I feel like I was punched in the gut

I literally just read the awful news that Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court. I feel like I cant breathe. Everyday it seems like rights are taken from us. Death, destruction, war, panic, fear, opportunity, options at all for some. We as people are being stifled and oppressed and told to just bend over and take it! This is NOT okay!

How should it be anyone’s right to make decisions about the health and care of your own body? Women can make a decision to remove their breasts if they are concerned about cancer, but not reproductive health? If men were the ones to get pregnant this would be a non issue.

I was told a few stories recently that the general public may not understand about what danger is now in store for women. Whether you believe in abortion or not…that really isnt the only issue. There are women who unfortunately have children who die in the womb. Or who at no fault of the mother, the fetus could kill the mother if brought to term. There are also babies that will die once out of the womb.

And those children now will have to be brought to term (due date) before able to be delivered. It will now be illegal to remove the fetus even at risk of the mother dying. One person shared this was the most traumatic event in her life. Besides losing the baby, she was deathly sick. The deteriorating baby was causing toxicity in the mama. If she carried to due date she would die. Then the process of finding a place to remove the fetus was very difficult in her conservative state. The thought of going through this process now, safely, is nearly impossible. Please see this story for a personal account of the events that occur and will be made worse now. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/roe-v-wade-overturned-wanted-pregnancy-miscarriage-b2108799.html

Why are we going backwards? Why are rights being taken away? Why are guns and control over women and people of color where we need to go back to? Where is the America that stands for freedom and justice FOR ALL? Whose agenda is this? The wealthy elite who think we will be so distracted with survival in this new awful world they can do what they want? F@$k that!

You can do something. You have to do something! You can vote for those who want to preserve our democracy, protect our children and women. Those who will remove oppressive and divisive practices from law. You can Vote for those that want to save our planet from climate change. You can Vote for those who will tax the billionaires. Those who stand up to bullies. Those who believe we can all dream and succeed. You can also run for public office and work to change your own communities.

Please don’t give up. Please dont become so overwhelmed that you do nothing. Your voice matters and if you do nothing those that wish to hold the power to oppress win. And we all lose.

Who am I?

Who am I? Who do I wish to be? Do I play it safe or Do I choose something risky?

Am I a mother? Am I a wife? Am I a woman? Am I a child? Am I a worker? Am I good? Am I bad? Am I happy? Am I sad?

Who am I? What path do I choose? Do I choose the straight and narrow? Do I get entangled? Do I run from a fight? Do I jump into every challenge?

Do I love? Do I hate? Do I get angry? Do I debate?

Am I a sister if my sister is gone? Am I a daughter if my father is gone? Am I a granddaughter if my grandparents are gone? Am I loved if their love is gone?

As a mother of 2 beautiful children and a wife to a wonderful husband the roles that I place myself into change constantly like water flowing into every nook and cranny that requires me, but in those constant changes where do I go? Where is the true essence of me? Is it left in all those other nooks and crannies or does the essence of me still reside as a whole within me? How do I know that I am still me if me is everywhere else?

How do I find the me that I’m supposed to be? That I want to be? That I am? Do I pray? Do I meditate? Do I trust that God knows who I am and will keep me together…that He will put me back together when all the pieces of me seem to be distributed and gone?

I have no choice – I must trust that all will be well…that all IS well.

I have to Because I am here. Because I am writing these words, because I am seeking wholeness. If I am seeking it – then it IS – then completeness exists and has been here all along. I know that God resides within me and finds a way to bring all of the pieces back so that I can continue to be redistributed.

But how do I find a way to put myself back together on those days when finding the pieces seems impossible?

I have to stay in motion. I have to wake up each day, breathe in and out and pull the bits of me out of all the beautiful places they have been stored.

In the hug from my children as I wake each day.

The snuggle requests to ensure I know I’m loved.

The warm hug and smooch from my hubby as we meet in the kitchen for coffee.

The ride to school dancing to our favorite tunes.

The last run back hug from my toddler as I drop her off at school.

The appreciation from my team when I teach them a new tool.

The intrinsic reward at the end of a long day when I know the products I have prepared helped the leaders I work with.

The texts from my mom group checking in and sharing kid stories.

The venting sessions and girly giggles between me and my best friend.

And the list goes on. It can be hard to move forward in this life as crazy and awful as it is some days to exist…to read the news…to hear the tragedies of those around us. When the struggle to find those pieces seems oh so hard. But I assure you, once you find that breadcrumb, that tiny piece coming back and your heart feels a bit of warmth, the search for wholeness gets a bit easier.

You’re never alone. No matter how lonely you feel there are always people going through the same experiences. I encourage you to build a network if you don’t have one. If you do have one work on sharing your authentic self, you may be surprised how much more you have in common with people. So day by day, experience by experience, gather those pieces until your cup overflows. You will know when you’ve reached capacity because your spirit will urge you – almost unconsciously to help someone else. To show someone that crumb they may have missed. And in that kindness a spark of hope emerges in you both.

Would love to hear your stories or shared experiences.

Some days the sad hits hard

This post has sat in my drafts for a while,and even though I don’t feel particularly sad, there are those days and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

My goodness! It’s been a long time! Not sure if it’s the weather, the pandemic, the isolation, fear, anxiety over the future as we know it, but today it all hit me. If you know me you know that optimism is my kevlar, my armour, and I usually have triple coats on…hard to get me down or hard for me not to see the better side of any situation, but today, that armour feels like it’s been hit with a rocket launcher.

I know all the things to do, how to take care of myself etc., but sometimes when they’re are so many clouds to find the silver lining in you get tired. For all of you that are struggling know you aren’t alone. I see you. I feel you. And we are going to be okay. This is temporary and we will get to the other side.

See what I did there? In the midst of sharing my stuff I found a way to comfort myself and you! I started the post to share my reality, but when we do that we automatically find ways to cope and bring healing to ourselves and others. If you are struggling let people you love know. It can be wildly cathartic.

Hang in their friends! Breathe. Love. Vote. Heal. Thrive. Keep your beautiful human spirit alive.

Dream

Once upon a time I had a dream. I wrote it down…I thought about it. I talked about it, I asked questions, I did research. I did the work…I did some work, maybe not enough work. I stalled, I second guessed, I paused, I researched some more, I believed more in the not than the can be. I was afraid. I was paralyzed. What if? What do I want? Will this honor God? Will this honor me? My family? Will the work, the time, the sacrifice be for not?

How do I reconcile the dream from reality. If there is a desire in my heart, I must see it through….God would not keep pushing and urging me if it’s not important. But what is important? How do I take a break from my most important job with my little people during a pandemic and feel ok about it? Is that an excuse? Can I begin to take time for me?

These are the thoughts of a mother. A mother who loves her children and thinks of them before herself. I’m sure there are those that can relate. I have to say it, I matter too. You matter too. Your needs and success matter too. It’s okay to take a break and self-care so that you can be a wonderful role model of balance. You got this!

Action is always better than inaction. Take that action to make your dreams come true!

What dreams are you working on? What tactics do you use to balance your needs with the needs of your loved ones?

Managing school reopenings and my emotions

Image from https://www.mycustomer.com/experience/engagement/the-20-emotions-that-drive-or-destroy-value-in-customer-experience

It seems like all I have been able to think about is this upcoming school year. I’m sure I’m not alone with millions of parents contemplating their children’s futures as we speak.

It’s an exciting chapter, since my 5-year old will be attending kindergarten. He’s been going to a great daycare for years, so we aren’t unfamiliar with his being away from home, but our current climate makes the idea of elementary school so surreal. Both kids have been home from daycare since mid-March along. We’ve been navigating learning, finding time for fun activities between work and home obligations while trying our best and failing many days to limit screen time.

Then once we finally decided what school the kid would go to and got accepted, the purgatory of finding out the learning format was too much. All the schools seems to be doing things a little different, the choices are so varied, in- person, hybrid, virtual, and homeschool. When I got word it was virtual only, I was so happy I didn’t have a choice because none of the options are awesome and it was one less thing to keep me up at night.

So, now my son will be involved in a virtual educational program. I will have to ensure assignments are done and uploaded, that virtual sessions are attended, that he still gets outside and doesn’t spend too much time on screens post-school. Ughh, I’m tired already! To those parents who have already done this last year, or have kids in multiple grades, I have been hearing the experiences weren’t the best. So, I am prepared to stay positive and do my best, because in the grand scheme of things, what else can we do? I have decided to Elsa it – I have let go the things I cannot control.

Look – 50% of days I feel like a failure, I miss something, perhaps a work deadline, perhaps the baby’s schedule is all off, or my meetings run long and I miss a much needed fun activity with the kids to reduce the screen-time. Some days there isn’t much left in the tank to cook, or hang out with my hubby or to call my girlfriends who I miss so much! And I take it personal, I say all the awful things one should never say to oneself, because sheesh, words and thoughts hurt! But then there are those days I am well-rested, I have gotten a workout in, I spend an extra minute slow dancing with my hubby, and I get the belly laughs from the kiddos.

Those days remind me that we don’t have to have it all figured out. That all we have is this moment – this moment to be better, to live from a place of love and be kind to ourselves and those around us.

I use the acronym STOP (Slow down, Think, Observe the Present moment) to remind me to take a minute when I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. When you stop and make that observation, it helps you gain perspective.

Many of us live in our minds, our thoughts take over and begin to spiral. I call this tornado self-talk. It’s easy to confuse thoughts for feelings, if we blame someone else, it’s likely a thought. Your feelings are your experience, you control them and have power to change them. You may be thinking your partner is ignoring you, but the feeling is hurt, or anger. Using I statements to discuss your feelings may help you separate out the thought from the feeling. For example, I feel angry and hurt when you don’t greet me in the morning when you get up.

I have attached a link below to a website with a feeling wheel. It is a wonderful list of uncomfortable and comfortable general emotions. You can start from the outside and work your way in to hone in on the specific general emotion. For example, maybe your boss said something in a meeting that left you feeling inadequate, the primary emotion would be embarrassed. How could you discuss the situation with your boss to prevent that type of situation in the future?

Since we don’t necessarily stop to observe and acknowledge what is going on in our bodies, how our body is feeling, or where are we experiencing tension. Use this STOP moment to feel your feelings. Is there heaviness in your heart? You may be feeling sad. Tension or discomfort in your stomach? You may be anxious. Tight neck, high blood pressure? You may be angry.

You can engage in self-reflection and ask the important questions to move forward:

  1. What is bothering me?
  2. What am I feeling in my body vs. what am I thinking in my mind?
    • (use emotion words – angry, hurt, sad, frustrated, powerless, scared; not thoughts – I feel judged, betrayed, taken for granted)
  3. What about this specific situation is unmanageable?
  4. How do I get through this moment?
  5. What actions are helping or harming me?
  6. What do I need do to make positive progress?

We all have challenging aspects of our lives, especially now. Take a moment, breathe, reflect and figure out what will bring positive, happy feelings to this time. If the kids watching one more episode gives you time to get in a workout or take a shower, let those feelings of screen-time guilt go and take care of you so you can be ready to work and teach tomorrow. Stay safe and be well.

Please share your stories, we learn to understand ourselves better when we can share our experiences.

Resources

Bodily maps of emotions by Lauri Nummenmaaa,b,c,1, Enrico Glereana, Riitta Harib,1, and Jari K. Hietanend

Emotion and Feeling Wheel from davidhodder.com

I Was a Screen–Time Expert. Then the Coronavirus Happened. by Anya Kamenetz

6 Tips for Managing your Emotions By Connected Marriage August 16, 2018

Making time for yourself in a pandemic

We are in a new normal, but how has this new normal affected us? How are we making space in our lives to stop and just be in the present moment? It’s so hard to stop watching the news or lament about our current reality and all the things we miss, like spending time with other people than our housemates, enjoying pampering activities, vacations, group activities like parties, sports, and concerts or just allowing people in your home to chill.

Then there are the musts that still have to occur, whether you’re teleworking, going into your worksite, or regretfully lost your job, worrying about your kids – their education, their health, their mental health, then child care concerns, school in the fall, the health of educators, teaching while parenting and working full time… and still finding time to be with your spouse/partner in meaningful ways.

It’s enough to make your head pop off. Like seriously…I’m only one person! Even with a super supportive engaged hubby, its tough.

And for those single parents out there, ya’ll are the real MVP’s! How you do what you do is commendable, and if no one told you today how awesome you are, soak it in, wear that cape like the super hero you are. I’m sending all the positive vibes and letting you know how appreciated you are.

We can really put ourselves through the ringer and adding that unneeded pressure to do it all…and if you’re anything like me, to do it all perfect…becomes problematic when reality sets in and reminds us that we are in fact human. YOU ARE NOT A ROBOT.

So how do we do it? It’s critical to identify your family’s needs and wants and set expectations so everyone knows what to work toward. Then make a plan to get it done. Next, identify the extras that would be cool to accomplish, finally the rewards are those special treats that you deserve for getting through all this and staying safe, and they can boost mental health.

MUSTS would be things like laundry, food shopping, making meals, work, school tasks, sleep, fitness, solo quiet time for your brain (at least 10-15 mins a day, more if you can). Some musts can be contracted out – could you order food online to save time? Could you wash a load of laundry each night? Could you use a meal delivery service to cut down on food prep or teach the kids to cook? Bonus! Cooking with kids is teaching, learning, having fun and creating memories while doing a daily chore. Taking a walk after dinner could fill that fitness need while giving much needed brain space to recharge.

EXTRAS are those things that put a little pep in your step. Watching a funny movie with the family. Having a healthy meal together, calling a friend, journaling, listening to music, video chatting with friends or family. Making a tiktok video to laugh at your mad dancing skills or cat/dog/baby videos.

REWARDS could be learning something new, reading a book, spending alone time with your partner, helping a neighbor, walking in nature, creating art or slime with your kids, giving yourself a pedicure, facial, or taking a bubble bath.

Then make a schedule and a plan, write it down. Make yourself a priority and don’t feel bad about it. Mom guilt comes fast and hard when we think of time away from the babes, but you need to take care of you so there is something left to care for the family.

I like to find time early in the morning before any other distractions so I can center and stay focused on my goals. I spend time with God, workout and attempt a learning video on YouTube a few times a week, other days I go for a Netflix comic or cat/dog/baby video on YouTube. I’m thankful my hubby is supportive and wrangles the littles during this time. It keeps me sane and fills my spiritual tank so I can be the person I am instead of the crabby lady that comes out from all the stress.

What do you do to take care of you? What extras and rewards are meaningful for you and how are you staying sane amid the pandemic?

Check out blessingmanifesting.com for more info on self-care.

Young Love

young_love_wf_04Photo Courtesy of cdn.greenweddingshoes.com

Remember when you were 5, and you had your first crush?  I think back to all the things I did to gain the attention of my first love interest and wondered – what if we used some of these tactics now?  I’m sure we could easily come up with the con list, or lessons learned, but what was the good stuff?  What were the things we did, said, and experienced that could help us now?

Be yourself 

Usually you paired up with someone because you had the same interests.  You started the conversation with comparing your Star Wars lunch box, big rimmed glasses, or artwork. Take notice of people in your circles of interest that you may have overlooked. What’s stopping you from talking to them and comparing your smart phones, Twitter pages or blogs?  Putting yourself out there can be a little unnerving at first, but the reward of being who you genuinely are and having others accept you supersedes the anxiety.  P.S. If they don’t accept you for your true self, then they probably would not add value to your life anyways.

Play

When we were kids we had fun!  We chased each other around, we created high-imagination games, we could play a card game for hours if he was playing.  We shared and laughed and built forts together! A friend of mine joined a softball team after moving to the area. This turned out to be a great way to connect with new friends and crushes. Even on days when he wasn’t 100% in the mood to play softball, the camaraderie and fun of being with others who shared his interests made the activity worthwhile and there was the added bonus of meeting new, interesting women.

Pay attention and make an effort

I remember when my first boyfriend got me a gift for my birthday.  It was a plastic bracelet, but it had a puppy charm on it, and I loved puppies!  I talked about them all the time.  That is the kind of thing that makes a girl feel special; whether you are 5 or 50.  When someone pays attention, and makes an effort to do something nice or thoughtful it goes a long way!

Feel your feelings

What about the feelings that we had?  Remember the hot cheeks, the butterflies, the awkwardness, and shy moments?  Over time we can get desensitized to these feelings because of previous unsuccessful relationships.  After years and years of dating and one break up or heart break after another, you may force yourself to overlook those feelings and cues.  It is important to reconnect your body and emotions so you can keep your mind open to a person who may be a potentially good fit for you.  Those feelings tell us we are into that person, that something about them makes us want to know more.

Hone your inner child and have a little fun with your partner, your crush and yourself!  Hopefully your partner is your crush or your crush becomes your partner.  When we were young we wished we could quickly grow up, but now that we have, we understand the fallible logic of that thinking.  Cherish the fun, spontaneous moments you have with your loved ones that bring back the feelings of childhood.

Would love to hear your love stories and ways you keep love young.  Please share!

Terminating the client-counselor relationship

Courtesy of tagxedo.com

What is the best way to end the counseling relationship?  A counselor’s hope is with the client in a better place and with a higher level of awareness.  Of course we want to know that we made a difference, but that’s the tricky part of working with humans.  We are all unique and results are measured differently.  With one client a certain level of progress may not seem very significant, but with others that same type of progress may be just enough to leave a lasting effect.  No matter how significant the results, terminating the counseling relationship is just as important as beginning it.

When meeting with a client, I like to be as proactive as possible.  The more information my clients have the better, that way there are no surprises.  Counseling is a very intimate relationship.  People don’t generally put their whole selves along with their secrets on the table for all to see, so developing the counseling relationship is instrumental.  Part of gaining trust comes with informed consent, making sure they know what to expect from you, and ending treatment in a respectful way.  Carl Rogers theory, person-centered approach, is drilled into your counseling education for a reason.  The three aspects Rogers believed are critical to the counseling relationship are unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness.  If your clients feel that you are present-engaged- participating- and you care, they are much more inclined to do the work.  Get them started with an understanding that there will be an end within a timeline. This gives them a metaphorical carrot to chase; an outcome to look forward to.  One caution – you can be a part of the journey without getting on the bus.  Meaning, maintain your differentiation to prevent transference and countertransference.  It takes practice, patience, and diligence to confront your own emotions after a difficult session.  Be sure to take the time to meet with a supervisor or peer to process the session, your feelings and move through it.  We must constantly take care of ourselves, spend too much time giving all you have to everyone else, and there is little left to work with.  This work helps you and ultimately makes you a better counselor.   

The interesting part of counseling is when your clients surprise you.  Sometimes we can make termination such a big deal in our heads, and admittedly feel a bit disappointed when they are not nearly as bummed as we are to end the counseling relationship.  Bottom line…Inform them, Rogers them, and give them a loose outline so they can take you on an incredible journey!

Transformation is an experience that few of us have a front row ticket to, get in that mosh pit, get engaged, and take it all in. It will change your life as well.

Happiness…

Courtesy of weheartit.com

I found this picture and it makes me think of happy times.  I grew up in Florida and I was married on the beach, so it is one of those places that feels like home.  The sound of the waves crashing into the shore, the birds chirping, the sound of kids playing and laughing, and the ever flowing water.  Remembering these things instantly makes me happy.  So, how does it happen?  Where does happiness come from?  How can we all get a slice?  I did some research and it looks like happiness means something different to all of us, but a recent study shows 56% of happiness comes from mental attitude, 25% from love, and incredibly only 4% from money, the other 15% comes from accomplishments and creative activity.  So, if it’s true – that the majority of my happiness comes from me, how can we all
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Having a baby – you want me to do what?

A friend recently asked me to write about expectations of a man and a woman when having a baby. Well, we talked about expectations a bit in my recent blog, so let’s reframe that to, understanding the relationship transition with a newborn. When two people decide to have or are blessed with the joy of children, there is a 9 month delay for good reason. Even with adoptions, the process takes time. Being a parent is an awesome responsibility and notably the hardest job on the planet. When embarking upon this new life, it may be easier if you are able to prepare more than 9 months out.

Discussions about values, beliefs, and family rules are a great way to start preparing. Just like navigating the rules in the relationship, new patterns and processes will be an important aspect of your new family dynamic. There will be some things that are extremely important to each parent as your child develops. Having the conversations about what is most important to you, prior to pregnancy, may help alleviate future disagreements or misunderstandings. And then, there are those grand ideas you may have that just don’t work out the way you envisioned. Establishing open, collaborative lines of communication will make future decision making easier.

Written and unwritten or verbal and nonverbal rules exist in all families. A written rule may be – we shower before bedtime, no eating in the bedrooms, saying please and thank you, or no feet on the furniture. An unwritten rule might be something that children observe about the way to behave or what is accepted in the family. Children look to their parents to know what is right or wrong. For example, if the child normally goes to the grocery store with mom, but this week goes with dad, the child may inform dad that they are picking the “wrong” items. The mom never said Cheerios were the “right” cereal, however over time, the child observed the mother’s behavior and determined what was “right.” This concept is extremely important to embrace as a future parent. You have the single most important influence on this little person, more than any other person will have. Have you looked at yourself? Have you thought about the legacy you want to leave behind? Have you identified the issues you struggle with so you can change them, so your children don’t inherit those same behaviors, thoughts, or beliefs?

I grew up knowing that dating outside my race wasn’t acceptable. Nothing explicit was said, but there were comments made that implied it would not be accepted. I didn’t believe the things I heard about other groups of people, and was fortunate to attend school with a diverse student body who I came to know for who they were, not only by the color of their skin. This experience helped me understand how important it is to teach my kids to evaluate people on their characteristics, and to not pass judgment based on what I see.

The hard part was taking my new knowledge of people and weaving it into my family dynamic. The implied or unwritten rules just didn’t make sense anymore, and if my parents were wrong about this, I wondered: what else were they wrong about? It is the little things that are seen and heard, kids don’t miss a thing! As a parent, I know there will be times when I make mistakes, but I truly hope the legacy I leave with them is to love and care for people, to constantly learn and ask questions before they make decisions about people, situations, or their own actions, and to become responsible engagers in the world around them.

So, the day arrives, Mom successfully delivers a healthy baby and you ecstatically, yet almost neurotically bring your bundle of joy home. During this time Mom will be experiencing the effects of her changing body, a very different schedule, and responsibilities will multiply and change.

All of a sudden there are a million more things to do, you’re nervous, worried, in awe of this little person you created, and exuberant all at once. Tasks like who will change diapers or get up in the middle of the night are important questions to negotiate.

Answering those questions will help you both identify which roles each parent will take on. Some partners may not be able to take much time off, so mom is home alone all day. Partners, be sure to help mom out when you get home from work and be patient with the transition.

Expectations may begin to seep in and get in the way of this beautiful journey. The lack of sleep doesn’t help things either, and Dad may feel dethroned, or left out. Making time for each other may seem like the last thing you can squeeze into your busy schedule, but even taking a few moments a day to see each other – not just exist side by side, but see the love of your life, and remember why you got into this relationship may help smooth out the rough parts.

Some parents prefer certain activities over others, but a partnership is the most realistic way to go so both parties don’t feel unappreciated or overworked. The most important thing is to talk to each other. When one person in the relationship feels angry, overwhelmed, depressed, uncertain, scared, or any other range of emotion and does not share it, that is the beginning of a slippery slope. I liken it to a funnel cloud that in time will turn into a tornado, unexpectedly wiping everything in its path.

If you say it out loud, then you can do something with it. Counseling may be a great way to learn effective negotiating strategies during this time of great transition, even if only Mom gets a chance to talk to someone, it may be incredibly helpful. Many moms experience the baby blues due to hormonal rebalancing from 4-5 days after delivery until about 14 days post delivery. If you do not notice an improvement in your mood, you may have postpartum depression. Please seek help from your care provider.

As stated previously, parenting is a lot of work, the folks who do it on their own definitely deserve some type of award nomination. I mean — how do you do it? Single parents – you are amazing people, give yourself a break, you are doing the best you can. As long as your kids know you love them – you are doing it right!

Helpful websites for new parents:

babycenter.com app available for smartphones

thebump.com app available for smartphones

parenting.com

dr.spock.com

parents.com app for the magazine available, have to pay for the magazine

Please share your tips and comments on parenting!