Posted in Christian, coffee, Depression, God, kids, longreads, moms, motherhood, parenting

Stay Strong Sister.

Dear tired travel softball mom,

Stay strong sister. When we spread our blanket on the beach near you at the end of a difficult day, I had no idea how happy you would make me.

We were on the last day of a family vacation. A vacation where I told my kids over and over to stop. “Stop what?” they asked. All of it. I needed them to stop it all.

Stop poking, hitting, and shoving each other. Quit yelling in my ear while wwre driving in the van – its Mario Kart not the Indy 500. Stop being full after five bites of lunch then begging me for snacks all afternoon. Quit announcing you are bored on tours you asked to go on. Playing hide-and-seek in the museums, and getting mad at me for not getting you out of a 350′ deep mine tour fast enough all needs to stop too.

We went to the beach that evening with one goal: wear these lunatics out so they go to bed without me losing my shit. They hit in the water and their land shenanigans carried on in the water.

“Quit going past the swim buoy”, “don’t hold each other under water”, “quit throwing rocks” and “you’re out too deep again” all came spewing from my mouth from my place on the warm sand. I could feel the dark, heavy weight of failure sitting on me like a wet blanket.

That’s when you turned in your chair, saw your son had buried himself to his bellybutton and you told him to “stop it and go rinse off!” in an all too familiar tone.

Our eyes met under huge sunglasses, you smiled, and I held up a fist yelling “stay strong sister!” From there, conversation flowed like the salve my battered mom heart needed so badly after a particularly draining week.

You were also hoping swimming would wear your son out. You cannot vacation without melatonin on hand, just like me. You needed to explain to a child how to rinse off in the water repeatedly as if this was a new concept. We agreed children are why wine was invented.

“You can tell yours are siblings, they’re doing normal sibling stuff” was one of the kindest things I’ve ever heard. All week they looked like heathens compared to the other kids and campers we encountered. The looks we acquired from the Judey McJudgersons made want to crawl under a rock.

The other families on the beach were laughing and playing together like I wish we were, but you didn’t seem to notice those people. Or care. Whatever.

Your shared misery, warm acceptance, and friendly commiseration pulled the heavy failure blanket from me.

This is what motherhood should be. Support, love, friendship, and laughter while we all stumble through the jungle of parenthood. Thank you for that reminder and refueling my heart.

Love,

Exhausted, but not failing, vacation mom

Posted in Anxiety, coffee, Depression, diet, exercise, happiness, healthy, longreads, Mantras, Meditation, moms, motherhood, selfcare

Stop telling me to take a bath and be happy.

I’m calling out every blog, magazine, and person who keeps telling me that The Secret to happiness is a long list of pampering disguised as self-care. I’m literally starting to get stressed out trying to fit in and afford all of these things people keep claiming I need to do.

If your calendar looks anything like mine it is difficult to even find time to paint your own toenails some days. I definitely can’t run all over making sure I spoiled myself constantly. I don’t think most people can.

I looked up the definition of self-care and found this:

Self care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

It says nothing about manicures, pedicures, expensive purses, spy days, or long candlelit baths will just the right blend of lavender/eucalyptus/hemp calming a oils and mood music to boost brain waves.

The way I see it? Self care is basically hygiene for your brain and happiness. Everyday we brush our teeth, wash, and generally try to make good choices. We want to take care of our bodies. Why don’t we do daily hygiene for our happiness? Wouldn’t that be better self-care then getting some sort of gold foil body wrap once a year, under a waning moon, on a pygmy goat farm in the Himalayas? Just seems like we’re being told to do extraordinary things for happiness, when happiness shouldn’t be a rare, fleeting feeling.

I’m no expert, just a really busy and tired mom who feels sad and lost sometimes but is trying to do her best. So here are my topu for ways to actually practice self care like a normal person:

Take 10 minutes. I don’t have the time or budget for pygmy farm or dsily spa treatments. However, I do have at least 10 minutes each day I can set aside for me. Personally, I get up early for my time but you can just as easily stay up late, hide away for 10 minutes of your lunch hour, DVR your show at night (you can also skip the commercials later than so that’s really a win-win), take a long shower, go for a walk, or just straight up look at everyone around you and tell them that you are about to lose your crap and you need 10 minutes of being left alone before you end up in a straight jacket. It seems extreme but trust me, that one definitely works.

Don’t set a budget. I don’t say this because I feel no amount of money is too much for your happiness. I say this because who actually can afford to go out and spoil themselves all the time? If you can, congratulations and you keep doing you. If not, realize that you don’t need to spend money to be happy. Read a book, drink coffee or tea quietly, talk to a friend, meditate, practice yoga, lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling, think about all you have to be grateful for, plan a random act of kindness you can do, or just set an alarm and take a 10 or 20 minute nap in the middle of the day. I don’t think most people understand how much better their lives are on the days that I get a nap. That’s everyone-care.

Quit putting crap in. I can literally think of some people who manage to bring me down when I am around them for real long. I can’t avoid them all but I can do everything in my power to not let their negativity bring down my happiness. Limit how much time you spend talking with those people, stop gossiping ( I’m working on that, this is a judgment free space so just move along here), think about all the good things in life instead of the bad, think about what could go right instead of what could go wrong. Take in positive messages, quotes, movies, books, shows, articles, or anything else. Remember that whatever you put in is what you were going to get out. We know what happens if we fill our bodies full of Cheetos, icecream, and prime rib four times per day. The same thing happens if you constantly allow negative people, pettiness, and a negative outlook into your mind.

Don’t Be Crazy. I would love to tell you that I eat nothing but healthy foods, practice yoga daily, and read a minimum of 17 inspirational quotes before I get out of bed each day. But none of that is realistic. Don’t set crazy goals and make this another huge thing you need to do each day – that kind of defeats the purpose. Some days my self care is laying in bed, lost in thought, and hitting snooze for half an hour before I get up. Some days it’s yoga. Some days it’s beer in the evening on the porch. Some days it’s Drinking a cup of coffee before it gets cold and I have to microwave it again. Some days its going to bed at early. Basically, just take 10 minutes every day to chill the F out and just be you for a little bit.

Self care does not need to be expensive or monumental. Are spa days, pedicures, and long baths wonderful? Of course! I recommend them whenever you have the time or the budget (feel free to send gift cards!) Are they something practical that we can do every day? I sure can’t. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t find other ways to still take care of myself I bring my best self to the table.

Stop telling me otherwise.

Posted in Anxiety, books, Christian, coffee, Depression, God, kids, longreads, moms, motherhood, nature, parenting, selfcare

When you look at me, I know what you see.

When you look at me, I know what you see. Your face and words say it all clearly: “you’re so fun! So crazy. So funny/strong/smart/organized/put together!”

Go ahead. Scroll my Facebook page. I’ve got all the “required” pics. Smiley, happy, spouse selfie? Check. Happy, well behaved kids displaying equal parts good behavior and precocious curiosity? Check. Yummy meals? Successful workouts? Got ’em.
Home based business? Got it. Great job? Sharing those company posts often! Pets? Theo the cat almost needs her own page. Don’t forget the amazing cakes, birthday parties, vacations, pretty house, DIY projects, make up looks, and amazing weight loss goals – I’ve got all that too!
What don’t you see? I am currently on the highest dose of Prozac a woman can take. This hair? Shoutout to dry shampoo and Bobby pins for the win! Cereal for dinner is a weekly occurrence here. I loathe the days my daughter DOESN’T want hot lunch. I got two separate emails at work today pointing out the areas I’m failing at. If I had one wish in life, it would be to stay in bed. For at least a month.
I regularly Google and price vacations I could take by myself. Just for a break from my life (which I am actually very happy for – even though I struggle to really share that everyday). Then, I check my bank account and remmember I am not a Kardashian and have a budget that doesn’t allow for such things.
I am a mom living with chronic, clinical, depression. I am a full-time employee, friend, daughter, sister, church-going, school volunteering woman who struggles to get out of bed some days. And honestly? I’m sick of it.
Why is this something we hide? Why are we ashamed of this? Why aren’t there more resources? Why do we spend so much time feeling alone and hiding our truth – when its so much more common than we could ever guess?
According to a 2016 study published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 16 million American adults (roughly 7% of our population for you number junkies) had a depressive episode within the past year.
That’s roughly 7 of every 100 people you know, struggling THIS YEAR ALONE. Look around your office, PTO meeting, church service, your gym, or merely on your Facebook feed.
Can you spot them?
Can you see their calls for help?
Or do they master blending into society while craving help so loudly on the inside that their needs and thoughts are all they hear?
I’ll give you a moment to take inventory. Though, if we know each other in real life or through social media, I bet you pegged me wrong. To quote a favorite show from my youth: “You think you know, but you have no idea.”
My alarm sounds at 5am. Why? Because I know that I feel better if I get up with time to myself, a cup of coffee, time with God, and time for my yoga practice. However, most days I just hit snooze for about an hour and a half.
I would love to tell you that every day starts with a nice warm shower for me, but most days it’s layers of make up and dry shampoo that get me looking presentable for the day.
I wake up my kids and devote every bit of energy that I have for the next hour and a half to making sure they are ready, have everything they need, and know just how much I love them before I drive them to school each morning.
I go to work each morning to a job that I have wanted for nearly a decade and finally managed to get. Then, I think about how badly I wish I were a stay-at-home mom. I propose selling everything and living in a cabin in the woods to my husband at least once a week. No joke.
Outlook reminders, to-do lists, and calendars are my secret weapons to presenting a very put together and organized front that manages to get 90% of my job done well each week. The other 10%? Well, it’s a mix of praying that I get good luck, my coworkers cover, or that the boss understands that I am seriously doing the best I can.
My lunch hours? They rotate between therapy sessions, volunteering at my kids’ schools, and running errands to keep our family aloat. There is no time and there are no resources for a mom to take a mental vacation. That is when things start getting real.
Why is there a stigma? Why are we expected to work like we do not have children and have children like we do not work? It is literally more than anyone should take on and a serious struggle for me, personally, on a regular basis. Why do we act like this is not a problem, not a national crisis, and not something we should be addressing as a society?
I know I have a good life. I know I am fortunate. I have amazing kids, a strong husband, a deep support system, and wonderful friends, but some days are still more than my heart can handle for no obvious reason.
I am tired of living in secrecy and shame. Those things which we cannot, will not, and do not name will continue to be our scariest demons until we stand up to them and say: no more.
I am done hiding from my truth. I am done with the “mom game”. I am done posting things portraying me as having everything figured out, when in reality I am one unscheduled softball practice away from everything falling apart.
We are absolutely all doing our best. I don’t care what your pinterest board says, you are just as messy as me. I am through hiding this any longer. I am coming clean to my kids, friends, and life that mom cannot do everything. And that’s OK. Life is a team sport. And we, as a family especially, are all in this together to make everything work.
I refuse to pass in legacy of burnout, over whelmed feelings, and inadequacies to my daughter. I also refuse to raise a son who thinks that women are invincible. That we can do all of the professional work, all of the children work, and all of the household work on our own.
There is no shame in needing a break. There is no shame in needing help. There is no shame in not being able or wanting to do it all.
My kids come first. Always. Whether or not the baseboards have been cleaned? Not even on my radar. Did I forget to work out this week? Well, my pants still fit so I don’t care. If our profit margins go down a percent or two over a month’s time? Nothing I’m going to lose sleep over. And yes, the Domino’s pizza app has saved our favorite order. That’s how I know everyone gets their favorite from time to time.
The ages of 25 to 44? Those are the most likely ages for any woman to experience depression. Smack dab in the middle of raisinsg kids. If that is you, like it is me, please know that you are not alone in this battle. We are in the trenches, mamas. Torn between raising babies, building amazing marriages, and forging successful long-lasting careers. No wonder we feel that we are falling short and find ourselves battling depressing thoughts.
But until we start being honest with each other and sharing our truths, this cycle will continue. Our daughters will be in the same spot that we are, which is exactly where our mothers were. But we have the opportunity today to be brave and stand up for what we need.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is the ultimate sign of strength. As Elizabeth Dehn said best ” You don’t have to do it all by yourself.”
So don’t. Don’t rob yourself or your family of the strongest version of you. Don’t hide the truest version of yourself to make sure everyone’s needs are met. You are more than accessory to everyone else’s life. You are a powerful being that deserves to be seen in all your mess and beauty.
Instead, remember that it takes an entire village to raise babies, grow families, and achieve a full life. Asking for help is nothing weak; if anything it is the ultimate sign of strength because you have looked deep within your self and seen what you can or cannot do on your own. That is where the real power of life lies.
I am a mom, wife, sister, friend, volunteer, and employee. I live with depression but it does not define me. I am calling it out, removing its power, and fighting to make sure future generations know that everyone has a struggle and that doesn’t make you weaker.
Please, love each other fiercely and completely. You never know what someone else is battling and how your kindness can help their fight.
If you need help, PLEASE contact one of these amazing groups:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression
http://www.ifred.org/

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
1-800-826-3632
http://www.dbsalliance.org/

National Institute of Mental Health
866-615-6464
www.nimh.nih.gov

American Psychiatric Association
703-907-7300
www.psychiatry.org/

Anxiety and Depression Association of America
240-485-1001
www.adaa.org

Posted in Christian, coffee, selfcare, Uncategorized

Morning Coffee

“Everything in my life has something to do with coffee.” – Lorelai Gilmore

There is no denying or hiding the truth that I am a major fan of coffee. I think that most of my successes in life since the ripe old age of 15 can be traced back to a single cup of coffee at the start of each day. And my greatest failures? They were survived in part by a warm, rich, cup of coffee bringing me a few moments of peace to gather my thoughts before trying again.

I cannot stress to you enough how important a quiet start to your day with a warm cup of coffee is for your soul. If tea is more your style, its an acceptable choice also, the point being that everyone should start their day with just a few moments of peace while filling their bodies with something rich that makes them smile.

Pick your drink, but for me, its coffee. Always has been and always will be.

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve fallen to the wayside of my morning ritual. There are kids to get ready, lunches to make, and I need some time to tame my hair before attacking the workday. Like so many other others, I am often tired and getting up earlier than I “had” to just didn’t interest me like before. Instead of starting my day in a calm place of peace, I sprung to action the minute my feet hit the ground scurrying around the house and dragging two children along with me as we rushed out the door.

It was not uncommon for me to be in a full on sweat by the time I sat down in the driver’s seat to head out and drop everyone off at their schools for the day. A full sweat guys. For real. All before 8am. That’s just not right.

My evenings were pretty much the same thing, but in reverse. I was trying to get everyone undressed and unwound from their day so they could get off to bed. This left a little time for some basic chores and time with my husband before I collapsed into bed each night, fully exhausted. It’s no wonder I felt burned out all the time and my crazy expectations for my life were hanging over me so severely.

I wasn’t giving myself a moment to breathe, let alone to enjoy my life or sort out any thoughts or feelings I was wrestling with that day.

It came to a head last Spring, when I was faced with some very real personal struggles both at home and in my professional life. I had been running around for so long trying to do everything for everyone that I lost myself and forgot to even enjoy this life I was so frantically trying to build. I was lost, scared, overwhelmed, tired, and felt very alone in this place.

I confided first to my husband, then my pastor, then my best friend that I was not happy where I was. I could see all of the good, all of the love, and all of the things to be grateful for – and I was grateful, just not satisfied. Which felt so terribly greedy and wrong.

At their suggestion, I decided to carve out just 30 minutes each day for me. I could watch a show, read, pray, think, or just stare out of the window; whatever I wanted to do was fine in my personal time. It was a kind of daunting thing so I started off with something I knew I could do well, consistently, and happily. I would drink a cup of coffee every morning before starting my day.

The first few weeks were spent sipping and scrolling my Facebook to send happy birthday messages I always forgot before and to see what people were up to. I found myself more awake and ready when the day started and the mornings started to be a pleasant experience. Well, as pleasant as any early morning wake up call can be.

As I started in deeper, books joined my morning routine as a way to feed my mind and soul in my morning stillness. Over time prayer, reflection, and devotional time trickled in also. This quiet 30 minute cup of coffee was quickly becoming my favorite part of the day and making the rest of the day feel less overwhelming.

“ So then let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding.”

Romans 14:19

Over the course of my mornings, this verse came up in my readings on more than one occasion and I can’t help feel it was not just a coincidence.

I wish we were sitting here in my quiet den together right now so you could see and feel what I am talking about. If you were here, I’d offer you one of my favorite quilts to curl up under on the cozy pillow-back sectional near the large windows facing my neighborhood. We would both have oversized mugs of warm aromatic coffee hugged in our hands and sigh happily when the first sips warm our bodies from the inside. We would be in a place of peace that we created together.

I would share with you that I believe starting our days from a place of peace is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and to others. By sorting our day out, taking time to process events fully, and making time for prayer and reflection we are bringing our best selves to each day. There are definitely days when I still feel overwhelmed or not enough in the world but my coffee time gives me time to process and remind myself that these moments will pass.

The coffee in our hands wakes us up to the day, but our time of reflection and peace wakes us up to life. This awake feeling reminds us that there is some good in every day, even if coffee time is all there is some days. That’s ok. We don’t need to be perfect, we just need to show up. Much life coffee becomes a habit in our lives, so does this personal time. Your body and soul will crave it as you fall asleep at night. You will find this peace becomes an important part of your day, just as much as eating, drinking, and brushing your teeth. You won’t feel right without your morning coffee peace break. Once you start coffee or seeking peace in God you won’t want to stop.

What started as a selfish quiet time develops quickly to a practice of building up others around you. Praying for those who are hurting, learning to be more compassionate, replying to emails to friends in need, and cheering on those around you from a place of love. And sometimes, sharing your coffee space with someone else to enjoy life and peace together.

Find your spot, set your alarm, select your favorite mug, and pursue your peace.