What’s in a Name?


NolanMimihands1While many of my friends couldn’t wait to become grandparents… I was shaking my head saying, “not me”!  I told myself “I’m not ready to be a grandparent…I’m too young to take on THAT name!” Well, not any more.  All it took was the birth of my first grandchild to prove me wrong.  Not only was I ready, I realized it was transformative on many levels.

I received new lenses through which to see the wonder, joy and energy a grandchild brings to the world. I received a sense of eternal youthfulness every time I interact with them and best of all I received a new name. Jewish texts offer several compelling examples when people took on a new name, which by the way only occurred when a significant life event took place.   Jacob wrestles with God and becomes Israel, Abram creates a new covenant with God and becomes Avraham, Sarai moves from being barren to becoming a “princesses to all humanity” (B’reishit Rabbah 47:1) taking on the new name of Sarah and I became a grandmother and added the new name of Mimi.

Unlike those who were given their new name, I chose mine. I was the one who gave considerable thought to how I wanted to be called as I added a new role to my life.  To me, any version of “Grandmother” sounded too old for me.  So no Gramma, Grammy or Gammi. While I loved the name “Nani,” my own mother, now great-grandmother, was already using that name. I wanted a young, youthful sounding name and one that a grandchild could say easily. It worked!  Before I knew it Nolan knew me and referred to me as Mimi.

Along with taking on a new name comes a change to one’s status and responsibility.  This was now my new truth.  My status expanded from woman, wife, mother to include grandmother. This new status came with new responsibilities too! I knew that the relationship I had hoped to build with my grandchildren would be one requiring intentional thought, purpose and patience because I knew there was a big problem….I didn’t live anywhere near that first grandchild or the two more that followed. There is no “Mimi, come over for dinner,” or “Mimi, come watch me ride my bike,” or “Mimi, I’m sick today, can you come over and give me a hug,” or “Mimi, want to come over for a play date?”

How was I going to fulfill my responsibilities that come with my new name? How can I be the best grand-parent I can be when I am a three-hour plane ride away? I am known for never walking away from a challenge and I was not going to give up now.  So, with the advances of technology and lots of ingenuity I have been able to create moments that matter with Mimi from far away…such as breakfast time with Mimi, reading time with Mimi, being Mimi’s partner for our puppet show, tracking Papa and Mimi’s world travels on his own place-mat and learning where he might want to visit, or even a sing-a-long with Mimi as I play the guitar!  The opportunities are endless and he’s only 3 1/2 years old.  This dear grandson has helped his Mimi create special moments of connection that will also benefit my other grandsons.  As they grow, so too must my creativity.

When we are together, depending on where that might be, I think of at least two things that I can experience with them as their “first” like flying a kite, or building an entire neighborhood out of large boxes in their basement called “Nolan’s Place” or learning how to ride a bike with training wheels (indoors in December no less). These moments are precious, priceless and have sticking powers of memory. IMG_7229

The challenge always arises when leaving.  Saying goodbye is tough on the heart. Knowing how to take those special in-person moments and build upon them a solid foundation of love, laughter, purpose, meaning and deep connection with grandchildren is not easy, especially when there are three month gaps between visits.

I’ve learned it takes quite a bit of creativity to be a long-distant Mimi however, I have also learned that it can be done! It IS being done and it is the most rewarding role I’ve ever been given the privileged to experience.

I am proud of my new name, the status it holds and responsibilities that the name Mimi carries with it.  I will never take it for granted. I smile with joy each time my grandson says or even yells “MIMI!,”  to which I respond, I am here…always.

With love for all three of Mimi’s “boys”…Nolan, Brandon and Weston!



When WOL Intersects with Mussar

Nine weeks ago, I took a leap of faith and joined the first Working Out Loud (WOL) group launched within our organization by a close colleague and friend, along with 5 other trusting souls.  We were challenged right out of the gate to come up with a personal goal on which we would individually focus for the next 12, yes 12 weeks! Each week we met, we shared, we learned and we grew.  We saw how trust can be easily built, honored and celebrated. We discovered how we could arrange our schedules and make time in our already overly committed lives for what became sacred space and a sacred hour in our week.

As individual goals were being crafted, I struggled and had a difficult time really focusing on mine.  I was all over the place. Should it be personal, should it be work related (most in our group were not), what did I want the results to be.  Clearly (as no surprise to many) I was over thinking this. Shocker, right? I did come up with a goal and took the steps suggested each week in working toward that goal, however I honestly could not wrap my heart around it.  Something was missing.  Something was tugging at me but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.  It lacked the “sticking” power and successes that others were experiencing.  I felt disappointment but not sure what to do.  Then came WOL Week #7 when we were challenged to write a letter to our future selves. The goal of this exercise was to provide a long-term vision of what might be possible for ourselves.

That became an ah-ha moment!  While the syllabus offered a list of 10 items to consider when creating this letter, it was item #10 that hit me like a ton of bricks: “Picture the way you’d like to be.”  I could instantly visualize that picture and it looked nothing like my original goal.  No surprise there either since I really couldn’t visualize my initial goal.  So, at week 7 ½ I changed by goal.  It was exhilarating and freeing which created excitement for where I saw myself personally growing. I could articulate a new vision for myself (also part of the assignment) which started off with: “Being (and working towards being) the best version of myself.” This was it!  This began a new path toward self-awareness, introspection, reflection, honesty and more! While I am back to step one with the WOL assignments, others in our group moved ahead all the while supporting me in my new path.  Our WOL group was challenged to blog about something, anything as a way of showing contribution to others, while expressing their own ideas, projects, motivations, challenges and more.  This tool was to help to be introspective and reflective while broadening the scope of one’s “reach,” for their personal goal and I really had no desire to do this.  Now this is where it gets interesting…

By changing my WOL goal in week #8 to a very personal one, I discovered (or I should say rediscovered) an interest in something I had thought about years ago… the practice of Mussar.  Mussar is a “Jewish path of character development and spiritual growth leading to awareness, wisdom and transformation…” (Mussar Institute) As I began doing research and listening to podcasts on this, it became clear that journaling would be an essential element toward awareness, wisdom and transformation. The practice of Mussar means I would have to write!  I would have to be reflective and introspective if I wanted to get a true accounting of my soul with an accurate understanding of where I am in my life.

As I sat down to work today, the last thing I thought I would be doing today was writing, reflecting and being introspective with my feelings, thoughts and purpose. Because I believe there are no coincidences, there are reasons for why things show up when they do.  As my WOL work intersected with my idea of practicing Mussar, I am confident this was the path I needed to travel.  This was meant to be just in the way it was and I look forward to becoming an experienced and skilled spectator of my own inner experience!  Stay tuned.