I’m Ready

My journal entries are often inspired by authors whose words resonate with me. I completely agree that you will connect with a book in different ways depending on where you are in your life. I picked up Cheryl Richardson’s book, Waking Up in Winter, because of the sub-title: In Search of What Really Matters in Mid-life. I figured I could connect to some of it. Plus it was written in journal form, and since I’m working on a book about journaling. I thought I could get some insight.

 

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On page 23, she writes about how saying no after always saying yes can rock the boat of life. For those who start saying no, it can be very positive, but those “around them get upset and start questioning the new behavior because change feels scary and unsettling to the safe and familiar tribe.” (23)

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I have taken to opening a page daily in Melody Beattie’s book, Journey to the Heart. This morning I read a passage called, Are You Ready, Willing, & Able? (283) It’s dated for October 1. Significant month for me. I read it out loud to my dogs. They need daily inspiration as well! When I finished, Dakota my 105 pound rescue placed his paw on the book and stared at me. “OK!” I said. “I am ready, willing, and able!”

Melody’s entry was about being ready to get what I want. Once I know what I want I have to tell a friend, shout it out to the world, and probably let my dogs know. Then watch how I feel about it, observe what obstacles jump in my path, the fears, doubts, and distractions that prevent me from being ready.

Hmm. When two books collide to push me along my path, I have to listen. I have written about my amazing tribe. Some might clamor for me to say ‘no’ more while others might wonder what is wrong with me.

Even as I write this, huge blocks are being thrown in my way. It’s because I’m a people pleaser. I hate to disappoint even if my soul’s purpose is dying on the side of the road. The one word I would change in Melody’s passage is ‘want.’ It’s not about getting what I want. It’s about getting what I ‘need.’

Through the many years of journaling, yoga, and deep soul searching, I have learned my path is led by my words. I was meant to be a writer, to share my stories, to entertain, to offer hope. In addition, I need to share my craft with others, so that they can find their own voice, healing, and purpose.

I was on that path 10 years ago when my son became ill. Yes, I have continued to write, publish, and teach, but I need to do it more. I need to jump in and submerge myself in this world of words to follow the path I veered from 10 years ago.

Ironically, the foundation that my husband and I started in memory of Nick is in line with my passion to write. My words have helped families battling cancer. I have written about the inspiring stories that move me. I can still do this, but I have to make space for more of it.

Don’t worry, Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation is still here. But we are changing some of our focus based on what the children, young adults and families need emotionally when facing a cancer diagnosis or to heal from losing a child. How fortunate for me that my gift of expression can fulfill my mission to help children with cancer and beyond.

But to do this, I have to say no to other opportunities within the foundation, within my life, and people’s expectations of me. I know I will disappoint some and that is a block I am learning to set aside. Remember my prompt on Emotional Strength? If you need training on how to remove a block, check that one out.

Sharing that I am growing my writing and teaching career is scary, but it’s so exciting. I have characters and worlds in me clawing to get out. I have a support system that lifts me daily and urges me to follow this journey. If you notice this shift, know that nothing is wrong. Just like my husband and I encouraged our boys to live fulfilling lives, I am doing the same.

Letting go of other’s expectations of me and following my heart is truly the greatest gift I can give to myself and the world.

What are you ready, willing, and able to do now?

What have you recently said yes to that made your stomach twist? What would you have liked to say?

When can you say no, in order to create space for what you need to do?

How would you feel?

What is blocking you? Why?

Start small and build up that NO muscle. It gets easier the more you say it and the more you fill your space with what nourishes you.

Building Emotional Strength

This morning, I attended Jessica Padula’s 90-minute Hot Baptiste Beats yoga class at Clifton Park’s Hot Yoga Spot.

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Janine and Jess, Baptiste sisters!

I wish I had taken a photo of us together after today’s class, because even though this one symbolizes our connectedness, today’s would have displayed our emotional strength.

Class started with a reading about spinning your wheels and getting stuck where you don’t want to be. Sometimes we have to dig in and kick hard enough to get where we really need to be. We don’t get there by waving a magic wand. We get there through determination, self-inquiry, and doing the work.

But how do we know where we are going? How do we build the necessary muscles to make such an important journey? How do we know what to pack?

The power in yoga is breaking down to break through and build ourselves up when we are stuck in that deep rut. This rut can be caused by a countless number of things. Grief, loss, depression, low self-esteem, abuse, addiction, the world around us, and the list can go on and on.

Jess compared building our emotional strength to lifting weights. When we lift, we actually cause mini-tears in our muscles that then connect back together to become stronger and bigger. But there has to be a balance. If we keep lifting a large amount every single day, then our muscles never heal. We will cause damage and be in pain.

She explained that this is the same with emotional strength. But here is the most important part. Jess said, “Emotional strength doesn’t mean being numb.” If we deny and avoid the tears, the pain gets deeper, and the damage can be permanent.

I have always been open about losing my son, Nick, to cancer. This year is 10 years since he was diagnosed and passed away. For a large part of those 10 years, I ignored those tears and stuffed down the pain of not being able to see my son, talk to him, or hold him. It’s a heavy burden to bear, and some of the damage may very well be permanent. A broken heart, an ache that never goes away, and a sadness that waits for another opportunity to show its face can throw me off for days.

Every time something reminds me of Nick or I comfort another family who has lost their child to cancer, a small emotional tear forms. Whether it’s in my heart, my soul, my body, it affects me mentally, emotionally, and physically. I have often ignored that tear by numbing out: eating foods that aren’t good for me so I feel the physical pain of a stomach ache, instead of the hurt in my heart; I take on so many activities, create more events to plan and attend I don’t have downtime; I make it my absolute purpose to fix anything and everything from someone’s relationship, to organizing someone’s wedding, to healing a person’s depression, so I can save someone.

I do all this, because if I ever opened up to the full scope of my loss, those tears would become rips. Don’t get me wrong, I love helping people and being in service. But I wasn’t taking care of myself or being in service to me and my purpose.

Over the last three years, I have become aware of those tears and how I react to them. I found relief through yoga to heal the physical pain. But it was by journaling that I understood how I could face the emotional tear, heal it, and build my emotional strength. Jess’ analogy perfectly described what yoga and journaling does for me.

My yoga practice and the empowering community created a safe space for me to cause the tear in my emotions, just as if I was lifting weights. I don’t know how many times I have broken down in class and left feeling lighter, but drained. Through journaling I am able to work with that tear. What caused the break down? What is blocking me, holding me back, how am I not supporting my purpose or exercising self-care. By acknowledging the tear and being alright with the fact that it was there helped me to soothe it. Eventually my writing released the spasm of pain and strengthened my heart, so that I can walk alongside my loss and live my purpose.

It doesn’t end with yoga. Today was an emotional class. I felt the pain of my fellow practitioners, and I wanted to go to them and comfort. But I stayed in my practice and shared my energy without causing myself irreversible pain and tears.

So I say to anyone who feels those emotional tears, write about it. Release the toxins that are hurting you. Understand where they come from. By nursing each emotional tear, we build the strength to deal with all that life may put in our path. The combination of yoga and journaling has strengthened me emotionally to the point where I know what balm will heal my heart and soul.

Thank you, Jess, for living your truth and sharing it with our incredible yoga community.

What are your emotional tears?

What caused them?

What ways have you avoided your emotions or numbed out to the tears?

How has that affected you physically, mentally and emotionally?

What can you do right now to heal one tear?

What else do you do to build your emotional strength? What tools do you use?

Love Yourself as You Are

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Because of the snowy weather, my journaling workshop at the library has been cancelled, but this doesn’t mean we can’t journal together!

February is the month of hearts, love, and romance. Not everyone partakes in these festivities, and this month or Valentine’s Day can actually be sad and lonely for some of us.

My theme of Finding Purpose and putting dreams into action has to start with the most important step you will ever take in your life. Loving Yourself. This has been popping up all over the place, so I know I need to write about it.

I love the quote by Steve Maraboli where you have to love yourself enough to take action required for your happiness. How we feel about ourselves affects every decision we make. Take personal health. In restorative yoga this morning, Instructor Jess spoke about accepting your body where it is right now, not how it was yesterday or how it may be tomorrow. And not only accepting it, but being grateful for your body and your beautiful legs that carry you throughout the day.

This was perfect for me, because I woke up feeling very creaky! I’ve been working out, trying to get in better shape, and eat right. In class, I felt tight and was actually mad at myself for not making quicker progress. Then Jess said to breathe through the pose. I not only breathed through the pigeon pose, I also worked through that self-doubt and anti-love. I was working so hard on putting myself down, I forgot about how amazing my body is. How it gave birth to two babies and carried them through childhood. How I biked 100 miles for a charity or earned my karate belts by physically defending myself. Or how I sit for hours and use my fingers to type words from my heart. How my arms hold others in love and comfort. How I am alive, healthy, and able to walk up a flight of stairs.

For your journal prompt, take each part of the above quote and write about it:

*Write about the amazing ways your body supports you and what it has done in your life.

*What action can you take to be happy in any part of your life today? It can be as simple as reading a book, calling a friend, taking the time to journal or play in the snow if you have some, ride the waves if you live near a beach.

*What is holding you back from your past? What story are you holding on to? Can you write the ending where you say goodbye or have closure? Who in your life is filling yours with drama? Is it time to let them loose?

*What are you looking for in a relationship? This could be with a partner, your current spouse, family or friends. You deserve to not only love yourself unconditionally, but to be loved that way as well.

*How do you want to feed your mind? Go back to school? Read a book? Learn a language or draw, sing, etc.

*What physical activity can you partake in to make you feel good? Do you want to join a gym, take kickboxing, dance, yoga, martial arts, biking, meditation, walks. The sky is the limit. Movement means happiness!

*What do you need to forgive yourself for? Can you write yourself a letter? Can you have empathy for yourself like you would have for a friend? Putting that guilt aside, perhaps knowing that you cannot change what happened, but be with it, and give yourself a break is enough for now. Not forgiving yourself is one of the heaviest burdens we can bear.

*What is one step you can take today to loving yourself? This is a long list of questions. Take what moves you today, write, and take action. Then tomorrow go to another or continue on the same one.

You are worth every moment of happiness, self-love, and joy. Believe it for yourself and have a beautiful day.

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Focus on the Good Times

The house is quiet once again. For two weeks, Stephen was home from college. I have to adjust back to the quiet, the dogs not barking when he comes home after midnight, the music blaring, and the video game action shaking the floor. I miss it. I’ll be sad for a couple days, while I settle into the empty nest routine once again.

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The dogs who loved Stephen’s Christmas presents miss his presence. They roam around his room and have a hard time settling in for the night.

I know in another year and a half, he’ll be on his own (maybe!) and those breaks will become visits. It helps me to focus on the joy I had while he was home.

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Zoey will do anything to get Stephen’s attention!
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It’s an annual tradition to find the pickle in the tree. Alysia won once again this year!
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Always enjoy having my sisters over!
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Missing some of our kids, but wonderful when we can connect and remember what is important!

We have held a Christmas ping pong tournament for the last four years. Alysia and Charlie got some practice time in at college and the three-time champion, Rich Thomas put up a good fight, but was defeated!

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It was close, but Stephen kept the trophy in the household this year!
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Family matters. I love having my son home and switching life up to be present with him. I soak those moments in and have a huge appreciation for them, as I know how fleeting life can be. I am grateful for my family and the joy we collectively share during the holidays and whenever we are together.

Take a moment to remember your holiday, your gatherings, your family. Revel in the joy, remember those who are not with you, and focus on the good times.

November in Review

novemberJournaling is a practice. As with anything else, you only get as much from it as you put into it. Committing to journaling every day can be daunting, but when you see the difference it makes in your life and how more self-aware you are, it becomes an integral part of your day.

I track my calendar, my dreams, daily journal entries, creative writing, research, and notes in my journal. It’s basically my whole life on paper. I looked back at the month of November to check in. See how the month went, what journal techniques are working, what isn’t working. It sets up the following month and what I want to focus on or let go.

November was chaos.

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I know this is a math image of fractal chaos, but it visually described last month. The beauty, the colors, the chaos, the out of control actions that all make up who I am and what I do.

First thing I noticed was that I was all over the place. Physically, mentally, project-wise. This is nothing new, but there was a great deal of stress making sure I was getting everything done. I had signed up to do the NaNoWriMo challenge where you write 50,000 words in a month. I started off great, but died out before Thanksgiving. I did write 16,000 words, which probably would not have happened otherwise, so for that I am grateful.

I was selected to be part of the Nuts, Bolts, & Business Artist Entrepreneurial program through the Troy Arts Center from a grant that I wrote. This is a seven month venture and will require a great deal of my time, and it began in November. I had homework and a presentation to prepare, but I am very excited about growing my business.

Basically, I wore many different hats including book sales, writing my application for BOCES arts in ed, which was accepted, and I can’t wait to get more involved with teaching writing in the schools. Stephen was home, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with him, Thanksgiving, yoga. And if that wasn’t enough, I had my bedroom painted and redecorated!

Good stuff in November, but also high stress, which ramped up my poor eating habits. The one change I did implement in November was a weekly Stay at Home day. Because I am always out and running around, I needed to be more grounded. When I plan my week, I schedule a day to work at home and not go anywhere during the day or night. I absolutely love it. It forces me to get paperwork and business done and reduces my stress.

So what did I learn from November? I am most effective when I remain true to myself, my purpose, and I sit and do the work. Also by daily writing what I am grateful for, my attitude changed, and I focused on what nourished me.

For December I will:

Continue the weekly Stay at Home Day

Track my exercise, eating, and water intake for better personal health, which includes kicking gluten out of my life once again.

Daily December Gifts to Gratitude letter writing (see previous blog)

Focus on promoting Shimmer’s Eggs and writing Saving Atlantis (Book Two!)

Enjoying my family during this festive time of year.

If I hadn’t written everything in my journal I wouldn’t have remembered all the wonderful activities I did in November or how hard I worked or how stressed out I really was. It takes a toll on my health. Now I am more aware of what I need to do going forward.

Can you commit to 5 minutes of writing daily in your journal? Then review it weekly or monthly to see what is working and where you want to go next. It’s a path to healing and living a full and wonderful life!

Combating Self-Doubt

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Photo by Alyssia Thomas

I strongly dislike the days when self-doubt takes over. When no matter what I try that feeling of I have no business doing what I’m doing lingers over me and grows like black mold. That was my day today. Despite the fact that I stayed home, sat my butt in the chair and did work, nothing felt right. I was frustrated by my lack of spark. Finally, I took my dogs and walked away.

Removing myself from my self-doubt is like walking away from a dangerous situation. If I stay in it, I may not be able to get out whole. I needed to protect myself, my self-esteem, and my energy. I decided to work it out. The physical exertion of yoga pushed me out of my head and into the moment and the power of me. By physically releasing my frustration, I beat at that self-doubt. How can I not be enough when I am physically challenging myself and kicking butt?

I gave myself the space and stepped away from what wasn’t working. I wrote about why I do what I do and what I want to give and share with others. For whatever reason, I couldn’t see it today and that’s OK. Sometimes that self-doubt actually serves to ignite the fire in me so it burns off my darkness and lets my light shine through.

Write down why you do what you do, what you want to share with the world, and how you will let your light shine. Burn that self-doubt away.

Thank You for Your Service

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When I was in college, I applied to join ROTC to help pay for my tuition. I didn’t really think about my commitment or what I might be called to do. I was in very good shape, loved a challenge, and was in major debt. As it turned out, I developed health issues about the same time, so wasn’t accepted.

I have often wondered how my life would have been different had I joined the military. Then I wonder if I would have had what it took to defend my country. I think of it like defending my children and family no matter what the risk. For someone in the military, it’s like everyone in the United States is a part of their family, and they would give their life to defend them. So many do, and I am grateful for everyone who has served in the military to keep me and my family safe.

I worry about how soldiers survive their experiences in war. How the trauma of what they are called to do permanently affects them. How it changes them and their families. According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, every 65 minutes a veteran commits suicide. I can’t begin to understand what a soldier has gone through, but my heart breaks for everyone who is affected and for the lives taken too soon.

Our military deserves financial and emotional support so that their families are taken care of when they are overseas, and that when they come home from protecting their country, they receive the emotional support they need. Our military protects our way of life and should be honored, protected, and taken care of at home as they do for us.

So today especially on Veterans Day, I thank everyone who has ever been in the military, served in a war, died for our country, and has protected our way of life. I am free, because you are brave, strong, and courageous. I am proud to be an American.

Build Community with a Solid Foundation

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My dad was a carpenter who built houses from the ground up. He knew a house was only as strong and durable as its foundation. If any of the columns were off kilter, then so was the house. Each column stood alone, but also in conjunction with the others to support what was built on top.

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This concept of a solid foundation is integral to an empowering yoga practice. Each of us can stand alone, but the energy skyrockets when we are together. Each of us holds the other up. If our individual foundation, our True North alignment is off then we are not as strong as we could be.

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Thanks to the influences of two of my favorite yoga sisters, Kayla Marie and Jess Padula, I have been reading Brene’ Brown’s latest book. I have enjoyed her other books, but this one is making me think all the way down to my personal foundation.

She writes about True Belonging. My interpretation is being my authentic self, living in my True North, speaking and acting in my truth not only when I’m alone, but also when I am with my community. Wilderness is her main theme and that “Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness–an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching.” (36) The wilderness can be scary, but we brave it to stand in our truth.

In order to build my community of writers, martial artists, yogis, family, cancer patients, etc. I have to be willing and able to stand in my truth, living my life with authenticity. In order to do that, I need to know what I believe in, what I value, who I am, what matters to me, and how all this leads me along my soul’s path.

Even though that path may change, my internal truth and compass stay the same. Only when I am standing in my truth, can I serve as a solid foundation in my community. When we all stand in our truths, we create an unshakable foundation, made up of unique, beautiful, amazing, and special people who are not afraid to be who they are.

This doesn’t mean that I live in perfection. The truth is I am far from perfect and I am perfectly fine with that! I am vulnerable. I hurt. I make mistakes. I fail. But I do all that, because I refuse to live a false life. I refuse to live the life that others think I should live, because it fits into their plans.

When we stand in our truth as a community, we are like the trees from Peter Wohlleben’s book, The Hidden Life of Trees. Our roots combine, we support and lean on each other simultaneously, and we revel in one another’s growth.

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So where does that leave us? How do we find out who we are? Journaling is one of the ways I have identified my truths. You can do the same. Here are some prompts to get you started:

What and who matters to you? Career? Partner? Children? Family?

What do value? Friendship? Family? Success? Honesty?

What is something that you never compromise? Your word? Honor? Promises? Reliability?

How would you describe yourself? Kind? Hard working? Compassionate? Stubborn?

Daily journaling shows us what really matters. Journal for seven days in a row about whatever comes to your mind. At the end of the week review what you have written. You will read about what is really important to you or what is preventing you from being your true self. It may be a combination, but you are on your way to your authentic self.

Also, I highly recommend reading both of these books!

 

Baptiste Sisters—Gratitude Day 15

Sometimes we all need a little kick in the butt to get back on our path. Some days we need to be dragged. 

Karen, far right, did that almost three years ago to get me to a yoga class. I wish she had brought me sooner.

I have been struggling with a sinus infection for three weeks and haven’t made it to yoga. Once that happens it’s so hard to get back. 

Cara, pictured in the middle, is our Baptiste sister who trained with us. She came up for the weekend. She and Karen went to a 90 minute class yesterday. I wasn’t up for it and was bummed. 

This morning we planned to go. I woke up and told myself all the reasons of why I couldn’t go. But I knew since my sisters would be there, I needed to go. For the support, Community, and get me back on my path. 

They have been where I am, understand the hesitation, and know how to push me past my barriers. 

So thank you Cara and Karen. I am grateful to have you both in my life on and off the mat!

Fall Pickings

Even though it’s 80 out, fall is just around the corner and apple picking is supposed to be fantastic this season. Fall is a time for hikes, enjoying the leaves changed, drinking hot apple cider, and preparing for the cooler weather.

This past week, I held my monthly journal writing workshop at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. Some of the new attendees were nervous about all the washi tape, paper, and stickers I had strewn around the table. Yes, journaling is writing, but it’s so much more. It’s whatever you want your journal to be, and you’ll be amazed how creative you can be when you have the tools.

 

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Journaling can keep us on track in life whether for our life path or what we want to do for the month. One of our activities was a fall picking journal entry. Everyone shared what they love to do in the fall. Above you can see some of the fun activities Michele wanted to do. Yes, my sister came to a workshop and yes, everyone knew we were related! She had a great time, and I enjoyed having her there. I plan to join her in some of these great ideas!

Here are some more everyone came up with:

Leaves turning and viewing

Making pumpkin muffins

Apple picking

Make soup

Tea by the fire

Hike

Halloween

Costume parties

Pumpkin patch

Thanksgiving

Haunted hayride

Ghost tours

Carving pumpkins

Taking walks

Reading books—which ones?

Flower peeping mums

Fall motorcycle ride

Decorating the house

Football

Hot apple cider and cider donuts

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Sarah’s fall bucket list also included self-care and personal well-being, which is a wonderful reminder throughout the year.So often we get excited for certain activities and traditions during a season and then life gets in the way. Before we know it the season is over and all the apples are picked. This list can be placed right in your journal or on a larger decorative page like the two examples. Place them on your fridge or somewhere you will see it regularly.

We did this during the summer and I didn’t go to my Shakespeare plays, but I did get in some great rides, saw people I had been wanting to visit, and enjoyed my summer more, because I did what I loved to do.

What are you going to do this fall season? Make a list, then get a creative as you want. Just don’t forget the list once you finish and enjoy this beautiful season!