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.

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.

Black Lives Matter

As a white woman who grew up in the south, rural Florida, Confederate flags, rifles and proud rednecks were customary in the large trucks cruising down most streets.

My stepfather worked at a local pawn shop and carried his gun strapped to his side every day, prepared to fight back if anyone were to rob the little pawn shop where he worked. Back in the 90s, growing up in a small town, parties, attending car races, and muddin’ were normal weekend activities.

That background could apply to any typical southern family. Racism was also in our family, that piece may or may not be typical. In my optimism and perhaps blind faith, I pray it’s not. I don’t know what happened in other homes but in mine the echoes of the N word, explicit rules forbidding me from dating outside my race, and other implicit rules that aren’t worth mentioning were a constant reminder that race was an issue.

I think the day I lost respect for my parents was in middle school. I had a BFF who was black but I never hung out with her outside of school. I never even asked. It’s a shame to hear the people who are supposed to be teaching you right from wrong say awful things about people of color and you KNOW it’s wrong and hateful, racist and ignorant. I couldn’t put the things they said in the same mind space as my friend. I completely rejected it and by doing so rejected them. I lost respect for my parents and didn’t trust the life lessons they had for me after that. I regret not being strong enough to tell them then how I felt.

So at about age 11, I knew the world was not what I had been told and made up my mind to meet people where they are. Am I perfect? No! There are those old parts that still hear the ugly echos of my childhood, but I have spent my life seeking out people for who they are. I love people and believe in their beautiful spirits and humanity. Hate cannot exist where there is love, and so I seek to bring love and joy into the lives of others.

So what does my story have to do with the Black Lives Matter Movement – besides the obvious, as a white lady, I need to do better? Well, I met a wonderful amazing man and had 2 beautiful babies. He is a black man who experiences the awfulness of systemic racism daily. I spend my days thinking, how can I create an environment for my husband, so that when he comes home he can leave the filth of the world outside and be treated the way he should be, with decency and respect and love.

I think about my children whose skin may be lighter like mine but who are black. They cant just be people who are judged by the content of their character, but always in this world, they will be judged by how they look. Will life be a tad easier because they may pass as white? Would they get pulled over less? Would they face less discrimination in school or the workplace? Or will they struggle to understand who they are? Never black enough… never white enough? As parents we have started early to help our son understand and embrace both parts of his heritage. We have a lot to learn and teach, but it’s the most evil s#$% of this world to tell a 5 year old…oh…btw you are beautiful and perfect and made in God’s image but not everyone sees you that way so be careful, don’t trust people, be wary of this ugly world.

Why is America so divisive? Why is it okay to be so judgy? Why did it become okay for white people get to decide who has value in this world? Last I checked the Big Man upstairs is in charge of that.

We lived in Pensacola, FL for a bit and decided to come back to DC. Pensacola was just not for a family like ours. When searching for places to live I chose PG County which is predominantly black, on purpose. It was hard for my hubby in Pensacola. I wanted him and the kids to live in a more diverse area. I wanted them to be in a community that looked more like them. I try to check in on things like that. As much as I can control it, I want them to be comfortable. And if they are good, I am good! And I love everybody…mostly, minus mean people.

I know I will never truly get it, it being the experience, the pain, the frustration and stress, but my heart aches for my husband, my kids’ future, my friends, my coworkers. I know all these beautiful black people who experience such garbage treatment and it makes me sick. We white people HAVE to do better. Tell the people who are being racist they are racist. Stop awful people from harming people of color. Refuse to accept people in your life that are racist.

One of the hardest things I had to do is stop talking to a family member because of their views on my marriage. It hurt, it still hurts but I cannot allow ANYONE to disregard, and disrespect the love of my life simply because of the color of their skin.

This is a time for hard conversations and reflection and learning. This is a time to lift our black sisters and brothers up. Because we have failed them for 400 years. We cannot espouse to be the greatest nation in the world …to encourage the pursuit of happiness for all Americans and continue to kneel on the necks of black and brown people for our own selfish growth. You are not truly successful if it comes at the harm, hurt and expense of others.

I invite dialogue and would love to hear others’ experiences.

Creating life

As I stood in line at the fertility doctor that morning I was overwhelmed with a feeling of awe, sadness and hope. My husband and I had been trying to have children for almost 2 years. We began seeing a fertility doctor in October, then instantly found out we were pregnant. Unfortunately that little blessing didn’t make it.

So, we began again. We went through the testing that revealed it may be more difficult for us to conceive. We were ready to do whatever we could to create life with the love we have for each other. We prayed and hoped and attended the IVF classes. No matter the cost we would figure out out. Then in June, a couple weeks before starting the IVF process, God answered our prayers with a positive pregnancy test.

So, as I stood in line at my third follow up sonogram to make sure baby is on track, I was overcome with emotion as I realized how much all these women around me wanted the same thing I had growing inside me. I was in awe at the resilience and commitment of these amazing women. To put your body through the hormones, procedures, and emotional roller coaster of producing eggs to hopefully get fertilized and become an embryo then properly implant – well, it’s a process to say the least. I also felt so appreciative that God saved me from that process. I really wanted a baby, but hoped my body would cooperate the old fashioned way. I recall in my younger years praying not to get pregnant, what a mistake, now all I could think about was conceiving.

I felt sadness that so many people around me in this small office desperately wanted to create life, to be parents, to guide and protect and raise fabulous people, while some in this world brutally attack, neglect or discard children daily.

Finally, hope! Glorious hope washed over me that these women will too feel the way I do right now – joyous, nervous, excited, blessed and so in love with this little person growing inside me!

I cannot wait to meet this little miracle!

As an update *** This was written almost 4 years ago. I was nervous to post as many women understand that have had fertility issues, you want it to work and don’t want a reminder it didn’t. I’m happy to report my little guy is 3 and he has a baby sister coming in September. We are beyond thrilled and filled with gratitude.

For others facing the struggle choose hope and faith, they will guide your journey.

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!