New Year, New Word

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With the New Year upon us, resolutions and goals are everywhere. Not one for setting lofty expectations, I tend to shy away from the typical goal-setting. Instead I view the coming year as a clean slate, which I admittedly love. Who couldn’t use a point in time to start over in many ways?  It feels so cleansing to look ahead to the blank page that is 2016. Continue reading “New Year, New Word”

Here Comes the Sun

One of my life songs is “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles.  Several years ago, I was on a small group retreat where we each picked a song to share that had meaning in our lives.  I had gone through a good amount of healing with these girls during this particular season of life and was finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Thus, the lyrics to “Here Comes the Sun” felt very fitting.

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to get away for a refreshing weekend with three close girlfriends.  As I was out to lunch enjoying a mimosa, I suddenly noticed ‘my song’ playing.  How appropriate, I thought.  Here I am, about seven years later coming off yet another hard season, this one due to riding the exhausting yet exhilarating roller coaster we call ‘parenting small children.’  Once again, though, I can see that light.  My “sun” is around the corner peeking through.  The kids won’t always be this small.  The baby stage is slowly slipping behind us.  Life will never be without its challenges, but it seems the ice is slowly melting.

With the New Year now here, resolutions and goals are all around us.  I’m one of those who doesn’t do much in the way of setting high expectations for the coming year.  Instead I view it as a clean slate, which I admittedly love.  Who couldn’t use a point in time to start over in many ways?  It feels so cleansing to look behind us but also to look ahead to the blank page that is 2015.

I start this year not with a goal in mind or a list of ‘to-do’s’ or lofty expectations of what this year may bring.  Instead I begin it with simply one word:  BELIEVE.

My word of the year.

I often struggle with negative thinking and I’m continuously conscious of attempting to change those thoughts.  This one word is pivotal to shaping the direction of my days.

Believe what?  Believe who, you ask?

Believe in people’s best intentions.  Believe in myself and my dreams and my passions.  Believe this life is a beautiful blanket of memories and moments woven together over time.

Believe that lifelong goals will someday become a reality or seeds will at least be planted this year.

Believe in answered prayers.  Believe in the most desirable outcomes.

I’ve realized that even during prayers, if I believe God is working on my behalf to answer them or provide a solution, I’m so much more thankful and patient as I wait.  Thanking Him and trusting that He has it all under control is half the battle.  It makes me feel more confident in the end result instead of worrying myself to death about all of the other possibilities.

I’m believing my kids aren’t trying to grate at my nerves, but really need me and are curiously exploring the world.  I am believing tomorrow is always a new day.

I’m believing I am the best mother for my children.  Believing in my husband and his practice.

I’m believing there is not always a motive behind every move people make.

I’m choosing to meditate on this word and let it guide me this year.  Belief helps counteract any self-doubt I may face and that’s a huge positive.  It helps me see the best in people all around me and most importantly, the ones I love most.

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Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.

Self-Care 101

If you’re not quite sure what I mean by this term ‘self-care’ I’ve been throwing around, I’ve put together a little list of what it means to me.  Since becoming a mother, I really feel the importance of caring for myself in a new way.  Before I had children, I was already practicing taking care of myself by listening to my body in new ways, getting regular massages, creating healthy meals I could savor, having a bubble bath with a glass of wine on a Saturday night instead of going out.  I consider all of these ways to honor my body and slow down if that’s what I feel my body calling me to do.  Even when I became pregnant with my first child, I still did a pretty good job of it all – prenatal massages, yoga, regular exercise, walks on the beach, meditation days, you name it.  But it’s crazy – the minute that baby is born, you don’t know what hit you! All of a sudden it became 95% about the baby and 5% me – OVERNIGHT.   When they say nothing prepares you for having your own child, boy, is it the truth! I was shocked I couldn’t find the time to get a shower – it’s five minutes, what the heck!? Cook dinner? Forget it.

Over time I learned a new normal and figured things out, of course. But in that process I didn’t spend enough time on me. I spent every waking moment of the day making sure my baby’s needs were met. This meant sometimes forgoing my own basic needs. Yes, I realize this is parenthood, but for me, I had started to neglect myself in many ways.  I finally realized what was awry and started to make some changes. I joined a gym.  I signed up for a mom’s group at church that included childcare so I could have adult conversation and a meal I could actually savor. I started getting a sitter in the day sometimes so I could get out alone and my husband and I began going out on more dates. Over time, I could definitely see my old self shining through again.

Here is a list of the self-care practices I use regularly:

1. Deep breathing.  Take a breath.  Exhale slowly.  Do it again.  I especially find this useful when I’m having a trying moment with my toddler.  I simply breathe.  Okay, I pray sometimes too.  But these deep breaths keep me from saying something I’ll potentially regret!  Age 3 is testing me like no other!  If you take a breath, it buys you some time to think before you speak and centers you a bit.

2.  Do something childlike.  This may sound sorta weird, but I find coloring or making collages with my daughter incredibly therapeutic.  I recently took her on a “girl date” where we spent all morning together and my favorite part of the day was swinging side by side at a park and imagining the play structures were castles.  It takes me back to a childlike freedom and helps me avoid thinking of any to-do lists or adult things for a short time.

3.  Yoga.  I wish I could say I practiced this lately, but I haven’t.  Not for several months.  But when I do, I feel so connected to myself and my body in a way I can’t describe.  Breathing into my body while moving and flowing – there is nothing like it!  I’m sure for some of you running has that same release for you.  I’ve never been a runner, but I certainly understand the mind/body connection that must come from it.

4.  Limit media access.  I’ve said before that I am not a huge fan of social media.  For some reason it just makes me feel worse sometimes.  If I’m feeling I need to really take care of myself, I find that it’s good to limit media in general but especially social media.  Personal connections are more meaningful and feed my soul in a way that, thankfully, Facebook and Instagram can’t.

5.  A hot bath.  I’m such a fan of the bubble bath.  I could sit in one for the whole night, I think.  Take a magazine and/or a glass of wine and just sit back and relax.  There is nothing like it.  Pure heaven.

6.  Put on makeup, do your hair, and dress in something other than workout gear.  My stay at home mom attire of yoga pants and a tee were cozy, yes, but I didn’t feel like my best self.  I’ve started putting together fun outfits with accessories and I notice a change in my demeanor when I know I look my best.  This is not to say I don’t sport my old mom uniform from time to time still, but I really do try and put together a fun outfit most days.

7.  Book a sitter (or trade with another mother) and get a pedi, go on a walk, get a massage, go shopping.  Even if it is running errands alone, you’ll feel refreshed from not having to meet anyone else’s needs but yours for a little while!

8.  Ask for help if you need it.  Seriously.  Being a mom is no easy task.  Laundry piles up, your to-do list makes you want to cry, and the whining and nagging nearly send you into hysterics.  If you have family nearby, ask them for help.  That’s what family is for.  If not family, then ask a friend.  I have asked friends for help so many times when in a pinch or having a hard time.  No one minds!  We have all been there.

9.  Meditation and/or Prayer.  When I was living in Los Angeles, I was blessed to be a part of a great group of girls led by close friend and author, Kristin Ritzau.  Every week, Kristin led us through some sort of meditation or contemplative prayer in her living room.  I also attended many of Kristin’s retreats, where I was able to connect to myself and God in new ways each time.  My favorite thing has always been walking a labyrinth – I always feel God speak to me in a profound way in this prayer walk.  For other meditation tools and ways to connect with yourself and God, check out Kristin’s spiritual direction page.  I often practice one of more of these tools to center myself if I’m feeling overwhelmed with life.

10.  Realize that you’re not perfect and you’re allowed to have bad days.  It’s important for your children to see this too.  I have a friend who said she had a hard time in life when she realized everything wasn’t perfect all the time, like her parents had let on.  The disappointments of life felt overwhelming to her.  It’s ok and even healthy to model that mom does not always say the right things or handle each situation perfectly.  This modeling gives your children permission to fall apart in a safe place if need be.  As a parent, this has been a hard concept for me to grasp.  I’m a recovering perfectionist and I have to accept it’s okay to show my kids my true self, even if it isn’t always pretty.  I went through an intense 12-step recovery for perfectionists, also led by Kristin.  Her book, A Beautiful Mess, is a must-read for perfectionists who are exhausted from trying to keep it all together.

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I’m so thankful for this journey of self-care I’ve been on.  Without it, I can’t imagine where I would be.  My kids thankfully get to see my best, imperfect self on a daily basis, and I know the three of us are better off for it.