In July, my husband and I began renting a house in North Carolina. After being in a townhouse in Hawaii for 13 years, we decided to get a place with a yard. Out here we were able to find a lovely house complete with a firepit and a stream running through some woods out back, and a bunch of trees in the front yard. I am surrounded by flora and fauna that I am not familiar with. There are the regular old Pine and Oak and Hickory that I recognize. What I have come to learn, is that in a rental property you don’t know what has been planted over the years and sometimes you get a surprise. And we have had a couple of really beautiful surprise displays over the last couple of months.
We had an incredible display of mushrooms when my in-laws came to visit:
There was this incredible looking mushroom in our driveway:
This vine covered in white flowers was growing and blooming everywhere for about a week and a half. The air around us smelled so beautiful.
This random berry patch grew out of the swamp next door:
Groupings of these fabulous red plants started blooming in random spots around the house:
Then, after cold weather came for a little while and I thought we wouldn’t have any more surprises, this bush out front of our house went from boring green plant to this:
Gorgeous white flowers all over! The blanket of fallen petals happened over a few days’ time. I continue to be stunned by the beauty in the nature around us right now.
I feel so blessed to have been able to find such an amazing location to ease my way back to the mainland. Mushrooms, flowers, squirrels, foxes, deer, and some really large birds have appeared so far. I can’t wait to wake up every day and see what the property has to offer.
Three weeks ago I was walking in Walmart in the gardening section. And there, tucked quietly on the side, in a row, near the patio furniture, were Christmas trees. This was before Halloween. I feel like the school year just started.
Now, this is not a rant on how we are celebrating Christmas earlier and earlier. Frankly, I don’t care about that in particular. I’m sure there are people who quite brilliantly leave their Christmas tree up year round because it takes less energy. That I don’t mind. What I do mind is that the “holidays” based on getting stuff are squeezing out the holiday for appreciating the stuff.
Halloween has always been about dressing up and getting candy. What’s cooler than dressing up and becoming something or someone completely different from yourself for one evening? And getting Snickers bars to boot? That’s amazing.
After Halloween is supposed to come Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday about family, about quality time spent together, about playing soccer or football in the backyard after eating a ton of food around a huge table packed with loved ones. The whole idea of Thanksgiving is preparing food for someone else. It’s spending hours together in the kitchen getting different dishes ready. It’s everyone pitching in to make an entree or a dessert. It’s guests helping you clean your dishes when half the party has left. It’s playing Atari with your cousins in the basement and going on a long walk in the woods to counteract the tryptophan from the turkey. This holiday is all about giving and thanking and community and kindness and gratitude.
No wonder it’s been completely overshadowed by the Christmas holiday season. I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but here in America we like to get stuff. We think our kids deserve hundreds of presents and we think other people should know what expensive thing we want to get under the tree. In every school I’ve worked at over the years, Santa has become a bargaining tool for the children. If you’re good you’ll get stuff, but if you don’t listen, Santa won’t come.
So we go from dressing up and getting stuff in October, to a quick thanks for a second in November to “give me, give me, give me” in December. January we have a momentary break and then we jump into February’s candy and card fest.
I guess I don’t need to go on, you can see where this is going. We have become a country run by the gifts we get for each other. We deserve the new car, the newest iPhone, and my child should have all the things on his Halloween, birthday, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day lists. We have become collectors of shiny stuff.
This year, I challenge you to cover your eyes and ears when the commercials for Christmas come on. Stop believing the advertisements telling you how much you need.
What do you really need? You need Thanksgiving. Over and over and over again. Remove yourself from the craziness. I’m not saying not to give gifts. But you don’t have to get everyone you’ve ever met a gift. You don’t have to make a card for everyone who has ever crossed your path. Your loved ones don’t need more than one present from you.
This holiday season (whatever that means) do your best to schedule time for the people you love. Get out a board game. Go outside for a walk. Read a book together. Create a meal from scratch together. Do anything, but do it with someone. Put your phones and your iPads down and look each other square in the eyes. Whether you pray or not at your holiday of choice, you should still sit next to each other around a table and hold hands for a moment. Maybe just take a deep breath together. The human connection is something we’re losing. Be the one to bring it back to your group.
Stop asking for more and appreciate all the things and people you have.
Do you have any plans with friends and family for the holidays? Share it below!
I remember watching Brene Brown for the first time. I saw her on SuperSoul Sunday, one of my favorite shows in the world. Brene, who researches and is an expert on vulnerability, was talking about her first TedTalk (which is a definite must-see). Now, the entire talk is amazing, but that’s not what caught my attention at the time. Oprah was interviewing her about the TedTalk and how she felt afterwards. I’m paraphrasing in my own words, but basically when she did the talk, she didn’t think anyone was going to watch it. It was recorded and shared online and soon after it had thousands of views. Her friends and family told her about this, but they warned her not to read the comments. And she did anyway. And people are cruel in comments. She talked about how devastating they were, how viciously people attacked her from the anonymity of the youtube account. They attacked her weight and her looks and her parenting. And afterwords she went into a deep spiral of sadness.
This stuck out to me because I find myself reading an article that I think is interesting and then, as if I can’t help myself, I scroll down to see the comments. I am drawn to them. I feel the need to know what other people thought about this article. And then I get caught up. I want to argue. I want to agree. I want to fact check for people and let them know how stupid they are. I get very close to being the anonymous asshole. Luckily my mama taught me to think before I act and I often type something out, read it over and carefully press the backspace key. I have a rule that I will not say face to face or anonymously any statement that is meant specifically to hurt someone. I will not hold back the truth if it actually needs to be said, but generally, a comment thread on an article is not a place for this.
Right before I decided to post this, I was reading a beautiful Facebook post sharing. The heart of the post was to teach your daughter about how beautiful life is through sports and activities, through hiking and dancing and enjoying food and having experiences. It was said through the lense of avoiding any conversation and comments about your daughter’s weight and looks. The message was to focus on other aspects of beauty and not to focus on body image.
As I do, I read this beautiful post and then I scrolled down to read the comments. There were so many commenters talking about how dumb the post was because if you don’t talk to your daughter about your weight, then who will and then she will get fat. So you have to teach her about dieting. Oy. And I had to wrench my attention away. This is what reminded me of the interview with Brene. The comments can suck you in. You know you shouldn’t read them and you just continue scrolling and scrolling.
I’m not sure why I read the comments. I ended up responding several times to comments on the above example page. Maybe I want to get a feel for how many people agree with me and how other people feel about it. It’s like I’m taking a poll. That seems to be my initial reason for reading on. Once I get past a couple though, I feel myself getting sucked in to arguments. I read mean remarks and I read the replies to see if anyone has taught them a lesson yet. I read the back and forth on and on and on. Religion, politics and dieting always get nasty arguments. I am floored and amazed by the level of racism, elitism, and machism that get tossed in.
As I write this I’m thinking to myself, “New rule! Never read the comments!” And I know that’s a great idea. But it’s a rule I have a very difficult time following. Does anybody else have this issue? I want to commit to avoiding comments, but I feel in my mind I am waffling. I think if I promise I won’t do it, I might break that promise. How do you all feel about this? Advice?
Oh Mr. Trump. How do I love thee. Let me count the ways.
Is it your hair that always seems to be blowing gently in the wind? No, that’s not it.
Is it your gold and diamonds and massive wealth? No, that’s not it either.
Oh, Donald, what is it about you that sets my heart atwitter?
Ah, sigh, it is your voice.
Let me explain. Dearest Donald, the words that come out of your mouth are your truth. Your hard, twisted, racist, misogynist, messed up truth. Not my truth, but yours. And I sincerely thank you for that.
We live in a world where even tech-limited people have the capacity to fancy up their life with their status updates and shear off the pounds on their pictures. It is easy today to have a public persona that doesn’t match your inner truth. And this is so very, dangerously true in politics.
Candidates for the presidency on both the left and right smile and wave and grit their teeth at the American people. They promise the things that are popular and that will get them votes. They pander to minorities, they tell plastic, hollow jokes on television. They avoid answering honestly any question that might draw disappointment from their supporters and they spend millions of dollars telling stories about each other like a bunch of 5 year olds.
Worse yet, the so-called newscasters that are supposed to be neutral and tell us impartially what is going on in the world spin their questions and their stories to be dramatic and to prove their opinions to be true.
For a long time I got my news from The Colbert Report and from The Daily Show. I know that most conservative folks out there would poo poo these sources, but they truly pointed out the discrepancies in everyone’s stories. Democratic and Republican alike were constantly outed for spinning tales to strengthen their stance.
I constantly run across Facebook posts that arbitrarily throw out “facts” about past, present and potential future presidents. If you take 3 seconds to google some facts behind 99% of these memes, you’ll find that at the very least the truth was stretched and the numbers fudged.
So, Donald Trump, who do I love thee, though the ideas that your words form scald my brain with their acid messages?
I love you because you are willing to say what you actually think. And because you are doing so, I hope that other candidates have to speak their own truths to either agree with you or (please God) disagree with you. While you are spewing your comments about the raping Mexicans, I can see the other candidates thinking, “Oh shit, don’t say that OUT LOUD!” It’s not that they weren’t thinking some of the things you are saying. It’s just that they have mastered the ability to smile pretty and think the nastiness deep inside.
Dear Donald, I pray often and hard that the people in this country are smart enough not to vote you into the presidency. I fear that could spell major and fairly immediate disaster for the United States. I sincerely hope that you never achieve a position of power over the citizens of this nation. However, I love to hear you speak your crazy words. I do not agree with you. But thank you, so very much, for being honest about who you are. At least I know for sure what an ass you are.
Hey friends! Have you ever started something, that at the time, felt like it was exactly the right thing, and it was exciting, motivating, and made you feel super charged? And then something comes up in your life and all of a sudden that thing gets pushed to the side? Okay, I am going to admit that my upcoming class became a temporary victim to this process. I was super pumped and about to get ready… and my in-laws came to visit. Now, this was not bad news. I happen to love my in-laws. They are supportive and loving and when they got here we had a great time. We tried out some local restaurants, saw part of NC we hadn’t visited before, and had an excuse to ride the ferry!
The only problem came about because I have two jobs. I have my day job, where I work at a school doing counseling with elementary school kids and their families, and I have my coaching job, which I am more passionate about, but which doesn’t yet, pay all of my bills. My office for my coaching is in my spare bedroom and the time I spend on my coaching is technically my “free” time. If you are an entrepreneur you may know about this part of the process. I am making more money coaching, but I haven’t gotten to the tipping point yet.
So part of this post is to announce to the world that in the next year and a half, at this time next year, (By January 2017) these two jobs will switch. I may continue to provide mental health counseling to military families, who I also have a passion for, but in a more fitting and more part-time type of way. I am looking into being a provider for Tri-Care and hopefully for Military One Source (a fantastic source if you are attached to the military in any way!).
The other half of this post is to announce that I have moved the dates of the class, but that it is still happening! I wanted to be able to give you my 100% and now that things are back to semi-routine and my office is set back up I am ready to rock and roll with the Jumpstart Your Life Class.
It might not be as full of a class, since the holidays will be rolling around and some people feel that it gets to be too much. However, this means that you will get more of my attention.
Classes start November 30. We will meet 6 times, skipping the Monday right after Christmas.
The dates are:
December 7, 14, 21
January 4, and 11
The classes meet in a Google Hangout and are scheduled for Mondays at 6pm Eastern Standard Time.
If you can’t make that time of the day, send me a message about better times during the week and if I have enough interest I’ll put together a second class at another time.
Message me on facebook, give me a call or shoot me an email to confirm your spot.
I am currently 10 days in to a 30 day blog challenge. I was sitting here trying to think about all of the ideas I have had for the last couple of days. I generally jot them down in a little notebook that I carry with me, but that is all the way across the room, and here I am, comfortable on my couch, with my Gizmo snuggled next to me. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of something clever or deep to say. But what I keep thinking about is squirrels.
In Hawaii, we didn’t have squirrels. I guess some people don’t like them because they move into your attic and set up towns and hold circuses and probably bring food in and poop all over the place. Then you have to live trap them and bring them to a park across town. But, for me, I missed squirrels. I think they are too cute. They are super smart, have fluffy tails and have adorable little hands that they use to pull apart nuts and eat the insides. What’s not to love?
Recently I went to Walmart and got one of these cone spiral corn feeder things. We are waiting for the rain to go away so we can put it on the tree outside of Nathan’s office. He is a little concerned that it is going to start Squirrel War 3, since he’s already witnessed a pretty badass fight between two of our little friends, but I have faith that with enough food they will be ok.
We also got a squirrel house that is supposed to challenge them a little because they have to figure out that they have to lift up the lid. I’m hoping I have very clever little squirrels so eventually I can come up with an obstacle course for them to complete in order to reach the squirrel food. Enjoy this video that a friend shared with me recently of a squirrel in an obstacle course:
This weekend I visited my sister in Charleston, SC. It was an amazing, super fun, last minute trip and I’ll write about that another day. My dogs also had a fabulous time. They love a good road trip and they got so excited to see their Anna, Nick and Jackson. On the way home in the car, they were still pretty excited. I think they wanted to stay awake to be a part of all of the action. My small dog, Gizmo, was really tired, but kept moving around on my lap, and standing up so he wouldn’t go to sleep. He kept shifting and moving and going back and forth between my lap and the back seat. Then, finally, there was a moment when he got on my lap and his whole body relaxed. He gave in. He let go, and fell asleep. And then he snoozed for a few hours. You could see his whole body go from tensed to relaxed in a matter of moments and as he fell deeper asleep his legs and head just splayed out and drooped.
I told my husband how touching it is to be with someone when they finally let go. It is a beautiful thing to be a part of that process. For my dog to feel safe enough in a moving vehicle, to trust that I would keep him safe and he could let us take over. And he could just relax. And as I was thinking about this, I realized that this is something I love about life coaching and therapy as well.
When someone makes a decision to come into your office for the first time, or make that first phone call, generally they have let the stress and frustration and anxiety and anger build up for a long time. American humans have a tendency to hold on to what is bothering them for a really long time. We don’t ask for help. We don’t want anyone to see how weak we are. We want everyone to think that our lives our perfect, that everything is great, that we have got it all together. Sowhen someone has gotten to the point to finally tell me their story, to admit that things have gotten tough, that they could use a little guidance, or a little motivation, or just a little nudge in the right direction, I always get this amazing experience. Someone starts out talking fast, or in spurts, there are high emotions, there is a story about how they got to where they are now. And at some point in the conversation, there is always a release. There is a moment when they pause, take a breath, and let go. That moment in an interaction with others is something I absolutely love. It’s a necessary process, a turning point, when someone can let go of the story they’ve been telling, and start to build a new one.
I have the pleasure of being a catalyst for that process, I am there in the moment, I offer someone the space to relax, but it is not about me. If you are feeling that kind of stress that knots up your whole body, that you feel like you can’t relax, you can’t sleep, you can’t breathe really deeply, then find someone to talk to who will just listen. It can be a friend, your partner, your parent, a sibling. Or maybe it’s a therapist, a life coach, a masseuse, your crossfit coach, a psychic, a doctor. It’s such a healing experience. Find someone who you feel comfortable telling that you are having a hard time. When you can release that story, when you can finally pause, and take that deep breath, it allows room for you to start something new.
Today was a new day. If you read yesterday’s blog you know that I had a temporary meltdown. I think that’s par for the course, that everyone has days like that. I was tired, hungry, and spent the day trying to look busy. So the follow-up of a dead battery and a car that wouldn’t start pushed me over the edge. I’m pretty sure everyone has days like this every once in a while.
Today was a much different kind of day and it’s the reason I can tell that all of the hard work I’ve been doing over the years is working. Rewind back just 7 years and this type of incident might have set off days or weeks of feeling down. For me that usually looks just fine, maybe slightly frazzled or a little tired at work. I would hold it in and put on a happy face for my professional colleagues and then I would drive straight home to crash. I would watch tv, read a book, or just sleep. I would definitely eat like crap and isolate myself.
Today it’s a different story. This morning I knew that I was going to wake up feeling junky. That’s expected after a day like yesterday. Especially since I replayed the incident over and over in my head over night instead of getting a good night’s rest. But, I’ve been here before, and I know what to expect. So this morning my alarm went off and I angrily jumped out of bed to silence it. I got straight into the shower, then turned on all of the lights, turned on some music and made coffee. I took the time to sit in my sunroom to meditate this morning. I listened to the crickets chirp, the jets flying over head and the birds. I took the time to center myself for the day.
When I got to work I wrote down my Core Desired Feelings. If you’ve never heard of Danielle Laporte and her Core Desired Feelings, you’re missing out. The very, very basic of it is to identify not what you want to do, but how you want to feel. I put “supported, connected, joy, freedom.” I took the time to seek out friendly faces, to smile and chat for a moment. And as the morning went on I started to feel very good. This afternoon I texted my friend to go for a walk around the track. We did 2 miles, talked, and then did some random plyometric moves and had a good laugh about it.
When I got home I decided to take this thing all the way, so I made dinner on an actual plate (courtesy of my in-laws) and set the table for myself. I ate looking out the window at my front yard and listened to the crickets chirp again.
This wasn’t easy. It took a lot of work to continue to take actions to make myself feel better and dig myself out of the hole. But it was worth it. Tomorrow I know I’m going to wake up in a better mood and hopefully I can enjoy my weekend instead of curling up in my jammies.
Now that I’ve adulted all day I’m going to search for last night’s Criminal Minds episode, and hit the sack early.
There are some days when you just want to fold into yourself. When little challenges feel like enormous boulders blocking your path. And even though the intelligent part of yourself knows that there is an easy answer, that it isn’t actually too hard, it feels like it would take the strength of ten giants to complete your task and you have nothing. You have gritty eyes and a drooping head and the sound of whimpering and wailing is just a breath away. Your arms won’t lift and your whole skeleton rounds so your shoulders turn in and your head falls to your chest. All you can do is kneel and wait.
Today was one of those days. Brought on by what? Who knows. Poor sleep, a loud alarm, hunger, a long day. I seemed to pull myself through the mud in the air and bring myself to the moment I was looking forward to. Lunch and maybe a nap. I sat down in my car in the rain, turned the key and my car wouldn’t start. I had one of those moments when I was just so tired and hungry and cranky already that I couldn’t think of what to do. I sat there in the driver’s seat, listening to the rain for a full 10 minutes. I tried the key again and again, but it wouldn’t turn over. And I felt utterly defeated.
Have I had car problems before? Sure. In fact, not too long ago I wrote this post about driving down the road with my husband and having the car stall completely going 55 miles per hour. That was as big of a deal, there was no one around to help us then. And here I was in the packed parking lot of the school, feeling like I was the only one on the planet. Devastated. Parents and children walked by in their raincoats, piled into their cars, and I just sat there behind the wheel. Telling myself that no one wanted to help me.
Finally, I pulled myself together and called my husband. He couldn’t do much to help, but he lifted me up and recommended that I call the car shop. And, as if I needed someone to tell me what to do, I called them. And they were awesome. They said they’d send somebody over. So I got out of the car and lifted the hood of the car. And a split second later a super nice parent said, “Do you need a jump?” And I said, “Yeah!” He pulled his car around, I called to cancel the tow truck and in about 5 minutes flat my devastating scenario came to an end. My car was running, I had met a nice person, and I was sitting back in my car behind the wheel, free to go wherever I wanted. I took the car to get the battery checked and ultimately replaced and then headed home.
Sitting here, writing this down, it amazes me how sensitive and fragile we can feel at times. And the only difference between this dead battery and the last time it happened is the story I was telling myself about my situation. Here, today, it was the end of the world. I was all alone, no one wanted to help me. We have only one car, so there was nothing my husband could do. It was raining and cold and I was done as opposed to the last time when I had a great time, enjoyed the situation and took everything in stride.
Is there a lesson in this? Probably. I could have taken several deep breaths, changed my story, and pulled myself together to ask for help. I have to admit that a small part of me was swept away by my story, the intoxication of being in distress, of being helpless and wanting to just lay down on the pavement and bang my fists in the puddles. I’ve had practice now, I can look at myself in those situations and see that it is a fleeting moment, a temporary situation, but there was a time that this could have engulfed me completely, possibly for days. Here, sitting on my couch, typing these words, I am still exhausted, my eyes tired from the tears, but I had the sense to ask my husband to take care of me when I got home. I told him I was not making dinner and that he was in charge and I didn’t care if it was take out. I sat on the couch with my dogs and snuggled them and we watched an episode of Star Trek, Deep Space Nine. Now, I’m writing this for you, and I’m releasing the tension in my shoulders, neck, and back. I’m letting go of the story that I had a horrible day. I’m taking the time to breathe deep and smile and stretch and appreciate the breathtaking amount of good fortune that I do have.
So, thank you for listening. And thank you for this blogging challenge that made me write when all I wanted to do was go to bed.
Today, when I got home from work, I had the pleasure of using my favorite feature of my new home. Today was a long day. I work in the school system again, and while I love it, and the school I’m in is fantastic with warm, inviting teachers, great administration and kids with great attitudes, I always feel like I am judged for any free time I take. Those who work in the school system know how valuable free time is. With less and less money going to the education system these days, teachers are asked to step up more and more with their expectations during the day. Right now most teachers and school staff I know rarely get a minute alone. They are teaching the kids, at recess with the kids, at lunch with the kids, handing most of the kids off to their parents, but then staying late for activities. After that they plan for the next day. Even though my graduate schooling and my license qualify me for much more complicated activities, one of the best things I can do for a teacher is to be in the lunchroom when they need to use the restroom. Because this is precious time that they have to negotiate for. As part of my job I can’t be alone with the kids or be responsible, but I can help another teacher watch 40 kids. And give a hard working teacher 5 minutes of respite from her class.
So when I have 10 or more minutes of time in between my groups and I have a chance to sit down at my desk, there is this pervasive feeling of guilt that seeps in. I can’t help it. I know that I have every right to sit down and take a break. Every human has that right. The fact that teachers don’t get it is appalling. So I get swept up into the momentum of everybody doing something all the time. Nonstop, all day long.
This came up for me today because I was sitting at my desk, eating my lunch, and doing my encounter forms on my phone. So I wasn’t even actually taking a break, I was still working. And someone came into the room and I heard myself telling her that I wasn’t sitting here texting, haha, I was actually doing work. What the hell? I don’t have to explain myself to her. I don’t have to make excuses to put my feet up. In fact, every fiber of my being believes that mindfulness and meditation are important. I’ve been completely abandoning that at work.
So, today, when I got home from work I did not go inside and get on the computer and continue the go, go, go mindset from school. Instead I did something that always brings me back to the present. I lit a fire. Lol. My husband and I collect all of the cardboard boxes when we get something shipped from amazon and we pile up all of the magazines that arrive at our house. Today I took a huge box full of papers to the firepit in the backyard of my house, piled on some sticks and branches that have fallen around the yard recently and lit a big bonfire. I stood there and watched the flames. When it started to die down I got a stick and poked at the magazines that always have just a little more fight in them, opening up the pages to start new little fires. I poked it and prodded it and threw on some leaves and altogether left the school day behind me. And it felt really, really good. The primal heat and edge of danger that a huge fire brings keeps your concentration on the present moment and is a meditation like no other.
I am making a commitment today to figuring out how to be an example for the kids and the staff. I am not sure how, but I need to stand true to my values. I don’t need to be a busy bee, bouncing from activity to activity making busy work so that I’m not sitting still. I believe in stillness and I am going to somehow pass that along. It’s going to be a challenge, but screw it, I’m done with pretending. So tomorrow I’m going to sit at my desk and do absolutely nothing. And see what happens.