Viewing entries tagged
mothering

A Letter from Santa


Dear Sweet Sister, Mama, Wife, Daughter, Grandma, Auntie, Woman, Friend,

It was never true that I only watch the children.

I see you.

I see you working so hard.

I know you are staying up late to squeeze in as much as possible when the house finally falls silent after a long day.

I know you wake at night wondering how you will possibly accomplish all that the next day holds for you. I see you shaking your head at the tasks that got away. I see you wishing you could get back to sleep. I see you checking the time at 3:00 a.m. And again at 4:00 a.m. Then, I see you drift off to sleep in just enough time to wake again at the sound of your alarm.

I see your exasperation.

I see you use every last bit of your energy to get your children off to school, to walk the dog, feed the cats, and then pull from the reserves of I don't know where to get yourself out the door. I don't know how you do it.

I see you grocery shopping, gift shopping, meal planning, meal making, cookie baking, and house keeping. I see you pushing start on the dryer for the third time on the same load of clothes.

I see you volunteering your time to help others. I see you scrape a handful of change from the bottom of your purse so you won't arrive at the Salvation Army collection tin empty handed.

I see you wrapping gifts and sending cards. I see you wishing you had the resources to do these things when you cannot. I know you are working harder than ever before, trying to get everything done. I know you are making lists. I know you check them more than twice.

Homework with your children, homework for yourself, activities, dinner, and baths... I know bedtime is trying at your house. It all seems so impossible, and yet you do it.

I know you aren't sure what gifts to give your children's teachers this year. You wonder every year. I see you worrying, wondering how to make everyone else happy, and hoping you got it all right.

I see you planning... for work, school, church, village, town, city, state, and planet. From meals to parties. Trying not to exclude anyone. Trying to make sure everyone else's needs are met. Wondering what to wear. Hoping it will fit. Wondering how to squeeze in a trip to the mall in case it doesn't. Wondering if you can even afford that trip...

I see you rocking your baby to sleep in the middle of the night. Your eyes barely open. Wondering when you will sleep again... and yet, at the very same time, trying so hard to cherish this precious quiet you share with the tiny bundle in your arms. You know it will all be over in the blink of an eye.

I see you stumble to your child's bedside when she wakes and calls out for you. She is frightened, cold, thirsty... simply wanting to be near you. You want to hold her and make all her troubles disappear, and you want to go back to bed. You want your own space. All at once.

I see you do all of it - day after day.

I see you grieving the loss of a loved one. I know you are wondering what it will be like without him, or her. You know it won't be the same. It will never be the same.

I see you grieving the loss of a loved one's beloved. Her precious child. Her husband. I see your tears. Your heart feels her pain. I know your fears. I know you wonder what the future holds.

I see you putting off your next physical. And making trips to visit a loved one at the hospital. I see you receiving bad news on the phone, by e-mail, text, and on Facebook. I know you wonder whether it will ever end. I know your heart breaks a little with each blow.

I know that sometimes you feel so alone.

I see you caring for your sick child. And your aging parents. And your own beloved. I know you are "staying strong" and "holding it altogether" all the while feeling like you are falling apart. Bit by bit.

I know that sometimes you feel trapped.

I know that you aren't exchanging gifts with your partner this year... so you can give more to your children. Or your parents. Your siblings. Nieces and nephews. Friends. The community. Your favorite charity. You have everything you could possibly need. Right?

I see you struggling. I don't remember the last time you splurged on yourself. Without guilt.

I know you worry about the cost of everything. I know that sometimes you must make choices. Do you pay this bill or that one? What will that leave for groceries? I see you making it all work even when the odds are not in your favor.

I wonder how you do it all and I wonder how you keep going? You never cease to amaze me with your tireless effort. On top of it all, you are simply radiant. You keep smiling. I know you are grateful for all of it - all that depletes you.

I see you Dear One.

And, I wonder what you really want? In your wildest dreams. Do you know? Have you thought about it? Do you have the space or time to listen to the whispers of your heart and soul?

Dear Sweet Body of Love, I know that no matter how hard you are working, you will never accomplish all that you've set out to do if you keep trying to run on empty.

Sweet Woman, you. Must. Fill. Yourself. Up.

You can be your own Santa Claus. Gift yourself. Make your own magic. Just for you.

Please.

Please make sure to include yourself on your list this year. You'll be amazed at what you can do when you take care of yourself. First.

Love,
Santa

p.s. if you think a Springtime art and heart retreat on the shores of Lake Michigan might fill you up, consider the Heart Connected Retreat: In Honor of the Journey May 1-4, 2014. Anna and her co-conspirators take pure delight in making magic for you. After all, we all need a little help sometimes.


Desperately Seeking Clarity


Mmmm.... I am taking in so many different kinds of information these days. Everything from newsletters sent home from my children's teachers to rich course content in an online course I am taking. It's a lot and it is all part of my effort to get clear on a few things.

September is my January. It feels more like a New Year to me than the one that officially starts January 1 and so that is probably why I've been doing a lot of soul searching. Last year I felt like a complete failure on the mom front. It was a rough school year and I played a huge part in how rough it was for all of us. I will give you an example... Last year I drove my two younger children to school every day. Of the three of us, the youngest --who was 4 years-old for the first half of the year -- is the most motivated in the morning, AND this is a little girl who would sleep until 10:00 a.m. every day if she could. Our mornings were tough on all of us and I just wasn't very good at handling it.

This year, they ride the bus to school. The other day they missed the bus. When I told them they missed the bus and I would be driving them to school my son burst into tears and screamed, "I'M HAVING FLASHBACKS TO WHEN YOU TOOK US TO SCHOOL LAST YEAR!!!"

Hmmmm...

Now, I can't take full credit for the flashbacks. I think some of his horror was due in part to the teacher who greeted him in a not so friendly way each day. The ramifications of running a little late are intensified when the person to whom you are running isn't very welcoming. But still. I knew I had work to do to help rewrite my son's school story.

My work is around figuring out what I am capable of in the realm of being the primary caregiver for my family and starting a creative business at the same time. I am finding that it is necessary for me to be okay with baby steps in the business area. Last year I said yes to everything and tried to get myself "out there" as much as possible. I stayed up late working on multiple projects and had a hard time waking up most mornings. I taught a few classes after school and had to arrange for childcare for my children. This year I want to make sure I am home when my kids get off the bus each day. I need to be more selective when it comes to deciding how to put myself "out there." I am okay with that. I am clear on that.

What I just realized that I wasn't clear on was exactly what my intentions are in being home for my children or facilitating a retreat for a group of women. I thought I wanted to help people. You know? Because I am a helper. After last weekend's retreat (which was AWESOME by the way...more on that another time), I realized that YES, I definitely do what I do because I want to help people.

BUT, what I really want is to...

...help people help themselves. There is a HUGE difference.

I want to help people.
I want to help people help themselves.

This is as true for my kids as it is for anyone I work with. I am not here solely to whisk in and chase all my children's problems away. I would LOVE to be able to do that! But I am not their fairy godmother, I am their MOTHER. My job is to give them everything I can to help them help themselves. Because I'm not going to be around forever.

I thought I set out to do the work I do because I want to help people. I was getting a little caught up in that idea - maybe even anticipating that I am way more powerful than I truly am - that I have some kind of magical helping wand and when I wave it all your problems will vanish (I wish I could do that, but it's just not real). With the work that I do there is really only so much I can do to help anyone. The rest is on them. I think what I want to do is inspire people, to empower people, and to share what I know in case it might help them to feel less alone or to solve a problem or to create something beautiful.

Now that I think about it, I think it is one of the most loving things you can do - to help someone help themselves. I like that.

So, this is what I am clear on now, thanks to all that soul searching... I show up here to share my stories and some tools that help me stay present in the moment and accomplish the things I need to do - for myself and for others. I hope that by sharing what works for me you may find a thing or two that works for you. That's all. I think sharing is so powerful. It has the potential to unlock doors and create flow where one is stuck. When I had this moment of clarity I knew I had to share it. Think about it - where could you use some clarity in your life?

When I show up here, I am committed to sharing - open, honest, from the heart sharing... the rest is up to you.

xoxoxo

9/11, Depression, and the Meaning of Life


Many people are remembering 9/11 today. It's hard not to remember. So many of us can recall exactly what we were doing when we first heard the devastating news - for me it was that a plane crashed into a building in New York City. I remember a group of students gathered around a TV screen in one of the Social Work buildings. It was one of our first day of classes. I wasn't sure what they were watching, but I cruised right by already late to class.

We moved our desks into a circle. There were a few people frantically pushing numbers on their cell phones. The instructor had the affect of someone trying to maintain calm. It turned out that several of my classmates' families were in New York and my classmates were trying to reach them. As the beginnings of the story of 9/11 unfolded, we exchanged looks of shock. Our professor asked that we stay for the full 2.5 hours of class. We thought she was crazy.

I remember going home and watching the news all day long. I remember going to bed terrified. I couldn't snuggle in close enough to my husband and I finally fell asleep wondering what kind of world I was bringing my firstborn into as I thought about him sprouting from a little seed inside my belly. Earlier in the day I had wondered if our new insurance plan would cover my pregnancy - we had just moved to Michigan from Arlington, Virginia. That seemed like a non-issue at bedtime. I couldn't stop thinking about how I had driven past the Pentagon every day on my way to work when we lived in Arlington. I couldn't begin to make sense of what had happened in our country - the land of the free and home of the brave - that day. Nobody could.

It is National Suicide Prevention Week. I saw a post on Facebook yesterday about a group call To Write Love On Her Arms. According to their mission statement, this is a  "movement is dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide..."

Yesterday's call was to write the word "LOVE" on your arm to help raise awareness. So I did that, knowing that finding hope and help for these issues specifically is a cause that I hold close to my heart.


When I woke this morning to stories of 9/11 and LOVE on my arm, I began to think about graduate school and how I had diagnosed myself with almost every mood disorder I learned about in class. It was actually quite liberating to learn that there was an entire vocabulary for the feelings I had struggled with my entire life.

In a different Facebook post yesterday, someone I know shared a picture of LOVE on her arm. She included a note to her dad - I gathered he had committed suicide. I thought about my dad's sudden death about 3.5 years ago. He didn't commit suicide, but before we knew the cause of his death, the possibility that he did commit suicide wasn't out of the question. With drugs and alcohol, he certainly found other less severe ways to escape the pain he felt in his life.

After his death, I pretty much fell apart. With three little people to care for and my husband back at work, I knew I needed help. I decided to take anti-anxiety medication. While my grief intensified my anxiety and symptoms of depression, it is true that living with anxiety was something I had been doing my whole life. I didn't have words for the constant feeling that something could go wrong at any second until I learned more about anxiety and depression in graduate school. I thought I was "too sensitive" while the truth was I felt things really deeply. Maybe more deeply than other people. When the pain was too much bear, I looked for ways to hide it or dull it. 

When I finally decided to take medication for my anxiety it was in part because I remembered a friend saying to me "Anna, you don't have to live this way" referring to my constant state of anxiety. I never wanted to take medication, but at that point - after my dad died - I didn't think I had time for therapy and I knew from my studies that it would help me. It was a very small dose, just enough to take the edge off and not enough to keep me from crying my way through a year's worth of contacts in way less than a year's time.

The thing about living with anxiety and depression that is so hard, and can be debilitating even, is that you feel so alone. So hopeless. So isolated. And on top of all that, you can feel ashamed of feeling that way. You think the only way out of the pain is to stop it. People try stopping the pain in all kinds of ways.

I would never, ever tell anyone that the key to happiness is to take medication. That is a choice you have to make for yourself based on your own history and your own present situation. What I would do is to say what my friend said to me - "You don't have to live like this." You have options.

See, I have come to realize that while there is immense pain and suffering in this world - and while I am not immune to any of it - we are not here on Earth to suffer. We are here to enjoy our lives and to live them peacefully. I don't know what that means for everyone, but I know that it is true. I don't have any proof, you'll just have to trust me.

Sometimes I wish my medication would numb me to the pain I feel, and that's when I know that it is time to take it up a notch in other areas of my life. When I want to escape what I'm feeling, I have found that writing helps me to feel more grounded. Yoga reminds me to breathe and helps me to stay present. Meditation helps me to quiet my "monkey mind" - the what-ifs that can spin out of control if I don't stop them. Being outside soothes my soul. Taking walks and running (or trying to run...) helps me to clear my mind. Spending time with people I love helps me remember who I am - not a condition, but a soul doing its best to enjoy this human experience. When I can return to myself and what is most important to me, I can better handle whatever life throws my way. 

For me, art is a cure-all. Creating connects me to my core, the Creator, and all things created. I try to create something every single day. Sometimes it's just dinner (usually it's not dinner...). I have been keeping a Blessings journal for a while now and I love it because I can do just a little bit of creating very easily every day AND reflect on the things and people for which I am grateful. 







Yoga, art, and meditation are some of the tools I use to get to break away from the every day and get back to what matters most to me. 

We all have those tools - those things that can help us to slow down and re-focus on what matters. For a lot of people prayer will do the trick. No matter how much pain you are in, you must remember that life is not about the pain. Life is about JOY and you have the right to live in peace.

So, how do we get back there? What will it take to get you back to the peace? Here are a few steps you can try to take...
  1. Breathe
  2. Think of one thing that brings you peace
  3. Take one step, make one stroke, write one word, recall one memory, or reach out to one friend at a time - whatever it is that will take you to peace
  4. Keep breathing
  5. Keep going
  6. Get there

The only way through anything is to go through it. Seriously. Sit in it for as long as you need to. Feel what comes up for you. Yell, scream, cry, stomp your feet. Get as angry or as sad as you need to be. 

And then remember that you don't have to live there. You don't have to stay in the darkness. Let it - whatever it is - flow through you, then you too can go with the flow. You can move through whatever it is. It might take hours or days or even years. Choose one thing that brings you joy or peace and take one little step in that direction whenever you can. You will make your way out of it. And, know you're not alone. If you need help, reach out for it. It's okay to ask for help.

This world - one where true heroes sacrifice their lives to save others, where slowly we are raising our voices around issues like depression and suicide, where communities come together in times of despair to help one another, and where we recognize that we are all connected - this is the world I brought my now eleven year-old son into. It is a world filled with war and hate and hunger and pain and suffering, and it is a world filled with beauty and peace and joy. We have to learn to live with the good and the bad. It's not an either/or proposition. 

When you are suffering, you don't have to stay there. You don't have to live like that. You have options. My hope is that we all choose PEACE and JOY and do whatever it takes to get there.

With all kinds of love and big Anna hugs... xoxoxo

Oooh La La!


Here is Alexander, my 7 year-old son, holding the most recent addition to our art collection. This kid is a magician. He has the power to both mortify and charm a girl at the very same time. He used to surprise me with his worldly wisdom, but now I've grown to expect something profound to exit his lips every few days. When it's not profound, it makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong as a mother... Let's just say he is no stranger to profanity. Yes, he is seven.

So enough about children who rock my world with the power to both break and build my heart... A week or so ago I posted this picture of Alexander on Facebook.


I am an avid iphontographer. Meaning I take pictures with my iPhone. All. The. Time. It is amazing what one can do with an iPhone and some cool software these days. Photography is an art that has always left me in awe. Back in the day the process of taking a photo, finishing a roll of film, dropping it off at the drugstore, and waiting, usually impatiently, to take ownership of an entire stack of beautiful new photos - that process was magical to me. I loved plowing through that stack of photos reliving every precious moment captured on film. Hoping I had actually captured the precious moment. Celebrating when I had, and trying not to be disappointed when I hadn't. Let's face it, some moments, the most hard to capture moments, like the sunset, a sleeping baby, and the Red Rocks in Sedona must be lived and appreciated fully in the moment. The pictures are simply a reminder of that moment.

I spent years carefully placing my photos in albums - remember those magnetic pages with the sticky stuff on them? I made my own scrapbooks, and felt as if I had died and gone to heaven when I learned there was an entire world that existed around what I had been doing in my own way for years - scrapbooking! I loved it all. The entire process. And as much as I love the instant gratification we experience now with digital photography, a part of me misses the rush I'd get when I'd finally get to see the product of my work after waiting with anticipation through an entire process.

Now I get a taste of that high through software like PicMonkey. It's not exactly the same, but I really enjoy my new process of clicking "Apply" and seeing my photos change right before my eyes. I enjoy seeing the many ways a photo can change with a simple click - adding "clarity" or a vintage look. Playing with the filters is really so much fun, and anyone can do it.

I still appreciate the art of photography and I sit in awe of the professionals. Seeing the ways they work their magic is inspiring. I guess the software is much like the magic kit I received as a gift as a child. I'm doing tricks with my software for sure, but it is play in comparison to the transformation that takes place at the hands of a real live magician.

Finally, we have arrived to the point of my post. If you love to play with pictures and even words, like I do, AND you are in the market for some meaningful art for your home, please consider this... I snapped that picture of my son and used PicMonkey to play with the filters and add a poem I found by Mary Oliver that fit both the image and the boy in it - within minutes. I uploaded it to Snapfish and within a week I have a brand new piece of art on canvas. I LOVE it! I love it so much, I just had to share it with you. I didn't anticipate you'd get an entire story to go with it, but that happens with me sometimes.

Go... Make some magic! Enjoy! xo