Tag Archives: stress

The Day After Election Day

3 Nov

Voting ClipartNext Tuesday is Election Day in the United States. Like many Americans, I am both relieved and worried. Living in Ohio, we are inundated by both candidates, and our phone is ringing hourly to tell me how horrible the candidates are. Every television break has at least one political ad and our mailbox is filled with flyer after flyer. Does anyone think that these efforts really change anything? It doesn’t for me, except to make me dislike the person who is wasting my time and flooding my home with their rhetoric. I know where to go to find out the candidates’ platform. I know who to talk to if I want the liberal or the conservative perspective. I have never been swayed by a piece of paper or phone call, but I have by a friend or family member who is more politically savvy than I am.

In the US, we have the option to vote early or absentee, and for the first time since college I would have opted for that, but I also have a first time voter in my family who wants to come home from his own college experience to vote in person at our polling place; so my husband, son and I will all go vote together. It is a right and a privilege we all take very seriously. Since I have been eligible to vote, I have only missed one day of voting because my husband was out of town, and we always vote together. I didn’t even realize it until I talked to him that night and he asked me how I voted. Unfortunately, the polls were already closed. It was mostly issues that time, but it still felt bad to have missed.

Nearly every Presidential Election year we’ve been told that it is the most important election ever, and maybe they’re right, but maybe that’s just the rhetoric we choose to believe. After all, the President doesn’t make the laws, Congress does. Does the President have influence? Absolutely, but the lawmakers of the land are the Senators and Representatives. Yes, we could debate how horrible each of the candidates is, but that isn’t the point of this post. The point of the post is that someone is going to win Tuesday night and the US will have a new commander in chief in January. Some people will be happy. Some people will be shocked, and some people will be sad and perhaps angry.
The other point is that whoever wins, that person is our president; the president of every American. You may not have voted for or even like him or her, but what if, instead of criticizing and condemning, you chose to pray for them to be wise and decent and to fulfill the office of President of the United States with dignity and grace? What if you prayed for them to surround themselves with wise and decent advisers? Not a person of faith? Send positive energy to that person instead. Send positive vibes to everyone who will support that new President. Not in this country? Pray for us to make the best choice not only for our nation, but for the entire world. Truthfully, many Americans feel we have little to no choice in this election. Many want to ask each party why they couldn’t come up with someone better, but someone who follows politics more closely than I do questioned why any decent person would want to run for President of the United States. The media will attack every word and deed and  spin bad situations in your past to make them look much worse and some outlets that call themselves news will publish rumors as if they are truth. What kind of people would want to subject themselves to that type of onslaught? In addition, you subject your family to that scrutiny as well, so unless they are also squeaky clean and have incredibly thick skins, they are targets for the media trolls too, and that’s not even including social media and the hate that can spew there. We’re one of the most G-rated family I know, and I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to deal with that.

Instead, I hope that whoever becomes President will work to heal the ugliness that has run rampant during this election. I hope that neighbors, friends and families can forgive one another. I hope that as the robo-political calls subside, we can all move forward in a kinder way. If I could, I would vote for that. Since I can’t, I will instead remind you that the book will be published very soon, and the new blog will launch sooner than that. I have no idea where it all will lead, but I plan to have lots of fun along the way. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Yes No and Maybe

20 Oct

10403387_10153084432873366_5861144938281823701_nEvery day we ask ourselves questions, and we give answers too. Some days you ask why in Heaven’s name did I do that? You answer, “Because you’re an idiot.” Some days you ask yourself if you’re stupid and you answer yes. Some days you ask if you can do anything right and you answer no. You can beat yourself up daily with the questions that you ask, and I was incredibly proficient at that when I was younger. Truth be told, I can still go down that road on occasion, especially when I’m stressed and under-slept and over-committed. Last week was definitely one of those weeks. I was feeling stressed because the book wasn’t finished. We were getting to bed late and because we were tired, we had a difficult time dragging ourselves off the couch. We had medical appointments, volunteer meetings and a little matter of making sure the family was eating every day. It seemed overwhelming and the creativity was sluggish at best. This week is different, all because of a few things we’re doing differently. This week we are more aware and making better conscious decisions.

Last week we were getting to bed late. We watched too much TV, and most of it was stuff we didn’t even like that much. We were on the screen too much avoiding the things that would make our life better because it didn’t seem like fun. I could go on, but you get the picture. This week we changed just a few things and the results have been amazing. We have turned the TV off by 9pm every night, which means we have been to bed earlier. Let me tell you something; this girl functions much better on 7 hours of sleep per night than six or six and a half.

This weekend I volunteered ten hours on Saturday and nine hours on Sunday at something called Wordcamp. It was exhausting and thrilling and scary because although I’ve been blogging for a long time, I have recently decided that blogging and writing are what I would like to do for my profession, and I have so much to learn. I can be certain that I won’t be a developer who helps people set up websites and blogs, but there is still so much technology out there to help people who write for a living and the ones who are the most successful have found programs that help them every step of the way. It was overwhelming at times, but if you are thinking about blogging or want to set up a website, I highly recommend that you attend a Wordcamp weekend. They are only $20 per day and range from one to three days. The networking alone is worth more than that.

The biggest revelation for me came on the Monday morning after Wordcamp ended. It was an exhausting weekend. The house was not in the greatest of shape. My youngest had no school and had someone coming over late morning. In days past, I would have slept poorly, probably after staying late fretting and fussing about the house and at my family, and I would have awakened stressed because of all I thought I needed to do to prepare for the day, the week and the guest. Happily, I went to bed before 10pm because I was tired and my husband was even more tired from having to work all weekend as well. I slept like a baby, slept much longer than I normally do and actually began writing this post because I thought it was important information to share.

I’m calm. I’m ready to face the day and the week. I have goals I want to accomplish, including finishing the current holiday book and beginning to transcribe an interview for another book. Years past would have brought me to my knees for days from exhaustion, which would have been amplified by complaining that I was the only one who did anything around my house and feeling like a complete martyr. This time, I’ve caught up on my sleep and made a plan to eat healthy this week to recover from eating foods this weekend that aren’t the best for me. I may or may not accomplish all I hope to accomplish, but whatever I do accomplish will be because I choose to and not only do I choose to, I want to, and that was a huge revelation to me too. In the past, I’ve done the laundry because I felt like it had to be done. I’ve cleaned the floors and picked up around the house for the same reason. It’s also probably why I’ve struggled so much with making time to write and create. It didn’t have to be done. It was extra-curricular and since I wasn’t finishing the curricular parts of my life, how could I justify doing the extra? It was an unhealthy cycle to say the least.

Now I see things differently. I want to do the laundry, clean up the house and clear the decks because I can think clearer without those tasks hanging over my head. It removes the excuses to creating and makes me feel great in the process. Does it help that I could sleep in for an hour because my son didn’t have school? Yes it did, but knowing that with a little effort and focus, I can have the house and laundry whipped into shape enough to have a guest in the clean but far from perfect house and be able to write for a few hours is priceless to me. Someone asked me what kind of blog I have this weekend, and I struggled to describe what I share. Many people assume I’m a mom blogger because I learn from being a mom, but this weekend I think I’ve figured out that my blog is very much like my life. It’s eclectic and different. It’s a mix of lifestyle and spirituality with a little adhd thrown in because that is my life. It’s about learning to become a better version of myself and forgiving myself when I fall short of my own expectations. It’s about a woman who is traveling through life and hopes to travel more through the world as she shares the journey and its wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful revelations. I attempt to be honest and fairly transparent because that is who I am as a person. I have some private struggles I choose to keep private for my sake and the sake of those involved, but in general, I’m pretty much of an open book because I don’t know any other way to be. That has gotten me into some big trouble in my life, but is it enough that I want to change that about myself? No, it isn’t. I love my life, most days, and I love the people in it, even when I occasionally don’t like them, and I hope they feel the same way about me. Is it perfect? No, it isn’t. Is it ok for it to be imperfect? Yes and because I can accept my own imperfection I can celebrate that in other too. I’m forgiving and learning that others are too. I’m doing my best and know that others are too, and I am honored to share the journey with all who read my blog, and maybe that is the best part of it all for me; that we get to do this crazy thing called life together. By the way, the book should be finished this weekend.  Stay tuned for the updated publication date and possible book signings.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day!

Embracing the Blessings

25 Aug

12049231_10206140076553761_743071400173545284_nSo last week I wrote about feeling inadequate because of my lack of first day school pictures. This past weekend, both my older boys headed back to college, and I have been on a roller coaster of emotions. My middle son moved back to school in stages which made the moving process easier. He’s close to home and we get to see him fairly often, so it isn’t as difficult leaving him. We will even be on campus this week for a local soccer club game and to watch his younger brother perform in a special football game being held at the college on Friday. We might get in a quick visit each night, especially if there is dinner involved, so, there will probably be dinner involved because this mom is not above a food bribe to get a quick visit. Sending the oldest off was a bit trickier because it was the last time. This is his last semester of college. He will probably be working out of town when he graduates. He will be getting married next year and there will be so many lasts. He laughs at me every time I cry and tells me it’s not like he won’t be back and asked me one time why I cry so much, especially over him. My answer is that every new thing that happens for him is an ending for me.

This week several friends and family members are sending their little ones off to preschool and kindergarten for the first time. There is so much nervousness, and I understand. My son was less than six months from starting full time school when Columbine happened. Up until then, we all thought that school was a safe place for our children; now we had doubts. My son was in first grade on 9/11 as I watched the twin towers fall and knew our lives would never be the same, and they aren’t. I thought about homeschooling my children because of those incidents, but I realized that was fear talking, my fear and my erroneous thoughts that I could somehow protect them from the world. Please understand that I know many people homeschool successfully, and I admire them greatly. This just means that my reasons would have been based in fear, and when I realized that, I knew it would be an unhealthy decision for us.

I remember dropping my oldest off for kindergarten like it was yesterday. He was so very excited, and I was so nervous. His classroom had a door directly to the outside, so the teacher met him at the door and told my son to say goodbye to us. He did and disappeared into the building. We had walked to school, and I made it all the way down the block before I burst into tears. My husband laughed at me and said, “You made it through the hard stuff. Why are you crying now?” I laughed and told him to shut up and give me my moment, and that was all it was, a moment. You see, I didn’t have the words for it back then and just saying that I was sad because my little guy was growing up seemed inadequate. I was excited for him because he was excited and ready for school. I was thrilled for him to blossom like I knew he would as he was challenged to learn more and more. I was amazed at how easily he seemed to manage, a trait I have admired in him over and over as he has grown into a very responsible young man. What I couldn’t grasp back then was how I could be so incredibly proud of him, how I could love him so much and how I could hurt so badly at the same time, but I believe now that it was the fear of change and more specifically the fear of the unknown.

When people move onto a new adventure, we can go along for the ride or we can resist what’s happening. When we can see the benefit for ourselves, it’s easier to let go. When seeing the benefit to us is clouded by what we think we are losing, we suffer. For me, the resistance seems to happen with firsts. I didn’t cry when my second and third children went to preschool or kindergarten for the first time because I knew from the first one that we would all be just fine. The same thing happened with my second book. I felt so much less fear because I knew that whatever happened, I would be fine, and I was. Now that I’m writing my third book, it feels like sending my third child off to school. We do the steps to get ready and we launch; easy peasy. So why did sending my oldest child off to college for the last time set me off? Like when he was in kindergarten, I have no idea what to expect next. He’ll be married by this time next year. He won’t be coming home for breaks and spending time with us like he has before. Our lives will change, and I don’t know if I’ll like the new arrangement. I’m afraid I’ll lose him, and there is the biggie. I’m afraid that the little boy who ran headlong into the preschool room and had to be begged for a hug goodbye, the boy who happily disappeared into the kindergarten classroom, and the boy who couldn’t wait to drive, travel to Europe and go away to college might not come back. I’m afraid that this piece of my heart will fly away and never return, and I have no idea how I would deal with that. It’s a feeling I don’t want to think about, but it’s one that I need to make peace with because when I do, the feeling will subside. Once, when this very brave young man was very small, he was afraid of thunderstorms. I asked him what the worst of the storm could be, and he replied that he could die. We practice a Christian faith, and I asked him what would happen if he died, and he said he would go to Heaven. I then reminded him that as Christians that is the ultimate thing we aspire to, so the worst thing that could happen to him was actually the best thing that could happen to him. He thought about that for a moment, and I could see the stress leaving his body and mind as he relaxed at the thought of going to Heaven. Then he looked at me and said very matter of factly, “but I still don’t want to die.” I laughed and told him I didn’t either but that when we make peace with the worst that can happen, we can move through the fear and he’s been doing that ever since.

Lately, that lesson seems to be coming back to me on a different level. You see, I am very blessed. If you read my blog regularly, you know I also have challenges, but I realized recently that I feel that I have to qualify my blessings with my challenges. It’s like I have this accounting system in my head that needs to balance the good with the bad, so others won’t feel bad about my good. I know I am privileged. I know I am lucky. I am also learning to stop being ashamed of any of that because someone else doesn’t have it. Instead, I intend to use my gifts and my privilege and my luck to make the world a better place in every way that I can because as lucky and privileged as I am, I work hard to make a good life better. I do my best to live with purpose and on purpose. Yes, I understand that not everyone has the ability to do that, but I also understand that many do and choose to blame others rather than take responsibility for their own lives and choices. I know children of World War II survivors whose parents came here with nothing. They taught their families to work hard and save well and now they are very well off financially and people call them lucky and privileged. I know immigrants from Asia that came here with nothing more than a skill to sew or cook and have made a very comfortable life. Many have sponsored others to come here, not expecting repayment, to allow others to live a better life. I know a family who lived in slavery in this country for years until they risked their lives to get free and now live a comfortable life and do what they can to help others. All of them know of others who were not as lucky as they were and are. None of them is ashamed of what they have, but they are grateful, and they inspire me constantly to be a better person. They also remind me that although I may shed a tear or two as my son goes off to college for his final semester, watching him drive away is a privilege, a blessing and a moment to savor. The difference isn’t that he is 22 rather than 3 or 5. The difference is how I choose to look at it, and that is a beautiful thing. I wish you all your very own beautiful things and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

An Inadequate Mom

18 Aug

There is nothing like the first day of the school year to make you feel inadequate. I see pictures of everyone’s children as they wait for the bus or car pools or are ready to drive off to their first day, and as much as I love them, they make my heart hurt because I have never been that mom. Not once have I ever been prepared enough to have my boys line up and give me their best smile as they head into a new year. We have had a special breakfast here and there. We’ve occasionally had our lunches pre-packed. We’ve had years when I’ve not been hurrying them out of the house so we can beat the rush of the drop off line, but never have we been so ready that we have taken pictures, and sometimes it makes me feel like an inadequate mom.

The first day of school is also when I realize we didn’t have the summer I hoped for. We didn’t have fun every day. We didn’t engage as much as I would have liked. We didn’t travel together like we love to do, and that makes me sad. On the other hand, my oldest son will finish college after this semester without any college loans and my middle will have finished a year and a half without debt as well. My youngest had his best year so far in school last year, which gives me hope for this year. We’re planning a wedding for my oldest and not only do I love his fiancée, but I also love her family. I also happen to like my other sons’ girlfriends as well, and nothing makes me happier than having them all in my home, laughing and having fun. I wish it would happen more often, but I’ll take what I can get. This week, they all go back to school except my oldest son’s fiancée. She is working full time and is also helping me with my next book about the holidays, which I hope to have published in about 45 days. Will we make it? I don’t know, but I’m giving it my best. I am so proud of these young people, and I feel privileged to be part of their journeys. Do they make me crazy sometimes? Of course they do, but all in all, they are an amazing blessing, and I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of them, and maybe that’s why the first day of school is so difficult; I’m going to miss them so much.

The funny part about school starting back up is that I’m so much more productive. When I sat down to write this post at 10am, I had finished my housework for the day, decluttered some paperwork, figured out how to fix my fitbit because it wouldn’t talk to my account, and I had taken a shower. It has been months since I’ve been that productive and part of me loves that. That part of me realizes how good routines can be for me and how much easier it will be to finish the book now that everyone is getting back to their school routine, even if I’ll miss them while they’re gone. That part of me feels like a ninja mom for having my dishwasher unloaded, laundry done and home tidied up before 10am. That part of me feels renewed and ready to tackle the day and all of the unfinished projects, especially the book that will make way for bigger and better things. The other part of me that adores my children and is so very aware of the precious little time I have with them as “mine” is mourning the end of this less than perfect summer and the opportunities we may have missed to be together, to travel and to savor every moment. Some days I think I’m going crazy being so happy and so sad at the same time, but as I talk to other parents, especially moms, I know that so many feel the same. I’ve never wished that my children would stop growing because I lost one that will never grow up and gave birth to one that needs medical intervention to grow. I’ve found joy in every age, although I admit age 3 and ages 9-11 with each of my boys was more than I thought I could handle some days. I love who my boys are, most days, and feel honored to be their mom, but that doesn’t mean that all the days are easy. In fact, some days still take every ounce of maturity I have not to have a complete meltdown, and occasionally I fail. I was on my way there this morning when the fitbit wouldn’t work, we forgot to start the dishwasher last night, I didn’t feel prepared this morning, and I felt like I had fallen short as a mom this summer. As I was putting the load of laundry in the washer this morning, I could feel the downward spiral coming; that spiral that would mean nothing would get done and I would spend the day on the couch feeling upset and depressed and like a failure, and I stopped. I closed my eyes. I took a few deep breaths, and I called on the Divine to help me and then chuckled over what I probably looked like, worshipping at the altar of the washer. I walked upstairs and apologized to my husband and admitted I was feeling inadequate as a mother and a human being. He assured me I wasn’t, and the tide began to turn. I helped my youngest get out the door on time. I silently thanked my husband, who was waiting in the car, for driving our son to school so I didn’t have to. I silently prayed that this would be a great year for my son, for me and the rest of our family, and I dove into the day with much more gratitude. I know this year won’t be perfect, but that really isn’t the point. The point is that while I am amazed that some moms are able to get first day pictures of their kids, some do not. Some moms do other things like make a great breakfast, write letters to their kids or maybe just thank the Divine that they got their kids out the door with clothes and shoes on. Some moms are also teachers, and I cannot imagine what the first day is like for them. I’m betting that even those moms with the great first day pictures feel inadequate some days because none of us is on point every day. So, today I tip my hat to those who do the first day of school well and offer a virtual hug to those who find themselves feeling inadequate. We’re all in this together and doing our best, whatever our best may be. Wishing you all a happy school year, rest of the year or whatever kind of happy you need. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

Not What I Intended

4 Dec

To listen along, click here: http://tobtr.com/s/8116615
Tis the season to feel overwhelm and as much as I love this season, I am not immune to the overwhelm myself. It used to be just the gift buying and keeping up with the activity that challenged me. Now that I have grown to a place of financial comfort, I have a new challenge. I find myself questioning what is appropriate to give to my family and what is my obligation to my community and the world at large? We live in an incredibly affluent area where the median income is over $100,000. Living in an area like that can tend to give you a skewed view of the world, especially when your children have friends who are making three and four times what you make. They can see themselves as deprived when you know differently. Life can become a constant reminder of what you lack instead of the amazing privileges you have. Adding to that is having many wealthy friends of color, so understanding the nature of the world can be a challenge. We do know others, however, that have much more challenging lives, which keeps things in perspective most of the time.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I got a huge wake-up call earlier this year when I read an article about a local school in which every child lived under the poverty line. Most shared a toothbrush and only owned one pair of underwear. Some had never had a bed and others lived without even a single pair of socks. This is only ten miles from my home and I was completely unaware. In that same article, I found out that my city has the second highest percentage of children living in poverty next to Detroit Michigan. That article changed me. That article made me understand for the first time in my life that poverty for children has nothing to do with choice. It made me understand that sometimes school is the safest place for a child and the only place they feel love. It made me also realize that I live in an unbelievably giving city that overwhelmed the school with its generosity. They had hoped that people would reach out to their school and help the families. They were unprepared for the 19 beds, the mountains of underwear and socks and the incredible amount of money that was donated. They were unprepared for the meal and treat donations and the pledges from civic groups to make sure that when school started this year that every child would have all the supplies they needed. The city responded and life is better for those children, but there is so much more to do. Other children live in poverty. People are homeless. As much as I want my children to have an amazing holiday season, this tugs at my soul, so I’ve decided to compromise.

I still want to provide my family with a Christmas to remember, and I will. We will have presents and meals and family time galore, but when I make a treat tray for the schools, like I do every year, I’ll make extras to share with the homeless I see on our travels through the city. I know it isn’t enough, but I also know it makes a difference to look them in the eye and see them and let them know someone is thinking about them. I’ll still make my Christmas Prep list, which I’ll share on the Better Living Daily Facebook page, but when you look at that file, you’ll see that every week includes the list item to make time for peace. Isn’t it interesting that the season of peace is sometimes the season we seem to lose our ability to find that peaceful place? Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years. Everything we do is a choice. We may not always like the choices, but in every situation, we choose to react or respond. Understanding that changed my life because I no longer feel obligated to do anything. I do it because I choose to. I send Christmas cards because I love getting them. I sometimes send them after Christmas because life gets too hectic, and I would rather take my time or add holiday pictures. I’ve been known to send a Happy New Year card instead just because it’s easier. I have figured out that the holidays are much happier when I pay for them in advance rather than after the fact. Learning to put aside a little money each month makes the holidays much less stressful. Here’s a hint. Start now for next year. If you get a year-end bonus, put at least part of it in a savings account that you don’t touch until November of next year. Adding even ten dollars a month will give you over $100 additional in the account. Do you get a tax refund? Put at least 10% of it into the holiday account. As the account grows, so will your excitement for the season. This is truly one of the greatest gifts we have given ourselves these past few years. Think carefully about what you want this season to be. Do you want it to be fun and social? Do you want it to be quiet and peaceful? Choose your actions accordingly. I happen to be someone who loves a fun and festive holiday season. My philosophy is the more the merrier and there’s always room for one more. I know others who are looking for a more quiet, peaceful season and are choosing differently. Each choice is valid and will be what brings each of us joy, and isn’t that the point?

You know, when I think about what to write and talk about each week, I rarely have a definitive subject in mind until I sit down at the keyboard. Most of the time, I don’t even feel like the author of what I write which may be why I have such an aversion to editing. The words come from getting out of my own way and letting the muse, the Divine or whatever you want to call it take over. Sometimes I get humor. Sometimes I get serious subjects, but I always end up getting some perspective I never really thought about before. Life can be that way when you are open to the Divine leading your life rather than trying to wrestle it to the ground yourself. I feel like I actually have a much better life because instead of wanting things to happen in a certain way, I focus more on how I want to feel and be in this world. I ask myself what I want, not in terms of how everything should play out, but in how I want to feel. At night, I always want to feel peaceful and loving as I drift off to sleep. I bless all those I love and all those who need and want love and ask for protection for all. When I wake, I am grateful for another day and ask to fulfill my Divine purpose in the best way possible. It doesn’t always mean a perfect day. In fact, it rarely means a perfect day, but it puts my mind and spirit on a path to make it an extraordinary day regardless of what happens because I am focused on doing my best and doing my best will be the focus for the next few weeks as we head into Christmas and the new year.

Speaking of Christmas, I want to let you in on a little secret. I live in a part of the world that is politically correct in their speech and diverse in their religion and ethnic background. Never once has anyone ever been offended by my wishing them a Merry Christmas or even by my giving them a Christmas present, and I have done both. I am not offended that all of my children learned to play the dreidel game and sing the dreidel song. I am not offended that my children have witnessed their Muslim friends sit through lunch or even play soccer during Ramadan and refuse even a sip of water or morsel of food. I am not offended that my children know what Diwali is and when it is celebrated. I’m not even offended that some of my children’s friends not only don’t believe in my God or my traditions, but are critical of them. From our Jewish friends, our children have learned about persecution, practical faith and giving. From our Muslim friends, our children have learned about commitment, perseverance and devotion. From our Hindu friends, our children have learned dedication, hard work and always doing your best. From out atheist friends, our children have learned critical thinking and to question why we believe as we do. Hopefully, the friends of my children have learned acceptance and love from my children. I have often said that the world could learn a few lessons from the children of our school district, and it is my hope and prayer that as my children go into this world as adults that they share their understanding and promote peace wherever they go.

So here we are again, somewhere I did not intend to go, but went anyway. I hope you got a nugget of perspective and perhaps a nugget of hope. I believe in perspective. I believe in love, and I believe when we stop being angry with each other and blaming each other, we will finally be able to walk in peace. I love you all more than you know, and I wish you the best holiday season you’ve ever had. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Searching for Holiday Happiness

5 Nov

To listen along click here: http://tobtr.com/s/8051113

I know talking about the holidays makes some people’s skin crawl. So many are dreading what’s to come, but they are coming whether we want them to or not. Thanksgiving in the US is a mere three weeks away. There will be challenges. We will all have them. Some easily rise to the challenge. Some whine through the challenge and some run from it. The irony is that if we whine or run from the challenge, nothing changes. We will be faced with the same type of challenge over and over until we figure it out. Have you ever noticed that? I think that is especially true during the holidays. We have this idea of the perfect holiday season, and then we look at our finances, our home or our relationships and realize the perfection we imagine might be beyond our reach, and that sends us spiraling downward. None of us is without challenge, but how we approach the challenge can be the difference between a holiday season of peace and joy and one of stress and angst.

Let me start by saying that I am a failure; at least I could look at it that way. Last month, I joined a creativity bootcamp with the idea of finishing and publishing a book about getting through the holidays. It was going to be a step by step guide to help those who need it. This is the second time I attempted to write this book, and I failed to finish it. Am I a failure? I’m sure some would say yes, but in truth, the vision for the book got bigger, so it has been postponed again. I actually have several ideas for books rolling around in my head and on several pieces of paper. I also have ideas for webinars, speaking engagements and future radio shows. Very often it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day because “real life” gets in the way, but real life is what I’ve chosen for now. I made a commitment to being a mom and with ADHD to deal with in my son and myself, some days it’s all I can handle, so for now, the book is on hold; perhaps next year.

If we’re willing to look, the greatest gifts, though, from the challenges we face show up as compassion and gratitude later on. We can look at what we’ve faced and then look at others in moments of challenge with grace. That doesn’t mean you have to dive down in the suffering and be at one with it. I would even suggest that commiserating with someone’s challenge only helps to keep them there. It provides no solution. Unfortunately, many would rather wallow in the challenge than look for the solution. They don’t want help. They want to justify their suffering. They aren’t ready to move on from their suffering to be joyful, and I think that’s sad, because when you focus on the suffering, you keep away the joy. That is the personification of misery loving company. I have felt the blues during the holidays. I have looked into the abyss, but I have learned from it. I have learned that I never want to pull anyone into that abyss with me but retreating can often make the spiral go deeper and longer than ever. We continue to ask what’s wrong with me. We tell ourselves that we should be grateful, but we focus on the problem when the most important question to ask is what you can do to get out of the dark place. The holiday blues are not inevitable or maybe they are, but they can be a short stop on the journey instead of somewhere you unpack and roll around in the muck. You can rise above them to have an incredible holiday season. In hopes of helping those who would like it, I have created a list of ten things to improve your mood before you slide into the abyss this holiday season. There are many more, but this is definitely a start:

1. Take care of yourself. Take a shower. Dress in nice clothes even if you have nowhere to go. Paint your nails or put on makeup if that helps you feel better. Eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. These are simple things that can start to bring you out of a funk.

2. Meditate. It has been said that when you pray, you speak to the Divine. When you meditate, the Divine speaks to you. If you’re new to meditation, I would suggest finding a guided meditation on YouTube. Meditation changed my life and it can change yours too.

3. Breathe and become aware of your body. As you breathe, consciously relax your forehead, your shoulders, your spine and your stomach. Releasing tension like this is incredibly calming and can help you slide right into the meditation experience mentioned above.

4. Listen to music that brings you joy. If you’re not sure what that music is, think of movies you like and look for the soundtrack. It can be especially fun if the movies are from your childhood.

5. Do something for someone else. Rake your neighbor’s leaves when they’re at work. Bake cupcakes for the neighborhood kids. Put $20 in an envelope and anonymously drop it into a needy family’s mailbox. Make soup for a sick friend. Don’t have a sick friend? Make soup and freeze if for when you have a sick friend. Send a gift card to someone who needs a pick me up. Write a thank you note to someone who positively affected your life. I could do an entire blog post just on random acts of kindness, and I assure you, when you do a kindness for someone who cannot pay you back, you receive as much as you give.

6. Open yourself to receiving. In our culture, we have this idea that we must give more than we receive, and it is wearing us out and killing us. We have this saying that it is better to give than to receive, but if we aren’t willing to receive, how can anyone give? Think of it this way, why are you the only person that should be allowed into Heaven? If you don’t give others the opportunity to give, you keep them from becoming their best selves. Nothing is sadder to me than a person who says they don’t want to burden their friends with their problems. What the heck are friends for? They are there to lift you out of the muck and to deny them that hurts both of you. Stop it! Be willing to be vulnerable and sad and frustrated so others know they are not alone and so both of you can find out that people care. They really, really care. This concept changed so much for me. Start with a compliment. The next time someone compliments you resist the urge to negate the compliment. If someone compliments you on how you look, thank them and tell them how nice it is of them to say. Leave it at that or repay the compliment with one of your own. If someone compliments your talent, say thank you and tell them you’re glad they enjoyed it. Don’t talk about all of the flaws or mistakes you see. Let that person help you be joyful and inspire you to be grateful for the compliment. People like to make others feel good. Let them!

7. Indulge in a healthy guilty pleasure. Love popcorn? Pop some. Love sappy, chick flicks? Watch one. Love being creative? Paint, write, create. Give yourself a short time out to do something that brings you joy. Some days you may have to do several little things. Some days it may be one big thing, but find joy in every day. If you are a parent of young children, watch them sleep for two minutes. Listen to them breathe. When my boys were little, nothing brought me more joy than rocking my children to sleep at night because I was given the gift of watching them drift off to wherever boys go to dream, of listening to their peaceful breathing and of just holding that moment of peace. If you’re children are away at college like mine, you can go sit in their room and remember the best of times with them. If you don’t have children, pull out an old photo album and look through your own wonderful memories. The possibilities of finding precious moments in your past are endless.

8. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This quote by Gandhi has been running through my mind for the past several months, and I think it is magical. If you want the world to be a kinder place, be a kinder person and guess what? The world is a kinder place because of you. If you want the world to be filled with love, be a more loving person, and you have made your own wish come true. I think this goes hand in hand with treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated, and the best part is that you don’t need anyone else to change to make you happy because you are being the change instead. Right now, I want more love, peace and kindness in the world, which is plenty to keep me busy for now.

9. Stop being offended and stop taking things personally. This is one I am still working on. Yesterday someone wrote something on Facebook that offended me. Imagine that. It was a response to something I said, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a veiled insult to the kind of person I am. You see, I am generally a happy, go lucky person. I believe that there is more good in this world than bad. I believe in the intrinsic goodness of human beings. I believe we are born filled with love and must be taught and conditioned to be fearful and filled with hate. When you believe that and let people know it, they have some interesting responses. The first and most insulting is that I am stupid and uninformed. The other thing people seem to think about me because I am positive and happy is that I have no problems. Honestly, this is where I started today’s post/ radio show idea, and why I decided to write this list.

10. Live differently. If you don’t like your life, change it or change you. What if you or a family member had a very real chance of not making it through the day? Would you continue to act the way you do or think the way you do? If not, be the person you would be if you knew your time was limited because guess what? It is. Put the petty crap aside and get to living and loving better. You will still have issues but your molehills of cluttered garages, toast crumbs in the butter and piles of laundry stay molehills instead of blowing up into huge, stupid mountains. It’s interesting to think that your mountains might be someone else’s molehills. Are your mountains really mountains? I remember holiday seasons when I barely had enough money to buy gifts for my children. They may have been the most creative times I ever had finding gifts that would bring them joy and keep our family afloat financially. Perhaps the greatest thing I ever heard was that Jesus only got three gifts, why do your children need any more than that? A sobering thought indeed. Take the focus off of what you think you need to do and put the focus on who you want to be and the way you want the season to feel. You will approach everything differently. You will clean up your home to have a peaceful space. You will buy gifts to bless others instead of just checking names off of a list. I hope it will help you find peace, joy, love and grace every day of this season. Will there still be issues? Of course. Will people still get under your skin? Probably, but it isn’t about them. It’s about you having your best season ever. That’s what I wish for you not only for the next eight weeks, but for the rest of your life.
Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Rising above October

22 Oct

To listen along, click here: http://tobtr.com/s/8017081

Some weeks I struggle with writing my blog and coming up with ideas for my radio show. Some weeks I have an overload of subjects to talk about. Some weeks, I search and search for a topic and once I find one, I can barely hold back the flood of ideas that finally come. This week was such a week. I did not know until this morning what to talk about on the radio show, but once I did, my fingers couldn’t write down the ideas fast enough. Ironically, as I put my fingers to the keyboard to write up my notes to post on the blog page, I still wasn’t sure where the muse would lead me, but I have learned to trust the Divine to send me exactly where I need to be and that is where today’s subject begins.

This week I’ve been thinking about momentum, so that’s where I thought I should start. I lost some writing and holiday prep momentum last weekend. It was a fantastic weekend, and I truly enjoyed myself, but the writing slowed and so did the holiday prep. Unfortunately, that slow down seeped into Monday and even Tuesday I found myself not wanting to do anything, but I know I have a deadline for publication. I know I have a deadline for holiday prep, so I dragged myself into the day on Tuesday, and once I got rolling, I was so excited with the progress I made on my home, my holiday planning and the book. When Wednesday rolled around, I truly wanted to build on the success of Tuesday, and I did really well around the house, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to write. I put it off and procrastinated until well into the evening. It would have been so easy to let it slide until Thursday, but Thursday is radio show day and writing is a bit of a challenge because of the radio show notes and posting the blog post. It takes about the same amount of time I schedule each day for writing, so if I find it challenging to make writing a priority on easy days, you can imagine how difficult it can be on busier days, and with less than ten days left to finish, any day without writing puts me one step closer to missing out on publishing at all. So, I dug in and spent an hour working on the book. I didn’t write thousands of words, but I made progress, and that is how I came to today’s radio show.

I’ve had two amazingly productive days in a row. In October, that is nearly a miracle for me because this is traditionally a time of struggle for me. I don’t like September and October most years for several reasons. September and October are traditionally the times when money is the tightest for us. Our additional income stops and school expenses skyrocket. The weather gets colder and for this spring and summer loving girl, that is usually a challenge. I am often whiny and fussy and generally miserable to be around. I can’t stand me, and it amazes me sometimes how my family puts up with my October attitude, but I truly wanted this year to be different, and it’s amazing how the Divine will give you just what you ask for, if you ask for it with intention and specificity. This year I wrote down several things I wanted. I set a specific weight loss goal, but I made sure to write down that I wanted it to be in a healthy way, and I wanted to enjoy the process. Guess what? I started using my Fitbit app and I’m having a great time with it. I’m not pushing myself to be miserable. I’m focused on enjoying the process and it’s working. I also wrote down that I want our home to be clean, clutter free and holiday ready by the end of the countdown I am doing on the Better Living Daily page. I want to enjoy the holiday season while I get my home, body and creativity in their best shape ever, but I also want to laugh and smile daily and delight in the process of doing that, and it is happening.

I’ve talked before about Tony Robbins’ four step process to set and achieve goals, and those are the goals I have. The second step is to take action. I am writing even on day’s I don’t really feel like it. I’m keeping up with my Fitbit App. I’ve joined a Creativity Bootcamp. I have daily routines and know that decluttering needs to be a part of the plan. The brilliance in the four step plan, in my opinion, though, is step 3 that tells you to notice what is working and what needs to change. Some days you figure out little things. I’ve been eating low carb for a while because I feel better when I do. Since I was tracking calories, one day I decided to have a few potatoes with lunch and some pasta with dinner. I rarely eat either of those things anymore and cannot remember the last time before that day that I had eaten them in the same day. I still stayed under my suggested calorie intake. I got enough sleep and drank plenty of water. By the numbers, I did everything right, but I gained a pound, and I felt like garbage the next day. I realized that eating lower carb was still the right direction for me, and since then, I have seen more success. I also wasn’t seeing the success I was hoping for around my house and realized my decluttering was sporadic at best, so I’ve become more consistent with that on a daily basis and it’s amazing how quickly the house has come into alignment. I’ve even been more consistent on a huge project I take on every year with our marching band. Each year we have something called Tag Day where the band members go into the community and collect donations. Residents know the students will be coming and can recognize them by the band shirts that they wear. The band provides t-shirts to the younger members who don’t have the standard band polo shirt so everyone is wearing something uniquely band themed, and every year, I volunteer to wash, dry and fold the 150-200 t-shirts they use. It generally takes me 6-8 weeks to do, but this year it seems like less of a burden because I am folding between five and seven shirts daily. It keeps the process going and keeps the crabbiness away as well, which brings me to step four, which is to be flexible and keep changing until you find the best approach and results for you. This is big. It’s huge if you think about it.

The whole idea behind these steps is to strive for constant improvement, and I believe each of us can do that, no matter what our circumstances, and if you think you’re circumstances are tough, let me share this with you. Tough is having watched your child struggle for a month to regain her fragile health after open heart surgery for the second time in her less than two year life. Tough is jumping on a boat that may or may not make it to a place that is safer than the one you are living in. Tougher still is risking your children’s lives to make that journey as well because where they live now is such a dangerous place to be. Perhaps the toughest of all is to live through that journey only to be relegated to a camp with a tent for shelter, no running water, less than adequate sewage facilities for human waste and people who are not happy to have you in their country. You can read about the journeys of the Syrian refugees on the Humans of New York Facebook page, and if reading those stories don’t make you realized how very blessed you are on the deepest of levels, may God have mercy on your soul. I don’t share any of this to make you feel guilty or ashamed; please understand that. There is too much of that in the world. Everyone is offended these days and feel it is their right to judge others, and frankly I’m sick of it. You know, I’m reminded of a line from the Broadway show Auntie Mame: “Life is a banquet and most damned fools are starving to death.” Yes, some days are less than stellar, but I would be willing to bet that for most people, their worst day is better than someone who is living in a refugee camp. I know it is for me because I have running water, two working toilets, more food than in my home than some families will eat in a month. Again, this isn’t about guilt and shame. It is about gratitude for the incredible blessings you have. Perhaps the extra weight I carry is a blessing because while losing it, I have been hungry for the first time in a long time. I’ve allowed myself to feel what hungry really is, knowing I can change it at any time but understanding that many can’t. That is a revelation indeed.

I know now that I used to have mild depression during October and November. I have learned to increase my Vitamin D, get adequate rest, eat healthier and focus on gratitude to keep the depression at bay, but I learned something else. I learned that depression is a selfish, hateful brat. Depression only wants you to think about yourself and your poor, pitiful life. Depression tells you that your house would be clean if only your kids would pick up after themselves. Depression tells you that your husband doesn’t care about you and only thinks of himself. Depression tells that someone else’s success is ill gotten and your only friend is someone who suffers with you and will get sucked into the abyss with you. This is how selfish depression is, and it’s very difficult to save someone who insists on being depressed. I understand that some need medication. I understand that some need counseling, and I am the greatest advocate of people having those things and not having to hide it in any way, but I am a huge proponent of solutions, and the first solution is to take care of yourself. Whether it is mild or deep depression, taking care of yourself, however pointless it seems, is a step in the right direction. Honestly, whenever you’re feeling off balance, I think good self-care is the first step back. I used to think it was selfish to pamper yourself and I still know some who take it too far, but I’ve also realized that you truly do have to fill your own cup before you can pour yourself into anyone else’s. The other thing is to start thinking of others and though that might sound like the opposite of what I just said, I would suggest that you think about how you can build yourself up by building up someone else, especially someone less fortunate than yourself. I used to try to do random acts of kindness for people I knew and you know what? It back fired. So many weren’t happy or grateful for what I did for them, and I didn’t feel good about it. Now I do things for people who I may never see again and who cannot repay me. I donate small amounts to worthy causes. I make homeless bags by filling a one gallon Ziploc with a bottle of water, a snack, a piece of candy and some tissues to give to homeless folks at corners. Every time I have had occasion to give one away, I have driven away as blessed at the person I have given the bag to. I pray for people and write notes to them when they are on my mind to let them know I’m thinking about them. Those things put my life into perspective because it makes me look at those who have needs that I can help fulfill. They connect me to my higher purpose and they help me realize that the blessing of being able to write and publish a book is much more important than the fear of whether anyone will buy it. Those things make me look at everything, including my pile of laundry, my messy kitchen table, the number on the scale and my yard full of leaves and know that each of them is a gift beyond measure and a challenge many would love to have. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

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