Category Archives: relaxation

The Magic of Memories

We walked to school as children. Alone. Granted, we were usually in groups with other kids. Buddy system, safety in numbers, and all those other lovely cliches. There were crossing guards to stop traffic on the main busy road we had to cross on our way to the local elementary school. Then we went down a slight hill, under a bridge, and across a parking lot to the school and into class.

I remember the way the bridge vibrated as cars zoomed across it while we walked under it. How the cars zipping by filled the open cavern with an echo of their engines as they revved in anticipation of the slight hill on the other side. The musty scent of the dank and dark slopes of cement and the flapping wings of the pigeons living there as they flew back and forth in the midst of our chaotic humanity.

There’s one particular walk I remember, it wasn’t to school, it was home from school. I was walking with a friend of mine, Tasha, when all of the sudden, my nose started to run. Tasha and I were talking, looking down and kicking the random rocks collected along the dingy sidewalk. She looked at me, and as I looked at her, I could tell something was wrong.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. She pointed at her nose then at me. I wiped, and it was bright red. Just on the other side of the bridge, as the hill sloped up, there was a mobile home community. Tasha ran up to one of the mobile homes and banged on the door. An older woman answered and listened to Tasha’s pleas for a napkin, a tissue, anything for my poor nose.

The woman disappeared inside and brought a handful of tissues out, instructing me to hold them to my nose and tip my head back. (I always hated that when I was a kid – tipping my head back – I am so glad we don’t have to do that anymore). We stood there for a bit until my nose stopped gushing. I think it was early spring – I remember purple irises in her little patch of dirt in front of her mobile home. (Of course, this may be a crossed memory – I have a thing for purple irises).

Once my nosebleed subsided to less than gushing, we went on our way and continued to our respective houses. Tasha turned left, I turned right.

It’s funny what memories stick with us from our childhood when we sit and think about it, isn’t it? Sometimes they’re just flashes – a scent, a colour, a taste, a texture – other times, they are very vivid and we fully remember ever exquisite detail. As we grow older, we remember more but we also tend to remember less because we are more focused on surviving life instead of living it and seeing it through the eyes of a child.

I have written about this recently but it is such an important component to who I am that I write about it often.

Looking back over my life, I have been happiest when I just let myself be in the moment instead of focusing on getting everything right or capturing it at just the proper angle to post on Instagram or Twitter. Sure, there are some things I do share but there are others that happen far too fleetingly or that I know I could never accurately portray so I take a snapshot for my soul and hold it there instead.

Last week, for instance, as I was driving, a robin paced my car through a subdivision. I slowed down, it slowed down, flying right at the height of my head on the side of the road. He diverted right before I arrived at my designation. Fleeting things like that inspire awe in me. As I sat there, at my destination, a bald eagle soared overhead as well.

Here’s the thing with allowing yourself to enjoy the little things life has to offer. Are you ready? It’s a secret, a really sneaky one. *looks around dramatically then whispers loudly:

You don’t have to make special plans to enjoy it.

All you have to do is make the decision to find the joy in whatever it is that you’re doing at the moment. Notice the feel of the pen in your hands. Admire the way it writes on the paper. Look up at the sky. Find the birds soaring there and follow them until you can’t any more. Trace the clouds with your eyes and turn them into shapes. (I saw a cloud which looked like an AT-AT the other day!) This is why I still read books made of dead trees. Why I drink tea. There’s ritual and romance in both activities. Something phenomenal about holding a book in your hands, the weight of the knowledge sinking into your hands, which makes me swoon. I own a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass which is more than 100 years old. It’s not a rare copy, but it is an old copy, first printing. Some of the pages weren’t cut properly which means those who owned it previously never read the words within. For me, that’s absolutely mesmerizing. The same with tea – it is an ancient tradition steeped in cultures across the world. It’s not just tea….it’s a living, breathing thing beating with the hearts of those who enjoyed it well before me.

Get excited about things you love. For instance – F1 starts this week and I cannot WAIT. I may even stay up to watch it even though it’s in Australia and this means my sleep will be all sorts of screwed up. But.. but.. F1!!!

With the onset of F1, there’s another milestone in the year just around the bend.

Spring is soon. According to the calendar, it will be here in eleven days. I’ve lived long enough to know that just because the calendar says it’s spring doesn’t mean the weather will listen. This much I do know right now:

  • There’s visible grass
  • The sky has been blue more than it’s been grey the past week
  • There’s visible grass
  • I didn’t need a jacket yesterday or today.
  • We can almost see our entire deck
  • Trees are sprouting buds holding the promise of new leaves and SPRING.

I cannot wait for the world to explode in colour and warmth. To open the windows and turn off the heat.. oh, wait.. we did that yesterday afternoon until the sun went away. I cannot wait to have the windows open for an entire day even if it does make me sneeze and cry.

Life. It is a cycle, one which whirs forward with or without us. Our cycle of life is what we manage to make of it. Does that mean I want to go back to being a little girl who bravely walked to school, taking the time to notice the flapping wings of pigeons under the bridge?

No.

What it means is I don’t ever want to lose that little girl’s ability to turn the most benign thing into the most magical thing ever.

Today’s magic was noticing the landscape reappear as the snow pack is slowly melting.

What was your magic today?

How Apple Inspired Me to Unplug for the Weekend

I’ve seen this commercial several times today.

http://youtu.be/NoVW62mwSQQ

Each time, I’ve had the same initial reaction.

Sadness. Disappointment. A distaste for how we now live our lives.

In this commercial, no one is just living.

Everyone is documenting every second of what they’re doing.

I get that documenting everything is the point of the commercial. Of course it is, because Apple is moving product and wants you to use their phones to document your busy lives because well, everyone else is. It’s a classic “keeping up with the Joneses” commercial. I have to have it because everyone else has it.

As soon as I hit publish on this post, I’m walking away from the Internet until Monday morning.

I’m turning off my email notifications. I’m turning off Twitter. I don’t have Facebook on my phone. I’ll text until my boyfriend gets home but after that, no more (with the exception of a #PPDChat mama I told to text if she needed me tonight).

No pictures of my weekend on my phone. No documenting an amazing meal or something ridiculously silly. My netbook will remain closed. If you need me, call me.

I’m gonna live like it’s pre-2002, baby. (First camera phone made it’s debut in 2002)

Apple’s commercial made me realize I need an unplugged weekend. I’m sure that’s not what they intended. What they intended was to make me want to purchase one of their worship-worthy products. Instead, I’m putting my Android down and walking away from documenting every second of my life.

Thank you, Apple, for making me realize I need to unplug from the virtual world and plug back into the real world.

I owe you one.

Start your day with a #listof3

Last summer, I started doing something on Twitter I’d recommended to new moms fighting battles with Postpartum Depression previously. No, I wasn’t struggling with PPD again (it’s been nearly six years since my last episode), but I was low as I struggled to make sense of the world in the vortex of divorce.

Every morning, among my first tweets, there would be one which read something like this:

“This morning, I’m grateful for: coffee, hiking, and good friends. For what are you grateful? #listof3”

It picked up steam and others in the #ppdchat community (a hashtag based community available 24/7 for support & information and a moderated chat every Monday at 1pm & 830pm ET) began to use the #listof3 tag as well. Then it spread. It’s not a huge community but on mornings when things aren’t going quite well or weeks when I’m in the dark, the #listof3 brightens my day. It also brightens my day to see others randomly using the hashtag in the morning even when I’m not.

There’s a #listof3 for the evenings too – I don’t do it as much – in the evening, list three things which made you laugh (a small smile counts if it’s really dark in your life).

The main goal of this exercise?

To re-purpose your day, point your mind on a positive path, and allow gratefulness to become an intrinsic part of your daily morning routine. As gratefulness entrenches itself in your life, it changes your outlook.

Today, I’m grateful for good food, a good swim, and a good man in my life. For what are YOU grateful? Tell me in the comments!

Give up giving yourself up

Parenting is a ritualistic exercise in extreme sacrifice. We awake earlier than we want, watch television programs we don’t want to, make play-dates we could care less about, plan parties, go to parties, make nice with another parent because our kid likes their kid, etc, etc, etc, etc. It goes on forever.

But that’s what parenting is, right? Sacrifice?

Yes.

And yet a resounding no.

Last night, I asked on Twitter if Motherhood should trump Womanhood once it entered the mix. What ensued was an extremely interesting conversation. Answers varied from “If that’s what the woman wants” to “No, it shouldn’t” to “I don’t understand, isn’t Motherhood a facet of Womanhood?” It is, once it enters the mix. But what fascinates me is the way we, as women, and as society, measure a woman’s worth based on her desire to conceive or parent. Someone even pointed out a pet peeve with articles which identify someone as a Grandmother, Mother, etc., even when it’s not relevant.

In the infancy years when our children depend fully upon us, Mother is our defining role. However, we should still make time for ourselves as women as well. We are still us, we have merely added another facet to our skill set. Some of us are woman first, mother second. Some may be Mother and then Woman. That’s okay. It varies from woman to woman and is based on personal experience as well. Go with what works for you and your family.

For those who are woman first, mother second, we know we need to be valued as a woman. But no one will value us as woman if we fail to treat ourselves as woman first. But what is woman once she is a Mother? She is you, as you were before children, with the added responsibility of child-rearing. Woman is beautiful, exhilarating, compassionate, powerful, strong, complex, amazing, and full of heart. She is life, and yet at the same time, she can get so lost in roles demanded by society, she may be her own death. Swallowed whole by Mother, Wife, Employee, Caregiver, Daughter, Sister, Cousin, etc, she finds herself carried away by the powerful current of Life, not realizing until too late she is in dangerous waters.

Today I tweeted, with the intent of being humorous, “For Lent, I’m giving up giving up things.” I also posted it as my Facebook status. The responses surprised me. One of my friends on Facebook included a link to a post written by a friend of hers last year —On Eating Chocolate for Lent— which got me thinking –should we be giving up anything for Lent at all– especially when we already give up so much of ourselves as Mothers? If we continue to sacrifice ourselves at the rate we’re going, we will have nothing left to give our children or loved ones once we finish –if we finish– before we pass out, an exhausted heap in the kitchen floor.

Want to give up something for Lent? Give up throwing yourself under the bus for everyone around you. Give up saying yes to every responsibility you are asked to take on by friends, family, work, etc. Give up judging yourself for not keeping up with the Joneses. Stick with the bare necessities. Give yourself the gift of time to yourself, the gift of time with your children instead of racing around like crazy to keep family, friends, and society happy and smiling. Give yourself happy. Give yourself joy. Give yourself laughter.

Give up giving yourself up for 40 days. Be kind to you. You are worth it.

 

Respite

Today, for the first time in years, my toes and the Atlantic Ocean made contact.

I grew up on the Jersey Shore (NO, not THAT Jersey Shore – mention it again and I’m a send someone with a whole lotta vowels in their last name your way) just mere seconds away from the ocean. I suffered from perma-tan as a result of spending almost every waking minute on the sands of the beach during summers at my grandmother’s house.

We had a routine – we’d hang out, then eat cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on toast while watching The Price is Right (with Bob, not this new guy, Drew). We’d pack up the station wagon after the show was over to glide the 5 measly blocks to the ocean. Hot metal car seatbelts do NOT feel good against young skin, lemme tell you what. Then, we’d slather on sunscreen and go running smack dab into the ocean.

The afternoon always passed too quickly in squeals of delight, screams of fear after stings of jellyfish, and whoops of joy as huge waves carried our brave bodies toward shore, hurling us unfailingly into the hard sand underneath the soft water. We’d laugh, get up, and run smack dab back into the ocean all over again.

The grandmother with whom I spent all that time with at the beach, at the Atlantic Ocean, is now a part of the ocean. She passed away well over 10 years ago and her ashes were spread in the Atlantic.

Today?

Today I said hello.

Tomorrow?

Tomorrow I will run with glee smack dab into the ocean to give her the biggest damned hug of my life.

I am home.

Just talking Tuesday: 15 minutes for YOU

Yesterday during #PPDChat, I issued a challenge to fellow chatters as we shared our struggles with Parenting through Postpartum.

Every day this week, take just 15 minutes for you. Then tweet about what you did with those 15 minutes using the #PPDChat hashtag.

Your 15 minutes does not have to be all together. It can be spread out in 5 minute increments as one chatter said she often did.

Your time does not have to stop at 15 minutes either. It can keep going and going and going….

If you can’t get in 15 minutes total, try for at least 10.

Today, I took the long way home from Bible Study. The sky was a fantastic blue, complete with puffy white clouds dispersed throughout. Even Pandora cooperated, blasting out some classic tunes. I felt myself continuing to relax.

After lunch, I played around on our Wii. Not exercising, just playing. I never do that.

Once we had the kiddos in bed, I sat and read a book until I fell asleep. Again, I can’t remember the last time I fell asleep while reading a book. Not that the book wasn’t good, I was just that tired.

I spent more than 15 minutes on myself today and it totally rocked.

How much time did you spend on yourself today? What did you do with those minutes?

Any plans for tomorrow’s 15 minutes?

Tell us!

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Whatever Wednesdays: The one about my favorite TV shows

The #PPDChat @ Twitter earlier this week focused on taking time for ourselves. This is me putting it into practice. I also had a DM chat with @marymac in which we waxed about greener grass – and she inspired me to finally carve out a day on which I blogged about just life and not the main topic of my site. Welcome to Whatever Wednesdays! Let the ride begin….

It’s mid May. Sweeps in TV land.

Two of my favorite shows are dropping off the planet this year.

Both 24 and Lost will come to a screeching halt on the little screen within the next six days. Many of my other shows are airing season finales.

I may have to resort to Netflix or reruns of Star Trek Next Generation. On Demand may be an option. But for now I’ll just mourn my entertainment losses and move on to greener pastures. The summer line up better kick some serious arse.

Watching TV shows and movies is a favorite past time of mine. I’m mostly a sci-fi, drama, comedy chick. I’ve got the uncanny ability to recognize actors and tell you what they’ve starred in over the years. Sometimes I do have to resort to IMDB.com but hey, I’ve got kids. They’re sucking my brain cells up faster than I’d down an Icee on a hot summer day.

Oh, and do not leave the name of the winner of Survivor in the comments. I’m like, um, behind. And despite my constant monitoring of Social media, have actually managed to keep myself in the dark thus far. I’m sure my time is running out and I hope to catch up by this weekend. We’ll talk next week. Because I’ve got things to say about that show, oh yes I do!

A few of my new favorite shows this past season are:

FlashForward – this may well be my new LOST. I am loving this sci-fi thriller!

Modern Family – quite possibly the most funny sitcom EVER. Sorry Seinfeld, you never made me pause the TV for 5 minutes because I couldn’t stop laughing. Oh wait, couldn’t pause the TV when you were on air – but still… NO pausy pause for you! NEXT! There has NEVER been a funnier scene in sitcom history than Cam dressed as a clown sassing some poor guy at the gas station. NEVER.

V – Like Whoa. Anna is a class A well, yanno… whoa. Despite the remake aspect, I’d say they’re doing a damned fine job.

Happy Town – Although this show has already been cut, I liked it. Sad to see it go.

Parenthood – I.love.Peter.Krause. Nuff said.

Mercy – Almost as addictive as Grey’s. Notice I said ALMOST.

Trauma – This is a show I’ve struggled with watching. It’s intense. Very intense. But after a hard day, it would always remind me that yeah, there’s always someone out there who’s got it tougher. And somehow it would soothe me. And I found myself addicted before I even knew it.

Some old favorites:

Damages – Patty Hews would be perfect vs. Anna of V, wouldn’t she? Now THAT’D be a show!

Saving Grace – this one is on TNT. And if you haven’t seen it yet, you really should try and watch. It’s addicting.

Grey’s – ‘Nuff said.

Fringe – Only the 2nd season but I am SO hooked. I need my Walterisms on a weekly basis. (Wanna know how addicted I am to this show? I decipher the glyphs they show before the commercial breaks. I’ve got it bad!)

Survivor – stopped watching last season but then – I mean – really, who can resist Rupert? I HAD to watch Heroes vs. Villains. And no, as I said earlier, I don’t know who won yet. So shh.

I’m really looking forward to The Good Guys which starts on Fox this Wednesday night. Bradley Whitford from West Wing (may that show RIP) stars. It’s gotta be good. It’s Bradley frickin’ Whitford, dudes! (And no, I’m not channeling Hurley!)

Psych on USA starts back in June, I think. It better – I need my Psych fix.

And then there’s America’s Got Talent which will be a Hoff -free zone this year. I am hoffstatic about that!

Watching TV is a huge part of relaxation for me. There is NOTHING more soothing for me than to sit down after the kids are in bed and hear, “This Television Program is for Mature Audiences only.” blare forth from the TV. Because that means I don’t have to watch kid-friendly programming for at least 12 hours.

Enriching postpartum therapy through at-home activities

In addition to the different types of therapy we discussed yesterday, there are some at home activities you can do (provided your therapist has approved them) to enrich your professional care and journey toward wellness.

First, start a gratitude journal. But I don’t journal. I hate writing! Don’t worry – this isn’t having to write an entire page every day. It’s a simple two entries a day. In the morning, when you first wake up, grab your pen and journal. Write down three things for which you are grateful, no matter how small that thing may be. As your day progresses, focus on what has made you laugh or smile. Once you have retired to bed each night (even if it’s for two hours), write down at least three things which made you smile or laugh during the day. At the beginning, even just barely cracking a smile counts. This activity is two-fold. First, it forces your brain to refocus on the positive things in your life. Second, it provides physical evidence of the positive influences in your life you can look through on the particularly tough days.

Second, write down all five senses on a sheet of paper. Taste, touch, smell, sounds, and sight. Write down five of your favorite things for each sense. Chocolate, silk, a favorite perfume, a cd or song that makes you smile, favorite color or flower or art. Post the list on the fridge. Treat yourself to at least one thing from EACH SENSE every week. Rotate them out. Putting the list on the fridge helps family members and friends to know what to help keep around the house as well. (Sneaky, I know)

Third, take time for yourself. Schedule it if you have to. One thing I love to do is to dress up my lunch. It’s my quiet time of day and I have been known to make a frozen pizza and a coke look like it belongs on a table prepped by Gordon Ramsey. Lean Cuisine never looked so haute. I’ll also treat myself to the routine of making tea. The key is finding one thing you love and making sure you do it at least once a day. Without interruption.

Some other moms will put positive post-its throughout the house and even in the car to help give them a boost when they need it most.

A successful recovery relies heavily on your active participation. If you’re not participating, you’re not getting better. YOU are the most important quotient in the equation when it comes to journeying toward mental health wellness!

How did you actively participate in your recovery? Have any tips for currently struggling moms? We’d love to hear them!


Be sure to stop back tomorrow for the triumphant return of the Friday Soother, my weekly gift to you!