How about them (meditation) apples!

According to my meditation app, in 2017 I meditated an average of 16 minutes a day with a total of 37 hours of meditation! That doesn’t include my walking meditations, which I try to take every day.

2017 was the first year where meditation became a habit. I noticed if I didn’t meditate. (Or to put it another way, my family usually noticed because when I didn’t I was an irritable cranky-butt.)

I don’t need more convincing on the benefits of meditation, but if I did, this story might seal the deal. A few weeks ago I saw our family doctor for a well check and I had my my blood pressure/pulse taken. My blood pressure was really good but that didn’t surprise me because I’ve shed some weight.. What I was not expecting was my resting pulse to be so low. My entire life I’ve had a fast pulse. Weight loss and exercise never really impacted it much–even at my lowest weight and highest amount of exercise, my heart rate stayed stubbornly high.

This new rate was by far the lowest it had ever been. In fact, it was so good that I had a hunch it might be getting close to my husband’s heart rate range. The dude runs three miles a day and has the healthiest heart rate of pretty much anyone I know.

Well, well, well. Guess whose resting heart rate is now LOWER her husband’s? This gal’s. 

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Totally. Amazing.

Have you seen unexpected results from your meditation routine? Feel free to share!


Want to brag about your heart rate too? Share and follow posts on Facebook and Instagram!

 

Finish what you started

That seems to be my lesson this week. FINISH THE DARN PROJECTS YOU STARTED THREE MONTHS AGO. I read a blog post recently (I will link to it if I can find it) that said something to the effect of, how can you be present if you haven’t finished things you have started? Finish them and then you will be able to be present. 

Huh. I realized I had a LOT of things I’d started but not finished. I credit my perfectionism hiding in the shadows, (without me being aware of course) that was stalling me from finishing stuff because what if it doesn’t turn out exactly like I planned? What if I don’t like it?  WELL THEN. First, nothing turns out as we plan, am I right?! Second, done is better than none. And if you don’t like it you redo it, simple as that. Perfectionism, I shall slay you. giphy2

With that in mind, I finished painting the bathroom that I’d starting painting three months ago (YUP), I ordered hardware for a curtain rod that is broken, did the laundry that was piling up, put away the Christmas decorations, and I’m promising myself I will finish organizing my office this week. WOW IT FEELS GOOD.

Is there anything you need to finish that you started? Is perfectionism keeping you from doing it? Oh perfectionism, we see you and we give you imaginary hugs but also send you on your way. 

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Free internet hugs if you keep up with the blog on Facebook and Instagram!

Shonda Rhimes can keep her Year of YES. 2017 was my year of NO!

This past year was like the cleanup after a hurricane. (Which incidentally I also lived through.) If 2016 was the hurricane, 2017 the now what? after the hurricane.

After the real hurricane–Irma–I was surrounded by so many blessings. I saw them everywhere I looked. My house was still standing! The flood waters stopped short of entering my front door! (Barely.) The palm tree went down, sure, but it missed hitting our roof! And electricity, blessed electricity I so-take-for-granted–it eventually came back on!

That’s the thing about living through a hurricane. If you survive it mostly intact, it has a way of distilling what matters. For instance, living in a home with more than one room becomes a wonderful gift. (My daughter still to this day wants to play “hotel” because nothing was as amazing as having her mom and dad with her 24 HOURS A DAY, EVERY DAY, DAY AFTER DAY AFTER DAY AFTER DAY, IN THE SHARED SPACE OF ONE HOTEL ROOM. She’s most definitely not an introvert like her mother, who to this day does not know how she survived the experience without totally losing her ish.)

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The year 2016: when I finally got tired of my own bullshit.

If 2017 was cleaning up after a hurricane, the year 2016  was the hurricane. I could say it was a year of deep surrender, unveiling of truths, healing wounds and rediscovering joy.  But really it was the year I owned my bullshit. (See Elizabeth Gilbert quote.) After that epic year of owning my shit, in 2017 it became very clear to me that experiencing joy was not compatible with duties that sucked the joy from my life. Shonda Rhimes may have had her year of yes, but 2017 was my year of no.

Yes, this past year was all about Does it bring me joy? No? GOODBYE FELICIA. Does it take time away from my ability to experience joy? SO LONG, WON’T CATCH YA LATER. Are my choices leading to burnout and fatigue, therefore limiting my energy to create art and experience joy? DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT.

This of course was more complicated than I’m making it sound. In one stretch of weeks this past fall I remember collapsing while sick (likely due to lack of sleep) and crying in a puddle of tears. I CAN’T DO IT ALL, WOE IS MEEEEEEE! Well of course you can’t do it all, foolish woman! I had the startling realization that there was still a LOT more no to be said. I faced some major Catholic guilt…”but i promised these people I would volunteer with this project! I can’t possibly quit!” Yes you did, and now you must pay the piper and admit you over-committed. Suck it up buttercup! Time to say no!

I said no. . .and I survived. It felt good actually. I nurtured my yin — the feminine energy fueled by rest, introspection, creativity, and deep glorious sleep. I asked for a sleep mask for Christmas and I wear it with glee. I go to bed early, really early. I even (GASP) went off coffee for a long while so I could rid myself of the addiction to caffeine. It wasn’t needed now that I wasn’t trying to do more in a day than was humanly possible! Such joy and freedom in saying NO. For calling bullshit on the inner dialog that said “this is how it is, I work fulltime and have a child and blah blah blah here are alllll my excuses for why I should be permanently frazzled and fatigued.” Facing the truth–that my time is precious indeed, so how can I use it to fuel joy?–was LIBERATING and EMPOWERING.

Where does this leave me as I say goodbye to 2017? The trash has been taken out. The roles and responsibilities have been winnowed down to essentials only. Now I need to step into my truth. No more excuses. No more distractions. 2018 is where it becomes manifest. Ultimately it will mean living my truth. Time to take the plunge, baby. 

Are you ready? I am. Well, mostly. I’m sipping a coffee as I write this (some habits are hard to break) BUT I did sleep soundly for eight hours with my beloved sleep mask. No more excuses, no more hiding. Let’s do this.

Holiday self-care: visions versus reality

Me every year before Christmas season:

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This year I’m going to make healthy choices for myself to stay grounded. Like, stick to my calming decaf teas instead of coffee, which my body tells me feels so much better.

 

Me yesterday:

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GIVE ME ALL THE COFFEEEEEES.

Before the holidays:

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I’m going to buy gifts early and ship in plenty of time to reduce stress!

Me this week:

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OH CRAP OH CRAP WHY DON’T I HAVE PRIORITY MAIL BOXES! I’LL TRADE MY FIRSTBORN AND A COFFEE FOR ONE RIGHT NOW!

 

Me before Christmas:

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We will make homemade hand-crafted thoughtful teacher gifts made of love and unicorns

Me two days before the last day of preschool:

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PEACE OUT, MAKING MY THIRD RUN TO THE STORE TO BUY GIFT CARDS!

 

Merry Christmas everyone. May you stay sane amidst the chaos and find time for self-care. (Real self-care. Like, time to breathe deep and tune out the noise. Coffees are optional. Though I am totally drinking one as I type this.)

 

The man-cold experiment

In not-at-all-surprising news, I got sick with a bad cold. (My last post was literally about how I need to practice more self-care.) Sigh.

I’m working on more rest, less doing in my daily life, so I figured practicing this while sick would be a good place to start. In fact, what better way to demand rest than to treat my cold like it’s a man-cold. 

Man-cold instructions:

  1. Lie down in the bed under the covers and don’t move all night. 
  2. Demand others tend to dinner. Preferably making your favorite comfort food.
  3. Declare yourself off-limits for childcare duty.

It’s that simple and here’s the crazy thing: it basically worked! Childcare tasks were the hardest to shake because the child finds me wildly entertaining and demands me as her playmate. (#onlychildproblems.) I fixed that by suggesting she and daddy play “science” which they both love because they make volcanoes explode and get messy, so win-win.

At bedtime my husband did get a tad snippy: “you WILL be helping with bedtime routine right?!” I said yes, assuming that’s how it goes the next time he gets sick. 

Who knew it was that easy? Ask and ye shall receive! 

Alert, alert: off-the-chart parental stress detected. Seek Peanut Butter immediately.

Imagine a parental stress continuum. At one end is the mythical and totally unatainable smiling happy family lounging on a white couch.  At the other end: stress-eating peanut butter out of the jar at midnight.

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Folks, you can guess which end I’m at right now. (There may or may not be a sticky peanut butter spoon in the sink from last night.)

Ever since Irma decided to come to town –which I am now realizing was nearly three and a half weeks ago (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE)–life has been something, let me tell you. We had a lovely labor day where we were like, huh it looks like maybe a hurricane is forming or something, anyway, can you pass me some chips? And then Tuesday we we were like, huh, we should stock up on water shouldn’t we. Oh everyone is sold out? Cool, cool. From there it was off to the races.  Should we stay or should we go. Will there be enough gas to get us where we need to go. Will the sharknado destroy our house? (No, because there was no sharknado, sadly.) Will we all be stressed out and tired of living in a series of hotel rooms? YES YES WE WILL. Will daycare be closed a super long time? (OF COURSE IT WILL.)

And–this question needs no answer–will all this in some way impact my four year old??? 

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Why yes, all along this journey there was a bright-eyed and sensitive four-year old absorbing it all like a tiny little sponge. OH MY DEAR LITTLE SPONGE WHO NOW REFUSES TO SLEEP. And has been acting out, angry, defiant, and in one especially low moment spit her toothpaste foam onto my feet. 

It’s been a trying week to say the least. She hasn’t wanted to sleep, insisting that mama be with her. All week we were trying to solve the puzzle. What is UP with our kid? We asked her, are you scared to sleep? No. Are you afraid of monsters? No. (Spits on my feet.)

Meanwhile in adult-land, I’ve talked with several friends who agree with me that we (ADULTS) are just now starting to feel back to “normal” after Irma. By the way, you should get a load of my crazy kid, what on earth is up with her?!

Funny how hard it is to see what is often right in front of us.

And then, last night. Nearly midnight, I sat on my daughter’s bed with her, not saying much. Just chilling out. I’d finally surrendered to the situation. It was what it was. She wasn’t going to sleep, she wanted me with her, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it.

Guess what happened. As she flipped through a book she started telling me that she’d been having nightmares. She couldn’t remember what exactly, but she was scared to go to sleep. Simply by being and letting her be she was able to let it out. Shake it off, shake it off (to quote the wise Taylor Swift). She went to sleep shortly after that.

Maybe she needed a week of letting off steam before she could reveal the fears underneath it all. Maybe I was too wrapped up in my own stress to be able to just sit and be with her until that point. It doesn’t matter in the end. We did what we had to do to get through it. We’re doing our best to get back to normal.

Regardless, I’m happy to report we’re no longer at peanut-butter-eating-out of the jar status. We have lowered several notches to the piled-up-laundry and copious-coffee-consumption levels–definitely an improvement, and definitely another inch closer to ‘normal.’ For that I’m grateful.


P.S. Shameless plug alert–  speaking of hurricanes, I’m donating 50% of the proceeds from Etsy shop sales through Sunday to support Puerto Rico recovery efforts. The funds will go to the Sierra Club’s Maria Fund that supports just and sustainable rebuilding for the most vulnerable communities in Puerto Rico. You can donate directly here as well.

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Bathed in moonlight

“The night comes and we give ourselves permission to dissolve into the rest of darkness. We let go of all the valleys and rivers we wish to cross and our dreams for some distant future.” -Sarah Blondin, Live Awake.

Tonight I stretched out on the living room couch in the dark, earbuds in my ears and ready to listen to a guided meditation. I looked up, there was the moon peaking through our skylight. 

I meditated bathed in moonlight. I was brought to tears by a deeply moving meditation about learning to surrender. It was just what my soul needed. 
 

What Four Looks Like

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Four is learning to whistle along with Peppa Pig.

Four is puppet shows and pirouettes.

Four is nonsensical knock-knock jokes and pretending to read clocks.

Four is eating pb&j, cheese sticks and cereal–all before 9AM.

Four is finding loopholes in bedtime rules.

Four is big feelings, and even bigger hugs.

Four is winning at Memory and mastering big-kid puzzles.

Four is I got it!, I know!, I can do it!, and I love you you, mama.

Four is holding on tight to fleeting 6am snuggles.

Happy birthday today to my little girl (who does not seem so little anymore). I looked at what I wrote last year and I can’t believe how much my daughter has grown. I can only begin to imagine what she will be like when I write this next year. Oh, how the time flies.

And because I’m ridiculously sentimental, thinking a lot about the birth memories I shared in The Birth(day) lessons. That nesting-pregnant-woman seems like a child compared to what I have grown into during these last four years. It is truly a joy to watch how much we grow, too, hand-in-hand with our child.

Gratitude (kind of) for the darkness

Friends, solstice is upon us. Tomorrow. That is right, the days of winter darkness shift toward the light. I don’t want to speak for y’all but damn, it is time for the dark days of 2016 to exit the building. 

The church I attend had a lovely solstice celebration this past Sunday. We toasted “wasail” (apple juice) to the new year coming and the the turn to light. And there was an urging to think about darkness not as something “bad” or “evil” as it is often considered in our culture, but instead as a gift. What if we met it with gratitude? We couldn’t have 24 hours of sun – everything requires a period of rest and darkness. What if we look at the darkness as a womb capable of creating and birthing life anew?

Never before have the themes of winter solstice resonated with me so much.

This year brought lot’s of darkness for me. Not in the form of “bad” or “evil” but in the form of letting go, release, and being left with emptiness and not-knowing. The not-knowing is SO HARD for me. I am not a patient person when it comes to just sitting. (I get this from my mother. The woman moved ALL DAY LONG! She would be sitting folding clothes at midnight while watching tv.) So yes, sitting, waiting in the stillness, not knowing, and knowing that it isn’t time for me to know just yet? SO FREAKING HARD. I wrote about this in September and it still resonates with me — how it feels like frog swimming and let’s just say that is not a pace I like.

Yes, if I am grateful, this year brought many gifts that did not feel like them at the time: the release of pain and loss, more pain and loss, and shedding of that which no longer served me. The dissolving of identities and patterns and masks that are no longer needed. I feel as empty as the northern wood, stripped of leaves, all life burrowed away and hiding in hole.

It was a year of pausing. It was a year of rest.

But if I am honest with myself, it was also a year that showed me hints of what can come out of the darkness and chaos. Creativity in the form of Art! Writing! Music! Wow, amiright?

It was a year of embracing the unknown and unexpected, of holding on to faith and hope that eventually the wheel will turn, the axis of the earth would slowly and eventually move its position in relation to the sun and the days will grow longer. They will — at last — tomorrow!

On Solstice Eve, value the dark. On this longest night of the year, before the light overcomes the dark, sit in the dark (alone or with others) and think about the importance of darkness. Bless mushrooms that grow in the dark and honeysuckle that sends its luscious scents into the night. Be grateful for the darkness that soothes us to sleep, the darkness that animals require for hibernation. Give thanks for sheltering dark places: the rich earth where seeds germinate, the caves that harbored our ancient ancestors (and where some of our sun gods were born), the cellars that keep us safe from tornadoes, the wombs that provide our first nourishment. Acknowledge the darkness of suffering, which can deepen our appreciation of life and strengthen our connection to one another.


From a post at http://www.uuworld.org/articles/celebrate-winter-solstice and Excerpted with permission from In Nature’s Honor: Myths and Rituals Celebrating the Earth (Skinner House), copyright 2005 by Patricia Montley. Available from the UUA Bookstore (see link below).


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