Stress Mess

I’m heading out of the office for the day…I must make it down two flights of stairs, through three sets of doors (one which I need to enter a passcode to open) and across the parking lot to my car all while carrying :

  1. my planner (aka “my life in a little leather book”)
  2. a few emails I have printed so I don’t forget to do task a, b and c later in the evening…or week….or month…or whenever I get to them
  3. a carton of cookies I will be delivering to my mom
  4. my lunch bag still filled with lunch (since I forgot to grab it from the fridge as I headed out of the office on break)
  5. a ziplock bag with two hard boiled eggs (don’t ask about my odd eating habits…I’m currently eating “clean” or something like that).
  6. 2 lbs of raw ground beef that I picked up from the grocery market over my lunch break (taco night…woot woot)
  7. hanging awkwardly from my shoulder is my purse… with my shaker cup hanging dangerously out of the top
  8. hoisted against my shoulder and leaning on my forearm is a box filled with summer sausage, cheese and crackers.

This is me. This mess, this crazy amount of chaos, this balancing act is me…all the time…every day. Did I mention I’m wearing 3″ heels???

image

So I rush to my moms to pick up my kiddos and I’m down one box of cookies, but I’ve been raised one backpack and 3- and 7-year old bodies of pure energy. We pull in at home and it’s unloading EVERYTHING from the car, making supper, practicing piano, homework, stories, bedtime and I. AM. BEAT.

I’m thinking of my coming week and I know I have a Sunday School class to prep for, a Boy Scout meeting to plan, a holiday party, a wedding, my son’s first day of bowling…and I’m feeling overwhelmed. Sound familiar? You can relate, right?

As I was leaving work today, hands full, looking like a hot (hopefully at least halfway decent 😉) mess, a friend of mine followed me out of the building. She just eyed my struggle and smiled…she’s been there. I shared with her that I feel like I’m constantly feeling like I’m swimming in chaos. I see these other people go to and from here or there and they’re hands are empty. They look relaxed. How do they do that??? My friend looked at me and said “You wouldn’t have it any other way.” Whether I like it or not, I know she’s right.

I tend to walk a very fine line between blissfully active and anxiously overwhelmed.  At times I’ve slipped right off the edge and landed square on my rear. These are the times that I start to count my burdens, my worries, my anxieties. I start to count and recount, I begin to list, I can’t sleep and I can’t move forward and somehow I can’t seem to get a single thing accomplished. Stress is like a thick fog. If you let it surround you, you can’t move in any direction with confidence. You’re stuck. The good news is I’ve learned something along the way. I’ve learned a new way to carry my load. A way to turn bricks to feathers and it all begins with gratitude.

Today I’m overwhelmed.

So I begin to think of what I have to be thankful for. I’m so thankful to be healthy today, for the ability to move and be active, to not be limited in my energy and capabilities. Sometimes being grateful starts very simply. The more stress I feel, the simpler my gratitude list needs to start. Sometimes it’s the air in my lungs, my feet on the floor. When I start with the simplest things that I normally take for granted, I can gently roll into the bigger, more obvious things in my life. That small bit of gratitude can grow into a warm, glowing, large sense of thankfulness for my children, my husband, my family and home. The realization comes to me that all of these blessings come with responsibility. That feeling I was previously interpreting as stress, I can now see as my privilege. How fortunate am I that these are my problems?

image

Gratitude is an amazing gift. Developing an attitude of gratitude is like removing a blindfold and seeing the sun for the first time. When I am focused on the stress and the to-do list, I’m wandering in the dark. But when I start to focus on gratitude, I am able to not only handle the stress…I am able to be thankful for it. Because after all, these things are not stress, they are my greatest blessings…my children and their activities, my church and my growth in and with God, my home and my household, my career and my professional goals. It is truly a matter of perspective. And I have decided I will be thankful.

image

What do you have to be thankful for? Consider what is stressing you right now. Can you look at those stressors from a perspective of gratitude? Can you transform your brick into a feather? I encourage you to give it a try. Trust me when I say it takes some practice. But once you get it, the first time you remove the blindfold, you’ll gain a true understanding of the power of gratitude.

 

Make Your Husband a Cup of Coffee (and other essentials for a happy marriage)!

image

So my husband and I have been together for a while now; we have 14 years under our joint, blissful belt. Take a look at us here…this is the beginning. We’re so skinny…we’re so tan…we’re so young. Sigh! A couple of hot little numbers…it’s no wonder our start was so passionate and exciting.

image

I hate to get ahead of myself but let’s jump ahead four years. We have a lot of ground to cover and you don’t have all day. Phil popped the question  on Easter in 2005. We were lying in bed, pigging out on massive amounts of Easter candy like a couple of kids (which we were). The next thing I knew, he was holding a ring and saying “Do you want to get married to me?” Spoiler alert…I said YES. And that was it. In all honesty, the day he first stepped into Kouch Potato Video to return his mom’s movie rental, and I, earning my keep as a video store clerk, laid eyes on him, that moment, that was IT. The rest is history, as they say.

This year marks ten years of marriage for me and my husband. After reading my last blog, a friend asked me, “How do you do it; how do you and Phil find time for each other?” At first I wasn’t sure how to answer. I thought about my marriage and how my relationship has changed and evolved over the years. I thought about how deeply I love my husband today and how different that love is in many ways than the love I felt at 17. I started to think about why. Why am I so devoted to this man? Why do I love him so much?What is it that makes me so happy in my marriage?And the answers began to roll in.

I hesitate to hand out marriage advice. Do I qualify??? Does ten years give me the stamina to really talk about marriage???? As cliche as it may sound, I can honestly say, if I could go back, do it all again, I would choose him all over again (in a heartbeat!). I choose him every single day and I am HAPPY to do it. And I have full faith that, God willing, I will still be choosing him 50 years from now. So yes, I’m going to dish on what makes my marriage happy in the hopes that maybe it will bring a little extra happiness to some of yours.

I think love is pretty simple so I’m going to break it down to the basics:

  1. Touch each other. No, not like that you little pervert!! Okay, yes, like that…but in other ways too! Every single day there should be hugs. Real hugs, the kind where you just stop for a moment and squeeze each other, breath each other in, take a moment to physically connect. My favorite time of the day to hug my husband is when I get home from work. It is my way to say, “I missed you today.” It sets the tone for the rest of the evening. It’s so simple but so meaningful (P.S. inserting a little kiss here doesn’t hurt either 😘) Also, very important, don’t just pass each other by throughout the day. Take these little meetings as opportunities in the hallway, squeezing through the bathroom, passing on the stairs, to reach out and touch each other. For example, a touch on the arm, a hand on the small of her back, the holding of a hand or even a little pat on the back end. It’s just a playful, sweet, quick way to be physically close when you’re going 100 mph in opposite directions. My daughter has picked up on the “pat on the rear” move from my husband and now smacks me on the bottom randomly in public (not nearly as endearing!) But seriously, let’s get physical! Reach out and touch the one you love, often, all the time, every day.
  2. Work for a living and appreciate that your spouse does the same. I work hard. I do it because I want to make a better life for my family. When I come home to my worn out husband, who’s had a long day at work himself, I remember that he is working to provide for me and our children. I appreciate all that he does for us financially and around our home. All of the ways he helps me with the house work. All of the ways he cares for the kids. I tell him thank you as often as I can and I mean it. I am thankful for all that he does. I appreciate that he puts so much of himself into this life we created together. I feel so blessed that he is my partner. Don’t forget to appreciate what your spouse does every day to make your world go round. Be thankful and appreciate them.
  3. Make your husband a cup of coffee. Draw your wife a bubble bath. Put a note in each other’s lunch box. Do you see where I’m going with this??? It is in the little things that we make each other feel loved in my marriage. The small considerations for one another. We’re busy. We’re can’t-stop-won’t-stop-break-your-neck-or-maybe-your-back kind of busy. It’s so easy to not think of each other. So when we do stop, take a minute out of the busy day, and just do something nice for each other, it reminds us not only that we’re loved, but also that were on the same team. So every morning, when I wake up and my husband is still pressing snooze, I make his coffee with way too much sugar and two ice cubes (just the way he likes it) and I hope that when he grabs it on his way out the door, he feels loved.
  4. Give each other a break. Sometimes I think I love my husband the most right after I get back from a run. How lucky am I to have this wonderful man who stays with the kids so I can get out and get my feel-good going??!!! I like to think he’s thinking about how much he loves me when he’s out on the golf course too. He totally is, don’t you think?! But yes, one vital thing that makes my marriage strong and happy is that we support each other and give one another the opportunity to follow our separate passions. We are stronger individually for this and we are stronger as a married couple.
  5. For goodness sake, put your kids to bed. Give them a decent bedtime. In their own beds! This is a win-win. Kids need sleep. Parents need a break. Take this time, this tiny sliver of time between being super parents and catching your zzz’s and make it your husband/wife time. Put down the phones and do something together. Don’t get me wrong, our kids are tucked in by 9 every night and I’m usually snoring by 10 (noooo….I don’t snore, I’m just writing creatively 😉). In that hour, my husband and I are usually tuned in to a 48  Hours Mystery but we’re tuned in together. And this miraculous thing happens. When no one is yapping “MOMMY” in my ear or “DAD, GUESS WHAT?” in his, even with the TV on, we talk. It is so nice. There are no words to express what that hour of non-competed for attention is like. You might be thinking, “Why put the phone down if your just going to be watching TV.” Being distracted on a phone is very isolating. You’re doing your thing on your phone and your spouse is completely on their own. At least when you watch something together, your focus is on the same thing at the same time. But hey, someday if you’re really feeling adventurous, you could even shut off the TV!

So that’s it. So simple. I left something pretty important off my short list. I thought about adding a #6 for “Get a Babysitter”. Alone time is so important. My husband and I do occasionally get a sitter and spend some adult time together. But I leave this off my list for a very specific reason. If we wait for these special occasions to make each other feel loved, we’re going to end up very lonely. Kids, work, hobbies, friends, family, volunteering, etc., etc., this is life. You have to, YOU MUST, stay focused on your marriage during and throughout all of the chaos. You can’t wait for a break, wait for quiet time, wait for a perfect opportunity, to show your love to your partner. For example, I had to go back almost two years to find the photo below of just me and my husband.

image

Most of our pictures look more like this…

image

Which just reiterates my point. When we start a family, alone time, the perfect opportunities, the right mood or setting, those moments just don’t come along. We have to create those loving moments whenever, wherever.

Some of you might be in a rough patch in your marriage and you’re thinking “If only it was really as easy as she says.” Just know, we’ve been there too. No relationship is immune to struggles. We’re imperfect human beings. In a marriage, you’re going to be thoughtless, you’re going to get lazy, you’ll hurt one another and you’ll go through pain in life that will change and transform you as a person and in turn, you’re marriage will change too. As long as your partner isn’t doing anything in your marriage that risks the safety of you or your children, I challenge you to hang in there. I really believe it is the bumps in the road that make your marriage stronger in the end. Remember that this is the person that God put in your life. You are where He wants you to be. As painful as that can be at times, have faith that your life is in the middle of a transformation and brighter days are ahead. Be quick to forgive.  Do the little things that make your spouse smile, appreciate them, be filled with gratitude. Do this without expecting anything in return. Marriage is not tit for tat. Show your love to your partner because you want to, not because you expect the same in return. You’ll be surprised by what happens. When you put love out into the world, it will be returned. You’ll take the first step in building a stronger, more loving marriage.

That is it. At this point in my life, these are the things I have learned about marriage. I’m sure my perspective will continue to change as the road that my husband and I travel together twists and turns. But today I’m so grateful for my marriage and regardless of what life brings us, with my husband by my side, I’m ready to face it.

I am the Tickler of Toes…Among Other Things

image

After my first blog, I was talking with a friend who also blogs. She said to me “I’m not a writer”…to which I responded “I’m not a writer either.” That sentence, that thought, that discredit, stuck with me. Why do we do this to ourselves? True…blogging, practicing my writing, exercising this rarely used art form of prose, is very new to me. But what would I have to accomplish to make me a writer??

I came across this same quandary when I began running 3 years ago. I’d repeatedly tell people “oh, I’m not a runner…” What I was thinking and feeling is “please don’t judge my running…I’m not fast…it’s not pretty…I look and feel like I’m dying when my feet are pounding the ground…so don’t call me a runner and don’t measure me by this high standard.” Today, I’m still not the fastest and I can’t run the farthest. Look at me in the pic below with this fancy little medal (…I still didn’t consider myself a runner even at this point). I was still discrediting myself saying “All of the good runners were participating in the half today…that’s why I was able to win the 5k.” When I look at myself and know those thoughts run through my mind, I can’t deny that’s it’s disappointing. We have to believe in ourselves. Love ourselves. Today I consider myself a runner. So what has changed???

image

I began thinking (super scary, I know). The primary thing that has changed in my running is my perspective. I have the same tiny frame, the same slender muscles, the same excruciatingly pained face (lol)…but my perspective has changed. I haven’t  changed; my mind has changed.

Who would we be if we stopped discrediting ourselves and discounting our abilities? If our minds stopped telling us what we can’t do? I decided to try an exercise and list everything, every single thing, that I am. This is what I came up with:

  1. a Christian
  2. wife
  3. mother
  4. daughter
  5. daughter-in-law
  6. sister
  7. sister-in-law
  8. friend
  9. Godmother
  10. aunt
  11. niece
  12. granddaughter
  13. employee
  14. executive assistant
  15. ….this is where I started to have more fun with this exercise…you’ll see
  16. Runner (YES!)
  17. Writer (really…I changed my mind on this one)
  18. cook
  19. financial guru
  20. motivational speaker
  21. church council member
  22. scout den leader
  23. volunteer
  24. dog mommy (to my Rusty-Roo)
  25. carer for the sick
  26. tickler of the toes, arms, bellies, underarms, necks…you get the idea
  27. dancer (in my kitchen at least)
  28. singer (also in my kitchen/sometimes shower)
  29. music enthusiast
  30. bath lover
  31. love lover 😉
  32. Over-sharer (refer to #31)
  33. cleaner
  34. bedtime tucker
  35. Reader of stories
  36. Hair obsesser
  37. smile giver

And this is where I ended. I’m really quite terrible at some of these things (totally referring to singing). But these things make me feel alive. These things bring me joy. What if I start focusing on all of the things that I am and stop discounting myself by stating what I am not? You don’t have to be the best at something to BE IT. You just have to do it. From your gut, do it and love it. And there you are, the writer, the runner, the singer, the [enter the thing you desire/fear here].

That’s it. It’s simple really. Forget “I’m not”….it’s a pretty useless statement. Let’s be what we set out to be. Let’s challenge ourselves and love ourselves. I challenge you  to get out your pen and paper and make your “I Am” list. When you do it, ignore the fear. No one is seeing this list but you (unless you decide to blog about it!). You’ll be glad you did it. My last piece of advice, once you’ve written these things on your list, be them. Don’t step back, don’t discount, don’t discredit, and don’t be modest. Get out there and take life by the reigns. BE IT.

The Epidermis Diaries

image

Meet Jera. She is my beautiful, 3-going-on-17 year old daughter. Full of energy, sass, love, fishy kisses and the best Jera hugs. She is my side-kick in all things. Her favorite things are Barbies, PJ Masks, Taylor Swift, strawberry milk and the Fresh Beat Band. She is resilient and teaches me every day what living without fear looks like. She also suffers from eczema…and I don’t use the word suffer lightly. But more on that later.

Now I have to ask, could  this be what the cure for eczema looks like???

image

We’ve been through a lot on this eczema journey, and after all we’ve tried, all the doctor appointments, steroids, creams, lotions, all of the money spent, could the answer really come down to some supplements and essential oils??? I’m feeling skeptical and if you’ve dealt with eczema, you’ll know why.

At 13 months old, Jera’s skin completely and radically changed. She went from clear, soft, gorgeous baby skin to being broken out with red, rough and bumpy rashes all over her body, most severely on her elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. Her skin has gotten so bad at times that she’s had to take antibiotics to combate infections that have entered in through her open wounds. Since that time, we’ve been through EVERY over-the-counter topical treatment. Aquaphor, Cetaphil, Eucerin, Gold Bond, oatmeal baths, Epsom salts… We’ve been through the pharmaceutical gammut as well. At one point we actually found a topical steroid that did wonders for her skin, only to find out it was no longer available when we went for the refill (it had been tied to Luekemia 😖).  Needless to say I had a serious moments pause about Jera’s eczema treatment right then and there.

This entire time, we’ve been following the advice of specialists. Her very own dermatologist and allergist and still no answers. During our tenure, their advice has gone from one extreme to another. Don’t bathe her. Bathe her every day. Remove all carpeting from your home. Wrap her in a wet blanket and make her sit for an hour…it’s a great cold compress for the skin. So…I did mention she’s THREE, right?! At her last dermatologist appointment, the doctor suggested I begin punishing her when I see her scratching. His latest hypothesis is that if she wouldn’t scratch herself, she wouldn’t have the rashes and sores on her body. When I said “But she scratches herself because she itches???”, he suggested I start giving her Benadryl 4 times a day. In his words, she may be a little “out of it” but she won’t be itchy. We, as patients, put our trust in our doctors. We have to. They are the experts and we, as patients, need their knowledge and advice. My mom, Jera’s grandma, was with us at this appointment. I was so thankful to have her there to validate that this doctor didn’t have Jera’s best interest at heart. He wasn’t invested in her healing. And so it was my sign that it was time to move on.

So here we are, nearly 3 years into this battle with Jera’s skin and she’s no better today then she was in the beginning. This is a picture of what her skin looked like this morning.

image

Horrible, right?! I range from feeling desperate, to sad, to frustrated. At this point, I have realized we have to keep an open mind. There is an answer out there. Our prayers will be answered but I have to be listening, attentive and leave the doubt behind.

I decided that if something comes our way, we will try it. We will not accept that she just has to live this way. Live having other children point to her red, swollen patches of skin and ask her what’s “wrong with her”. Live not being able to sleep at night because she itches so badly that she can’t rest peacefully. Live putting one toxic ointment on her body after another to get some sort of relief without knowing what the long term effects will be. There must be a cure.

Enter Iridology. This is a science that evaluates the nerve endings in the iris to determine strengths, weakness, areas of congestion and stress, among other things inside the body. Several friends have shared their personal health success stories after visiting this particular Iridologist. So I took this as a sign and made an appointment. We had our appointment this week; the lady looked into my daughter’s eye and gave us her opinion. We left the store, and in hand, we have Recover Soothing Blend (oil), Silver Shield (gel), probiotics, Pau De Arco Extract, and Flax Oil.  She advised us to give her plenty of lemon water. We’re supposed to cut down the dairy and wheat intake. Increase dark leafy greens…beets would also be a good choice (yes, I’m looking at this lady like she’s an alien…my daughter is 3 and I’m not really sure about the beets!). Her thought is that my daughter’s kidneys need help. Her body is reacting to EVERYTHING like it is an allergy because he kidneys have been overworked trying to remove the toxins from her body. Her kidneys can’t keep up. I’m not a doctor, obviously. There was more to her explanation than that but that’s what I pulled from it. If we can clean up her kidney function, her skin will heal but it will take a few months to see results.

Could it be so simple? Some diet modifications, oils and supplements? I don’t know. But I’m thankful to have a new road to travel down. A new suggestion to try. It’s been a frustrating process, but we’re praying every day that we find relief. Realizing things could always be worse, we’re taking it a day at a time and pushing forward. If this isn’t the answer, we will have our ears open for the next opportunity to help our daughter. We won’t give up. Updates to come!

Living by Design

image

The New Year has got me thinking…as it often does. Thinking of my goals, my wants, my needs…and with the assistance of some fantastic podcasts and a fancy motivational dvd, I had an epiphany. At 31 years old (or years young if you ask me), I had lost my way a little. Not in a living-in-the-streets-type-of-dramatic kind of way but in a I’ve-been-so-busy-getting-by-that-I’ve-stopped-giving-it-my-all kind of way. Whew, that’s a lengthy description but true.

In my teens and early 20s I had this belief that I could step into the adult world, marry the man of my dreams, work the job of my dreams, live in the big house, buy the new car, have the perfect children, etc., etc. Then I graduated college. I married a great man and got a good job and have been blessed to have two beautiful children. But other things have been harder. I discovered making a life, digging in and creating the life of your dreams, is hard. Like really hard. I suffered some terrible losses. And somewhere in the struggle, somewhere along the way, I started to doubt myself.

My blind faith that anything is possible left me. When did that happen. When did I decide to settle? That my dreams were too big? That I didn’t deserve the things I wanted? I don’t remember the moment. It was a lot of moments. The moment I was told I miscarried my first child, the moment I didn’t get the shining review I wanted at work, the moment I lost a dear friend to suicide, the moments I faced addiction in those around me, so many moments that chipped away at who I am…who I thought I could be.

So what? We all have hard times. I know that this is life on life’s terms. So, this epiphany I had, it woke me up. It gave me the kick in the rear and the slap in the face that I needed. I remembered that I have been created. I am not here by accident. Because I was made with purpose, molded, designed…shouldn’t I be aiming for my greatest potential? Why not me?

So going forward, I will try my hardest ALL the time. At work, with friends, at church, but especially in my home. I will put positive thoughts forward and send them out into the world. I will not dwell in the negative; I will not worry. I don’t know how I’m going to get to where I’m going. But that’s the fun of the journey. I’m taking a leap of faith and giving this life (this absolutely beautiful life) I’ve been given everything I’ve got.

I hope you will too. Do YOUR best, not your neighbor’s best. In the words of my 4th grade teacher, do your personal best. We were all made with purpose. It’s our responsibility to dive in and discover what that purpose is. We won’t find it while we idly wait. Purpose won’t come to us. We have to seek it out…I think it’s time. 2016 holds tremendous things.