A Life that Loves You

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This saying popped into my head as I was writing a note to my niece about how proud I was of her going for her dreams. Sometimes it takes some swerves and curves to figure out what our dreams are. Sometimes they change or are fulfilled, so we wonder what’s next.

A great deal of my life is influenced by my purpose what drives and fulfills me. When I thought about how I lived my life, I asked myself if I’m living my life in a way that is loving to myself, that is good for me, and is supporting my purpose and dreams.

Those are big questions to ask, and I don’t think it can be a yes or no answer or black and white. So what does living a life that loves you mean to me?

  1. Fueling my body properly: What I put into my body has a direct correlation to how I physically feel, how creative I am, and how much energy I have. I’m really good when I plan out meals and have good food on hand. I’m an emotional eater, so when life isn’t loving me so much, I don’t show myself love with food. I’ll reach for that chocolate bar or some type of comfort food. That may be fine once in a while, but instead of placing food that makes me feel crappy in my body, I ask how will this food show love to me. What kind of life do I want to live and does what I’m eating move me forward toward that life or pull me back?
  2. How I spend my time: I am a really good time waster. I can skirt around what I should be doing and not get anything done. When I finally sat down and journaled about why I did this, I realized I was prioritizing what I thought I should be doing instead of what fulfilled me or led toward living my dreams. I credit the change in how I spend my time on some deep soul searching and writing through why I’m here. How do I want to make an impact on the world and what is my purpose? After I was clear on my purpose and the fact that writing is my passion, I began to clear out what no longer served me. Don’t get me wrong. I still waste time, but I have clear goals that are stepping stones to my dreams.
  3. People in my life: Living the life that loves me also includes being surrounded by people who love me. It’s people who believe in me and vice versa. We lift each other up and celebrate our successes with true joy. I will have separation anxiety if I don’t see my tribe enough, so I plan gatherings, outings, and tribe dates. Spending quality time with my husband and son is equally important if not more so. I love being around people who accept me as I am.
  4. Get moving: Exercise has always been a part of my life. I remember waking up at 6am in high school and doing aerobics in the living room of my family home. My brother would scream at me in the basement because my pounding woke him up. Working out is my stress reliever. Bringing yoga into my life balanced out the physical and mental strengthening.
  5. Be where you are: I recently tore my ACL and will have surgery next week. This has changed my exercise regimen, but I’m doing what is best for my body as it is now. My injury has forced me to slow down and be fine with not pushing my body or my schedule where I don’t want it to go. Living the life that loves me right now means letting go of my expectations and doing what serves me best.

Living a life that loves you is an endless checks and balance. Checking in to see how life is feeling. And I mean that literally. We can move so fast that a whole month goes by, and we don’t remember what we did.

Take a moment to pause and answer this question in your journal–What does living a life that loves you mean? Physically, mentally, emotionally, financially. Feel free to use the headings I chose or create your own. What matters most is that you love yourself first,check in and begin again.

Slow it Down and Enjoy the Bloom

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blog.rismedia.com

Over the last few months and really the last three years, I have planted multiple seeds that I have wanted to grow for a very long time. Sometimes life throws us too much rain or tsunamis or earthquakes that force us to abandon our blooms for a bit. But once it happens, it’s very important to slow down and enjoy what you have worked so hard to grow.

In addition to being clear on what I want to grow, I have added daily intentions that I foster throughout the day to nourish my seeds. If you’d like some journaling techniques on growing your purpose, check out my previous blog titled: What is Blooming for You? On day 10, my intention was Slow Down and Enjoy the Bloom. The week had been hectic and a few times I wanted to skip the intention process, finish one project, and jump into the next. There’s so much I want to bloom that I tend to rush. This intention process is showing me that I take on too much and don’t stop to appreciate the results of my hard work and nurturing.

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I met with my beta readers and my third manuscript in three years is heading toward the publishing process. It won’t be until the end of 2019, but because I have nurtured this dream, it is growing faster and more vibrant every year. I’m excited and grateful. It’s not done yet, but I slowed down, enjoyed talking with the students who will read the book, and learned from them.

What I love about these intentional words or phrases is that they are like rays of sunshine that remind me throughout the day what I want to focus on. Over the weekend it was Unselfish Me Time, which influenced my decision to get up early, journal to my boys, read, and enjoy the quiet time. This allows me to rejuvenate so that I can give to others and be fully present with my family when they arrived. On Easter Sunday, it was Family Love. It was quiet, but precious in that I spent valuable and quality time with my son and husband.

Throughout the day, I’ll check in so that I stay on track or write through any rough spots. My journal is my ‘pause place.’ I can take a break and reconnect with my purpose. At the end of the day, I take a couple minutes and write about my intention, my growth, whether the intention worked or didn’t. Why and what I can do differently tomorrow.

Use your journal as your personal guidance system. You’ll be amazed at how self-aware you become and you’ll foster your own ability to recharge, reconnect, and nurture yourself.

Give it a try and let me know how it works.

What is blooming for you?

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As the world outside comes back to life, the birds sing once again, and the sunshine sheds its light on the goodness around us, we know that hope is blooming.

Growth

–What is blooming for you? It could literally be flowers and vegetables, but it could also be something inside you that you want to grow. Or a project that you want to build. A change that has been bubbling all winter that you are ready to manifest. Maybe it’s within something you have no control over, but have to accept it into your life. If you aren’t sure, writing about possibilities will help the ideas take root.

Seeds

–Once you know what you want to grow, get specific. Here are some suggestions:

Personal–health, reducing stress, self-care, relaxation, exercise

Job stability or a new one–going back to school, getting a promotion, changing careers, retirement or what to do now that you have retired.

Simplicity–downsizing, decluttering, slowing down, spending time with who and what matters.

Rain

–In spring we often view rain as a hindrance to our ability to enjoy ourselves or the outside world. Rain is needed to nourish the earth so that flowers can grow, trees can bloom, birds can find worms to eat. Without the rain nothing would grow. April showers do bring May flowers, but we have to find the goodness in the dark clouds or setbacks that may affect what we want to grow.

–What do you see as rain in your life? What is the negative that you feel is preventing the growth, that you might have seen as a hindrance, but actually can help you bloom and nourish what you planted?

Sunshine

–What positive sunlight can you cast on your seeds to help them grow?

–What can you do to nourish yourself and what you are blooming?

–Shifting your perspective to seeing the good in very situation will make the harder parts of growth and change a bit easier.

Flowers

–Once those seeds sprout and you are growing what you planted, how will you feel? –What will it change or affect in your life?

–What does it look like? Describe it like you would a flower or plant.

Create a visual. It could be flowers with what you want to grow in the petals or a garden with the seeds noting what you want to bloom. It can be a quick reminder and motivator in our daily path to grow, heal, and become more aware of who we are. Writing in your journal helps to translate what you want on the page into your life.

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Visual example by Arthur Forest

Write about the process of what you are growing. Every moment of our growth or transition into spring, into change, into something different whether we want it or not needs to be a gentle movement. The more we ease into the moment, the easier the transition, the more we are aware of our intention and our potential.

 

 

March Month in Review

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Goals/Purpose: This may be on the of the first months where I accomplished most of my goals between the foundation and my publishing company. I think it was partly because I was going away at the end of the month and wanted to relax so worked extra hard, but also because I put less due in the month and broke it down.

In journaling class, Arthur said he has so much he wants to do and that can often make us not do anything. I can relate as I have so many writing projects. The main focus has been my middle grade series, The Puzzle Quests. Book three had to get to the editor. It didn’t get to my beta readers as I had wanted, but I built in time and I needed to let the book sit.

While it was with my editor, Karen Knowles, I worked on a draft of a picture book about my dog, Zoey, and my non-fiction table of contents for the book I’m writing on journaling. When my middle grade manuscript heads to the beta readers, I’ll shift focus to the pictures books, which is due in June. Learning to break down my goals within what I want to accomplish and grow based on my purpose has been key to getting so much done.

Mentally: I was edgy most of the month. I know it’s because I’m stirring things up and have been for a while. I have always listened to my gut (that innate intuition) that we tend to tamp down. I admit I have tamped it down for a long time, but now I’ve let it loose. It’s shifting my eye to writing, my goals within it, who I want to write for, and what I want to write.

Social/Me: March was wonderful socially. Family time. Stephen was home. A fabulous relaxing retreat in Sarasota with Karen filled with soul searching, writing, yoga, great food, and lounging. It was just what I needed.

It ended with a visit to Stephen and my first cousins who I hadn’t seen in a long time. I came full circle and April has me easing through the transitions March has begun.

 

Swerve

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I’ve been listening to Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. She mentions how her best friend, Kevin, swerved from his path of becoming a doctor so he could be a team mascot. He enjoyed his time doing that and then became a doctor. This whole section has made me pause and ponder whether I ever swerved in my life. The other question that has been plaguing me is what it a Swerve and was it a necessary part of his path to make Kevin a doctor?

Michelle went straight to law school partly because of the applause she received from people when she told them of her career plans. She admitted that she has a need for approval and is a people pleaser. But she wasn’t happy. Maybe her Swerve was finding a fulfilling job that balanced her career and family life.

From the first time someone mentioned they wanted to be a lawyer when I was in high school, I chose that field. Instead of writing or being an English teacher, I majored in Political Science and History. The pride my family felt in me kept me on this path. I did change my major to English with a minor in Political Science during my undergrad years, but I went so far as to visit law schools and take the LSAT’s. But I wasn’t excited about it anymore. I was filled with worry when I told my mother I didn’t want to be a lawyer. She was fine with it, and so I continued on to get my master’s in English Literature.

I met my husband when I was 22 and was married at age 24. Had my first child at age 29. My second at age 31. Before children, I worked as a receptionist then at a bank in the facilities department. When I had my first son, Nick, I was determined to be at home to raise my children. I kept on a traditional path, but did I swerve?

I did and still write books. That’s my passion, my purpose. I don’t think it’s a Swerve.

What does it mean to Swerve? Is it doing something that you have always been afraid to do or is it trying something untraditional or outlandish or crazy? And who decides if it is crazy?

These questions have been plaguing me for myself and also for my son, Stephen. He is getting ready to graduate college. He will get a job, hopefully be able to support himself, and enjoy what he is doing. But what if he wants to Swerve? What would it be? I almost want to encourage him to Swerve. Take that year off and travel the world. Ride a motorcycle across the country. Move to another state and see what it’s like.

To me a Swerve is a calling that keeps beckoning you to do something that makes you feel alive, pushes you out of your comfort zone, and shocks even you. Who says your path has to be straight? Why not curve with a Swerve and venture into something or somewhere that you never thought you would?

So my big question is: What is my Swerve? What is calling me? Am I brave enough to take the chance? Is it that important? Well, yes it is, because I can’t get it out of my mind.

What about you? What is your Swerve? What have you wanted to do that you have stomped down because it’s not acceptable or timely or a financially sound decision?

Please share what Swerving means to you. I need some answers!

Childhood Perspective on Family History

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When I was a child, I thought my father owned a huge motorcycle, that every winter we had snowfalls taller than my 7-year-old body, and I had scarlet fever when I was 5. My father’s motorcycle was a small Bridgestone. I still think there was a tremendous amount of snow, but it was probably because all the snow being plowed from the road into our front yard. My mom denies that I had scarlet fever, but I think she’s lying!

We have these images, memories that we think are real are imprinted in our minds like a stamp. Our memories of childhood hugely depend on how we were raised, our order of birth, and what or who had a major impact on our lives. Five years younger than me and the last child, my sister, Michele, has a different perspective on her childhood. She probably doesn’t remember our home in Long Island that we moved from when she was 2 or 3. I’ll have to ask her.

She’s 8 years younger than my brother and 7 years younger than my older sister. Being the first and only boy as well as the first girl impacted their upbringing. Being the middle child, well you know we middle children have big issues of invisibility. But it put me in a more observational mode.

Last night at my monthly journaling workshop, we shared our thoughts on the above quote. Did they have memories that other family members disputed? Yes, like the severity of a car accident, joy of living with a large family, but the other members thinking it wasn’t so nice, memories of a parent differing based on age and order of birth.

I invite you to write these memories down and share them with family members. Have them record their memories on that event and then share one with you. Going back and forth, you’ll get a fuller picture or at least the differing perspectives of varying family members. Give your parent or grandparent a journal to record their memories and stories. Once they are no longer with us, their personal stories are lost.

Brainstorming your Memories and Building Memory Threads

Where do we get the ideas to write our family history? I suggest thinking about your first house. Jot down any memory. Don’t think about it too much. It’s a memory brain dump. It’s incredible how once you get started, all these new memories jump out at you.

You can go from your first house to the next and the next until you are in your current location or use whatever theme or location that speaks to you.

Here are some of mine from the first house I lived in Long Island:

  • Bobby pin in the socket
  • Describe my home
  • Fig trees
  • Monsters in the attic
  • Scarlet fever—Nanny teach me to crochet
  • Bike riding and hitting a car
  • Pool jumping from the roof
  • Almost drowning
  • Lobster crawling on the floor
  • YaYa
  • Aunt Anna
  • Planet of the Apes—Brown licorice
  • Monkey bars breaking leg
  • 1st day of 2nd grade
  • Stephanie forgets me at school

Maybe this is the only snapshot you need of that moment. Or perhaps it’s like a sponge and as you think about it, the memory expands. I call this Memory Threads.

Take the Monkey bars and breaking my leg. The threads may be:

Kindergarten, strong mother, missing much of school, Big Wheeling along the sidewalks, breaking leg again, tearing ACL on that leg, strong upper body.

This thread can weave into other memories. Like how my mother carried me out of the nurse’s office telling her she didn’t know what she was talking about when the nurse said my leg wasn’t broken–my mother becoming a nurse–protecting her children when a man tried to break into our house and she threatened him with the elephant knife–standing up to teenagers who were chasing me and my brother down the street–never giving up when my father fought cancer three times.

Memory Threads are powerful. They build themes that intertwine and pull in more memories until you have a tapestry of history. It starts with one memory and threading through it.

Begin yours!

Sunshine Memories

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Draw or print out a smiling sun. Along the sun’s rays, write down who and what brings you joy. Maybe it’s certain people in your life, activities you like to do, self-care like yoga, massage, reading, exercise, sleep. Whatever makes you happy and brings a smile on your face. Fill out all the lines–maybe not all today, but you can keep adding.
 
Then journal about that person or activity and why it brings you joy. You could write one a day. It becomes your positive memory bank. A place that you can return to when life feels too hard or you simply have a bad day. It reminds you that the sun will always shine.
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Decorate your positive memory bank page. Make it yours. There’s only a right way for you to journal, so do what makes you feel happy. Let your inner creativity shine through.

Be With What’s Present

Every moment is magical. Be present with it.

This morning I received an email to update my accounting software information. I clicked on my browser and FaceBook photos jumped out at me. I had to respond by clicking hearts, adding emojis, and typing comments. 30 minutes later, I couldn’t remember why I had gone to my browser. I bounced back to email only to see the reminder again to update my account.

Being present is so much more than being mindful of what you are doing in this exact moment. If I’m being perfectly present, I am aware of my fingers tapping over my keys, the blog post I’m writing, Zoey licking her chops behind me. But then I wonder why Zoey is licking her chops and crying. I’m completely distracted.

Long Pause…………………….

OK, I’m back. Zoey wanted a drink of water. Sarah just texted me. I responded. Now I’m back to being completely present with my post. I didn’t have to respond immediately to the text, but I heard the dinging, and it’s like I’m Pavlov’s dog and can’t think of anything else until I have answered. I multitask all day long thinking I’m being more productive and attentive.

But I bounce around so much, I’m not aware of what I’m doing, and my heart rate is rising because I have multiple balls in the air. I’m afraid I’m going to drop one and it will fall through the cracks.

Being present, which means mindfully being present right where you are and with what you are doing, turns off the sympathetic nerve or that fight or flight reaction you get when you have too many activities/stressors/fears happening at once. It doesn’t have to be a life or death situation for our body to think we are in danger. It can be bouncing back and forth between answering a text, responding to FaceBook, and hitting a deadline.

Every moment of our lives is magical, precious, and deserves our undivided attention. If I concentrate on what’s in front of me as if it’s in the palm of my hand and nothing else matters, I feel a sense of calmness and attention that I don’t have when I’m scattered in 2, 3, or 4 different places.

It’s a practice, and there are more times in my day that I’m jumping through the air saving falling babies, throwing in one more load of laundry, having a tea/coffee break with the hubby, and imagining the world of Dragonia all at the same time! When I’m in the moment right here, right now, I’m safe, clear in my purpose, and present.

Challenge yourself to be completely attentive to what you are doing or who you are talking to. Note the difference in your memory, your mind’s clarity, physical body, and productivity. Create your intention and be in that moment. Sometimes that’s all we can do, and it makes the biggest difference.

October Month in Review

October always has been a month of joy, love, and connections. With losing Nick, it’s also mired with sadness and exhaustion. Over the last 10 years, I have struggled to find some type of balance and way to get through the month.

This year I wanted more and even though I had my usual exhaustion, I think I found it.

There was a definite sense of letting go to hold space for opportunities where I could share hope and healing, not only for myself, but for others. I taught writing and shared hope through my books. I spent a lot of time with my tribe, celebrating our October birthdays, our children’s fantastic feats in volleyball, karate, school, jobs, and wedding plans.

Grace’s senior night at volleyball. They won of course!

We have so many family and friend birthdays in October that I basically celebrated my birthday all month!

Birthday fun with some of my tribe!

And the celebrating continues with more of my tribe.

To get all of these women together in one place is short of miraculous in our crazy lives. But if there is one thing that I know–when we need each other, we are always there. That is what grounds me in October.

The October trio–me and my boys.

We recognize Nick’s birthday differently now, but he is always a part of our October month of celebration. And Stephen turned 21 this year. Even with him, we made plans that worked for him, and it was a huge joy  to cook for all his friends and be a part of his world.

Girl time was huge for me this month, and I carved a huge chunk out between gatherings, lunch dates, and traveling to Sarasota with Karen and our husbands. I needed to be someplace where I could be with my sadness and then enjoy a new place.

Lido Beach

I could be with Nick without all the distractions of the month, between teaching, writing, celebrating, weddings, traveling over two other weekends. I didn’t have time to be with him. This trip to Sarasota gave me that space, and Nick gave me signs that he was there.

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October opened up with letting go to bring in the good, and it ended with a vow to keep that space open, even when the darkness threatens to settle in.

November will bring jewels of gratitude and continued writing.

 

The Power of Pets

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Two weekends ago, Zoey and Dakota, my two rescue dogs went on an adventure. They traveled three hours to stay with my son, Stephen, while my husband and I went to Florida. The car was packed, because it also was Stephen’s 21st birthday. He loves the dogs and had been wanting to introduce them to his friends for a long time. It was a win-win situation, and his friends totally fell in love with both of them.

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Zoey settled right in, but Dakota was like a caged animal. He followed Stephen everywhere. They both loved roaming the streets of Providence, and they were a nice distraction for Stephen during our toughest part of October.

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Zoey and Dakota meeting college friends at a soccer game.

That’s the power of pets. For us it’s always been big dogs. They keep life in perspective, give you a reason to take a break and reset your day on a daily walk. I walk the dogs on most days after I have been sitting at my computer for a while. It’s like a walking meditation, and I can be in the moment with them.

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Chloe was my stand in for my dogs on our trip to Florida. She gave me lots of kisses!

I didn’t realize how much I missed my dogs until they weren’t at home when I was there. I kept thinking I would take them for a walk or sit with them and rub their bellies before bedtime. I didn’t have Dakota to warm my feet under my desk or let them out 20 times a day, because Zoey had to hunt for chipmunks (well that last one was a nice break!).

Pets can give us purpose, someone to take care of, and offer comfort and unconditional love. It’s a part of their nature.

When I met Stephen to swap cars and bring the dogs home, Dakota practically jumped over the seat to get to me. My dogs can lift me up on my lowest day. As crazy as they can sometimes be, they have had a positive and enriching effect on the entire family. That’s the power of pets.

How does your pet enrich your life?