Uncategorized

What Will My 2019 One-Word Resolution Be?



“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language 
And next year’s words await another voice.” ~T.S. Eliot

Every year around this time, I start creating my own personal year-in-review mental slideshow. I know it’s a little early. It’s still November. I haven’t even put up my Christmas tree yet. But I feel like I need to start early and really take the time to figure out how I did in life the past 11 months so that once New Year’s Day hits, I have a clear plan in place as to how I want to approach the upcoming year.

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. But I do believe in the power of a single word. And because I feel like my last two years were positively defined by two words, part of my early year-end reflection involves choosing my next one-word resolution.

My 2017 word was Balance. As a working mom who has a million things I want to pursue in my free time, I felt like I was living an unbalanced life. I spent the year finding balance in my body, mind and space. Every time I felt the stress of imbalance creeping in, that word flashed in my brain. In fact, I loved Balance as my one-word resolution so much I was tempted to use it again for 2018 (as I’m tempted to use it again for 2019!). 

But I knew I needed a new word, a fresh word for a fresh year. So my 2018 word was Wellness. As the year kicked off with a hysterectomy, I needed a word that would remind me why I chose to have the surgery, as well as a word to motivate me to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, throughout the year. That word was there as I dealt with the difficult recovery after surgery, as I struggled to get back into the shape I was accustomed to as an athlete, and as I listened to my body when I had pain I shouldn’t be having 9-months post-surgery and spoke up to my doctor. With Wellness on my mind, I can say that word helped me get to the here and now with a focal point I needed.

Now I need a 2019 word. And I want that word settled on and ready to work its magic when I open my eyes on January 1. Words randomly pop in my head all the time, but the following 20 have serious potential. Some are straightforward. Some have dual meanings. All of them can be applied to things I want to see in my life as we switch calendars.

So which of these will be my 2019 word?

1. Grounded

2. Breathe

3. Mindfulness

4. Priorities

5. Energy

6. Words

7. Calm

8. Flow

9. Meditation

10. Mountain

11. Momentum

12. Motivation

13. Listen

14. Create

15. Present

16. Steps

17. Float

18. Importance

19. Connect

20. Explore

Fakesgiving: Co-Parenting During the Holidays

I don’t have my children for Thanksgiving this year.

The good news is that this means I get the kids for Christmas.

But on Thanksgiving, the kiddos will be eating turkey and stuffing with their father.

I’ve been co-parenting for nearly five years now. For five years, the parent who gets Thanksgiving, doesn’t get Christmas, and the parent who doesn’t get Thanksgiving gets Christmas.

I’d like to say that five years of missing every other Thanksgiving and every other Christmas with my children has eased the emptiness I feel on my childless holidays.

But I can’t.

It doesn’t get easier, but I guess I’ve learned to cope with their blatant absence better.

As a former military spouse who had to figure out how to celebrate all the holidays and special occasions that were either postponed or outright ignored because of deployments, I learned to get creative. And flexible with dates on the calendar.

That means that this year, Thanksgiving has already come and gone for me.

Well, to be more accurate, “Fakesgiving” has come and gone.

Just as I’ve made up a new last name to call our household that combines mine, my kids’ and my boyfriend’s, I’ve made up new names for the holidays we celebrate early.

Because I refuse to ignore holidays.

And who cares when you celebrate together as long as you celebrate, right?

So this year, when my parents came to visit the first weekend in November, my family with the three last names smushed into one sat down for our Fakesgiving spread on the most random of days and shared what we were thankful for.

It didn’t matter that the calendar didn’t say Thanksgiving.

While I’m thankful to be able to share Fakesgiving with my kids, and I’m thankful I don’t have to plan an early “Fakesmas” until next December because this year I get to share the real Christmas with them, I can’t help but feel a bit deflated this week.

Everyone around me is planning for Thanksgiving, buying their turkeys and planning their menus.

Yesterday, as my boyfriend and I braved Trader’s Joe’s on the Sunday before turkey day, the busy yet cheerful cashier asked if we were excited for Thanksgiving.

“Well, we’ve already done our Thanksgiving,” I blurted out.

(I really need to stop saying that. People don’t know how to react. I need to just say yes and move on with my day.)

I try not to complain. After all, my kids are thrilled they get two of every holiday each year.

My divorce hasn’t totally scarred them for life.

They’re growing up learning that life is filled with the need for adjustments and it’s important to make the best of odd circumstances.

But I already know on Thanksgiving day, even though my boyfriend and I will enjoy our day hiking at our local state park like we usually do when the kids aren’t around for holidays, my heart will still hurt a little.

After five years, handing my babies over to spend a holiday with someone else still hurts a little.

And I think that’s ok to admit so I can acknowledge that hurt, say hello like it’s a familiar acquaintance, and then move on.

To planning Christmas with my kids!

Happy Fakesgiving or Thanksgiving or whatever you may be celebrating this week!

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Pets,
The last four weeks post-surgery have been rough. 
And when I say rough, I mean I’ve been rotating the same comfy pants and baggy shirts for over four weeks. 
I’ve been keeping medication charts. 
I’ve been taking naps. 
I’ve watched more tv in the last month than I probably have in the entire last year combined. 
I’ve been missing exercise, baths, wine, going anywhere quickly and general contact with the outside world that now feels like a foreign country because I’ve been inside my house too much.
But you, my loyal and sweet dog and cat, have been right by my side through it all. You’ve cuddled close and absorbed my pain. You slowed down to match my pace. You looked cute and made me smile. Pet therapy is a real thing. And I’m so thankful for you both.
With love and appreciation,
A Furbaby Mama

Dear Authors,
I have read eight of your books in four weeks. You’ve kept me entertained while I rested and tried to keep my brain functioning as I take time off work. You’ve reminded me of the power of the written word and my own passion to share what’s in my brain. And you’ve inspired me to get back into a daily writing routine, as well as start a new project I’ve been contemplating for years.
Thank you for helping me find new words,
A Writer With a New Plan
Dear Psychic Energy,
As rough as this month has been, I feel like I’ve managed to rearrange you in such a way that any negativity is transforming into positive juju.  
I had my annual psychic reading last week. As always, my session was a practice in reflection, insight and motivation. And although most of the reading wasn’t much more than an affirmation of things I already planned to do and my mom later claimed she could have told me all that for free, I needed to hear it from an objective stranger.
You also went through a cleansing by smudging. I started with my house and finished with my body. My house instantly felt cleared of negative energy, and whatever negative physical vibes were left over from my surgery drifted out the open windows as well. I cleansed, I dismissed, I dispelled. 
Best,
A Cleared and Focused Woman
Dear Passport,
I’m starting the process of figuring out how to use you again this summer. Last year was the Dominican Republic. The year before was Costa Rica. The year before that was Turks and Caicos. My list of travel dreams never stops growing. Thank you for helping me satisfy my wanderlust and see fun new parts of the world. I can’t wait to see where you take me next!
Gracias,
An Aspiring World Traveler
Dear Beach,
Since I had my hysterectomy over four weeks ago, you have been my goal. 
As my happy place that just happens to be a short three minute walk from my front door, I fear I may have taken you for granted. Even in the winter, I typically visit you multiple times a week. I use you for sunsets, dolphin watching, paddle boarding, reading, dog walks and anytime I need a break.
For the past month, you’ve seemed too far away. The first time I reached my goal of walking to you, I was ecstatic! And I was also exhausted. Too exhausted to do anything but say hello and turn around and head home.
But two days ago, I finally reached my goal. On an unusually warm and sunny near 80 degree day, I did more than just say hello. I visited you for almost an hour and a half. I dug my toes in the sand. I meditated. I stared at bright blue sky as the clouds crept by. I read. I walked to the shoreline with my daughter as she braved the freezing water.
After weeks of not enough fresh air, you were exactly what I needed.
Namaste,
A Believer in Saltwater Therapy

5 Word Friday: My Current Status As Told By a Dog and a Cat

Sixteen days ago I had a hysterectomy. And for 16 days, I’ve never been more aware of every ache and pain in my body, every wave of intense fatigue and every limitation that reminds me I’m in the middle of recovering from major surgery.

Despite all that, I remain positive that I’ll continue to get better every day. In the meantime, here are my dog and my cat to illustrate my current status in 5 words:

Wellness: My One-Word Resolution for 2018

A new year has rolled around once again. And like most people, I spent the last few weeks of 2017 reflecting on the year about to close and outlining goals for the new year to come. 
Did I do everything I hoped I would do in 2017? Did I learn any lessons to bring with me into 2018? And more specifically, did my 2017 one-word resolution bring me what I was looking for, and how would that answer affect my word choice for 2018?
I may not have done everything I set out to do in 2017, but generally speaking, it was a year filled with exactly what I was seeking: Balance. That was my 2017 word, a word so perfect for me that I almost wanted to repeat it for 2018. 
My word helped me to balance my body by incorporating yoga and other exercises into my workout routine to keep me injury-free, by eating more nutritious meals and by drinking more tea and less coffee as per doctors’ orders. I balanced my mind by making meditation and mindfulness daily practices and by returning to my love of reading by carving out time to disappear in a good novel. And I took advantage of my balanced space by using my Meditation Station and making sure it continues to be a stress-free space I can escape to anytime for meditating, practicing yoga or cuddling with my dog, who often joins me for yoga sessions.
By the time I closed out 2017, I really did feel balanced.
But as a writer who prides herself on having original ideas, I knew I had to come up with a new word. Balance had treated me well, but I had to build on that, not repeat it. I had to take those goals accomplished and lessons learned, couple those with the new challenges I found myself facing at the end of 2017 and forge forward with a different word.
Despite my goal to balance every area of my life, my body had something going on that was beyond my control. Towards the end of 2017, when I found I could no longer ignore my near-constant pain and the myriad other pesky symptoms I was experiencing, I was forced to make a decision to advocate for my health and schedule a pretty major surgery that requires a lengthy recovery period. 
Suddenly, my health was in the spotlight, and getting well was all I could think about. Because of that, I knew what my 2018 word needed to be.

That word is:

My surgery was supposed to be shortly after New Year’s, but thanks to the worst timing ever of a blizzard, it was pushed back to this week. I thought by now I’d be almost halfway into my four to six week recovery, in the middle of my total focus on Wellness. But as we all know, life rarely goes as planned.
As I waited for the new surgery date to roll around, I shifted my Wellness focus from recovery to prep. I figured the stronger I am going into surgery, the more solid my recovery will be. I had 20 extra days to run, swim, practice my beloved yoga and meditation, and shed those holiday pounds I inevitably gain the end of every year. 
After surgery this week, my Wellness journey will switch back to recovery. Instead of running shoes and bathing suits, I’ll be focusing on rest and listening to my body’s cues. And then, when my body (and my surgeon) let me know I’m ready in late February or early March, I’ll shift gears again and gradually rediscover Wellness in those running shoes and bathing suits.
Where will my 2018 word bring me from there? I’m not sure. My January has been all about taking life one day at a time, and I imagine I’ll be in wait-and-see mode for a good portion of the first half of this year.
So far, I can say I’ve meditated every day in 2018 thanks to the Calm 30-Day Meditation Challenge I discovered on Twitter. As I learned from my 2017 year of Balance, meditation is beneficial for me in lots of ways, including stress reduction, pain management, sleep aid and maintaining a general sense of calm, so I plan to continue meditating throughout my recovery and beyond as an integral part of my Wellness journey. 
I expect each day my focus might be different than the previous day, but being patient and flexible are also big parts of my Wellness journey. For today, I’m focusing my Wellness on washing my hands like crazy and praying I can go a couple more days without catching the nasty flu that’s going around so this second surgery attempt will happen.

As for tomorrow and the next day and the next day? I’ll just have to wait and see.

15 Inspiring Cheryl Strayed Quotes About Life and Living

I’m a sucker for a good quote. There’s something about making connections between someone else’s words and my own life that makes me pause and think. Whether that pause is to soak in inspiration, wisdom, humor, motivation, an aha moment, or a sense of belonging, I jot down those quotes that speak to me in a running list I’ve had for years.
I recently finished reading Cheryl Strayed’s book, “Tiny Beautiful Things,” which is a collection of her “Dear Sugar” advice columns. As soon as I closed the book after the last page, I knew I needed to read it again. This woman is filled with wisdom about everything from love and relationships to family and loss, offering perspective that could benefit anyone. A beautiful writer with a true ability to dish out advice in a blunt yet kind way, Cheryl Strayed has quickly become one of the most frequently quoted people in my personal collection of favorites.
In need of some perspective? Here are 15 inspiring Cheryl Strayed quotes about life and living:
1. It’s up to you to make your life. Take what you have and stack it up like a tower of teetering blocks. Build your dream around that.”
2. “Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.”
3. “Don’t do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do.”
4. “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
5. “I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” 
6. “This is how you get unstuck. You reach.”
7. “Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit?”
8. “Forgiveness doesn’t sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up a hill.”
9. “You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.” 
10. “There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding.”
11. “At a certain point we get to decide who it is we allow to influence us.”
12. “It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have.”
13. “There are stories you’ll learn if you’re strong enough to travel there. One of them might cure you.” 
14. “Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.”
15. “Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things befall you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.”

Lessons from a Road Trip


A couple of weeks ago, my kids were on Spring Break from school. I took the week off from work. The cat and dog were set to hang out at home with the pet sitter. Our bags were packed, and my parents were waiting with open arms on the other end. All we had to do was get ourselves from Virginia to Florida and our vacation could begin.
Anyone who has looked into flying to Florida during Spring Break months knows you practically have to win the lottery be able to afford four plane tickets. So my boyfriend and I decided to skip the airport and take the more adventurous route and hit the open road. We had already driven the 14-hour trip to my parents’ house twice before, experimenting with both driving straight through in one day and breaking it up with an overnight pit stop. But that was just the two of us when the kids were with their father.
It can’t be that much harder with a 9- and 13-year-old, right?
The kids weren’t immediately convinced, so I took to Facebook and asked my wonderfully experienced and creative mom friends for tips on road tripping with kiddos. Living up to my expectations, my friends filled my feed with so much advice I had to take notes so I wouldn’t forget it all as the trip got closer.
I had every intention of writing this blog post. I just knew the trip would be epic, that I would pull into my driveway a week after we drove off with the best road trip advice to pass along to other families. I would share the tips my friends passed along, as well as others we came up with along the way. Yes, our road would be epic!
Well, our road trip was epic alright. But definitely not in the way I was going for. 
On the way to Florida, we broke the trip into two days. The first day we drove six hours and spent the night in a hotel in South Carolina, where we met up with friends heading in the same direction. We were safe and sound in Florida the following day after another eight hours of driving. We all managed that pretty well so we decided to drive straight through on the return trip. It was the return trip that might be the reason I’ll never get my kids to road trip again.
So what about those expert tips I had teed up? Yeah, those went out the window along with the stench of vomit and rules about gadget usage. All those detailed plans that were supposed to earn me Mom of the Year status disintegrated as each hour of the 16-hour trip home passed and transformed into the following three lessons that are so basic, yet so necessary in their simplicity. I should have started here:

1. Handy essentials are essential.

My 9-year-old daughter has never been carsick. However, for my 13-year-old son, carsickness is a fact of life he’s dealt with on every road trip he’s ever been on. So I always have a steady supply of plastic bags that he knows to grab the second he gets that queasy feeling, and over the years, he’s perfected his aim. While it’s not ideal to sit in an enclosed space with a puking kid, we’ve never had to deal with chain reaction vomit.
That’s why it was so shocking when one minute my daughter said her tummy hurt and the next minute she was puking in a McDonald’s parking lot. Even more shocking when, an hour later, she suddenly grabbed one of those plastic bags in the backseat for round two.
Convinced she had nothing left in her stomach, I figured we were done. My son had taken Dramamine, which worked well for him on both the boat ride we went on in Florida and the first day of the drive there (but not on the second day because, as he learned, it doesn’t work if you don’t take it.)
But an hour later, I heard the rustling of a plastic bag. Apparently, my son was experiencing a delayed chain reaction.
And an hour after that, the kids were tied at two pukes each. 
Round four was the worst round because it came on so suddenly that my poor boy’s perfect aim was off, and he missed the bag. Then, after driving at least ten minutes before an exit finally appeared on the interstate, I had to dig through luggage to find clean clothes and shoes before scrubbing floor mats with baby wipes in a gas station parking lot.
The moral of that story? Have a list of road trip essentials, and keep those essentials handy at any given moment. My list now includes at least 20 plastic bags (for both vomit and vomit-covered items that need to be double bagged so the smell doesn’t set off another chain reaction), baby wipes, ginger ale, gum, a change of clothes for each kid and the Dramamine that will knock those kids out (rather than the “non-drowsy natural” crap I bought).

2. Seating arrangements matter.

I have fond memories of my childhood summer vacations, trips that always involved a road trip. Whether my father was driving us from New Jersey to Cape Cod or to Myrtle Beach, the seating arrangements never varied. My brother sat in the backseat behind my father, I sat behind my mother on the passenger side. Sometimes we all talked. Sometimes we entertained ourselves individually with a Walkman, toys, books or crafts. There was never talk of switching assigned seats.
Maybe those childhood memories are the reason I didn’t relinquish my seat in the front of the car, even though I knew my son’s bouts with carsickness would greatly decrease if he sat in the front. Or maybe it’s because I wanted so badly for my children to bond and use the forced proximity to figure out a way to pass more than 15 minutes at a time without fighting. Or maybe it’s because I’m not crazy about the backseat. After all, my boy inherited the carsickness gene from someone.
But after the last vomit stop I gave my son the front seat. He felt better the rest of the trip, his sister was happy to be in the back with someone who allowed her to stretch out beyond the barricade they had created to keep each other on their own sides, and once I popped a couple of Dramamine myself, I discovered cuddling in the backseat with my girl and a pile of pillows wasn’t so bad.
Moral of that story? Most carsick person gets the front seat.

3. Don’t try to be Mom of the Year.

I planned to have a fancy binder for each child that contained maps, destination information, coloring pages, Bingo and other games. I envisioned the four of us coming up with elaborate, hilarious stories where each person adds a sentence for maximum interactive word play. I had podcasts lined up that I had researched and approved for age-appropriateness and attention-holding subject matter. Seriously, Mom of the Year material!
Let’s just say those binders never came to fruition because the kids said they sounded boring. And let’s also say those elaborate “add a sentence” stories lasted maybe five minutes because every sentence the kids added included the words “poop” or “fart” or a synonym of “poop” and “fart,” and five minutes was about all the patience I had for that. And those podcasts? Thankfully, the daughter of the friends we met up with in South Carolina recommended one because all the others I researched and downloaded were deemed too boring to listen to.
So after all the vomit and the declarations of boredom and the “get off my side!” fights and the “can we get back on screens yet?” whines and the countless failed attempts to interact with my children, I remembered another road trip tip shared by a Facebook friend: “We do what we must to survive.”
I was not going to win Mom of the Year, and as I gave the kids permission to get back on their devices (again), I decided that I didn’t need to. We had an awesome Spring Break, spending time with each other and my parents, staying active and having fun. This 16-hour road trip was just one day out of our lives, and I had no energy left to try and implement mandatory fun. It just wasn’t worth spending time with an inner debate with my mommy guilt. As my wise friend wrote on my Facebook thread, “They will not die over this, right?”
Moral of that story? Buy the plane tickets.

Balance: My One-Word Resolution for 2017

I think it all started with a running injury. Then I noticed my hair was falling out. Later it was the tightening of my clothes. Sprinkled in there was the increase in debilitating headaches. Before I knew it, I was ending 2016 waiting for the results of my third cancer scare within six months and overwhelmed with stress.
Thankfully, none of those cancer scares resulted in a cancer diagnosis. But as I celebrated those medical results, I realized it was a wake-up call. The universe was telling me I needed to take better care of myself. And what better time for new goals than a new year, right?
I gave up on the idea of New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago. Those grand plans and bulleted lists I once wrote down and promised myself would come to fruition throughout the new year did nothing but leave me with a sense that those resolutions had set me up for failure. The specificity left me with an all-or-nothing mentality. The lack of wiggle room I unknowingly built into those resolutions ultimately led me to abandon the resolutions altogether.
That’s why the trend of one-word resolutions appeals to me. Instead of bulleted lists of precise resolutions, I could start with one general concept to trickle down and touch upon multiple areas of my life. All I needed to do was come up with one magical word to encompass how exactly I wanted to go about taking better care of myself.
Choosing one word is no easy task. In fact, a couple years ago I chose 50 words because I couldn’t settle on one. But when a word popped into my head clear as day at the end of a yoga session, I knew that word was the perfect theme for my 2017.
That word is…

Once the word found me, I immediately started working out a plan to apply it to as many areas of my life as possible.
So why am I writing about New Year’s resolutions in March? Because I’m pretty sure I’ve never made it this far with a New Year’s resolution. But more importantly, it’s because my mindset has improved, I’ve created lifelong habits and I am healthier and happier in just a few short months because of that one little word.

Balance.

So how has my word affected my life? I’ll break it down into 3 main categories: body, mind and space.

Body

Unbalanced: I’m 40 years old. I am no longer at the point in my life when I can run nearly 30 miles a week with absolutely no cross training and expect to stay uninjured. My legs were overtrained and tired from doing all the work, while the rest of my body was undertrained and weak from doing none of the work. 
I also have multiple autoimmune disorders that I’ve been pushing to the periphery for years. I take my meds, but I can no longer pretend they don’t exist, that stress and poor food and drink choices don’t affect my health.
Balanced: Physical therapy for bursitis in my hip stopped producing results, so I switched to massage therapy. It was when massage started working and I resumed running that I implemented my balance plan, cutting my mileage in half and giving some love to other muscles. Thanks to my boyfriend’s old P90X DVDs, I alternate workouts and muscle groups, including yoga and kickboxing. I joined our local rec center and swim laps, sweat it up on the rowing machine and lift weights. I’m finally losing some of the weight I gained from my thyroid issues — my first 2016 cancer scare — and my upper body is getting stronger while I remain injury-free.
My massage therapist also suggested I rethink my office chair. I work from home. I work a lot. In a chair, in front of a computer. So I took her advice and ditched my office chair for a balance ball (see, there’s that balance word again!). It was life changing. My pain is gone, and it works my core and posture. I will never sit in an office chair again.
As far as those autoimmune disorders, well, they will always be with me. However, I have finally listened to my rheumatologist and other doctors I have to see on a regular basis. No more three cups of coffee a day. As doctors have warned me, my body doesn’t like that. I now have one cup of coffee first thing in the morning, and the other two cups have been replaced with tea. And you know what? I don’t miss that coffee one bit. In fact, I LOVE tea. 
You know what else I surprisingly love? Vegetables. Because balancing my body wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of a better balanced diet.

Mind

Unbalanced: Like most people I know, stress is a constant in my life. My most reliable stress relief has always been exercise. But when I got injured, I couldn’t rely on a long run to release the pressure valve. So the stress built up, and I found myself with headaches that rendered me nonfunctional, chronic fatigue and an inability to figure out how to relieve my stress in other ways.
Balanced: My body wasn’t cooperating, so I decided to let my mind take over. That’s when I discovered the joys of meditation.
I don’t claim to be a great meditator. In fact, I can’t sit still for more than about 15 minutes at a stretch, and I need the help of guided meditations. But my meditation practice has produced so many positive results with my stress management, both throughout the day and at night when I need to turn my brain off to sleep. I even set the alarm on my phone for various times throughout the day to remind myself to take a deep breath. Now, using breathing techniques, mantras and mindfulness, I have tools to not only relieve existing stress, but also to work toward stopping the stress where it starts to prevent snowballing.
My mind also needed something I had stopped making time for: books. I’m an avid reader, and for me, reading for fun is a mental break. So now, instead of spending too much time scrolling through Facebook, I use free time to read a book. Many afternoons when my work day is done, you can find me on my couch with calm music, a cup of tea and the latest on my Goodreads “Want To Read” shelf.

Space



Unbalanced: Every area of my house I moved into last August was allocated for something or someone. Sure I had an entire room I could call my home office, but I never felt as if I had made it my own. I used it for work and storage. It screamed stress and clutter.
Balanced: As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “The key to creating a home meditation practice is to create a space where the busyness stops.” 
So I created a space.
I moved all the furniture in my home office to create my Meditation Station. In one corner of the room sits my “Thinking Chair,” and next to my meditation cushion stands a little table with candles, stones and a chime. It’s not a big space, but it’s filled with positive energy. Although I can still see my work area, no stress or to-do lists are allowed in that corner. It’s where the busyness stops.
I have a long way to go before I feel the balance I’m hoping to ultimately achieve, but I’m thankful for the strides I’ve made so far and I’m confident I’ve laid down some pretty strong stepping stones to continue on my path toward a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Meditation,
I thought I’d be better at practicing you by now. 

I’m about to finish the book Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, which is a four week program to learn all about meditation. I all read about the benefits of meditation, and I’ve practiced breathing meditations, body scan meditations, letting go of thoughts meditations and lovingkindness meditations. I’m now on the final week, and instead of being able to ease through the recommended five to six meditation sessions a week, at least one of which is over 20 minutes long, I still find myself wiggly and itchy and fidgety and peeking at the timer to discover that only two minutes had passed since the initial chime.

My massage therapist encourages me to keep it up, that meditation is like exercise and I just need to keep practicing so those meditation muscles get stronger and can be used for longer stretches of time. So I’ll keep trying, finishing this week’s lovingkindness focus with the mantra, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.” And I’ll make sure that, in addition to sending those vibes out to those I’m fond of and those I’m not-so-fond of, I’ll include myself in lovingkindness wishes.
Namaste,
An Improving Meditator 

Dear Commercial Airlines,

Thanks for making your flights ridiculously expensive during Spring Break. At first I was totally bummed that flying four people to sunny Florida would require me to auction off my internal organs, but as Facebook friends continued to offer fun suggestions for road tripping with kids, I’m kind of looking forward to being trapped in a car with my family for many, many hours. I think back very fondly to the family road trips my parents took me and my brother on when we were kids, and I know one day my little ones will appreciate the time spent together as well.
V/R,
A Mom Ready for the Family-Friendly Version of Spring Break
Dear Parents of Teenage Boys,

I have less than a week until my boy enters his teenage years. He is almost as tall as me, his voice is suddenly so deep I barely recognize it, and the other day he received his first love note from a young lady requesting to be his girlfriend. None of that really scares me though. That’s pretty typical. It’s all that other stuff that teenagers face these days that my generation didn’t have to deal with that really scares me. Snapchat. Cyberbullying. Internet porn. 
So parents, how do I get through these teenage years with my sanity intact? How do I get him through his teenage years with more wisdom than rebellion? How do I not screw it all up?!
Send some prayers,
A Parent About to Join the Club of Parents with Teenage Boys
Dear Lady in the Grocery Store Checkout Line,

I saw you out of the corner of my eye. I saw you look away when I looked at you. You and your husband were overdressed for Food Lion, likely picking up some essentials after church. You were an older couple, older than my parents, and I figured you averted your gaze because of my pink hair. And while pink hair isn’t as wild and crazy as it was once considered, I don’t think older generations get it. In fact, just minutes before, another older woman looked practically frightened when I passed her in the international foods aisle. So I thought I was about to get handed some harsh judgment when you tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, but I just have to know…”
Here it comes, I thought. She’s going to ask me why I would do such a horrible thing to my long blonde hair. I braced myself and prepared to brush her off.
“Which came first: the hair or the shirt?”
Huh? I looked down and realized I was wearing a pink shirt, a shade that almost exactly matched my hair.
“Because you’re perfectly color coordinated,” she continued with a smile.
I laughed, and she gave me a wink. “I just love the hair,” she said to me, then linked arms with her husband and said to him, “Don’t you just love her hair, honey?”
I waved to the couple as I left with my groceries, hit with the realization that not only had this couple NOT passed judgment on me or make assumptions about me based on my appearance, but I had done exactly that toward them. 
With everything going on in the world right now, it sure is easy to pass judgment on others and brace ourselves in a defensive stance. My brief encounter with this sweet woman in Food Lion was a great reminder to keep an open mind, avoid jumping to conclusions, and by all means, take the time to share a laugh with others, even strangers with pink hair in the grocery store.
With thanks and appreciation,
The Stranger with the Pink Hair in the Grocery Store

What Motivates Me: Time To Go Back to the Beginning

I haven’t been writing.
And when I say I haven’t been writing, I mean it’s been months. Not just days or weeks. I’m talking months since I’ve written much more than a Facebook status update.
I tell myself the noodling around I did on my novel in November for NaNoWriMo counted as writing. But it didn’t. I spent so much time revising while getting reacquainted with the characters I had abandoned since the previous year’s NaNoWriMo attempt that the actual writing of new words wasn’t really happening. And then I abandoned it again.
I tell myself I don’t have the zen writing spot in the house I moved into six months ago or the house doesn’t seem to have the right juju. But I have a whole office to myself (with a door that closes!), and I smudged my house to evict bad juju (twice).
I tell myself that I’m blocked because the last piece I wrote, a piece that was quickly accepted and published by the Washington Post, left me dealing with horrible internet trolls whose comments I had to stop reading, whose tweets I had to ignore, whose snap judgements made me question why I bothered to open myself up like that.
I tell myself I don’t have time. But I could make it.
I tell myself I don’t have the energy. But I could find it.
I tell myself I don’t have anything to write about, but there’s ALWAYS something to write about.
I tell myself that my hair stylist is right, that I’m not writing because I’m happy. And while it’s true that my most prolific periods have been during challenging times in my life, I can’t rest on that as an excuse because I plan to be happy for a very long time.
So what the hell is wrong with me?! Where are the words?!
Well, it turns out I might have finally found them hidden within a deeper message in someone else’s words.
I recently finished reading the book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H. Pink. It’s a research-based theory of motivation that explains how businesses attempt to motivate their employees in all the wrong ways. Most people assume that external motivation like money is the best motivator for hard work. But that’s not the case. In fact, studies show it often diminishes intrinsic motivation, decreases performance and kills creativity. So what does work? An approach that includes autonomy, mastery and purpose. Hmmm, I totally dig that.
I also liked the author’s explanation of the “Sawyer Effect.” Based on a fence whitewashing scene in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, this theory asserts that (1) rewards can turn play into work and (2) focusing on mastery can turn work into play.
As I read the book, I tried to apply this theory of motivation to various parts of my own life. First, I realized that’s probably why the promise of a weekly allowance no longer motivates my kids to exert much effort into their household chores. And then I realized it might be why I’m not writing.
One of the reasons this blog has collected so much dust is because I started writing for other outlets. At first I wrote for free, because let’s face it, everyone knows what the Huffington Post is and it’s a great addition to a writing resume when you’ve never gotten paid for freelancing gigs before. But then I branched out and started writing for cool websites that not only shared my work, but also –oh my gosh! — gave me money too.
So I wrote more. And got paid more. It’s not that I needed the money from freelancing. I already have a full-time job that pays the bills. No, it was the rush I got thinking I had turned something that was once a hobby into something worth being paid for.
But that rush is gone. Because just as the Sawyer Effect states, those rewards turned my play into work. I had to research media outlets, figure out what kinds of angles they wanted, how much they paid, how to submit pitches, how to write a pitch, re-submit pieces with suggested revisions. I found myself using a voice or phrases that weren’t quite my own because I was writing for a certain audience, a certain editor. I found that editors were altering my work more than I wanted, moving things around that I had placed for very particular reasons, changing headlines to get more clicks. And now with so much politically charged material out there, it took another step for me to figure out if I want to be associated with certain outlets that have veered in a more political direction than I’m comfortable with.
I’m an editor myself so I get it. I understand that’s all part of the game. I just feel like maybe it’s time to bench myself from the game for a bit so I can find my voice again.
One day during a recent meditation session my mind wandered to my writing, and I decided to follow it. At the dead end of those thoughts, I saw a big sign: Go back to the beginning.  
So I took that sign, combined it with the Sawyer Effect and ended up back here. At my blog. That I started over seven years ago with no writing background, no audience, no voice that I knew of yet, no clue whatsoever. What I did have was a desire to direct my own path (autonomy), an urge to make progress and improve at something that mattered to me (mastery), and the yearning to do something in the service of something larger than myself (purpose).
Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose. 
Those three motivators were the reasons I wrote every single day. I didn’t earn a dime. For a long time, my only audience was my parents. I wrote quickly, yet from the heart, without the fear of editors chopping my words. I actually enjoyed writing, to the point that I craved it, that something felt missing if I went a day without writing something, whether it was published publicly or journaled privately.
I want that back.
So now that I’ve had my aha moment, that I realized rewards might have turned my play into work, it’s time for me to focus on turning that work back into play. I want to enjoy writing again. I want to find my voice again. I want to use that voice to work on different projects, namely, that novel I’ve had written in my head for years but only pay attention to every November. I want to get back on the roller coaster that started it all.
Here I am.

1 2 3 61