Mindfulness

Mindfulness is something we all need to practice more in our daily activities. Personally, I love living in the moment of every experience of my day. I spent too many years living in survival mode and unable to appreciate the little things that make life amazing and magical.

Now, life finds me with an amazing husband, my wonderful children and step-children, a job I enjoy and a circle of friends who are the bomb.

Living in each moment and absorbing all the magic is truly a delight.

The sound of our children’s laughter, the sparkle in their eyes, the smell of homemade pizza, a moment to cuddle, the warmth of the sun, the first notes of a sound check, quiet moments of reflection on a new hiking trail, biting into a still warm chocolate chip cookie… saturate yourself in the simplicity and magic of every moment.

Not only is this great for your psychological wellbeing, many physical health benefits have been discovered as well. Mindfulness can help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure (I can attest to this), reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.

My husband and I, from the day we met, love the simple moments of being together: story telling, cribbage playing, some local storm chasing, hikes along beautiful trails and at the end of the day, when our home has quieted, recapping our day and envisioning our tomorrow.

I would encourage us all to make more time to be mindful during our day to day activities. Far too often people are all about their work, building their business, scrolling Facebook or Pinterest and the say becomes a blur and their relationships become secondary. Personally, I set time aside to do social media or writing in order to optimize my time so I can focus on those people and moments in my life without other distractions. ❤

Live and unplugged

I spent 4 absolutely glorious and magical days on 120 acres of the most beautiful and peaceful land around.

The minute you step out of your vehicle, you can feel your blood pressure drop and those burdens your weary shoulders carry fall to the ground. This little piece of “heaven” is a short drive from my home and worth every penny of gas money.

The best part of my weekend was in the being: being present, being together, being mindful, being unplugged.

My encouragement would be for you to find somewhere or something that allows you to do the same – wherever/whatever it is, just unplug and refresh.

One of the many pieces of art that adorn the outdoors.
Every evening was spent gathered around the firepit as we laughed and shared stories together
Bird watching off the deck with a cup of tea was first on the agenda each day.
The full moon made the scenery even more spectacular
Life bursts forth
Majestic sunsets
I could never grow weary looking at this view
The main house and art studio
Le sigh

Remember who you are

Having been a mom at the tender age of 18, I have been a mom to many for more than half my life. When I was 22 years old, my, now, ex-husband brought four other children into my life. 22 years old and I was a mother to five children, and they are amazing children.

At ages 26 and 29, I had two more of my own biological children. Not even 30 years old and I was responsible for 7 human beings (2 of whom lived with their mom full time and visited us when they could).

I love being a mom. I don’t think there is anything quite so rewarding, exhausting and nerve-wracking as parenthood. It is truly an adventure with many peaks, valleys and plot twists and sometimes we get so busy and so caught up in our parenting role and in what society thinks that should be that we lose sight of who we are.

Here’s what happened along my journey. As a teen mom, my daughter and I had a great routine together. Her father and I were very young and very immature and he simply was not ready for the responsibility of being a parent. He was angry a lot, neglectful and began throwing terrible temper tantrums that caused potentially dangerous scenarios. I chose to remove myself and my daughter from that environment. He chose his own path. I do not begrudge him for his choices. I don’t understand them but that is his burden to bear.

In those years of single parenting, I still had my friends and still had a social life with them (at times some would say too much of one). My ex-husband came into my life, and, as I stated previously, I endured many years of abuse which included being unable to have any contact with my friends and very minimal contact with my family.

Soon I lost who I was…other than being a mom. My identity was allowed to be in a few certain things: the children, his church and a few hand picked people I was allowed to speak with. I had zero idea who I was and, once I found my strength and freedom from that scenario, I began a major rebuild and put myself on the path of rediscovery – using the activities I once loved as my starting point.

I read something very recently “Mother is a verb. It is something you do. Not just who you are”.

This resonated within me.

I have met so many women who lost themselves during the active years of motherhood and were completely beside themselves when their children moved on to their next stage and adventure of life.

Moms, our goal is to work ourselves out of a job not to lose ourselves in the process.

Make time to take time for yourself – whether it’s connecting with a friend/your spouse, going for a walk/yoga class/painting, or locking yourself in the bathroom with a bath bomb, a glass of wine, soft music and candlelight or getting your hands dirty digging in the garden…just do something for you, for you to enjoy… Hell, I’ve even happily gone to a movie on my own if no one was available to go with me.

Don’t lose yourself to your other relationships, friends. Our relationships should be an extension of us not a consumption of us.

Take some time in stillness to meditate and reflect on you and your needs. Motherhood (Fathers this can be directed at you as well) does not equal martyrdom.

Grief doesn’t fight fair

Coming on 25 years ago this August, I lay in a hospital bed in the maternity ward. After complications during the end of my pregnancy, I was an 18 year old girl with a new baby who had just had an emergency C-section 2 days earlier. I was still under Doctor’s orders to be on bedrest when this tall, blond lady bound into our shared room with her giant (twice as big as my petite little gal) of a baby.

We spent our time visiting and became fast friends, then best friends and eventually sisters.

We lived through a lot together…a lot.

In a few short weeks, it will be 5 years since I opened my phone and saw that her son, my nephew, had been killed. I can still recall the feeling of my blood as it seemingly drained from my body. I walked out of my office at work in shock and told my coworkers. Many arms outstretched to comfort me. I stepped back.

“Don’t touch me! If you do, I will lose my shit and I have to go tell my daughter her longest and closest friend is gone.”

I got in my car and drove to her work, thoughts ringing loudly in my head. How do I tell her that just a few short days before her wedding she lost this important and irreplaceable treasure?

Five years later it is no easier to understand, to process or to accept.

Sixteen months ago I got a call my daughter was in labor with her first child. The moment I started my car “Still Breathing” by Green Day began to play and it played the entire (short) drive to the hospital. I cried the whole trip….ugly cried.

Today I jumped in my car and a sweet little reminder of my boy was on the radio, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”…Green Day…his favorite band…

I cried, all the way home. Hard cried. Head pounding, eyes swollen, “can’t I have a nap” cried.

Losing a child in your life is hard. My nephew was not sick; this wasn’t expected. He was simply gone. His mom described it best to me; it’s like “a sudden and unexpected amputation”. It truly is and we get to spend the rest of our lives relearning to do things (even simple every day things) without that huge part that has been amputated.

Everyone’s grief looks differently; everyone’s soul “heals” on it’s own terms. Please, don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re grieving wrong (don’t confuse that with choosing an unhealthy way to grieve) or taking too long.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to wrap myself in the sounds of his favorite band and enjoy some sweet memories and I will laugh and I will cry and I may even “ooglay” cry and that’s ok.

‘Cause I’m still breathing
‘Cause I’m still breathing on my own
My head’s above the rain and roses
Making my way away
‘Cause I’m still breathing
‘Cause I’m still breathing on my own
My head’s above the rain and roses
Making my way away
My way to you” – Green Day “Still Breathing”

Taking care of busine…YOU!

Self-care is defined as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health” and “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness “.

Making it a habit to practice self-care can be challenging. We all have busy schedules (with work, school, household, familial and social obligations) and let’s not forget the guilt. The “I should-be’s” can have very loud opinions.

How we should implement self-care into our lives:

1. I suggest trying to get enough sleep. How difficult is it to try to do anything when you’re exhausted? I know when I go through my seasons of PTSD nightmares, I can hardly function, let alone feel like caring for myself.

In order to set yourself up for success in the sleep department, my personal experience shows that (at least for me) routine and organization are key. Have a bedtime routine that shifts your mind from activity to preparing for sleep modes. One of the most helpful for me was making the bedroom a sanctuary….cozy colors, cozy blankets, soft lighting. Hygge the hell out of that space. Room darkening curtains are a must and consider removing electronics from your bedroom (cell phones, televisions, etc.

2. Practice the art of saying “no”. “No” is a complete sentence. If you have no time to give yourself at least 15 min, you don’t have time to add another bake sale, Susan.

3. Eat well to feel well. Practice mindfulness during your meals, truly savoring your food. Watch which types of food make you feel gross and sluggish and which make you feel great? Water, water, water…

4. If you are able, get a pet. Studies have shown that pets, especially a dog, help reduce stress, anxiety and high blood pressure. I’ve heard that people with PTSD are now using service dogs. I know for myself, although not a service dog, my dog has been a great asset in helping to calm and relax me – even going as far as waking me up from the nightmares that harass me and the dog will not leave my side when a panic attack sets in.

5. My personal favorite, get outside. Being outside reduces fatigue, burn-out and depression. For me, it nourishes my soul, especially when I am able to get away from the city, major bonus points when I can get out to enjoy a full moon or a sunset/rise…

6. Exercise daily

7. Get organized. Organize your space, your calendar, your routines. Organization reduces stress exponentially. Schedule your self-care so you reduce your chances of bailing on yourself.

8. Make time to read.

Life has shown me that self-care is a fundamental part of what we should do. How can we pour ourselves out for our loved ones if we feel there is nothing within us to give?

So, let’s take a look at our calendars, pick a day and schedule a nice, long walk, a hot bath, a leisurely meal with friends, even just waking up 15 minutes earlier to have an uninterrupted cuppa and some time for a little deep breathing.

Step-parents, this is especially important for us all. Hell, it’s important no matter what prefix is attached to parenting.

Allowing myself to heal

I need to remember to give myself credit more. I have lived through a lot and survived. I am a work in progress….what was once broken is being stitched together – by me.

In the midst of my healing, I make mistakes – some toward myself, sometimes towards others. I hope they can be gracious with me as I occasionally do or say the wrong thing, misread intentions as I look through eyes that have witnessed far more than was welcomed, and sometimes respond in ways I likely don’t mean…

I have lots of layers of healing to process and grow through and allow myself to work through. I have to learn to control my emotions during unfavorable situations. I’m so thankful for my little family that we jive so well together, creating a beautiful sanctuary for us all to thrive in. ❤

Please be patient with me as I am learning to piece myself back together and as I grow into the person I wish to be – full of kindness, love, respect and positivity.