Soul Detox: An Invitation to Change

Okay, friends, grab a cup of coffee or tea. This post has been in the works for a while, and it’s a lot of personal insight. Typically, I try to write, not from a place of hurt or change, but rather when I’m on the other side of things, healed. But occasionally, I feel the need to share my real, raw experience because maybe it’s something that will resonate with you too? Every single one of us is going through something (or will at some point) … I feel like there’s no need to pretend otherwise. You know? A photo by Austin Neill. unsplash.com/photos/ZahNAl_Ic3o

An Invitation to Change

Lately, I’ve been feeling … crappy. And by that, I mean my body (autoimmune symptoms flaring), soul (heaviness, depression) and mind (complete fog). This is nothing new. I’m well versed in the patterns that show up when I need to begin taking better care of myself … and also taking a good, hard look at my life’s inventory.

Maybe your patterns look different than mine? Still … going through rough patches, however they may show up, is an invitation to transform.

It’s easy to get frustrated with ourselves when we feel less than optimal. Those of us type-A people can feel like these symptoms are just another annoyance getting in the way of our goals. So we push them aside, push through … push, push, push. Always pushing.

Ignoring our hurts — whether physical, mental or spiritual — is about as effective as ignoring your child when they need you. They’ll persist, gently at first, and if they need to they’ll resort to tugging and throwing themselves on the ground in a full-on tantrum. Whatever they can do to get our attention as long as we’re ignoring their needs.

At some point, those cries for attention become full blown sirens and we risk breaking. I’ve broken a few times before, and what I’ve come to realize is that these symptoms are simply an invitation to wake up. And do things differently. Look at things differently. Offload anything that no longer serves my journey.

Being in the dumps can be an invitation to change. But we have to be willing to re-frame it that way. And trust me, some days I find it easier to wallow in self-pity or resentment, fanning the flames of discontentment, rather than pick myself up and try to see things from a higher perspective.

Currently, I’m still huddled under the cozy blanket of being generally pissed off about not feeling 100% myself. I can complain all I want in this place, but I know too well from experience that, if I truly want to move through this, I’ll need to put my big girl pants on and begin the work.

And the work begins by acknowledging the invitation to change. And then accepting it.

Offloading

Here’s the thing with autoimmune disease: energy is a finite resource for us. It can vary widely by the day, but in a very simplified analogy, you wake with a set amount of fuel in your tank. Once you hit E, you’re empty. Done for the day. And some days for me, that was at 9a.m. at the beginning of a full day with two children. On rock star days, I could make it through till bedtime. It is as predictable as a two-year-old running amok in a crowded mall (insert heavy sarcasm here.) You just never know what you’re going to get.

When I am all tapped out, running on fumes, I’ve found the best remedy is to make my world small. By that, I simply mean letting go of anything that feels like too much … too negative, too demanding, too tiring. It’s like de-cluttering a closet.

As I move through my days, I’ll begin to realize the things that are simply hanging around and maybe need to be let go. I start to notice people or places or situations that make me feel heavy. Icky. And then? I kindly let those things go … maybe not forever, but for now.

Here’s what it looks like in my life currently:

Social media … sometimes, I. Just. Can’t. (Other times I can!) But if my life feels like a bit too much, then peeping into others’ lives feels like taking on way too much. So, I take a social media detox until I feel differently. I deleted Facebook from my phone recently. I resist the urge to get lost in the black hole of Instagram.

Social obligations … something in me feels like, in order to be liked or a good friend or mother or wife or whatever, I must always attend. And not just attend, but be there with bells on! With a bottle of wine and a Pinterest-worthy appetizer! At the class party with cute gluten-free cupcakes! And all this, having been showered and in something other than yoga pants! (And an actual shower and not just a deodorant band-aid situation.) But I no longer say yes to everything. I just can’t. And I accept that others may not get me or my situation.

Asking for help … this is something I cringe at doing. I’m not good at asking for anything. It’s something I’m trying to get over. I’ll be the first to volunteer to pick up your kid if need be, to host the playdate or dinner or bring dinner if you’re sick … but when the tables are turned, I just feel weird and needy. So I stay quiet and feel resentful. Yeah — that’s not okay and it’s entirely my issue to grapple with. So, little by little, I’m asking for tiny bits of help. Can my husband and kids help me clean the house? Can I call my brother and vent my frustrations when I’m feeling upset? My friend Heidi once said something that really resonated with me. She said, “you deserve to take up space in this world.” I think of that a lot and try not to feel guilty taking up space.

Letting things go … most of the time, my priorities are made for me based on the amount of energy I have. For example, today my house looks like a tornado whipped through an American Girl doll store and then someone came along afterwards and barfed on everything single surface. This is not an exaggeration. But, I have a full day of work ahead of me. In years past, I’d clean like a madwoman, then work, then make dinner. Today? I’ll work, because that’s my priority, I’ll probably take a nap because I’ll be very tired, and then bring my kids home to the barfed-on American Girl Doll situation and microwave chicken nuggets. We will all survive, and I daresay we will all be happier because I won’t be an exhausted, grumpy mess.

Often it can feel isolating or lonely to do the right thing for our health and well-being, because we live in a society that values productivity, energy, happiness all the time, etc. Those of us with autoimmune diseases may even feel an additional layer of isolation because, while we may not look sick, we certainly don’t feel healthy all the time.

My Silver Lining

But here’s the silver lining, friends: letting go of all of the things in our lives that weigh too heavily or don’t fit anymore naturally opens the door for the real gifts to shine. Through this whole process, I continue to be amazed at what shows up in my life as a result of me focusing on just the essentials.

I don’t have a huge social network as I once did, but I now have a handful of treasured friends who I consider family as they’ve continued to love me through difficult times. My husband has proven to be my biggest advocate and best friend, and it’s strengthened our marriage. I’ve learned so much about grace … going easy on myself. And oddly enough, this has translated to how I mother my girls as well.

And above all, I continue to be humbled in a way that brings forth gratitude. Gratitude for the days I feel like myself. And even for the rough patches because they continue to refine me in a way I’m really liking.

I saw a quote once that said something about, “Don’t try to be everything, all the time. Just be you … and see who or what shows up.” I just love that. Maybe that’s the whole point of a soul detox, seeing what shows up … and letting everything else kindly go.

 

Advertisements

weekending: a turmeric latte + positive vibes only

 

A photo by Geoffrey Arduini. unsplash.com/photos/ea9Zg7HkFXQThis week has been a whirlwind of activity … it typically is … but I’m finding my mind is really overwhelmed with all there is to think about. And my body feels depleted, too. News headlines have been baffling. My daily meditation has given way this week to two tiny little feet that seem to hit the ground running as soon as I open my eyes . My morning routine has been off. Our schedule, too. Things just feel “off.” Do you ever feel this way?

And so, I’m pressing the brakes on this weekend. A bit of a reset is in order. Steve and the kids headed up to ski with some friends, and I chose to stay home. Of course there are things to do … meal planning, a house to clean, laundry to fold … and I will be doing all of them today. But, here’s what I won’t be doing: racing the clock. Reading the news. Viewing (and/or cursing) my chores as work. Engaging with anything or anyone that does not add positivity to my day. Only taking in that which fulfills, nourishes and adds to the wellbeing of this household. Starting with this …

Listening to positivity. I love podcasts. Love them! Especially when I cook or fold laundry. And I’m fascinated with the ideas of mindfulness and compassion. It seems so timely right now to focus on compassion for others. Tara Brach, a psychologist and proponent of Buddhist meditation, has some great talks that I’ve enjoyed in the past. These two, Part One and Part Two, are on my listening list and I’m going to fire them up after I finish my tea. Which brings me to this yumminess…

Cooking for health. Ah, the turmeric latte. I think I’ve finally found a recipe that is perfection. This one is made with fresh turmeric, which is incredible for easing inflammation. My last blood test results showed that my inflammation is off the charts, so I’m being mindful of adding in foods and spices that are anti-inflammatory. The ginger is warming and so wonderful on cold winter mornings. I’ve tried making this with both ground ginger and turmeric, and also fresh. And I have to say, fresh is the way to go if you have the time. I love making a cup of this on the weekend when I have time to peel and slice the roots. Such a treat!

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup coconut cream

1 TBS coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp peeled and finely chopped turmeric root

1 tsp peeled and finely chopped ginger root

pinch of sea salt

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

Peel the ginger and turmeric roots, and then finely chop them up. Set them aside.

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

 

In a small pan on the stovetop, add the water, coconut cream, vanilla, sugar and a pinch of sea salt. Stir frequently and heat until just before the mixture boils.

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

 

Next, add the heated liquid and your chopped turmeric and ginger to a high-speed blender. Blend on high for a minute … or until everything is fully mixed. You still might have some small bits of ginger or turmeric root. Don’t worry, you can pour your latte through a fine mesh sieve into a mug to get rid of them.

And voila! I hope you enjoy your weekend, friends. And I hope you are able to carve out a pocket of time devoted to resetting your mind and body.

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

 

 

 

Morning Routine: Keeping the Peace (Part 1)

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

I’m wholeheartedly convinced that the way we begin our days around here always sets the tone for what’s to come until bedtime. A rushed, frenetic morning with unkind words and no margin for connection usually begets a grumpy and disconnected day for us. Likewise, a morning where I have a loose morning routine in place that allows enough time to wake, connect and move on without hurrying usually makes for better moods all around.

Honestly, I wish I was the type of person who could snooze late, be roused from sleep by sweet little feet pounding the floorboards, bound out of bed and haul kiddos to school in my pajamas. But mornings like that leave me feeling like I’ve been ripped out of sleep unprepared … and grouchy. And you know what they say about when Mama ain’t happy.

Mornings just aren’t something I am comfortable with winging. So I’ve come to realize that it’s up to me to figure out a routine that will allow me to come to the table each day feeling ready to give my best self. And that, in turn, will help our kids do the same. It’s simply from a whole lot of good old trial and error that I’ve finally developed a morning routine that works well for us.

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

Prepwork: Something about coming downstairs in the morning to a clean, quiet kitchen really satisfies my inner home ec nerd. It is a great feeling to start the day fresh. That being said, I don’t like spending a lot of time before bed doing chores as that’s more of a time to unwind from the day. But, I’ve found that if I take a quick 10 minutes after dinner/kids’ bedtimes to tidy up around the house it makes a big impact on my mood the next morning. We’re not talking deep cleaning here, just a few things that can get done while watching Netflix in pajamas, for example. Or enjoying a glass of wine, for example.

  • Clear countertops of clutter.
  • Make a quick list of to-dos for the next day (if you’re a list person).
  • Get the lunch situation under control or outsource to children if that’s their job.
  • Arrange coffee/tea for easy morning access. I find this really satisfying.
  • Set out any soups/meals that need to thaw for the next day. I’m still eating an AIP diet so breakfast for me is mostly soup or leftovers from dinner.
  • Shower/bathe. I find it infinitely easier to do this at night alone unless I want a sorority bathroom situation come morning.

Expectations: Having expectations in place that we’re all aware of helps everything flow better in the morning. The girls know they need to do certain chores in the morning, and they’ve become good at taking care of them right away. We’ve worked for quite a while to get them into the habit, but it’s beginning to pay off. For the most part, they’ll get dressed, make beds and feed the dog before coming to the table. Usually.

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

Setting the mood: I usually try to keep our environment calm first thing to allow everyone to wake up at their own pace. Some of us (ahem … Ella and I) have a hard time with loud voices and lots of commotion. Typically, we’ll have a record spinning or a Spotify playlist going softly in the background. Bon Iver is an all-time favorite winter record. I also picked up an old Christmas album (shown in the photo above) from our local thrift store and am loving how it starts the day off happy. I almost always have a candle burning until the sun comes up. Sometimes I diffuse essential oils (current favorite combo: sweet orange + cinnamon + pine + patchouli … a sort of earthy holiday vibe).

fullsizerender-3

Full Bellies: This one is really important for my people. They wake up hungry … and hungry can quickly become hangry if not tended to quickly. The girls almost always have a smoothie for breakfast. If they’re awake and doing chores, I’ll whip it up for them. If they’re still sleeping, I make sure to put some milk/juice and a little bowl of dry cereal out for them to at least snack on until they get their real breakfast. Tip: we use glass votive holders (Walmart, 75 cents apiece) as juice glasses. They’re the perfect serving size for little hands. 

fullsizerender-copy-2

Busy hands = happy hands: This is another critical piece of our morning. I used to find that if I simply allowed the girls to wander into the kitchen and sit at the counter just eating, it led to sibling spats. I started setting out  a simple, open-ended craft or activity on the island where we gather that the girls could work on individually … and noticed an immediate improvement in moods and squabbles. It’s usually nothing super fancy or complicated — but enough to allow them a focal point while they wake and eat. We leave small handwork (like knitting or sewing), painting (too messy) or card games (too much interaction) for later on in the day. I love to to flip through a magazine while the girls are working — it’s a moment in the day just for me that I really treasure.

The idea is to keep it simple enough so the kids can infuse it with their own creativity instead of following a set of rules. Some examples of simple projects include:

  • A bowl of beads and string. The girls made “sun catchers” the other day. Some days they just sort them. Other days, the beads become “food” for their dolls.
  • Modeling beeswax and a bowl of warm water to soften it.
  • A jar of simple building toys. The Target dollar aisles usually have great options around the start of the school year. (See our snowflake building set below in the Mason jar.)
  • Random items from our craft bin that are laying dormant: a pile of popsicle sticks, handful of pipe cleaners, pom pons or even just a ball of yarn (per kid).
  •  Any craft project that I’m doing that the kids can help with. Recently, I’d left a bowl of dried oranges, cranberries, string and needle out overnight and found the girls helping me make gift toppers. Today, they rolled beeswax candles.
  • Our absolute favorite — and easiest — activity is just a notebook/sketchbook and pencils. It becomes a journal, a vessel for an imaginative story, a drawing of the United States, a place to funnel difficult feelings or even a note for passing to little sisters.

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

fullsizerender

Connection: Making space for connecting to one another may just be the most important aspect of our morning (but unfortunately, it’s an easy one to miss if we’re rushing about.) It might sound obvious, but simple things like making eye contact with one another and making sure the kids each get emotionally filled up before we leave the house help make the transition to the outside world easier. For one of my children, that means snuggling. My other child needs a few minutes of undivided attention alone in order to feel most loved.

These aren’t hard and fast rules for “the perfect morning” … rather, a loose framework of ideas to help smooth the rough edges that sometimes come with waking up. Tomorrow I’ll share some ways that I help myself face the day feeling fulfilled and prepared.

And if all else fails (like it did this morning in our home) just chuck the whole dang thing and turn on YouTube’s GoNoodle, and dance it off!

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

 

 

Inner Forecast & Cloudy Weather: Teaching Kids About Minding Difficult Feelings

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

Who am I kidding with the title? This is about learning for ourselves how to handle tough emotions. Isn’t that the way it always goes with parenthood? What we most need to learn for ourselves, our children ask us to teach.

Children are our best teachers, I’m convinced.

They are like tiny Buddhas, full of wisdom and insight ready to be gleaned from us, their parents. We just have to sit still and be uncomfortable with the lessons and willing to grow.

My oldest is my thinker. My feeler. She has so much insight into her own feelings at seven, that it blows my mind sometimes. I am almost 40 and still learning right alongside her. Sometimes I feel as if we’ve reached the end of my scope of wisdom when she comes to me for advice. And it’s then that I realize there’s a lesson in there somewhere for me, too.

Right now, our lesson is all about being mindful of our feelings … especially difficult ones … and realizing that they are just feelings, not our truths. It’s about letting the storm rage inside, if need be, and knowing it all passes. 

The other day, Ella was sitting in the kitchen with me, watching me cook, unusually quiet. “I’m a mean girl,” she blurted out. What? I thought. My kind little girl thinks she’s mean? I prodded her a bit. Turns out, she was having some difficult feelings and thought that if she had mean feelings about someone or something, then she was a bad or mean person.

I think there’s a really important distinction there. I’d never thought to teach my kids that their difficult feelings weren’t “bad.” And that having difficult feelings did not make them a bad person. In fact, had I even learned that myself?

All feeling are okay. Gosh, such a simple idea that’s profoundly hard to grasp for me as an adult. How much time have I, myself, wasted feeling guilty for difficult feelings? I struggled for a long time with postpartum depression, and the whole time I equated having negative or unsettling feelings with actually being a bad mom. I’ve since learned how damaging those thoughts were.

Fall, naturally a time for more introspection, can surprisingly leave us feeling a little funky. We get quiet and sometimes hard feelings come up because of the stillness. I’m feeling restless and a little unsure right now. My youngest is feeling surly. My oldest a little angry.

We all need to learn how to sit with these feelings without letting them rule us. But how?

I turned to my favorite book on children’s mindfulness to figure out how to make this lesson more tangible for both Ella and me. Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) has been my go-to for a while now. The author, Eline Snel, explains mindfulness in simple, concise ways that make sense for all ages. She includes exercises to really solidify the lessons at the end of each chapter, and the book includes a CD of guided exercises. (My children don’t love the guided meditations, but they do enjoy the lessons I’ve taught them through exercises at the end of the chapters.)

Processed with VSCO with a8 preset

Chapter 6, titled “Weathering the Storm Inside,” was written specifically for navigating different emotions and staying with them. She explains that, ” … by not wishing these [hard] feelings away … you learn to notice the ‘weather’ inside and to root yourself in what is really happening.”

Here’s a quick mindfulness exercise that can help bring some clarity and allow us to weather the emotional storms with our children:

  1. Have your child take one quiet minute to get still and go inside to discover what he or she is feeling.
  2. Ask your child what her inner weather forecast is like. (We began by talking about the actual weather forecast outside.) Are her feelings sunny? Cloudy? Stormy? Windy?
  3. Help her to realize that the weather is always changing. When storm clouds roll in, sometimes it rains hard and moves on quickly. Other times, it’s gray and cloudy for a long time. But then what happens? The weather shifts and brings sunshine again. Maybe wind. It’s always changing, coming and going.
  4. I had my kids take one more step and actually paint their inner forecast. What colors show their feelings? What scenes or images make them think of their inner forecast?
  5. The next day, take a look at the paintings again. Does your child still have the same inner forecast or has it changed? Making note of this can help them understand the transient nature of moods.

Processed with VSCO with a8 preset

So once we’ve identified our inner forecast, then what? We can decide what we need. Usually, I’ll ask my girls if they need a hug, some space or something completely different. Sometimes we don’t know what we need. And that’s okay.

Just sitting with one another in our moments of downpour or wind or cloudy grayness is all that’s needed at times. The important thing is that we’ve noticed the weather, and we know that it’s just the weather. And the weather will pass.

Nature Walks & Making a Fall Mobile

images_autumn

My impromptu jaunt to the woods with the kids last week reminded me how much I’ve missed weekly outings like that. It’s also inspired me to get out by myself for a trail run or a hike with the dog on a more regular basis now.

There’s something so therapeutic — invigorating even — about hiking outside during a seasonal transition. It clears away the sleepy cobwebs of unused senses and helps us focus on the smells and colors and outward changes offered by Autumn.

After a summer of running here and there, camping, swimming and playing hard, it feels good to get back to more of an intentional downshift. I love summer’s frenetic energy. We all thrive in it. But things are changing now, and if we maintain the summer speed, all of the season’s beauty will be a blur out our window.

We’ve needed to notice more. To appreciate. To acknowledge. To connect differently.

So, weekly nature walks (or runs as they often turn into with two kids and a young Golden Retriever) are finding a place within our lives again.

_______________ <> _______________

Family hikes have been the cornerstone of our Saturday mornings for a while now. We just got out of the habit in the summer.

On weekends in the fall and spring, especially, we make it a point to get ourselves out on a hike early in the day. There’s a certain sweet spot of time that works well for us: after breakfast, not too early, but before we get too cozy and boredom (i.e. antsy kiddos) sets in.

There may be protests of wanting to lounge and work on LEGO kingdoms or stay in pjs longer, but I find that if we keep things moving along after breakfast (or even promise to bring along a picnic breakfast) the kids are more agreeable to it. Even I need some prodding from time to time, to put down my coffee mug and leave my nest of books and blankets on the couch.

Once we are ten minutes into the hike, the magic happens. Suddenly the kids are hopping over logs and running ahead of us playing fairies or bears or whatever the game-du-jour may be. I can feel the week’s tension slipping away, the farther we get away from the road.

And suddenly we’re all feeling energized. The kids don’t whine or bicker in the woods (that in itself is amazing). I’m more playful. Steve and I have great conversations without interruption.

It is pure magic.

I credit Steve with bringing this tradition to our family. My hope is that the kids grow up with wonderful memories of this time together. Steve is kind and patient and completely in his element in the woods. He’ll stoop down to show the girls different wildflowers — he knows all the names. They’ll hunt for different animal prints. And ask him a thousand questions. He always answers them thoughtfully.

image_fallleavesbench

The kids have named certain rock outcroppings along the way and always make a point to visit them. “This is ‘House Rock'” they call out as they scramble up a chunk of massive boulders. “And, see, right here is the living room. Oh remember last time we made soup in the kitchen?” And then one of them will run to fetch crunched-up leaves and sticks so they can make pretend soup in the hollowed out “pot” hole in the rock.

We walk. We run. They climb. We sit. We talk. We take our time.

Our hikes are not long in terms of mileage. In fact, that’s never the point. Admittedly, it’s taken me a long time to relax into the idea that family hikes do not entail a destination or specific route. If I find that old mindset nagging me, I take a separate trail run alone at a different time to satisfy my need to count miles.

We go as long or as short as we like, and can typically tell when it’s time to head back home. My youngest is a good gauge. She’ll often start getting hungry or asking for a piggyback, and we know that our time in the woods needs to be wrapped up soon.

Inevitably, some of the outdoors always comes home with us. The nooks and crannies of our SUV are stuffed with “treasures” that had some significant meaning to the girls. Right now, there are two huge walking sticks wedged into the floorboard from our leaf drive last weekend. It’s not unusual for me to find a small pile of pebbles or weeds stowed in the contours of the kids’ armrests. We’ve had ladybugs. But no rodents, thank goodness!

_______________<>_______________

It’s all the treasure hunting that inspired the idea for a Fall mobile. I’m not huge into buying seasonal decor, but I did want our home to reflect the changes happening outside. Bringing in natural items from our walks and hikes seemed the perfect solution.

I picked up some natural twine glinted with gold, along with a medium-size embroidery hoop at the craft store, and invited the kids in to pick out some colorful treasures to hang from the mobile.

image_fallmobileIt’s such a pretty little reminder of this brief-but-gorgeous season here in Colorado. I can see us changing out the treasures as seasons progress … maybe we’ll make homemade snowflakes in the winter or find wildflowers in the summer to replace the fall foliage.

Nature walks and making a mobile seem the perfect speed for us right now. Simple, inexpensive, mindful, appreciative.