Welcome to the sixth day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS!

Today, Mary Bateman-Mercado is here talking about the Art of Accepting Criticism. I’ve known Mary for almost ten years. Like me, she has five kids; three boys and two girls. But unlike me, she seems to have her act together. 🙂

I’m constantly amazed by Mary’s abilities and talents. (Make sure to read her bio, although there’s a lot not included, like awards and cool people she’s met over her years in journalism — hello, Oprah!) But the best part is that she’s also a gracious, loving person, who’s more than willing to share her knowledge with us. Yay!

  • (Even as I type this, she’s working with a group of young women, including my daughter. She’s so awesome.)

The topic Mary chose is one most of us struggle with — me especially — so I’m thrilled she picked it. Here she is:

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I’d Rather Be Here

 One year ago this month I took this picture on a beach in Barbados. We took the trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We stayed at a wonderful all-inclusive resort. We had a view of the Caribbean from our room. We lounged on the beach, swam with sea turtles, explored the limestone caves on the island and reveled in the all-you-can-eat 24/7 dining unique to the all-inclusive experience. It was heaven.

Today, a little more than a year later, I woke at 5:20 am — made lunches, got the kids off to school, made a nutritious breakfast–(since I’m always on a diet), cleaned up the kitchen, thought about doing some laundry, but quickly quelled that thought, checked email from work, and then checked Facebook and Twitter. I thought about squeezing in a bike ride before the rain starts later today, but decided it was too cold.  I made my bed and took a shower. I  looked out the window at the gloomy, gray sky and thought ‘I wish I were swimming with sea turtles’.

Unfortunately, I will not be swimming with sea turtles for a while. Right now my life is here. I live in Southeastern Michigan where fall came early this year. It turned cool Labor Day weekend and it’s been rainy and cool ever since. Normally, I enjoy fall (in October). So I have no choice but to adjust. So today I thought I would do some writing and ended up creating this blog.

I have been a writer for more than 20 years. It’s all I ever wanted to do, but up until now everything I write has been for someone else. This is for me. My life has been rich and rewarding and full of remarkable experiences, yet I have failed to write many of those experiences down. I’ve kept journals for years, but my husband has been instructed to burn them when I die. They’re filled with ranting and whining and won’t do much to inspire my posterity. That’s something I hope to improve here in my blog. My goal here is to share the truth of my life and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’ve been beaten up, knocked down and kicked in the mud — too many times to mention, but I have survived and found happiness and joy despite the trials. So this is the start of my journey.

I chose the title “I’d Rather Be Here” today just because that’s exactly what I thought when I looked back at my pictures from Barbados. I love the beach. The ocean has always been a place of peace, tranquility and learning for me. I’ve often thought when life seems overwhelming it’s good to be in nature and find something bigger than you, like an ocean, a great river, tall trees or a waterfall. Being in the presence of such magnificent creations helps put things in perspective for me.

Now back to that title — I’d Rather Be Here” — the more I thought about the title I realized it had a deeper meaning for me. “Rather” implies a choice and “Here” implies a state of being, as in the present moment. Could it be that I could choose to be here in the moment and really love where I am right now? The longer I thought about it I realized I have many reasons to love the place where I am right now.

I love the safe, warm home that I have. I get to look out my window at a tranquil lake. Even though the sky is gray and I prefer sun, I can see beauty all around me. Many birds, waterfowl and woodland creatures make their home in or near the lake. There’s something magical about sitting at the dinner table and watching a herd of deer approach the water’s edge and take a drink just before sundown. I get to see that on a regular basis. I always dreamed of living on the water. In my adolescent mind I thought it would be a beach house in Malibu, but an ordinary house on a small lake in Michigan is pretty good too.

I appreciate how the change in seasons forces me to stay inside. When the weather’s cool I tend to be more introspective and start to think about making new goals. I do love snuggling up on a rainy day with a good book and some herbal tea. I enjoy walking through fallen leaves and smelling the crisp autumn air. Fall inspires me to be crafty and clean out closets. And it means I can start wearing sweaters again.

Every year my husband and I try to go away somewhere special for our anniversary — even if it’s just an overnight trip to a nice hotel nearby. Making time for each other has been a priority to me and I believe one of the secrets to our long and happy marriage. This year circumstances didn’t allow us the means or opportunity to do anything special. We had commitments with our kids that night and didn’t even have time for a special dinner. I have to say initially I was a little disappointed. We ended up eating dinner at the local coney island diner (at least I didn’t have to cook). We joked about how we could have gone to Wendy’s, but instead chose the coney island because it was a little nicer “sit-down” restaurant. It may have not been a trip to Caribbean island, but it was wonderful because I was with an amazing man who has devoted his life to me and my family. Sitting there in the restaurant I realized I had everything I ever wanted right here in front of me — and a delightful Greek salad to go with it.

Even though I loathe getting up before dawn, I love the time I spend with my teenage children early in the morning. I enjoy making their lunches. It’s the little bit of mothering they still let me do. My two youngest children are a junior and senior in high school. Their three older siblings are adults now  — and it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. So despite the early hour, I can slow things down, just for an hour or so every morning and treasure the little bit of time I still have with them.

So while I still lament the loss of summer, the fact that my daily bike rides will have to be put on hold until next Spring, and I won’t be traveling to any Caribbean islands any time soon, I can truly say… I’d rather be here.