Problem solved…a form of gratitude

Sometimes when I’m feeling like there’s one setback after another, it helps to reflect on what has been repaired. I keep a little glass jar in my desk at work filled with colorful paper slips of “problems solved.”
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My students and I enjoy this poster that I replenish a few times a week. Anyone who has a need is invited to tear one off. At least once a week, I take one too, and I write the date and why I took that request on the back.
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Some of them are simple, like the day I forgot my cell phone at home and worried all day that my son would get sick at school and the nurse would try to call me and not be able to reach me. Some of them are more complicated and long-term and it’s not really clear when or how they’ll be answered. Just writing it down and releasing it to the universe eases my burden.
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I don’t have time to keep a journal, but writing helps me work through the things that weigh on my mind. My jar of patience, hope, healing, and more reminds me that even though there are always going to be new problems, many things I worried about are already in my past.

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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Hope for the discouraged

FullSizeRender (3)I will admit that I’ve been kind of discouraged with myself lately. Why can’t I have more energy, more patience, more gratefulness for all of the blessings in my life? Picking on yourself never leads to anything good, nor does comparing yourself to others. I look in the mirror and say “You could do better.”

You know what? It’s true. I could do better, but instead of putting it like that, I’d like to say “I am better today.” Not better like a competition that I have to work at, but better because I’ve lived and learned for one more day.

Before I say anything to myself, I ask whether it’s something I’d say to someone I love. I certainly wouldn’t tell a friend,

“You can’t balance everything.”

“Why are you so lazy?”

“Other people can do this; why can’t you?”

Those are the kinds of things I would never even think about someone else, so why was it okay to talk to myself that way? I’m learning to think of myself as a kind and supportive friend to a younger woman who needs my help. She needs encouragement and a pep talk and sometimes a little time off from all of her responsibilities. I let her know she is strong and she can keep going, even when she thinks it’s impossible, and that she is better today, just for being herself.

What do you need to hear from yourself today?

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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This is why women need each other

“I feel like I don’t fit in.”

“There are a lot of days it’s a struggle to even get out of bed in the morning.”

These are statements from beautiful, accomplished women who look like they have it all. I was astounded to hear them confess that things aren’t always awesome for them, but it was exactly what I needed to hear because those are thoughts I’ve had at various times too.

I had the pleasure of recently attending a women’s workshop where we got to share our victories and setbacks of the past year, and the most helpful part for me was hearing other women admit that sometimes it’s a real trial to reach their goals. Two steps forward and one step back? Sometimes it’s more like three steps back and one step forward!

Blog Men are From Mars picI just finished reading Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray. Certain things suddenly made sense when he said that when women have problems, they merely need to be heard and validated to start feeling better. We don’t need someone to come in and fix it, nor do we expect that. Just the release of being able to say honestly what’s on our minds helps us let it go and move on.

I feel like I spend most of my life skating on the surface with the people around me. “How are you?” “Fine.” It helps me to know that when I feel like I’m the only one who doesn’t have my act together, even the most polished and professional among us also struggle sometimes to reach their goals.

Photo credit: stock photo by Serge Bertasius Photography at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away. Divorced mom Adrienne gets pregnant after fooling around with a lonely mortician. He wants to marry her and raise the baby together, but she has other ideas. 

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Muddling through a bad day

My car wouldn’t start, the coffee shop was closed on the one day I was going to stop for a big cup of coffee, I burned my tongue on scalding hot tea. It was going to be one of those days.

I could tell myself over and over again how a few mishaps don’t make the whole day bad.

I could practice being grateful – my mom lives nearby and had a car I could borrow for the day and she has a battery charger I was able to use after work on my car (thanks to YouTube, I figured out what to do with the charger). My loved ones are safe and healthy; we have enough to eat and a place to live. I have a job to be late for. I can have tea instead of coffee (even if it is too hot).

But no matter what I told myself, the day seemed bad. I found myself expecting more things to go wrong and those were the only things I noticed throughout the day.

The day finally ended and I woke up this morning determined to have a fresh start. If nothing else, I learned something from my bad day. I realized that every day has blessings and burdens, and your attitude determines which of these you are going to pay more attention to.

Yesterday, plenty of good things happened, actually way more good things than bad ones. My kids were extra loving because they knew I felt stressed, I got a much-needed pep talk, and everything went smoothly at work (once I got there).

The next time I wake up on the wrong side of bed, I am going to try, try, try to remember the lesson I learned: the day is what you make it, so go out and have a good one.

 

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

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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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Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks |

Kobo Books | BAM | IndieBound | Powell’s

 

 

 

 

5 ways to take better care of yourself as a mom (bonus spa giveaway)

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The two things that have held me back from taking care of myself as a mom are time and money. I even used to put off doctors’ appointments when it meant I’d need a few hours away from my kids. I went six months at a time without a haircut because I felt like the money could be better spent on the kids. That extra time and money I thought I was saving for the family only led to me feeling like a run-down martyr with no distinct identity apart from Mom/Mommy/Mama (depending on what the kids want at the moment).

Now I am functioning on a much better level.  I have a lot more confidence and energy because I take care of myself. I exercise regularly, I eat well, I get highlights (expensive AND time consuming!), and I get a massage or a facial now and then. Little indulgences like that make me feel so much better that I find I’m more attentive and patient as a parent. I enjoy life more, even with the constant hustle of our work, school, and activities.

We can certainly live without a trip to the spa, but ask yourself, as I did, whether the time and money you’re saving by not doing anything for yourself is really enhancing your family’s lifestyle. If you want to change that dynamic, here are some tips to free up the time and money you need:

 

  1. Save up for what you want to buy ahead of time so that you’re not feeling guilty putting something on a credit card that you really can’t afford. One of the best ways to feel on top of the world is to know you have a grip on your finances. If you’re not used to handling money, take on the challenge and feel the satisfaction of knowing you’re living within your means. If it helps, keep a picture of what you want to buy in your wallet to motivate you. Having a goal stopped me from getting coffee drinks, extra makeup I don’t need, or other little expenses that don’t seem like much but add up quickly.

 

  1. Trim money from other spending. When my kids were younger, I budget $100 a week for our family’s food; whenever we were under that, I put the extra money aside for myself. This gave me the motivation to creatively plan meals and not settle for fast food, which is overpriced and under-nutritious. At first it was a hassle for all of us: we had a routine of stopping at McDonad’s every Friday night, but that $20 was a fifth of the week’s food budget! We spend more on food now that they are older, but we’ve dropped the habit of eating out. Now going to a restaurant is a special, once-in-a-while treat we all look forward to and appreciate more.

 

  1. Decide as a family what you can give up in order to get something better. I realized I could not afford both cable TV and high-speed Internet access, so the kids and I voted and unanimously chose DSL. We haven’t watched TV in three years now, and after the initial shock that lasted about a week, it’s never bothered us since. Again, since you are giving something up, find something even better to replace it. One of my goals was to find new hobbies we could enjoy together. Not paying for cable TV meant there was enough money left over to go ice skating a few times a month. It’s become an activity that we all enjoy and look forward to and something we all learned together. If ice skating isn’t your idea of an indulgence, find something that is.

 

  1.  Look for ways to pursue your own interests, and find babysitting where you can. Fortunately, my mom lives nearby and even though she’s a busy woman herself, she makes it a priority to see that I get some time off from mom duty.  My brothers know that more than any stuff, the most valuable gift they can offer is some time with the kids so I can go out. I’ve also taken my kids to events and then sat on the sidelines to pursue my favorite passion, writing. Instead of watching them watch a science presentation, I pull out my laptop and write. I always wanted to write, but one of the things holding me back was feeling like I was doing something that wasn’t bringing money to the family and was taking time away from my kids. I’ve saved a lot of money on babysitting by finding fun things at libraries and schools for the kids to do while I take the time to write.

 

  1. Stop feeling guilty that every waking moment isn’t focused on your kids! This was the hardest one for me, but also the most necessary. There’s no point saving up money for a massage if you’re lying on the table feeling bad that you’re not home playing with the kids. A family needs times of separation to appreciate the togetherness. Tell your kids what you’re doing and why so that you can be a role model for how to balance work, parenting, taking care of your home, and taking care of yourself.

 

The first massage I ever had was because of a gift card, so I’d like to get the ball rolling for you on taking care of yourself.  Please visit my Facebook author page (Grete DeAngelo, Author) on the Giveaway tab or click here http://tinyurl.com/nurmmou to enter a random drawing for a $50 Spa Finders gift card!  Drawing ends Wednesday, July 16, 2014, at 10:00 am EST.