When Life Gives You Contrast, LISTEN!

I started quarantine so strong, but this past week I have been slowly dying. If I look closely at my behavior patterns though, I’ve been struggling far more than a week. On week one I pumped myself up for survival. I planned to go for walks twice a day, do my yoga, take my vitamins, and go to bed early. Somewhere within these past six weeks of quarantine now, my good survival habits have slowly started to die. When good habits start to die, your body will slowly follow suit.

I went from eating mostly healthy before quarantine to eating way too many frozen meals of fish sticks and french fries. I went from exercising two to three times per day to zero. I started making excuses that it is too cold outside or that I just don’t have enough time. I stopped organizing my vitamins for the week in my plastic pill container, so I just didn’t take them at all. I went from going to bed at 10 pm to going to bed after midnight every night just to get in a few blissful hours of peace and quiet.

Yesterday my body completely shut down on me. I woke up feeling dizzy, then nauseous with a bad stomach. My first thought was the virus, so I googled my symptoms. “Is dizziness a sign of Covid-19?” It didn’t come up as one of the symptoms. I felt instant relief and knew since I have barely been out of the house it was not likely. I also knew I had not been taking good care of myself and had a feeling my body was trying to get my attention. It worked.

If you’ve ever had vertigo, that’s what it felt like. I stayed in bed the entire day, too weak to move. I think it was just pure exhaustion from doing this mom gig 24/7, without even leaving the house some days for a walk. Throw in some big behaviors from my children and my husband leaving town for five days, it’s enough for anyone’s body to go into shut down. I prayed that with me in bed all day, the rest of my family could survive the day in one piece. As far as I know they did, besides maybe a little too much Tom and Jerry time for my youngest.

By dinner time I rolled out of bed and had a piece of toast. It was a beautiful sixty-five degree day outside, one of the nicest days of spring so far, and I missed it. I made some tea and went outside after dinner to get some fresh air. I vowed to myself to make some big changes. I felt horrible all day and was no good to anyone. I decided moving forward I will do everything I can to never feel that miserable again. I know I brought it on myself and I would have to make it go away by myself too.

Last night I was still really tired, even after sleeping all day. I went to bed at 10 pm instead of midnight. I have only eaten clean foods today. I took my vitamins this morning and went for a walk. I am feeling so much better and thankful it didn’t last more than 24 hours.

Thank you contrast for showing up. I needed you to wake me up and get me back on track. Contrast is never pleasant, but that’s why it works so well. I never want to go back to that feeling and I promise to listen to my body. It’s not the first time contrast has shown up in my life, it shows up often, but not always to such an extreme.

The goal is to listen right away. I let weeks go by, even though I could feel myself becoming more and more exhausted by the day. Contrast was telling me to stop drinking so much coffee and go to bed earlier, but do you think I listened? NO. Then contrast had to get nasty until it got my full attention.

I want to save the rest of you from any pain in your life. If you hear contrast gently tapping at your door, please open the door and hear what it has to say. If contrast keeps knocking and you keep ignoring it, watch out, because sooner or later it will blow your house down!

Stay healthy and take care of you!

Do Better & Shine

Little Pieces Of Joy

I used to think I was the most patient person in the world, until I had children. Maybe you are lucky and you have an easy child who listens to your every word and follows your every direction. Well, most children are not like that, especially mine. I guess you can’t consider yourself patient until you are really put to the test. Quarantine adds a whole new level, especially when we have just completed week five.

It’s been a rough week. I have a teenager who thinks he can stay up all hours of the night now. He isn’t required to be up at any certain time for Distance Learning, so his evenings are when he connects with friends and has his fun. He talks on the phone for hours on end with his headphones stuck to his ears. Friday morning he startled me out of a deep sleep by slamming the refrigerator door a bit too hard. I was not happy when I stumbled into the kitchen to find him making a mug cake in the microwave at 2 am. I gave him a glare, shook my head and went back to bed.

It took me two hours to finally fall back to sleep since I was tossing and turning in utter frustration of why he would want to stay up so late. Then as luck would have it my five year-old wakes at up at 4:30 am ready for the day to begin. I knew it was going to take a lot of work for me to survive the day. I do not do well when I don’t get enough sleep.

With everyone at home all the time there is a lot of clashing energies. Frustrations seem to build quickly. I am trying hard to keep the meltdowns to a minimum, but they still seem to happen daily. If I am not on top of my game things can spiral downward very quickly and when you get past the point of no return, it is never pretty and takes even longer to recover from the madness.

I’ve let go of a lot of expectations. The house is a mess. Kids are stressed. My husband is out of town. I can’t do it all and I am trying to be alright with that. The basement floor is covered in legos and I just have to walk away. I don’t have the strength to worry about that right now. I am taking care of myself first by writing this blog, even when there are a million other things I could be doing. My nights are for myself. I will do yoga, take a bath, read, and try to learn something new.

Today was long since I am still recovering from lack of sleep from the day before. I am beginning to get my youngest ready for bed. I gave him a bath. He still won’t let me wash his hair, but I was flexible and let it go. I brought him a warm towel and jammies from the dryer which I have never done before in my life. He loved it! He brushed his teeth after taking his time and doing it all by himself. I thought I was in the home stretch, ready to head down to bed and then he asked, “Can I have a snack?” Of course I had to say yes, in fear he might starve to death overnight, so I gave him a banana.

I thought a banana would be a quick, simple snack, and then we could be on our way to bed. When I sat down next to him at the table he quickly jumped up and went to the drawer to get a butter knife. At this point I was too tired to tell him to put it back. He peeled his banana and then began to cut it into slices. I watched patiently without saying a word. He didn’t stop there though, he then proceeded to cut each slice into tinier pieces until he had a mound of little banana pieces on his plate. After this intricate cutting work he began to slowly eat the pieces with his fork.

I just sat and watched him in amazement. He was so present in what he was doing. He actually ate the whole banana pile, which was amazing in itself for such a picky eater. After he took his last bite he looked at me proudly with a big smile on his face and said, “I was practicing my cutting!”

I could have stopped him and told him to put the knife back. I could have yelled at him for making a mess on the table and wasting time. I could have just said no. Tonight I decided to let him be in charge, maybe it was just pure exhaustion, I’m not sure, but I let him take the lead and it took a little longer, but added a spark of joy to his night. After this fun and exciting snack he happily went to bed.

Sometimes it’s the little wins that make everything seem ok. Sometimes we need to let go of the control and let our kids just be. It’s ok to let them stay up late in this unprecedented time. It’s ok for them to make mug cakes (maybe not at 2 am). It’s ok if they cut their banana into as many tiny pieces as they like.

We all need to find the little things that bring us joy right now. Not everyone will choose the same thing, but we all have something that brings us joy. Make a list and then carve out as many moments as possible throughout your day to bring the sparks on your list to life. It can be as simple as cutting a banana. It will make all the difference.

Do Better & Shine

Joy Is A Mindset

I wrote this blog before the worldwide craziness of the coronavirus set in and never published it. When I read through it again just now the things that triggered me of course seem pretty trivial at this point, as compared to what many people in the world are experiencing. I decided to go ahead and publish it anyway, because more than ever, being stuck in quarantine, I think the whole world needs to remember that joy is a mindset. Here is what I wrote:

Today I decided to stay open to joy. My day started off really well. I was able to enjoy a cup of coffee and steal a little time for myself. This motivated me to even squeeze in some yoga. After yoga I was feeling the joy flowing through my body, which inspired me to do a little work on my computer.

The thing is, as a mom, it seems the more I try to tune into myself for a little self-care, the more things start to unravel around me without me even noticing. Oh, how I love my breaks, a chance to stop with all the multi-tasking for awhile, but kids need attention. And when they don’t get what they need things just seem to fall apart.

I can feel in my body when the stress in the house starts to build up. Kids need to be pulled in so they can begin to regulate again. I had filled myself up, but what were the the kids doing during this time? The opposite I guess, because as I fill myself up, they are now running on empty.

I think about my mindset, and instead of getting annoyed, I try to get myself back on track. The sun is shining, but still only 47 degrees. I will tell myself it is a beautiful day outside, although still a bit chilly for my taste. I decide to send all the kids outside.

It’s a solid plan on paper, but my children think it is spring and, surprise, my teens choose to not dress appropriately for the weather. My daughter, along with other neighborhood kids, is wearing just a sweatshirt. I am not impressed, but am able to let it go because I know teens need to try and look cool. My teen son, on the other hand, is wearing just a long sleeve t-shirt. Again, I could have just let this go; it’s his body after all, and sometimes kids do need to learn from experience. If he wants to freeze, it’s his choice.

Still, my mindset quickly changes from calm to annoyed. My children making poor choices is a trigger for me. I know wearing a t-shirt is not a life or death situation, but for some reason my brain tells me it is. I can’t let it go; I open the window and yell at him to put a sweatshirt on. I can’t believe how one little experience closed off my joy and sent me straight to irritated.

Worse, I made the mistake of sending my youngest outside with my teens. I dressed him up in snow pants, coat, hat, mittens. The teens chuckled when they saw him, actually dressed appropriately for the weather. My hope was that they could keep an eye on him outside, but they are too distracted by the other neighborhood kids in the yard and want little to do with a four-year-old when their friends are over.

I decided to be kind and relieve them of this babysitting duty, so I got dressed to go out and get some fresh air and sunshine myself, so they could just hang with their friends. As I walk outside, I see that my son is soaking wet from head to toes, running through deep puddles as the muddy water splashes around him. Of course it’s predictable; since the big kids are ignoring him, he tries to get attention through his dysregulated behavior. My “joy” mindset immediately disappears again!

Thoughts of joy from breathing in some fresh air quickly turn to sadness, when I have to chase down a red-zone kid and carry his soaking-wet body back in the house for a time-in with mom. I peel off the wet snow clothes and take him straight to his room to change and get back in the green zone.

As I look around his room, it looks similar to the typhoon that I just scooped up from outside and carried in. His room is just as messy as he is. How do I get back to a joyful mindset? My brain goes straight to “overwhelm” as I know this is going to be a time-consuming clean-up job that he won’t be able to accomplish alone.

I stop and take some deep breaths, with my son now swaddled in dry clothes on my lap.

I remember joy is a mindset, and I realize that it is my own preferences that are limiting my joy in this moment. I breathe in again, and try to let all my preferences go, as hard as that sometimes can be.

I prefer regulated kids. I prefer kids who make good choices. I prefer kids who clean their rooms. Breathe again. Let my preferences go.

And then, the realization and acceptance. These are my triggers that have nothing to do with my kids. These are small things in life that can steal my joy on a daily basis, if I let them. If I want to stop feeling these difficult emotions of sadness, disappointment, frustration and overwhelm, I am the one who needs to change my mindset. I am the one who needs to get a handle on my triggers; I am the one who needs to choose joy over frustration.

Depending on your life circumstances, this can be easier said than done. However, if you are lucky enough to live in a household that offers up extreme challenges on a daily (even moment-to-moment!) basis, you will have even more opportunities to practice keeping a joyful, positive mindset. And I know that when I do happen to succeed, it is much more likely that the rest of my family will be able to follow.

~Do Better & Shine

Keep Moving Forward

I was sitting on the floor in my youngest son’s room. Little pieces of mismatched toys were scattered everywhere. Amid the clutter of toys he handed me a rock with three words on it. He asked me what it said and I read the words aloud to him, “Keep Moving Forward.” He then asked in his curious four-year old voice, “What happens if you don’t keep moving forward?” I thought about it for a quick second and said, “You get stuck.”

He proceeded to tell me about a cartoon he had watched where a girl was dribbling a soccer ball the wrong direction. I was intrigued by this example he immediately thought of and told him it sounded like the girl was not moving forward, she was moving backwards. He said, “Yes, she was.” I told him she was moving in the wrong direction and he agreed. I told him you don’t want to move backwards. He said, “No, you don’t.”

I thought to myself that is exactly what happens. You are feeling good and really focusing on doing your best. Then for some reason you become overwhelmed, and you don’t know which way to go or what to do next. It’s easy to get stuck in this place for a while until you can notice what is happening. If you are not careful and don’t notice your patterns, it is likely that you will continue to move backwards.

Amazing how my son just happened to pull that one little rock off his messy floor today at just the right time and ask me about it. A perfect little reminder for everyone to keep moving forward. Don’t get stuck. Try not to go backwards into old habits. This is a challenge and I know it is bound to happen. When it does, observe your patterns and get yourself back in the game. Don’t be the one dribbling the wrong direction, but if it happens it’s not the end of the world, all you have to do is turn yourself around and KEEP MOVING FORWARD.

~Do Better & Shine

What Is Not Serving You?

I am at our family cabin for a long weekend. The third day of 2020. When I opened my mom’s refrigerator yesterday I noticed the expiration date on every condiment I looked at was expired. I was disgusted every time I looked at this old stuff, but instead of throwing it away I put it back. When I got up this morning the same thing happened. I was wasting so much time having to check expiration dates all over again. This was not serving me, even though the stuff was not mine.

I decided that I needed to make a change. It’s not a fun job to look at old, expired stuff, but you need to get rid of what is no longer serving you and those around you. I started throwing away every condiment that expired before 2020. Some went as far back as 2011. Sometimes it’s just hard to let go.

It was quite gross. I had to open things that were moldy, chunky and smelly. Some things I couldn’t even identify or tell what purpose they originally served. Some things were hard to get rid of because they were so thick and crusty I needed to scrape them out of the jar. They had just been taking up space for far too long.

This is a perfect example of what I call holding on to old stuff that no longer serves. If you hold on to all your old stuff, how in the world are you going to make room for the new good stuff?

It’s time to start fresh! Please get rid of what is no longer serving you or those around you. I know it takes work, but it will save you lots of time and energy in the long run. After you do “the work” you will feel so much lighter, so much more free.

Now my mom’s refrigerator has a completely empty condiment shelf. No more wasted time and energy. No more negativity. Now there is only a clean fresh space for what is to come.

I look forward to seeing what new items will be placed on these shelves in the spring. It’s scary to start new, but it’s even scarier to see what happens when you don’t. I know whatever is added to the shelves it will be 100% better than what was there before.

What are you going to let go of this year? What is not serving you? What is not serving those around you? What do you want to make space for? What do you want the universe to bring you?

I promise that if you let go of what no longer serves you, only good will come. Please give it a try and see what happens. There’s no better time than the present to start.

~Do Better & Shine

Just Start

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” -Mark Twain

Why is it always so hard to just start doing something new? We can be so excited to start something new and then our fear takes over. Fear of what others might think of our crazy ideas, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough. You are not alone. Everyone has these thoughts.

We overthink, we procrastinate, we think of all the reasons it won’t work. Sometimes it’s good to be cautious, but the more you think about doing something different the more your brain tries to keep you safe by talking you out of it. Starting something new can be difficult. It sometimes means taking the road less traveled.

It takes work to learn new things. This is called growth and even if you fail, you will be a better person for it. You will learn from your mistakes. You will dust yourself off and try again. No matter how many times it takes, never give up on yourself. You have something special to share with this world. I can’t wait to see what you start in 2020!

~Do Better & Shine