It’s okay to relax sometimes! (I keep telling myself)

I can feel the sludge building up in my brain – too much to remember, to-do lists piling up on scraps of paper along with all the reminders in my phone. I start feeling overwhelmed, and rather than getting more productive with more to do, I get less productive because I don’t know what to do first.

I’m learning, slowly, that when I start to feel this way, following my body’s instinct to slow down makes sense. I’m used to telling myself I’m lazy if I’m not productive. I feel proud when I have a day that I keep busy all day without wasting time, but it’s an impossible standard to meet every day, or even most days.

If you look up “wasting time,” you’ll find numerous articles that extol the benefits of downtime for increasing creativity and productivity, qualities we’d all like more of. I notice that my days go better when I have a novel or a favorite show to look forward to at the end of the day. Those few minutes of escaping from the churning in my own head refreshes me. I spend all day handling and managing information, coming home to deal with more of it, and by the time I go to bed, my head is spinning.

The constant busy-ness affects my kids too. Sometimes my older son says, “It takes me forever to fall asleep because there’s so much I’m thinking about and I feel like I’m forgetting something I’m supposed to be doing.” This makes me feel bad, because although it may be good preparation for adulthood, this is not what it should be like to be a kid.

Not only that, but I feel so grateful to have the option to relax. I think about men, women, and children all over the world who spend their waking hours working to provide enough food for their families. I am extremely fortunate to have the luxury of time that I can use as I please.

Lately, I’ve been longing to find ways to unwind without feeling guilty. One goal of mine is to return Sundays to a day of rest, rather than a day to finish household chores. Last Sunday, it was sledding. As my boys and I were bundling up, I was thinking of all the stuff I could be getting done while they were out of the house. I was sort of grumbling to myself that I didn’t have time to have fun. But when we started racing down the hill, I remembered what it’s like to let go of everything and be in the moment. I am so glad I went with them. How many more times will my boys want me to go sledding with them? How many more years will my body be able to take the abuse of falling off a sled and rolling down a hill? I’d much rather have memories like these than looking back on these years as ones in which I completed all of my self-assigned tasks.

I’m hoping that Sundays will carry over to weekdays as well…that a few hours of playing and putting the to-do lists aside will make me more focused and less resentful when there is work to be done. I started by building a fire in my fireplace and taking the time to watch the flames and listen to the crackling wood. Instead of sorting papers or folding laundry, I just sat and enjoyed the fire.

Cheers to you and I having fun this weekend!

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

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How writing down my goals helps me achieve them

Write It Down, Make It Happen, by Henriette Anne Klauser, provides many different ways to approach reaching your goals. I like the variety of techniques and how concrete the lessons are, as well as how focused and well-organized the book is. Each chapter illustrates a different person’s story and how the technique in that chapter helped manifest goals. The chapter ends with a “Now You” summary recapping how to employ that technique. I find a lot of journaling advice to be too corny or unfocused; in contrast, Klauser has a warm and friendly tone, without coming across as New Age silly. She seems like a very practical person.

Klauser is an advocate of the belief system that writing down what you want helps you become clear about what exactly you want, why you want it, and how to achieve it. When we write down our goals, we become more attuned in our daily lives to unlocking the steps that will help even major, seemingly impossible, dreams come true.

I appreciated that this book doesn’t require you to follow an overwhelming “system.” There are no worksheets to fill out or daily journals to keep or other exercises that would make me feel like a failure if I didn’t complete them. You can pick up any single chapter of the book and do something useful with it.

Here are some of her ideas that I’ve used to achieve personal goals:

  1. When you write down what you want to achieve, it starts to make it seem more “real” to you, and therefore you becoming willing to ask others for help in achieving your goal. Being open about what I want has helped me connect to people and learn about opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. I’m writing a novel about massage therapy, step-parenting, and multiple sclerosis. Most writers keep their novels close to the vest – we are told that talking about the plot dissipates the energy we’d otherwise put into writing – but I find the more I share, the more people show up in my life to bring information or other support. After asking for help, I had great conversations with people who were experts on all of the above topics, and it got me moving in a better direction with my novel.

 

  1. Sometimes you think you must have a certain outcome, but you realize later there was an essence you needed, not the particular outcome. Writing down your fears and desires helps crystalize what you really want to have in your life and when it’s not happening, you start to see the things that block you from getting there. In my own life, I felt like I couldn’t handle taking my kids on a trip alone, even though I’ve wanted to do so for the past few years. I had never traveled without a husband, mother, or mother-in-law. I felt like my family was “incomplete” without a husband. I wrote about these feelings several times and realized that if I can handle taking care of my kids at home, I can take them on a trip. The three of us are a family! You should have seen my hands shaking just before I clicked “confirm reservation,” but now we are all looking forward to an awesome vacation and my confidence is growing, knowing I will be doing something I’ve never done before.

 

  1. Writing down your goals teaches you patience. I am not a patient person. I have a seemingly calm exterior, but inside I am churning with aspirations. I have high standards, highest of all for myself. There were times I seemingly failed at different things, only to realize through writing that I wasn’t ready to achieve those goals. One memorable story in the book was about a woman who waited years to find the husband of her dreams. She wrote letters to her “soul mate” long before she ever met him, and in the process, realized how many things she had to fix in her own life to be ready for this soul mate. There are still areas in my life in which I feel like I’m failing, but this perspective helps me realize it’s not a “no,” it’s a “not yet.”

 

  1. Writing is a good place to express your fears (and then let them go). There have been many days where I felt emotional and unfocused. Talking with others only led me to be argumentative and feeling even more disconnected. When I sat and wrote instead, I could vent everything I may not have wanted to really to say to others, and then release it. The good part was to look back on this writing later when I was feeling calmer and see how the tumblers started clicking into place. My writing would start off as a bunch of disjointed ideas and start to gel into more coherent thought as I processed the ideas jumping out of my head.

 

  1. Being thankful to others brings many returns. One of my favorite parts of this book is how gratefully the author expresses her thanks for the people who have helped her, and for the chapter in which a teenage girl wrote letters to God asking for help in various areas of her life, but always starting first with praise and thanks. Klauser’s writing reminded me that one of my goals is to practice “literary citizenship,” or open gratitude to writers I admire. Klauser has a bibliography that includes other books similar to her topic. She is not trying to hoard the market on setting goals through writing, and she writes about several other authors whose books paved the way for hers. I do not expect tit-for-tat promotion, but I do believe in the abundance of the universe – that if I do as much as I can to help the authors I love, some of that love will come back for my writing as well someday.

 

I started my blog for this week on a totally different topic, but I wasn’t feeling enthused about it and the more I wrote, the more it sounded like a pathetic, whiny rant. Who needs to put that out into the universe? Writing through my stress helped me get to a place of gratitude and optimism (and I’m hoping a blog you find much more useful and enjoyable!).

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

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What a month of yoga did for a regular person…

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In a rare fit of consistency, I decided to practice yoga every day for a month. I am not a yogini, but an average, works-out-a-few-times-a-week kind of woman. I told myself that I would commit to just 15 minutes a day, nothing crazy. In the process, I started to feel better physically (less tension in my neck and shoulders, no more back twinges) and I learned some new things about what I could accomplish.

  1. I can make a new habit. Doing yoga every day taught me that if I can do this every day, then I can do other things every day too (like write, read to my kids, make sure the dishes are done before bedtime). It gave me confidence that I can build other little habits into my routine. My drive toward self-improvement sometimes gets out of control, but keeping my expectations modest actually boosted me up rather than left me feeling hopeless, like I did in the past when I’d get overwhelmed trying for things that were big, long-term commitments (writing a book, running for a half hour straight) without breaking them down into manageable chunks.
  1. I can be realistic. Last January, I tried to do yoga every day, but I made grandiose plans. I was going to build up to an hour a day and I was going to be doing the advanced classes and be able to master every pose in the yoga app I was using. This time around, I didn’t make any promises about what I’d accomplish from doing yoga, just that I’d do it. Better done than perfect, I say. We are always taught to focus on our desired outcome, but sometimes the goal is so far off that it can feel overwhelming. If I keep this up, maybe I will get to advanced-level yoga, but even if I don’t, I’m still reaping the benefits of daily practice. The rest would just be cool party tricks anyway.
  1. I can follow a schedule, but I don’t have to be rigid about it. Generally, I go through a cycle of classes: strength, relaxation, combination, flexibility, repeat. But sometimes I feel really tired and crummy, and I give myself permission to do the easiest routine (the relaxation one, of course!). Because I’m a teacher, most of my day is pretty much set into blocks of time, and that regimentation carries into my home life as well. But I learned with my commitment to 15 minutes a day of yoga that sometimes I’d have to do it in the morning, sometimes at night, and sometimes I’d have to skip something else that day so that I could still have time for the yoga.

Some days yoga has been life-changing, and others, it’s just another thing to cross off on my to-do list, but no matter what, I’m feeling better.

If you are interested, the app I use (for the iPad) is called Yoga Studio.

The picture is me in lizard pose, and by the way, doing yoga does not look as sexy as it feels.

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

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Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks |

Kobo Books | BAM | IndieBound | Powell’s

 

 

 

 

 

We are not a broken family

I have been heading a single-parent family for nearly six years now. I am a teacher, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in meetings and conferences while others lamented the fact that we have to deal with “broken families.” I think it’s a hurtful phrase and one that I’ve had to work hard to overcome. My family is not broken. While maintaining our family’s privacy, I will just say divorce was not a decision that was taken lightly.

My ex-husband and I have made many compromises and more importantly, made peace with each other, in order to be the best co-parents possible for our kids. Yes, there are differences in our parenting styles, but we discuss all major decisions and are in general agreement on the important things. We face the same issues we would have been dealing with if we were still married.

Just because a children’s parents are divorced, it doesn’t have necessarily mean the family is broken. Broken to me means deficient in a way that is beyond repair. We may not have two parents living together in the same house, but I still consider my ex and his family my family and I always will.

We are bound together for the rest of our lives by our two children, and I want to make the best of it. I am happy that it’s not awkward or painful to sit together at recitals or meet up to go trick-or-treating. We will not have to sit in separate rows when our children graduate or get married.

Although it’s a sad statement about our society that the divorce rate is so high, the most practical way to help children is to give them a sense of family no matter what its makeup. I support the institution of marriage. When it works, it’s a beautiful partnership. But there are other types of families that work too. We may not look like the Pajamagram picture above, but we’re still a whole, beautiful family!

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

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Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks |

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What is your word of the year?

I’m one of those people who gets all fired up with New Year’s resolutions, some of which I’ve kept and some of which I haven’t. My birthday falls between Christmas and New Year’s, which is another impetus to get me reflecting on where I’ve been and where I’d like to go.

In 2013, I had a “theme” for the year, and that was “Put yourself out there.” For a reserved person like me, this was a big deal. It meant all the times I wanted to say no to opportunities, I said yes instead. And what a big difference it made in my work life and my personal relationships.

2014 was kind of a blah year for me. There were many blessings, accomplishments, and good things happening, but there was no overriding message to keep me on track.

This year, I’m trying something new. My friend and personal coach, Cathy Colangelo, suggested I download Christine Kane’s free PDF that shows you how to select a single word to carry you through the year and bring intention to your goals.

The word I chose is “soar.” I know it sounds cheesy if you’re a cynic, but what can it hurt? I chose this word because I realized there are too many times I’ve let fear keep me grounded. This is the year I am going to be brave about achieving my goals rather than hiding in the corner making excuses when the going gets tough.

It took me a few days to come up with my word of the year, and in the process of mulling it over, I’ve already had a few chances to put my word into action when I thought I was getting snaggled in household problems I couldn’t deal with on my own. Instead, I told myself, “I can handle this,” and I did!

Cathy has also inspired me to make vision boards the the past few years. I think the one I made yesterday is my best yet. I wanted to convey women who look confident (and flexible, since continuing the daily practice of yoga is one of my goals), and I wanted to put it right out there that this is the year I finish my second novel.

I’m looking forward to a great, big, shiny new year. What’s your word going to be? Reply below and let me know!

 

Check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, available now.

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Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks |

Kobo Books | BAM | IndieBound | Powell’s