slice of this country. It’s important to hear and see who AMERICA is in 2016.

As I’ve said, I think it’s important to listen to people: People you might not agree with; people who have different opinions from you; people who have very different takes on what is happening in our country, to our country, and who’s to blame for it all.

And so my summer of listening continues. 

What did I learn from watching the Republican convention? A lot of things. 

I learned there is a lot of blame out there, a lot of anger out there, a lot of frustration, a lot of yearning for days gone by, and a lot of fear. 

Throughout my life, I’ve known a lot of Republicans–some I’ve liked, some I’ve loved, and some I didn’t get along with at all. (In all honesty, I could say the same about Democrats). And while I may have been raised to see Republicans as the “opponent,” I no longer do. 

Because I’ve worked alongside men and women who have an “R” next to their name. I’ve met many Republicans who are bright, compassionate, forward-thinking, and devoted to country. 

I’ve long believed that it’s easy to demonize “the other party,” but I’ve learned it’s wrong to do so. It accomplishes nothing. It’s overly simplistic, superficial, and sad. 

And this convention actually did make me sad, because it was so much about blame. 

It didn’t feel aspirational to me at all. It didn’t feel hopeful. It didn’t feel forward-thinking. It didn’t feel deep or thoughtful. It wasn’t representative of many Republicans I’ve met. And that to me is a shame and a huge missed opportunity.

I hope next week’s Democratic convention will be less about finger-pointing and name-calling. I hope it will be more about what is great about our country and what can be even greater. I hope it will be uplifting and innovative.

[Read Maria Shriver’s latest ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essay]

Which brings to mind what an inspiring coach once told me. He said that the key to winning and bringing a team together is not to talk about the other team or the other person. He said the secret is to talk about your hopes, your thoughts, your strengths, your ideas… 

I believe in politics, and in life, it’s important to be hopeful, to be aspirational. That doesn’t mean you’re naive or in denial. To me, it means you’re challenging the status quo and imagining what can be. 

As I’ve written before, I think we want and need leaders to call on people’s greatness, call on people to join something in a quest that’s bigger than all of us.

Because our country is bigger than all of us, and it can only be greater if all of us find some way to serve it, if all of us find some way to use our own voice to help it heal and unite it. If my experiences in life have taught me anything, it’s that any time you ask someone else to be your voice, you give your power away. 

So this coming week, I’m going to watch the Democratic convention with my kids as I did this past week. We will witness history get made. Regardless of your politics, that’s a historic milestone that anyone who is interested in gender equality should celebrate. I know I will, and I do.

But what I really am hoping for is that my children and I will also get to hear an “invitation” that will call us to be a part of our great country, regardless of our political leanings or our gender.

We are a country divided. We all know that. We can all see that. We can all feel that. We all want to live in a safe and secure country where the American dream can be realized by anyone and everyone. The best way to become a country united seems to be to stop the blame-shame game and start the you-are-invited-to-join-us game.

It’s the only one that will help America “win” and win big. 

 


{Image credit: Aaron Burden, Unsplash}

 

The Power of Listening

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Today is a new day. May we all take a moment to pause take a deep breath and move forward with the knowledge that this moment is all we have

I wrote last week about questions and answers. How I had more questions about what was happening in our country than I did answers. I wrote that I wanted to spend the week listening. Listening to friends, listening to strangers, listening to myself. 

And so I did. 

I listened to my friend tell me about the guy who cuts his hair and how angry he was that so few people understood his experience of being a young black man in the United States of America. My friend was shocked at what was simmering underneath the man he thought he knew so well. I listened to another friend whisper about the loneliness, the anxiety and the pressure of her experience as the provider/caretaker for a big extended family. I had no idea. I listened to another talk quietly about how hard it is to grow old in a society that only seems to value youth. I listened to another rail about the state of our politics and scream about the lack of leaders and leadership and everyone’s apathy. 

I listened.

I listened when a well-known actress stepped forward and out of pain and exasperation said she was fed up. Fed up and exhausted with her body being shamed and her womanhood being questioned because she wasn’t a mother. I listened when my daughter Katherine shared what she’d listened to on her Road to Real tour: How hard the average American’s daily life isI listened to our President when he spoke in Dallas…he challenged us to open our hearts and think less about which side of the debate we are on and more about how we can unite the sides. 

[From Sorrow to Triumph: Making Every Moment of Life Sacred]

I listened. And I’m not even sharing the half of what I heard. If I did, it would take you until next Sunday to finish this column.

Everywhere I look we are inundated with news and information about how terrible everything is. We are segregated and divided: By language, by color, by gender, by politics, by zip codes, by technology, by media, by income levels, by age. And yet simultaneously, we are all seeking connection, all seeking some common experience. An experience where we can hear another person say “I hear you.” “I understand.” Or, “Me too.” “You are not alone.” 

I’ve learned this myself while listening when I’m mothering, when I’m reporting, when I’m working with women and with families struggling with Alzheimer’s. When I’ve listened long enough to any of the people I’ve met, or a person I’ve loved, I’ve always found commonality. I’ve always come away thinking ‘We have so much more in common than we think we do. If only we could let down our facades and share our truths.’

In my week of listening, I also listened to myself and I shared what I heard. It’s something I don’t often do.

I shared that I too, often felt disconnected, scared or anxious. That I too, often felt alone in my life experience. I fully understand that my life experience is nothing like the young black man who cuts my friend’s hair — nor any black person’s life experience for that matter. I want and need to do better at understanding that deep divide. I understand that my life experience is nothing like a white man’s or a Latino person’s or a transgender person’s. I need and want to do better understanding what that’s really like.

In fact, my life experience is unlike anyone else’s. And guess what? So is yours!

[Whose Mind Is It Anyway? How to Get Out Of Your Head and Into Your Life]

But what we all share, I believe, is a desire to be understood, to be seen, to matter, to belong. As ourselves, not as our race, or who we may be married to, or what family, religion or group we belong to. We all share a common experience in our humanity. We all fundamentally want someone to listen to us. Listen deeply to who we really are, what we feel, what we are scared of.

I know it’s hard to pause in our daily lives. It’s hard to be quiet and hard to listen. It’s hard to take in other people’s pain, frustration, anger and loneliness without internalizing, feeling attacked or letting our judgements get the best of us. But when you do listen deeply, you realize while our experiences are vastly different, our hearts and desires are not.

At this time, at this moment, I believe we all want leaders who bring us together. Not just with words, but with experiences and actions. We want leaders to listen. To be brave enough to share back so we can get a glimpse into their own humanity, into their own struggles and fears. That’s the beginning of connection, of trust.

[Fixing Broken Family Relationships Can Bring You Healing & Peace]

At this time in our country and our world, what we want and need are leaders to ask us to put our own individual greatness to use. Because we all have greatness within us. What is needed, is for each of us to step forward and offer our own best selves to the world. In our homes, in our schools, in our communities.

These next two weeks of political conventions will challenge many of us. Many will want to scream, protest, judge, even espouse hate.

Let us imagine another way. Imagine if we made a commitment to listen with open minds and open hearts to find the common thread. Imagine. We just might begin to hear some answers. And they might not come from a podium or out of the computer. They might just be right inside of you. Listen.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]


[Image via Pixabay]

Everywhere I Look There are Questions

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Like youthere is a lot that we do not understand, and at this pointlike you, I am demanding answers.

Those are the words of the Baton Rouge police chief about the murder of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge this week. His words struck me.

“Like you, there is a lot that we do not understand.”

His words captured my feelings about this tragic event and the one that followed in Minneapolis with Philando Castile; and the one that followed in Dallas where five officers; Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens and Michael Smith; were killed; and so many other things that transpired this week (or this year, or this decade, or the decades before that). There is so much that so many of us don’t understand, and sadly, the answers that come don’t seem to make it better.

[Listen to Your Heart…And His Too]

As I watched Alton Sterling’s teenage son break down in uncontrollable grief at his mother’s press conference I thought, ‘What answer will heal his pain?’ As I watched the protests on TV and the widening racial divide in our country I wondered, ‘What answers could possibly bring us together?’

Questions. Questions. Everywhere I looked there were, and are, questions. About guns, about black lives, about police officers, about our candidates for President. And ultimately they lead to questions to ourselves about ourselves.

Do black lives matter? Why does this seem to keep happening? What’s at the root of it? What can we do?

[Our Mother/Daughter Relationships Allow Us to Become “Radically Responsible” for Ourselves]

Our answers to these questions, and really all questions, can further the divide or can begin to close it. 

There are times in life when answers aren’t what we need. We just need to listen. Listen without judgement. Listen to the wails, listen to the fear. Listen to the divide. Sometimes when someone is screaming for answers they are really screaming to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be understood. Sometimes there are no answers to our questions large and small. Sometimes demanding answers won’t get us the answers we need.

One week after our nation’s birthday where we celebrated our freedom and our “storied unity,” may we all ask ourselves: how can we do better. How can we use our voices to unite instead of to incite. How can we all be better listeners, better neighbors, better citizens.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ Essays]

At times like this I think of this prayer Mother Teresa (who will be canonized in two months’ time) had on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta, almost always attributed to her but actually written by Kent M. Keith. It’s the only answer I can come up with when no answers will do.

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[Image via Pixabay]

What Does It Mean to Be Free?

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Happy birthday AMERICA!!!!

I want to reflect today on America. I feel so blessed to be an American. I am so grateful to all those who fought to make this country what it is and who continue to do so. Men and women who fought with their words, their bodies, their minds, their spirits. They had faith in this country and in one another.

Throughout this election season we have heard from everyone running about what needs to be better, what needs to be fixed, what wounds we need to heal, what divisions we need to lessen. 

But on this weekend, I want to pause and and turn down the volume on what’s wrong and turn up the volume on the idea of freedom that this country was built upon. The freedom it still offers and the hope it still promises.

America is great.

The idea of it is great and so is the spirit of it. So on this holiday weekend amidst the fireworks, the barbecues, the parades, may we all take a moment to reflect on the concept of freedom.

What does that mean to each of us? What does that feel like to each of us?

Freedom; America.

That’s what we are celebrating this weekend. Her greatness: past, present and future.

Happy birthday America! I’m proud to be one of your children. To that effect, we have all heard so much lately about the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton written by the extraordinary talent Lin Manuel Miranda. Hamilton was one of our founding fathers who fought, thought and wrote so eloquently about our country, its promise and the price of freedom. As we celebrate America and freedom this day and this weekend, I leave you with his words:

Legacy. What is a legacy?

It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see

I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me

America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me

You let me make a difference

A place where even orphan immigrants

Can leave their fingerprints and rise up

I’m running out of time. I’m running, and my time’s up

Wise up. Eyes up.

America you are indeed a great unfinished symphony. We all are called to leave our fingerprints on you. What an opportunity, what a gift. We are all as Miranda wrote and his character Hamilton says, “Free to take our shot” at creating our legacy here in the land of the free and the brave. Now that’s freedom!! Lucky us!

Happy birthday AMERICA may you have one hell of a new year of life. 


[Image via Pixabay]

When Is It Time to Move On?

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As I watched the many funerals this past week in Orlando and listened to what family members said about those they loved and lost, I thought about their grief, their loss, their trauma and I also thought about how they will each individually and collectively move on.

When you are in the midst of grief it’s almost impossible to think about “moving on.” In fact, it feels almost disrespectful to do so. But slowly people, even well-intentioned ones, will start saying, “You know, you really should move on. It’s the only way to heal. It’s the only way forward.”

Moving on.

It’s another one of those expressions people toss around that is way harder to do than to say. When a loved one dies, when a chapter closes, when a job ends, when a campaign ends, a kid moves away…We are all told to just “move on.”

[3 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Try]

My mother used to say, “Move along, move along, just hurry up and move along.” It was, I think, her way of not dwelling, not getting stuck. I’m sure it was also her way of staying one step ahead of all those emotions we are all trying to keep under control and under wraps.

I get it. But I, for one, don’t like it when someone tells me to move on (or by the way to relax, or to not eat this or that, or to just stop worrying… maybe I just don’t like it when someone tells me what to do!).

Of course I smile when someone tells me to move on regarding all sorts of things, but inside I’m screaming back, ‘Hello! I would if I could but I can’t so stop telling me to.’

Breathe Maria, breathe.

The truth is moving on comes with time and everyone has their own pace. Rushing moving on isn’t healthy, it’s not fair and it’s not kind. 

[Love Can’t Replace Hate…Only Self-Respect Can]

So, If you haven’t moved on from the loss of someone you love, it’s okay. Be gentle with yourself. If you haven’t moved on from that job you loved and lost, that’s ok too. If you haven’t moved on from that fight with your best friend, take your time, it’s okay. You will. Because sometimes moving on is actually the exact wrong thing to do, as Representative John Lewis and other Democratic members of The House demonstrated this past week. The Senate told them to “move on” but instead they said no way and they sat down. They said, after all the deaths by guns lately, moving on is the wrong thing to do. We need changes and we’re not moving until we get them. And then across the ocean, the British said the exact opposite when they voted to move on from the European Union. It was a move felt round the world.

So this week as I’m thinking about all of these people my message — first and foremost to the families and friends of the Orlando victims, and to anyone getting over something in their lives — is this: take your time. Move on when you are ready and move on only when YOU want to. 

[Read More of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ Essays]

Because you will eventually move on and you will move forward. You will find your way. One day, without even realizing it, you will notice that you feel a little lighter, you’re thinking will be a little brighter. You will see your life and the endless possibilities of it in a new, clearer way. Things will just open up. Light will come in and you will wake up. Without even realizing it, you will have moved on in exactly the right way for you.


[Image via Pixabay]

This Week Instead of Thinking, I’m Focusing on Love

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Some weeks it’s hard to know exactly what to think.

Ones heart and mind can bounce from anger to grief to confusion to sadness to hope all at once leaving you somewhat at a loss as to what to say, think or write. What can one say after reading the stories that have come out of Orlando? Stories of horror are mixed in with stories of heroism, gratitude and love. What can one say when one sees the images of thousands gathering to pay their respects in Orlando and all over the world? Standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, with women, men, fathers, mothers, daughters and sons.

Witnessing the outpouring of love and courage we saw this week gives me so much hope. But that has been juxtaposed against other images, stories and dialogue from those whose sole purpose seems to be to incite fear and hate. It’s hard not to settle into despair and/or anger. It’s hard not to just scream or stay in a place of rage.

But today, on Father’s Day, I’m choosing to focus on the love. I’m choosing to focus on the stories of heroism, compassion and kindness that I’m reading about. The stories that make me proud to be an American. On this day I’ve been thinking about the role of fathers. This week our President, a father himself, spoke calmly to ease our fears and reassure our nation –– at that moment he was Commander-in-Chief, Consoler-in-Chief and Father-in-Chief. 

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A quote from my father from almost 50 years ago that, sadly, was the perfect response to this week.

Father’s Day obviously makes me think of my own father, whose words from a speech in 1968 were still incredibly resonant this week. My father, like so many fathers, was not only smart, driven and passionate, he was also loving. So, today, I’m focusing on the love that fathers can –– and do -– show to their children and families every day. Fathers and fatherhood are so important in each of our lives. Fathers are needed everyday and everywhere. They raise children who become women and men who can affect our world in so many ways. Children need their love, their strength, their compassion, their time, their acceptance and the safety they can provide with an embrace, a look, a conversation.

I’ll say it again: Fathering is needed everyday and everywhere. On this day, I want to say happy Father’s Day to everyone who is blessed to be a father. Your role is so crucial, so impactful, so important for those you’re a father to and those who witness how you father. 

As we have seen this week, life is so fragile. At times like this we all look for reassurance, we look for safety and security, but that, I have learned, is an illusion.

What isn’t ever an illusion is love. Love is what we can count on. Love is what heals fear. Love is what calms anxious hearts, bodies and minds. Love is a gift each of us have to offer to our fellow human beings. Those who are our children and those who aren’t. Those who are gay or straight. Those who practice one religion or another. When it feels like we have nothing to give or there’s nothing we can do, we each have the ability to offer our love to another.

And so on this Father’s Day, I say to Fathers everywhere: I hope you feel loved, appreciated and accepted. I hope today you can push through whatever walls, whatever fears you may have and express the love you have to give to those around you who so desperately seek it.

In this week, at this time, when it’s hard to know exactly what to think…don’t think, don’t doubt, just feel. Feel the love. Let it in. Let it heal. That’s what love can do, that’s what love does. 

Happy Father’s Day.


[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of Making History

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I grew up hearing ‘If your mother had been a man she would have been President.’ My mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, grew up among men who ran for President and was married to a man, my father, Sargent Shriver, who also sought our nation’s highest office. But she never ran. I have no doubt in my mind that had she had the chance, if she had thought it was something a woman could do, she would have run, won and made a hell of a leader.

I grew up believing that history was not just something you read about in books, it was something to be made in one’s lifetime.

Watching Hillary Clinton make history this week was one of those moments I know I will remember forever. I was happy that in her historic moment she reminded the world of all the women who had gone before her and used their voices, their hearts and their minds to instigate change. She rightfully acknowledged that she stood on their shoulders, but she, herself, also worked tirelessly for decades to make the history that she did this past week happen. 

[Register to Vote Here]

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Regardless of your political affiliation, regardless of what you think about politicians in general, it was moving and inspiring to see a woman endure, persevere and triumph like she did to become the first woman in history to become the nominee of a major political party.

Let’s face it, the change business is not easy. It takes drive, energy, tremendous will and passionate desire. It takes guts, toughness, vision and determination. Very few individuals, male or female, will ever make the kind of history that Hilary Clinton did. It was History with a capital H.

But I’ve come to believe that each of us can make history in our own ways. Each of us has the opportunity to take a shot at writing our legacies, and just because it might not be on the scale of someone running for President, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have importance, meaning or value. A young woman or young man who becomes the first in their family to graduate high school or college makes history in, and for, their family. Someone who starts a business that gives others a job may be making historic change in another person’s life. The scientist who toils in a lab for years to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or cancer will make history. A woman who walks away from an abusive marriage to save herself and/or her children makes history. Her story and her courage will become part of her family’s legend. The young woman in the Stanford rape case that used her voice to speak out for every woman who has been sexually abused made history in her life, her family’s lives and the lives of countless women who have felt silenced or shamed after a sexual assault. 

[There Is Healing Power in Doing What Scares You]

The list goes on and on.

Each of us have a shot. A shot to make history in our own lives and with our lives. I doubt the women at Seneca Falls knew that so many years later they would get a shout out heard around the world. They didn’t do what they did for that reason, they did what they did for others. They did what they did so that so many years later a women they never knew could stand up and say “Look how far we have come.”

That’s the best kind of history to make. And it’s something each of us has the power to do. Make history in your world…you never know who might end up changing the world because of you.

[Read more of Maria’s I’ve Been Thinking blogs here]


[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of Letting Go

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about letting go: about how easy it is to say and how hard it is to actually do. 

It’s hard to let go. To let go of things. To let go of attachments. To let go of beliefs that no longer serve you. To let go of old stories. To let go of people. To let go of the way things were. And it’s especially hard to let go of children.

It’s ironic to me that parenting asks you to be all in all the time. To give love unconditionally. To be totally present and then it tells you — or makes you — let go. Just like that; you are asked to let go. It’s the cycle — or circle — of life. You give your all and if you do your children are supposed to feel loved, secure and independent. Independent enough to go off and live their own lives. And you the parent are supposed to be totally fine with that. You are supposed to wave goodbye with a big smile on your face and feel like you did good.

[Want to Transform Your Life? Say These Words Out Loud]

What the??

Letting go is tough for me. I’m doing it, but I admit I don’t like it. No, I don’t like it at all. That’s my honest feeling and truth. I went to Bed Bath & Beyond again this week (I have now have four dorm rooms and three apartments under my belt). I’ve been there so many times the manager greeted me cheerfully with jokes of, “Is this it? Is this the last time? The last one?” I smiled as my eyes welled up with tears. My daughter rolled her eyes and told me to “Relax” (FYI I hate being told to relax). She told me, “Just be happy.” She reminds me daily that this isn’t about me, it’s about letting my kids do their own thing. It is, she says, the way it’s supposed to be.

Cool.

But I don’t like things the way they are supposed to be. No Architect Of Change does. We challenge what is and imagine what can be. But we also have the courage to move forward.

[Self-Made’s Nely Galán on Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant and Rich in Every Way]

So as I watched my youngest child graduate from high school and walk across the stage out into adulthood, I admit I knew the time had come for me to let go. I knew I had no choice but to do so.

‘Let go Maria,’ I said to myself. ‘Let go.’

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I know I can and will do it. I have faith. Faith in myself and in my kids. I know this new era of life is going to be more unscripted. More wide open. That’s both scary and exhilarating. The days will no longer revolve around school schedules. The days will become mine to imagine, mine to create.

[7 Steps for Unlocking Your Life’s Purpose]

That also means no more hiding, no more saying ‘I can’t go here,’ ‘I can’t do this,’ because of my kids. I’m free now. Omg. 

So as Christopher heads off to college I know in my heart I can step back because I know he’s got it!! And I know in my heart I do as well.

Let go…Let’s go!

P.S.: I know I’m talking about letting go. This is Phase One. The big “Let Go” with a capital LG will be when I drop Christopher off at college and come home. Brace yourself.

[Read more of Maria’s I’ve Been Thinking Essays Here]


[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of Presence

Christopher and I at his school's "Empty Nest" luncheon. Need a new name for that!

This next week is going to be hard for me. My youngest son, Christopher, is graduating from high school and going off to college. I’m super proud of him and super happy that he is so excited to be embarking on this next great adventure. But as the youngest of four, his departure is also super bittersweet for me. It marks the end of an era in my life.

For nearly the last 27 years I’ve focused my life around my kids and their lives. My days revolved around early morning and afternoon carpool pick up times, after-school activities, parent-teacher conferences, sit-down dinners, runs to Staples for school supplies. My calendar was marked with football games, dance recitals, horse shows, basketball. My weekends were joyful because of my children and their friends who congregated at my home playing games, laughing, socializing. I loved it all.

[“I’m a Mom”: A Statement That Should Be Said With Pride]

Now I’m focusing on a new chapter. So as this one winds down, I want to be incredibly present for this final week of school events. Prom, senior class gatherings, goodbyes to parents and kids I’ve shared so much with. I don’t want to miss a thing, I want to take it all in.

Christopher and I at his school's "Empty Nest" luncheon. Need a new name for that!

Christopher and I at his school’s “Empty Nest” luncheon. Need a new name for that!

I want to be present. Really present. For my son and for myself.

Being present in the moment takes focus. At least it does for me. I often find myself thinking about the future or the past, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time and effort focusing myself on the now.

[Advice to Grads: Be Careful Who You Choose to Be]

Yesterday was my son’s senior prom. He’s no longer the baby boy I held in my arms. Now he’s a strapping, gorgeous young man. Loved and admired by so many for his heart, his nature and his amazing mind.

As his last week of his last year of high school unfolds I will think back over how his life has unfolded, but I won’t miss anything this week. I will be present every step of the way. I know I’ll cry, I know I’ll struggle with the emptiness that his leaving will create. But I know that if I’m super present this week, the memories I’ll create will last me and comfort me far into the future.

Presence is powerful. It’s a gift to be present. A gift for you and whomever the other people are that you share your day with. This is Christopher’s week. Wish me luck and buy stock in Kleenex. I’ll be using a lot of it.

[Read More of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ Essays Here]

The Power of Thank You

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I’ve always been a fan of good old-fashioned manners. I was raised on them and I drilled them into my kids. Always say “Please” and “Thank you.” Stand up when an adult walks into the room. Hold the door for another person. No phones at the dinner table. Always introduce yourself — and if you have a friend with you, introduce them as well. Look someone in the eye when they talk to you. Thank the host and/or hostess when you go to a party at their home. Bring a gift when you go to someone’s house — a candle, some flowers, a little book, anything. And ALWAYS, always write a handwritten thank you note.

I’m a huge fan of handwritten thank you notes. In fact, I’ve never hired anyone to work with me who didn’t write a handwritten thank you after the initial interview.

Manners never go out of style and a thank you never gets old. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, the power of “Thank You.” Those two seemingly small words put together have huge power and huge impact.

So, today I want to say thank you.

[Thank You: A Simple Act of Gratitude]

Thank you to all those who came out for Move For Minds yesterday. It was an inspiring, moving, fun-filled day. And I believe, because of all of you, we are on our way to getting the answers we want as to why so many women are getting Alzheimer’s.

I also want to say thank you to all the Architects of Change who came out to share their wisdom. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know that you are all super busy and you made time to be present and to share your voices and your knowledge.

Thank you too to Equinox Sports Club. You stepped up and in and you are an incredible partner in helping us to spread the knowledge that physical health and brain health are connected.

[Live in Gratitude and Thank Your Creator by Enjoying Your Life]

I want to say thank you as well to all of my friends and to the people I don’t know who supported me with donations so researchers can begin to study women’s brains and hopefully provide answers that will benefit all of us. Thank you.

And while I’m saying thank you I want to thank all of you who have signed up for the Sunday Paper, who read it, think about it, and so often tell me it means something to you. That means a lot to me as well.

The reality is, there are so many people we can all say thank you to on a daily basis. But too often our busy lives get in our way and we forget. I know I have. I rush through my day often forgetting to thank the very people who make my day in every way.

[Gratitude is True Power – Why to Choose it & How]

The people I’m blessed to work with. The people who help me at home. The other parents in my circle who help me in so many ways. My friends who pick up the phone to simply say “Hi.” My brothers and sisters-in-law, cousins, and of course my kids. The list goes on and on.

I notice in my own life when someone thanks me for something it touches me. It makes me smile, it makes me happy. I notice it. I notice every time my son’s girlfriend writes me a handwritten thank you note. It’s made, and always makes, a big impression. I notice when my kids’ friends thank me for doing something for them or when my daughter thanks me for taking her to the Beyonce concert with a box of doughnuts! Or when my other daughter sends me information about supplements I should be taking (but I’m not). When my son asks me about my day or another brings me a coffee even though I didn’t ask for one. Or when my brother or friends include me out on the town whether I’m a party of one or have multiple kids in tow. Seemingly small things that make a big difference: A note, a card, a coffee, a phone call, an invite, a thoughtful email…it all adds up.
Expressing gratitude, saying thank you, is so powerful. It means you see the other person, it means you noticed what they did or who they are. It says to another person “You matter and I want you to know that you do.” That’s big. It’s a sign of manners, but it’s also a sign of care.

[Read More of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ Essays]

So on this Sunday I am filled with gratitude. To God. To my family. To my friends: Thank you for being there for me. Yesterday and on all days.

And a special thank you to these four well-mannered, loving individuals. Thank you for the joy, the love and opportunity to be your mother. You make, and have made, my life joyful.Image-1

Thank you.
P.S.: Don’t forget to write those thank you notes I asked you to write!!