self-care

Switch Off Sundays

Switch Off Sundays is a phrase I first heard from Leonie Dawson and it resonated with me.  A day free of social media, emails, and other technology.  A day to connect to what truly matters.  Our society used to and some religions still observe a sabbath.  A sabbatical to connect to myself.  Tune out to turn in with the intent to be present for my family and free from distraction as possible.

I know childhood is so temporary.  Children seem to be in a rush to do what big kids do.  I don’t want to miss out on my kids’ childhood for a second.  Social media and emails do not have priority over my real day-to-day life.  I am responsible for their childhood memories.  It’s a daunting task, and one I take seriously.  And the best and easiest thing I can do is ditch the technology for one day.  I know the emails will still be in my inbox come Monday morning.  And I delete more than half of them most days anyhow.

Instead of deleting emails or catching up with a latest post, I will talk to my family.  I marvel at what new words my 17-month old has discovered.  She loves books and has us read the same story over and over.  She can touch her knees and toes when I sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”  She’s learning about her face and can say “Eye” so clearly when she pokes her stuffed kitty cat’s eye.

I can take in my five-year old’s enthusiasm as she explains with energy and her whole being about an activity she’s done or looking forward to doing.  She has a zest for life.  She shares with joy in all of our family’s experiences.  Last week after a doctor’s appointment, I took her out and I said, “I love our together time, just you and me.”  And she said, “You know what I call it when it’s just me and daddy together time?  Love.”

My 13-year old stepdaughter has the most insightful conversations.  Her vocabulary and maturity leave me in awe.  And I can chat with my husband.  I love our long, uninterrupted talks about life, our home, and our future goals.  This is my real life.  I choose to focus on today.

My five-year old calls weekends “Home Days.”  And I couldn’t agree more.

self-care

We are all the same

I always seem to be carrying something in my right hand: a child, a totebag, my umbrella, my wheeled case for work.  You name it.  Yesterday I was walking back to the parking garage.  It was a very hot and humid day.  A scorcher.  Bright sun was beating down on my head with no breeze as a reprieve.  I was carrying my lunch bag in my left hand and pulling my wheeled case with my right.  I stopped and shifted.  I put my lunch bag onto my case, which freed up my left hand.

As I started to walk, my left arm naturally swayed forward and back as I took my steps. I noticed the young man in front of me.  His left hand was tucked in, close to his torso.  But his right arm was swinging, just like mine.  I looked ahead.  There was a woman walking towards me.  Her left arm also moved in a similar pattern.  Our paths crossed with our left arms silently swinging by.  The same.  Then I noticed a young child walking to keep up with his mother.  His little arm had a small sway too.

A deep feeling of connection swelled up inside of me. As human beings, we tend to walk upright.  Although we have our own unique gait, we have so much in common too.  We all have to eat food and drink water.  We all bleed when we get a cut.  Our bodies repair after an injury.  We all have the capacity for love, and we can all feel pain and suffering.

I felt powerful. The notion of what separates and categorizes us melted.  Imagine what we could accomplish if we worked together instead of focusing on what divides us?  I believe if we can take a moment to step out of our daily dramas and just notice our surroundings, real peace is possible.  If we can find peace within ourselves, we will find world peace.

self-care

When liquid gold isn’t so golden

My 16-month old toddler has a soy allergy. As a vegan, soy was always a big part of my diet.  I’d have soymilk in my daily coffee, in cold cereal, in my smoothies, and in any recipe that called for milk.  I’ve been fortunate to successfully breastfeed my baby for well over a year.  But that soy I was eating was in my breastmilk.

The baby always seemed to have a rash on her face. She’d rub her chin fiercely on her crib sheets and against my shoulder.  She always seemed to be teething.  She also had eczema behind her knees, behind her elbows, ankles, wrist, and sometimes even her armpits.  Even her older sister gets eczema.  I attributed the rash to her fair skin, teething, and genetics.

At her 12-month checkup, they had to draw blood to check for lead paint. My husband and I asked if they could do an allergy test too, since they were already pricking her with a needle.  The test results showed a mild to moderate allergy to soy.  It also showed very low levels to oat, wheat, and peanut.

But it all came down to the soy. Since I was still nursing, I eliminated soy completely from my diet.  I found a creamy almond milk I loved (Califa) and started to read labels even more closely.  We met with an allergist who said she could eat products with soybean oil or soy lecithin (which appears to be in everything).  My toddler’s face cleared up.  She was no longer rubbing and scratching her chin.  When I stopped pumping, I replaced the breastmilk with fortified coconut milk for her at daycare.

Last week, she needed more coconut milk at school. I still had frozen breastmilk in our freezer, so I sent that to school instead.  Well, by the end of the school day, she had her rash back.  She rubbed her chin so hard that it was bleeding.  And she had small hives on her back.  The breastmilk I sent to school was from before we knew about her allergy when I was regularly consuming soy.

Breastmilk has been described as “liquid gold.” And I’ve spent quite a substantial amount of time pumping and saving breastmilk for my baby. I had a vested interest in using it.  But after her latest allergic reaction, it is inevitable.  All my frozen breastmilk has to be tossed.

Now I can be upset or sad at all that wasted time and effort I took in pumping and saving the breastmilk. But I’ve decided to make peace with my decision to get rid of it.  It’s not worth keeping and using if it’s going to hurt my toddler.  And I forgive myself for feeding her food that she was allergic to.  I didn’t know she had the allergy at the time.  So I’m not going to carry around resentment or guilt.  I was doing what I felt was best for her at that moment.

Is there something you’ve made peace with that you want to share? I’d love to hear your comments below.

self-care

When a comment becomes your story

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I have naturally curly hair. When I get my hair cut every couple of months, my hairdresser will straighten my hair.  She uses a straightening iron and tames my locks into a sleek, smooth style.

Coworkers or someone usually comments on my hair.

“New hair style?”

“I like your hair.”

Or even, “I didn’t recognize you with that straight hair.”

Instead of acknowledging, Yes, I just had it done. I usually say, Well, I have to get my hair straightened every time I get my hair done or else my husband will say – and I deepen my voice – ‘Why did you spend money to get your hair done when it looks the same?’

He may have said that comment to me once a couple of years back. Ever since, it’s been my go-to-response when someone comments on my hair.  I had the revelation that his comment is now my story, my truth.  Even though it was said years ago, I’m keeping it alive and present by repeating the speil.

Today I’m going to change my story. That inner dialogue from a comment way back when will no longer have such a prominent place when I respond to a compliment.

I can think of other examples of compliments that tend to get brushed off.

“Nice dress.”

“Oh, it was on clearance.”

“Thank you” is not always the first response.

Next time someone compliments me, I’m going to accept their compliment with grace and gratitude.

self-care

P A U S E

Sometimes I’m too open and I tend to blurt out what I’m thinking and feeling without pausing or listening. I’d like to take more pauses:

Pause before interrupting

Pause to truly listen to another

Pause to let someone finish their story

And not focus on what I want to say or focus on what else I have to do. If I can pause and be present, then it gives the person I’m talking to permission to do the same.

Our society has made us busy, busier than ever. We always seem to be rushing off to the next thing on our to-do.  What if we could pause between all that productivity?

The present moment is all we have.

Yes, we can check off that item and feel a brief sense of satisfaction after completion. But my guess is, like me, our minds will quickly change to focus onto what’s our next activity.  We don’t pause long enough to realize, “Yes, I did finish my task.  I can appreciate my time, effort, and energy that brought it to completion.”

What if we chose to take a pause and decide to take ten deep breaths between tasks?  We might be able to notice how busy our lives are, how fleeting time can be, and notice that we have the power to choose how we want to spend our time and energy.  Yes, we can be busy, as we are sometimes required to be.  What if we could include a pause throughout our day, a moment to just notice?  Just observe our thoughts.  Just observe our surroundings.  Feel a connection to ourselves, to someone else, to our world, and not just focus on our obligations.

After a pause, then we can move ahead on our way. My hope is that at the end of the day, we won’t have to wonder, “Where did the time go?”  Maybe it could slow down the busy cycle that we’ve become and normalized as a society.  We’d be more open and approachable, and definitely feel grounded and connected.

Today I’m going to pause.

self-care

I am not my mood

All this weekend, my 16 month old was driving me crazy. Changing her diaper had become a wrestling match.  I would pin her down across her waist to stop her from rolling over and off the changing table, while she protested, “No! No! No!”  You’re only 16 months old.  You’re not supposed to be telling me “No” yet.

She’s a happy, content, cuddly baby most of the time. Now it seems like she thinks she’s a big kid, wanting to be like her older siblings.  She almost climbed up the ladder to the top of the bunk bed within seconds of leaving the girls’ bedroom door open.  I was exhausted from chasing her.  I kept repeating to myself, “This kid’s gonna be the death of me.  I’m going bonkers, bring me to Butler.” Not in all seriousness all the time, but the thought was ever present.

Last night around 4:30 a.m., my baby was crying. Not the usual, I’m half asleep whimper to a cry.  This was full-blown hysterical crying.  My husband brought her to our bed and she just sobbed and sobbed for a good thirty minutes.  She slung her body across my chest, almost like she had me pinned down, with her face close to mine.  I rubbed her back and took deep breaths to silently demonstrate calm breathing.

The crazy making self-talk melted as I held my sobbing child. I realized I was the only one making myself crazy.  She needed me to be there for her, to make her feel safe and loved.  She had me pinned down. And while I held her, my heart widened to that truth.

self-care

How my family ditched paper towels

I always believe that buying in bulk saves money. We used to buy the biggest package of paper towels with eight or ten rolls, so big that I had to store them in the basement.  Our paper towels had a use for everything you can imagine: wiping up spills, cleaning counters and the table, drying off produce, and of course, they were our napkins of choice.  It seemed like every time I went into the kitchen, I’d be ripping a paper towel off the roll for some purpose.  We probably went through a roll a week and it always seemed to be on our shopping list.

A few years back, we bought reusable napkins. They were dark green and some had a pretty print.  My husband always wanted us to use those instead of paper towels.  But they were stashed in a drawer for years and forgotten.

Finally this past January, he declared, “No more paper towels.” He folded the napkins into a basket and placed it on the table.  We began to use those napkins to wipe our faces and kitchen towels to clean up spills.  Despite my protests in the beginning – we are a family with young children who make a lot of messes – it has worked for us.

Now I reach into the basket and enjoy the feeling of wiping my mouth with a piece of cloth. I don’t miss the chemical smell and roughness of a paper towel on my lips.  I’ve thought about the money and trees we’ve saved with this one switch.  There’s been an empty roll in our paper towel holder ever since, and it won’t be replaced any time soon.

What have you been wanting to ditch or switch in your life?  Let me know in the comments below.

self-care

High heels are not for me

I’ve never been one to wear heels, except for the rare occasion when I was a bridesmaid. I have memories of my poor feet wobbling as I tried to walk down the aisle, all eyes on me, and trying to act the most natural as I could while my feet were in excruciating pain.

I prefer flats: mary janes or Ahnu yoga shoes.  Before I started my full-time job, I went shoe shopping and found Life Stride.  Think Stride Rite for women.  These heels felt comfortable.  Heck, I could work in these.  I take my purchase home feeling satisfied.  Flash forward to my first day at work.  I put on my beloved new heels and start to walk around my building.  Providence is a colonial city, which means uneven brick sidewalks and old stone layered into some of the roads.  A challenge for heel wearers to say the least.  So I start to walk and within a matter of minutes, my toes feel squeezed and pushed forward.  These heels are not as comfortable as they were in the store.

I have observed coworkers stowing their heels under their desks or inside drawers, only donning them on when they’re called into court. Now that it’s summer, I tend to wear flipflops when I’m seated at my desk.  And when I’m called into court during a jury trial, I would strap on my heels and walk that walk, acting like my feet are fine; I’m fine.  And this act seemed to work for a while, or so I thought.  Until yesterday.  A coworker with concern asked me, “Do you have a limp?”  Nope.  It’s the heels.

I’m going to retire them in favor of my Skechers mary janes with memory foam and just accept the fact that heels are not for me.

We do not live in a one-size-fits-all world.  What works for others is not always going to feel like the right fit.   Some women wear high stilettos with ease.  I’m just not one of them and I never will be.  I’ll proudly be wearing my Skechers to court from now on.

We all have our own paths to walk and strides to make.  Let’s listen to what our bodies tell us and fearlessly proclaim what no longer works for us.  Let’s accept this truth with pride in our hearts.

 

self-care

How to be a superhero when there are slipups

I started working at Bess Eaton when I was 17. I’ve been an avid coffee connoisseur ever since.  As my husband can attest, I make the best coffee at home.  I always make us coffee before we leave for work.  And we try to make it a point to sit down and drink a cup of coffee together on the weekends.

Ever since I started working full-time, I’ve been introduced to the Keurig. Its immediate caffeine injection was all too alluring.  I soon added a mid-morning coffee and a mocha for the afternoon.  Coffee buzz, crash, coffee buzz, crash.  I wanted to stop this daily grind but didn’t know how to start.  The smell of fresh coffee wafted through the office.  I was hooked.  And I hated the energy dip.  I craved a constant energy flux instead.

So on Monday, I started drinking tea in the morning instead of coffee. “Positive Energy” by Yogi Tea.  It has a nice sound to it and contains less caffeine, so I can start to wean myself.  I also have been on a green smoothie kick.  Yesterday’s smoothie was “Move it” by Kris Carr from Crazy Sexy Juice: Cherries, blueberries, banana, cinnamon, almond butter, almond milk, and spinach.  That was my mid-morning coffee replacer.  And I had green tea in the afternoon.  I felt great.  No energy crash here.

Then today at work the desire for a Keurig coffee was overwhelming.  I brought my favorite Califa almond milk with me and stashed a K-cup in my purse.  And I brewed that sucker.  I used a different Keurig machine than I’m used to, and the coffee was too watery and not as tasty as I would have liked.  So I listened to my body.  Did I really want to drink this?  Now?  I did drink half of it and immediately felt the caffeine course through my veins.  I dumped out the rest because I was craving my smoothie.  I wanted to taste the wholesome thick texture of fruits and greens.

I am compassionate toward myself.  I’m not angry or belittling my slipup back to coffee land.  I know that lasting change is a process.  The first step is always motivation.  Boy, do I want to stop the energy rollercoaster pronto.  Second, I’m gentle with myself.  I know slipups happen.  I know from firsthand.  I didn’t become a vegan and change my dietary preferences overnight.  It was gradual, and having a vegan husband at home to help keep me on track.  Three, I’m paying attention to how I feel.  How does a particular food make me feel?  Does it taste good?  Do I feel lethargic and heavy, or do I feel energized and light?

How will I be a superhero when there are slipups?

I have a plan in mind for when the desire for coffee starts to set in. If I have coffee because I pulled an all-nighter with the kids or I want to enjoy that cup of coffee with my husband, I want it to be 100% decaf.  And at work, luckily I haven’t found a decaf Keurig blend that meets my standards.  I will keep trying new smoothie recipes to have variety in my mid-morning beverage of choice.

I’ll stick with my “Positive Energy” and green tea for now and see what happens.

 

self-care

First blog post – What motivates you?

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As a mom of young children, who recently transitioned from the freelance world to full-time employment, finding the time and motivation to write has been a recurrent theme.  I want to set myself up for success by starting healthy healing habits now before I get too entrenched in the day-to-day, 9-5, monotony.  There’s family-life-work balance.

Connection, clarity and compassion.  My three C’s are my inspiration for writing a couple of paragraphs daily in my journal.  Starting is the key.  Keeping my pen on the page and avoiding distractions.  Some planning helps.  Staying focused on my intention, and consistently showing up at the page will make my goal a reality.  And importantly, being gentle with myself when priorities shift and my writing doesn’t go according to plan.

My life experiences have brought me to this moment:  The good, the bad, the muck, the ugly, and there’s the beauty, the breath to stay centered in the chaos.  As I’ve entered my 40s, I finally realize that I don’t have to prove myself anymore.  I can be true to myself and inspire others.

I’m going to honor the journey of this transition.

What motivates you?