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Progress, of a Sort…

I have not followed through with the Abundant Mama Rise & Shine Challenge, regarding which I think I already acknowledged that it would take me much longer than ten days. Perhaps if I were the sort of person who didn’t need some (very nice, I’m sure) lady online telling me how to be a better person/mother, I would be fine within the confines of those days – Hell, maybe I’d even beat her ten days and double down on some of the challenges. However, I am what I am. Part of me accepting this challenge for myself is figuring out how to (finally) accept that, and not just with half-joking regret, but in full and complete understand and empathy of my own struggle and my own dance through life.

That said, I am still fully planning on completing the challenge; it, along with many other things in my life, has made me realize that there is a whole lot of stuff that I need to let go of in order to “rise and shine” at any time of the day. There were some rituals in one of the emails (I don’t even know what day I’m on anymore, but does it really matter?) that got me thinking of intention and how I intend to live my life. I realized, I don’t. I think about shoulds quite a bit: even this blog started out as a should. In fact, I don’t really live. I am alive, of course: I breathe, I laugh, I cry, I love, I feel, I embrace, I fear. But I don’t actually live. And to be honest, I fear far too much.

On days like today – a Thursday, where my beautiful little boy is happily looked after by other people, I wake feeling wonderful, filled with my plans for the day, which are usually a mixture of yoga/blogging/me time, cleaning, and relaxing/doing nothing. I lay in bed reading for sometimes up to an hour (depending on how hungry this little girl gets) and then I get up and make myself breakfast (a prospect made far less enjoyable now that I am gluten and dairy free) and while I eat, I put on the TV. Then I’m hooked and I don’t stop. Suddenly, it’s 2:00 in the afternoon and I haven’t showered or brushed my teeth or barely moved from the sofa. All I’ve done is watch TV and play games on my phone. Today is different, obviously, as it’s currently 12:30 and I’ve already tidied the living room, cleaned the kitchen, done the laundry, read and had breakfast and lunch. Woo-hoo! Go, me!

However, the former is all too familiar. If it isn’t a Tuesday or a Thursday, the instant that little boy’s head hits his pillow and I say, “Sweet dreams” and walk out of his room for his nap, the TV goes on and my phone or iPad comes out. Numb. I am numbing myself. From what, I’m not entirely sure, because my life is pretty awesome. Sure, we live in a country where things are difficult and we don’t want to be here and there are a lot of things I struggle with here. Sure, I have a very independent, outspoken, stubborn toddler and am also currently growing a baby. But those problems in and of themselves are pretty great problems to have. I know this. I am grateful for this. Daily. And yet…

I’ve been doing it for so long, I have no idea how to stop. Ever since I stopped doing drugs, I’ve been doing it with food and TV (which, let me tell you, leads to a far more coherent me, but is much less fun). That means since high school. I’ve not been fully living my life since high school. That’s over half my life (Eek! I’m old!). I’ve had moments, of course, some lasting months even, but something always happened to shatter that bubble and bring me back into my reality. I don’t want that anymore. I know, and have always been aware, that my depression means that I’ll always have days where I question, where I fear too much, where I cry for no reason and every reason, where I feel absolutely useless and heartbroken over everything and nothing. I know that, and I’m okay with that. Right now, though, it’s too close to the surface. It’s too much of a reality. My lack of living has allowed me to become that person always. I am defined by my depression, by my fears. I don’t want that anymore.

I want to change my reality. I want those days just to be those days – where maybe I don’t get the house cleaned that day, maybe I have to get takeout for dinner and maybe I need to lay on the sofa and read an entire book to escape whatever it is I’m feeling. But I want to wake the following day without it holding me back from returning to my reality. I want to go back to yoga, go back to smiling and meaning it, go back to whatever glorious future I will have with my amazing children and husband. I don’t want to be held back by this fear any longer.

How does one change their reality? I suppose it’s a combination of a lot of little changes – a lot of little moments that take a lot of will power to make different choices. In search of more answers, I’ve downloaded an audiobook by Pema Chödrön, hoping that just be surrounding myself with uplifting ideas and sounds, versus the TV, it will become easier and easier to make those different choices in the little things, and perhaps the bigger things will become that much clearer as I go along.

Now, back to this challenge, which obviously plays a key part in my new reality. I’ve worked through a bit of my ideal mornings and what I want to get from my nights – I have my nightly checklist (which I need to transfer to my notebook because while I love the ease of writing my journal/blog online, I am not a person who functions online: I still have a wall calendar and an actual paper to do list) and I’m still working on my bigger rituals and also on IMPLEMENTING these things, as that is key… and I, obviously, have yet to do that.

To encourage my intentional mornings (beyond the bigger picture of figuring out how to start living and change my reality), I need to actually plan for the little moments because, let’s face it, I am NOT a morning person and as I have a husband who is and a two-year old who most definitely is, I can’t imagine myself getting up hours before them in order to accommodate my desire to do yoga, have a long, lovely shower, linger over breakfast and coffee with a good book and then also get all the cleaning, laundry, etc done in order to set myself up for the day. When would I have to wake up? 3:00 AM? Not going to happen.

So, what can I really do in the mornings? Well, I’ve been thinking that the most important thing is banning electronics for the first hour or so. The instant I wake up, I turn on my phone, check my email and Facebook. Seriously. Who do I think I am? Out of the maybe twelve emails I get every morning, maybe one of them is actually for me and even that is never urgent. And Facebook? Ugh. So. Wake up and wake up. Perhaps I should get a coffee machine and have it go off in the morning so I can have coffee – decaf, though, because I’m pregnant and get jittery if I drink coffee before I eat anything. Or perhaps I should train myself to jump in the shower. I’m not sure yet, but I know I need to get up and USE that time, otherwise any time I give myself will fall directly into the Internet void, and that’s is a routine that NO ONE wants.

What I would like is to be ready (physically: face-washed, tea/coffee in hand, dressed) when the boy wakes. That way when he is up, I can put my energy into him and his day and what we are going to do together. So, I suppose, that is as simple as it is: I need to get up, pull some clothes on, wash my face and make some tea or coffee. Perhaps this would be a good time to listen to my audiobooks for the present and in future, when I’m further along in my progress, to do some yoga/meditation (those things are fine to do with tea in hand, right?!?!).

So, my task for the day: copy my nightly check-list and my morning goals into my notebook. Yes, it does seem simple enough for me to remember to wash my face in the morning without having to write it in my notebook and keep that notebook by the side of my bed. As I said, if I were that type of person…

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Nightly Checklist

Time for another check in with the Abundant Mama Rise & Shine Challenge (which is taking much longer than the ten days suggested, and I’m okay with that [note how I even used the word "suggested"]). 

In this installment, we are advised to create a list each night that we can do quickly to facilitate the mornings. This is her example: 

On your nightly checklist, you will likely want to include the following:

  • Prepare lunches and snacks
  • Quick clean up
  • Pack bags
  • Pick out clothes
  • Tomorrow’s 3 to 5 Must-Dos

I think I will have to work on this a bit as I go, as I have never really had a regular routine like this, but here goes: 

My nightly checklist:

  • Prepare (and/or plan) breakfast/lunch – currently, only applicable Mondays & Wednesdays, as Lucas only goes to school on Tuesdays & Thursdays
  • Tidy living room
  • Run dishwasher/Clean kitchen
  • Pick out clothes – for me and for the boy
  • Tomorrow’s 3 to 5 Must-Dos
  • Something involving Meal Planning (which is my next “project” to tackle, as we both need to eat better and save money and I need to figure out how to do that)

So, there is it. EVERY NIGHT. I have a white board in my kitchen (Thank you, Pinterest) that I use for this and I do it occasionally, but not enough to be a routine. And that’s what I need. 

Now, the more difficult part. Her previous post was about sleep rituals, of which I have none. I’ve been thinking about these in general the past couple of weeks, and I think what she means are doing things not only like the above checklist, which are incredibly helpful and more importantly, necessary, but doing little things to recharge me.

For example, I am constantly upset that I let my feet get to the state that they are currently in. It may be weird, but I love my feet and my feet are really important to me. Not only are they crazy useful – not having a car, I use them to get everywhere I need to go, but they are also my gauge of wellbeing, as odd as that may sound. If I’m getting too hot, my feet are the first things to let me know it (and the only solution is taking my shoes off). If I’m not eating properly, my feet ache. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always felt a connection with my feet. I know that sounds weird, particularly in light of the fact that everyone is literally “connected to” their feet. However, it’s how I feel and that’s that. So, that said, I need to take care of them. I need to put lotion on them and scrub off those icky hard heels. Somehow, this is something I can incorporate into a ritual for myself. 

Beyond that, again, this is going to come down to meditation and yoga and I very much do need to figure out a way for myself to integrate that more into my life. I’ll keep working on that. 

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Little Boy Blue

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My little boy is now 26 1/2 months, though I usually do just say he’s “just turned 2″ (Mostly because I can’t do math or figure out what month it is that quickly in my head, not because I’m not that annoying mom, because I am…). He’s of course growing so quickly and learning so much every day that I’m astounded. Literally. I find I don’t know what to do with him half the time. He’s somehow right at that point between baby and little boy where he can talk and understand what I’m saying, but not enough. 

His favorite toys right now are cars and trains, which are slightly annoying only because that means setting up and dismantling tracks and car routes approximately a thousand times a day. He also likes to talk about cars on our walks, which means for ten minutes all I hear or think is: “blue car, red car, black car, big blue car, red car go, big black car…” as he points ecstatically from his stroller. 

His favorite words are “big”, “muddy puddle”, “Dankeschöne”, “oops-a-nanny”, “poop” (usually in conjunction with big), “train”, “jump” and his own name.

His favorite film is A Bug’s Life, which he calls “The Anties” and his favorite scene is where they build the “big bird”. He acts out a good portion of the film, especially the part where the children put on a play for the warrior bugs, which ends with the last grasshopper dying: the ant falls over saying “die, die, die”. He acted this scene out on the train the other day, which left me praying that no one around us understood English. 

He is also quite fond of Peppa Pig, which is part of where his love for “jumping big muddy puddles” comes from. 

His favorite color is, of course, blue. While he’s gotten much better recently, for a while there, any time we asked the color of any object (regardless of its actual color), he would happily respond “blue”.

My favorite recent moment? Oddly enough, it involves a poop explosion. We were at our mommy & me meeting, which was held at a Kindercafé, and one of the other moms sort of grabbed him and yelled to me because he had poop coming up out of his pants. I, of course, ran right over, pausing only to grab a clean diaper and wipes out of my bag. The changing table at this particular establishment is out in the open right by the play area so he was standing on this, while I took off his pants and shirt and cleaned off his back and what not (Ah, the joys of children, right?). The other children (all more or less his age) were LOVING IT: pointing at him and saying poop over and over; everyone was totally enthralled. He was standing so very proudly, smiling down at them all and puffing out his chest, pointing to himself repeatedly saying, “Lucas big poop. Lucas big, stinky poop.” Boys. 

Current struggles include: getting him to do anything he doesn’t want to do (most particularly getting dressed or taking off his pajamas, especially if they are his Thomas the Tank pjs), getting him to brush his teeth (which he used to love), getting him to stop when we say stop, finding something for him to do that doesn’t involve jumping off of EVERYTHING and perhaps most importantly, though not his fault at all, finding a new school for him. His school is closing in October (just before the baby comes – perfect) and all of the schools around us are full. It is one of those horrible constantly-at-the-back-of-your-mind stresses. 

Current loves include: his eagerness to give kisses when saying goodbye, his desire to do things for himself and to help, his enthusiasm, his growing fondness for (or acceptance of) cuddles, when he wakes up in the middle of the night and comes into our room to sleep with us and cuddles right up next to my face on the pillow, stares intently into my eyes, smiles and then goes to sleep, his love of counting (which sometimes is very accurate and impressive and others is more just saying all the numbers in any order up to twelve and pointing at random things), his mischievous face (which his father says resembles mine) and his newfound delight in singing and dancing. 

He’s pretty much the bestest. 

 

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Night Night

I sort of skipped a few days of the Abundant Mama Rise & Shine Challenge, which was only halfway my fault. For some reason, I failed to receive a few days’ emails, which previously I would have taken as solid proof that the universe was actively trying to keep me from being happy and proactive; I’m pretty sure that’s crazy, though. Beyond that, I think this baby must be going through a growth spurt or something. I have been SOOO tired this week. In fact, I slept until 11:00 AM yesterday. That’s insane. I don’t even remember the last time I slept that late. I obviously needed it and today (after sleeping in until 9:00 AM, bless my husband), I feel like a person again. Still a very large, uncomfortable one, but a person nonetheless. 

Now, I’m ready for Day Two (How many days later? Ah well, better late than never, right?). So, here goes: 

Today, your challenge is to focus on your nightly bedtime rituals as a family. What nightly ritual can you do before going to sleep to really foster an earlier — and more sleepy — bedtime?

I’ve been thinking of this, even without having read the email. I don’t have a very good nightly ritual at all. In fact, once our nighttime routine with the boy is finished and he’s asleep, we basically sit in front of the TV or computer until it’s time to be asleep, or well past that time. And that just doesn’t work. I feel unprepared, sort of cheated and unfulfilled when I go to bed, which leaks into my sleep. I am also prone to insomnia, so all of those feelings don’t help quiet my mind, which is what I need before bed. 

So, how do I quiet my mind and prepare myself for the next day? Well… again, a big part of it is doing yoga sometime throughout the day. I notice that even if I do yoga in the morning, I sleep better at night. Another aspect of the peace I’m searching for would come from having accomplished in the day. Sure, most days I manage to keep the boy alive – and that is saying a lot considering his favorite thing right now is “big jumps” and he will jump off of anything and everything BACKWARDS, but there has to be more than that. I don’t sleep well when the kitchen needs cleaning or the toys need tidying or things on my to do list are not getting ticked off at all. So, my day needs to be more organized (which will hopefully happen as my morning routine gets better). 

The worst thing, though, that TV gives me is a feeling of utter lack of control. I turn it on and boom, it’s 11:30 and I haven’t even washed my face and am exhausted and haven’t done anything I wanted to. It’s like some sort of time warp. But not in a good way. So, unless I’ve gotten a lot done during the day and the kitchen is cleaned and there is something specific on that I want to watch (versus just zoning out to be watching something), no TV at night is my first rule. 

Instead, I’d like to read in bed. It’s something that I love (versus TV, which is just something to do) and it relaxes me. So, you know, it’s a given, really. 

I suppose here is how my evening should go:

8:30 – 9:00 The boy goes to sleep – Daddy (or I) put boy to bed whilst I (or he): 

8:30 – 9:00 Tidying/Loading & Running Dishwasher/Hanging Laundry/Etc

9:00 – 9:30 Stretching/Washing Face/Brushing Teeth

9:30 – In Bed: Reading and/or Talking with my Husband

10:00 – 10:30 Sleepytimes 

I suppose that’s sort of a boring routine, and doesn’t add a lot of “me” time in there. I guess the best thing to do next would be to come up with things that I can do when there isn’t much tidying and cleaning to do. And sometimes, that can include TV. 

Now, though I have to stop because my son has been putting EVERYTHING under the sofa and since I told him that I would stop getting things for him, he decided to crawl under the sofa and he got his head stuck. I guess I need to do something about that. Sigh. 

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Quick Pregnancy Update

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I just realized that I haven’t let all my adoring fans (ha) know about our news, which is now over a month old. We found out at our 20-week scan, which I purposely scheduled before our trip to the US: we are having a GIRL!!!

At two different scans, my doctor had told me that it was a boy, so I had already generally accepted that this meant I most likely wasn’t going to have a little girl, as we really only want two kids, and I was fine. In fact, having brothers would be spectacular. However, there truly was something there that just didn’t sit right with me. Even though everyone around me was saying it’s probably a boy, including our doctor, who one assumes has more knowledge than most, the idea that I’d always thought I’d be surrounded by boys and the true happiness I felt at the thought of two little boys, I just felt like it was wrong. So, as I said, I purposely scheduled the 20-week scan a bit early, in order to be sure before we left for California. And the doctor (a different doctor than our regular OB/GYN) said that he’s 100% sure it’s a girl. I asked him a few times.

Oddly enough, I felt slightly disappointed as that little boy disappeared from our future lives and the brothers I’d imagined at all stages of life were no more… but only for a little bit. Then I was just ecstatic! A little girl!

And now she’s dancing on my bladder, so time to go.

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Attacking My Mornings (Or Something More Positive?)

Somehow through my obsessive wanderings on Pinterest, I have possibly (completely unintentionally) found something to help me. Usually, these get pinned to a private board called, ‘Getting My Shit Together’, which I have yet to read, but for some reason, I was a bit more proactive today. Possibly out of guilt for actually watching Bachelor in Paradise (WHAT is wrong with me??) or just because I streamlined my Pinterest boards this weekend (completely avoiding said ‘Getting My Shit Together’ board, obviously) and am trying not to pin things that I don’t ever look at or use, as Pinterest is, in general, simultaneously the best and worst app that has ever happened to me.

So, what was this amazing post that actually got me reading before pinning? Well, I don’t know. I didn’t pin it in the end. But it led me to The Abundant Mama Rise & Shine Challenge. And I’m doing it. Me: the no-energy, morning-hating, can’t-actualize-anything Negative Nancy (which is not actually my name).

First step? Answer the following questions:

1. What do you want your ideal mornings to feel like?

2. How do you want them to flow?

3. What sounds do you want to hear?

I find the questions themselves quite interesting, especially in the word usage. I don’t believe it’s accidental that the author uses “feel”, “flow” and “hear” in three separate questions, which perhaps are simply the same question, phrased differently for different learner types. I find myself resonating with the first question, and am quite surprised (and intrigued) by the third. I would never in a million years imagine the sounds I want to hear for an ideal anything. That said, I think it’s valid and interesting. Regardless, I shall do my best to answer all three.

1. I want them to feel easy. I don’t want there to be any strain or any rush towards that dreaded moment when the boy wakes up or when “real life” has to start. I want it to be natural and I want to feel ready for the day. Most importantly, I want to feel like I am choosing to wake up, not as if I am being forced. That feeling carries throughout the day, leaving me feeling as if I am forced into this difficult life that exhausts me. In actuality, I love my life and am very blessed to be living it. Beyond that, I chose this life, and I think it’s time I remembered that. There have been a few scattered mornings throughout my life where I found myself actually singing, “Rise and shine and give God that glory, glory!” I would like to feel that again.

In terms of specifics, I would like to feel like I’ve accomplished. I would like to get the simple things: unloading the dishwasher, starting a load of laundry, tidying anything leftover from the night before, thinking about the shape of the day, done quickly and easily so that I also have time to sit in front of the computer and perhaps begin to write, or at the very least blog. I would like to exercise and do yoga. I would like to meditate and find a way to reconnect with the peace and joy that has been lacking from my life for too long.

Those are a lot of things and as I don’t think I’ll be waking up at 3:00 AM, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to accomplish them all. However, I believe that getting into a routine will leave me more likely to have a routine at naptime and in the evenings that allow me that time as well. I also don’t have to do the same exact things every single morning. Perhaps I could alternate between writing/blogging and exercise to start out and my meditation could be very quick, with no expectations to start out.

2. I would like it to flow naturally and feel like I’m choosing each step. I’ve known for some time now that I do well on routines, yet haven’t had the will power or determination to enforce one, so I’d love for this to work. I’d like it to get better each day, easier each day and I’d like the feeling of accomplishment and intention to flow into the rest of my day as well – as in, I’d like to stop watching crap like Bachelor in Paradise because I’m so exhausted, that’s all I can manage. That can’t be true. I won’t allow that to be true and I very much don’t want to show that as a truth to my children. I already struggle in the afternoons with my little boy and I don’t want to continue to feel guilty (which just leaves me more paralyzed to take action) nor do I want it to be something I inadvertently pass on to him or my daughter.

3. Being a non-oratory learner, I don’t often think about sounds. In fact, unless they are background noises, they often distract from my purpose, rather than enhance it. However, I think I can control that more than I’ve ever thought to (which is not at all). My first reaction to this question is birds. I’d like to hear birds. Whenever I have got up and out of the house early, I’ve felt glorious walking down the street, listening to the chatter of the birds. The other sound I love, which is good considering where I live, is the rain. I love to open the windows, potter around the house and listen to the raindrops on the patio, roof and all around. So, those sounds would be good.

Those sounds, however, are out of my control, to a certain degree (bar opening the window, as, like I said, living in Germany, you’re pretty much guaranteed rain at some point…). But this question got me thinking of other sounds. I’ve always been a bit envious of my husband’s love for podcasts and iTunes University and the like. I want to learn things, too! So, perhaps, these are other sounds I’d like to hear – both of the intellectual and of the inspirational variety. Beyond that, I can’t really write or do work to music, but I would like to listen to music I don’t often listen to, such as Krishna Das or other things that really make me feel positive and connected.

So, there you have it. My first step. I guess that was pretty easy for a first step. I didn’t even have to wake up early (yet!).

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Back to Reality?

Well, my last post was a bit depressing – even to read back! However, I think it led to me really focusing my attention on my health in general, which can only be a good thing, right?

Since writing that last post, not much has changed in terms of my relationship with the hubs, but I think when focusing only on the negatives, anything can sound horrible. All of those things are true, but not necessarily all the time and more importantly, there are countless other things that are true as well. Those are the things I’m extremely grateful for and the things that I need to focus on in future. I am so fearful that if I ignore a ‘problem’, it will turn into a bigger issue. Basically, what that ultimately means is that I don’t have faith in my husband or what we have. How horrible is that? After seven years together, two (almost) children and a thousand daily reminders of how much he loves me and how committed he is to me, our family and our life together, I need to really keep things in the proper perspective.

To be honest, I think a major part of what I need to focus on is frankly a simple perspective shift. What will that take on my part? Ultimately, I think it comes down to yoga and meditation. I know that in the past, when I focus on clearing my mind with those things, well, it works! Beyond that, I need to stop anticipating problems, dwelling on negatives and being so hard on myself and my husband, in general. Again, though, I do know that yoga and meditation help with that as well.

Like most things, I don’t know how to start. I have an idea of ‘meditation’, but it’s all based on my experiences growing up in my religion. Growing up in Self Realization Fellowship, I definitely have both positives and negatives associated with meditation, God and my own spirituality in general. Unfortunately, the negatives have been weighing heavily on me for quite some time and I have felt uncomfortable with the very thought of meditation and spirituality, even so far as feeling abandoned by God and Guru.

I’ve felt this for so long that I never stopped to question whose God had abandoned me and whose beliefs I was questioning. I have always known my own heart and mind and I believe I do now as well, I’ve just been too caught up in hang-ups from the past. It’s time to let those go and focus on myself and my future, in more ways than simply my spirituality.

That, of course, leads me to this point and how to begin again.