GG writes

April 27, 2012

Listening

In the spirit of Six Word Friday—
An introduction to a longer piece:
We are thrilled to welcome GG
Our mother, who has blogged before
And who requested this “listening” day
When we shared our topic ideas.
We hope you enjoy her words
(They made us weepy. And grateful.)

I am a sucker for a good movie musical. I’ve seen The Sound of Music more times than I can count, and I still get goose bumps watching Julie Andrews twirl on the mountaintop and belt out “The Hills Are Alive.” And then there was West Side Story. Saw that one four times in the theater and was gaga over Richard Bremer’s gorgeous overbite and Natalie Wood’s tiny perfection. My mom gave me the score for Christmas, and I learned every song—male and female. Last year, I discovered the movie Once, starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglovam and just two weeks ago, I sang the theme song, “Falling Slowly,” with a friend at a small local coffeehouse. My knees were shaking, but it was so much fun.

The following week, Jen and I spent a lovely day together, ambling around her town, poking in shops, buying used books, and yakking up a storm. I was still high from my singing debut and couldn’t contain the pleasure I had felt. I blabbed on and on about how much fun it was and about how it’s now a play on Broadway and has gotten good reviews and I really want to go and and and. And, she listened to me—such a compliment—and then, bless her heart, she spoke with her siblings, and together they bought me two tickets to Once in honor of my birthday.

So, OK, I’m thrilled to be going. Absolutely. But the gift meant way more than just the tickets. It meant that she had truly listened to me. She’s good at that. She listens to what’s being said but also to what’s below the surface. She thinks about what things might mean. And so does Sarah. And so does Justin. I take little credit for it. I wasn’t such a good role model in that respect.

The August before Jen was to enter Kindergarten, she began to exhibit some un-Jen-like behaviors. Tantrums and pouting and general pissyness. With two other small children to manage, I didn’t stop to think about what was going on with her and, instead, just tried to deal with the behavior. It was not one of our better months together. Finally, as I was putting her to bed one night, I plunked myself down and started blathering on about what a wonderful girl she was, how proud I was, etc.etc., trying to woo her out of her seemingly bad mood and all the while patting myself on the back for being such a kind, open, understanding mother. Finally, when I came up for air and paused long enough for her to comment, she asked in a tiny voice, “Mom, will there be bathrooms in the kindergarten?” Poor baby, she was worried about going to kindergarten, and I hadn’t been paying attention, too focused on what she was doing to think about what she might be thinking and feeling. But that little question certainly brought me up short and made me listen. We did talk about it some, and we made it through the rest of the month. And when I took her to school on that very first day, I made sure she knew where the bathroom was before I left.

It’s hard for me to slow down, to quiet my monkey brain, to focus on what’s being said and not what’s going on in my own little head. Of all of my failings as a parent, that is perhaps the one I rue the most. I think I always tried to accept my kids for who they were and to respect their differences, their strengths and challenges. But I wasn’t always such a stellar listener. Too busy organizing our lives, moving people from Point A to Point B, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and doing the hundred little things that were necessary to keep our family ship afloat.

Which isn’t to say that I never listened. I just didn’t listen hard enough sometimes. Fortunately for my kids, their dad was an excellent listener. Our dining room table was the scene of some pretty amazing conversations. Politics, geography, the latest scientific discoveries, music. You name it. He loved nothing better than to drop an idea into the air and see what happened. He lectured a bit. But he also listened. And built on what was said. And I served the tacos and the chocolate pudding and did the dishes, fed the dog, did two loads of laundry, prepped for my classes the next day, etc. I think now that some of that might just have been my choice, the way I thought my role as mom should be played out. (There’s a subject for another post!) Or maybe I didn’t want to listen? Too scared of what I might hear? That I wouldn’t be able to fix things, counsel correctly, offer the wise words needed. I know I didn’t feel at all wise. My mantra in those days was “This is not Leave it to Beaver and I am not June Cleaver.” For all of you youngsters out there, that was the ultimate 50’s show—Dad coming home in a suit, smoking a pipe, counseling kids, and Mom in an apron, fussing around on the periphery.

Now my kids are grown. They are wonderful parents. Their children are wonderful children. And I—freed from the need to constantly push, prod, organize, freed from that awesome, burdensome responsibility—now have all the time in the world to listen. To everyone: friends and family, kids and grandkids. I have the time. And I do. I listen. I practice being present. It isn’t as hard as I thought. Or as scary. And our conversations are deeper and more satisfying, feeding us all.

My children honored me by giving a birthday present that I truly wanted. And the trip to NYC will be memorable. Dick and I will have a great time. I have no doubt. But the true birthday gift is that my children listened to me. And that’s love.

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We can’t believe it’s the last day of Five for Five already.

We have a lot of catching up to do!

Please leave a lovely comment for GG and then go off and visit as many other blogs as you dare. Comment. Join in the conversation!

Enter the link to your post below. We’re Listening!

Also head over to Melissa’s place and see all about Six Word Fridays. We’re huge fans! Because really, let’s be honest, sometimes your brain can only handle six words at a time.


Read More in motherhood, three kids
Maria writes

Yes! My three are constantly trying to drown the other out, making my already noisy head a tangled mess of things to do, things to respond to, things to make better. It’s those one on one times, just sitting and asking one probing question, that makes them tumble all their worries and accomplishments and anecdotes come. Those are the moments I treasure the most. Not that the chaos isn’t wonderful, but those moments, when I can see them as an individual instead of the three that are the most informative.

Hope you have a wonderful time at the show, GG! You’ve done pretty darn good with those kids!

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Momalomsmom replies

Yes, I’m pretty darn proud of them. And enjoy their company. Your comment made me remember coming home from high school and sitting on the red stool in the kitchen, telling my mom about my day while she cooked. And listened. She had six kids and miraculously made time to listen to each of us! She had a knack for finding the quiet moment and inserting the just-right question. Zoom! Right to the heart of the matter. Made me feel very safe.

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GG replies

Oh boy….I’ve already replied but didn’t follow the protocol, so here goes again….

Thanks! I am so proud of my three kids. And kind of proud of myself cause I had a part in helping them become who they are. The hardest part about being a mom at my age, is looking back and seeing your own failures. The best part is seeing your kids learn from your failures and do the job better. My kids couldn’t be more different, as Im sure it is with your three. And the moments when you connect with them on that individual, personal level are just so precious!

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Jen writes

GG. We wish we could have arranged a family Broadway trip. So good to have you here. As always. XO

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Momalomsmom replies

Now wouldn’t that have been a total blast! Dick actually suggested I take one of you instead of him….sweet guy….but I could never have chosen just one of you! Some day we’ll do it! Maybe for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Justin’s crew. Wear your warm socks.

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Tiffany writes

Please post again Momalom’s mom! That was amazing and I love your perspective. Enjoy your trip.

Jen and Sarah—thanks for the wonderful week!!!

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Momalomsmom replies

Thanks Tiffany. I do like posting occasionally Makes me stretch those unused writing muscles. And Jen is always gracious about cleaning up my overwrought punctuation.

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GG replies

I surely will. I love posting – even if it takes me a week to do the writing. ; )

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Meagan Frank writes

This post brought me to tears too! Maybe I cried because I don’t want to miss those times to listen, and unlike a musical or a movie, the things I should hear our kids say… won’t be replayed. I definitely make an effort to be in the moment…to engage completely, and to fully listen (and love) but I know too that I fail more often than I succeed. I’m comforted to know that even seasoned and highly respected moms were not perfect all the time. Thanks so much for sharing…and for listening! MMF

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GG replies

Your comment about the moment never being replayed certainly struck home. That would be my biggest regret – the times I let slip by. But perhaps instead, we all should be congratulating ourselves on the times we do connect. Mothering is a hard job. It would be a way easier if we didn’t judge ourselves so much. And enjoyed the moments we were present for. : )

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Robin writes

Thank you, GG, for sharing that wonderful story! I, too, grew up loving all of those musicals in the ’60′s. My grandfather bought me every soundtrack. And I also found “Once” last year. I hope you have a great time in NYC! Happy Birthday.

You can never use too much punctuation :)

I am new to Momalom. I think you have two amazing daughters!

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GG replies

Yeah, well let’s just say I’m a kind of stream of consciousness writer and I just love commas. ; )

And I”m gong to try to restrain myself from singing along during the musical. : ) again

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Justine writes

I’ve always loved reading your perspective on things. Now I know where you daughters get their writing from. But more than that, we often trudge through our own parenting experiences with an advice here, an advice there from our parents, interjecting throughout the course of our conversations but we never really know what goes on in their head. Why they made the choices they made. What influenced their role as parents. I think it’s wonderful that Sarah and Jen have this kind of relationship with you, where it happens naturally in conversations, but also in your writing.

Loved reading this GG. Listening is never my strong suit but I know that so I definitely try to work on that as a mom. Thank you for the reminder that sometimes the greatest gift is not necessarily contained within a neatly wrapped package, but it’s in what we do for each other.

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GG replies

My own wonderful mother has always been a font of advice – most of it helpful. But, as you say, I didn’t always know what she was thinking about when she gave it – what her experience was that led her to think the way she did. Although we certainly have spent hours and hours – OK, days and days- yakking to one another, sharing feelings has never been her strong suit. I think that is one of the ways I was better. Or am better now. It’s nice to think that each generation’s skills gets a little bit better. And you can teach an old dog new tricks….I’m a much better listener now that I ever was.

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Sara writes

As a mom I find listening one of the hardest skills; much more difficult than disciplining or dealing with illness or a host of other things. It’s especially hard when I don’t necessarily want to hear what they have to say.

Thanks for sharing!

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GG replies

And that’s the big, hard thing….the thing I have to think about more and maybe write more about. Listening is one thing. Hearing is another. And sometimes we just don’t want to hear it.

Thanks.

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Andrea @ Shameless Agitator writes

Wow, what a great post! In so many ways, your words echo for so many of us busy moms out here. It’s easy to get so caught up in managing the logistics of a family that we forget to sit quietly and listen to each other. How many fights threaten to flare up before we stop ourselves and realize it’s because of a breakdown in communication with the ones we love? How many times I remember reacting with belligerence when I feel overwhelmed by worries I can’t articulate, at least not until someone presses me to talk it through?

Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are a lucky mom to have such caring, thoughtful children, who gave you just what you wanted for your birthday. I hope you’re day is filled with love and with beautiful music. Happy Birthday!

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GG replies

Yes, us moms need to be listened to, too. When I don’t feel like I”m bing heard, it makes me feel undervalued and small. The people who make me talk and then listen when I do, are the ones I love the most!

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Kelly @MillerMix writes

I needed this perspective today, GG. There’s a pissy kid under my roof, but he’s not talking yet. You’ve reminded me to be available when he’s finally ready to show me his hurt and worry. So much of parenting is dragging your kids behind you into The Next Thing, but some days they need us to just slow down and give them time to process what’s now.

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GG replies

Oh, that pissy kid. Know him/her well. How come Beaver Cleaver was never pissy?

I actually remember being the pissy kid. Feeling like nobody understood me. Feeling all raw and bleeding. It was just as difficult for me to talk as it was for me to listen. Thank goodness age has thrust me over those hurdles. Now watch out! I’ll talk your ear off. Can you tell?

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Mel Gallant writes

GG, I don’t always listen to my daughter as best I should. My husband is definitely better at it. This being present can be so hard when as a person life pulls you in so many directions. You’ve reminded me of the reward being in the moment brings. :)

Enjoy your trip to NYC!

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GG replies

One of my latest ventures is trying to meditate – the ultimate state of presentness. Needless to say I am totally lousy at it. Monkey brain on overdrive. But I keep trying. And it’s great that your husband listens. Lucky you and lucky kids.

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Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities writes

Wow. I can’t tell you how stunning this is, this story. Because it’s a story – of then and now. And it is so human and real and beautiful. It is clear as day where these girls of yours got their exquisite ability to tell a story, to write. I think I will pass this one along to my own mom, the person who taught me how to write.

Thank you for this Friday morning gem.

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GG replies

What a lovely compliment. Thanks! The older I get, the less barriers I have. The more honest I an able to be. and the easier it is to tell my stories. and to find the truth in them. Watch out for me at 80. All the filters will be gone by then!

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Pepca writes

It’s easy to listen but hard to really hear, I think. Thanks for sharing this story!

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GG replies

That’s it in a nutshell. Words words words…..and what’s lurking underneath?

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Heather Caliri writes

Thanks for posting, GG. I love this family-business blog, the bonds of friendship that wrap all you up.
I pride myself on being a good listener, but just last week in one of my relationships, I realized I needed to take it to a whole new level. What a difference it has made, just a week later. It’s _hard_ to listen and really hear what our loved ones are saying, especially when we disagree.

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GG replies

Yes, I’ve always been so busy formulating my argument in my head, that I didn’t listen carefully to what the other person was saying. I’m trying to be better at that. But it sure is hard.

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Amanda writes

Oh, how I loved this post. Beautiful, such a treasure to have insight into the perspective of someone further along the parenting path.

Would love to add my post, cannot get the link thing to work. Sigh.
http://amandamagee.com/2012/04/always-there/

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GG replies

You’re talking to the wrong person about anything technical. I’ll send the girls and email and they can sort it out. And thanks for understanding that I’m on the same path as all of you, just a bit farther along.

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BigLittleWolf writes

Oh GG – you’re my hero!

As an older mom (closer in age to you than your lovely daughters), I can relate to everything you’re saying though I only had two to juggle, but on my own. And usually, our house crammed with their friends in tow, which tends to raise the decibel level!

But I’m still parenting, though not in quite the same fashion as I was even 9 months ago. Still – I latch on to these words you write:

I—freed from the need to constantly push, prod, organize, freed from that awesome, burdensome responsibility—now have all the time in the world to listen.

I also recognize that I’m freed from the daily need to push, prod, organize – and also to provide the roof overhead and the food on the table – and yet I still find I have too little time to listen – to everyone.

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GG replies

Hello dear BLW, You, too, will reach this spot when all your children are independent, you no longer have to struggle quite so hard to provide room and board, and you have arrived at the ripe old age of 65. Oh dear, cross off the “old”. I remember thinking that was ancient. Actually, I remember when 40 was ancient. All a matter of perspective, i guess. Dick and I agreed the other night that we’re in late middle age and won’t be elderly till we’re 80. OK, maybe 75. Oh no – that’s only 10 years away. Let’s make it 90. OK, I’m blathering now….

There are great compensations for achieving my age, but there is also all the niggling, nasty age-related nonsense, too. So my advice is, try to fully enjoy where you are even in the midst of chaos and child-rearing and bills to pay. Each day is precious. I wish I’d realized just how much when I was younger. Say…50. : )

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TheKitchenWitch writes

I bet you did a great job of listening, Geege-a-licious. You raised two amazing girls.

As a fellow musical-lover, I hope you have a great time!

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GG replies

I am soooo primed for it. Singing the songs in the shower. : )

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Arnebya writes

It never ceases to amaze me how absolutely wonderful a feeling it is to realize that someone was genuinely paying attention, actually listening. I try to remember that when relating to my children, try to remember how their eyes light up when I engage them, ask them more questions, really relish the moment rather than nod when there’s a lull in their speech, furtive glances as I check the rolls aren’t burning, do 12 other things while they’re trying to give me something that, to them, is important. Like you, I’m not always that good at it. But, I keep trying, keep pressing myself to remember what it feels like to know that someone heard me. And then I apply it to them. I just keep trying to listen…better.

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GG replies

I have a friend who makes me feel like I’m the only person in the whole world when we are together. He speaks directly to ME, listens to ME, replies thoughtfully to what I have to say. It is the most amazing talent in the world, I think, that ability to concentrate on the other person so fully. Your children are lucky indeed that you are aware of their need to be seen and understood.

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amanda {the habit of being} writes

I think I need to borrow GG. She sounds wise and loving and kind, exactly what I need to surround myself with right now ;-)

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GG replies

Thanks! Want to come for coffee? I love a good chat.

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Nicki writes

Great post and what a wonderful, thoughtful gift for your mom!

And thank you for a fun week of thinking and writing, reading and discovering! I hope you do it again soon!

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GG replies

They’re the best, my kids. I’m hoping they do it again soon, too. Makes me step up and think more deeply and clearly.

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amanda (sweetpotatoclaire) writes

oh I love this post. I just found your blog through amanda at the habit of being and I’m glad I did. I am a new (ish) mama and am continually working to remind myself to stop, slow down, listen… before I try to fix and tend, etc. It’s amazing what we learn in those moments when we are mindful to do just that.

and yes, I agree wholeheartedly that listening to and being listened to can truly be such powerful gifts.

“To truly listen, to be fully present for another person, is a powerful expression of love.
What a gift the simple act of listening can be within a partnership.
We all want to feel understood and loved for who we are. A commitment to listening allows us to understand.”
-from Buddhism for Mothers, by Sarah Napthali (a personal favorite)

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GG replies

We all want to feel understood and loved for who we are.

That’s it in a nutshell. Thanks for sharing that lovely quote. I think I need to go find that book. Never too late to learn.

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Liz writes

It’s so awesome that you all share this. It’s obvious that your writing talent runs in the family.

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GG replies

Thanks. We do all like to write. At least the girls and I do. Justin would rather ride his bike down the sides of mountains at breakneck speed. To each his own.

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Cathy writes

Even through generations the same trials and tribulations pervade our lives. Your life with three youngsters is my life – always organizing, going, scheduling, arranging, cooking, cleaning, etc…. There is so much on our plates every single moment. Too much – it’s no wonder it’s hard to listen.

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GG replies

Yes, but we have to make room to try because, as Amanda wrote, we all want to be understood and accepted for who we are. And you can only understand who someone else is by truly listening to them. And the laundry will always always always be there.

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Launa writes

What an incredible family you have. So lucky. So brave. So literary.

I’m envious. Bravo, to all of you, on a wonderful week.

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GG replies

It was fun! but I’m exhausted and the girls….let’s just say they have a few more miles to go. thanks for your comment.

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Sarah writes

They are wonderful parents because you are clearly a wonderful parent! What a lovely tribute to your relationship with your children.

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GG replies

Well isn’t that a nice thing to hear first thing on a Saturday morning. thanks!

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pattisj writes

GG, I think that same red stool was in my mom’s kitchen. :) Nice post, enjoy your trip!

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GG replies

Loved that stool. I used to sit on it for haircuts, stand on it to have my dresses hemmed, read my Dick and Jane to Mom on it, eat cookie dough on it. All six of us sat on it – the family throne. When you were sitting there, you usually had Mom’s attention, so it was a precious place. I wish we still had it. I hope someone else is using it as much as we did!

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Melissa writes

I love that you mention how you listen now, GG! I sometimes think my mothering is already set, can’t be changed much. This is sort of ridiculous, given that I have a toddler. (I mean, I have an 11yo too, but still. I’m going to be at this a while yet.) You’re reminding me that I can always grow and change and progress. It’s a comforting thought, I have to say. :)

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GG replies

Oh boy, will you ever grow and change. Mothering is a never-ending job, and you will hone your skills as you move through your life and learn more and more about who you are and who you want to be. That was a big aha for me – realizing that I wasn’t finished with this mothering thing, and that I could change things that I didn’t like so much. Listening being a prime example. : )

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Kristin writes

This is beautiful! I need to focus more on listening to my kids, really listening to what they’re trying to tell me.

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GG replies

Easy to say, hard to do. But being aware of the need is half the battle!

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Belinda writes

Congratulations on your musical debut, GG! It must’ve been such a high to perform a song you love.
And, like you, I love the Sound of Music and have watched it a zillion times…
Thank you, GG, for this beautiful post that is so full of love. It reminds me that, as much as I struggle to listen (with all the noise that surrounds us) and as much as I chastise myself for not listening as keenly as I would like to those around me, I, too, need the validation of feeling heard.
Have a fantastic birthday celebration!

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GG writes

You have no idea how much fun it was! My first husband always thought I’d have some kind of musical career….ha ha ha ha….I had three kids instead. A better career by far.

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Dawn @What's Around the Next Bend? writes

I’ve never seen the movie (or Broadway show) of “Once” but I think I’ll have to go check it out! YEA that you get to go see it… and that you have learned the art of listening :)

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GG replies

It is wonderful! Glen Hansard is the lead singer of the Irish Band, the Swell Season and market Irglova has just put out her own cd. Both very quiet and quirky and youthful….and their music is great to sing in the shower.

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Heather writes

Oh how I try to listen just below the surface. Not always easy but it does mean so much. Glad your children were able to do that for you. A beautiful post by the amazing GG!!
Thanks Jen and Sarah for a truly amazing week filled with challenge and thought. So glad I was a part of it!

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Kate writes

What a great story! I just got to see my mom this weekend. We did a good job this time of listening and hearing each other. It can be hard sometimes. Even now. It’s all about time isn’t it?

And boy, did I need that reminder to stop and really listen to my little one who is acting out. Somewhere there is a question, her’s or mine?, that will open it all up.

Thank you, all three of you wonderful ladies for quite a week!

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