Self-care, risk, and the courage to rise

I have been in the blogging witness protection program for a bit.  It has been refreshing, and also a bit lonely.

Raising littles is an endeavor that, for lack of a better term, has made me feel…mortal.  I know it sounds odd, but they grow so fast, and it is all fleeting.  I am not going all “enjoy every minute” on you, but we really are here for a limited period of time.  Short-term needs have pulled me to unimportant tasks and it has left me feeling flat.

The following is my encouragement to myself to reorient my focus.  It just may resonate with you also.

Invest in self-care.

For me, the very first thing that comes to mind is seeking solitude.  God speaks to me in the quiet; however, I am very rarely able to carve out the time necessary to listen.   The introvert in me needs space to think, dream and reflect.  On the surface, it seems impossible to give myself the space when I have little time to spare.

What I continue to find with a little self-reflection is that much of the “crazy” is manufactured by a poor use of time, and a lack of focus on the important things.  Balancing important/unimportant remains God’s holy work in me.

For you, maybe self-care means that it is time to really decide that you have to change a few things to get healthy?  Like, changing your diet for real this time, or actually stepping into the gym you pay for monthly?  Maybe for you it means making the doctor appointment that you have been avoiding?  My appointment with my thyroid doc is finally scheduled for next week. I may not want to hear what he has to say, and will certainly not enjoy the tests that I will have to endure, but it is still LONG overdue.  There are a few appointments that remain unscheduled.  Time to face that music.

Take the risk.

I have been going through an exercise the last few months to really evaluate my “why”.  What is it that keeps me moving in a particular direction?  Do I want to look back and be grateful to have just survived?  What if I was intended to thrive?  How do I get from survive to thrive?  I often use my kids as the excuse for being in the here and now.  They are tiny little bundles of need, and the fires they create are very real.  (I mean… they have to eat three.times.a.day!)  But honestly, are they not the REASON that I want more?  Are they not my true WHY?  Are they not worth the risk?

I urge you…take the risk.  Make a way to achieve something that is on your bucket list.  It is never too late and there is never going to be a better time.  Go after the degree you have always wanted.  Start that scary and exciting business.  Train for, and finish YOUR marathon.

People will tell you that you are nuts by the way; that you cannot succeed.  The dream stealers are many.  Seek out the cheerleaders instead.  They are waiting to run alongside you on your journey or embrace you at the finish.

The unimportant distractions will fade away when you resolve to chase the meaningful.  Run.  It will be worth it.  We really can do hard things.

You will fall.   When you do…forgive quickly, and rise.

I have written previously about my struggle to quiet the “noise” in my mind.  The tapes play on repeat and spew lies about my value, rewinding conversations and encounters to remind me of how I should have behaved, or spoken.  They speak tauntingly about my previous commitments and failures.  For me, the noise is exhaustion in the truest form.

There are times when the noise is so loud it does not allow me to refocus my gaze on my goals.  Looking ahead to my true why seems too far out of reach, and the doubt creeps in.

Dwelling allows the cycle of wallowing to last too long.  It is WAY more difficult to rise from so low a place.  Guard this timing closely.  When you fall, or others let you down…forgive swiftly.  Failure is the very best teacher, and an opportunity to course correct.  It is a gift.  Be grateful.

I am certain that when I am in my final days, I will not wish that I spent more time at work, more time with my face in my phone, or wish that I collected more earthly things.  While my physical presence, heart and finances are in an epic, daily tug-of-war battle to determine value, focusing on the true priority it is a daily choice.  I have to choose.  We all have to choose.

Be courageous.  Resolve to rise.

 

Courage

 

 

 

 

 

On being still, and my choice in February to “Reduce”

In 2014 I am intentionally making choices.  January was about being still.

Here is the thing.  I have two tiny humans, that are not.ever.still.  This means that my mind is very rarely still.

So.very.this…

mymind

I have come to realize that when you put something out into the ether, like…”I am going to choose stillness”, the world/tiny minions/Satan/calendar events/illnesses all conspire against you.  With all that I had, I began baby steps to choose stillness.  Some days, all I was allowed was the 3 minutes of blank staring at the dinner table.  Those few minutes were pure glory.

Most mornings, I sat with my coffee and read a devotional, or completed my bible study.  Other mornings, when it was WAY too dark for anyone to be awake, I put on a show for the littles, and crawled back into bed for 10 minutes.  No shame or judgement.

I am not sure one can learn a discipline of stillness in one short month.  It is something I STARTED in January, but did not perfect.  Work in progress people.

Readings I am working my way through related to stillness:

Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young

Let. It. Go.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith by Ehman, Karen

In February, I am choosing to reduce.  Reduce stress, reduce our spending, reduce our trash, reduce judgement.  REDUCE!!!

I am going to really try to reduce judging myself.  Not sure why I think I can do it all.  Lies.  Guess what…you have two toddlers?!?!  Life will be hard for a bit longer.  It just will.  Your house will be dirty, and you will forget to reply to emails/text/voicemails.  Settle in to the chaos already.

This mama neeeeeeeeds to reduce screen time.  Not sure I can join the hands free revolution just yet, but something needs to give for sure.

Reducing the hoarder-status in the garage is on the agenda this month as well.  Simmer on the calls to TLC.  There is an almost-unobscured walking lane all the way through.  Sheesh.

Also, we were introduced to a very cool diaper composting service.  We get to reduce our landfill contribution (and possibly our garbage can size)!  YAY!

Bottom line…How will my relationships, parenting, work/business life, budget change if I choose to reduce?

Learning to make the small choices that add up to big change.  It is a journey!

Reflections on 2013, and the choices of 2014

I started my blog in January of 2013 as a way to journal about my personal struggles to determine my value.  Value as a woman, wife, mom, employee, friend…you get the picture.  These particular struggles stem from old tapes that play in my head that try to tell me that my value is limited.  I have to continually remind myself that these lies do not define me.

As I mentioned last year, I do not typically make resolutions, though it worked really well in 2013 for me to have a “theme”.   I closed my very first blog entry with the following statement:  “So 2013, be good and gentle with me and my family, and may I be met with constant reminders of my declaration to return.”  I cannot tell you how many times throughout the year I was reminded that I declared to return.    Here is very brief summary of how well I did in my return to these areas in 2013.

Sanity:  Depends on how much I sleep, and what I eat, but the fog continues to lift.

Sensibility:  We are acutely aware of our chemical burden.  This continues to be an area of passion and research for me.  We made a huge change in April of 2013 to cut processed food from our diet, and switch to what is considered “Real Food”.  Still a battle to eat wisely each day.  Budget…continues to be a struggle.  More to come on this in 2014.

Service:  In early 2013, I began serving on the board of a large local mother’s club.  I am coordinating a program which organizes meals and other service-related tasks for moms that welcome new babies.  Food, and new mamas.  Perfect fit.

My God:  I wander.  Therefore, I am not sure that God will ever stop calling me to return.  It is something that I hope to be a life-long pursuit.  Both Him calling me back, and me chasing hard after His goodness, love and scandalous grace.

This new year, I plan to pursue more perspective in the things that really matter in my life.  Often, it takes a great sacrifice or tragedy to put life into perspective, but I am not waiting.  I am choosing over the next 12 months to sacrifice selfishness in search of character development.  I will not always get to control my circumstances, or the outcome of my trials, but  I do have a choice about my attitude, and response.  This will be my 2014 theme.  The ability to choose.

I plan to begin 2014 in January by choosing stillness.  This will initially mean developing a discipline of giving the first portion of my day to God in quiet and prayer.  I LOVE sleep, so when I tell you that this is a sacrifice, please believe me.

Honestly though, this is about SO much more than morning quiet time or prayer.  How will my relationships, parenting, work/business life, budget change if I choose to be still?  Can I be a better listener, think/pray before making a decision or purchase, pause before speaking, consider others before acting?  Will the manufactured hustle that I create in my life subside?  What will I learn about myself in the silence?  What will God speak to me in the quiet?

Looking forward to January’s journey and the insight.

~S

Today is not my tomorrow

My minion alarm went off this morning at 4:53am.  It was too early, and he is too loud.  After a quick shower, I rallied a smile for my little men, and started the day.

While sitting with my coffee in the dark, my mind was already on all that I had to accomplish.  Making mental notes, talking to myself, and moving from thought to thought.  It seemed like as soon as it began, I was already longing for the day to be over, and for some rest.

I am over committed, and exhausted.  I apologize often.  I have 4303 emails in my gmail inbox.  That is with filters ON that file away things like coupons, recipes and purchase receipts.  My to do list ALWAYS includes going through my email to make sure that something did not slip in that requires attention.  I cannot ever seem to get past the daily fires to get to most things on my list.  I actually confess to people often, that if they need to reach me, they will need to hunt me down.  I give people permission to stalk me.  How sad.

The last year and a half has been a blur.  I am grateful for the fuzzy memories, as I know in the deepest parts of my soul that this season has not been filled with my most shining moments.  I was not the best mom, wife, employee or friend.  I was just surviving in each role.  I humbly AM still just surviving in each role.

At the beginning of the year, we were consumed by worry about Trevor’s developmental progress.  Both language and motor delays had us running from assessment to assessment, and doctor to doctor.  The Google machine on my computer was also working overtime.  The choices, the appointments, the home therapy meetings, and the hours spent in the waiting room chasing Lucas are finally starting to wind down.

It is hard to truly know what made the most impact on his development, but this swamp is slowly drying.  Was it the group speech classes, the individual speech therapy, the holistic therapies, the elimination of chemicals in our home and food?  In all honestly, I do not care.  None of the things we did  caused additional harm.  I am over the obsessing.

As a mom that is prone to worry, it is hard to see light.  It feels so lonely to carry the burdens of the minutia of running a home and little lives.  Couple the worry with lack of sleep, and it really does feel like whatever milestone you are trying to reach will.never.come.

Raising littles is a series of groundhog days.  While it appears that each day is the same, and I will never emerge from the weeds, I have to believe that new days come.  In the moment of crisis (or perceived crisis), the situation seems so very permanent.  I remember thinking my kid will never sleep through the night, will never walk, will never talk.   Logic gets lost.  Time S L O W S.

I need to really believe that it is all just a series of seasons, and remember that each new day brings hope of milestones met.  I need faith to believe that today is not my tomorrow.  After all, we are overdue to begin potty training and at some point we will have to move Trevor from a crib to a toddler bed.  Just pray.

My Race – Lessons in Perseverance and Priorities

My house keeper comes every other Wednesday.  I greet her each time with a lengthy apology about why my house is in its current state.  Embarrassed, I leave her money on the counter and sneak out with the boys.  We come home an hour later, and her team has erased weeks worth of filth and grime.  It is a miracle.  Every time, it is a miracle.  Just a few short hours after we get home, when the smell of our botanical cleaning products has faded, it is hard to tell that she was ever here.  By the time the boys are in bed, the only evidence left is a master bedroom with a made up bed.  Everything else is a sh*t show.

Many well-meaning peeps have tried to comfort me by mentioning that this toddler phase is hard.  You are “in the weeds” they say.  It will get better they say.  I have even heard that I will MISS this time.  Yay?

Our brand of weeds seem to grow tall in cycles.  Just as we mow down one large crop of them, I can see more growing again, and we enter a new phase.

My current dream is to get to the stage where the boys can both get in the car on their own.  I imagine saying…”Ok boys, go hop in the car,” and having them be able to follow those direction and execute the command.  Leaving home on my own with both boys is a dance of grabbing one, and pushing the door closed on the other to prevent escape. Then, I go back in to rescue the one that has fallen to pieces on the floor because you clearly left without him.  While I am out, unless I bring the gargantuan double stroller on every errand, one of the two of them can/will RUN away.  They are fast little minions.

Just the other day, I did not have the stroller, so I popped Lucas in the ergo to run in and pick up Trevor from school.  So here we come out the school doors and Trevor takes off.  I run as fast as is possible with a kid strapped to my front and grab him. I am quickly faced with a decision about how to get them into the car.  I tried to trap Trevor in between the car door and my body while muscling Lucas out of the ergo and into his seat.  I realized after two jail breaks, that I should just get Trevor in first.  I walk around and use my leg to sort of scoop Trevor’s bum up while lifting his arms.  The whole process was crap, and I was sweating once they were both buckled.  If anyone witnessed…

Speaking of Trevor, his speech is coming along.  Slow, but steady.  He is also making progress in his gross motor development.  At a few months shy of three, he went down several stairs this week without holding someone’s hand, or a rail.  HUGE win!  If we just keep doing the next best thing for him, he will get there.  Trevor graduates out of his group speech class at age three, so we will have to transition him to a regular pre-school.  SOB.  I am still looking into which one.  SHHHHHHH, I know that I should have already decided.

Dave is traveling this week, and work has been crazy, and my nanny was unable to come on Monday.  Since it is now Thursday, it must mean I survived the first few days.  I have no memory of the specifics, with the exception of the clean sheets yesterday.  I remember those.

Overall, I am feeling out of balance.  My real food adventures have finally started to get easier, but they do still require more time than I seem to have available.  I have a few commitments outside of the home as well (besides actual work), and I am trying to fit those in.  It took someone asking me if I was ill for me to finally go buy clothes that fit.  I just did not have time to go shopping alone.

I read an article last week about being balanced as a mom that also works.  There were several tips that stuck out, but here are two of my favorites.

  1. Determine what is most important.  The mom suggested gauging your priorities by asking: “Will this be important in 10 minutes, 10 days or 10 years?”  If it will be important in 10 years, make that your first priority.  (Needless to say, I finished setting up college accounts for our boys that same week.)  I loved this so much that it is written on my white board at work.  I need constant reminders to have a long term focus.  Facebook, you are SO 10 minutes, Pinterest meal searching, you are pretty 10 days, but my faith and my family’s wellness (time with my boys, our health – including what we eat, and paying off debt) are the epitome of 10 years and beyond.
  2. Choose something to sacrifice.  It is clear to any visitor (including the aforementioned cleaning lady) that I am sacrificing the state of my home.  My close friends will also attest to my lack of response to phone calls, text messages and even emails.  I need to be stalked.  I am SURE that the author was not intending to indicate friendships should be sacrificed.  So, I guess I have to get honest about what else needs to go in order for me to focus on the things that fall into the “10 year” category.

I sat this week in the evenings while Dave has been gone, and reflected on priorities, and sacrifice.  It makes me misty, and so frustrated that my “want monster” keeps whispering lies.  His influence has led to my wants overpowering my needs.  It is causing the unbalanced feeling, and it is a daily or hourly choice to have a long term focus.  It is all a choice.

My periods of calm are merely water breaks in life’s race.  It is not the finish yet.

This is my race.  The one I was meant to run.  It is exhausting, and dirty, and it is hard to see the finish.  But it is mine.  I have everything I need.

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”    Hebrews 12:1 – The Message

Being present

Last week Dave and I finished a 13 week course called “It takes two to talk”.  The course is for parents of kids with speech delays, and it is designed to give you skills to help encourage language development at home.  There were five other couples going through the course with us.

The very first week of the course, we discussed how to “OWL”.  It emphasized the importance of Observing, Waiting and Listening.  The premise is that we need to give kids a chance to initiate language.  We need to WAIT on them to communicate, and take the time to really understand what they are trying to say.  Sometimes, this means playing in silence until they have something to communicate, while still giving them cues to take their turn.  It was such a departure from what I knew.  I thought you were supposed to fill the void with words and descriptions, and sounds.    Of every lesson we learned…the very first is still my biggest challenge.  The other topics were equally valuable, but weaved throughout every single class….the speech therapist would remind us be OWLing at home.

On the 10th of May, we went for a six month follow-up appointment with the developmental clinic that originally referred Trevor to speech therapy back in December.  It was a LONG appointment with tests, and questions, and other gross and fine motor type activities.  During the appointment, while I was encouraged with much of Trevor’s progress in his gross motor skills, there was a noticeable delay or lack of response to many receptive language exercises.  Also, he is still not joining two words together consistently.  I left the appointment feeling pretty mixed.  It had been officially six months since we began all of the appointments and meetings, and I had hoped we would be farther along.

Just a few days  later on the 14th, we finished up our “It takes two to talk” class.  Dave hung with the boys while I attended solo.  Good thing he did, since I was a hot mess.  Because it was the last night, we spent some time watching videos of the kids, and parents shared about successes we’ve had as a result of what we had learned throughout the course.  It was really hard for me to hear about the strides everyone else was making, while it appeared that we were not much farther than when we started.  This, combined with the assessment a few days prior, was crushing.  I stayed a bit after class with the teacher, expressing my concerns through tears.  She was very gracious, and helped me understand that the going can be quite slow, but we WERE making progress.  She pointed out that Trevor is saying over 200 words now, and was only saying about 80 when we started the class.  Even though he is still not joining words (which typically starts when a child reaches 50 words), she thinks that he has come far.  I left there feeling better, but I still cried all the way home because she again reminded me to OWL every chance I get.

My dilemma…  I am SO VERY distracted.  My co-worker once said that her husband wins arguments by throwing balled up foil in her line of sight.  That is ME!!!!  I was ADD before it was diagnosed.  With work, and home stuff, and cooking, and my sweet Lucas doing things like this….

Lucas

…I do not give Trevor the time he needs.  I am not fully present even when I am physically with him.  My phone buzzes, or the timer goes off, or someone just drives by on our street (for.the.love) and my OWLing is over.  He gets a partial presence at best most days.

It would be easy for me to say this is how I have always been, or give some other excuse about not having enough time in the day, etc.  Life leaves me little time to just observe, and WAIT for him to point out what he sees, or what he wants to say.

But I need to remind myself that it is not about me.  It was never about me.

I can see that Trevor wants SO very much to speak to everyone.  He looks right at you, and you can see him try to find the words.  Often, I end up asking him to show me what he is trying to communicate to reduce his frustration.  Sometimes, the struggle is really hard to watch.

My “Operation Presence” plan is not formed yet, but maybe I do not need a plan.  (Wait…does Pinterest have such things?!?)  I digress.

Maybe that is the issue.  All of my planning is leaving me with little unplanned time to get on the floor and play.  To walk aimlessly at the park with his favorite truck (aka cruck) while daddy plays with the teeny guy.  With no agenda.

Tiny

I know he is making small strides.  And I LOVE to witness the joy on his face when he repeats a new word, or when he does utter the rare two word phrase.  The little victories are encouraging.

Until I invent a device that allows me more than 24 hours in a day, our future might look a little like: less time in front of the TV, less faces in cell phone screens, less comparing to other kids.  I see more one on one dates, more legos, more train chugging, more previously cooked meals pulled out of the freezer, and more PRAYER!  For those others out there that pray, send a few our direction.  We need unity, endurance, patience, and most of all, we need to not allow discouragement to creep in.

Thanks for loving us.

~S

Real Food and Real Life

My decision to change my family’s eating behaviors has consequences.  Benefits too, but consequences.

Over the last few weeks, post 10 day challenge, things have gone a little south.  I would not say true south, but slanting in the general direction of south.   I spent the last three days of our challenge at an all day training, and the following week, both Dave and I had long work meetings with lunch provided.  We had two birthday parties, (one for our little Lucas) and I am just plain tired.   Bleh.

This is where real food meets real life.  Do you say “no thanks” to the free food at work, and sit there eating your bagged lunch, or do you do your best to choose the least processed option out of the provided lunch menu?  Knowing full well there is zero chance you can ascertain what all is actually IN the lunch.  At the birthday party, do you let it all go for the sake of the celebration, or do you again try to find the most acceptable option available.

Now listen, I have no desire to be a martyr, suffering for my cause.  I also do not desire to be that judgy mcjudgerton person that looks down my nose at your plate of food in disgust while I chomp carrot sticks.  Despite my best intentions, I am afraid that even simply making non-processed food choices while in the presence of those that are not doing the same, can come off as a bit preachy.  The inevitable conversation begins about why I am not having the burger, or cake, or drinking one of the many soda options, and before I know it, I’ve said too much.  Suddenly I am the person that I did not want to be.  The one that makes others feel guilty about their choices.  I am passionate, yes, but never want to make others feel badly.

Given the above, I have decided that home is going to be my real food sanctuary.  A place where I know what is in each meal, and where all of the choices available are acceptable.  I can exert control here without having to explain.  It will be my 90%.  The 10% will be everything else.  The work meeting, the birthday party, the snacks Trevor has at school, the Starbucks coffee when I forget mine at home.  Although, I still plan to make healthy choices while away from home as best I can.  Getting twitchy already about my 5 day trip in May.  Can you pack perishables in a suitcase?  What about Juicy?!?!?!

Overall, I am thrilled about the changes we have made.  In 2013, I have lost 20 pounds! (Some of that was the result of a nasty flu.)  Dave has lost 10 just this month!  While weight loss is a nice side benefit, it was always my goal to just get us healthy, and to develop good eating habits in the boys.  I accept that there will be times when we head in a southern direction, but I am hopeful that we can get back on track when we slip.

To stay consistent, we will try to stick to a dinner plan.  This will make it easier for me to know what to grab at the farmers market, and what to order in my CSA delivery each week.

Here is the general idea:

Monday:  Leftovers, Crockpot or something defrosted from the freezer that was cooked ahead.  I go into the office on Mondays, so dinner prep the night of will be impossible.

Tuesday:  Protein with veggies.  Leaving this day open to use whatever meat I got from the local farmers market over the weekend.

Wednesday:  Soup and sandwich night.  This can also be chili and cornbread or something similar.

Thursday:  Salad night

Friday:  Another protein night since the CSA box (delivered Thurs) will most likely include a protein.

Saturday: Brinner.  Yes please to anything that makes it on the menu.

Sunday: Seafood.  Fresh fish at the farmers market each week.

Sunday will also be my plan/prep/cook ahead day.  I hit up the farmers market on the weekend, and I also have to have my CSA order in by Sunday, so I will know exactly what will be on hand.  I can hopefully use most of Sunday to cook ahead things for breakfast, and to chop the veggies needed for each dish on the weekly menu.  It is all together possible that I live in a fantasy world, and that this will last a week.  Here’s to trying my best!

In other news, I started a separate FB page where I will post blog updates and such.   In addition to blog posts, I also plan to include what actually made it to our weekly meal menu here.  Like the page to see the updates:  https://www.facebook.com/DeterminingValue