Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your question, My Answer

October is a month filled with awareness and remembrance days.  A lot of us have been touched by cancer throughout our lives as we see it happen in loved ones and friends.  I know breast cancer awareness is a big one that is pumped through the entire month of October to the point where is shows in major league sports.  However, there is something else a lot of us have been touched by, whether it be in our own lives directly, through a family member, or friend.  Pregnancy and Infant loss.

Yes, I know, this taboo subject to many and a subject we shouldn't talk about is starting to break through the walls of silence.  What used to be taboo and kept silent is starting to make waves.  People from all around the world are sharing their stories, opening up their hearts, and helping others who are walking this similar path.  Today, I am going to break the silence as well.

Three years ago we faced and are still facing an experience that you never want to go through and really most of the time seems to come out of now where.  We lost our daughter Samantha.  If you want to get technical, it was at 17 weeks and it was a miscarriage.  I know some feel that it shouldn't be a big deal and that someone that small really was much of anything.  It was a miscarriage.  I can tell you today, that I still remember that dreadful day and every detail that goes with it.

It wasn't just a miscarriage, I delivered my daughter.  Sure, I may not have gone through hours of labor and delivered a living breathing being, but I did delivered my daughter.  She had ten fingers and ten toes.  You could see her cute little ears and nose.  Her hand, no bigger than my index finger.  She weighed in at 2.5 ounces.  She fit completely in my hand. She may have breathed outside in our world, but she danced and squirmed inside of me.  She brought life and taught me a lot about life.

I have met some amazing people on my path.  The further along I go, the more people I meet who have lost their little ones way to soon.  These people are courageous, strong, awesome parents.  Do I wish that I could hold my daughter in my arms, read to her at night, and chase her around the yard?  Every minute of every day.

I may not be able to do that with her, but I know I have a lot of family up there with her that can do that with her.  I also have a lot of friends who have little ones up there too that she can play chase with.  Down here, right in front of me, every day is another miracle.  My son.  So, while I get to hold him in my arms, read stories with him, and chase him around, God & family get to do that with our daughter.  No matter where your children are, how big they have gotten, who they are with you are still a mom and dad.

Aww, such a sweet time vs. How old? Have Fun with That

All to often I get asked, "how old is your son?" I reply with his age and I get one of several responses..."such a fun age", "good luck with that age or stage", "oh the things you have coming ahead of you with that age".  My thought to it all? Every stage and every age has it awesomeness and struggles.

My son hit toddler age and people warned me about the tantrums, struggles, them saying no.  All the struggles and not so good side of it all. What I have found is that my little toddler has an ever blossoming personality.  He is so affectionate, loves to help, and has a lot to say.  Sure, there are some struggles, but the fun and awesomeness far out weigh those struggles.

It's all about perspective.  If we constantly focus on the negatives of an age, then we miss out on so much of the other stuff going on.  Likewise, if focus on the negative, then our moods tank and we complain all the time, and we end up bitter about the situation.  Most of the time, the struggle is just a phase.  While in the midst of it, it seems like it is going on forever.  But before we know it we will look back and see that it passed rather quickly, and we all survived.

Why not focus on the positive as much as we can?  That way when the struggles or the negatives come around we can easily take them in stride.  Sure, we may turn to other moms to open up and that is okay.  Sometimes we just need the reassurance that everything will be okay and we aren't a terrible parent.  Its not always easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And talking with someone who has maneuvered through the tunnel fairly unscathed helps us get a glimpse of that light.

I have heard ages phrased like this: terrible twos, troublesome threes, frustrating fours, and so on.  What if we thought of the ages a little different. What if we thought of it more like this: tremendous twos, terrific threes, fabulous fours, fantastic fives, and so.  Interestingly enough, I can come up with those phrases a lot easier than the others ones.

I have known adults who set up a motto or mantra for the day, week, month, or year.  I have done yearly ones.  Well, imagine how the year could look if we did that for or with our children (depending on how old they are).  My son will turn 2 next year.  My thought is to put a sign up somewhere that says TREMENDOUS TWOS.  Sometimes we need a reminder, especially on those tougher days. Then we can focus our attitudes and efforts on all the tremendous things going on.

What fabulous age is your child or are your children?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fill Your Bucket with Intention

The idea of living intentionally has been something I have typically have done through the years.   But I know that with the increase in things like social media, that I have sometimes gotten sucked into that world only to find that two hours just passed me by.

After having our son, any moments I could sneak in to check things out I would.  I will admit, there were times when I was trying to look at something only to have him take over the screen and I would be frustrated.  Why?  I really have know idea.  I just know that it can be tough to put the phone, tablet, or computer down...especially once you get started.

I realized that, a few months ago, that if I wanted to be more present (a goal of mine) that I would need to put the technology down more.  Sure, I would go a week at a time every so often where I would limit my usage during the day.  Sometimes it worked well for the week, other times not so much.  And it never failed, at the end of the week I would go back to the way I was doing things.  Not all bad, but not great either.

A combination of blogs & books I read, podcasts I listen to, and the SimpleRev Conference that I attended have made me reevaluate how I am going about in my daily life.  Also, now that my son is older he is more receptive and its has become clear that he is watching me more.  So it is also about what do I want him to learn.

The idea of living simply scares a lot of people.  But I like to think of it as living with intention. Whatever comes in must have a purpose, function, and be something you enjoy.  It can work in all areas of your life, including social media.  If something is bringing you down, causing frustration, or making you miss out on what is important than it is time to evaluate that thing and decide if must stay, go, or be re-purposed some how.

The other side of it is that things have become routine or habit and we don't realize we are sometimes doing it.  In order to undo the things we want, we have to create a routine that works and make habits that are more in line with where we are and where we want to go. The best part about life as Andy Andrew says, "the bad news we were in control of our past, the good news we are in control of our future".  Yes, there are some things we cannot control and those are things we need to just accept.  However, where we can control we need to hold those reigns with courage and strength.

I personally like David Delp's thought on it.  You take a look at your roles in life, create goals in each of those areas (think before I die, I want to...), and then create a weekly plan for each of them.  What are the steps you can take now to get closer to your end goal.  End goal, such an awesome concept (thanks Dan & Vanessa Hayes for that one).  Think about first where you want to end up and how you want things to look.  Then, figure out the steps necessary to get to that.  And most importantly, take those steps.

Oh, and its okay to fail and okay to make mistakes.  I have a hard time accepting this sometimes.  Failing and making mistakes means we took risks and we are learning.  As David said, stand up with your arms up to the sky and say "I Failed" like its no big deal.  Say that often enough, and things begin to seem lighter and funnier.  Do that with a large of group of people like I did at SimpleRev and its even better.  Its okay to admit that we failed.  But we survived and took a risk.

So, open your eyes and look around.  Take in the beauty that is in front of you.  Be happy with where things are at  as well instead of waiting for the perfect time. Take risks and stand tall when there is failure.  Slow down, breath, and keep a smiling.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Joy of Meal Planning

I know, this seems like an odd title.  The joy of meal planning, how can this bring joy?  I am telling you its great!  It relives stress, saves money, gives a chance for creativity, and it really is fun.  I used to not meal plan at all. But after having my son, I have realized how helpful it really has been.

Before kids we would just go grocery shopping regularly and buy the usual staples with a few extras here and there.  Then one of us would throw something together in whatever fashion we so chose.  No big deal, though we would sometimes fall into a routine of what we would eat and wouldn't expand our horizons.

Since having a son, and only more on the recent side, I decided to start meal planning.  It began with the start of the week and writing a few ideas on the calendar.  Worked fine, but at times I would find myself stuck.  I wanted to make something, had a pantry and fridge full of something, but would proclaim we had nothing to eat.  So, we would eat out.  Not good for the budget, especially when we had stuff in the house.  Some of it was that I was getting tired of trying to have dinner ready for when my hubby walked through the door, some of it was I just didn't have the energy or desire to cook, and some of it I was bored with food.  There were also weeks where I didn't write anything.

With having my son, who loves to eat, but also isn't very patient at times we found that this was not going to work.  I needed to have a list of ideas, the ingredients on hand, and even more so I needed to be able to make it 30 minutes or less (emphasis on the less side if possible).  So, the crockpot began to play a bigger role in our cooking.  But I still wanted to have something to go to for ideas.

I began to plan the whole month out.  I know, this seems like a huge thing and a task that seems daunting.  Really, it was just writing in stuff we already did, putting ideas down that started off simple like crockpot chicken (then on that day I could decide what all I wanted to dump in there with it), and of course having leftover nights (where we ate what was in there or re-purposed it to create something knew. Those nights are called surprise nights.  You never know what you will get, but hope its at least halfway decent).

Just because I put the idea on a specific date on the calendar, doesn't mean that is what we have to do.  Though, generally it does work that way in our house.  There are days that I will look on the calendar and think, "nope not going to happen, what other ideas are there".  I just have to scan over the month and I feel inspired to cook and have an idea.

Another benefit of meal planning is that after I do that, I create the grocery list and we are ready to roll.  It has helped to trim down some of the extra shopping trips, which has also helped improved our grocery budget.

I am trying to be intentional about other areas of my life, so why not do it with cooking.  Now I just have to figure out other things my son will eat for lunch and things that make great on the go lunches.  Not that mac & cheese or hot dogs is all bad, but a little variety is good too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Early to Rise

Before having a child I would sleep in as late as I could.  That being said, I was usually up by 7:30 most days that I didn't have to be into work.  I was up early, well sort of, and would begin my day with the usual get ready and proceed with the day.  Looking back, the problem with this was that stuff was left undone most days and I was generally okay with that.  Then my hubby, who had to leave for work by 6:30 at the time, began to rise early.  You know the phrase, "the early bird gets the worm" right.  Well, I was seeing how true that statement was becoming, I just didn't realize it.

In my mind, I thought, what could you possibly do for the hour and a half earlier you get up?  I was quickly beginning to realize that it was his sacred time and he would get done some of the things he found important so that he could use the time when he returned from work for us to spend together.  My mind kept circling this idea and I would keep trying it out for myself, but in the end the giant snooze button got hit every morning and sleep prevailed.

Then, we had our son.  When that happens you are on a different schedule all together, at least while they are a newborn.  But as he got older, sleep would still prevail and I would try as hard as I could just to get an extra few minutes in in the morning or wake up grumbling (telling the truth here) because I wasn't really ready for the day yet.  The idea of early to rise kept coming back to me and showing up in the books I read, blogs I followed, and seeing it right in my own home.

What was I to do?  I kept trying to do it.  I even tried a 30 day early to rise challenged and a 10 day one.  Neither ended with me consistently rising early.  One of the concepts was to rise before anyone in the house.  Honestly, 4:30 or even earlier was just too early for me.  I was trying to find a time that worked with my body clock, but also allowed a least some amount of time to actually accomplish something.  While away with just my son and I visiting family, I was actually able to do this.  I rose before everyone in the house!  And I tell you it was amazing.  The first thing I did was grab the camera (and monitor too) and walk down to the lake.  Then I realized, how beautiful and refreshing it would be to do my yoga on the end of the dock.  Self meditation was a great way to start the day.

Then we came home and I fell back into the old routine.  I kept trying and trying, but was facing no success at it.  Until I went to the SimpleRev conference.  I had to be up early because I had to drive and be ready for the day ahead.  It wasn't until the second day when arrived early and was able to walk around in mostly silence.  It was Saturday and the skyway wasn't busy with people yet.  It gave me the chance to walk around, think, be quiet, be still, and take in the view.  I realized how nice it was to be up before othersand why so many people do it.

I figured I typically hear my hubby wake anyways and then the sleep quality until I would normally get up (at the sounds of my son) was no benefit to me.  Plus, scrambling to quickly to get ready was adding stress to the morning when it didn't need to be that way.  Three days after the conference, I finally managed to rise early. No, it wasn't before my hubby, but it was before my son.  I was able to basically get ready, do a quick peruse through social media, and now write.  I feel more ready for the day today than I have for awhile.  Who knows, maybe I will even get to sneak in a little yoga and meditation.

Monday, October 6, 2014

SimpleRev Reving it Up

So a few posts back I put up a picture of why I need simple.  It had to do with my toddler, but after some thought and some learning, it was really an internal thing I needed.  Yes, there are things I could do to simplify my surroundings, but there was and is some much needed work that needs to get done on the inside as well.

As luck would have it, I won a free ticket to the SimpleRev conference.  First ever, two day conference with 46 individuals and some amazing speakers.  There were tears, laughter, lots of hugs, and more importantly, lots of sharing.  I learned much both at the conference and at home while talking with my hubby.

As time goes by, I will post more about the conference and some of the things I took way from it.  But I want to leave you with this thought, life doesn't have to be complicated and simple doesn't have mean bare bones.  Just being present, realizing that you already have enough in front of you to be happy, and being grateful.  You don't need stuff to fill those spaces that are better suited for a change of heart, a change of mind, and a change of attitude.  Being simple is simply living life with intention and to fullest that you can.  So smile, take a deep breath, look around you, and firmly plant your foot in a direction of happiness.  The rest of the steps will fall into place.

The Art of Slowing Down

It's been right in front of me all along and I have heard about it in many ways, many forms, and from many people.  Busy is a relative term and busy for me may seem like nothing to you.  I am trying to take the word busy out of my vocabulary and the feel of busy out of my life.  Over the past few months there have been thoughts that have across my computer screen causing me to think.  Not only to think, but really look at my life and make some decisions.

I recently came to the conclusion that I want to slow things down, be more present in my situation, move past some fears, and have some fun.  I have an awesome hubby, a fun loving toddler, and live in an amazing city full of some wonderful opportunities.  I can't bubble wrap my life any more than I can bubble wrap my toddler, who mind you is in the stage of "how many heart attacks can I give mommy in the next five minutes".  And just like I can't helicopter around him, I shouldn't do it in my life.

There is multitasking and then there is mega multitasking.  I consider mega multitasking to be doing more than three things at once, while being closely connected to technology, and having multiple forms of technology running at the same time.  I have gotten good at the mega, too good that it began to create a fear.  The fear?  The fear of missing out or fomo to those in the technology and social media realm.

I had a fear of missing out on what was going on with my social media, with my family and home life, and all other activities I wanted to be a part of (some because I wanted to and some because I thought I should).  The problem with this, I was still missing out.  Somewhere and in some way, I was still missing out.  I had to decide then what was the most important to me and what I really don't want to miss out on.  Like, missing my toddler discovering something new while I felt the need to go back 1000 messages in a message conversation I was a part of.  Deep down I knew I wouldn't catch up, nor did I want to.  The only way for me to walk away was to leave the conversation.

In the long run, it has been one of the best decisions I have made in awhile.  Not only did this fear arise in my social media outlets, but also into the daily home life stuff.  I wanted to be a part of everything that just taking time for myself was even stressful.

Of course, it was stress I put onto my self.  You see, in the 17 months that I have had my son I have only missed him going down for bed twice since he was (meaning I haven't not been home), I have missed half a day with him (thank you God for my parents offering to babysit him, but I was still an emotional mess.  Not going to lie, that drink helped smooth things out a little bit), and have missed two full days (thank you God for my awesome hubby who let me do that) in all the months that have gone by.  Sure, I've missed an hour or two here and there, but never have I been gone from before he woke until he was in bed.  But I survived, so did he, and though my hubby aged three years and gained a few more gray hairs survived too.

I have been able to help push past some of these things by looking at the positives.  My folks got to spend half a day just them with their grandson.  My hubby got to have two full days of daddy and son time.  I got to expand my horizons, learn a lot, and then learn even more.  It has also helped that I have begun to be more intentional about my time and focus.

I am trying to slow down and take things in more.  I am trying to clear out extra clutter in my life and in my body.  I am shutting things off, walking away of things so I can walk towards where I really truly need to be.  The art of slowing down.  I may not be a snails pace, but I no longer at a gazelles pace either.  Just finding the happy medium that works me and my family.