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

Love Is Not Perfect

After a stressful school day that just happened to occur on Valentine’s Day, my teen daughter suddenly announced that she hates holidays. Every holiday. Even Christmas…and Valentine’s Day, which appeared her current source of grief. Personally, I have fond memories of Valentine’s Day as a child, but I also know love isn’t perfect, so I guess I shouldn’t expect Valentine’s Day to be perfect either. Our kids’ struggle with holidays is nothing new, but it seems like every year we hope things will change, but there were some other factors making this particular Valentine’s Day a rough one.

First of all, to really make things challenging, I have the flu, so just surviving the day with a preschooler home for the entire day was a huge accomplishment for me. My husband helped out by taking him off my hands for a few hours, and then picked up the kids after their sports practices. This is when everything really started to go down hill.

It’s hard when mom is sick and routines are thrown off. The stress must have been brewing in the van ride home. Sitting and waiting for 45 minutes for my daughter to come out of practice is not ideal with a preschooler tagging along. A Happy Valentine’s Day greeting from my youngest turned quickly into a spitting episode. Then there was fighting and arguing between the older kids. When my older son finally arrived home and entered the kitchen he was steaming mad about the interactions on the horrible car ride home.

In my flu-altered state of mind I was lucky to just get the oven preheated for the take-and-bake pizza. To continue the chaos my youngest thought he would try to be helpful and transfer our homemade Valentine’s cake from the counter to the table without asking. In the process he dropped it and it flopped smack on the floor, breaking into pieces. All I could hear was the sound of my husband’s loud groan, and my little one’s crying. Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

My husband picked up Valentine’s heart pizzas for dinner. I made the not-so- smart decision to cook them together so they would be done at the same time. Well, the one on the bottom came out burnt and the one on the top came out soggy. Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

As we sat down to eat I saw a not-so-nice snap chat conversation on my daughter’s smartphone. She was embarrassed. She could see my disappointment, as it brought up my fear of who she is outside our home. She was mostly silent all through dinner, then took her cake dessert to her room. Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

My son was unable to join us because he continued to be so irritated by the simplest comments his younger brother would make, such as, “I get the first piece of cake!” He must have had a rough day too, because he just couldn’t seem to tolerate anything or anyone today. He ate his pizza by himself when everyone was out of the kitchen and opened his cards without a thank-you (so far). Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

We ate our soggy, burnt pizza. We ate our broken cake. It must have tasted fine because there were no complaints. We continued on and exchanged cards and gifts with each other, and slowly, the tension began to soften. Hearts were warming. There were tears of emotion for kind words written, and thoughtful gifts. There were moments of excitement, joy and gratitude. These are the moments I will hang on to; the rest I will let go.

Included in the evening was a discussion about what makes holidays hard, and one heart-felt reason, offered by my daughter, was the people who were missing. This is a common struggle for adopted children. There was a discussion about emotions and fears. There were apologies and more tears. There were long, strong hugs where you could really feel the love. Then I thought, this is the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s a lesson to be learned. Love is not perfect, it’s messy. That doesn’t mean give up; it just means that growth is on the other side.

I hope my daughter will someday learn to be more at ease with holidays, which might come with a full understanding of why these special days can be hard for some people. Everyone comes to the table with their own backpack of “stuff” from the day, and personal experiences, accumulated over the years. Once we are finally able to unpack it all, we will clearly see that all that is left…is love.

Do Better & Shine

Practice Stillness

It’s what everyone is looking for, yet sometimes it’s hard to slow down and find it. I am talking about complete stillness with nothing else going on in the background. When is the last time you were completely still? No music, no phone, no Youtube, just YOU!

If we want to practice stillness, one of our best teachers is our pets. I have a dog that can do this for hours a day. Can you imagine how relaxing that would be? She just finds a cozy spot, usually right in my bed, maybe even on my pillow and curls up. I don’t think she has any other thoughts rushing through her mind, she is just enjoying the quiet, warmth, and stillness. She is so good at taking deep breaths. Your dog can teach you how to do this too. All you have to do is be still and listen.

If you want to practice, wait until your dog is in a quiet restful state and go snuggle up and get close. Put your ear to your dog’s heart and listen. You will hear long, deep, slow breaths. Try to follow along. Be still, close your eyes and just breathe. Stay in this place for one minute, or as long as you like. Ahhh.

I know your days are busy, but whenever you have a moment, remember this feeling of being still and try to come back to it. Visualize yourself cozied up with your warm pup, remember the sound of your pups deep breaths and pretend you are back in this warm, soft place. As you imagine this picture in your mind take a long deep breath in and let that same long breath out.

This is such an amazing, full sensory experience that your mind should be able to recreate it in any moment . When life is feeling crazy and your body is craving some peace, no matter where you are, take your mind back to this experience and just breathe and be still. Ahhh.

Do Better & Shine

You Are Worthy

Every child deserves someone to fight for them. Every child deserves someone to be their voice when they are not allowed or asked to use their own. Every child deserves their behavior and needs to be truly understood in order to help them grow and learn.

Just because you have a hard time sitting still, focusing in class, or keeping your hands to yourself, you are still worthy. Just because you struggle with reading, writing, speaking, or doing a math problem, you are still worthy. Just because you are easily frustrated, inflexible, or have trouble following a direction, you are still worthy. Just because you have a hard time being in your body, don’t like how your brain works, or feel sad about your behavior when your emotions take over, you are still worthy.

I see you. I understand you. I understand the real you underneath it all. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than. You have your own superpowers that are no more or no less that anyone else. Focus on those and you will begin to feel your strength.

We are all on this earth for a purpose. Behind all the hard is something very special. Behind all the hard is someone uniquely you. Know that you have a gift to share with the world. Keep moving forward. I will stand up for you when you can’t stand up for yourself. I will understand you even when you don’t understand yourself. I will hold the hope for your future self, even if you can’t picture it right now. Just keep moving forward and know that you are getting stronger everyday.

~ DO BETTER & Shine