Christmas stress – get rid of it!

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I have been following the Becoming Minimalist blog by Joshua Becker, and everything he posts makes me shout, “Right on!”

Being in the Christmas season, I want to be enveloped in the important parts of this holiday – giving, togetherness, relaxation.  I want to be able to focus on the hope, peace, joy and love of the advent season.  However, in our consumerist society, it is easy to get caught up in being too busy, buying too much, attending too many events and stretching everyone too thin.  I have been trying really hard to let go of the unimportant things and to give myself time to have peace.

I run the children’s programs at church and yesterday was the Christmas pageant.  I worked hard to have everything ready ahead of time so that I could show up Sunday morning, have a great, stress-free play with the kids, and watch them enjoy their Christmas party afterward.  I slept well the night before and I was not nervous at all for the morning.  It was a great feeling.

Once at church, I noticed we were missing a key member of our volunteer team and upon further inspection, I found out that she was down with the flu and wouldn’t make it in.  This could have thrown me for a major stress-out session, but I didn’t allow it to. Yes, she was going to pick up apples and candy canes on her way in.  I am a huge stickler for offering healthy portions during the meals we feed the kids, but I thought, oh well!  The kids will just have pizza and chips.  One time won’t kill them – and let’s face it, they will not mind begin without apples one bit.  No candy canes?  That’s ok!  We have beautiful cards to pass out to the congregation after the play ends.  Who will be in charge of setting up the coffee hour and lunch for the kids?  We have plenty of extra volunteers this morning.

Everything went fine.  I was sad that our friend missed seeing the pageant, but I was glad that I stuck with my desire for the day, which was for it to be stress-free.

It was a lovely day.  The kids were awesome!  Everyone was fed.  Clean up went quickly.  The rest of the day at home was perfect and relaxing.  Just what this season should bring!

 

90’s Tweens vs. Today’s Tweens

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I read an article from a great blog I follow called Everyday Feminism.  The author, Shannon Ridgway, brings up some good points.  I, like Shannon, spent ages 9-12 in the 90’s.  So, let’s explore how things are different for today’s tweens vs. the 90’s tweens.  (One difference being that we hadn’t coined the term “tween” yet.)

Me, as a "tween".

Me, as a “tween”.

1)  Cell phones.

When I was in middle school, the only people that had cell phones were business-people.  I would call my mom at home from the pay phone at school (I was devastated when the rate climbed from $0.25 to $0.35, because it required two coins).  For those who are curious: when I had no coins, I would call my mom at home via a “collect call”, and say really quickly what I needed.  My mom would answer and hear, “You have a call from MOM PRACTICE IS OVER COME PICK ME UP!  Do you accept the charges?”  That way it wouldn’t charge the house.  Ahhh the resourcefulness…

Now, a lot of young people have cell phones for different reasons.  Whatever the reason, phones are not just for calling and texting: phones have internet access now!!  They can take pictures and post online in under five seconds.  No wonder cyber bullying is so bad.  Remember how bad kids were in person?  Imagine how bad they can be behind the safety net of the ethernet.  Let’s not forget that once something is online, it is out there forever.  Imagine googling yourself in your 20’s and finding that picture of you from middle school at a pool party where someone labeled you “fat ho”?  You can’t escape that stuff!  There is an app developed for sexting (even though that claim is denied from the developers).  Snapchat.  It allows someone to take a picture or record a video.  Once you send it, the receiver is only able to see it for a few seconds before it is deleted.  Well, that’s what we think.  Click this link for more about SnapChat.

Let’s be real: kids have too much power.  They are irrational and impulsive because of their intense emotions and should not have the power to ruin someone’s life…because sometimes they will be irrational and impulsive and they don’t realize that there are some actions they can NEVER take back.

While we’re on the subject…

2) The Internet.

We had the internet.  I went on AOL (for the kids of today, this was basically like texting, but you had to both be signed in and type back and forth on the computer in order to chat).  For me, in my home, the computer was in a spare room and we could only be in there with the door open.  My brother and I also had to SHARE the computer.  The computer was the only thing that had games and internet and word processor to type our school assignments.  We had to time manage and work out deals for computer time.  Oh, and we also had DIAL-UP!  This means that until we got a second phone line for just the internet, we had to make sure nobody needed the home phone in order to go online.  The internet was also very ssssllllllooooowwwww and had a lot less websites than it does today.  In fact, I didn’t ever visit websites.  I only went online to chat on AOL.  Now, there are websites dedicated to making fun of people.  Kids even know how to create websites!  Let’s not even talk about porn; it is rampant and so easily accessible.  Kids have their own computers, if that even matters!  With internet on phones, kids have full access to whatever is online at all hours of the day and night.  Parents: consider limiting your child’s wi-fi access or access to electronics, period.  Have conversations with your children.  You are not powerless.

This is me playing outside with friends.  What a novel concept.

This is me playing outside with friends. What a novel concept.

Facebook came out when I was in my first year of college.  Some people were using Myspace but I didn’t really like it.  It seemed a bit “To Catch a Predator” and it creeped me out.  Facebook, however, was meant to connect you to other students and you could only use it if you had a legitimate university email address.  I am infinitely grateful that we didn’t have facebook before college.  I don’t think that the majority of kids are mature enough to have access to something like this.  I see bikini pictures on facebook of kids I know today and I cringe.  I see publicly displayed breakups and four-page scrolls of comments trash-talking others.  It’s ugly and it shouldn’t exist.  There are parents who properly control their kids access to websites and internet time and phone time, but there are those who do not and I think it is damaging.  It is also too easy to “facebook-stalk” people.  Do you know what we used to do when I was in middle school?  If we had a crush, we would get our friends to prank call the person and we’d have a good laugh.  We would “dare” one another to say hi to the crush at school.  It was easier to not get as obsessed and go into the scary territory of going through the profiles of every girl that posted on your crush’s wall.

Twitter.  This makes kids think that every thought they have should be broadcast to the whole world.  It shouldn’t.

If twitter was around in the 90's, you betcha I would've tweeted this sweet pic from summer vacation.

If twitter was around in the 90’s, you betcha I would’ve tweeted this sweet pic from summer vacation.

Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t meant to be a rant.  I love vine and twitter and facebook and youtube for the good things they give us.  I love that there is so much great humor out there for everyone now.  Kids are so creative with certain videos they make.  I also love being able to spread information and messages of positivity with so many people.  I just think that we need to control the negativity a bit more by having open, honest conversations with our young people.  Our actions have impact.

3) Reality television.

Otherwise known as “the death and destruction of everything that was once sacred”.  Reality t.v.  Blech.  Why can’t we just be honest about shows being scripted?  Let’s not trick the youth of today into believing this sh#t is real.  Kids have brains that are not as mature as adult brains.  When they see reality t.v. they are processing it into messages about how they should act, how their bodies should look, what things they should have and how they should treat the opposite sex/friends/family.  Reality t.v. has also created a big desire among young people to strive toward 15 minutes of fame.  Most of reality t.v. is centered around women as sex objects.  For children who are not parented in a way that teaches them that reality t.v. is not real and that in real life there are consequences for actions and that not all people act the way they see people acting on t.v., there can be devastating effects.  It’s like a war on the psyches of youth today.

4) Clothing styles.

This look for 5th grade graduation can be described as "mom's shirt and friend's skirt".  I was a not a traditionally feminine girl.

This look for 5th grade graduation can be described as “mom’s shirt and friend’s skirt”. I was a not a traditionally feminine girl.

I really feel like the pressure to look good for girls has not changed.  There were tight clothes, makeup and hair for me and there are those pressures for girls today.  I actually had a boy tell me when I was 15 that he liked when I wore dresses/tight jeans/shorts to school and when I did my hair.  He described me as being a 50/50 girl: hot 50% of the time and not hot 50% of the time.  He said that if I wanted to be hot all the time I should not wear my gray athletic shorts or put my hair up in a messy bun anymore.  (Feel free to take a moment to gag.)  Unfortunately, I think this one hasn’t changed.

noname-8

There I am in the WORTH shirt. I loved and still love athletic clothing. That guy from high school can deal with it.

5) Popular Celebrities.

For us, it was Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce.  One thing they have that the popular celebrities of today don’t really have as much as, are curves and muscles.  Thank goodness the celebrities of my day made having a butt a good thing – that was one thing I could relate to!  I am not putting down any celebrities for the way they look – it’s just that who is popular impacts the way girls want to be seen.  Miley Cyrus is very thin, Selena Gomez is very thin, Kendall Jenner is very thin, the models are thin.  We had Cindy Crawford and models with some shape.  I think that for my generation there was a bit of a backlash against the uber-thin, but unfortunately for this generation, I think that thin is back in.  Being thin is not bad.  The pressure that young girls who do not fit the “perfect”mold put on themselves to fit the mold is what is damaging.

6) The reality of it all?

I think that growing up is hard.  I think that we make it harder than it needs to be on ourselves and on our young people.  Life is really simple.  Do good, put effort into your work and relationships, be kind to others.  I think that we have changed the definition of happiness and success into something so complicated that we have created more problems than we have solved.

What can we do?  Support our young people and breathe positivity into their lives.  Take some pressure off ourselves and lead by example.  Be our authentic selves and stop letting so many outside influences impact us in negative ways.

Two of my many supports: dad and grammy.  Don't worry--there's juice in that wine glass.

Two of my many supports: dad and grammy. Don’t worry–there’s juice in that wine glass.  Grammy’s however, is straight up whiskey and water.  Atta baby.

I resolve to make a better resolution!

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For the love of all that is good and true in this world, please don’t make losing weight be your new year’s resolution!  You are so much more than a “weight”!  You are too good to get caught up in the self-deprecating thoughts of guilt from eating sweets on Christmas.  You are too amazing to not love every part of yourself.  You are worth too much to try to shrink any part of yourself in the new year.

Here are some different ways to improve your life:

Think of a way to better your happiness or outlook.  Be kinder to others.  Improve your relationships.  Be better to yourself.  Leave behind self-doubt and negative thinking.  Take on more positive responsibilities – adopt a pet or commit to a volunteer position.  Take positive risks – go for a promotion, join a new club, start a new friendship.  Ask out that person you can’t stop thinking about.  Throw away your scale!

Whatever you do, please resolve to being better to yourself.  By sharing kindness with our own bodies, spirits, hearts, and minds, we will radiate positivity to those around us.

Wishing you many blessings in the new year.  XOXO.

My Story of Self-Acceptance: making peace with food

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I am reading a book right now titled Brave Girl Eating, by Harriet Brown.  The author is a mother of a 14 year old girl newly diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.  I am enjoying it, because of the perspective, the medical knowledge it is providing about anorexia, and her perspective of food, health, and parenting.

One part that I have really liked so far, is when the author describes grocery shopping with her daughter in the beginnings of her anorexia.  The daughter is persistent that her mother should only buy non-fat and no sugar items.  It made me think about myself when I shop – I used to do the same thing, not that long ago.  Buy skim milk, non-fat yogurt, diet soda, sweetener for my coffee – not sugar.  In fact, I would buy the coffee creamers that are loaded with aspartame and artificial flavors to avoid having a spoonful of sugar with my java.  Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on one of those coffee creamer bottles?  Not many things found in nature on that list; not many things even pronounceable on that list.

The author (the mother), explains to her daughter that humans are meant to eat everything, even sugar, in moderation.  Our bodies are set up to process all kinds of foods to fuel ourselves and regulate our moods and energies.  I agree with this!

I have been experiencing a shift in my habits over the last several years.  As I get older, I have been more concerned with the inner-workings of my body rather that the outer-appearances of it.  I want to live for a long time!  I want to have babies and support their growth with my body.  This has a lot to do with my thought shift on food and eating.

It has been coming slowly, but my typical food choices now come from asking myself, what is the most natural?  I want the whole goodness of the foods I eat.  I want 2% milk.  I want greek yogurt with fat and protein.  If I want a sweeter coffee I add regular sugar.  I really enjoy vegetables and fruits and oats and rice and bread.  My favorite thing to eat is a peanut butter sandwich.  I have switched to natural peanut butter because the only ingredient is peanuts!  I buy bakery bread because it is homemade and doesn’t have additives.  I feel like my body likes this and I feel good knowing I am minimizing my intake of unnatural products.  I don’t count calories and I let my body eat what it craves.  It feels so good.  I feel so free.

Side note: I wrote a while back about going vegetarian.  Quick update: I am back to eating meat, poultry, bacon, and fish.  Perhaps it was the stress of my old job combined with a change in vitamins from my food sources, but my hair was falling out, my skin was dry, and I was having terrible stomach pains.  I left my job and starting eating meat around the same time.  I really think both things have played a role in the improvement of my body.  My hair is soft again (I cut off six-inches of what couldn’t be saved), my skin is happier, and I feel more energized.  My stomach problems have mostly subsided.  I have a better appreciation for meat and what it does for me.  For me, I function better with meat.  I am getting to know my meat sources so that I can feel more at peace morally with eating meat, and I continue to take care to purchase non-animal tested products.

Back to self-acceptance!

Here is my journey that may give some insight as to where I have been and why I have come to have peace with food.

Being an athlete since I was 8 always kept my heart and muscles strong on the inside.  On the outside at age 8, I worried about having a belly – I noticed that some of my friends were skinnier than me and I envied their shape.  My pediatrician told my parents I was slightly overweight and to start having me “eat better”.  We were a healthy family and looking back I am insulted and disappointed.  I am insulted that the doctor insinuated my parents weren’t doing a good job, because they were.  We always ate homemade meals with veggies, fruits, and meats, and my parents always kept us active, playing outside every day.  I am disappointed because I was at the age before a growth spurt when children typically put on a few extra pounds to support the height change that is about to happen – not to mention I was adding fat to prepare for puberty.  The doctor said, in front of me, that I was a little overweight.  Then he suggested changes to our diet.  To me, the 8 year old, I heard, “She is overweight.  She needs to change.”  I felt bad in that moment.

Around age 11 I hit a growth spurt and “thinned out”.  EVERYONE said how good I looked.  This started to tell me that thin was valued.  No one ever complimented my body before (outside of family).  Oh I get it.  Skinny is good.  Chubby is bad.  Very harmful thinking for a young person.  It was at this time that I began to take measures to stay skinny.  My friend and I swam laps for an hour instead of playing in the pool one day.  Then we eyed the pop tarts in her kitchen, desperately hungry, for a while.  When we gave in and ate one we laughed because we negated out workout in caloric terms, but inside I felt shame.  So sad for that age.  If only I could’ve known then what I know now.  I would’ve saved myself so much guilt and heartache.

At age 14, I was in full puberty swing and had filled out.  What I know now is that I was starting to develop my adult body.  What I thought then was how much bigger I was than everyone else.  I want to add that this is distorted thinking.  I was not “big”.  I was not “fat”.  That is the way I felt – it was not real physically.  So many factors contributed to this negative way of thinking.  I noticed everything that had to do with weight.  Boys only asked out the skinny girls.  Models were only skinny.  Actresses were only skinny.  The popular girls were only skinny.  People were praised when they lost weight.  Everything seen as good was also skinny.

Then I went to high school.  In the Spring of my freshman year I used Lent to start my pattern of not eating.  For Lent, I gave up snacking and desserts.  Only three meals a day.  That was my first cut back.  Let me just say here, that I don’t think Jesus really feels starving oneself to look better is very Lenten.  Also, my intention was not to develop an eating disorder, nor do I think I had an eating disorder.  But, I can’t help but to feel like my relationship with food was not normal.

That summer, I was 15, and I started swimming to speed up weight my weight loss.  I would swim every day for 30 minutes.  If I had eaten something that I felt I shouldn’t have eaten, like a cookie, I would do extra laps.  I felt pride every time I stepped on the scale and it lowered.  I saw my stomach sinking in, my arms were thin – things I had never experienced.  And again, EVERYONE was complimenting me.  At summer camp, boys noticed me.  I was flirted with, asked out, asked to dance.  Everything was so new and so exciting.  I was happy, but on the inside I was filled with fear of eating too much or gaining any weight because I felt I could lose it all.  I even remember having a hysterical break down when I couldn’t swim one day because my mom was leaving and I wasn’t allowed to swim when no one was home.  I threw such a fit that she made herself late and gave me 15 minutes in the pool.  I swam furiously.  At that point, I knew something was wrong with me.  “This isn’t who I am,” I thought as I turned for another lap.

I ended up eating the same thing every day for about two months at the end of that summer and the beginning of my sophomore year.  I would wake up and wait as long as I could without eating, which was about 11am.  Then I would have a yogurt.  You know those yogurts that are 100 calories – and that have all the commercials about losing weight and getting a bikini body for vacation.  Then around 4pm, I would have a bowl of brown rice with soy sauce.  That was it.

I had started volunteering as the water girl for the football team during their two-a-day practices.  This was how I got out of eating dinner and my parents noticing.  I would go to football at 4:30 and not come home until 9pm.  The coaches always asked me if I wanted Burger King or whatever they were picking up for themselves that night for dinner.  I always declined saying I just ate.  I remember one time, one of the coaches insisting that I must be hungry.  I kept saying “no thank you”, and “really I’m fine”.  I remember him pausing and looking at me right in the eyes and feeling like he knew what I was up to.  I think he was concerned but didn’t know what to do, so he just left it alone.  After that, he didn’t ask me if I wanted dinner anymore.

During that time, I would fall asleep hungry.  I started to enjoy the feeling.  I would wake up and could see my hip bones sticking above my stomach in the mornings when I laid flat in bed.  I loved this.  I felt successful.  On the first day of school sophomore year, the senior boys noticed me and invited me to come talk to them at lunch.  I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.  Again, everything I felt was positive was coming from my change in appearance to a thinner girl.  At least, that’s what I thought.  Looking back, I think that thin helped because it was high school and everyone is so insecure that they like only what it is”mainstream” to like, but I also think the confidence I gained in my appearance is what was attracting people.  The funny thing is, the “confidence” was totally fake.  On the inside, I was so insecure about myself.

Over the course of sophomore year, I slowly came out of this phase of major caloric restriction and crazy exercising.  It started by me making the switch to eating cereal for every meal.  Still not enough food for a person, but I was eating three meals at appropriate times and getting some vitamins from the fortified cereal and milk.  Then one day, I was sitting there at lunch, and I was so fed up with being hungry.  It happened just like that for me.  It was that moment that I said, F this, I’m eating again.  It’s not worth feeling hungry all the time.  People should like me for me.  I should be happy with myself.  (I credit my parents being so positive in my life for the deep down positive feelings that helped shape me and get me back on track.)

I am extremely lucky for that day.  So many people struggling with eating disorders don’t have the power against the disease to say, “stop”.  This is why I don’t think I had an eating disorder – I had disordered eating.  It would be unfair to make it seem like anyone who struggles with food could flip a switch at one meal like I did.  Does that make sense?

I also thank God that I could never make myself throw up.  I tried a few times, but it never worked.  Thank God for me not being able to induce vomiting or I truly would’ve been down a terrifying road.

Since that time, I have never gone back to that point.  I have been more focused on a healthy lifestyle.  However, I still battled negative thinking throughout my teenage and adult years.  For instance, I would lift weights with the football team my junior year of high school.  I was a catcher for the softball team and I could leg press so much weight.  I would mix in with the lineman for sets on the leg press and they wouldn’t have to take any of the 45’s off.  They would always be so impressed.  This made me feel proud and strong and I gained a different kind of popularity for my athletic abilities.  Yet there was still a small voice inside me saying, “be more feminine”.

When I was 17, I had a tonsillectomy.  Eight days after the surgery, my throat hemorrhaged in my sleep.  I lost 3 pints of blood and had emergency surgery to close the wound, which included pumping blood clots from my stomach and the choice of a blood transfusion, which we declined.  It was a very scary time in my life.  Due to the two surgeries, I lost 15 lbs in two weeks.  When I returned to school, looking yellow, weak, and gaunt, my pants hanging off my body, my male friend, said, “Wow.  Jess, you look so good.  You lost all your weight.”  Wow.  Just….wow.

When I caught my first college boyfriend cheating on me, the first thought was that it was because I had gained the freshman 15.  How sad that my first thought was, what is wrong with me?

In my last year of university, I started working out again because I had begun to feel so out of shape.  I felt so good after starting a running and lifting regimen with my dad.  I did spin classes, too, and my heart and lungs became so strong!  I was hardly ever winded in my daily life and I was regaining the strength I always had when I played sports.  It felt awesome.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that a huge perk was also dropping 15 pounds – pride in thinness is so deeply imbedded in me that’s it’s hard to push aside.

I ran into two ex-boyfriends at the bar one night at that time.  Both of them, separately, started apologizing for things gone wrong in the past and kept telling me how good I looked.  Here’s a big F YOU to them from me then and one again from me now.  Funny how they didn’t think to apologize before I lost weight, and how nice for me that I was in a relationship at that point with someone who grabbed me up before I lost weight and encouraged my working out but didn’t hinge our relationship on it.  We are married now, thank you very much!  He has seen my ups and downs and frankly, doesn’t give a hoot.  If he did, we wouldn’t be married.

In my early 20’s, I began to look at the world from a real perspective, something I continue to do today.  When I feel guilt, I rationalize with myself.  Where is this coming from?  Is that a real place or a place that I’ve made up based on outside influences?  I think about who is in my life and what their intentions are by being part of my life.  I value true friendships and positive people.  I am not going to let anything irrational make me feel bad about myself.

My body.  I love my body.  I like the softness of it.  I like the jiggle.  I like the shape.  I imagine holding a brand new baby on  my chest and it hearing my healthy heart beat.  I like the strength in my arms I am gaining from hot yoga and boxing.  Both workouts empower my muscles and my mind.  It feels good to go to yoga and to boxing.  I challenge the limits of my strength – I challenge my doubtful thinking on the mat or in the ring.  I am not forcing myself to do these things, I like to do these things.  If I’m not feeling a workout for one day, or for a week or two weeks, I don’t go.  I walk the dog to get outside and I try not to sit for too long to keep my energy balanced, but I don’t guilt myself for not doing more.  I imagine being in my 50’s and 60’s and having strong bones and a strong mind.  I want to be able to throw my grandkids in the air one day.  It becomes so apparent as I see others age or battle illnesses, how important my body is to my life.  I never want to look back and say, if only I didn’t go tanning, or if only I didn’t do that diet, or if only I didn’t take those supplements/diet pills.  If only, if only.  

It is not easy.  I have to continue to push negative thoughts down, but I have developed a rationalization strategy that has helped me immensely.  I have also tried to be conscious of the way I compliment others.  I know how compliments about weight can cause distorted thinking so I try to find other ways to give positive feedback to those in my life.

I often think about if I have a daughter and how I will address body issues and weight issues with her.  I just hope that God gives me the grace to not be critical of her or myself.  I hope that at that time, I will not show her that I think anything negative about myself.  The littlest comment or the smallest look can make someone form irrational thoughts.  One thing I have also learned is that what other people say, even if it is aimed at you, is something that is personal for them and they are putting it on you.  So I don’t personalize someone else’s negative thinking.  If I have a piece of cake and the person next to me declines while saying, “Cake is so fattening”, I won’t personalize that person’s issue with food.  It’s theirs to bear, not mine.  I will eat my cake, not worrying about working out to negate it, and I will simply think, “This is delicious.  Aren’t I lucky to get to eat cake?”

A Self-Love Activity

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This is a self-love exercise that I have planned for Girl Guides tonight.  Here’s how you can do it with your friends or family.

dr seuss cards

Make a card (I chose to include one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes on the front).  Sit in a circle with your friends and lots of markers.  Put your name on the inside of your card.  Pass the cards clockwise, taking the time to write a compliment to each person – here’s an important piece: the compliment cannot be about something physical (the person’s appearance – body, clothes, etc).  Really think about something that you love about each friend and write it down.  (Example: “I noticed when you sat with a girl who was alone at lunch last week.  You have a big heart!”)  Let your friends know that you see the small things about them.  Be thoughtful.  Have fun.  Be creative.

When everyone is done, take your card with you.  Read it and really believe the things that your friends/family have written about you.  I am going to put my card on my bathroom mirror so I see it every day.

Girl Guides of Canada, thanks for the cookies and smiles!

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girl guides cookiesTo the Girl Guides that came to my door this weekend,

Thank you for bringing me delicious cookies to snack on.

More importantly, thank you for working hard to raise money for you program.  It takes hard work, effort, determination, and lots of smiling to sell lots of cookies.  You did a wonderful job and I was happy to buy cookies and contribute to a wonderful program.

Thank you, also, for being so excited and happy and thankful.  You definitely brightened up my day!

Sincerely, Jessica

An author gives this blogger a mental boost

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grassToday I received my “O” magazine and really let myself enjoy it.  I read the whole thing, cover to cover, which is something I rarely have the time to do.  Usually I skim the pictures and doggy-ear the pages of articles I want to get back to.  When I have some energy before bed I try to read through some of the stories that pique my interest.  I tend to skip over Suze Orman because my dad and brother are financial advisors (and good ones – which Suze verified today when I took the time to read her column).  I also bypass most of Dr. Phil because many of the scenarios don’t apply to me and I spend my work days as a social worker hearing about others’ dilemmas so I steer past his column.  However, after reading it today I did feel like some of my counseling skills were mirrored in his and thus validated.  Martha Beck always beckons to me (pun intended) but I shy away from her column because I struggle with my mood day to day and am usually not ready to face her truthful advice.

But not today!  I read through everything, enjoyed the pictures of fresh veggies from Oprah’s garden, and even put a few new books on my “to read” list.  My eyes saw every little thing on every page: a new novel from Jeanette Walls sounds wonderful, oh yes I will try grilled pineapple, what cute rain boots…and then something happened to me while I was reading about author Beverly Donofrio’s life – much of which she writes about in Riding in Cars With Boys (now on my “to read” list).  Dear Oprah, I do say I had an AHA moment.  After a near-death experience in which she was hit by a car, Beverly realized something and she phrased it to herself like this:

“You’ve been acting as though this is the warm-up, but it’s the ball game.”

This hit a major chord with me that is still resonating.  I have learned that I am a person who is constantly thinking about what’s next.  I like to use the euphemism “day-dreaming” but in reality, I often think the grass is greener somewhere else than where I am right then, in that moment.  How awful.  After making a recent big decision to not attend graduate school for an M.S.W., my husband and I also decided to stay living in Canada – where he grew up and I did not.  We were 95% going to move back to my home state of Arizona, but after putting everything in perspective, we decided to stay.  The 5% won.  It is the right decision and we are happy with it, yet I struggle with the fact that it’s more of a permanent decision.  This is a bit funny to me because what is more permanent about it now than it was four months ago?  We still have the same house, the same jobs, the same dog, each other…but yet, it feels more permanent.  Perhaps it’s because we always thought we would live in Canada short-term.  I was always picturing our lives with what I thought lay ahead of us, rather than accepting that our life was also composed of what was currently happening.  Part of my reasoning for staying in Canada was that I wanted to put down roots somewhere.  When I thought about it harder, I realized we already had roots digging into the sandy soil of southern Ontario – a foundation at the very least.  Another reason was I wanted a nice home – something else I realized we already had.  What were we really after that we didn’t have here?  Perhaps we just need to work harder to make ourselves happier where we are; we need to water the grass so it becomes greener where we already are.

This quote sent this feeling home for me today.  I have been making a conscious effort to focus of the here and now and not so much about what is to come.  If I look ahead my entire life I will die with having missed the whole thing!  I think that’s what Beverly means by, “You’ve been acting as though this is the warm-up, but it’s the ball game.”  I am in my life, the ball game, so I might as well treat it as such.  No more warm-ups.   This is it.  Live it.  Enjoy it.  Be present.  The grass will always be greenest where you water it and give it nutrients, so that is what I will do!

The perfect movie for girls!

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Hi gals!  Check out the movie, “Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging”.

It’s a movie about a group of 14 year old girls who are starting to date and are in between being children and being full-blown teenagers.  It sheds light on being true to yourself, dating, friendships and family relationships.  It is hilarious and you can’t help but to love the characters.  It’s on Netflix now, too, if you have that.  It came from a book titled, “Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging”.

I watched it last night and couldn’t wait to share it with you!

Life is good

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Life is good.  Remember to enjoy it.  Whatever is thrown your way, it’s ok.  You can cry, you can get mad, you can take it out on someone else, but the hard times will still be there.  It’s best to just handle them in the best way you can.  The only thing that will make a problem go away is to solve it.  Take this ride through life for what it is.  Don’t miss out on all of the good by focusing on the bad.  You are only one person.  Do what you can for yourself and for others and be proud.  We’re all in this together.  What a blessing to be alive.  Life is good.

…I would encourage her to step outside of her comfort zone!

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I started to go through an old notebook this morning and came across a list I made of things I wanted to do that were outside of my comfort zone.  Since I moved to a new city (and country, for that matter) after marrying my husband, Rick, everything is a new experience.  Some I welcomed, and some I shied away from for too long.  I realized this summer that we were approaching our second anniversary, which made me look at what I had and hadn’t accomplished for myself in a new place in that time.  I made a goal to do one thing that was new, either with someone else or by myself, each week.  I hoped that it would help me learn more about my surroundings and meet new people.  I really haven’t made many friends outside of our family, and I was hoping that by doing new things I would meet new people.

Side note: Have you ever moved somewhere new and realized that trying to make friends as an adult is much like dating?  For example: I met someone at a bar, a friend of a friend, and we had such a great time talking and hanging out.  Then I found myself panicking: how do I ask her for her number?  What if she doesn’t want to hang out?  She probably has enough friends already, why would she want another?  Then, say I do ask for her number in my most care-free way and she gives it to me.  When is it appropriate to call?  Should I even call, or just send a text?  Do I ask her to hang out on our own, or must I invite the friend that introduced us?  Would she be more comfortable in a group setting?  I haven’t been in the dating scene for five years yet I feel all of the same anxieties that I used to feel!  (I am laughing as I write this because it all sounds so ridiculous, but it’s true!)  Making friends is hard!  I am an outgoing person, but I have become more introverted with each year and a little more shy.  I had plenty of friends growing up, but making friends when you’re a child seems so much simpler (mostly because our parents are the ones who really dictate plans with our new friends).  I also lived in the same place my whole life and had friends in college who were in my kindergarten class years before, so I really didn’t have to strive to meet new people in college.  I did have new college friends who were awesome, but I always had my really fun childhood friends, too, which was a safety blanket, I guess.  So, I haven’t made as many new friends as I was hoping by this point, but I am still working on it…but I digress.

So, when I found the list of goals I had made this summer, I read the list over and was pleasantly surprised that I had done five of the things on the list without really consciously thinking about them.  I went to a hot yoga class by myself (several now, in fact), I have explored downtown where I live (by myself and with others), I started a book club (we are on our second book), I attended a new church (several!), and I have explored Toronto more (after all, it’s only an hour train ride and big cities are so cool!).  The feeling of excitement and pride for having done some of the things that I was putting off because of fear or nerves still floods me as I re-read the list and see check-marks next to those five things.  I have to say, that with fall in full-force now (the leaves have almost all fallen to the ground, it has been raining for weeks, and I have switched from a light jacket to my down-jacket), it is nice to have something to brighten my day and make me feel good about myself.

There are still things on the list that I would like to do.  I think I will re-write them and add to it, and this time I will put the list where I can see it daily.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe I should tuck it away again so that when I find it in a few months I can check off lots of items.  Perhaps if it was in front of me everyday I would feel like it was daunting because I would see all of the things that are outside of my comfort zone; maybe I should pick one goal and display it until I do it then put up a new one.  I don’t know.  Whatever I decide, I just hope to keep doing new things and adding check marks to my list.  I do feel much more confident in my surroundings and I don’t feel lost for ideas anymore when friends and family come to visit.  I actually know a few things around town to do!  And, dare I say, I have made some new friends!  I even got two phone numbers last night :o)  Now, should I text or call…ha ha!

Yes it is scary acknowledging the things that make us uncomfortable (writing the list).  Yes, sometimes you have to be willing to try the things on your own and hope for the best (for me, a GPS was incredibly helpful!).  Take it from me, it is worth it.  The anxiety that I had to explore new places on my own, or step into a yoga class by myself and sit in (gasp!) the front row, seem so small now since I have actually done these things.

Sometimes we have to nudge ourselves off of the “cliff” to realize that we were only standing on a curb.  So make a list for yourself.  What is something you want to do, but fear or anxiety has been holding you back?  Simply putting that thing in writing is the first step toward doing it.  Life is short, so we should take advantage of the time we have by not letting nerves run our lives.  Step outside of your comfort zone and relish in all that new experiences have to offer you.  You might just have fun!