safe inside

safe inside

There are many things the shelter in place has me feeling grateful for…that is the least we can do right?! Feel grateful for the ability to shelter in place while others are losing and risking their lives to keep us fed, healthy and cared for.

Each of the kids, minus my fifteen year old, has taken a long walk with me. Learning about their friends, their hopes and dreams, what they love to do, and what they think about has been a fantastic luxury in all of this. This precious time is something I need to find a way to preserve. I want to make sure when things go back, this time with each of them one on one is preserved, that it remains something that happens weekly in our lives. It is sacred.

My daughter has grown into such a wonderfully funny, independent spirit. She loves people as they are, but has a strong love for order in chaos, she likes to take charge and has a fierce self-esteem. She is becoming quite comfortable in her skin, but there are still stresses and fears that linger in her heart and what a gift that she felt comfortable sharing them with me.

C-man has incredible comedic timing and his sarcasm is on point. My job is just to help navigate what is appropriate for a nine-year-old to say out loud and to whom. He loves to laugh, dance, sing, and is so artistic. His understanding of historic events and his recall for what happened is astounding. Listening to him talk is a full time job, because he can talk about anything and everything. Getting to know and understand his heart has been a breath of fresh air.

Z is such a unique combination of tender and tough. He loves video games, science-fiction, reading, sports, and his memory is a steel trap. This past few months he has been learning about football players and basketball players. He is understanding stats and starting to recognize talent. Z is a true athlete; he understands instinctively what to do physically with any sport. Strategy and skill blend so well together in his head and then he is able to play that out on the court or field. It was surprising to me to know he feels so self-conscious on the soccer pitch. And he understands the link between that confidence and how it affects his play. Children are sponges!

I will get my oldest to go with me, but until then as his mother I go to him. I check in; I don’t nag to much, I encourage involvemennt and he has been playing outside with his siblings, joining in family conversations, sharing his gaming and online chats with his friends, and his concerns and feelings during all of this, so that works for me, too.

Marriage is a trickier thing. Our love for one another is so strong; it definitely stands the test of any argument. But being stuck together can really exaggerate what makes you crazy. It has also made me incredibly grateful I have a husband that loves his family and makes them a priority. He is incredibly supportive of how all this has affected my business and my need to put the kids first. I am so fortunate to have such a great teammate in all of this.

So, I am choosing joy and gratefulness even in a time of uncertainty, even if there is a little bit of fear in my heart. It is the best we can do, the best I can do right now.

Inside Voice # 1

Inside Voice # 1

Struggle – verb: to proceed with difficulty or with great effort*

“You could never understand my pain.” This is a common phrase I hear a lot.

I think deep down a vast majority of us feel unseen, unheard, and misunderstood. We search for connection, but feel like no one could ever understand our pain, or losses, what we have been through. And to an extent that is true. How we experience things is unique, but what we experience can be universal. Right now is a prime example. The world will remember this pandemic. We are all going through it. How we experience it day to day is unique to us, but so much of the what is happening to us is the same. Yet, it must be human nature to compare because we can’t seem to help it.

A few days ago, I was listening to Brené Brown’s podcast, she was interviewing David Kessler, an author and grief expert. During the interview he started talking about how people compare grief. For example, a grieving mother’s pain is greater than a grieving daughter’s pain, and he basically said that we can’t compare grief because “your grief is the greatest grief.” Why? Basically, he postured that the greatest grief is our own because it is the most significant amount of suffering we have endured up to that point in our lives. That truth resonated through me like a I had been hit with a tuning fork.

It has been so difficult for me to write about what I am feeling and experiencing during this time because of all the suffering I know other people are enduring, all while my family is safe and healthy. But listening to David Kessler reminded me we are all grieving something because as he defines grief, it is the loss of something, the death of something, it reminded me that we are all feeling loss. Some may be missing the loss of the school year, the loss of normalcy as we knew it, we are all learning how to cope with Shelter in Place (SIP), or with whatever we may be faced with in new ways. And what we are living through is one of those defining moments that there will be forever a before and after. We will say things like, “remember when we used to shake hands and hug strangers everywhere before the pandemic.”

Our first responders and essential workers are awe-inspiring, self-sacrificing humans whose stories are lifting me up and breaking my heart on the daily. We cannot thank them enough for what they do to help the rest of us. There isn’t a day that I am not thinking about their ability to put others first and what they must be encountering on a daily basis.

There are times I want to keep things light and funny, but I think about what people are grappling with, and it seems like if I do that, I am not being considerate enough. I want to address the death, loss, and gravity of the situation, but I get so overcome with emotion, I can’t seem to pick myself up off the couch and genuinely go into a downward spiral of despair, and that isn’t going to help anyone.

So, I wanted to start this post by acknowledging that I understand that there are so many people across the globe who are suffering and struggling and the people that are assisting others, saving others, and are on the front lines have my utmost and deepest gratitude. But to document this authentically for myself, I may have to keep things a bit lighter moving forward, even if this post stays a bit heavy.

Also, I want to recognize that the shelter in place isn’t safe for everyone, but I think it was the best choice for the majority of our population. While that doesn’t negate the danger, some people who are in abusive situations may be facing I think those in the hardest-hit areas of the country would definitely agree that shutting things down was the right choice. I think it’s funny that we feel because we are in a democracy that we were automatically given the right to chose what is best for us. We want that right, but just like a parent, sometimes our leaders have to make difficult decisions that they think are best for us. It is easy to throw stones, but I am going to side with our governor on this one. I think Gavin Newsom did what he thought was best for our state and the people in it, and I don’t think it was an easy choice. I think it was a weighty choice and continues to be a difficult one.

On to more mundane topics of discussion.

What is my family doing in all of this?

I did shut down my in-person office visits. I have been doing sessions over the phone. It has been good, but also more taxing than usual. The energy it takes out of me seems more daunting than it was previously. I am sure that is because of my own energy, my clients’ energies, and then doing what I do all mixed together. Plus my sensitivity to the hurt that is in the world right now, and there is a lot of crying on my end by the end the day. It is also hard when people ask the impossible of me. There are people who have no boundaries and think I have all the answers, or that spirit does, and that just isn’t true. There are no definite answers, there is only what is best in the moment, and we have to find that for ourselves, no one in this world or the next, besides God, can give us that. We can find comfort from others, but we can’t find definite answers to the universe. At least I don’t believe that is possible in this existence.

My husband has been working from home. He likes his commute, and he is definitely working 9-5, but I think this week, it is getting hard for him to not be in the office with some of his co-workers.

The kids are doing really amazing. I am so impressed with their resilience.

My oldest son is so on top of his schedule, his classes, and what is expected of him at school. That part has been effortless. He is even trying to learn a little Japanese. Some mornings, he spends trying to relearn how to play songs on his keyboard and strums his guitar at various times throughout the day. However, his need to play video games with his friends for hours on end has been harder to manage. We have non-screen time hours, and that has helped, but I still think he is on his devices too much; it is just hard when that is also his social outlet. How can you reduce his contact from his friends even more than it already is? He is such a responsible kid. I am hoping we can help him understand balance during this time.

My daughter’s transition to distance learning was reasonably seamless. She was already at a school where everything was digital. Her school is paperless, so textbooks are online or digital, and classwork is submitted digitally already. She was up and running within days of the SIP (Shelter in Place) order. Her phone and iPad were all propped up on her desk, and she was typing away while working with classmates on assignments on day one. Obviously, she is definitely having a more difficult time with the social aspect. She misses her friends and wasn’t planning on returning to that particular school in the fall, so she is rethinking that now that she missed out on the closure of the year. We are just playing it day by day. We have both shed tears over her heartbreak that she won’t get to finish out the year with her teachers, classmates, or on the peaceful campus. I am pretty sure she also misses the food. Our home lunches don’t quite compare to the farm-fresh, chef-curated meals her school offers. She has had some Zoom calls with friends and played on Houseparty the other day with two girlfriends. But she is still lonely.

For the twins, I threw my teaching hat back on and downloaded several units from Teachers Pay Teachers and have been teaching writing, math, science, and reading activities. I also have a geography unit we will likely start in the next month or so. I struggle with the online games and practice, but I am trying to incorporate that as it is part of what their teacher is assigning. We have also been baking, doing science experiments, some art projects, playing outside, bike riding, and walks.

The oldest of the twins is having trouble with his anxiety. We have been working on tools and techniques he can use to self soothe. They seem to be working, but it crushes my heart that he worries so much for being only nine years old. I have been open and honest that adults are feeling the same way he is. It is natural to be worried, this is the first time many of us have ever faced anything like this, but we list what we are doing to keep us all safe, and that seems to help.

The younger of the twins is less anxious, but finally, let out some sadness yesterday as he misses his friends and soccer. We even had a family discussion about how you just need to cry sometimes so you can release that emotion. It can help you feel a little better. Both boys have Messenger kids and FaceTime, so they have been able to connect with classmates over this time period, but I know it isn’t the same.

Of course, when the younger kids said they would have liked to have been over at Noni and Papa’s (my mom and dad’s) when this started so they could have been stuck there for months, it hurt my heart just a little. I told them they would miss me, and one of the twins said, “Oh, we have messenger kids mom, we would have talked to you that way.”

I am trying to make it fun, but I guess not enough apparently. But that is the plight of being the parent, you just aren’t appreciated or cool until they understand what being a parent is like.

To keep my own sanity, I am reading. Thankfully I have been a part of two book launches. The first Jen Hatmaker’s Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire. (You can preorder it here.) The second, Live, Love, Now by Rachel Macy Stafford. (You can preorder that book here.) Both have been uplifting, introspective reads. I am also reading, Little Fires Everywhere and watching the series on Hulu. That has been fun. I may have also got a little caught up in Veronica Mars, which is way too young for me, but the Good Place ended and I miss Kristen Bell. What’s a girl to do?

I have been exercising. But like I told my one of my friends the other day, if I hadn’t created the habit of working out before the SIP, it would have been hard to start because my unworthiness gets the best of me in times like this and motivation vanishes because I just think I will be fat and ugly forever and nothing will help! I know that those are unkind things to say to myself, but in the past, those words and the energy to combat them leave me depleted. Then exercise seems insurmountable. So if you feel guilty for not working out right now, stop it. Just stop it. Whatever you can do is enough.

Writing has been a struggle. I want to be a writer so much, but the voices in my head that tell me I am not enough, even though I can quiet them everywhere else, here in this writer space they remain unchecked.

  • “You have nothing valuable to add.”
  • “You are too wordy.”
  • “You haven’t had enough pain to write in a way that resonates.”
  • “You aren’t entertaining enough.”
  • “You aren’t honest enough.”
  • “When you do tell the whole truth, you hurt people’s feelings.”
  • “Just shut up.”

I can hear you through the internet; I know I am not being nice to myself. I get it. I promise. And on top of that, I asked a friend to answer herself with love the other day after painting hurtful words her brain was shouting at her, I guess I need to do the same.

  • “Your experience is worthy enough to share.”
  • “Your words can take up the space they take up.”
  • “You can be a writer with any life experience; talent isn’t measured by pain.”
  • “Your words are enough; if people like them great. If they don’t, they don’t. Helping one person is more than enough, even if that person is you.”
  • “You are a solid gold truth-teller; it is your default.”
  • “You are kind, and you are honest. Your words always have the best intentions, and that means something.”
  • “Write – let your heart be free on the page.”

And so there you have it. I will write a little each day, show up here authentically and offer what I can. It’s all any of us can do.

It is my sincerest wish that you are well and finding ways to cope with the new normal.

Sincerely,

Contently Complete with My Contradictions

Contently Complete with My Contradictions

I would rather be comfortable than fashionable. Even though I feel prettier with makeup on the days I don’t wear it, I am happier. I chose to wear leggings over jeans. Simple is better. Tennis shoes over heels any day.

Despite being able to present in front of large groups of people, it is way more natural for me to be quiet and separate from other people. Yet at the same time, I love helping people and I want to make friends.

I am an optimist, but sometimes the weight of the world and all that happens is too much to hold in my heart and I want to cry and cry.

While I adore my children and want to be around them, I am not good at playing games or coming up with fun crafts to do. My kids are my life. They are my everything and what makes me happy. They are my why.

I probably watch too much T.V. and spend too much time on social media.

I want to be a successful business owner, but I also am okay with the way things are right now. Having extra time to be with my family after a decade of working in a fast-paced, high-demand, high-stress job that required me to be at the ready around the clock has taken its toll, and I am not prepared to jump right back into that.

Being a wife is fantastic and makes me so very happy, but I also like peace and quiet. While I love taking care of others, sometimes I want to be taken care of.

I am more serious than funny.

I overthink everything and still struggle with my confidence.

I wish people were kinder with one another.

Sometimes what I do makes it hard for me to be around other people and really connect.

Writing is where I feel most at home, and yet I am scared to share my voice and terrified of putting my words out into the world, and yet somehow, I keep doing it.

I have said this before, but I literally suck at small talk and my memory is mush these days. I want to be able to converse, but it isn’t easy for me to do this with people outside of work.

I would rather be home than anywhere else.

Why do we keep pushing to move faster, do more, one-up what we did the last time?

There can be room for improvement, but I also think we can just be, and that is enough.

In my jumble of contradictions, I think it is okay. I just want to be who I am and love my skin. I want to wash away mom guilt, and this drive to be made for more, and just be me. Content, confident, and appreciative of each day. Content with my contradictions and completely settled and happy with what is.

So that is where I am now. Just trying to keep things slow and uncomplicated. Content, appreciative in who I am.

Open Letter 2020

Open Letter 2020

At the beginning of last year I wrote a letter to myself, you can read more about why here. Accountability is important and it truly did keep me on course most of the time.

I wanted to do it here again, so I have these to look back on, plus it is my own version of therapy. My goal is that this helps you as well. I always write to reach just one soul that might feel like me so they feel a little less lonely, maybe a little more inspired to be unapologetically themselves and maybe this letter will hit the mark.

I wish you all a happy, successful, healthy 2020.

Dear End of 2020 Michelle,

I wrote this to you in a time when my soul felt bitterly broken, for that, I apologize. I tried so many times to write this from a place of hope, success, cheer, but alas, weeks passed, and my heart still feels achy, torn, defeated. Depression does that to you, no matter how hard you try. No matter how much work you put in. No matter how illogical it may seem, your brain sabotages you to believe you are nothing, worthless. Even though I hope that isn’t true, it sure feels like it with a force I cannot shake. And I finally decided that writing the truth is essential because I am a truth-teller, and that is what it is. So this letter is not as uplifting as I would have hoped, but I still want it to guide you, and I hope when you read it back, you are in a place where you have risen above, a place where you have found peace and strength in who you are now. 

You threw a birthday gathering for yourself, which is a huge accomplishment, and I am so proud you didn’t cancel even though you wanted to. It was good to see a room of people show up for you. Hugging each one of them felt like home. It is necessary that you continue to be the kind of friend you want to have, even when you struggle with it. Believe me, I know you still struggle. At the gathering the topic of friendship and worth came up. You were rocked to your core when you said how hard it was for you to feel like you do things right and immediately everyone’s voice raised to shut you down in seconds. This is hopeful, and I want you to try and focus on the idea that people don’t see you the same way that you see yourself. I know that is extremely difficult when several of your friends you had to work so hard to get them to notice you to begin with, but that happens. Even if you feel invisible, you are seen, respected, and loved for who you are.

I know you think people care more about what you can do, speak to spirits, than who you are. I know you struggle with that so immensely. I know that you love what you do, but it doesn’t define you. It isn’t who you are, and those that can’t see the difference aren’t worthy of your heart. You are not what you do. You are not your calling. It chose you and you answered that call because of who you are, not the allure of that calling. It puts a barrier between you and those around you that are connected to you because of it. But there are people that love you for who you are. Remember that and seek them out, they will not abandon you, and they won’t care if you are a quiet, homebody who likes to read and stay in her jammies. In fact, those things make them love you more.

Remember always that the quiet girl who wanted to put good into the world, the one who is shy and scared, but full of faith; she is who you are. That girl is worth something. She has value. Keep trying to find her and love her so that she won’t feel so lost, so lonely. My biggest goal is that ten years from now, heck one year from now I want to walk into a room and feel like I belong here, feel enough, capable, funny, wise, warm and engaging. I hope this year you find a balance between what you do and who you are and how you handle that so that goal becomes a reality. You should never have to apologize for the space you take up in the world.

2019 was a good year, you should be proud. You run a successful business that has grown exponentially via word of mouth and you do it all scared. Each day is leap in faith. But I know how much this wonderful job, this calling, means to you. It is vital to your human existence, because at the end of the day all you have ever wanted to do in this life is help people and be a mom. 

Both you have accomplished. But I know it’s beating you down. I know each loss weighs on your heart. Each person you carry with you and can’t seem to shake how loss feels. It catches in every breath, shades every moment of joy, and leaves you feeling so lost and empty because there is so much pain. This pain is a continuously exposed nerve ending, and there is nothing it doesn’t touch. I know there is nothing else you would want to do in this world, but I also know this is not the job you asked for, it was given to you, and you have done your best to rise to every challenge. I know you do not feel worthy of being chosen and that writing these words makes you feel as if you will lose it all because you sound ungrateful and that is the farthest thing from the truth. You just want to keep going and find a way to carry the load so it doesn’t break you. My wish, my hope is that right now at the end of 2020 you are reading this and have found a way to carry that sorrow and loss that is brought into your heart over and over, day in and day out in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling hollow and less than. I know you have struck out with every therapist you have contacted. No one will see you because of what you do. You have risen above judgment before. You have found a way, and I know you will figure this out, too. You are not forsaken, remember in every moment whose you are. HE will not forsake you. HE led you to this spot, and HE will see you through.

As a mom, you have grown so much. You catch your tongue and temper and meet most moments of chaos with peace. You have spent this year truly learning your children’s hearts. You are ready and watching to see how they greet you. Almost always you drop what you are doing to meet them at the ready and listen. You spent time with them. Work came second, and in your workaholic heart, that has been an enormous adjustment. You define yourself by how much you accomplish, and while you like the new pace of life, you feel like you didn’t do enough. Remember that whatever time you spend with your family is more than enough. You saw soccer games, watched dances, made family dinners, read books, had movie nights, game nights, listened to stories, baked together, laughed together. All of that time is what life is about. It is more than enough and it will be the one thing that fills your heart and soul completely.

As a wife, you have put your marriage as a top priority and work from a place of grace with your husband. You are always grateful for all he does and work to make sure he knows it. You spent time together and shared your heart openly. You have seen how he has responded with so much love and openness. You are one lucky girl he chose to marry you and has been by your side every day for nineteen years. What a beautiful life and marriage you continue to build with one another. 

Regrettably, you didn’t finish your book or start a podcast by the end of 2019. It eats at your soul that you let fear stop you in your tracks. That you allow what is hard and seems insurmountable leave you voiceless. The book is now done. You have a clear plan to publish and that is enough. You feel satisfied and hopeful that you completed what you set out to do. The podcast isn’t on the radar anymore, but you published a blog post bi-weekly most of the time, did more quick little videos via Facebook and Instagram, and again that is enough. You like keeping it small and being out of the limelight and that is okay. Small steps filled with great love is always enough. And in doing this you kept what is most important sacred to you and at the forefront; your family. This season is about them, time with them, and you can set anything else down that doesn’t make that the focus. They are worth more than any book, any business, any podcast, they are your world and time with them is priceless. So if you took time and space for them and for you, so you could be better for them, then great job, keep up the good work. WAY TO GO! When you have everything that is good in the world at your fingertips, and you have that in your family, that can be enough. Don’t let yourself or anyone else tell you differently, even Rachel Hollis.

You did keep up with your workouts. Working out is your jam. I know crazy, right?!

You have found lifting weights to be fun and ran 2 5ks officially, more than that off the record. You did your two 10ks this year. You ran six whole miles without stopping, something you never thought you would do again. YOU ARE A WARRIOR GODDESS, AND YOUR BODY CARRIED YOU THROUGH THOSE MILES – think about that every time you don’t like the way something fits. You have strength, stamina, and are working toward your best physical self. It is great that this year you got your check-ups, you took a better look at nutrition and shed that last 20 pounds. I am so proud of you for putting yourself on your checklist and knowing that taking care of you means you can take better care of others.

I know you are a recovering perfectionist and that the call of the Western Culture screams that you have to do more to be enough, but I am so proud you are listening to your heart and finding that the greatest, most valuable moments, are the ones that come in every day simple things. You read all the books, you cuddled with your littles, if you felt like laying in bed a little longer you did and were grateful for the luxury. You filled your year with moments and memories and there will never be anything bigger or more meaningful than that.


Sincerely,

Beginning of 2020 Michelle

Flipping the Questions: Opening Up to be Unapologetically Me

Flipping the Questions: Opening Up to be Unapologetically Me

For weeks, okay months, I have struggled with this deep gut feeling. It sits in the pit of my stomach and reaches up to my heart, where it rests. I call it loneliness, it feels like emptiness. A hollowness in my soul that no one will ever see me; no one will ever connect with me. Like I will be unfriended and voted off the island my whole life.

Yes, I know some of you are thinking I am being dramatic. It is possible, I am extra feely after all. In this motherhood gig, we spend all our time focused on tasks to complete; juggling schedules. We drift from our partners and become ships passing in a fog of life, like heartbeats in the wind. (Thank you Brian Paulson, sweet husband for that line). In this life gig, we get lost and confused and turn ourselves inside out, trying to figure it out.

My loneliness feeling began to cultivate in July. It just so happened that is when a blog post by Rachel Macy Stafford came across my FB newsfeed as I distracted myself from my life. It was called I Will Go With You: Encouraging Kids to Look Beyond Themselves When Stuck in a Place They Cannot Thrive. The words in the article found my wounded little girl heart and lifted it right up to the surface. Rachel’s message reminded me I wasn’t alone.

Something bigger than myself compelled me to reach out to her. Maybe because at the end of the post, I noticed that she was going to be at 1440 in Scotts Valley. This is about 40 minutes from my house. I sent her a FB message, and she responded. Y’all it was the stinking 4th of July, and she wrote me back. I was stunned. I was honored. I was touched. And a little bit of magic happened; that vacantness in my soul felt like someone had taken up room.

I looked into scholarship opportunities. I was able to get one to attend the Soul Shift class that happened there this past weekend.

Of course, life continues to happen, and from that moment in July to October, I have only receded further inside myself and away from my friends. It is hard to get together when you are all living lives that take you in different directions. We easily give up that time together to pour our energy into our families. So while I had seen my friends and texted them, I still felt like I just wanted someone in my life on the daily that I knew would be there to smile at me in the hallways of life. And my friends were not the problem. I thought I was the kind of friend, the type of person who just didn’t make enough of an impression, who didn’t reach out enough, that maybe I wasn’t friendship worthy enough for that kind of friend. Which, of course, are the kind of thoughts that force you into retreat mode.

I thought this class might help me with my connection issues.

At first no dice. At new things I dive into myself. And even though before class started, a group gathered around me at the fire pit, um duh, that means you put off a vibe that you are welcoming. Then during the first session I was seated next to a wonderful woman who talked for the both of us and didn’t seem to mind; I still stayed safely inside my quiet comfort zone of unworthiness.

But let me just say that when I walked in, I was greeted by Amy Paulson, and she is the most fantastic human ever. She instantly connected with me because we have the same last name, and the front desk personnel had almost given her my name tag. She greeted me like an old friend. Her presence at this conference invited me in and whispered to my heart, “Stay.”

There were definite ups and downs in relation to connection during the retreat. All of which were in my realm of perspective and control.

Saturday, I spent the day inside my shell. I was like a timid turtle viewing the world from just inside my safest space. Afraid I didn’t belong. Scared there wasn’t space for me in this place or this world where I would ever feel connected, enough. From this space though, I was able to determine that these women and one man, were like me. They were all craving connection from like-minded souls. They needed rest and restoration for their weary, lonely souls.

So Sunday morning I prayed. I prayed for God to send me where He needed me to be. I asked that He use me as a vessel for love and light. I ask that He guide my words so that I may offer His peace and love into the world. I asked Him to use me for His good. And of course, as is likely when you ask to be used by the greatest good in the world, miracles do happen.

How could you not find peace surrounded by these beauties?

I was led to a space in the room where I met a woman who had five children. We had the best conversation and instant connection. She asked me to eat lunch with her. Relief and gratitude filled my heart. I was chosen by someone else to share precious time. My lonely soul needed that desperately.

At lunch, two other women joined our table. The connection was magical. I discovered at the lunch that two of the women had lost someone dear to them just a few weeks earlier. Not only did the light inside of me help remind them that their loved ones were close by; I made them laugh. Laughter inside of grief is a ray of hope; a reminder that there is a way through; a way to grow around that grief and carry it with you. God had answered my prayer and placed me just where I needed to be.

We said our good-byes and talked about our takeaways. Amy came up in my mind. She had greeted me and left such a distinct impression on my heart with her photography work, with her personality, with the ease at which she stepped into life and invited others to join her. It dawned on me that the best people, the people that welcome you in are almost always unapologetically themselves. Amy also reminded me of why I started this journey to live out loud. She also thinks of her children, her daughter, especially when she feels uncomfortable or out of place. How would she want her daughter to feel? What would she want her daughter to think? And those are the things she tells herself.

As we parted ways at the end of the retreat, my mind started to recalibrate to regular life. Instead, of settling back into old habits, I began to try and embrace the things that I learned. My soul did, indeed, start to shift.

I decided to call my dad on my way home. He is inspirational, real and always upbeat. His take on the world puts my mind in a positive place. This Sunday conversation was no different. It was soul healing. It was his insight that helped me draw the inferences through all the ideas that had bubbled up as a result of the retreat. So as the old questions encroached on my newfound happiness, I refused them. Instead, I began to turn and twist them into new questions that might help me find and rekindle connections in my life.

What if I don’t deserve the space I take up?

What if I not only deserve the space but am placed here with purpose?

What if I am not enough?

What if I am enough?

What if I am not a good mom?

What if I am the best mom for my children?

What if I am not meant to be a friend?

What if I am a good friend?

What if I fail?

What if I try?

What if I am too much?

What if I am just what this world needs?

What if I was unapologetically me?

What if I not only deserve the space but am placed there with purpose? If I am here on purpose then I have to show up. I have to be my best self and offer that to each situation I face.

What if I am enough? I always say I was born this way on purpose for a purpose. That means that I am exactly the way I am supposed to be. That means I am enough. And even though I am a work in progress, I am enough. Plus, all humans make mistakes. One practice I have implemented in my life are do-overs. It was years ago that I made the mistake of not greeting a friend the way I wanted because I was distracted and upset by my fighting children. Well, as soon as the children were settled, I found that friend, apologized and did the greeting over. From that moment on, I knew that each moment was a new shot, a second chance to get it right, or just a new moment to soak it all in. I can be flawed and enough.

What if I am the best mom for my children? It has come to my knowledge since becoming a medium that we chose our parents before we even get here. So it would follow that my own children wanted me as a parent. If that is true, then I am the best mom for my children. They knew I wouldn’t be perfect of course, but they also knew my love for them would never cease. They knew I would never stop trying to help deliver the nourishment they needed for their bodies, minds, and souls. And of course that would mean that I am the best mom for my children.

What if I am a good friend? This one is tough, because there are so many times I want to show up for people, and I talk myself out of it, or my own life wobbles like a top sputtering out of control that I don’t get the thing done I wanted to do for them. I am late to remember birthdays. I hesitate to ask for help or offer it. But I have good friends. How could I have such stellar people in my life if I wasn’t offering something in return? Maybe I am a good enough friend. I am going to work to be a better one and not talk myself out of showing up. But I am good enough as it stands today.

What if I try? Well, this one is an easy one for me. If I try, I have no regret. Regret is so much worse than trying and failing. I will take trying over regret any day.

What if I am just what this world needs? Even writing this, this truth sits a bit heavy with me. But if I was born just this way and I believe in divine timing, then it would follow that I am just right where I am supposed to be. Doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing at the moment and miraculously it is making a difference. In this crazy world I know we forget that if we do our best and help just one person that we have done what we set out to do. Just reach one person. The ripples that come off that action in their lives and our own create a catalyst of good in the world. Those ripples extend farther than we can imagine and create more ripples we may never even see.

What if I was unapologetically me? What if?! What if I showed up and felt like I belonged? What if I didn’t overthink everything I said? What if I allowed myself just to be? WHAT IF? Can you even imagine what that would feel like? The best people live their lives this way. Amy Paulson, my dad, Rachel Macy Stafford, all the people that influenced me the most last weekend and in my everyday life are unapologetically themselves. So I have decided I no longer am just striving to live out loud telling my truth, being vulnerable, I am going to strive to be unapologetically me. It is going to be a process, but I can’t wait to see where that will take me.

What I want you to remember, dear reader, is that you can shift your soul, your perspective, your heart at any moment, too. Each moment is a new moment, another chance, a fresh start. And it is a process, we can lose footing and our way and start over again. There is no end and no beginning; we are always becoming, growing, and if you keep showing up, believing you are supposed to be there just as you stand today, the good and acceptance that will flow into the world from that will be enough.

Meeting Rachel – she is as beautiful inside as she is outside.

You are enough.

You deserve the space you take up.

You are a fabulous parent and partner.

You are not alone.

You are worthy of friendship.

You will not fail; you will learn; you will soar; you will become unapologetically you.

Sincerely and unapologetically,

An open letter to myself…

An open letter to myself…

The rain came down yesterday. Puddles litter the ground and this afternoon’s storm is imminent. In fact, the call came through while I was at breakfast with a friend that all after school meetings and activities are cancelled, except high school athletics. So I am still waiting to hear from my son’s soccer coach if the game is on this afternoon.

I know it probably sounds silly to most of the world that California towns shut down at the threat of a thunderstorm; it seems silly to us, too but the roads flood fast when it rains here. These mandatory shut downs (not government ones – I am not getting political here) get our family home and cozy. It stops time for a brief moment and I couldn’t be happier. But that isn’t what this post is about.

As I sit here on my planned writing day with papers strewn about and a copy of Hands Free Mama by my side, I am still struggling to complete this post. It is one that needs to be written so I am compelled to keep at it.

This last year, I was introduced to a woman named Michele, by her dad. While that may seem ordinary, it was anything but. See by the time we met, via phone, her dad was already in heaven. (If you haven’t heard how we met you can read my post about it here). I still feel like he continually links us. Whether it is her seeing me on a morning run or an online post that shows how close we live to one another, we still find ourselves being connected.

She has this great online FB community where she writes motivating posts to help others live their best life. You see how we like each other now, right?

Well, one of her most recent asks, was for us to write a letter to our future selves. She said that we had to write a letter to ourself in the future expressing a sense of accomplishment for all we completed the past year. I originally thought this would be easy. But here I sit. With the letter still unfinished.

Writing about my success; that is complicated. More than complicated; arduous. A part of me still can’t think I am a success because I feel like I will jinx the good stuff I have going on in my life right this very instant. And I was taught to be humble, so saying “Hey look what I can do,” makes me cringe. I know you are reading an online blog about myself; the irony of this is not lost on me. So I get that you are thinking this can’t be that hard. But it is!

On the flip side, I could easily list off the things I have failed or what I want to do different next time or how I want to be a better at whatever. But to write a letter to myself about how proud I am of me; that is trickier than it sounds.

However, I think it is important. What we put out into the universe comes back. What we want for ourselves; what we see for ourselves; well that becomes our reality. So this exercise isn’t just for fun; I think it is necessary for my growth over the next year. I am doing it and sharing it in the hopes that maybe you will do the same for yourself. Maybe you will work at manifesting your own dreams this year.

Okay here it goes…

Dear End of 2019 Michelle,

There is so much I have to tell you. I know, no surprise there; we both know how long-winded I can be. 

First and foremost; I want you to know how proud I am of you for holding steady this year. When things got hectic or tough you remembered to consistently show up for yourself. And when life knocked you down you dusted yourself off and tried again. I know how merciless that bully in your head can be; and the fact that you never let her get the best of you; you should feel so satisfied. I am glad that failure wasn’t an option for you.

I know your job is life-breathing for you. You are helping people and doing what you are meant to do; but I also know it is breath-taking in both good and bad ways. Aren’t you grateful that you kept your faith, even on the days when appointments were heavy or they didn’t go your way; aren’t you glad you looked up and remembered whose you are. Always keep that faith. Always remember that God has your back. He is holding you and He held you, even when you thought you were alone or He couldn’t see what was happening. I love that prayer to you isn’t a word or a thing it is an action and you put its power to use. When all else fails, faith seems to center us. 

Girl, this one was hard. You left so much sweat on the floor of 2019. You lost all your extra padding and gained some sure-fire muscle. Look at you! You finished two 5Ks and made sure that you took time to better your health each and every day. But you also enjoyed food and gatherings and didn’t let it over run your life. You found a beautiful balance for your health and your sweet tooth. I bet you feel good in your clothes and are glad to have more energy. Well done, but remember don’t stop. This is lifetime work. Keep getting after it; you have got this.

In, the work world, you did a great job. You are the owner of a successful business. And you decided to take a risk and finally finish that book. The bravery it took to send off your completed manuscript to publishers was impressive. Hang in there. No matter what happens you wrote a whole book and shared it. You should feel content. That is enough. More than enough. Great work. And to top it off you started your own little podcast. You go girl. I know, I know the things that come out of our mouth. We can’t help it. The point is we are not on the sidelines any more watching other people’s dreams come true or hiding our own potential. You are out in the arena making your own dreams a reality and it takes my breath away to see you like this. Remember when we took out that picture of us at three. Remember that smile. You started all this to find that girl again and now you are her. How’s that for success? Let that settle in your bones and savor how that feels. 

Most importantly, you soaked in the sun, spent time watching the sky in wonder, gazed out at the stars, studied your babies’ precious faces and listened to their hearts until you knew them as well as your own, and  you were there for those that needed you most. You took the time to laugh, listen and love. You were present and made your people a priority. Don’t you feel like you added treasured moments to your life? 

All in all you had a productive year where you were a participant in your own life. You put blood, sweat, tears, laughter, love and adventure into 2019. I know you are grateful and blessed for all you have experienced; don’t let that pass you buy. Soak it up. Let it linger on your heart. It’s okay to take a moment and just be. I also know, you will think about what was lost or missed. Try and remember what is, is and what will be, will be. You did what you could. You did the best with what you had. You never gave up. You are the best you, you have ever been to this point in your life and I love you more today than ever. 

Sincerely,

Beginning of 2019 Michelle

Parenting: My truth

Parenting: My truth

** Special note: I write this with the intent and experience of my parenting journey. In no way is it meant to be hurtful to those families who have had severe and devastating struggles. Those of my friends that have endured this, my heart goes out to you all. Each and everyone. I know the names of all of your babies. I say them every day. I know how your heart hurts and that life will never be the same. This essay is genuinely written from only my perspective. It is just a simplified version of what I am going through with no intent to demean or diminish other people’s experiences.**

People mean well when they tell their harrowing labor stories, or crazy parenting moments, or offer their warnings about parenting teenagers, or offer advice and layout the total cost of raising a child. I remember all the breastfeeding, diaper changing, labor giving, toddler disciplining, Happiest Baby on the Block sharing, and all it did was exhaust me. Mostly made me feel pretty inadequate as a parent. So I stopped paying attention to what other people were doing, followed my gut instincts and did the best I could. That is what I am still doing. Now, people keep telling me parenting teens is the hardest. They mean well, I get it. But, just like the advice in the earlier years, I don’t think I am going to buy into it.

Before I had children, everyone would tell me you don’t know what you are getting into; your life is going to be so different. You are never ready for what is going to happen. When I held my son in my arms for the first time, my whole body shifted into mom mode. I had waited my entire life for that moment. Everything before was just practicing for that moment. Was I scared? Of course. I mean, duh. Brian and I got home looked at each other and looked at the helpless little human in my arms and knew we were going to have to wing it. We knew it was going to be harder than anything we had ever done before and we knew there wasn’t a rule book or guide that was tailored to us.

Regardless of whatever outside advice or stories I heard from other novice or experienced mothers, from day one with my babies, somewhere in me, I knew I could do it, and I knew I would know best, no matter what. Of course, it was scary, and I worry through every single step.

I remember being terrified they would stop breathing when I wasn’t looking or that they were going to have some severe food allergy, or illness, or God forbid, based on every book known to man, they would be less than in every way because they were formula fed. I worried about their psyche since I rocked them to sleep every single night and did not believe in letting them cry it out. Come on; there is enough crying in life already. But most of all, I loved being a mom to my babies. They way they smelled after a bath, the rocking to sleep, watching milestones be reached, hearing them laugh for the first time. Not sleeping was rough, but it was also so sacred and special to have those moments in the silence with them.

When they survived infancy, walking became the next terrifying event. There are stairs everywhere people. Everything seemed to have sharp corners, and my goodness floor tile is so freaking hard. Each place became an obstacle course of sharp edges, hard surfaces, and steep falls. But it was also miraculous to watch them take those first steps; to see the wonder on their faces as they were able to start exploring the world at their own pace.

After we survived walking – and running; I won’t even go there – with just a few bumps and bruises it was play-dates at the park. I know, I know those sound fun, but when the kids were little toddlers, my heart was in constant panic mode. Some moron believed it was a good idea that at the tippy, tippy top of the play structure next to the very best tube slide there needed to be an opening with a 20-foot drop. I mean who in HOLY HELL designs these things?! Regardless of the pitfalls and obstacle courses of doom; parenting a toddler was way more than amazing. The talking, the stories, the imaginative play, the silly and hilarious things that would come out of their mouths. Watching each one develop their personality, sense of style and interpret the world around them.

Then it’s preschool and the agony of leaving your child and then watching like a stalker behind two-way glass wondering why the hell they have to go to preschool anyway. I mean really. And it was hard to send them off to preschool because I enjoyed being around them; I hated missing anything about their life.

After that is kindergarten. There are no two-way windows there. You are left to leave and wonder what the heck is going on in there. Thank goodness you can volunteer. But still, you are left wondering: Is the playground safe? How good are the background checks? What kind of kids are in there? So many emotions. How can we possibly survive all the feelings – friendships happening or not, learning and the rate at which it is happening; learning disabilities, differences, and how are we going to survive 6 hours without our baby? Because I loved being with them. Teaching them numbers, the alphabet, counting, reading books and exploring the world with them.

But while you are worrying about all of that they somehow make their entire way through infancy, toddler-hood, pre-school, and elementary school.  Then middle school happens. You have to watch as your child walks off into that new territory all by themselves because “No one else’s mom is walking them on campus!” And at this place, there are kids holding hands, kissing, youtube-ing, social media-ing, conducting unsupervised google searches – and if you are monitoring all of this as best you can as a parent and limiting it you also are now so uncool and the worst parent that ever lived! Or at least your kid thinks so. Plus, when you monitor the damn text messages you always find something you wish you hadn’t. It is not a win-win, ever.

I am sure this continues through high school and adulthood. We will never stop worrying. Believe me; we just went to the first high school rally preparing for next year, and the fears keep growing. Tumbling into my mind before I can stop them. Plus my dear husband thinks it’s reassuring for me to know that we won’t always like how our kids behave. It never makes me feel better hearing that.

From the beginning, I think we are learning to let go. Learning how to navigate a world where we want our children to grow and thrive, but still be shielded just enough to have a happy childhood.

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So far parenting a teen has been just as rewarding and wonderous as parenting an infant or a toddler. Sure, I don’t get cuddles and conversations may veer into topics including sex, drugs, and violence in our world, but watching my children grow into courteous, educated, friendly, intelligent, curious youth with great ideas about how to contribute to their communities is beyond anything I ever imagined. We discuss novels, politics, rules, family dynamics, and I get a front row seat to watch them fly. Giving them room to grow is hard; I may have had some helicopter tendencies with my first one, but I think we all do. Having three more kids easily cured that. Each step they took away from me, to explore the world was preparing me to help give them that room to grow and thrive. It is terrifying at times, but our relationships are healthy and meaningful. I trust them. They have given me every reason to.

I know parenting is really about growing children into amazing adults – at least that is our goal. We are truly learning to let go from day one. But just because we are teaching them to fly doesn’t mean that one stage is harder than the next or that they grow entirely away from us; it is just the way things are. Being a mom is still my most treasured gift regardless of the stage. That is my story, and I am sticking to it.

 

Mama Bear

Mama Bear

Despite my hopeful nature, fear must have taken root in my heart somewhere in the beginning of motherhood or maybe that is just what happens to moms; we steal our hearts and strengthen them because we know the world can hurt those most precious to us without any warning. Going worst case scenario becomes an easy leap to take. Our toughened, ready for the worst hearts keep us on edge and ready to protect our sacred children; our most blessed gift at any cost.

My kids; all kids; face so many pressures. Childhood is no longer the breeze of playing kick the can in the street until dark.

I know our family has more to be grateful for than not. Unfortunately, no one is unscathed in this life. Suffering is heavy and universal.

Maybe it is the time of year; or maybe it is the shift from two jobs to one, but my awareness of my children seems to be in laser focus.

I have been watching my littles closely lately. Their struggles and hurts rippling through my own heart. One in particular is on my mind a great deal. He has Tourette’s; I have written about it before. I don’t feel right telling his side of the story or giving too much information here. However, I think voicing my side might heal me a bit; help me a bit.

As I watch him shake and hear his vocal tic I want to help. The recent increase in frequency isn’t slowing down. I haven’t seen him like this in years. It hurts my heart and I try to have open conversation, but anything I bring up lately just makes it worse. I don’t know how to help him without drawing attention to the tics. I am trying to ignore it; yet for some reason it is proving difficult. I wonder if it is bothering him at school. I know it is in his file and he doesn’t want me stepping in at school yet. It just hurts my heart to see his body jolt and jerk against his wishes.

I am grateful for his positive attitude, caring friends and his health. It doesn’t erase the hurt I feel though. I still worry that it bothers him; I still want to give him resources and options and that seems to be the last thing he wants. And I know that is his right and so I must wait on the sidelines as he makes the plays until he asks for my assistance.

I know it is just best to be a safe place to land and for weeks I have not spoken a word about it to him or anyone else. He will come to me if he needs me. The door is open and he knows it. So instead, I will have faith he is really unbothered and comfortable. To know he is confident and at ease is what is most important after all.

With four they each have their struggles. As I tucked in one of my youngest, he started to cry. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that kids make fun of him. Ah, the tale as old as time. And as I calmed him this Mama knew it would not be the last time we faced this challenge. Such is the way of the world. Hopefully, I help build his confidence enough the taunts from others fall at his feet instead of pierce his heart, for that is all we can do. I have to be the soft place to land, the cheerleader on the sideline.

Mistakes come on my end, too. Sometimes they call you in for a hurt or a scrape and in an effort to make them tough, you nurture too little. The balance between that becomes difficult as they get older. Kissing a bumped knee was easy, now too much or too little attention is harder to navigate with my pre-teen.

Mothering is not for the faint of heart. But as I tell my kids, I am doing the best I can and the therapy you may eventually need from my mistakes is on me.

From one mama bear to the next, do the best you can, hold on tight, keep those cheers from the sidelines coming and strengthen your patience because the older they get the harder this parenting gig becomes, richer and more rewarding for sure, but a whole slew of variables make it more nerve racking and moving from front and center in their lives to the side is tougher than you expect.

A Seat at the Table

A Seat at the Table

The beginning of the year heralds not only the start of the next year, but also my birthday. Each New Year brings me to a nostalgic place full of reflection. For the last 4 and a half years I have been setting goals to become the best version of myself.

It really all began, ten years ago with a silly chain questionnaire and two honest responses. These responses haunted me. The question was would you be friends with yourself. I answered no. It was honest and true. I didn’t like myself; I had never and even though I was included in this chain with many of my friends at the time I felt more alone than ever.

The second response came from a friend. It took my breath away. The question was what is your biggest pet peeve and her answer was people with self-pity. I remember thinking she was talking about me as I read that response. Of course she wasn’t; but self-centered goes with self-pity and any reason to hate myself more was always welcome.

At first I didn’t know what do about it except let those honest answers to silly questions gnaw at me. Life kept me busy, twins came, we moved, but then as the dust settled I was faced once again with my low self-worth.

If I had to describe myself to others at that time I would have said; I am a lost and wayward soul just like anyone else. I do the best I can in each next moment, but I am mostly empty when I should feel so full.

I didn’t like that description, but I knew it was within my power to change it.

I made a decision to find out who I was and to be myself out loud. I was tired of hiding and hating myself. Thus this blog was born. It led me to open up every inch of my soul and pour it out.

Putting my heart into action became a practice; I did random acts of kindness on my birthday. Two years in a row I spent the day delivering gifts to others on my birthday because it was what I wanted to do more than anything else.Holiday Cheer was born.

It led me to tell the world about my ability to speak with spirit and my business was born. This need to be who I was out loud led me to quiet the voices that worked against me in my own head. Therapy, anti-depressants, self-loathing, fitness, healing and then the weight gain…I lived it all out loud here.

As my birthday and this New Year comes round again, I found myself again at square one. Silly after all this growth to somehow feel at the end of last year that I was back at the start.

I felt as if I was hiding more than showing up. That I was retreating and giving up more than finding the next step forward. And those honest answers to silly questions rose to haunt me once again. But this time there was an added haunt…I had someone recently tell me, “Why do you have to be such an overachiever?”

It stung. I wasn’t sure why exactly, but I think because it is true. This need to over do all the things; this force that if I am not doing it all then it is not enough always propelling me forward.

I am tired and unfortunately my health is taking the toll of my need to do all the things. My body physically can’t handle it any more.

As I sat down to make goals for this year; I found myself with writer’s block and it wasn’t the first time – I have several blogs still in my drafts folder because I couldn’t find my own voice enough to finish them.

I am tired of being sad when I should be happy. I am tired of being tired. I am tired of not showing up completely. I am just plain tired…

The answer was simple.

It was right in front of my face, but I just couldn’t see it. I looked up from my computer to the goal sheet from 2017 that still hung on my cork board. The beautiful chevron white gold tack gleaming like a beacon. Even though there were only 4 goals; there were sub-goals below detailing each one. A total of 20 goals to complete for 2017. Not all of them simple. While some of them were completed; it hit me that no wonder I always feel overwhelmed. No wonder the simple always seems so hard. Busy had become my default; filling time meant I wasn’t being still or quiet. I was hiding all over again; but this time just behind doing things. Adding things to a list; crossing them off only to add more.

Be still and know that I am God

I started to get still and quiet. I started to meditate again and think about the thing I most wanted in life. It was simple. I want to be present. I want to live. The past is the past and there is nothing I can do about that and the future is almost certainly out of my control, the only real thing is RIGHT NOW.

When I sat still and quiet and brought into view the RIGHT NOW; I envisioned a table.

My table was full. My family all in their chairs. Abundance overflowing on the table. Beauty, sustenance, love, friendship, all surrounded by green hills and the ocean. I could hear laughter and feel growth and success, but something seemed off. One chair at the table was empty. I looked around and everyone that should be there was there. Who was missing?

My family was there. Friends; check. Jesus; check. All my important people and beliefs were all accounted for. “Why is one chair empty?” I thought.

It was then that I realized I was witnessing all of this and seeing all the people there. My viewpoint was not one looking across the table but from above. I was not seated at the table. I was the one missing from my own life.

Ah, I was hiding in the busy-ness and not showing up for the best part; the RIGHT NOW. I was missing from my own life. My seat was empty.

To actually take a seat; I had to figure out why I had left it in the first place. Why was I really hiding?

Stupid, silly, life-eating shame. My weight kept me from showing up. The fact that I have a job with negative connotations; one that God may even dislike, kept me from showing up. I cringe when someone asks what I do for a living.

On top of that, life was happening so fast the mom guilt of not being present for my kids was eating me alive. What would my kids remember about me? Would they just remember that I took them here and there and nothing of substance? That I was always too busy?

So, this year as I reach my fourth decade; I choose to take that seat back. I want to be in the RIGHT NOW. How do I do that?

It all became clear at a funeral the other night. My wonderful, beautiful friend stood and spoke about her father. He had told her at the end that he was confused why everyone thought life was so hard. It is easy he told her; you just have to go out and love others. That was the secret to it. There was nothing hard about it at all. My heart burst open. I can do that. But there is more than loving others; that I have figured out. My chair was empty because I wasn’t loving myself enough. I needed to love everyone; me included.

Just as the day before, I had chosen to be grateful instead of begrudgingly taking down the ornaments from the tree as in years past; I was grateful I had a tree and ornaments to take down. I was grateful for each memory that came with each ornament. I was thankful that I had a home and a family and memories that surrounded me as I carefully put away Christmas back into its boxes until next year. I have woken each day grateful for another moment. And that is what fills my heart each second. I am grateful for the RIGHT NOW. While I am grateful for everything that also means, I have to be grateful I am me. To treat myself with love and grace.

The only goal for this year is that I live in the RIGHT NOW with no shame.

This year I am going to tell myself it is okay.

It is okay…

to feel lonely sometimes

to be scared

to be nervous

to try new things

to decide not to try new things

to live in the RIGHT NOW

to let the past go

to let the future be what it will be

to hide when I need to

to show up

to believe I am meant for great things

to believe I am worthy, as I am, in the RIGHT NOW

to use my armor when I need it

to live outside the lines

to believe in a Jesus that guides me through what I do every day; even speaking to spirit. In fact, to believe in a Jesus that knows I am doing the right thing.

to believe in miracles and magic

to laugh, live and love

to always take my seat at the table

to be my own advocate

I was watching a video with Brene Brown and Glennon Melton and they said that an eviction from your live is an invitation to heal yourself. Invitation accepted. This year the focus will be on me and that is not selfish, no self-pity or shame will be attached to that.

I will heal myself; and live in the RIGHT NOW. There is no limit to what you can accomplish when you are your best advocate; when you are seated at the table in your own life, present and ready to live each moment the best way you know how.

Wishing you a RIGHT NOW, shameless, grace-filled, love abundant 2018,

2016-09-11_0905

Living in the WILD – lessons from afourytale

Living in the WILD – lessons from afourytale

School has started. Enough said. Am I right? Whether you have kids in school or not if you live in the U.S., school starting changes traffic patterns, moods and daily life all the way around. And since my brain cannot function without examining the minutiae of everything, it started spinning and I thought this was as good a time as any to share the lessons that I have learned lately. As always, hopefully this helps someone else out there in this great big universe feel a little more normal – even though there is no such thing – and also maybe sharing will help my mind to stop spinning.

Mean people are people who are hurting

People who hurt act out. 

Don’t start judging me already; I get that is a pretty logical statement. However, when violence strikes we aren’t really acting in a logical manner these days. Experience has taught me control is an illusion. We make choices based on the events that face us, and we can make good choices or bad, but life doesn’t change. That shit has been rough since the dawn of time. I mean there has always been violence, destruction, hate, and awful stuff in general.

We now have media everywhere we freaking look, so it seems so very overwhelming, but it isn’t different in itself. It really is same shit, different day. We have to start reacting to what happens to us better and also being better at proactively offering solutions before the problem hits. It isn’t an easy deal to solve; I get that. But just as violence stems from anger and pain; great change also comes from pain and reacting with love, patience, compassion, understanding. We are meant to share our stories.

Don’t get me wrong, when people are acting mean that is my biggest pet peeve. Rudeness crawls up my spine and causes me to throw up a little in my mouth every.single.time. I am human after all. As a human though, we are the starting point of change. That starts with compassion, sincerity, honesty, the giving of our time to others. These things can heal someone else. We must listen to one another’s story and whether we accept it as our truth or not, we need to hear each other and offer understanding. Only then can we start to really change things.

I recently watched Brené Brown speak about privilege so beautifully, I fear trying to even touch that topic without mentioning her description could not even do it justice. Privilege is something you are born with and do not have to earn; like finding people just like you on TV or finding a doll with your same color skin in any store you walk in. We as a people, we can change that.

Change is all based on reacting with compassion. We know better and should be making better choices. There is far more good in the world and those acting out right now fear the change that is coming. We got this people – good and compassion and faith – we got this. We always have. Don’t lose faith and continue to respond with an open heart, ear and mind and then change will come. We can heal one another one person at a time; one choice at a time; one compassionate action at a time.

Like the size of your lifeLike the size of your life.

Some people choose big and lately that seems to be what our society is preaching and delivering. I choose simple. I choose small town everyday simple life. Simple, quiet beauty fills me up. I like the size of my life. I like it so much I am constantly trying to slow it down so I can soak it up with every fiber of my being. Somehow that never seems to work out; like sand it keeps slipping through my fingers.

There are advantages to playing small. Not many people write this down or preach it. Setting out each day to be a good human and do the simple, necessary things without a lot of hoopla; there is some real good in that. Doing what needs to be done every day without shouting look at me or tweeting it; instagram-ing it; Facebook-ing it; there is fullness in just the doing an act in and of itself.

Being who you are and doing the right thing when no one is looking means so much more than shouting it from the roof top. Choosing small, real simple life is wholesome stuff. It gives you time to really connect to those important to you. That is what really matters. The simple pleasures of homemade lemonade, family time, the view, and little love notes. Making a difference one person at a time in your every day ordinary life. I choose small. I choose simple. But whatever you choose; just like the size of your life.

Truth isKids keep it real.

This one is just what it is. Kids see things simply and say what they feel. Mythirteen-year-old has told me twice in the past three months two things that have profoundly changed the way I look at things. It isn’t that no one has said this to me before, but it is the simplicity with how and when kids say things that just rock your world.

I had been worrying about work stuff and change and as I tuck my son in at night he says,”You know mom, all that stuff you have been talking about lately it really isn’t big stuff that matters. It is really kind of small stuff that shouldn’t bother you at all.” Well take that slap in the face! Yikes! He was right. That shifted my focus lickety-split.

Then just this week, first day of school. The twins are in two separate classes. I have to rush to get my thirteen-year-old to school and so I can’t stay and walk the twins into class. Every other child has a parent walking them into their class, but not my two. And just like that there is not just one set of class parents judging me as I speed off with my older son, but two sets of class parents and two sets of teachers. Talk about the weight of judgement. My older son notices this affect me. I tell him that I feel bad; he always had a parent walk him in and now the youngest are getting a less than experience because I am pulled in different directions. To which he says, “Mom, you put a lot of unrealistic expectations on yourself. The things you think you should do aren’t really humanly possible.” Touché! You got me kid.

Not that I haven’t heard this before, but there is something about your child pointing this out to you that just makes it sting and set it in a bit deeper. If you have experienced this lately; I get you; I hear you; this parenting gig is not for the faint of heart and your kids change you in ways you never expected. And on that note…

Be dapper withPee protection is legit.

Not only does parenting take an emotional toll on you, but it also can wreck you physically. I am extremely tired of having to cross my legs to cough or sneeze. To have to stop jumping on the trampoline every five minutes so I can pee. Or to have to stop and pee when I run. Ridiculous! This seriously is not fair. Women give birth and carry these precious beings for 9 months and then we continue to love them despite the fact that they can push every single button and make us more upset and frustrated than we ever believed humanly possible, but NOW we also can’t even freaking sneeze without peeing ourselves. The injustice! The humanity! Good Lord why you got to do us like that?! WHY?! Okay, rant over. Just had to get that off my chest. Recently a friend recommends Poise pads because well the struggle is real and women around the world have this pee problem. The Poise pads help, they do. I just can’t stand putting one in my underwear every damn day. Blah! Blech! Ugh! But there is a solution and they do work; just in case you are wondering. Bottom line, getting older kind of sucks and I am still mostly just crossing my legs when I sneeze, but whatever – it is what it is.

Keep on plugging along peeps. Until next time,

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Bear hunts, earthquakes & roller coasters

Bear hunts, earthquakes & roller coasters

Earthquakes shake through the foundation of our lives. They just do. They aren’t planned and you can’t escape them. It reminds me a bit of the book Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. In the book, the family goes looking for a bear and they encounter long wavy grass, a deep cold river, thick oozy mud, a big dark forest, a swirling whirling snowstorm, a narrow gloomy cave, and they end up finally finding the bear and they race back through everything they encountered to end up safe and cozy at home. Each obstacle they meet, they have to go through them; they can’t go over, under or around, they MUST go through.

Just in case you want to hear the book you can listen to it below…

Life is just like that. We encounter obstacles all along the way and sometimes, most times, we have to go through them instead of over, around or under.

To me that is our lives day in and day out. We go out into the world through every obstacle, face our biggest challenges and then run right back through those obstacles to get to the safety of our cozy little homes only to do it all again the next day. Thankfully, I have a cozy, little home; some of us don’t even have that luxury. There is no safe place to land for some of us.

About two weeks ago, an announcement was made that shook my foundation to the point where the Earth opened up and a huge fissure was made. It was one of those life changes where events prior will be referred to as before and events occurring from now on will be referred to as after. The scary part for me this time is that I didn’t end up on the part of the Earth on the after side of things right away. I started falling right down that fissure. This event knocked me off my foundation in a way that I didn’t land right away.

You know the feeling. You hear some news and right away you just feel like you got on one of those rides like the Tower of Terror at Disneyland and you are free-falling. Your stomach reaches up into your throat and you just want to land. But somehow you don’t. There is this up and down motion as you travel through the ride and you just aren’t quite sure when it will stop and you will safely be on solid footing again. That is how I felt the past two weeks.

Skyfall fun ride at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, 2015

I guess if I am being honest, I still feel like that a bit, but the ride is losing momentum so hopefully I am nearing solid footing once again.

This event reminded me once again how little control we have over life. Life is a ride. We are born into it and there may be twists and turns where we can make certain life choices; like who is on the ride with us or what kind of track the ride will have, for instance bumpy or smooth, we might have some input. But, many times the track is decided for us. We can only choose how we react. Do we buckle up and enjoy the ride or kick and scream, beg and plead, and demand a refund?

Most times, I think it is human nature when life takes a turn we don’t like to whine a little bit. But the best way through it is to assess the situation, make the best of it and buckle up for the bumpy parts and enjoy what you can of the ride.

Life is going to happen to us. It just is. We can only choose how we react to it as the ride moves us forward. That is the only control that we have.

For me, the best thing I can do is sit back, make sure the buckle is fastened and enjoy the view and make the best I possibly can of the roller coaster ride of life.

And what a view it is…

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Hope you are surviving your roller coaster of a life, too.

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I keep this in my wallet to help me remember to have faith that it will all work out in the end.
Until next time,

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To good days and full hearts

To good days and full hearts

I should have walked today. The past few months I have been working up my stamina; getting back into shape, counting calories. I think it’s working. Sunday I ran a 10K. Okay, I jogged 5+ miles of a 10K and walked the rest. The next day I ran another 5K and the day after that I walked/jogged another 3 miles. Yesterday my body needed a rest and so I walked a bit, but didn’t run. Okay jog. Semantics; shemantics. Well the day after that ended with a note sent home regarding my youngest that sent me into fiery mama bear mode and the day’s mode didn’t change much so while I stepped well there wasn’t much walking and peaceful calm in my attitude.

Today the universe seemed to know I needed to balance out yesterday and responded with a calm, stillness. I settled into that stillness in full gear; Uggs, sweatpants, and my favorite cozy sweatshirt. I hunkered down into work, reading, laundry, writing, and the small, even goodness of my life.

Plus I don’t do “shoulds” any more. There isn’t a place for them in my life any more.

My life fills me up and I thank God for that daily.

All the little moments…the smiles of my children, the way their hair smells after a shower, the unique ways they greet me at the end of a school day. My heart fills with the stories they tell, surprising my husband with 14 gifts for our 14 married years together. The coziness of my home, my clothes. The simple pleasures of a good cup of coffee, the way cold ice water quenches a thirst so completely. Or the smell of fresh-cut grass, a sunny day, a breeze that carries a hint of jasmine. Sweet, encouraging text messages from friends. You know all the little things that make you feel whole, complete.

There is a stability, a solidness that I feel in my soul on days like today. I wasn’t spinning in different directions, reeling from an act of unkindness, or torn in a thousand directions by a barrage of requests. Regardless if my day is still like today or chaotic like other days, my life fills me up. This life is greater than I ever imagined. I am so grateful for each second and so grateful for all the little things that make my cup run over.

To good days and full hearts. Until next time,

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The words that shook me awake

The words that shook me awake

So I had one of those Oprah “Ah-ha” moments today. I think it took a bunch of little things running together to help this “ah-ha” moment smack me in the brain and reach my stream of consciousness, but that is how these things work.

The beginning is always the best place to start. It all started in late December. Probably a bit in part to the hangover the holidays create. That is when I started to feel bogged down. There was a cough and wheezing that just hung on to my lungs with a white knuckled grip and just trying to take a walk up the stairs with a laundry basket had become tedious by late January. I went to the doctor, but after five days of antibiotics things weren’t kicking back into gear energy wise.

I could not for the life of me figure out what the heck was so draining. It was as if my gas tank was always on empty.  I literally wanted to Netflix all day. Yes, Netflix is now a verb. A beautifully wonderful verb. It baffled me how this could be, but even sitting I wasn’t at rest. I was constantly berating myself for just sitting. I didn’t ever fully rest and relax.

i-literally-wanted

The good news was that for the first time in as far as I could remember I was the most comfortable in my own skin. Best. Feeling. Ever. Don’t get me wrong, we all have days, but I feel like I am pretty darn awesome. It was a little boggling to me how I could feel so good and comfortable yet so tired and deflated at the same time.

This past Saturday, I finally had to be hit over the head with what I should have known all along, but that is what happens sometimes we have to be smacked upside the head to realize what is right in front of us.

Saturday morning has become one of my favorite mornings. My youngest son is playing in a basketball league that was created by several faith communities in our town. It is the single best league that I have ever been a part of in my life.  They pray with the kids before the games and have a half time devotional.

On this particular Saturday, my favorite referee read the devotional. Listening intently as always, since these Saturday morning devotionals had become such a source of light in my life, he reads, “One cannot burn out if they weren’t on fire in the first place.”

one-cannot-burn-out

Can I get an AMEN?

Enter “ah-ha” moment. These words stirred in me just the slightest mental shift. They shook me awake.

Holy, holy. I am on fire! We all are. We burn with divine light. Of course we feel burned out from time to time. Wouldn’t any fire feel that way? Wouldn’t any light get so hot that it would need to be dark just for a short while?

God doesn’t need me to rush and rush and rush without stopping ever. Life is meant to be enjoyed number one and number two God rested! On the seventh day he rested. The end. He didn’t go on and on about how he should add a little something extra to the world or show off by creating another Universe. Nope. He just rested. So why can’t I just rest? Do nothing all day and feel productive. Yes! If I am feeling the need to rest then I need it. Rest is being productive. Rest is the self-care we need to keep our flame burning.

we-burn-with-divine-light

I started to examine these periods of rest in my life. The times I always just thought there was something off about me because I would just want to crawl in bed for days and do nothing.

The first time this happened I came out of it and started my blog. I started writing again and choosing vulnerability and connection over perfection.

The second time this happened I came out of the rest ready to share my gift and start a business.

The last time this happened I came out of rest with a strong sense of self-worth and a peace my soul hadn’t known for years.

So what is this “ah-ha”moment that hit me – when we rest we rise. When we rest we can burn again. Our fire is ignited brighter and wiser than before.

I finally truly understand the saying when she wakes she will move mountains. Each time I wake from rest my life is stronger and richer. This time will be no different.

let-her-sleep

Rest my friends because when you rise you will move mountains.

Until next time,

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Crabby Patty

Crabby Patty

Yes, yesterday I talked about the kindness revolution starting within all of us and today I am writing a blog titled Crabby Patty; the irony is not lost on me. Promise. No crossies.

There is just this itty bit of crabbiness that is lingering in me.

Maybe it’s because we can’t get out the door on time for school.

Maybe it’s literally hearing four “moms” at once every two minutes for 6 hours a day.

Maybe it’s that I am not exercising – and don’t get started with judgment on that one. I judge myself enough for a thousand judgements.

Maybe it’s the smiling happy moms that join together at school pick up and greet each other excitedly while I stand off by myself. I know I can join in. Come on you want to be the one that people walk up and say hi to, too. You don’t always want to initiate the contact, either.

Maybe it’s getting removed from the FedEx account at work and wondering if is this the beginning of the end for my job.

Maybe it is the messy playroom or the fact that for every one thing I clean up another seven things take its place. For the love of God, this is non-stop.

Maybe it’s the 23 piles of laundry every single week without fail. Even on vacation.

Maybe it’s spending too much time on social media and detached from real people.

Maybe it’s a lack of sleep.

Maybe it’s because my reading last night didn’t go as well as I wanted. And to top it off she was the sweetest client ever on the planet. She had the nicest things to say about me and I couldn’t give her what she expected.

Maybe it’s that I want to choose happiness and I am mostly happy, but there is just this nagging crabbiness and I don’t know what the heck is causing it.

Does this ever happen to you?

I feel it in my body. My shoulders won’t loosen and my jaw stays tight.

My husband is seeing it. He is being super extra nice and making a real effort to let me know I am appreciated. It is sweet and he is sweet. But I still feel crabby.

Thank goodness Winter Break is next week and I am taking time off, too. Maybe that is it. Maybe we all just need a little bit of a break.

Maybe…

Maybe it is the feeling that something big is coming and the anticipation waiting for it is driving me crazy.

Maybe it is because of a million things. Or maybe it is just a crabby patty kind of day.

 

Spongebob quote source: https://www.buzzfeed.com/erinchack/the-most-iconic-lines-from-spongebob-squarepants?utm_term=.ceGNRDjJB#.eggLMGX3E

Until next time – and hopefully the crabby patties will have lifted.

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Permission to say no thank you

Permission to say no thank you

It’s Friday afternoon and I am beyond looking forward to the weekend and a little relaxation. As I sit in this safe, cozy chair I want to bare my soul to you. See you my dear readers are family and friends who support me. You have come to mean a great deal to me as I journey to find my most authentic self.

Lately my life has felt like a ball of yarn that someone grabbed the free end of and let unravel all over a hard wooden floor. As I have tried to scoop it back up and wind into back into a neat, little ball I have done a great deal of praying and introspection.

Is this where I am supposed to be?

Was not teaching this year the right thing?

Should I have shut down my side business?

Am I making the right choices?

I waited for God or the Universe to answer me back, but there was only SILENCE. But I have deep faith, and I knew God would answer back. So I just kept patiently listening…show me which step is next. I thought of all the ways God could answer me. That is when I remembered my very first prayer on this journey of authenticity; I prayed for friends. God had answered with abundance as he usually does. So I started to think about what I was hearing from them.

20-ideas

Strung together they may still seem random to you, but to me it was all the answers I had been looking for.

I am going to back up a minute because I think the whole picture is important. For the last decade and a half, which is most of my adult life, I have been preparing for WHAT I was going to be; not ever really focusing in on the WHO I was. See I only lived on my own for two years out of college and the majority of that time I was dating my future husband and just starting my career as a teacher. We were married and in that first year of marriage I was pregnant and preparing for motherhood. We went on to have four kids in the next seven years. I was always preparing to be…

a teacher

a wife

a mother

The twins were two before the haze of my life was starting to wear off. Don’t get me wrong I loved all the moments, but they moved by at warp speed and I was so busy being WHAT I was that I never did stop to define the WHO. Maybe this didn’t happen to you, maybe you had it all figured out. But I sure didn’t.

So when I started to try and find my authentic self to see who I was, I figured out a couple of things quickly. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to have deep relationships and have a life with purpose. I thought that meant career, home, and self all at once. So I set out to do all the things.

And I did. I performed well at my full-time job, now in sales, but none the less I rose to the challenge of a new career and was executing it well. I was raising healthy, well-mannered, kind children. I had a solid partnership and loving marriage with my best friend. I started a side business that was beginning to flourish. And last, but certainly not least, I was writing. A dream I have had from a very young age and to my surprise people were reading my little blog. Slowly at first, but more and more with each passing year.

I really was doing it all and doing it well. But with so many balls in the air at once things were slipping and falling. Unfortunately, my focus was on the things that dropped, not the things that rose to the surface. I was just noticing the things that went wrong or didn’t get accomplished.

I was running on empty.

It was too fast. I was on a hamster wheel and I needed to get off.

Fear gripped me though. Wasn’t I supposed to fill up my life with the things I wanted? And I was successful, so why pull back? Outside looking in; I had it all. But…

I was in the worst physical shape of my life and nearing an emotional low. How was this happening?I had listened to my intuition and by some blessing or luck I was achieving all of my dreams. But the problem was in the whirlwind of doing it all I wasn’t actually enjoying them. So I have started stripping things down. If something didn’t feel right no matter the public humiliation or sense of failure at the time I stopped doing it.

I needed to put my oxygen mask on first.

Maybe saying no to soccer so we weren’t gone all afternoon was saying yes to the precious down time we needed to re-energize. 

So I stripped it all away – learning the things I didn’t want to do.

I’m still a work in progress, but I knew being a mom was what I really wanted. So I chose to put my family first. I am home afterschool and at bedtime. If my kids need me, I drop what I am doing and make sure they get what they need.

I am also putting me first. I am trying to find my way back to running. I am writing again. I have made overdue dentist and doctor appointments and am trying acupuncture to put myself back together again.

I am also taking stock in my success. My mediumship gift is just that a gift. It belongs to me and God will continue to show me when and where to use it. If it is meant to be a business again when my kids are older it will be. Just because others are demanding it of me doesn’t mean I have to share or answer their demands. My family and myself need to come first. Each of us is a gift. We must nourish ourselves, too.

I was “fucking crazy” not to like myself. I may be an introvert and run and hide. But I am kind, hard-working, bright, determined, compassionate and contrary to what I said on an Internet questionnaire 10 years ago – I would LOVE to be my friend.

So the last of what I heard hit home, too. I know that what I am doing is the right thing. When I got to hold my friend’s infant son for the first time, I was “glowing” holding that baby. I felt a sense of peace wash over me. God was answering me. Yes, taking the time for my friends and family – this is right.

I can say no thank you or maybe later. I do not have to do all the things all at once.

you-can-do-one-thing-really-well-two-things-okay-and-three-things-not-at-all-1

 

So I guess what I am hoping to share with you all is…

have faith…

If you can’t find or see your answers, don’t stop looking for them. Handle yourself with kindness. You have permission to NOT do all the things all at once or ever if you don’t want to.

A wise person always tells me, “You can do one thing really well, two things okay and three things not all.” It is okay to slow things down and focus on the one to two things you really want to do well; the rest will fall into place.

you-can-do-one-thing-really-well-two-things-okay-and-three-things-not-at-all

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