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Life is not a transaction.

summer day

“Well, it’s broken.”

We are in the urgent care, after a day spent enjoying the snow and it seems that final sled run has put more than just an exclamation point on Happy’s half-birthday.

The doctor moves towards us with the x-rays and points to the location of the break.  It would be easier if this were an arm break or a leg break. What we are looking at is a broken pelvis.

And so he immobilizes Happy with a soft cast—locking his body from belly button to big toe into a straight arrow.

“He has to stay immobile until he sees the pediatric orthopedic specialist tomorrow,” he tell us. “No weight bearing at all.”

And so we carry our six year old out like he’s a plank of wood being lifted horizontally over the threshold. We slide him into the back seat, feet first.  We prop him up on pillows and cover his hip in ice and let him listen to an audiobook much later than his bedtime while he eats dinner in bed. His dad sits in the chair across from him and just stares at him, memorizing every sliver of skin while trying to forgive himself that this happened on his watch. I read him extra bedtime stories, sing him an extra song, cover him in kisses.

A common conversation in our household centers around not being transactional—not doing things just to do them, to check them off a list, but instead being self-aware enough to be really present for what we are doing with each other and especially with our boy. You have heard this parenting adage before:  the days are long but the years are short. Though I exhale every time I come out of putting Happy down each night, there is a simultaneous sting when I close that door—the awareness that there is one less time I have to put him down.

In bed, I start to problem solve the situation. If Happy has to be immobile for the next six weeks, I have to be prepared to teach him from home. I think through what I have to say no to, what I shouldn’t volunteer for, where we can ask for help.

The next morning, we load our little boy up into the car and drive to the city to meet with the pediatric orthopedist. As we wait in between tests and x-rays, we play I Spy a million times (which is 999,917 more times than I am usually willing to endure), I tap dance until Happy is laughing so hard I worry we might hurt him even more, I make up songs.  I don’t want him to remember this time in his life as “when I broke my hip and had to lie on my back bored out of my skull for weeks and weeks.”  I don’t want him to think he is alone in this. I don’t want his recovery to be just a transaction of ice bags and elevated legs.

And just as he is gulping air to recover from my tap dancing with spirit fingers, just after he tells the doctor that I am the WORST TAP DANCER EVER, the doctor tells us that his broken pelvis—which would have required surgery- isn’t really broken. There’s an injury there that we’ll have to treat, but it’s not broken.

The relief is like the release of a pressure valve, like a cannon of confetti being shot into the air, like saving grace.  And because we were present for the disappointment, the despair, the darkness the night before, we can taste the sweet relief as if it is fresh honeycomb. Our eyes well. We high five. We listen to the doctor’s instructions.

“What’s for lunch?” Happy asks as we prepare to leave.

“Whatever you want,” we tell him and he wastes no time saying, “Does that mean I can have a hot dog?” He’s lost none of his savvy in this scare.

So much of our world these days is designed to steal us away from being present.  Our smart phones, social media, streaming videos, overload of commitments and more keep taking us away. And then life hands you moments, moments that remind you (us) that what is most important is right in front of you, not on some screen.

This week, I want to encourage you to think about where you are being transactional and where you are being present and gently coach yourself into greater presence and less pressure. Say yes to what matters, no to what doesn’t and sing and dance like it might be the last time you can (even- or especially- if your people make fun of you).

Lessons in Belonging

COVER - final

Over a decade ago, I had the incredible good fortune of meeting Erin Lane in a nonfiction writing workshop.  I instantly adored her.  In addition to being a fantastic writer with a clear, true, unique voice, Erin is the best of souls.  She’s whip smart, thoughtful, funny, ironic, stylish, reverent and vulnerable and just so, so dear.  Also, she loves cupcakes.  Clearly, she is kindred.  I’ve loved reading her blog on faith and feminism over the years and am now so excited to share with an excerpt from Lessons in Belonging from a Churchgoing Commitment Phobe.  As someone who has always struggled with belonging (not just with churches but EVERYTHING), I was especially excited to dive into Lessons in Belonging.  Reading Erin’s journey and her wisdom has given me perspective on my own journey in belonging.

I have been to Outpost Community Church once or twice before I decide that it is a serious prospect. It is the kind of place that makes you take a second look after you compare it to other suitors. You’ll have to forgive its annoying quirks. But perhaps you hadn’t had the complete picture when you first met.

I try to give it a real go this time in the hopes that I might catch a glimpse of the Spirit, the lingering presence of God that has me scheming for ways to catch it in its natural habitat. This church seems to be one of those places.

Outpost has two primary things going for it. (1) I can bike to it and, from what I surmise, most people who go here can do the same and; (2) Said people seem to care. And it isn’t that they care about the right stuff (my stuff) but that they care about caring for each other. These criteria seem sufficient.

When I walk into the sanctuary, with its honey-colored walls and stately pillars, I see Bess sitting in the pastors’ pew, her petite body wrapped in marled yarn. A southern woman, raised in Waco and married to a Oklahoman, Bess entered the ordination process while working as an intern at Outpost. I think her brave. She lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Durham. She watches the two little boys down the block when their mother runs to the store. She attends the art opening of the woman who shares her duplex. She knows the names of the homeless men who stand outside the church and expects them to learn her name, too, if they are going to be real friends. She even tells them so, pressing her small, heart-shaped face close to theirs.

Bess and I became close in graduate school. We met in the opening chapel service and quickly discovered that we both liked to bike; the following day we made plans to ride to school together like some middle-school gang. All that was missing were the playing cards fixed to our spokes by clothespins. There were other things we held in common, too. In addition to staving off addictions to sugar-free gum and Diet Coke, we loved talking theological trash. We’d be walking around the perimeter of campus and I’d say something about how taking communion helps me remember who I am and she’d say something like “You could get into a lot of trouble with that kind of sentimental hogwash.” Maybe that is another reason I am here, too; a young woman like me isn’t just in the pulpit but walking around giving name tags and shaking hands and acting like there is nowhere else she belongs more.

I told Bess I would commit to coming to Outpost for the summer. An end date for commitment is like a lifeboat to one terrified of time’s expanse. Twelve weeks of going to the same church with plenty of Sundays off for summer travel? I can swing this. Plus, I hope it will appease Bess who has always been wary of my critiques of the church lobbed from the safe distance of a blog post. Better to actually build something up from the inside than tear it down from the outside.

My first Sunday back at Outpost, I notice three things:

One, it is a singing congregation. The worship leader, an older man with box-framed glasses, shouts out instructions to the congregation over the top of his piano. It’s ridiculous – shouldn’t someone give him a mic? – but the voices around me are so strong one has to strain to hear herself.

Two, it is a dancing congregation. This mainline, Protestant congregation is full of clappers, the type of folk who are always an eighth of a beat too late but look so happy doing it one forgives them their clumsiness. They clap and sway and even put their hands up like Perk does when she’s really feeling the Spirit.

Three, it is a peace-passing congregation. When it comes time to shake hands with a room full of strangers, people actually get out of their seats – and even their rows! – to shuffle around the sanctuary giving blessing upon blessing. They even make an effort to learn my name and stick their hands out without being all smarmy.

The people are so earnest here that I try not to focus too much on the fact that we are mostly a bunch of white folks in a city where two-thirds of the population are black and Latino. I try not to be too critical that they don’t bother to make the language gender-neutral in the prayer of confession, let alone in the sermon or songs. I try not to think about it too hard when we kneel and say that we are depraved, that “there is no health in us,” even now, even with all this grace. The people are so earnest, in fact, that I nearly forget to care about any theological differences we have.

We celebrate Pentecost, the occasion for the Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles in first century AD and causing a flurry of miracles and misunderstanding. The day marks the fulfillment of not only Christ’s promise to dwell with his followers and equip them for service in the world, but also the vision of the prophet Joel who testified on behalf of God to all of Israel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28). The message of Pentecost was one for Jews and its converts alike, both those who belonged to the original covenant and those wondering if they could be adopted in.

And it all began with a sound from heaven and a hungry wind.

Excerpted from Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe (Crescendo, 2015) by Erin S. Lane. Erin works for the Seattle-based nonprofit Center for Courage & Renewal as an assistant program director for clergy and congregational leader programs. She has a master of theological studies degree from Duke Divinity School and is coeditor of Talking Taboo. Find more of her writing at www.holyhellions.com.

 

Friday Reflections

playing pool

Every Friday, I reflect on the week that has just passed by doing a little sensory exercise. This practice is a gentle, easy way to tune into how we are doing, what we are experiencing, and what we are grateful for while more acutely tuning into our senses. It’s a whole heart exercise with plenty of bodily input, if you will. Because this practice has been so good for me, I want to encourage you to do it, too. Building some gentle reflection into our weeks is a nice way to stay grounded while maintaining some big picture perspective. So please join me in this week’s Friday Reflections (with each sense as your inspiration, consider how experiencing it impacted your week).

Here is my sensory round-up for the last week:

tasting ::  arroz con pollo, pan seared brussel sprouts (Happy’s favorite vegetable now so a regular on the menu, an Asian-flavored cole slaw, stove-top popcorn, a delicious meal (tortelloni, roasted chicken, and chocolate birthday cake) at a new farm to fork restaurant in town.

hearing ::  wind like a hurricane as a fierce cold front came through (and, well, settled for a bit).

smelling :: candles.  Love the dancing light and luscious scent as we have been huddled inside against the elements.

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seeing ::  the Circle de Luz girls get so excited about running our annual 5k as we kicked-off the journey this past Saturday with shoe fittings (each girl gets a pair of shoes that are just right for her feet and a jog bra), tie-dying of our race shirts, goal setting, our first training run, and lunch.

feeling ::  a bit brain dead.  Happy was out of school for four days and because I didn’t want to just plop in front of the television, we’ve been playing, reading, writing, cooking up a storm but my professional brain feels a bit squishy.  It’s like riding a bike though, right?  It’ll come back with a few trips around the proverbial block.

wishing :: for and making space.  My calendar is pretty full for the next five weeks so I’ve got to make some space to meet my responsibilities.  That might mean that I am here a little less often on Wednesdays and Fridays as I get over the hurdle.

What about you? What were your sensational experiences this week? Please share!

A Body Warrior to Meet: Kathryn V. White

a body warrior to meet

A regular feature on the blog years ago was A Body Warrior to Meet.  In it, I featured women from around the world who shared insights on their relationship with themselves.  It was an inspiring way to show that self-acceptance wasn’t exclusive – we could all embrace it- and a way to share the grounded tenderheartedness and deep wisdom that I was seeing in so many people with whom I had the pleasure of interacting while doing this work.

In Beautiful You, the questions for Body Warrior to Meet where shared as one of the exercises (Day 162) and I offered to share readers’ Body Warrior answers here on the blog, if they wished.

KV White compressed for web2

Today, I am happy to introduce you to Kathryn V. White, a writer, artist, and mystical cosmonaut who enjoys sharing her adventures in expansion through her art and writings. Her dream is her creations help transform our world to be a healthier, wiser, and more joyful place to live. To this end, she shares life-affirming short stories and has written the book, Rumble Tumble Joy: A Journey for Healing, Inspiration, and Wholeness.

What do I love about myself?

I love my curiosity and creativity.  My curiosity keeps me going, even when times feel really tough.  My curiosity combines well with my creativity and ensures I express myself in tangibles—such as writing and visual art.

At one point in my life, I turned away from painting.  I struggled with the idea that everything I created as art meant the destruction of something else.  However, the calling was too great to ignore and, after deep spiritual explorations on this issue, I made a personal commitment to painting.  I was curious to see how my life would change by acting on this intention.  And my life certainly did.  (But that’s another story!) In addition, I now have over 120 acrylic paintings (which are wonderful gifts of self, from self, to self) that I created over one five-year period.

I find that sometimes insight, wisdom, and healing can only be found after we physically express ourselves through a creative process.  It’s a paradox.  It’s also a great gift that we can share with each other.

My biggest challenge in accepting my body and beauty:

It has changed as I move through the years.  When I was younger, it was accepting the curve of my thighs.  Now, I don’t agonize so much over any specific body part.  I do think about aging and how to stay vital.  I’m very aware of the unhealthy constructs the media and society have created to pattern people to hate and fear becoming older.  Caroline Myss points out how our society is very much about living as long as possible without aging.  Now there’s a construct that brings unhappiness with one’s body!

I take time to keep myself healthy and do things that give me joy.  I know that nurturing myself is more than what foods I eat, it is the music I listen to, the movies I watch, the books I read, the conversations I share—not only with others, but my own self-talk.  Exercise and stretching are integral to my health as well. (My two awesome dogs help with making exercise more fun!).

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My biggest support in learning to appreciate myself: 

One support for me was taking an intensive women’s class dealing with body image and self-acceptance many years ago.  Through photography, writing, and sharing I learned to appreciate my body and the diversity of female shapes and sizes in general.  The gifts from this class stayed with me long after it was ended and the experience was a midwife to my writings that are now published and available on Amazon as my book, Rumble Tumble Joy: A Journey for Healing, Inspiration, and Wholeness.  Just as other people’s books have helped me to move forward in my life, my intent for this book is to provide inspiration and a helping hand to women and girls as they work to move through their low self-esteem and body issues to a place of more wholeness and self-love.

Beauty is:

At its deepest place, beauty is indefinable as it is beyond words and beyond the limits of any rendering. As an image, I find much beauty in the art of Georgia O’Keefe.  As words, I find much beauty in the poetry of Hafiz.  In actions, I find much beauty in those who work to make the world a more loving and healthy place.

Why I am strong:

I am strong because I don’t give up.  I am committed to my spiritual path and I don’t shirk from experiences for growth.  I seek to see the beauty and harmony of life at the same time I don’t deny its pain and suffering.  I am learning to accept the gifts of experiencing the duality of opposites that are an inherent part of this life.

Why I am beautiful:

Because like all that is and is not, I come from a greater source.

What women must know:

Develop your critical thinking skills, expand your heart, love your body, and honor your spirit.  Really look at the messages your family, your friends, the video games you play, the things you read, the movies you watch, the media, and society provide you.  Are they life-affirming?  Do they nurture you and others?  Do they support a healthier and wiser world?

You have to do the work yourself to discover who you are, what you stand for, what you will share that you have received from others, and how you will gift the world with your talents and wisdom.  You are always at choice; make that choice a loving one.

a recipe for sustaining ourselves

For the longest time, I only practiced self-care when I was forced to do so because, in some way, my body or mind couldn’t sustain me any longer.  And while that self-care ultimately would save me in those moments, it finally occurred to me that I could avoid the whole crisis cycle if I just incorporated basic self-care into my daily life.

Want to incorporate more self-care into your daily life?  Here’s a little graphic to give you some ideas to get started.  Choose one of these things that you can do daily this week (drink more water, get more sleep, keep a gratitude journal) and one thing you can do once this week (book any outstanding doctors’ appointments, do yoga) and then add another daily practice and once a week practice to your week next week so that you can gently but effectively build your own self-care muscle.

We spend so much time taking care of others and while our relationship with others is one of the greatest sources of vitality in our lives, it is only sustainable if we sustain ourselves.

 practicing selfcare

It’s NOT about the cupcake.

photo by Jill E. Williams

photo by Jill E. Williams

As has become tradition here on the blog, every Valentine’s Day, I tell the same story.  It’s the story of one of the biggest fights in my marriage to BF.  And though it seems like it is about a cupcake, I cannot stress enough that it is NOT about the cupcake:

This is the funny thing about our marriage.  BF and I are about as different as two people can be.  I mean, we are seriously different.  But this has worked to our advantage because it means we have to communicate and compromise about everything.  Anyway, because of our differences, we know that we’re not going to feel the same about most things, and so we just go into every discussion knowing there will be lots of communication until we get to the other side.  Since we don’t expect to see eye to eye on everything, we rarely fight.  Except when BF takes something that is mine. Without asking.  Because I just think that is disrespectful.

The most common thing I don’t want to share without being asked is my dessert.  Not because I want the sugar so badly (okay, maybe a little bit is that), I swear, but just because I think you shouldn’t take something that is not yours.  It would be one thing if he asked.  It would be another thing if I didn’t ALWAYS say, “I have a cookie in there I really want to eat, please don’t eat it.”  But I always do, and he never listens.

It’s enough to drive a woman who once won a Holly Hobby cake in a raffle as a four year old but was sick the day it came home and her family devoured it without saving her a piece bonkers.  No, there are no issues here.  Move along.  I just want to explain that my territorialness about sugar, I mean asking, has deep roots.  And I am forthright about it.  You’d think a boy would learn. But he hasn’t.  Or maybe he has, because just last week there was a mini-sugar situation in our house.  But this time BF didn’t eat my cookie (I made him his own set of cookies as a surprise and just asked to have one that I sealed away in aluminum foil for later), he threw it away.  And we survived it, and everyone went to bed happy at our house (or maybe I’ve just learned that there is no guarantee that one will enjoy any sugary goodness that lands in our house).  Unlike Valentine’s Day 2007.  Speaking of Valentine’s Day, happy day, BF.  I wouldn’t trade you for the world.  Or even a cupcake which I know is kinda hard to believe.

Here we go:

I love cake.  Grocery store cake to be specific.  Give me some grocery store vanilla cake with vanilla icing and you have a girl who doesn’t need any other sustenance.

Anyway, for Valentine’s Day 2007, BF’s aunt gave us two cupcakes.  Grocery store cupcakes.  With a lot of icing.  I was so psyched about the cupcake that in the car, on the way home from dinner at his aunt’s house, I was talking about when I was going to eat my cupcake.  Yes, I am simple; I don’t play otherwise.  I know this about myself, but, here is the thing, I don’t ever get grocery store cake or cupcakes and so a little part of me was dancing inside from the rare impending sugar rush.

BF looked at me nonchalantly and said, “You can have my cupcake.”

“Are you kidding me,”  I asked.  “Because if you are, that is just cruel.”

“I am not kidding you,” he answered.  “I don’t need to be eating that.”  He actually said that line with a hint of self-satisfaction, as if he were mature enough to rise above the cupcake trance that I was so clearly in. But I ignored him because I knew that I needed the cupcake– both cupcakes.  Whatever, dude, be self-righteous.  I just want the cupcakes.

So I started planning, aloud in the car, when I would eat each cupcake.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,”  I exclaimed, as if he had given me something gold and shiny.  But this was better than gold and shiny.  Sugar is my gold and shiny.

Back home, I dropped my cupcakes off in the kitchen and then retreated to my office to work on whatever deadline I had approaching, and BF went to bed.  Finally at a good stopping place a couple hours later, I walked through the kitchen on the way to our bedroom.  My eyes darted to the cupcakes that I had so lovingly wrapped in tin foil.  Panic struck.  Even through the tin foil, I could see that one of the cupcakes was missing.  I opened up the foil.  Just one cupcake looked back.

Mercury rose through my spine.  I marched into the bedroom and noisily opened my dresser drawer, stomped my way into the bathroom, threw on every light, hummed my way through my bedtime routine until BF woke up with a jump.

“What?”  He asked, as he always does when he is awakened from a deep sleep (except for that one time I elbowed him to wake up his snoring self at the NUTCRACKER and he said something very different and not appropriate for the Nutcracker audience.  We have not returned to the Nutcracker.).

I turned to him, put my hands on my hips, and said “I can’t believe you would do something so tacky as to eat my cupcake without asking.”

“It was my cupcake,” he tried to reason.

“No it was not,”  I said.  “And that doesn’t matter because this is not about the cupcake.”

“It is too about the cupcake,” he insisted.

“It is not.  This is about you offering me something and then regretting the offering and rather than coming to ask me if you could have it back like an adult, you just did what you wanted.  That is no way to be in a partnership,”  I sneered.

“You’re just mad that I ate MY cupcake,” he volleyed.

“This is NOT about the cupcake,” I fumed and ranted and raved until we both just went to sleep.  And I promise it wasn’t about the cupcakes.  It was about what eating my cupcake without asking symbolized.  I swear.

In the morning, he looked at me when I hopped out of bed.  “I am sorry that I ate your cupcake,”  he offered.

“It’s not about you eating the cupcake,” I tried again.  “Don’t you get that?”

“Yeah, I do,”  he answered before leaving for work.  But I wondered all day if he really did get it.  Sure, I love cake, and I love the anticipation of cake.  But I also love sharing things I love with people that I love, and I would have been happy to give the cupcake back if he had just asked.  That night, he walked into the house with a six pack of grocery store cupcakes.

“What’s that?”  I honed in, my cake-dar on high.

“A peace offering,”  he answered.  “Now, you have five cupcakes all to yourself.”

I did a double take, clearly counting six cupcakes in the container.  “But there are six cupcakes,” the greedy little cake hoarder in me said.

“And one of them is mine,”  he smiled before walking into the kitchen, opening the case, and savoring his cupcake.

Wishing you the happiest of Valentine’s Day as you celebrate the love- whether it comes from partnership, child(ren), parents, siblings, friends, colleagues- you have and give in your life.  May nobody eat your cupcakes.

Share your thoughts on Passion. Purpose. Peace

passion.purpose.peace

Are you in the greater Charlotte, NC area?  If so, I’d love your anonymous insight as I plan for a retreat offering for this spring.   Will you complete this survey (it’ll take less than 2 minutes)?  

Want to know more about the retreat I am planning?  Here are some details:

Passion. Purpose. Peace:: a retreat is created to quiet the self-doubt that has stopped you from creating the life you want, connect you with what you find life giving, encourage you to claim your purpose, while giving you the time and guidance to breathe, think, dream, and plan for your best life.

At this two day retreat, we’ll spend our time together filtering out the excess noise while identifying and embracing what is most true for you in how to live authentically and create the life you want. We will forge a deeper self-awareness, practice greater self-acceptance, examine your self-care in a way that empowers you to be your greatest ally. We will discover what you want your legacy to be and how to live in a way that aligns with whom and how you most want to be in the world while allowing you to creatively express your passion and purpose in a personally crafted mission statement and manifesto.  You will be guided in creating an action plan that guides your wants and needs at a pace and in a way that is just right for your life.

Ultimately, you will leave Passion. Purpose. Peace invigorated, focused, and clear with a sense of confidence in what you uniquely offer the world and a vision for how to live on purpose in an authentic, whole-hearted way.

 

Pay Attention to What You Offer Yourself

compassion

We’ve all heard the sage advice flight attendants offer about meeting our needs so we can then be useful in a dicey plane situation: if the plane loses pressure and you are traveling with someone who needs assistance, be sure to put on your oxygen mask first.  The fact is you cannot be all that helpful to the person who needs assistance if you are passed out on the floor.

Put that way, basic self-care isn’t just an indulgence.  It is an act of survival.  It helps you function better, be better, feel better.  Self-care improves your overall sense of wellbeing, allowing you to really give your best gifts to the world.  And, ultimately, we are each here to do just that.

But how do you give yourself good care?  How do you know when it’s working?  How do you know when you need a tune-up or self-care intervention?  Here are some guidelines to get you started and keep you going. (and coming next week, a starter list of self-care activities in case you are short on ideas).

Watch for your SOS signs.  We all have them: behaviors that show us we’ve hit the wall.  It might be that you feel emotionally or physically exhausted or have a growing resentment towards other people (why am I the only one who ever volunteers to do this?).  It could be that you start taking everything personally or feel emotionally bruised.  It may be that your body or mind get so tightly wound that everything from stretching to thinking hurts.  It might be that you excessively crave sweet or salty foods or that you cannot sleep at night.  Whatever it is, know your breaking point and your triggers and commit to keeping distance from both by exercising good self-care.

Embrace the open road.  I know I am doing a good job of caring for myself when I feel internally at peace, even if things around me are busy.  I might have a long distance to go before I’ve reached the mile marker of my choice, but I know that I have everything I need- a tuned-up car, new tires, a full tank of gas, maps, good music, and people with whom to check in while I take on my journey.  Self-care makes the hard times feel less impossible, the dreams possible, and the every day life enjoyable.  What components do you need packed in your carry-on bag?

Take care of you.  Good self-care takes into account what you need physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  Examine ways you can take care of your physical body, your emotional health, your mental agility, and your sense of connection with the world, which for some is through a traditional faith path and for others is a sense of being in touch with the universe.  And then make sure that care shows up in your everyday life.  Expressions of self-care include moving daily, eating nutritious food, getting enough sleep, seeing the doctor, yoga, journaling, meditation, counseling, setting boundaries, reading, taking on both big and small challenges (the daily crossword, picking your guitar back up after 25 years), praying, reaching out to help someone else.

The truth about self-care is that it is the daily stuff that keeps you rooted while helping you thrive.   Over this week, make note of what you are doing for yourself in terms of self-care and where or when you feel fragile or unsupported.  Those details provide the information you need to refine your care and revitalize your soul.  And revitalizing your soul is the greatest responsibility you have in insuring your greatest sense of satisfaction, balance, and thriving.

 

10 Things I Loved in January 2015

10 Things I Loved in January 2015

At the end of each month, I take stock of the previous month.  What went well?  What did I learn?  What brought me a simple joy?  These monthly reports are a way to encourage myself to take delight in the littlest of things.  I find that Ten Things I Loved allows me to always see the silver lining, even when there are hard moments in a month.  And taking joy in the simple things is paramount to how I want to live, making 10 things an invaluable tool for me.  Here’s this month’s simple pleasures.

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visionSPARK.  By now, visionSPARK has become as much of a new year ritual to me as choosing a word for the year and creating a vision board.  I LOVE the wonderful synergy in the room as everyone works together to claim their intentions for their lives and then thoughtfully captures that vision with a word and a vision board.  This year, I did four visionSPARK workshops and they each were so unique but I think exactly right for the people who were there.   

my 2015 manifesto

I Will Be Ignited Manifesto.  My word for the year showed that I had big expectations and I felt it was important to sit down and really capture what those expectations looked like.  While I did that some in my vision board, I wanted to really articulate it in a manifesto that I could use as a guide and a reminder.

beautiful you manifesto final

The Beautiful You Manifesto.  Well, once you write one manifesto, you pretty much want to pen 100.  Or I did.  So I penned a Beautiful You manifesto that I hope will serve as a powerful reminder to all of us.

New Body Image Class.  It’s a new semester which means I have a new group of students.  And though we have only been together for four weeks, I love them already.  They are earnest and thoughtful and funny and that’s just the right mix when you have to hang out together for 3 hours on Friday mornings.  Lucky me.

New Class Captains.  Circle de Luz will be welcoming the Class of 2021 into our program this fall.  The cornerstone of every new class are the three adult leaders who craft their journey and serve as the primary mentors to the girls during their six years in the program.  We have been so incredibly blessed with our amazing, generous leaders so far and the same is true for our newest class of leaders who committed to the journey this month.  Dance of joy and gratitude.

Some good reads.  After I finished The Language of Flowers in November (which was my favorite 2014 book), I fell off the book wagon.  That was partially because of a busy December but also because sometimes I just want to sit with a good book after I have finished it.  It’s like rebounding.   If you immediately start dating after a break-up with a great person, well, there’s just no way that new person can compare, right?  It’s the same with books for me.  So I didn’t read a book in December.  But I read three books that I really enjoyed in January and so now I can say that I am officially back in the saddle.   Wanna know what was on my bedside table in January?

No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown This is a YA book that I tore through in two days.  It follows a young singer who lives in a small mountain town in western North Carolina who has the opportunity to try out for a fine arts boarding school in Winston-Salem (the same school where a friend of mine’s child is enrolled right now).  Her family members’ lives are complicated and imploding and the question is whether or not she’ll get ensnared in the shrapnel or make it out.  As a Carolina/immigrant/ small town girl and a former high school teacher watching our Circle de Luz girls navigate that same question of what is possible in their lives, this book really tugged at my heart.

After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman.  First, full disclosure:  this one wasn’t really on my bookstand.  I listened to the audiobook while commuting to the university—which Lippman’s books are perfect for because I get absolutely engrossed and, thus, find the 40 minute drive too short.  Moreover, Lippman’s audiobook narrator is just great (the same actress does most of Lippman’s book and I have totally bagged audiobooks based off the sound of the narrator’s voice).  All of Lippman’s novels (well, the ones I have read and I bet I’ve read 10) are complex, compelling mysteries and this one didn’t disappoint.  The central mystery is who murdered a former stripper trying to make good almost 10 years after her married suitor disappeared to escape jail time.  A surprising, satisfying ending.

The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte.  I’ve been choosing a word for the year since I was a high school teacher (so many moons ago) and am always really focused on intentionality so this book with its focus on claiming how you want to feel in your life was a great read that really resonated.  My sister and brother-in-law treated me to it for Christmas, and they made a great call.  The book is divided into two parts—the first part is LaPorte’s theory around core desired feelings and why they matter and the second part is a workbook to help you focus on your core desired feelings.  I’ve read part one and am starting now on part two.  Core desired feelings, here I come.

Paddington.  Happy had been counting down the days to this movie’s release for MONTHS.  Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint.

Souper Bowl.  More than a decade ago, I was involved with forming a new non-profit initiative, HAMMERS, to provide emergency home repairs for low-income families in our area.  One of the most important efforts for any new non-profit initiative is coming up with funding, and the signature fundraiser for HAMMERS melded four of my favorite concepts:  football, soup, art, and live music.  Souper Bowl always happens the Saturday before the Super Bowl and features local restaurants competing for best soup in a variety of categories.  While folks eat and vote for their favorite soups, they enjoy live music from local musicians or A cappella groups and can bid on art work (especially bowls from wood turners and potters) from some great local artists.   I no longer chair HAMMERS (motherhood and Circle de Luz came along and HAMMERS was in a great place for transition) but this organization is still so important to me and Souper Bowl is always a must.  This year’s soup did not disappoint.  My absolute favorite was a creamy zucchini but a spicy kale stew called Kale Mary (get the football pun?) was a very close second for me.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration.  The local college had a lovely King Day celebration for elementary aged kids, and Happy loved participating in it.     

Getting out more.  BF and I are both introverted with strong homebody tendencies but we’ve pushed ourselves to get out more and have tried some new (to us) restaurants, enjoyed theatre in Charlotte (thanks, Donna Scott Productions), and caught up with friends.   

Relationship Rehab

relationship rehab

With Valentine’s Day nearing, you may be thinking about how to make someone in your life feel loved. While you decorate with your kids or fill out cards to send your sibling or pick out a gift for your partner, I hope you’ll add one more person to that “TO CELEBRATE” list:: you.

Each Monday this month, we’re going to look at some ways to improve the most important relationship in your life—the one you have with yourself. Today, we are getting started with some foundation work.

Understand self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is your decision to not have an adversarial relationship with yourself. It is deciding to interact with yourself not from judgment but from a position of, at least neutrality, and, ideally, support. If you do something that maybe doesn’t turn out the way that you had hoped, the first place you go to in your mind if you are operating from a place of self-acceptance isn’t one of criticism but one of celebration for trying and then of reflection to gather insight. You think, “what can I learn from this”; not “I am so dumb!”

When we start operating from a place of self-acceptance, we become empowered. The irony is that when we have a more negative view of ourselves, it becomes a self-defeating prophesy, we are less successful and happy because we don’t believe that we can be successful or deserve to be happy. When we shift our mindset to self-acceptance, we become more empowered because we have a greater belief in our abilities and we lose the paralysis over what happens if it doesn’t work out. Here is the reality: if something that you do doesn’t work out the way that you thought it would, nothing about you changes. You gain information about that thing and maybe even how you should approach things like that. But who YOU are?  Still just as valuable, important, and worthy.

Decide. The first step in your self-acceptance journey is making the decision to have a healthier relationship with yourself.  “I have decided to have a healthier relationship with myself” is one of the most powerful mindsets you can embrace because it means you are ready to notice what you are doing that is not healthy and call yourself on it. In order to really claim that you are going to make a shift, I encourage people to sit down and first start by writing that statement at the top- I have decided to have a healthier relationship with myself. Now, reflect on what practicing self-acceptance will provide for you—because that is where the motivation comes from, from realizing that a different way of relating to yourself might really have some incredible things to offer you.

Here are some questions you can answer:

If I were more self-accepting, I would…

Self-acceptance is an opportunity to…

When I think about being more self-accepting, I am most excited about…

I want to be more self-accepting because…

Break up with your frenemy. So many of us have that internal voice in our head that provides a running commentary on everything we are doing wrong. And that voice really does become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But we cling to that voice because of fear, because of a lack of confidence, because we think it will eventually motivating. But if you take an honest look at the situation, the voice is not serving you. It has done nothing to help you so far. Why do you think it will start now?

Letting that critical voice go takes practice. When the voice says its awful thing, I want you to respond, “I am not talking that way to myself anymore” and then counter it with a positive thought.

Breaking up with this voice means not just breaking up with it when it’s in your head but also stopping those things you say out loud like, “Do I look fat in this?”, “I need to lose 10 pounds” or sitting down with your girlfriends and picking everything apart. You have to stop all of the critical conversations that are going on in your life from the ones in your head to the words you speak. Negativity never serves us.

Pay attention to how your body feels not looks. Sometimes people wonder if practicing self-acceptance is a free pass to not take care of yourself and that’s not it at all. Your body is your vehicle for this life. It is what allows you to experience joy and love and every good thing you have had in your life. Moreover, you have a gift that you are meant to give this world and though it has nothing to do with how your body looks, your body is what will allow you to deliver that gift to the world in some way. So you have to take care of it—by giving it the water, movement, sleep, self-care, stress relief, and nutrients it needs. Practice healthy self-care not because it might change the way your body looks but because it allows your body to serve you better.

Ignite yourself. Now that you have really diminished your self-criticism and are embracing some well rounded self-care, it is time to start thinking about what you are passionate about and how to be on purpose because the reality is that you won’t have time to be consumed with your body when you are consumed with what you want to offer the world. So, if you already have a passion, really immerse yourself in it and figure out if there is a way you are meant to offer it to the world. If you don’t, begin to look for one. Ask friends if you can join them as they do something they love. Recall what you loved at other points in your life and reengage in those passions. Pay attention to find the activities where time slips away and create an emphasis on that in your life.

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Want even more support for your journey?  Seal Press is offering the e-book version of Beautiful You for $2.99 until 2/6 (along with 4 other great books). This daily practice will open your heart to yourself.