Dating Our Significant Others

Before we had our son, my husband and I would go to see a movie and have a nice dinner without much thought.  Now it’s a different story.  Thankfully my parents don’t mind playing babysitter while we go out on a date, but it still means we have to work around their schedule and D’s schedule in order for us to go out on a date.  We think carefully about what we want to do on our date so we don’t squander those few precious hours without D.  We also savor those few hours and really soak them in whereas before we sort of took that time for granted.  Our once a month dates are something we not only look forward to, but something we need, both for ourselves and for our relationship.

Our date today was much needed.  After a rather stressful week we both were looking forward to some toddler-free time to just relax and be in each other’s company.  Instead of trying to decide what to do for our date, we kept it simple and just stayed home.  We dropped D off at my parents’ house, grabbed some lunch, a bottle of wine, dessert, and headed home.  Sipping on a glass of wine and eating a meal in peace is a luxury.  Having a sweet treat without having to sneakily eat it in order to avoid a toddler tantrum is Heavenly.  Being able to talk to my husband without D wanting to be a part of the conversation is rare.  Watching a movie on the couch without having to listen for D waking up is a relief.  No diaper changes, no whining, no wrangling.

Mini Mighty-O Donuts and wine

Mini Mighty-O Donuts and wine

But after a few hours of toddler-free time I begin to miss our little guy.  I miss his laughter, his insatiable curiosity, his wanting to hold my hand and walk me around the house.  I long to see that giant smile on his face that he gets when he sees me when we pick him up.

Even if you don’t have kids, work and life can certainly get in the way of your relationships.  Having some time set aside to reconnect with our significant others is crucial.

It’s OK to Say No

There is this thought that has been plaguing me this past week.  It has come up a few times during conversations with different people.  The topic isn’t directly discussed but the context of it is there.  It is something that should be glaringly obvious but you tend to only see it out of the corner of your eye.  Like a bad smell it can permeate every aspect of your life.  I’m talking about being able to say no and backing yourself up.

I am a recovering yes-person.  When someone asked me to do something I would pretty much always say yes, even if I didn’t want to.  I would get this feeling of mild panic building up inside of me and would have all of these worst case scenarios rushing through my head of what would happen if I were to say no.  Reflecting on these experiences, I think my becoming a yes person was caused by a mixture of wanting to avoid hurt feelings or confrontations, and not wanting to be perceived as a bad person.  Over the past few years I have gotten comfortable with saying no and find that I am much happier for it.  To my surprise, none of the worst case scenarios I dreamed up have ever come to fruition.

What has changed over these years that has made me shift from being a yes-person to becoming a person who can say no? My husband is a big factor.  He has no problem with telling people what is on his mind.  He has constantly encouraged me to voice my feelings and stay true to me.  By doing so, I have developed a sense of respect for myself that wasn’t there while I was growing up.  I have realized that I am allowed to have these feelings, whatever they may be.  I cannot control how other people will react or feel and I cannot base my life around worrying about it.  I’m worth it to be able to not say yes when I really want to say no.

Everyone is worth more than backing down from how they feel just to keep the peace.  Everyone is worth more than a life of empty yeses.

Are you a yes-person?

Books You Should Read

A few months ago I discovered a woman who made an extraordinary impact on me.  Her name is Brené Brown.  She is a researcher who has spent the last decade researching shame and vulnerability and how both play a big part in our self-worth.  I strongly encourage you to watch her TED Talk to get a feel for what her work is about.  After having watched this TED Talk months ago, I decided to put some of her books on hold at the library.  After nearly two months, two of the books I had put on hold were finally available.

Actually both books turned out to be audiobooks, which I usually tend to avoid due to terrible narration.  Brené Brown narrates both of the audiobooks I listened to.  I immediately fell in love with this woman’s storytelling abilities and her cadence.  I felt like I was actually in an auditorium listening to her speak.  The genuineness of her voice and the passion in her words really captivated me.  I listened intently as if I was sitting in on an important lecture.

The two books I listened to were The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection and The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage.  Both books are broken up into guide posts (I like to think of them as different branches that make up the whole tree).  The Power of Vulnerability talks a lot about the different aspects of shame and vulnerability, and how they are connected with what she calls “wholehearted living”.   The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting is similar in content but focuses on how to cultivate these ideas in our children, and how we parents need to work on ourselves in order to do so.

There was one message I took away that struck me down to my core.  She mentioned how we cannot love others more than we love ourselves.  For me, this was what all of her ideas about shame, vulnerability, worthiness, and courage boiled down to.  It makes perfect sense.  It is one of those things that stares us right in the face but we refuse to see it.  We can’t possibly love ourselves when we are bogged down by a sense of worthlessness and are drowning in a pit of shame.  Without self-love we won’t have the courage to be vulnerable enough to be ourselves.  What more, how do we expect to give love that we don’t have to other people?

If anything, Brené Brown’s work has made me more self-aware.  With the strategies and insights offered in these books, I have found that truly living wholeheartedly is possible for anyone.

Choose An Ideal Day

I recently received an e-newsletter asking me to think about what my ideal day would look like and what I could change to make my day as close to that ideal as possible.  Being unrealistic, I first thought about waking up in Spain and spending the day drinking wine, eating free tapas, taking a siesta, and watching the sunset on a beach in Grenada.  Or maybe I would wake up back in Thailand, riding our bicycles down to the small hut of a restaurant on the beach, enjoying vibrant authentic Thai dishes while gazing off towards the ocean.  How lovely that all sounds.  Then I pull my head back down from the clouds and start imagining a more realistic ideal day.

Surprisingly, I have woken up before D and feel rested.  I roll out my yoga mat and feel any residual grogginess melt away with each asana.  After peeking into D’s room and finding him still asleep, I take my time enjoying a long warm shower.  D finally wakes up once I am dressed and ready to take on the day.

We meet up with our mommy friends and their boys.  I savor some coffee, laughs, and stimulating conversations. It has decided to be sunny out today so we are able to lounge outside while the boys play.  D is wiped after our playdate so we head home for a nap. He waits to fall asleep until we are inside the house, avoiding the dreaded 10 minute rejuvenating car seat nap.

I decide to take a power nap and then take some quiet time to myself to journal, read, or watch one of my TV shows.  After a good long nap, D wakes up in a fantastic mood and I heat up a dinner that I have already prepared the day before.

His dad arrives home on time, maybe even early, from work with enough energy to play with D before bedtime.  D goes to sleep on time without waking back up (hallelujah).  My husband and I are able to cuddle on the couch, just the two of us, while we watch one of our shows (right now that would be either Orphan Black or MasterChef Australia).  I’m actually tired when it is time to go to bed and I fall asleep within moments of my head hitting the pillow.

Thinking about it, there isn’t a lot I could change to make my daily routine more like my ideal day.  I could set an alarm to wake up before D so I could do yoga and shower in peace, but I really like my sleep.  We do meet once a week with our mommy friends for a playdate since it is a sanity saver.  There are certain things out of my control, like the weather and D’s sleep.  Most importantly, I get to spend my days with my favorite little guy, and there’s not a day that goes by that I take that for granted.

It is gratifying to know that I am already doing what I can to make my day ideal.  There will always be housework and other responsibilities, but that’s life.  As long as I make the most of my day and focus on what matters most to me, it shall be very close to ideal.  Of course, I won’t complain if a beach, some wine, and free tapas were to sneak their way in.

What can you change in your life to achieve your ideal day?

On a bike ride along Mai Khao Beach in Thailand.

On a bike ride along Mai Khao Beach in Thailand


Dedicated To My Father

Dad and I

My dad has always been a very busy man.  He has owned and operated his small business since he was a teenager.  He tries to keep up on the lawn and even volunteers to come mow the lawn at our house.  He doesn’t mind doing housework.  He wakes up at the crack of dawn, and if he sits down for longer than a few minutes he drifts off to sleep.  All of this and he still finds the time to pursue his hobby.

My dad is always coming up with new projects and building new creations.  The sound of the buzzsaw and scattered sawdust fills my childhood memories.  I would “help” my dad as I watched his designs unfold from an idea to becoming a reality.  Even now he has not stopped.

Watching Grandpa

Most recently he built onto their deck and added on a slide and faux rock climbing wall so that the grandkids could have another place to play.  D and I were over on the day my dad had started on this new venture.  My heart smiled as I watched D watch my dad construct, just as I did when I was a child.

He may always be busy, but my dad lives life doing what he enjoys.  He is self-employed working a demanding job that he is fond of.  He throws himself into his hobbies to produce things that he and his family can appreciate.  He is a very selfless person in a lot of ways.  I hope this Father’s Day the couch plays a siren song so that my dad may put his feet up.  He deserves to take this day for himself.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

My Cup Of Coffee

My cup of coffee is a great friend.
It understands that sometimes I need it to be bold
And other times sweet.
It understands that sometimes one cup isn’t enough
And offers me another.

My cup of coffee is a great friend.
It doesn’t care if I am unshowered
And still in pajamas.
It doesn’t care what mood I’m in
And it never judges.

My cup of coffee is a great friend.
It knows just how to lift me up
And bring me out of a morning fog.
It knows just how to listen
And offers a warm hug.

My cup of  coffee is a great friend.

 

Eat Some Chocolate

I grew up eating milk chocolate and hating dark chocolate.  I couldn’t stand the bitterness of dark chocolate.  Now I love dark chocolate and hate milk chocolate.  Dark chocolate is a brilliant combination of subtle bitter and sweet that really lets the chocolate flavor shine through.  It’s just a lovely, melt-in-your-mouth, silky piece of goodness.

My husband and I were given a sheet of paper about how to prevent postpartum depression at one of the birth classes we took while I was pregnant.  I retyped the list, printed it out on bright yellow card stock, and put it on the refrigerator.  My favorite item on the list was to consume one ounce of at least 72% dark chocolate daily.  Fast forward to nearly 14 months postpartum, my husband and I still eat dark chocolate (almost) every day.

Just what makes dark chocolate so magical? It helps boost your endorphins and serotonin levels in the brain making for a great natural, yummy mood booster.  You may already know that cocoa contains antioxidants, but that’s not all.  Cocoa has anti-inflammatory properties which is good news for your heart, among other things.  In short, chocolate is not just good for the soul, it’s good for the body and mind as well.  Just be mindful not to overindulge.

Trader Joe’s offers up a 3-pack of 1.65-ounce 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate bars for under $2.  I pick up a pack of these each week while grocery shopping.  My husband and I split one of these bars every day which gives us both just under the 1 ounce recommendation.  When we are looking to indulge a little bit, we go straight for Theo chocolate.  If you live in Seattle you most likely have come across this delicious chocolate company.  We usually go for the Sea Salt, Salted Almond, or the Fig, Fennel & Almond.

Unsweetened cocoa powder is also a great alternative to eating chocolate in bar form.  It’s less processed and doesn’t have added sugar.  I love adding some to a smoothie with almond butter, banana, strawberries, and milk (or any non-dairy milk).

Chocolate and self-care go hand in hand.  Make sure to add some to your next grocery list!

My New Workout Buddy

This may look like an ordinary chair but I assure you it isn’t.  It is one of the four chairs that sits out on our patio looking rather sad and lonely.  Instead of just sitting there waiting for a caboose to rest on it, it has become my workout buddy.

Finding time for myself to exercise is a bit of a challenge.  D likes to climb on me and pull my hair while I do yoga.  We go on walks but it has to be for the right amount of time otherwise he gets restless.  The other day while we were out playing in the yard, I looked at this uncomfortable wooden chair on the patio and an idea came to me.  I dragged it out into the yard and got to work.

After some arm dips, push-ups, lunges, and step-ups, my heart rate was up and I had actually worked up a bit of a sweat.  When I felt like I couldn’t do anymore, the chair looked at me with its wooden stare as if it was saying, “Is that all you’ve got?” It pushed me to discover more ways to use it.

It probably was only about 20 minutes which was enough time for D to stay entertained without needing me.  He actually seemed amused watching me.  We both got to enjoy some sunshine and some exercise.  A win-win for us both.

The lower half of my body was sore for the next two days.  The chair sits on the patio taunting me each time I look at it.  I can almost hear it yelling, “Are you ready for more?!” Now that I can walk properly again, I can look at that chair and say, “You bet your wooden seat I am!”

The Healing Power of Nature

When I was little I loved sitting in the backyard watching our giant cottonwood tree.  Like a green giant it would softly sway in the sky.  Now that I am older I hardly sit and look at trees anymore.  It is hard to sit and be still and not have a list of things that I need to get done going through my head.  But yesterday I did just that.  I couldn’t remember the last time I just lied outside and enjoyed nature’s company.  I grabbed a blanket and a pillow and decided to take an hour to myself while my husband hung out with D (our little guy).

As soon as I got comfortable on my blanket I immediately noticed just how difficult it was for me to stay present in the moment.  Even though I practice yoga, my mind became flooded with thoughts.  I tried focusing on my breathing to no avail.  Then suddenly I noticed our trees.  Like really noticed them.  In the three years that we have lived here I have never once just sat and enjoyed our trees.  But at that moment I took notice.

Cottonwood

I watched our own cottonwood trees bend to the wind.  I watched as their leaves glistened in the sun while they danced gently on the breeze.  I noticed how the clouds looked like little mounds of cotton slowly drifting across the bright powder blue sky.  I listened to the symphony of birds chirping and leaves rustling around me.  My mind became still as I took notice of these things.  My body relaxed and I felt a calm that washed over me.  By connecting with my surroundings, with nature, I was able to connect with myself.

Clouds

Just taking an hour to myself to sit outside and just let myself be was very healing.  I awoke today feeling more like myself.  I am now sitting outside typing this while D plays in the yard and my dog lounges by a tree, both of them connecting with nature their own way.  After all, they need some self-care, too.

Nurturing From Within

I love new blogs.  It is like cracking open a brand new composition journal at the beginning of the school year.  I am excited to carve out a little space on the Internet for myself.  I created this blog as a place to record and reflect on an area of my life that frequently gets neglected: self-care.  I’m not talking about getting pedicures, massages, and taking bubble baths every night (though all of that sounds lovely).  I’m talking about the things in life that nourish my body, mind, and soul.  The things that help me reconnect with myself.

I am a stay-at-home mom.  As much as I love being at home with my little guy, it can really leave me feeling depleted at the end of the week.  Giving my all to a little human 24/7 is a lot of work, especially emotionally and mentally.  I’m sure plenty of you can relate.  However, it’s not just us parents who end up running on fumes.  Most of us find that we are so busy with everything else in our lives that we end up not taking care of ourselves.  We don’t take the time to recharge our batteries and listen to what we need.

Recently I have learned just how important self-care is.  As recently as yesterday.  This week was a very long week and I was sapped of all my energy.  I was irritable, impatient, and generally unhappy for a better part of the week.  I don’t like feeling this way and it definitely impedes on my ability to be the best mom, wife, and human being I can be.  It also takes a toll on my own well-being.  I am learning that taking care of yourself does not make you selfish.  On the contrary, it is necessary in order to cultivate all of those warm fuzzy things like happiness, love, and compassion.  You can’t feel any of those things when you feel like a waste heap.

You ARE worth your time!