Just Sing & Be Happy

It’s the last Friday before students come back to my 3rd grade classroom. There are a million things on my to-do list and my mind is spinning. Meditation this morning was a bit of a train-wreck with the constant need to bring my thoughts back to the breath and away from the day. Redirection every 3 seconds!

That’s OK though. Some days start out like that. The question is – how do we handle it? Will we just try to power through, our minds a wreck, running from one thing to the other? I often have done just that but it doesn’t make for a very good day. I end up nervous all day long with an underlying feeling of distress. (I wanted to say frantic-ness, but I don’t actually think that’s a word.)

There is another way. There is always another way.

First, recognize that most of the things you are worrying about are not really worth worrying about. I love the quote that says “if it’s not going to matter in five years, then don’t spend more than five minutes stressing over it now.” Let it go, Elsa.

Next, know that you are going to do your best and that’s good enough. You cannot possibly do more than your best, so if you are giving it your all – be happy with that. Make a list, prioritize, then be in the moment as you get each thing done. Check it off the list. And the things that don’t get finished today, will get finished another day. No big deal. It’s really not going to matter in five years if my bulletin board was perfect before students come on Monday or if there is a pile of papers still on my desk. It’s really not. So have yourself a little celebration over each check mark made today on that list, and be happy.

Take time to quiet your mind. If you are really having a hard time stressing throughout your day, take a mindfulness break. Spend another 10 minutes in meditation. Do some yoga. My favorite yoga person in the world is Adrienne at https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene. She has tons of FREE videos on just about any topic you’d like and all different lengths. Search stress and she has two about 6 minutes long and several longer ones as well. A well placed short break could be just the thing you need!

In the end, on an average day, how we feel is totally up to us. We can choose to live in the anxiety filled stresses of life or we can make different choices and learn to just sing and be happy. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. Choose happy. Choose Joy. It’s worth the effort.

Like a Boss

Yesterday, when I wrote about moments, one of my own lines caught my attention. “You are magnificent chef.” Is it vain to say that my own words made me smile? I’m really beginning to enjoy cooking and the thought of telling myself how magnificent I am at it was silly but fun and it made me smile.

It also got me thinking. We spend so much of our time criticizing ourselves. It’s second nature to most of us and happens on a subconscious level often. It’s the reason we need “I ams” and positive thinking and to retrain our brains! Thoughts like that was dumb. What did you do that for? That wasn’t a good choice. OMG I can’t believe you did that. Idiot! What were you thinking? That was awful. You messed that one up again. Sound familiar? Your thoughts may be way more harsh or even more subtle but unless you have an active practice of mindfulness and affirmations, I’d bet money your internal thought life sounds a lot like that.

So my thought was… what if, as a way to combat all the negatives, we just got really silly and outrageous and spent all day telling ourselves how amazing we were?! Not in an arrogant or show off way. Not as a way to make ourselves feel better than others. But as a way to just make ourselves smile and laugh and change the script of our subconscious.

Imagine… you wake up in the morning, go to the bathroom (everyone does that first, right?) and start your day and think… Wow, you amazing human you. Just getting right up and starting your day like a boss. Props to you, my friend. You make your coffee, take that first sip, and Wow. You are a master coffee maker. Gold star, you fantastic Barista! Singing in the shower? You could win American Idol, you diva. You eventually head to work and congratulate yourself on driving. Nascar like relexes, Smooth driving skills. Bring on the Daytona 500.

Are you getting the idea? Hilarious. So over the top EXTRA… but I can only imagine how much I would smile if I continued this throughout the day! Forcing my thoughts beyond the negative, beyond the accepting, beyond the “I’m ok” to I really rock this world.

I know that personally I am not in danger of become cocky and “better than you” by thinking this way. I’m definitely not meaning to use it in a way to brag or sound crazy to others. Rather, as a simple tool to change our thinking from negative to positive in the most ridiculous extra way I can think of.

Shall we try it today? Give it a test run? I’ve never done this myself. Totally a new idea but I think it could be life changing. And once we get used to speaking to ourselves this way, maybe we pass it on to others. Tell them how amazing they are!

For today though… Be silly. Be absolutely absurd today in your thoughts. Maybe even with your best friend or your spouse (you know, someone who will understand haha). Let’s do it and share our results. Comment below and tell me what crazy ridiculous compliments you gave yourself today and what you thought of the exercise!

Here’s to a stunning day, you wondrous ray of sunshine, you.

Fall in Love with Moments

Moments are wonderful things. Little snippets of time full of life and soul. There are very significant moments in life… the first moment your baby smiles, or laughs, or says mama. Your first moment of school. The moment your name is called at graduation. Special moments – moments that will never be forgotten.

There are lots and lots of other moments though. Hundreds of thousands of moments in between all of those monumental ones. Moments that can easily be overlooked and dismissed. Moments that we are not present in… the moments when our little ones want to play pretend for the thousandth time, moments at fun events when we get distracted by our phones. #guilty Moments that we let the sadness of the past or worry from the future steal from us.

One of the best things that I have learned from counseling is to be in the moment. Be really in the moment. Set aside distractions, look the moment in the face, and enjoy it. Breathe it in. See it, hear it, feel it. Be all in.

When you’re writing lesson plans, write them. Just do that one thing. Plan a great lesson, be proud, finish, and move on. When you’re making dinner, be that chef. Chop the onions, saute the veggies, season the food and savor the moment. You are a magnificent chef. When you sit down to watch a movie – go ahead and just enjoy the heck out of that movie.

When you’re having family game night – be there. Laugh with your kids. Play the game. Try to win. Celebrate who ever does win. Laugh some more. When your child is trying to talk to you, listen. Ask questions. Look at their little face – memorize the freckles and dimples and sparkle in their eyes. When a student hugs you, hug them back. Let them know they are loved and worthy of that moment.

When you give someone your moments, you are saying they are valuable and worthy of your time. When you allow yourself to be in the moment, you are saying that YOU are valuable and worthy of the time. I can’t think of a better message to send.

Always Beautiful

I love this punkin. She’s 8 now but the pictures I use come from all points of her life. I LOVE photography and she’s the best subject. She’s quite used to having her picture taken and usually enjoys it. She’s a beautiful human – inside and out. I tell her often because I want it to become a part of who she is. Not that I think beauty is important but because every woman I know struggles to believe they are beautiful. And every one of us are, you know. Beautiful. Each and every one of us. Don’t roll your eyes – it’s truth.

We don’t see it though. We are so hard on ourselves and just don’t see the beauty when looking in the mirror. We see our flaws. Overweight. Bad hair day. Big nose. Long arms. (Is that a thing?) Weird feet. Imperfect skin. On and on the list goes. What would my punkin think, how would it affect her, if I always pointed out and told her things like that? It would cripple her, yes?

Why then do we do it to ourselves? Do we really think we are helping ourselves by constantly noticing the imperfections? Is anyone perfect? No and No. Every time we criticize ourselves, we are hurting ourselves. Destroying out self esteem. Lowering our boundaries – not just to ourselves but to others. The worse we are to ourselves, the worse we will allow people to treat us as well.

We are beautiful, friends. Beautiful. Imperfect? Of course, but perfect just the same. We have hearts that love, souls that sing, people we care about, passions, and humor, and fierceness. And when people look at us, they see just that. The beauty.

I struggle with this a lot. I am overweight and somehow in my mind that makes me less of a person. Less worthy. Less deserving of love. One of my best friends, Mandy, tells me she sees such beauty when she looks at me. She gets my feelings, understands them, but just doesn’t see it. Most of the time, I think she’s just being nice. Except… I know she’s not. She’s telling the truth as she sees it.

I wish we could see ourselves the way others do. I think we can… I think we can get there. It takes a lot of work though. A lot of he undoing of the lies we have believed for so long. It’s going to take affirmations daily and constant monitoring of the mind. Every time we think one of those awful thinks we think about ourselves, we need to stop and turn it around. For every one awful think, we need at least 3 positive thinks. “I look awful today.” No. NO. I am beautiful. I am beautiful inside and out. I am strong and lovely and I will overcome these thoughts. “I’m so stupid. What a dumb mistake!” No. NO. Everyone makes mistakes. I am smart and kind and hardworking. I do great work on a daily basis. One mistake does not define me. I am intelligent and good at my job.

Change your thoughts and then move on. Don’t dwell on it. And when the next awful thought comes, do it again. And again, and again, and again. I’ve overcome some very limiting beliefs through this process. From weak to strong, from scared to brave, from unworthy to worthy. (That last one is still a work in progress but I’ve come a long way.)

The one I still most need to work on is – I’m beautiful. Inside and Out. When I wake up in the morning to blog, I first spend some time in meditation, then prayer and I end my prayer with a request for the right picture and the right words to speak. I haven’t been planning ahead just open to the opportunity and what feels right. So I wasn’t planning on writing about my inferiority complex when it comes to my looks or about affirmations or beauty… but it’s obviously what I needed today. Something I need to work on. I AM working on health – moving more, eating better, drinking more water… but the fact that I am working on improving my health doesn’t make me any less worthy or beautiful as human.

So here goes. Here goes to the upcoming days of beautiful affirmations and hard work to continue to grow as a lovely human.

Friendship

I was watching Doctor Who last night… in case you didn’t know it’s about a mad man with a box. An alien who travels through time and space. It’s about exploring the universe and ourselves, fighting evil where it’s found, and showing that everyone is deserving of a chance. It’s about… Wait, I digress. Yes, I am a huge Doctor Who fangirl nerd. I’m ok with that.

Anyway… one of the characters in the episode said he didn’t trust anybody and never needed anyone and one of the Doctor’s companions responded “We are stronger together.” I love that. Life is better with friends. It doesn’t have to be many but a tribe of like minded people traveling with you makes the biggest difference in the world.

Today, I go back to work as a teacher. It’s the first day back after summer and I’m so excited to see my friends and begin another year of touching lives, teaching students, and inspiring others. Ooh, was that cheesy? I think most teachers feel this way. It’s not about the job, but the kids.

However this first week back… it’s about the teachers. ( Boy, I’m a bit all over the place this morning.) There is something about coming back after summer and seeing everyone again that starts the year off right. We will gather together this week, enjoy each others company, and work together to begin a new year. We will share ideas, ask each other questions, talk about the kids, and ready out classrooms. We will seek each other’s advice and share each other’s struggles this year. We will lean on each other, vent to each other, help each other, lift each other up, and share chocolate and coffee and occasionally Chipoltle chips and guac. What’s life without chips and guac?

I’m so thankful for my teacher friends.

Here’s to a new year, new students, new challenges, and new triumphs. Here’s to my teacher friends, off to change the world – one student at a time.

Side note: Shout out to my friend Vanessa at http://www.braveblessedandbeautiful.com. Not only is she my best friend in life, we get to teach together too! I took this picture one day, laughing about how we are so different in some ways. She is the yin to my yang, the summer to my winter! She’ll take her hot coffee straight-up with a bit of milk. I’ll take mine iced with lots of cream and sugary flavor, thanks.

Leap like you mean it

I love this quote and it’s perfectly matched with the picture! She jumped as high and as far as she could in that moment to reach the branch. She was all in. She didn’t think – What if I fall? What if I can’t reach it no matter how hard I try? She didn’t second guess herself and wonder if she was good enough or strong enough or brave enough. She saw something she wanted and she went for it. I love her for that! She was alive in that moment and life was good.

I’m so thankful for that reminder this morning. That picture came up in my memories from three years ago and I immediately knew it was going to be my blog post for today. I’ve written three blog posts so far and after each one was written, and I hit publish, I second guessed myself hard. What if it’s dumb? What if no one reads it? What if I’m not good enough to be a blogger? What if people think I’m stupid? I wanted to take it back!

I think back at how I’ve wanted to blog for years and never got up the courage to just go for it. This week, I leaped. I just did it. Bought the domain. Got a wordpress account. Created a site that I loved and started blogging. Here I am… leaping! However, I do NOT want to live with that feeling of foretold failure every time I hit publish.

So I’m going to work hard to beat back those lies. Nothing I write is dumb… it may not be for everyone and that’s ok. So what if no one reads it? I’m doing it for me and from my heart. Good enough to be a blogger? Is there such a thing? I’m good enough just as I am and as long as I’m honest and vulnerable, that’s good enough for me. What if people think I’m stupid? Ohhh now this is a hard one for me. I HATE being made to feel stupid. But really… no matter what anyone else says… how I feel is up to me. I absolutely love this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt…

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. How we feel and respond to other people is 100% up to us. I’ve spent most of my life worried about what other people think… especially when it comes to being seen as dumb. (Which is really ridiculous when you think about it because I’m actually quite smart, did well in school, graduated magna cum laude… well you get the point.) I have no reason to feel stupid, and yet if someone says something that makes me feel stupid, I believe it. I agree with them. Or… I used to. Sometimes still do, but I’m getting better at it.

This blog is the perfect opportunity to work on this struggle in my life. To go for something and not worry about what anyone else thinks. To let go of caring about what people think. To do something for me, that I love, with a passion to help others… and let it just be.

If you have something that you have wanted to do, but haven’t had the courage to start… I encourage you to take the leap. Leap like you mean it. Go for it and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Be You. Do You. And let it be.

Anxiety Life Hacks

The day will be what you make of it. So rise, like the sun, and shine.

This is easier said than done some days. Some days, I wake up and no matter what happens, I know it’s going to be a good day. Those days, it’s much easier to shine. You don’t even need a quote like this on a day like that.

Other days, like this morning, my anxiety is high – for no reason that I can figure out. When I’m anxious for a reason – knowing the reason helps me to fight it. When I’m anxious without a reason, it’s harder. It’s harder to push through, harder to use the tools I have, harder just to get going. For me, anxiety is an elephant that sits on my chest. It makes my heart ache and it feels more difficult to breathe. I’m tense, clench my jaw and shoulders, and feel so very heavy. It’s discouraging and it’s sad and it’s something I have to deal with every day to some extent.

Today has started out as a yuck day. I had trouble sleeping and woke up with my ever present elephant. Side thought – I like elephants. I wonder what would happen if I named my elephant and called her Ellie or something. Maybe I could reason with it better… haha!

Today as I looked through my picture quotes to blog, this one jumped out at me because I know it’s going to be an effort to rise like the sun today. It’s going to be an effort to shine. But I do have tools and I can rise above this. It may not go completely away, but I can conquer this yucky feeling right now. Here are some of the tools I use…

  • Prayer – I struggle with religion but I love God and despite any struggles I have, He has always been there when I needed Him, and has provided peace when there was no sight of peace ahead.
  • Affirmations – I am statements are so vital to my spiritual life that I cannot imagine a day without them! On days like today, I will say things such as “I am strong. I am brave. I am loved. I am safe.”
  • Meditation – Quieting an anxious mind is like trying to herd cats but my meditation practice has helped so much. There are days I am able to quiet my mind easily and days I have to work like a boss to achieve it but it’s so worth it. The Calm App is a life savor for guided meditations!
  • Picture Quotes – This is a personal one for me. Looking through pictures and adding quotes to them calms me. It’s something I love to do. A hobby. What’s your hobby? Do it when you’re feeling down!
  • Snuggling my Daughter – Nothing makes me feel better than this!
  • Nature – Getting outside is soothing to my soul. Especially the beach! The beach is soul food. Since it’s already pouring outside, that won’t be happening today but getting outside into nature is very healing!
  • Get Moving – This is a hard one for me because when I’m anxious or depressed, the last thing I want to do is exercise. If I can get myself up to walk or do yoga though, the effects are immediate!

If you are struggling, know that you are not alone and that it’s OK to ask for help. I see a counselor on a regular basis. I began when I was going through trauma but continue to go now because it’s OK to need help. Anxiety is hard and it takes support and tools and strategies and hard work to get through. It takes bravery and strength just to get through the day sometimes! And that’s OK. It’s really, truly OK.

The beginning of a Blog

I have wanted to blog for a long time… thought about it for years, but never dove in. Well, let’s be real, I once bought a domain, paid for it for 2 years while doing nothing with it, then cancelled it. A couple of days ago, I re-bought the same domain (momstronglife.com). I had no idea how I was going to start or what it was going to look like, but I was going to do it.

One of my best, best, best friends – Vanessa from http://braveblessedandbeautiful.com has been blogging for three years now and is so inspiring and brave and yes, beautiful! She’s the most beautiful person I know – inside and out – and when I grow up, I want to be like her! (I’m 39… when does “grown up” start?) I told her that I had no idea how to begin, that it would be totally different from hers, and that it would probably be so random but I was in. She, of course, supported me 100% just like she always does. That’s what best friends are for, right?

While driving and thinking about this blog I was going to start, a thought came to me. A divine intervention, as my counselor would say. Why not combine my love for pictures & quotes with my desire to blog? When researching themes, I realized that Photo Blogs are a thing!! And Boom! Here we are!

I have tons of pictures to share, quotes that have meaning to me, and a life story that I hope will inspire others. I was married to an abusive husband and went through a nasty divorce but I am stronger now than ever before. I struggle with anxiety and depression, but I keep moving forward. I am on a journey of self love that is HARD but I am determined to keep going. Part of my self love journey is to live a healthier life which is my impossible mountain but I’m willing to share along the way.

Parts of my life have been very dark and this quote has stood with me through those times. What are we going to do with all that dark? Find a way to glow in it. I hope that this photo blog will be my chance to glow in the dark. To show that beauty can come from yuck, to show that we can grow through the hard times, that we can use the nasty dark parts of our life to shine light on others. From past stories, to present struggles, I plan to be here. Empowering women to glow and promoting self love just as we are. Here’s to new beginnings!

Embrace your cape, hero

When my daughter was five years old, we were at the end of a very hard year. Trauma comes in many shapes and forms and we had been through it. Every year, my beautiful friend Amy does pictures for my punkin’s birthday. We always have a theme and a location. For THIS birthday, I wanted something that said – We made it. We got through. I wanted something powerful, brave, and strong. I wanted something that said my daughter is a hero.

Dictionary.com defines a hero as someone who is noted for courageous acts and noble character. Coming out of a traumatic situation, rising above the hard things in life… that’s my definition of courage. In the moment, you may not (probably don’t) feel courageous or brave. You probably feel like you’re just barely making it – one foot in front of the other, breathe in, breathe out. But that, my friend, is so so brave.

Continuing on when your heart is broken, pushing through when you feel like you. just. cant. But you do. You do what needs to be done. You feel weak and worthless, but you soldier on. That is bravery. That is courage. And this post is to celebrate all of you brave people – who soldier on and do what needs to be done. You already have your cape – you’ve earned it. You may be earning it now. Embrace your cape, hero. I admire you.

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