Do you like my hat?

During my stay here in Florida I’ve been keenly aware that my self-consciousness has been slowly receding. I can tell because I walked around all day today wearing a ridiculous hat I bought at the grocery store and aviator sunglasses like Tom Cruise wore in Top Gun, while my sunburned neon face and legs literally shined a light onto anyone who came within 2 feet of me.

 

Photo on 5-26-14 at 5.26 PM #2

 

I was keenly aware that I looked like a ridiculous tourist and I absolutely did not care. Yes. It’s happened. Either I’m middle aged and I’ve finally reached the point where I don’t care what others think of me, or I’m officially a “mom” and the benefit of what is practical in any given clothing situation far outweighs what is attractive.

 

The voices of judgment and fear of being judged have grown so quiet during my time here, that I feel my sense of humor sprouting up and actually growing back. Like a lot of women I know, when stress gets me down, I tend to really get in my head. My sense of humor disappears. Everything is worrisome. I can’t do a single thing without wondering if it’s the right thing. Wondering what people are thinking about it. Whether I look (or am) ridiculous or sad or out of my element. I feel hyper-aware of what I’m saying and doing.

 

So I was psyched to find today, as I walked on the beach, that the critical, worried voice in my head had faded.

 

If I were starring in an HBO sitcom, the narrative of my walk on the beach would go like this:

After gathering seashells on the beach for hours, I started to realize that I was my own worst enemy. So much of my own energy was being wasted in wondering what others were thinking of me. I had been dampening down my actions or changing my course all together so as not to offend or distract the people around me. I picked up a pink shell and threw it into the waves. A young couple walked by and I listened for the voice in my head…that self-conscious flag alerting me to others that might be watching or noticing me, and what they might think of me.  I reached down to pick up a black shell with a small chip on the side- imperfect in the most beautiful way- and noticed the voice was gone. All I could hear was the sound of the waves breaking on the shore.

 

OK, so that’s sort of what happened. In reality, I could still hear the voice a little. I am not a tv show character. But after spending 3 days alone, crying my eyes out about my dad, and soaking in every drop of healing the ocean offered, I noticed that the voice was quieter, sitting way in the back row balcony of my self-talk.

 

Surprisingly, I did discover a new voice emerging to the forefront. This one is sassy as hell. When I walked on the beach past a hot middle-aged, string bikini-wearing woman with thin, toned, legs and long blonde hair, and boobs that were naturally still at boob height…this voice immediately snarked in my head “Well, congratulations.” But the difference was that I wasn’t wishing to be more like her or wondering what she thought of me and my grown-ass-woman-wearing-an-ugly-hat self.

 

So that’s something.

The Mom-cation: You’re next.

I am writing this post while sitting in a tiny Florida cottage on the Gulf Coast. I am by myself and have been by myself for 56 hours now. I can hear the clock ticking. I have spoken no more than a handful of sentences since I’ve been here, except for the times I talked to my husband and kids on the phone.

 

Let this stock beach photo inspire you.

 

I came to this place to visit the spot where my sister and I sprinkled my dad’s ashes into the ocean 2 years ago. I came here, too, because I need to stare out at the ocean once or twice a year…if I don’t do that, then something undefinable is missing in my world. I came here because the routine of my daily life was starting to feel like a routine of stressors. I was tense all the time- enough so that a yoga class or a walk in the woods wasn’t going to make me feel better. And I ain’t no dummy. I’ve been down the road before where a little slip turns into a long slide and there you are suddenly wondering about how to change your whole life when really all you may need is one small change. Like maybe a vacation all to yourself.

 

I firmly believe that time alone is healing for most people. I encourage you to give it a try. You never know what you might discover.

If you’re ready to explore the Mom-cation, here is how it goes:

Pick a place you would like to visit. Not a place your kids would have fun visiting or your partner has been talking about going to. A place YOU would like to visit. Maybe it’s been on your mind for months. Maybe you’ve been thinking of it for years. You know the place. Start short and sweet if it’s more comfortable. A car ride and an overnight. You don’t have to jump into a week in Thailand just yet.

Find a moment to get online. (The next time you are supposed to be taking a shower, turn on the water, close the door and sit on the toilet seat lid while researching trip options.)

Bolster you nerve. Yes, you can do this: Number of travelers: 1.

See if you can make it happen financially (where there’s a will there’s a way.)

Tell your partner or support system that you need this. The kind of need that is non-negotiable. Like I need to work out. I need 4 hours of sleep. I need a haircut. Tell him/her that you will help arrange for extra support for the kids if needed and will return the favor in kind when he/she needs time away. If a partner is not in the picture, try your closest friend or relative.

Pick a few days that will work with your calendars. Yes, the kids can miss preschool. Yes, relatives can help out. Yes, you can miss your book club meeting.

Book your trip.

Go. You deserve it.

 

 

Who Are You Now?

Two nights ago I had a dream about a bald eagle hatching. Most animal dreams are significant and I try to pay attention when they happen. This one, in particular, jumped out at me as containing a relevant message, particularly because eagles are such a powerful animal and have represented major spiritual concepts to many cultures throughout history. Powerful medicine.

I’m lucky enough to know a man who does shamanic work here in Madison (and around the world, as well.) When I told him I was planning to do a little research to find out what this dream’s meaning was, he said he believed it was that a deep dream of mine was “hatching” or about to be realized. Sweet!

Then I got to thinking…What are my dreams these days? I am so intimately absorbed in the day to day life with my kids and husband, do I even have dreams that go beyond getting a full night’s sleep, going to Target by myself, and getting in a good workout a couple times a week? That feels so lame, somehow, but is really indicative of this time of my life. Family life, man, I’m deep in it.

But to honor the parts of me that might be holding steady to some of my other dreams I may have lost sight of, I sometimes revisit questions to bring those dreams back into my awareness. To find my location and spiritual coordinates on my life map.  I encourage you to answer some of them for yourself. It’s often surprising what you don’t know about yourself. Here are a few….

What makes you laugh?
What scares you?
Where do you most want to travel to alone?
Where do you most want to travel to with your family?
What is your favorite color?
What are three things you would like to spend more time doing?
What are three things you would like to stop doing?
What are three life goals you have already achieved?
What are three life goals you look forward to achieving?
What is a goal you have that you don’t think you can achieve? What if you could?
What do you love about your home?
What do you not like about your home?
What do you love about your town?
What do you not like about your town?
What makes you feel happy?
What makes you feel lonely?
What is your favorite song?
What is some new activity you’d like to try?
Where do you see yourself in five years? Does it make you smile?
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
Who is a good friend to you?
Whose friendship are you letting go of?
What do you feel guilty about?
How can you celebrate who you are today?

Children’s Book Review: Old Turtle by Douglas Wood

 

Today’s Favorite: Old Turtle by Douglas Wood

 

oldturtle

Old Turtle. Spiritual without being religious. Poignant without being sappy. Ecologically aware without being preachy. Wood expresses truths (in my world) without being cliche. I’m so grateful to have found a story that I can read to my little ones that touches on the bigger questions and interconnectedness of all things. When I read it, I skip over the part about people doing harm to each other because I”m not ready to introduce my 4 year old ot the concept yet. The story works beautifully without it. Warning for those seeking out non-religious spiritual books- it does contain the concept of God. Not a judgy, power-hungry God, though. God that is in you, me and everything. The paintings are really beautiful too.

Children’s Book Review: Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)

(Note: This is a repost from 2015) A few weeks ago, my 5 year old was having trouble falling asleep. I was resting next to him on his bed, waiting for the wiggling to stop, for his eyes to close. It didn’t and his eyes stayed open for 10, 15, 20 minutes. I had him place his hand over his belly to feel his breath and mentioned that when I was a kid, I used to have thoughts flying through my mind at night.  He turned to me and said, “That happens to me all the time.” (After weeping silently in my mind that a 5 year old has racing thoughts that keep him up, I gathered my composure.)  We talked about how paying attention to your body and breath can help shift you into a lower gear, settle those thoughts, and allow sleep to come.

On a mission the next day, not wanting him to have to go through the same anxieties I did as a kid with an overactive worried mind that never seemed to settle down, I went in search of a book that could help me help him start early with mindfulness and self-calming techniques. I hoped for simple exercises, short meditations, fun imagery, effective strategies, and a cd that could guide us through. And….

 

sittinglikeafrog

 Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)
– 
by Eline Snell

 

Every single one of my hopes was answered in this book.  It’s beautifully simple with tips and info for parents about mindfulness and soothing cd tracks that guide you through short (4 min+) mindfulness exercises. These tracks are stand-alone- they’re perfect. Simple enough for my 5 year old to listen to by himself, interesting enough that it keeps his attention.

After listening to a few tracks over the course of several days, he suggested we do a mindfulness exercise every day.  (Joy!) Ten minutes later I was buying this book online. You can’t buy happiness but you can buy this book. Being present in our bodies and teaching our kids to do the same is the happiest of happies.

Your Beautiful Body, Ina May style

“Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”

-Ina May Gaskin

Children’s Book Review: Little Owl Lost

Today’s Favorite: Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton

 

littleowl

 

This is a newish book that I believe is the author’s first. We checked it out from the library a few months back. It’s one of those books that you keep renewing and renewing and then eventually just break down and buy.  I like it because I found it hilarious, and loved the illustrations. It’s about a little owl that falls out of her nest and gets some help from a funnily unhelpful squirrel to find her. It’s sweet with cool, modern looking illustrations that are different enough to catch your attention and familiar enough to warm up to the characters immediately. I hope he writes more.