Beach Days

I’ve been practicing seeing the moments as they fly by me. The past couple of days are a good example of that. So many times I’ve thought about how grateful I am. Even though I had a bad attitude for most of this day and felt overall, in general “blech” there were so many times I felt supremely over-blessed.

First of all I get to wake up in my camper, on a beautiful piece of quiet land. I mean, who’s husband does that? Volunteers to help at a store that is failing, struggling, so that his girl can camp for six weeks?! I guess mine does and I can’t help but know how selfless that is.

Second I get to sit at the beach…in the sunshine…not really doing anything. Sure my kids were whiney and needy and the teeny did lose her cool more than once, but we were at the beach for crying out loud. Do I have any right to complain if I sat on the beach all afternoon? I’m thinking that’s a unanimous “NO!”, right? While I would’ve liked to read my book and take a nap, it was a gift of a day and I can not deny that.

If I typed out all of the small moments that have made these days NOT worth whining over this post would be crazy long. Here are just a couple; I made an amazing sandwich on focaccia (don’t judge my lack of carb restraint) from the local farmers market (yummm) and ate it at the picnic table in SILENCE! I grabbed a great Summer food book at the library, where my dog was not insane for twenty minutes. I sat outside after kids went to sleep with the man I love, I watched a hundred dragonflies dip and dive in the shade. Those are just a few highlights, but man I should not have been the moody, cranky person that I was yesterday.

Today I’ve been I smidge more present. I’ve seen the good and the not-so-good and I’ve not let one outweigh the other. As the rain has held off today we have done some workbook work outside, ran in for more good bread and to check out the local thrift store (where we scored Harry Potter Uno for two bucks!!). The tiny also melted down in epic fashion because her brother bumped her. One child refused to swim because there were people at the beach (wait…what??), and one of the children may be answering all of my requests with negativity bordering on anger (deep breath).

I’ve decided that I will take this trip one day at a time and enjoy all of the moments that I can without letting those annoyances get the best of me. We are settling into our new rhythm and finding the pace that we can sustain on the long hot days.

It is a pretty slow pace to be sure. This has me wondering if I should be doing more with the children, or if I should be working harder, or if I am taking advantage of my situation. All of that makes me think about the kind of childhood I’m trying to facilitate, the kind of life I’d like my whole family to be able to lead. That’s a post for another day though, we are off to the local library now…and then more sitting at the beach I think.

Simple Beauty

Post Script: I wrote this piece in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2018. I was genuinely feeling like I had given up on myself, like I was “only” a momma. I needed to find myself inside of this mothering shell that I felt I had become. While this article is not too deep, it covers a transformative place in my life. Though I have not corrected or healed all of the places inside of me that need it, I have found that taking care of me for me is worth the time invested. Sometimes, words from others make me feel like I’m not worth the time, or that perhaps I am doing it for external reasons. I still struggle with that, but now I can more quickly get back to my own “why” and remind myself that I am worthy. I hope that you handle these words gently and that they may speak into each of you where you most need it.

There’s this Winnie the Pooh picture book about Winter. This is the copy that I read to my littlest child. In the story, Pooh believes that Winter is a snowman who comes to visit the Hundred Acre Wood, typical Pooh. Some of you might accuse me of overthinking, but my take-away from this story book was that I should look at things more simply. Because of how I’ve been feeling lately, it was easy for me to take this thought and make the jump to my health and personal care routine. Though it might be difficult for an outsider to see how I got there.

It was with an idea of simplicity in mind that I left the house the other day to purchase some nice things for myself. I don’t really shop for myself and when I do I usually hit up my favorite thrift stores. This day though I was going to buy skin and hair care products and so I went to the natural-care product section of the market and started reading labels. Let me mention here that I have not spent more than $3.95 on any personal care items in, like, I don’t even know, maybe ever. I’ve been mostly okay with that. I don’t mind my wrinkles as they show how many times my sweet husband has made me laugh and I don’t really mind the gray hair as it reminds me of all the learning I’ve done as I’ve grown and gone through some hard and holy stuff over the years. The reason I was standing in what I would call the “fancy” shampoo aisle was and is because I just don’t feel good.

A lot of how I’ve been feeling is due to too much consumption, while I am actively working to turn that around, some of it is because of how harsh Winter is on my skin as well as my mind, and some of it is just plain bad habits. I don’t wash my face every night, heck! I don’t even shower regularly. While my hair care routine mostly works for me, since I trimmed it this autumn I have been bummed by how “mother-y” it looks. I couldn’t help but feel that something needed to give. I had a gift card tucked away in my wallet and so I spent all of that money on goo for my hair and a bit of make up to make me feel like maybe I do care about myself a little. This was a simple thing, but a big change too.

Since I bought the new things I have remembered to wash my face every night. I have almost looked forward to brushing my teeth regardless of the toothpaste left in the sink by my littles. I have brushed my hair everyday…which is definitely overrated, but I’ve done it because I have felt better about myself for taking seven to ten minutes in the bathroom. It’s weird isn’t it? As mommas it is so easy to get to this place where it’s simply too much effort to put effort into ourselves. I often feel like it’s simply not worth it, but that silly Winter book got to me. Was I making the care of myself too big of a deal? Couldn’t it be simple and meaningful? I needed to understand that the way I’m feeling is at least partially due to the way I am treating myself. I realized that if I wanted to feel better I needed to put in the effort.

By giving myself a few minutes -and a few products- I am reminding myself that I am worth more than what I was allowing. I’m reminded that while I don’t need to look good for other people or listen to societies words about women, I should feel good about me. Am I making any sense here? I didn’t need to make it complex, it only took a few boxes to help me feel worthy of the time and attention I was giving myself. I changed my routine in simple ways, it is no harder to do what I’m doing now than it was before and now I feel a little kinder toward myself when I look into the mirror. I still don’t feel good. I feel run down. My skin is irritated, red, angry. My nails are brittle. My joints ache. I know that to correct all of that I need to fix what I’m putting into my body, but I didn’t feel like I was worth it. No, I felt like it wasn’t worth the effort to take better care of myself. The effort is the thing that was lacking.

Knowing this has made a big difference. It has made me put on actual clothes, and not just walk around in my jammies all day. Okay, not every day, but a lot of them. Knowing that I can do all of my new morning routine in the time it takes my seven year old to make his bed reminds me that I’m not inconveniencing anyone or making us late, it just allows me to yell down the stairs fewer times because my toothbrush is in my mouth longer. Knowing that I can take a little time for myself to feel better on the outside reminds me that I can take a few minutes to make good food for myself, to drink more water, to take slow deep breaths in the still evening air. I can take time for me, I can feel better on the inside as well, the effort is worth it.

In hoping to create a more simple routine I did have to do a little more than I was before, but by looking at my problem with a simpler perspective it became so very clear that by allowing a small amount of time for the care of me, I would improve so many other pieces of my life. I’ve noticed some deeper things in these few days since my trip to the store, things that I probably make too complex. I’m trying to look at these things simply, to adjust each one with just the right amount of my time put in.

That simple childrens’ book…I’m sure the author had no idea that it would cause this kind of self-consideration in a momma’s heart. Perhaps I would have come to this place on my own anyway, I have been feeling pretty miserable. I am grateful for the random places I run across that I can draw inspiration from. When I feel like I’m worrying over the routine or the extra steps I’m taking, I can now offer myself the very simple reminder of the Winnie the Pooh book. Hopefully that will be enough to continue on with the slow process of finding myself.

While a simpler life doesn’t mean an easier life, the effort is worth it.

Post Script: I wrote this piece in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2018. I was genuinely feeling like I had given up on myself, like I was “only” a momma. I needed to find myself inside of this mothering shell that I felt I had become. While this article is not too deep, it covers a transformative place in my life. Though I have not corrected or healed all of the places inside of me that need it, I have found that taking care of me for me is worth the time invested. Sometimes, words from others make me feel like I’m not worth the time, or that perhaps I am doing it for external reasons. I still struggle with that, but now I can more quickly get back to my own “why” and remind myself that I am worthy. I hope that you handle these words gently and that they may speak into each of you where you most need it.

Sick and Well

This was written about a year ago. The small things I had begun when I scratched this out have been healing me for over a year now. It’s amazing how one change leads to the next…especially when you trust God with the results….

IMG_7651.jpgSometime ago I began this article about why we stretch so far financially. Ultimately, I had to set the writing aside because I got sick. Again. When a few of my children then got sick, I basically abandoned that post. Honestly there are many more bloggers out there who are much better equipped to tell us that we don’t need to spend money on all-of-the-things. When I went back to look over my outline of thoughts I noticed that the ramblings about spreading ourselves financially thin actually spoke to me about how I budget myself. My time, my kindness, my patience, my “yeses”… you know, the bucket from which I pour out.

Here it is: I get sick a lot. I have this chronic issue that I can’t figure out on my own and that I have yet (after a couple of years struggling) chosen to go see a doctor for. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible. I am not confined to bed for weeks at a time or in serious pain for hours on end. Just consistently, month after month the same issues reappear. Annoyingly. Frustratingly. Obnoxiously. I’ve dealt with it in many different ways and though it brings it’s own bit of difficulty to our household, I really shouldn’t complain, but sometimes I still do. I have known for a long time that a person can’t give more of themselves than they’ve been given. You have to invest time and energy into yourself when you are a constant care-giver or you will run out of care to give. I’ve begun to do this more and more, realizing that when I try to shake every last drop of energy I have out onto my family, things don’t really go so well for me.

This emotional budget of mine; this amount of self given out verses the amount of self-fulfilling coming in is almost as difficult for me as keeping my checkbook balanced. Maybe even more so. We’ve basically figured out how to live within our financial means without creating much debt to muddle through, but I continually get to a point of frustration with how I manage the allotment of myself. It seems that I am always running on empty and I wonder how much of this is connected to being sick so often. If I had a better quality of self-care would I physically feel better?

Sometimes when you write something down it becomes painfully obvious.

The question then becomes; how do I change the way I mother to allow for proper personal time when I am so accustomed to the cycle I have now? See, what I do now is provide constant care to my littles, grabbing a quiet ride home once a week or so until I am so frustrated that I could scream. Then my sweet husband sends me out to find peace at the library or coffee shop for a few hours. This has kept my overall sanity in check, but I am wondering, if I could get ahead of the screaming, could I keep myself healthier? This has been gnawing at me for awhile now and stealing the mornings was my first attempt at listening more carefully to my body. I think I will have to set up appointments with myself, opportunities to get out before the desire to drive cross-country sets in.

Am I the only one this is difficult for? I’m thinking not, you likely have your own ill-used methods of caring for yourself. This morning I’m suggesting a small shift in how you utilize that method. If you’re like me at all you frequently get to the point where you are mentally exhausted, you feel that one more “MOM!!” shouted from a bedroom will send you to the brink of insanity. If you have tinys who aren’t yet sleeping through the night your physical exhaustion may be the thing that does you in. If you sit through church services managing the needs of your kids instead of letting the message sink into your very soul then you are likely spiritually exhausted as well. Viewed individually, all of these things seem small. When you add them together week upon week can you see how you’re going to end up feeling?

The shift is just in remembering that you will feel exhausted or burnt-out at some point, and taking the time today, before the crazy-you shows up. You know you’ll be overwhelmed by your mothering gig in a couple of days, so why not ask for the time now? I know it’s hard. I know looking at your sweet husband and telling him that you need a break before you lose your mind is difficult. But I propose it is ultimately better! A friend told me recently that she read about doing three small acts of self-care each day. I’ll admit this sounded overwhelming to me. Three things each day that were just for me? I immediately thought that either the small things would feel like one more thing to check off of my list or that I couldn’t do big enough things to make a difference every day. In the interest of my own self-care I am hoping to try this out. I can not continue to be sick, something has to give….

So I just typed all of that and I am going to walk away now. These thoughts and plans will, optimistically handle my mental well-being. My physical health though, that’s where I am seeking healing this day. Will this preemptive resting, this seeking out of peace in advance of illness assist me in not succumbing? I’ve wondered quite long enough. And so I will walk away now, and take a chance or two…

Over the past five weeks I have made some changes in how I care for myself. There have been many frustrations along the way, the assumed bronchial infection that I’ve been living with has fought hard against my measures to break it down and expel it from my life. Taking up residence in strange places and providing an interesting look at how a body works when we let it. I am hopeful that I am near the end of the residual side effects. I am feeling closer to well than I have in a very long time, and I am grateful. I still do not take enough time to care for myself, looking at a day and seeing all of the reasons why I should not seek quiet instead of looking inside my soul and seeing the one reason that I should. I have allowed myself to trust that the process is working and that is a big step for me.

As I look back over the past five weeks I wonder over how my body works, over the strengths of both habit and bacteria. More time is needed, forgiveness too, of myself in the amount of time I am taking to get back to good. I have been living unwell for a few years now, I suppose healing will not come in only a few weeks. I can take the time, walking slower than I thought I’d need to, leaning into my own heart and not allowing the rush of the world to make me feel that I am healing too slowly. That is a good lesson to be reminded of. Peace, and wellness, comes in trust not through fear… or hurry… or anxiousness. I know that all of those will build up inside of me in the same way and they will not bring about good.

I am wondering more. I am reading more. I am giving myself up to the tiredness and I lay down to sleep. I am making a plan to wander more and the inevitable garden sketches of deepest winter are making their way onto paper. I don’t manage three things for myself each day; I don’t know that I will reach that goal while my children are small. I have begun allowing myself a few minutes of quiet after lunch though and just yesterday I lay down on the living room rug as the winter sunshine poured through the windows. Yes my tiny promptly plopped down on top of me and within minutes my other two were sprawled next to me. I quickly reminded myself that they can’t steal the sunshine from me. That’s a good lesson too.

If you need peace for your mental or physical health I’d love to chat about what you’re doing or let you in on what is working for me in this season. If you need prayer to find that peace I’d be blessed to come alongside you. From the deepest part of me I know how sicknesses can build, one on top of the other. Exhaustion, lack of self-care, continually putting the needs of others before your own…in mothering we do all of these things and there is no end in sight. There are too many words written here to begin how a closer and stronger community of women would benefit each of us. It will come soon, the community piece is a large part of why and how I am choosing to seek wellness. For this day, I will sit with my coffee for a few extra minutes, waiting for the late-rising sun, trusting that even if I am still unwell- doing good for myself is not wasted energy.