Starting the New Year(ish) with a Gratitude Practice

Anyone want to join me in starting a gratitude practice for 2016?

(And yes I know it is January 4th. It is ok! I give us permission to start on whatever damn day we feel like. Isn’t it fun pissing off the inner perfectionist?)

Last year I started a daily(ish) walking meditation practice and I am STILL hooked. (By the way, walking meditation is just a fancy way of saying that I took a walk, breathed in and out, and paused to express gratitude.) It has become integral to my mental health. I’m more centered, calm, and I certainly yell less at my kid. Win-win-win.

I wasn’t thinking of adding an additional gratitude practice this year…but then I saw Elizabeth Gilbert with her big ol’ jar of gratitude (see below). Sweet Moses, how fun would it be to read through those at the end of the year?!

It got me thinking that there might be other neat ways to practice gratitude. Here is a round up of some simple ideas I came across. As for me? I think I’m going to do a variation of the gratitude jar. Needless to say mine will not be made of glass. (Oh, just imagine how quickly my kid would shatter that lovely jar!)

FUN GRATITUDE PRACTICE IDEAS:

1. Gratitude Garland

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Photo from http://www.wildfeatherswellness.com/the-gratitude-garland/

Wildfeatherswellness provides instruction for creating a Gratitude Garland. You write thoughts of gratitude, remembrance, inspiration or refelction onto your garland and hang it where you can see it and be reminded of it.

What a beautiful way to remember a loved one or simply make visible the moments that fill your heart.

2. Gratitude Jar, courtesy of Elizabeth Gilbert:

3. Gratitude Journal

journal
Raven + Lily’s Uzma Recycled Cotton Travel Journal (Available Here)

Simply write down your thoughts in a journal as you see fit. (I like this one, this one, and the one at left from Raven + Lily, a company that helps employ over 1,500 marginalized women with the goal of alleviating poverty among women.)

Or, if you prefer modern convenience, consider using a gratitude app for your phone!

Any other gratitude practices you want to share? Please feel free to comment below or on Twitter or Facebook.

She Calls Me Mom

Sometimes it is mama. Sometimes mom. Sometimes it is “MAAAAA-um!” spoken like an embarrassed teenager.

But what she doesn’t say as often? Mommy.

My little toddler is becoming a preschooler. How did this happen?

She uses phrases like, “yah!” and “Ok mom!” Next thing I know she will be tweeting jokes about Donald Trump.

They grow so fast.

Don’t get me wrong: I am more than ready to no longer have to deal with diapers. (We are not there yet.) And I definitely will not mourn the nights it takes hours (yes plural) to get her to sleep.

For now, I’m holding onto the sweet mispronunciations. The requests for “poggissles” (popsicles) and “ga-nilla bars” (granola bars). I try to embrace rather than feel annoyed when I am totally and utterly touched out. I know the day will come when hugs will be limited to a quick squeeze and she will run off to play.

The other night I heard her muttering something in her sleep. As I cracked open her bedroom door I heard her softly, sweetly whispering something.

Mommy.

I’ll take it.

You might also like “It’s a Bluetiful Christmas”

 

 

 

 

 

Frazzled Family Christmas Bingo

FrazzledFAMILYBINGO!Only nine days until daycare starts up again…but who is counting? Merry Christmas everyone!

FRAZZLED FAMILY CHRISTMAS BINGO!

Child meltdown from too much stimulation (or sugar) Eat a sweet while hiding from child Someone gets sick Marital spat Spouse begins shopping (less than 72 hours before xmas)
Last minute Amazon purchase Family drama Spouse insists on watching Bad Santa Christmas ornament gets broken Public meltdown (parent)
Third trip to grocery store in one day Purchase gift for yourself FREE SPACE child is watching TV THANK GOD Store clerk aims to appease child with sticker, fails miserably Countdown until daycare opens (less than 72 hours into holiday break)
humblebrag appears in Facebook feed Visit a creepy mall santa Last minute scramble for caregiver or teacher gift Christmas card envy Unsolicited parenting advice from relative
Public meltdown (child) Buyer’s remorse over annoying toy purchase Run out of (or lose) Scotch tape End up in line at Post Office (despite best efforts) Child steals a cookie

PDF version

What would appear on your bingo board? Share in the comments or on Facebook. Cheers!

 

If My Toddler Hosted Parties

Welcome, come in! Please take off your shoes. And your pants. And shirt.

Would you like a bite to eat? Please, follow me to the kitchen. I have pulled a chair up to the freezer door. Would you like a poggissle? I have red, purple, and orange.

No. You CAN’T HAVE THE RED. THAT’S MY RED!

I’m glad we worked that out. Please, have a seat in the living room.

Perhaps you would enjoy sitting over here in the dog kennel? I find it to be quite comfortable.

Perhaps you would enjoy sitting over here in the dog kennel? I find it to be quite comfortable.

Let’s watch TV. Here is Kate and Mim-Mim. What, the freaky purple alien rabbit scares you? I don’t care. This is the only show I watch. I watch it every morning and every night.

My mother is telling me that it is time for some food. If you are like me you won’t need any. However I do find it helpful for getting food to feed to the dog.

What’s that, you want your own plate? And a chair to sit in? Oh, that won’t be necessary! We can all sit on my mother’s lap. And eat off of her plate. And steal ice from her beverage.

What’s that, you want your own plate? And a chair to sit in? Oh, that won’t be necessary! We can all sit on my mother’s lap. And eat off of her plate. And steal ice from her beverage.

Well, this is boring. Let’s feed rice to the dog.

Oh, I’m sorry my mom yelled in front of you. She thinks the dogs should starve or something.

Apparently my parental figures are telling me this party is over. I disagree. Come, this way. Let’s hide behind the curtain. They will never find us there.

Oh, you are leaving now? I didn’t even notice. My mom is making me say goodbye. So I guess, goodbye?

Well you’ll have to excuse me. I have to go now put a tutu on the dog.

—-

If you enjoyed this, you might also like: When Family Yoga with Your Spirited Toddler Goes Very, Very Wrong

 

 

It’s a “Bluetiful” Christmas

After we lit our Christmas tree this year, my nearly three-year-old daughter stood back and declared, “it’s bluetiful mommy!”

She didn’t realize it but her mispronunciation rang true. It is a blue Christmas. It’s a beautiful Christmas.

It is bluetiful.*

I am slowly, ever so slowly, starting to accept that bluetiful is the new normal.  That the moments of greatest joy—like Christmas—are also moments that carry so much loss.

Often it is in the little unexpected things. As I was meticulously placing the lights on the Christmas tree, I stepped back to assess (and ask my daughter for her opinion, as though a three-year-old has opinions about tree light placement). Not satisfied by the gaps in light coverage, I removed all the lights and started over so I could get it just right.  I then realized I was utterly and completely channeling my mother. I laughed and also shed a tear.

It was bluetiful.

As a kid I never understood all the sad Christmas songs. How could a holiday full of so much joy inspire so many sad tunes? And why did so many adults make such a fuss about the fact that I was so full of joy at Christmas time? How could it be so difficult, I used to wonder, to find the joy in the season?

Last year was a difficult Christmas. It was the second Christmas without my mom, and somehow it was much more difficult than the first year she was gone. I knew the first year would be hard. I expected difficult. But the second year, well I thought somehow it would magically all be OK again. And when it wasn’t, I was let down and angry.

This is the third Christmas without my mom. This year I am expecting the sad moments intertwined with the joy, like lights strung on the tree.

I know that I’ll tear up when I pull out the sweet Mickey Mouse ornament she purchased for me when I was not quite a kid anymore but not quite an adult.

I know that there be joy though, too. My daughter seems to have inherited my enthusiasm for the holiday. She marvels at the lights on houses, she points excitedly to any and all depictions of Santa Claus, and as she curls up on her pillow at night, she whispers “Santa Claus is coming!”

It is all so bluetiful.

I will do my best to delight in her unadulterated joy as I play (just a few) sad Christmas songs in the background. (And maybe even adjust the Christmas lights on the tree one  last time.)

How is your holiday season going? I hope it lands gently for those who are missing loved ones. -Sarah

*A tip of the hat to my favorite blogger of all time, Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery who inspired me to see my own mashup by sharing her own (brutal + beautiful=brutiful)

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I learned to embrace 6AM and write in stolen time

My grandfather Karl woke up every day at 5:30 am. Voluntarily.

I am not normally a Karl. Not by a long shot. I’m more of a watch-Gilmore Girls-Reruns-until-1am kind of gal.

sunrise
Sunrises. Something new to me. (photo my own.)
That is, until recently.

My toddler wakes up early. Like 6am early.

I used to dread these mornings. I would barter with my husband in an attempt to weasel out of 6am childcare duty. And when I did get stuck with the morning shift, I would drag my blurry-eyed self to the couch, plop the child in front of the tv (no shame amiright?), let  Peg + Cat do its thing while I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook, sipped coffee and pined for more sleep.

I’ve had a recent change of heart about these mornings. Now I eagerly get up with the kiddo and I’m not ashamed to admit there is even a little spring in my step.

I’ve embraced these early mornings as my stolen time to write.

I was inspired after hearing Tara Mohr encourage women (and men) with care-taking responsibilities  to  embrace stolen time as a way to create art.  Yes, I know it sounds crazy. You say, but Sarah, I don’t have the time, or energy, or caffeinated beverages necessary for this task. This is the thing: it doesn’t matter.

By showing up anyway, you join a long tradition of creative fore-mothers who had no choice but to create in their own stolen time.

It makes sense. Great-Great-Aunt Mabel, you want to be an artist? Better stitch a quilt while the baby sleeps. Oh, and you want to work with fancy textiles? Fat chance. Here, why don’t you turn these *actual rags* into gorgeous quilts.  And quick, now.  That butter isn’t going to churn itself!

Adopting this new perspective was the swift kick on the butt that I needed. No more whining, no more wringing of hands. Time to sit down and write. In my stolen time, with stolen materials. (Well the stolen time thing is accurate. I promise I’m not writing on a boosted laptop.)

Which brings me back to my decision to embrace my inner early-bird. (With coffee though—let’s not get too crazy OK?)

I have created a new routine, my friends. As I type this, it is barely light out. I make my coffee and settle into my desk with my official Skunk Ape Headquarters coffee mug on my left and children’s programming proceeding on my right.

And here’s the thing. The more I write, the more I’m hooked. I now look forward to my morning writing sessions. And I swear my muse knows the new drill and shows up pretty regularly. It’s pretty cool.

Now, I rise at 6am, voluntarily.

Just call me Karl.

P.s. Share your own successes (or failures) of writing with stolen time. Feel free to comment below or on the Facebook page!)

 

 

 

An Ocean of Tears Larger than the Four Oceans

It has been a heart-wrenching couple of days.

On Sunday, my husband found out that his colleague’s wife and son were in a horrible car accident. This morning we received word that his son passed away from injuries sustained in the crash.

It is hard to type that sentence. It is an unthinkable loss that no parent should have to endure. I hardly know this family, and I am stunned and silenced by this grief.

I have cried so many tears these last two days. To the point that I wondered out loud to my sister, What is wrong with me? The kind soul that she is, she gently reminded me that as a mother, of course this loss would shake me. But she also reminded me that I have been steeped in grief these last few weeks. And this just stirred up the grief pot in a major way.

Of course she is right. Once I was able to step back from it, I could see that the steady stream of tears from the last few days is but one part of what has felt like a waterfall of grief. Grief after grief has poured forth over the last two months.

If I had to describe the theme of this autumn, it would be, “Sarah tends to unattended sorrows.”*

It makes sense why this grief has come on so strong. After two years of huge life changes (birth, moves, new house, new jobs), it is only recently that I have felt rooted and grounded enough to tend to the loss of my mom, who passed away two years ago. But what I wasn’t expecting was that a lifetime of unattended sorrows, losses, wounds and pains would come rushing in.

The Buddhists, ever on-top of this human condition stuff, have a term for this pouring forth of grief. They say that when you open the heart and tend to its needs, sometimes all the unattended sorrows are released. The result is “an ocean of human tears larger than the four oceans.”

So here I am, swimming in four oceans of tears.

Tears for this little boy. Tears for his mother who is recovering from her own injuries. Tears for his father. Tears for his sibling. Tears for my mother. Tears for my grandmother. Tears for my father. Tears for my childhood traumas and innocence lost. Tears for every damn loss I have ever felt. (Ok, that last one is probably an exaggeration, but that is how it has felt.)

I am (still) angry at death. Why is it so unjust? Why must a child die? Why must so many kind, loving people experience so much pain and suffering? It seems senseless. And seriously, I am sick and tired of these grief tears. I’d like only the happiness tears from now on, OK universe?

And yet, as I stomp my feet and blow into tissues, I know that the universe is like, sorry kid. You want to be “whole?” Well, that means you get the sad tears with the happy tears. Not one or the other. Both.

Healing and becoming whole is sneaky like that. Painful grief cracked my heart right open. But what I didn’t know was that in doing so it also provided more space for love, compassion, and yes, even joy.

https://img1.etsystatic.com/020/0/7127968/il_570xN.481648279_gqp0.jpg
Nope, I’m not the messenger of any profound life lessons. – Lisa Frank’s Unicorn

(I hate that about grief. Why can’t all our profound spiritual growth come packaged in Lisa Frank unicorn/kitten/rainbows instead of personal tragedies? Clearly I am not in charge of the universe.)

For now, I am taking comfort in the fact that this too shall pass. Until it does, more tears.

More than four oceans of tears, to be exact.

 

* The name of my autumn theme is basically lifted from Stephen Levine’s book of the same name, which if you haven’t read you should check out. It is amazing.

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This is why I don’t clean.

That time you swept and mopped your entire (tile) house from stem to stern and your toddler proceeded to spill the bucket of dirty water on said clean floors. And an hour later scattered the entire contents of a salt shaker around the house. And then peed on the bathroom floor for good measure.

Ahhh, normalcy is restored.

Why I Started this Blog

I thought I’d take a moment to welcome you and to share a little bit about why I started Mourning Dove Motherhood.

The real reason sounds slightly crazy, but it is the truth, and I’m a truth-teller. So here it is.

The seeds of this blog came about on the first anniversary of losing my mom (aka “Deathversary”). In typical fashion, I overthought the day and ended up having a slightly hilarious time attempting to mourn my mother on the stinking beaches of sanibel island.

I wanted to make grand sense of it all. Why this suffering. Why this loss? It sure sucked and I was tired of it, damnit!

Well, the universe/aka my dead mother/aka the oneness of the allness responded to me (I warned you it gets weird) and basically was all, “Yes this all sucks and you can be sad but get it TOGETHER WOMAN. You need to write. Write like your life depends on it. Sit. Down. And. Write.”

So I sat down and wrote. (I mean, after all my begging for answers, I wasn’t about to ignore the all-powerful-universe’s advice.)

I drafted dozens of posts on an unpublished blog with no name. I wanted to see exactly what I was going to write about before I put it out into the world.

Well, it turns out I have a lot to say about motherhood and a lot to say about the loss of my mom. A lot of it is funny. Some of it is sad. All of it heals me.

As far as the name of the blog is concerned,  it is a result of my close encounters with a mourning dove, which then led me to read about the symbolism of mourning doves, which made me realize that mourning doves perfectly encapsulate what this blog is about: motherhood and hope after loss.

Hope after loss. Oh yes, and we can’t forget the toddler who pees in the dog bowl. She shows up a lot. She is a feisty, hilarious, loving child and she is constant fodder for my writing.

Welcome and I look forward to sharing with you. (You and the universe, that is.)

P.s. I’m glad you are here. If you are anything like me and spend more time on Facebook than anywhere else, feel free to like the Facebook page to see all the upcoming posts!

One Year After My Mom’s Passing: Overthinking the Deathversary

I’m just going to throw it out there: deathversaries are hard. There is no avoiding the grief that bubbles up. I knew that marking the first year without my mom would be difficult, so I planned a day with nothing to do other than take care of me. Well, that isn’t entirely true. I planned a Day, with a capital “D”.  A magical day of spiritual and emotional significance, that would allow me transcend space and time.  (Or something.)  For this first deathversary I planned to walk to beaches of Sanibel island, collect shells that would forever symbolize this day of hope, healing and renewal, and ponder the meaning of existence.

In retrospect, I should have settled for date with Netflix, some chocolate, and a trashy magazine. But that would have been too simple.

The day started promisingly enough. I woke to rain that stopped in the early morning. This made me giddy, since I’d heard that shelling conditions are ideal after a storm.

Now, never having shelled after a storm I have no idea if what I encountered that day was typical. If it was typical, God bless the hardcore shellers because they have earned every last stinking shell they find.

Let me emphasize the word stinking.

I arrived to my secret shelling spot that day, visions of whole conch shells dancing in my head. Instead, I found piles and piles of knobby, gnarly mussels. Tangled in seaweed. With the occasional piece of trash. I should clarify: these were piles of knotty, gnarly, rotting mussels. As far as the eye could see.

A wiser person might have shrugged it off, headed straight back to the car, and driven home. Not I. I carried on like a soldier. Somewhere, buried in the depth of rotting mussel flesh I was determined find my pearl.

Now, you might be thinking, Ok, the stink smell doesn’t sound ideal. But the shells! Glory be, I bet you found some great shells!

You would be sorely mistaken. I spent an hour walking the beach and found nothing more than some cats paws and a lot of jingle shells. These are rinky, dinky little shells. Child’s play.

I was disheartened, to say the least. The magical day was escaping me but it only made me even more upset. I didn’t feel peaceful, serene or contemplative. Hell, I wasn’t even feeling grief. I simply felt cranky and was being bitten alive by the bugs there were attracted to the stinking pile of mussels.

I found myself alone on a stretch of beach. I hadn’t really felt a connection to my mom all morning. I sat down and I said, mom, I want you to be with me.

She said, I am, I’m always with you.

(What likely remained unsaid by her was “…but why on earth did you pick a smelly beach as the place for us to hang out?!”)

Anyway, I frowned at the stinky piles of shells.

Stop looking for a special shell, she told me. You don’t need it to remember this day. Do you know how much you are loved?

At this point, I played along: How much am I loved, mom?

I absentmindedly picked up a huge pen shell that had hundreds of little gnarly barnacles on it.

You see all those barnacles – that is how many people love you – and even MORE. So many people love you, you can’t even begin to imagine. We are all rooting you on.

I felt the wave of love and I felt the urgency in my mom’s voice.

An hour after walking the stinky beach, and hour after being bitten by bugs, I finally felt anger. Anger at the injustice of it all. How it wasn’t fair that I didn’t have my mom to help me become a mom, and that my daughter didn’t have my mother to become her grandmother.

She said, I know, honey. It isn’t fair. You have had your share of injustices.

But. Yes, there was a but.

“But you know what you need to do.”

She was practically yelling now. I mean, it was like I was getting a stern lecture from across the deep abyss.

Sarah, you get your butt down and write. Write like your life depended on it.

I took the pen shell, walked back to the car, and later that night created this blog.* I went to the beach that day looking for a pity party. I looked for answers or deep meaning. But really, I knew in my heart that moving forward I had to write. The time of quiet, introverted grieving was over.

It has been a difficult year. I survived tough storms and I came out a little rough for the wear. It wasn’t the year of the shiny conch. It was the year of the gnarled, weathered pen shell–and let’s be honest, smelly shell– that washed ashore after the storm, holding reminders of love from many. A little rough for the wear but fully intact.

*(Ok, by create I mean “start drafting blog posts that will sit on my computer, unpublished for a year.” See this.)