Hit The Pause Button

Hit The Pause Button

HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON

Recently, it has really dawned on me how important it is to hit the pause button. Life is crazy busy and frankly, it doesn’t matter what stage your kids are in. The type of busy just evolves. While I talked about this a lot in The Sport of Busy post a few months back, today my focus is on specific motherhood moments to hit the pause button.

Pausing sounds so cliché. AMIRIGHT?!?! Those overheard conversations where another woman talks about how amazing it is for refreshing herself with the pause button…. I know. Easy Karen, keep on moving to your yoga class. Enough already with the Namaste talk.

First off, I’m kidding. It is absolutely important to hit the pause for ourselves. Even though I’m joking about it, my intent is not to undermine the value. However, I want to talk about three specific hit the pause button moments for motherhood. For me, those have become snuggle, sharing, and laughing moments.

Full disclosure, I was struggling a bit about how to make this come from a place that didn’t sound braggadocios. We are far from perfection on this end. In fact, I have a real fear of any of my writing sounding like I’m trying to brag about something we do right without balancing with the real, raw, far from perfect moments.

Then this morning happened. We headed to church and I was annoyed with Jake, he was annoyed with Bryce, Bryce was annoyed with Jeremy, and Jeremy was annoyed with me. We sat down in church and the irritation was palpable. Then the annoyance made a shift, not to forgiveness, but rather like a slow, squeaky wheel reversing in direction. Meaning me annoyed with Jeremy, Jeremy annoyed with Bryce, Bryce annoyed with Jake, and Jake annoyed with me. As I sat there trying to keep my cool, I laughed to myself and thought, “there it is!” This is the back to reality moment to talk to you guys about. The balance if you will.

The below discussion is about moments in time. Not all the time. Not a mindset you can have 24/7. So, my point is about pausing in THAT moment and enjoying it. Figuring out ways for yourself to hit the pause button in special motherhood moments unique to you. Furthermore, knowing it’s not going to be all the time and THAT IS OKAY!

Enjoy!

SHIFTING THE MINDSET- ALLOW YOURSELF TO PAUSE

My kids are now almost 11 and 8 AND A HALF. Never forget the half at this age. Admittedly, I did not consciously do a lot of pausing to savor the snuggling, sharing, and laughing moments until recently. It should be noted, I absolutely enjoyed them so please don’t think they were all just fleeting moments not burned into memory. But on the other hand, I don’t feel I was as intentionally present as I am now. There were always thoughts of what NEEDED TO BE DONE next coursing through my mind, for instance. Pulling my attention away from what was right in front of me in the moment.

Before you think I just tossed my to do list out the window and have closed my mind from wandering, let’s be clear. I still have both. And they rear their heads at inopportune times when I really want to be fully present.

I’ve mentioned this journey I have been on over the last year and the first main lesson out of this has been to SLOW….. DOWN…… This is tough for someone who has literally been compared to Judy Hopps, the rabbit in Zootopia dealing with a sloth at the license branch. For real. Even so, let’s hit the pause button.

SNUGGLE MOMENTS- HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON 

This past Monday was President’s Day. I had full intention of getting up and doing at least an hour of writing before a couple of coaching calls. However, Bryce curled up next to me and said, “we should relax and snuggle for a while Mom since we don’t have school.” Music to my ears! I had a smack me in the face realization as he curled up and pulled my arm around him. This isn’t going to last much longer. (cue the tears!)

We snuggled and giggled about something on the tv and I didn’t think about the growing list of things on my to do list. Not about the dishwasher needing cleared out or even the piles of laundry waiting for me since we went to parties all weekend instead of taking care of house chores. I literally hit the pause button and stayed present in this precious moment with my 8-year-old.

This sounds all well and good, but it hasn’t always been this way. Even though I may have stayed and snuggled, it would have been in mental turmoil. Knowing what my heart wanted to do but also knowing my brain wouldn’t allow this pause.

HOW DO WE HIT THE PAUSE?

Rewire the brain. While there is a ton of research out there suggesting how to rewire the brain, I literally had to find what worked for me. First off, it required me segmenting time for certain things. Allowing space for various pieces of life instead of trying to multitask.

Second, I had to be willing to compromise. Adaptability is huge. Things are going to pop up and what good is being annoyed. Conversely, adapt and compromise. Call the audible in your schedule and move on.

This didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s still a work in progress and frankly, it has taken a good year to be mediocre at it. But I learned something over the last year. Not only am I more at peace when I’m being intentional, adaptable, and not trying to multitask. But also, I’m more productive. Weird, I know!

When the thought pops into my mind during snuggle time of the “should be doings,” I’ve started to acknowledge it, make a mental note to add a section of time for the task, and then set it to the side. For me, this works. Something about the act of setting the thought to the side versus trying to push it away allows my brain to realize it’s not in conflict with me anymore but rather just needs its own space. Therefore, honoring the busy body in me while still honoring a snuggle session with my sweet boy!

SHARING MOMENTS- HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON

I’ve recently talked to a few friends about this stage of 11-year-olds we’re in. I’m unclear if it’s a change in my approach or the age, but regardless he has begun sharing more. In particular, in the car. We spend a lot of time there to and from all of their activities, as I’m sure you do too!

We talk about what’s been going on for him with school, with other kids, and in sports. Additionally, he has taken an interest in my new business ventures, even asked some very thought provoking questions about starting a business, coaching, and people’s thoughts and feelings.

First off, this has been kind of a shocking evolution. Previously, the standard answers of “fine” or “I don’t know” or “we didn’t do anything today” were a regular part of the vocabulary when discussing school or any subject for that matter. And before you think I’m a miracle worker, there are ABSOLUTELY still days where this is the standard answer!

The evolution of sharing I do believe has come down to being present. He wasn’t falling for the half-in, half-out conversation. The distracted responses. The multitasking.

Ultimately, something crazy has happened here too. The more I’ve been present in discussion with him, he then goes off doing his own thing and becomes less needy. I don’t feel guilt over being half-in, half-out so I move on to the next thing without negative feelings and freeing up more time and mental space. Another win-win.

LAUGHING MOMENTS- HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON

I have funny kids. They are obviously still trying to figure out what is funny and what is not. Humor can be confusing! Furthermore, figuring out where to draw the line after making an initial funny can be a challenge! Yep, lots of those.

But just like the sharing moments, the laughing moments have become more frequent. They absolutely say inappropriate things. Right or wrong, I’m probably laughing at it.

As someone who lost their own mother too early in life, I often think about the things I want my kids to remember about me. In my own life, I remember the fun times with my mom. Obviously, there were some not so fun times too and lessons I had to learn. But those aren’t where my mind goes with memories. It’s the fun we had.

Subsequently, I want to live life in a way my kids are going to remember how their mom had a great sense of humor and always laughed with them.

Others may want different characteristics remembered by their children and that’s great! My point is to be conscious about it. Hit the pause button when you are in the moment so it can not only burn into your memory, but theirs as well.

YOU CAN GET THIS PAUSE THING DOWN

For each awesome moment or conversation we have in the above stories, we have an equal number of tough ones. Times where I blow up because they are being ungrateful or not listening. Times they blow up because someone pissed in their Cheerios (figuratively not literally… I think). Please don’t read this through comparison eyes to your own life. Read it from a place of curiosity and potentially noting some things to try.

The key is, hit the pause button. Take the mental snapshot of your child in a moment you want to cherish. Be in a fully present state versus pulled in twenty mental directions. Do what it takes to figure out what that means for you.

Key take-aways:

  • Rewire the brain. For me segmenting time for certain things seems to be working!
  • Resist the urge to multitask. You may just find you are actually more productive NOT doing it.
  • Becoming more present in a moment could ultimately lead to not only more time, but also less mental turmoil.
  • Figuring out the key moments important to you is a good place to start in the recognition of where you want to pause.

I gave some suggestions but only you can figure it out for yourself. It takes trial and error. Additionally, it takes commitment.

All I can say is, you’ll be glad you hit the pause button.

 

To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees—these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude, and grace.  -Brene’ Brown

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New Year, New You – Why??

New Year, New You – Why??

2019 YOU TO 2020 YOU

We have officially closed the books on 2019, therefore moving on to 2020. Who’s ready?! Incidentally, doesn’t matter if you are ready or not. It happens just as sure as kids fighting over Christmas break. NEW YEAR, NEW YOU. This statement seems to be plastered all over the place this time of year and it is seriously bugging me. NEW YEAR, NEW YOU has the feel there was something drastically wrong with our 2019 self. Subsequently meaning our 2020 self NEEDS to be a new person. We HAVE to get our act together. In fact, create a version of ourselves far removed from the pathetic 2019 version in our rearview mirror.

In my mind, this is simultaneously setting ourselves up for failure. While this may sound drastic, on the other hand, think about the implications of this mindset. If we march into this new year thinking everything about ourselves is wrong, full of regret, even shameful, what does this do to our ability to sustain change about one week into the NEW YEAR, NEW YOU?

At our core, we are who we are. Without a doubt, there will be those who disagree with me. But hear me out. I’m actually coming at this from the lens of God’s amazing creation. We are unique, special and beautiful in God’s eyes. If this is the case, then why do you HAVE to create a NEW YOU just because we’ve embarked upon a new calendar year. By all means, there are characteristics we can evolve to make ourselves a better person, Christian, friend, parent, spouse, neighbor, etc, taking the opportunity to Level Up. However, take a moment and revel in what amazing strengths God created in you. You are here for a purpose just as you are.

I think this is where the NEW YEAR, NEW YOU statement bugs me. It does not have to be a NEW YOU, but rather an Upgrading, Up Leveling or Evolving You.

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU

Obviously, I’m not blind to the fact NEW YEAR, EVOLVING YOU doesn’t have the same nice ring. Regardless, let’s talk about the meaning.

According to U.S. News & World Report, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. 80%!! I loved the article by Daniel Wallen regarding the failures of New Year’s resolutions. One line stuck out to me: “You’re Treating a Marathon Like a Sprint.” As a Life & Career Coach, all I can say is #truth.

Despite the myriad of reasons resolutions or just goals in general are not accomplished, I want to focus for a moment on expectations. Imagine with me two very different scenarios:

You walk into 2020 focused on all of your failures from the previous year. You and your spouse argued. Your kids were rude in front of your mother-in-law and you snapped… on more than one occasion. The promotion you thought was all but inked fell through at the last minute. The scale crept UP another five pounds instead of decreasing by the ten you set out to hit. Fill in some “fails” as you think about this. At this point, clearly 2020 just HAS to be a NEW YEAR, NEW YOU.

NEW YEAR, EVOLVING YOU

Conversely, you walk into 2020 feeling positive about how you lived out the last year. In terms of parenting, your kids of course had their moments, but in hindsight really proved to you through action they are doing kind things for others. Additionally, you set out in 2019 to be more intentional about engaging conversation with them (read: put the phone down) and aside from August when you were all tired of each other from summer break, it was absolutely a success.

While the scale crept up a few more pounds, you feel in shape with better all-around well-being because you honored a work-out plan for the year. You and your spouse took a couples only vacation and showed the kids it’s important to focus on each other.

Not getting the promotion opened your eyes to perceived value at your company. This eye opener has you now considering a shift to something really lighting your soul on fire. Again, fill in some of your own wins here. In addition, view areas you want to focus on for 2020 as opportunities. NEW YEAR, EVOLVING YOU.

THIS to me is the difference in NEW YEAR, NEW YOU versus NEW YEAR, EVOLVING YOU.

POSITIVE SPIN

Indeed, this undoubtedly has the art of spin hard at work (I was a PR major after all). However, which version of the above supports you more impactfully? Even sets you up for moving in a POSITIVE direction in a SUSTAINABLE way.

Just slightly different than the marathon version, right? You know the one… where you sprint out of the gates only make it to mile two before sputtering out and throwing in the towel.

Positive spin or not, NEW YEAR, EVOLVING YOU is starting to have a more soothing ring to it.

Now you have a more positive view of yourself. What is the next step? Where is your opportunity?

Here’s a hint… make it achievable. No, this isn’t cheating. It’s still considered a change, but making a sustainable change is about making a new HABIT. Additionally, why not use the power of momentum to further you towards your goals?

ACHIEVABLE CHANGE

I’ll take you through one small but effective change for myself, as an example. I wanted to establish a more consistent bedtime this year. While I always thought I thrived as a night owl, I started to notice the toll on my body with the inconsistency of my bedtime routine. Bedtimes ranging from 8:30 pm when I was too exhausted to keep going one night. Conversely, 1 am the next night because I was on a roll. Circadian Rhythm for me was not a thing. (hint: not good)

First, I made a few negotiations with myself:

  • This bedtime thing had to be reasonable.
  • Weeknights between 10 and 10:30 pm.
  • Weekend couldn’t be super regimented, or I would not stick with it. Goal for weekends then became about getting a minimum of 7 hours of sleep versus a set time.
  • Putting away the phone and turning off the tv at 10 pm if not before.

Second, there needed to be a measurable success with the attempt:

  • Feeling a difference in myself after one week, two weeks, etc.
  • Quantifiable successes- increased time spent in REM and Deep sleep according to my FitBit, lowering resting heart rate.

Finally, the success of this has led to additional goals set:

  • With the new focus on resting heart rate, I now want to get it below 60. Why? Well, why not? I’m already really close!
  • Reading just 10 minutes before bed has also increased my sleep score for more restful sleep. There is an added goal of reading time now. Which is, of course, a win-win.

NEW YEAR, EVOLVING ME.

HAVE TO VERSUS WANT TO

I hope this example is resonating my point for you. It starts with one small step but being very intentional about it. This step then snowballs into another step and another. Maybe even a step you would not have created in the first place as it wasn’t on your radar before, like my resting heart rate!

Without a doubt, you will want the goal and strategies for achievement to be a WANT TO, versus a HAVE TO. Putting you at choice out of the gate. It should be noted, this is a biggie for me. Over the last year, I have changed my language. Moving away from have to, should, and need to statements. BE GONE non-choice words!!! If I’m setting out to do something, it’s because I WANT to.

Give it a try. Make a statement saying: “I HAVE to ______.” Now say the same phrase “I WANT to _____.” Your body even reacts to this language.

Of course, one could argue no one WANTS to unload the dishwasher. Feels like a have to, right? Reframe with me for a moment. I want clean dishes and an organized kitchen of an evening for a clean slate tomorrow. So, I WANT to clean out the dishwasher now, get it done, and I’ll be so much happier tomorrow when it comes time to make dinner. A means to an end. Knock it out. Okay, now let’s go!

I didn’t say you had to go into the kitchen screaming out chants like a cheerleader about your excitement over the dishwasher. All I’m suggesting here is looking at the task a little differently. It’s a means to an end for something you WANT, so theoretically the act of clearing out the dishwasher is a WANT as well. Not a need to, have to, should do item. In fact, make the choice. Do you want to do it or not? If you don’t and tomorrow you are frustrated with yourself, well make a different choice the next night.

There is great joy and freedom in choice. However, we too often forget we are at choice when it comes to making changes in our life.

SUMMARIZE NEW YEAR, EVOLVING YOU

The key to any goal is sustainable change. Furthermore, sustainable change typically doesn’t happen by going from couch potato to marathon runner in a week. Change takes time, but it has to start somewhere. Why not start with one small change.

As you look to your 2020, try something a little different than previous years. Focus on the positives. Focus on your strengths. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done in 2019.

Now look for opportunities of personal growth and figure out one small change. Focusing on the following:

  • Want to language for your change
  • Achievable and reasonable goals and strategies to get there
  • The feeling you want out of accomplishment

It’s a NEW YEAR, time to EVOLVE YOU into the best version of yourself. Enjoy the process!

 

If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.  – Maya Angelou

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Keeping Magic in Christmas

Keeping Magic in Christmas

MAGIC & STRESS OF CHRISTMAS

Christmas has an amazing way of being incredibly magical while also the most stressful time of year. Who’s with me?!? Keeping magic in Christmas is top of mind for me right now. We have one believing in Santa and one not, which creates a whole new set of challenges I don’t feel like anyone educated me about. Clearly a ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ fail.

First and foremost, we want to hold on to the magic for our children. Not only making the holiday season fun for them, but also a special time full of memories we will ALL cherish. In addition, teaching lessons about the true meaning of CHRISTmas and modeling a generous spirit.

In contrast, the pressure of ALL OF THE ABOVE can be almost too much to bear! I’ve stopped just short of making myself a checklist of all the lessons needing to be taught this time of year. However, the task list is stupid full as I’m sure yours is as well! WHERE DOES IT END?!?!

Maybe you are a “Christmas tree up the day after Halloween” kind of family. No judgment…. Alternatively, we decorate for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. First off, it’s likely because we host the Thanksgiving festivities every year. Second, I tend to enjoy fall décor! Undoubtedly, my 20-year-old self wants to punch me in the face right now. Fall décor Heather?!?!? What have you become?! But I digress.

EARLY YEARS- CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

Tears literally come to my eyes when I begin reminiscing. Jake and Bryce’s sweet innocence in the years they were really captivated by the magic of Christmas, oh my aching heart! The sparkle in their eyes. Complete joy and excitement over all of the holiday spirit. Accordingly, toys and presents were a part of it, however I’m referring more to ALL of the other stuff.

Twinkling lights and driving through the Reynolds Christmas display, an annual tradition. Reindeer coming to school. Church Christmas pageants and wondering if Bryce would actually stay up front with Jake or not. Baking and present wrapping for friends and family. Getting out their box of special ornaments every year and the memories each hold. Whether they have the story correct or not, irrelevant. The funny Santa visits of pure excitement and terror all wrapped into one delightful picture. After Christmas Eve service, coming home to sprinkle the “reindeer food” they made at pre-school on the front lawn.

(I’m not crying, you’re crying!)

Gingerbread houses and the terrifying Gingerbread man at Conner Prairie. Okay, a memory likely still haunting Bryce so forget that one actually. In Bryce’s defense, the big brown blob of a character was a smidge on the creepy side, even for the adults.

The sheer excitement of finding Steve the elf after his nightly quest to pay Santa a visit and get back before dawn. Correct, our elf’s name is Steve. He likely beats up all of the Sprinkle, Glitter, and Sparkle named elves when they get to the north pole each night. Why? Because his name is Steve! Santa has Steve’s beer in hand when he arrives from the long flight and they kick back until dawn talking about the Lowey house pranks and what a saint Mom Lowey is on a daily basis. Definitely happening all while Sprinkle, Glitter, and Sparkle put in the work at the toy shop.

Wait, where was I?

MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS EXHAUSTION

Oh yeah, magic of Christmas. Without a doubt, it’s exhausting for parents to keep up the charade of hiding and sneaking. Shoot, what’s from Santa and what’s from us?? Where do we hide this GIANT box for two weeks? Did I just slip up and talk about last year’s Santa gift and where we BOUGHT it?! Crap.

Plastering on Christmas cheer for family activities when you just want to fall flat on your face into your pillow.

Obviously, I get it. Been there, done that. But for those with kids still believing in all of the hype, all of the magic, all of what Christmas stands for in their little minds, TREASURE IT.

Correct, I’m siding with Karen on this one. In short, you’re going to miss it. I know, I can be really annoying sometimes. Nevertheless, I promise.

Yes, life will get easier without the hiding and not having to be so damn creative all the time. While easier is awesome too, consequently you miss the innocent wonder in your house. In addition, the new challenge exists of how to continue to instill in them there is truly magic around Christmas.

Oh sweetheart, it’s still stressful and crazy as hell. I’m not telling you to enjoy EVERY moment. You can be frustrated and absolutely should kick the stupid elf. When the kids aren’t looking, of course. Why do you think our elf is tied up sometimes?

KISS (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID)

Buy some break & bakes instead of baking some fancy cookie. People will still eat them AND love them. Throw some flour on your face for effect and no one will be the wiser. In fact, drink wine in the kitchen while the break & bake cookies are in the oven instead of trying to follow a multi-step recipe. Genius!

After the frustration though, take a moment to reflect and fill your heart with gratitude and dare I say it…. magic. Savor the completely innocent look in their eyes as they tell you a long, drawn-out story about finding Steve hanging from a ceiling fan with all of their underwear. Giggle and enjoy the moment just like they are.

The Mom Huddle-Keeping Magic in Christmas with Steve the elf hanging in underwear on ceiling fan

Steve the elf hanging from a ceiling fan in the boys’ underwear!

Girlfriend, I know it’s hard. We have to be so grown up all the time and sometimes being grown up sucks. Additionally, when your to do list is a mile long, allowing your little one to help wrap presents is about THE FURTHEST FROM PRODUCTIVE you can get. But I beg of you, allow them. Why? Because it’s not only going to be one of their favorite memories to look back on fondly, it’s going to be yours too.

I laugh at the number of things in our house we did once and the next year, they were suddenly TRADITION. “We ALWAYS make Rolo Pretzel Bites on baking day Mom!” Oh. Well we did it last year because it was something easy, I thought you guys could handle. But okay, it’s now tradition. Note to self, they don’t care how easy it is…. it can still be a tradition! #truth

KEEPING THE MAGIC

Jake has entered the phase of being “in the know.” We’ve had some really neat discussions around how the magic of Christmas still exists regardless of Santa’s actual presence. For the record, I can’t take credit for this magic discussion.

A viral story I saw a few years ago was SO HELPFUL! Addressing how Christmas tends to bring out the best in people was a good place to start. Above all, it is people having a generous spirit in making others’ dreams come true, especially this time of year. Generosity and love are the really important pieces of the magic.

As a big 5th grader, I asked if he had friends who still believed. His response:

“Yeah, just a few. Now that I know, it’s funny when they tell stories about Santa or their elf. It makes me laugh. But not at them. I like it. I don’t want to ruin it for them.”

Be still my heart.

HOLDING ON – KEEPING MAGIC IN CHRISTMAS

The question around Santa’s existence can be a parent’s worst nightmare. WHAT DO YOU SAY? This was the discussion recently with friends at a Christmas party, following by a ton of laughter around the panicked responses.

My favorite though was a friend whose daughter is wise beyond her years and an amazing critical thinker. They were loading shoeboxes of gifts for children in Haiti. Amy mentioned they needed to think about the gifts carefully as this was probably the only gift the child would receive at Christmas, “let’s make it special.” Her daughter said, “well, they will get their gift from Santa too, mom!”

Amy panicked. She started down a path of talking about socio-economic differences and how Santa likely doesn’t visit Haiti because it would not be fair if all children didn’t get gifts and because it’s a poor country other people around the world are generously making sure kids of Haiti get gifts….. you get the picture. She totally went down a panic rabbit hole. And we laughed. Hard. Like, tears down my face can’t breathe kind of hard.

But if we’re honest, we’ve all had those moments of not really knowing how to answer the question. It has this feeling of loss of innocence associated with belief or not in Santa. The magic of Christmas isn’t tied to the man in the red suit, BUT he sure is a big part of it.

My advice to you is to figure out what the magic is for your family. There are resources out there like the article I referenced for ways to talk about it. Figure out the traditions you want to keep alive and just like those days you worked so hard at the game of charades, work hard to preserve them. Okay, maybe not QUITE as hard. No ladders to hang Steve from the ceiling beam with nerf darts. Nonetheless, you’ll likely want to make an effort. Additionally, you may be pleasantly surprised by the things your kids want to cling onto because it’s just as special to them as it once was to you.

The Mom Huddle- Keeping Magic in Christmas- Steve the elf hanging from the ceiling by nerf darts

Steve the elf hanging from the ceiling by Nerf darts!

YOU’VE GOT THIS MOM

In conclusion, tonight after everyone goes to bed, turn everything off but the Christmas spirit. Just sit in the twinkling glow of your beautiful Christmas lights and absorb. In the quiet and peacefulness of the Christmas glow, you will feel it. You, momma, will feel the magic. You will know all of the hard-work, sleepless nights, and charades of elves, Santa, and whatever other magical games played were worth it.

The magic still exists because you created something wonderful for your children. They know in their hearts the meaning of Christmas and the magic in this wonderful time of year.

Well done momma. Well done.

Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more. – Dr. Seuss

 

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Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

Before we dive in, I don’t believe this is your typical thankful, grateful, blessed… oh my gosh Thanksgiving is next week type of post. Chances are, if you are a reader of my blog, you’ve basically got your s**t together. Note, I didn’t say ALL together nor ALL the time, but there are more opportunities in your life than crushing defeats. In fact, you’ve “got it going on” most days even if there is some self-doubt present. Frankly, you’re living an awesome life and are super thankful for it.

Today though, let’s talk about ways we can CHOOSE to be thankful, grateful, and blessed even in moments of motherhood and life frustration. Additionally, those  unconventional things we are thankful for and the way in which they support us in centering ourselves in gratefulness for ALL of the amazing things we have in this life.

NORMAL GRATEFUL

My assumption is you are more like me than different. For instance, you are grateful for your spouse, children (yes, even the crying one), family (okay, most of them), your home (drafty windows and all), your amazing abilities and strengths, your kids’ school, your friends, you get the picture. Also, I’m not downplaying how incredibly blessed we are as a society to be able to list these things AND with incredible ease for the most part. We DO feel grateful. Thanksgiving is a wonderful yearly reminder of this.

On the other hand, sometimes we can feel guilt when tinges of ungratefulness emerge. Guilty for not being INTENTIONALLY grateful. Why? Because we know so many others long for a smidge of what we have. For instance, hearing about kids at our very own school who require food assistance over breaks to have enough food to eat. This pulls at my heart strings and absolutely makes me feel guilt for not being more thankful for the MANY opportunities as well as physical THINGS I have and take for granted in a lot of ways.

GUILTY THANKFULNESS

On a personally emotional note, I long to be able to talk to my mom in person again. It stings so badly at times. Seeing an “I feel so blessed to have my mom” or a “my mom is a life-saver with the kids” post by someone pulls out a jealousy inside me I did not realize existed before losing my mom. My face may plaster on a smile and I’ll even utter, “ah, so sweet.” But my heart and my mind get, well, sort of pissy. No, I’m not mad at the poster for having their mom and being grateful. Conversely, I’m angry at a situation I can’t control.

Apparently, my truth serum is coming out today! So, here’s another one. My sister and I laugh sometimes when people say “I’m so blessed for….. (fill in the blank).” This statement MAY get a big eyeroll from the Quirk sisters. It’s not that we don’t believe you are feeling blessed. In general, blessed just seems to be overused or something. Highly likely we’re just reading into the statement with a tone of sarcasm, so by default it doesn’t feel intentional. Obviously, this is quite possibly coming from a cynical place. On the other hand, maybe we’ve just seen too many décor signs of “Thankful, Grateful, Blessed,” and along the way it’s lost the intention for us.

Even so, the point I want to make is this. Sometimes we feel guilt surrounding feelings of gratefulness. Which ironically spirals into more guilt. Not only feeling shame from emotions popping up conflicting a grateful heart, but also feeling we “should” be thankful! Taking our choice out of it. The conflict of our head demanding thankfulness meanwhile our heart in a moment of frustration. Indeed, a moral conflict even if only for a fleeting second. Another great conundrum of motherhood!

Alternatively, what if we thought of thankfulness in different terms? Realizing the feeling of gratefulness doesn’t always have to come from the grandiose in our lives, for instance.

NEW TWIST ON THANKFUL

A couple of years ago, instead of doing the traditional “say something you are thankful for” around the table after our Thanksgiving meal, we changed things up. Everyone had to name something OTHER THAN family, friends, home, gifts/talents, jobs, etc. etc. Making the assumption, we’re all grateful for the “normal” stuff. We are all blessed. In fact, we’re fortunate enough to be able to blurt these things out without having to put too much time and effort in thinking about them. Therefore, a new twist to the thankful game. Delightful!

Want to know what I said? Night facial cream. I know, SO RANDOM. But I love to come home, wash my face, and smear on the ridiculously expensive but cooling and soothing night cream. No, this isn’t a shameless plug for sponsorship, I’m not even going to name the brand I use! But I find it relaxing and a sign for me the evening is winding down and I can rest after a full, productive day.

Before the Thanksgiving a couple years ago, I’d never thought about the fact I was extremely grateful for something like…. Night facial cream. Now I am. Now, about each time I open the jar and smell the aroma of relaxation and sleep in my near future, I’m thankful.

RANDOM THANKFULNESS

Some other super random things I’m thankful for?

First, Apple slicers. You know, the tool that in one quick motion gives you 8 perfect slices you can throw in a bowl for a quick snack. Genius!

Second, Clorox wipes. I mean, what did we do without these??? They were invented in my lifetime, but I really don’t remember the “before Clorox wipes” life. There seems to be this weird timeline of Heather’s born, life lived, Clorox wipes invented, now Heather’s real life begins. I literally clean up cat vomit, spilled milk, unknown weird looking substance on the floor, bathroom sinks before guests arrive, you name it, Clorox wipes are wiping it.

Third, Sweatpants. Need I say more? Comfort in the form of fleece delightfulness.

Next, Folding chairs. We host a lot of stuff at our house and even though we have two full dining room table and chair sets, we never have enough chairs. What would we do without folding chairs???

And how about no tangle ponytail holders. I would honestly need to shave my head if ponytail holders didn’t exist, because let’s be honest, I use one daily. AND no tangle to boot! Sold.

Finally, Oatmeal Cream Pies. Delicious little cookies individually wrapped so I have to consciously think before I go in for a second one. Well played Little Debbie. Well played. Smart actually. If these were in an Oreo type packaging, I’d eat the entire box. Instead, I will savor this one cookie. Or hide the second wrapper from my kids.

30 DAYS OF GRATEFUL… OR 7

I’ve done 30 days of grateful challenges before and it is really amazing how your heart and perspective changes as you focus on gratefulness. I’ve even more recently started the exercise of thinking of three things I’m grateful for the minute I wake up in the morning. Before teeth brushing, looking at the phone, starting coffee, talking to anyone, just a mental clarity moment of thinking about the three things I want to be grateful for that particular morning. Unquestionably, starting off the morning in this mindset is a game-changer. And this is coming from someone who hates morning. Period.

It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack. – Germany Kent

Despite what may normally top out your 30 days of gratefulness though, why not try a new twist? We have 7 days before Thanksgiving. My challenge to you is this. For the next 7 days, write a list of the 7 super random things in your life you are grateful for. Feel free to share it with us in the comments below too!

Being grateful for the smallest things in our life can have a large impact on not being overwhelmed by what we “should” be grateful for. Putting a renewed focus on the simplicity of life. In addition, having subtle prompts of those little things we’re thankful for can be fun reminders to CHOOSE gratefulness in a day. Using an apple slicer, for instance! Bringing a smile to your face the next time you wipe up cat vomit because you remember there really was a life before Clorox wipes, and it was a dark and ugly time in our history.

THANKFUL, GRATEFUL, BLESSED

Ladies, if you are reading this it means you have access to technology through a phone or computer, likely both. You are thankful for the amazing opportunities in life. Additionally, you are grateful for the wonderful family and friends surrounding you. Lastly, you are blessed beyond measure and realize it with a beaming heart.

Continue to be grateful. However, in moments of guilt when the inner cynic is playing mind games with you, remember your night cream. Thankfulness can come in the smallest and even silliest of ways. Just CHOOSE to be thankful, grateful, and blessed.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William Arthur Ward

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Who’s In Your Huddle?

Who’s In Your Huddle?

THE FIVE IN YOUR HUDDLE

First and foremost, I have to admit something. This version of Who’s In Your Huddle was not the first or second or third version of this story. In fact, I scrapped all of the previous ones. If you are thinking, “who cares?” it’s okay. However, I’m telling you this because it taught me a lesson. Furthermore, it’s a lesson I think we all need to hear from time to time. Here goes…. If something is not resonating with you, listen to your gut. My gut was telling me something about what I was writing wasn’t quite what it needed to be.

Before you ask, this has EVERYTHING to do with Who’s In Your Huddle. Stick with me, I promise we’ll get there.

I’ve spent a majority of 2019 trying to get myself back into the right headspace. While this statement is way more dramatic than I mean for it to sound, it’s true. Unquestionably, I wanted to do something different in my professional life. Nevertheless, the WHAT has been less clear. Part of my journey to self-discovery (again, way fancier sounding than it actually is) has involved attending workshops, conferences, and various speaker series this year. Attending these types of events has fired me up on so many levels! Additionally, I’m amazed at one common theme which continues to emerge. The importance of the five people with whom you surround yourself. In particular, who’s in your huddle?

In fact, your personal huddle is one of the most important factors into who you become. Unquestionably influencing our evolution as an individual.

HEAD AND GUT SPACE

What is the feeling in your gut when hearing this next statement? “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Positive vibes and happy thoughts you are right where you need to be? Or conversely, some anxiety or unease in applying those words back to your own circle?

At this time, I feel incredibly fortunate with who’s in my huddle. As a matter of fact, mine extends well beyond five people. Without a doubt, what I call the starting five seems to change week-to-week. Why? First, life is busy and in a lot of ways dictated by the kids’ activities. Second, career and personal factors affect who I am around on any given day or week.

Even so, I’m imagining a tap in, tap out system of my network. They probably have a SignUpGenius I know nothing about. “Who’s got Heather?” I’m then envisioning someone stepping up and saying, “it’s me! She needs better focus for her business this week. I’m on it!” Or someone else, “she needs serious help with the kids. The red heads (Heather and Jake) are basically water and oil again today. I’ll talk her down!”

While this incredible system is not true in the LITERAL sense, reflection of my current network sure FEELS this way. MY PEOPLE absolutely have an incredible knack for being there physically or emotionally at just the right moment.

Who's In Your Huddle- 3 Mom friend posing

Mendy & Mo, part of my support team!

WHO’S IN MY HUDDLE?

While this is all well and good to hear, how do we get ourselves to a place of peace around the WHO in our huddle? If you are anything like me, there’s nothing better than a good checklist! #nerd

For instance, here is what I would include in a list of requirements for my huddle:

  • Authenticity
  • Support
  • Comfortable
  • Space to dream and brainstorm
  • No judgment
  • Fun focused
  • Challenges me to be more

It should be noted, this is where re-write two (or maybe it was three) came into play. After listing out the above, I then went into detail about all of the ways my huddle(s) provides these characteristics for me. Despite this being a wonderful tribute to those supporting my evolution, at the end of the day, no one reading this gives a s**t. BAM. Subsequently, THAT’S what was not resonating with me.

It’s not that you don’t care about me. On the contrary, you probably do! But at the end of the day, I wanted this article to be a reflection of you. What your five people bring to YOU. Furthermore, if your current five people are NOT bringing in some of your newfound characteristics, how do you create a new community for yourself?

If I write thousands of words about how amazing, awesome, and fantastic my huddle is, frankly, you should roll your eyes and move on to another article. How is it serving you? My gut was trying to tell me this three times over. The writing about my own experiences was going against the very topic I wanted to drive home to you! What characteristics do YOU need from YOUR support team?

WHO’S IN YOUR HUDDLE

First, let’s start by listing the characteristics you want out of your support network. Keep in mind, these aren’t the requirements of EACH individual. Instead, you want each of the characteristics SOMEWHERE in your starting five. After all, you aren’t putting together a team of all point guards!

Second, who’s currently in your huddle? This could consist of spouse, partner, co-worker, boss, mentor, college friend, mom friend, business friend, business partner, counselor, life coach, high school friend, sister, cousin, aunt, mom, networking group, etc, etc, etc.

After making this list, compare your huddle with your characteristic list. What does your gut tell you? In particular, what is missing?

Lastly, remember, the quote we started with? “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I encourage you to think about something else based on this statement. Are you the smartest or most successful person in your huddle? How can you add someone to your team who pushes you to Up Level consistently? Adding someone to your circle at a higher level of success will undoubtedly make you strive to achieve more. They can support you to see potential in something because of their different vantage point. Interesting perspective for sure!

STOP FRETTING

How does it feel to think about not only your people, but also to some extent analyze their worth in your life? Maybe a bit too much judgment for your liking, for instance? Absolutely, it can feel this way. Or guilt over analyzing a friendship or mentor relationship? Without a doubt, it’s a weird feeling.

Despite those emotions, stop yourself from feeling guilt over this exercise. Pull yourself instead into a mindset of clarity. You are trying to gain clarity on what is best for YOU. Obviously, there is NOTHING wrong with that!

Additionally, it’s important to step back once in a while and dig into what you want as a person. Ensuring you are fulfilling your own needs. As much as we examine the food we put into our body and ensuring its health value, it’s just as important to examine who we surround ourselves with. The vibe and energy they bring. The support they provide. Furthermore, ensuring our own success by checking off the characteristics we want out of our own support network.

Besides, you aren’t necessarily dropping friends because of this. At the end of the day, you have choices. It can often feel like we don’t have choices in life. It’s key to remember though, we DO have a choice in the people we spend our time with. Yes, there may be obligations you feel compelled to uphold. However, it’s your CHOICE to uphold those obligations. On the contrary, you may decide spending time with one individual has been more like a virus to your soul and it’s time to make a new choice.

I encourage you to keep in mind this notion of choice. The WHO in your huddle is your choice. Don’t undervalue what it is providing for you.

WRAPPING UP

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to build your own community. This is your life. Besides, looking back one day and wishing you had pushed yourself “back in the day” to build a better support team can actually be avoided now.

Therefore, I’m encouraging you to take a look at the starting five on your team. If this fills you with joy in knowing it’s right where you want to be, awesome! Conversely, if you feel a void, figure out what is missing.

Now, go build your huddle.

It’s been fascinating to witness the topic of who you surround yourself with brought up by highly successful people in a variety of forums. The importance of this subject clearly overlooked by so many of us. Who’s in your huddle? What did your gut just tell you?

Now it’s time to go be the best version of yourself! Last but not least, celebrate your amazing teammates in this thing called life!

If we start telling new, more positive, and empowering stories, not only does the social script shift, the culture follows suit. – Michelle Gielan 

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The Sport of Busy

The Sport of Busy

GAMES ARE CANCELLED

Who has not silently cheered upon receipt of this text or email?  “Due to the rain, games are cancelled for this evening.” Let’s be honest, I’m a super visually emotional person, therefore, my cheering is RARELY silent! YAAAAASSSSSSS!!!!!! Please tell me you know the feeling. In summary, life is a sport of busy no matter what your game plan is.

Within seconds of receiving the text, you have moved on to thoughts of accomplishing a mental list of the eight THOUSAND things you are going to get done with this sudden free evening. No games or practices!!!! I mean, are you KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!?! Hallelujah!

By the way, you love the games and hanging with other awesome parents during the evening. It serves as social time for you with people who are living a lot of the same life circumstances. Who doesn’t love that connection! In addition, seeing your kids out there having fun and doing something they love is great. However, a bonus free night and the relaxation as a result of a peaceful, steady rain to top it off? Sign me up.

We’ve all been there. Furthermore, if you have any guilt over feeling excited about this, you need to drop that RIGHT NOW sister. Good Lord! We’re allowed to have thoughts and emotions too.

In short, life with children is busy. For the record, not just when they are in activities and have games. Incidentally, any point with kids can be summed up by one phrase…. MOTHERHOOD IS A SPORT OF BUSY.

THE SPORT OF BUSY

Consequently, I’m finding the busy just evolves over time. As babies, you are busy figuring out how to parent. Feeding your cute little bundle every few hours is exhausting. In addition, the “are we cut out for this?” or “am I doing this right?” thoughts which run through your mind all day, every day. All the what if’s, questions, and self-doubt in the first year of life. Keeping your mind busy and racing while you are physically caring for your baby.

Toddler busy. Pretty sure I don’t even need to add anything to this statement. HOLY BUSY CHILD, BATMAN!

Furthermore, we then start to sign them up for age appropriate activities. Reasons for doing so include keeping them active, meeting new friends, learning teamwork, and being a part of something. By the way, this is honorable and really a necessary part of childhood and their development. You go momma! Conversely though, you have managed to complicate your life ten-fold when you now add chauffeur and game attendee to your growing list of responsibilities including career woman, spouse, and mom.

WHO IS NOT BUSY?

I attended the Integrating Women Leaders conference recently. IWL put on a wonderful conference on Uniting Our Power. LOVED IT!! Like, legit… it was incredible. As a result, this is fair warning I’m probably going to talk a lot about it in the next few blog posts. You have been warned.

During one of the break-out sessions, I sat next to a lovely woman I had not met previously. As we began talking, we did the typical, “what do you do for a living?” and “oh, do you know so and so?”  By the way, I always promise myself I will come up with something different and then forget until mid-conversation. #foreheadsmack

Anyway, she referenced dreading these events beforehand thinking of all of the THINGS she has to do at work and will be missing. However, upon arrival she is  always beyond happy she maintained her commitment to coming. “I hate letting the word busy get in my way, who’s not busy, right?!”

So true.

Drop the mic my new friend.

Another one of the speakers, Coach Dar, spoke about our own personal development and while it is likely the most important thing for us to do for our own personal and professional growth, it’s almost always the first thing we let go when life gets BUSY. #truth

Similarly, I have skipped personal development opportunities put on by my employers because I was “just too busy.” (forehead smack) Dreaded a conference the day before even though I was elated when I signed up for it? Guilty. Why do we do this?

BUSY AS A BADGE OF HONOR

Do you wear your BUSY as a badge of honor? We talk about it. Commiserate about it. Frankly, it feels like if you have to suffer the busy, then you might as well make it a good thing. While I’m all about making lemonade out of lemons, I tend to disagree here. To clarify, I have TOTALLY worn BUSY as a badge of honor. So no, I’m not calling you out without a big heap of my own self-reflection. In this case, the busy conversation with my new friend at IWL really got me thinking.

Why do we as women do this to ourselves? Everyone’s definition of busy is different. This doesn’t make one individual’s dictionary right or wrong. Likewise, they have their own barometer. I recently heard Marcia Barnes speak on Ceilings and Curveballs at Linking Indy Women. To paraphrase, we all have curveballs in life and yours aren’t bigger or smaller than someone else’s. They are big to you and that is okay. She encourages women to take comparison out.

Similarly, I feel this applies to BUSY in our lives. Your busy life doesn’t need to be compared with someone else’s busy and wearing a silly badge prouder and larger. You are busy. They are busy. End of story.

In addition, I find the women who, on paper, seem to have the most going on, often seem to be the ones who talk the least about their busy. They appear to just embrace it, for instance. Taking time to have a good conversation with a friend. Time to volunteer, work-out, do personal development, a myriad of other things in addition to being career woman and mom. First off, they may not have it all together either. In this case though, how are they gliding through the BUSY with seeming ease?

THE WHY IN BUSY

Let’s take this a step further and put on our 3-year-old hat for a second.

Why?

Why are you so busy?

Are there things you are doing you can stop? If you answered NO too quickly, I’m going to ask the toddler question again.

Why?

If you have a good answer you can feel down in your heart and think through rationally with your brain, then good. Move forward. Conversely, if you are struggling again in either the heart or the brain for the answer…. toddler yourself again. WHY AM I DOING THIS?

Furthermore, giving yourself a break is not only in the “games are cancelled, and you have a free night” sense. It really is about giving yourself a mental break and accepting grace when we make mistakes. Yes, you need a physical break from the running around to and from practices, games, parties, and club pick-up and drop-off. But how many times have you beaten yourself up over a conversation with your child which did not end the way you wanted. You yelled. You hit the end of your patience rope. Or you have not had a sit-down family meal in over a week and there is an incredible amount of guilt over this. You forgot the field-trip permission slip and received a stern email from the teacher about the need for this form immediately. Maybe you showed up late or forgot your part of the pitch-in for the church gathering.

Forgive yourself. Give yourself the grace you would give any other mom in this situation.

A BUSY CRITIC

We are our own worst critics. If you are living a life of comparison to mom A, B, and C, you are not living your own life. Be you.

It really can be this simple.

In a life of comparison and competition, you will never be the God created person you were meant to be. God did not create each of us with our own individual talents and abilities for us to suddenly morph into Stepford wives. ICK! Everyone has their own special talents. You recognize this in other moms and compliment them on their abilities. Are you giving yourself this same grace with your own abilities? Are you focusing on the talents you bring to the table?

In this giant motherhood huddle, we need to remind ourselves we are doing our own personal best every day. Our personal best, some days, may not be knocking it out of the ball park, but rather pure survival. And you know what? THAT IS OKAY.

In short, next time you receive the text “games are cancelled for this evening,” let it serve as a trigger. This trigger is to remind YOU to give yourself the grace you deserve. You are a good mom and doing your personal best every day. Now go out there and dance in the rain.

If you want to be happy, put your effort into controlling the sail, not the wind. – Anonymous 

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