Caring For Yourself, Real Talk

Breathe: Self-Care Tips For Outraged and Exhausted Americans

So I’m not happy. Far from it. The US, a place that gave so many people so much hope, despite its history, is reverting to its worst self. I’m living in a new worst self. And I’m heartbroken and scared and angry and exhausted.

What do you do when the White House can’t be believed?

Many of us find ourselves in a similar cycle on top of our everyday lives — anger, outrage, fact-checking, disseminating the latest threat to our freedoms and the country we were becoming, calling and writing to people in power to try to turn things around, attending protests, donating money, and arguing on social media with folks who won’t change their minds. Because for some, this is the very world they voted for and that is bewildering and unimaginable to so many of us.

It’s exhausting. It’s defeating. Every step we gain, we find 5 leaps have been taken in the wrong direction while we slept, laughed at a birthday, grabbed coffee with a friend.

Exhausting and defeating for sure, but it doesn’t even begin to hold a candle to the exhaustion and trauma the 2000+ children of asylum-seeking migrants are facing each and every day they are without their parents, without comfort, in a strange land, with strange people treating them poorly at best. And while everyone is fighting over who started this policy on Facebook (it was Trump’s zero-tolerance policy), children are suffering. Children.

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I ask myself, “What if it were your kids…” and I can’t even finish the thought, because I know the agony, pain, and fear and worry is greater than the worst thing I can imagine. If these girls were taken away from me with no indication of where they were going and when I’d see them again… I’m broken at the thought.

After two years living under this administration, I can tell you this loop of outrage, anger, calling, writing, donating, and arguing has major mental and physical ramifications. I feel guilty during my happy moments. I feel helpless during the dark ones. I feel worry when I unplug for my own mental health. And I feel a myriad of emotions in-between.

But this is supposed to be about self-care. Some of you may find you need permission to take care of yourself in the face of these atrocities. This is your permission. Some of you may need a reminder to take care of yourself between calls, writing, fighting with family and friends on FB. This is your reminder. Some of you never had a plan for self-care in the first place, because you didn’t need one. I’ve got some suggestions for you. Some of you may find your old de-stress go-tos aren’t working anymore. Hopefully, this post will give you some new ideas.

My Self-Care Suggestions For Being Your Best Self During These Tumultuous Times

  • Be proactive. If a new policy outrages you, it is SO EASY to find resources online with doable actions:
    • Make Calls
    • Write to Your Senator/Governor/Representative
    • Donate to Reliable Organizations
    • Protest
    • Volunteer
    • Speak Up
    • Speak Out
    • Vote
    • Taking positive actions for your cause will help you feel empowered. And you are powerful, even when you feel helpless. (Someone reminded me of this on Instagram recently. I needed to hear it so I’m sharing it with you.)
  • Step Back and Take Care of Yourself
    • You need energy to do all the things and manage your outrage and real life.
    • Take a digital sabbatical.
    • Have a cry and a nap.
    • Eat well.
    • Have some chocolate.
    • Read a book to escape.
  • Breathe
    • This can mean many things:
    • Exercise
    • Meditate (it doesn’t have to be pretty)
    • Pray
    • Wish
    • Yoga
    • Rant
    • Holding it all in is stressful. Get it out with your breath any way that works for you.
  • Celebrate
  • Breathe
    • Yes, again. Do this a lot. Just writing this post I found myself holding my breath a few times.

What do you do to de-stress? To be your best during these very tense and emotional times? I need all the tips I can get. Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram or Facebook.

Self-care tips for everyone who is feeling too much, but still has things to do in the face of Trump's administration.

Caring For Yourself

Digital Sabbatical: Why You Need One And How To Disconnect

Are you ready to shut your devices off? Hide them under your bed? Do you just need a break from all the social media and email and EVERYTHING? I found myself totally burnt out on social media and digital consumption heading into a family vacation mid-May. But the problem was I was burnt out BUT ALSO completely addicted to my phone/tablet/Insatgram.

Let’s be real. These phones, for many of us, are random generators of good feelings, security, and connection. I love that hit of dopamine — that reward that comes from the random good news that would ding or cha-ching on my phone. I had FOMO — I was afraid I was missing out on something or somebody. My phone is also a major tool I use for work and to communicate with people.

Image Credit: Charisse Kenion

At the same time, I was also exhausted from checking and engaging in all the digital things all the time. There is SO much I check and engage with online regularly/daily/multiple times a day.

My Way Too Frequent Digital Check-Ins

I made list of all the platforms and places I engage with regularly:

  • Instagram
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
    • gillianstitches
  • Instagram Stories
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
    • gillianstitches
  • Facebook
    • personal
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
  • Twitter
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
  • Pinterest
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
  • Email
    • personal
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
  • Websites
    • penandthimble
    • thathappymom
    • Etsy marketplace
    • Amazon Handmade marketplace
  • Accounting/Banking
  • Shipping/Tracking

All The Other Reasons I Use Devices

Whoa! Right?! That’s a lot! Like totally overwhelming a lot. And that’s just the work-type stuff. Not the millions of other reasons I’m using my phone or tablet:

  • take photos,
  • getting directions,
  • accessing coupons,
  • games,
  • tracking workouts,
  • watching TV,
  • texting, and
  • using the phone… rarely.

If you are horrified by my digital/online presence, I get it. If you are horrified and thinking, “OMG! Me too!” I get it. AND I have made a worksheet to help you identify:

  1. the tools you use on your devices,
  2. the triggers that prompt you to scroll your phone mindlessly, and
  3. the tactics to limit or stop your digital consumption and use for a while.

But first I’ll tell you about my own experiences with social media, in hopes it helps you identify your own use and triggers.

My Mindless Scrolling and Phone-Check Triggers

Once I realized that the yucky, exhausted feeling I was experiencing was significantly related to my digital consumption and use, I started to notice the why and when of my digital use. Sometimes I just need to check email, check to see if I have any sales to create items for, take a picture of my cute kids.

But there were also triggers that would prompt me to mindlessly pick up my phone and start scrolling before I even realized what I was doing. Right? You probably have done this too! Suddenly you are 30 minutes into watching Facebook videos and you have no idea how you got there or why you even picked up your phone to begin with.

Some of my mindless digital consumption triggers are:

  • an interrupted conversation (might as well check some stats until the kids let me finish that conversation with my husband),
  • the downtime after a tantrum (I need that hit of dopamine),
  • that antsy feeling I’d get while working on a big work project,
  • boredom,
  • FOMO.
  • And the big one… when someone else picks up their phone. Watch for it when you are in a group. You won’t be able to unsee it. If one person picks up their phone to say, check the time, you will likely get the urge to look at your phone and so will the people around you. It is human mirroring at it’s best with the added bonus of a possible pick-me-up! Hard to resist!

How I Ditched Digital For A Little While 

My initial plan was to go cold turkey and leave my phone at home during our vacation, but my husband pointed out that the rest of our family that was vacationing with us would likely text or call me to connect if we got separated during our time together, so that was extreme. After some thought, I agreed. My phone would come with us.

how to take a digital sabbatical
Grouped Apps on the last page of my phone scroll. Also, #sorrynotsorry I don’t answer my phone.

But if I was going to have the addictive and exhausting tool, I needed parameters. I moved all of my highly addictive and mindless-use apps  to the last page in my phone and I grouped them all together within a collection I labelled “STOP!” This way, if I happened to be triggered while on vacation, my apps weren’t on the first page I would expect to see them. I would have to actively swipe a few times to get to the app, and even then it is within a grouping labeled “STOP!” that I’d have to click on to access the app. I also disabled my notifications. No pings and dings to trigger my Pavlovian response to check my phone.

(And by the way, a few weeks later, I haven’t moved those apps back to the front page of my phone nor have I ungrouped them nor have I re-enabled notifications.)

The result was that I was not on Instagram, work Facebook (I did consciously post a few pics to my personal FB account while on vacation), Pinterest, Twitter, Accounting, Etsy, or Amazon Apps for the 4 days of our vacation.

What Did I Miss During My Sabbatical?

Nothing.

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I’m just a woman taking a vacation selfie in the morning only to forget to take pictures for the rest of the day!

News: I didn’t miss any news I couldn’t catch up on when I got back. The royal wedding went off without a hitch without me being apprised of every detail leading up to it!

Work: Purchase rate didn’t change at pen&thimble. I left my shops open after adjusting turnaround times and I came back to a few orders. Order rate did not change in any direction because I wasn’t stalking my stats. Order rate also didn’t change because I stopped posting on social media. That last one was HUGE to realize.

Social Media: My accounts were fine when I returned. In fact, my initial posts after my return had more likes and engagement than I had had in months!

Email: My email inboxes were full. But it was mostly spam-type emails and the rest I replied to with no problem. I’m actually terrible at replying to emails although I check constantly, so a few days/weeks between emails is par for the course.

What Did I Gain From My Digital Sabbatical?

So what happened when I took a social media and digital break? I felt light. I connected with my family. I still used my phone to take pictures, but still even less than I typically do. I felt like I was on vacation. I virtually unplugged from work and plugged into that beach and pool life! And separating work from family is hard to do as I work from home and work hours often turn into a gray area as I’m balancing kids, home, myself, and my business in a day.

Are you ready to try a digital sabbatical? Sign up for this free worksheet to help you plan your own digital sabbatical! A successful sabbatical relies on a plan — What tools and apps are fair game? What aren’t? Will you announce your absence? Make a plan for your next digital sabbatical today using my short but illuminating guide!

Need to take a break from social media? Want to take a break from the constant ding of your devices? Grab my free digital sabbatical worksheet!

Happy Family, Happy Habits

Do You Dinner Stress, Prep, or Plan?

I’ve been following Stephanie from @whatsthefigidea and admiring her tasty and beautiful meals. She has been such a food inspiration to me, so I asked her to share her secrets for getting GORGEOUS food on the table. In this blog post she shares a bounty of tips and tools! Thank you for sharing your meal planning tips, Stephanie! Everyone else, enjoy! 


To think I used to go to the grocery store EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for dinner makes me cringe. What a waste of valuable time that could be spent at home with my fam jam. I was spending so much money (hello impulse I’m hungry and stressed buys). Something had to give.

After a quick browse on Pinterest the shining answer was meal prepping! Figured out what meals I was going to pre-make, went to the store, got my items and came home and made a huge mess. I spent a good chunk of the day juggling a million different pots, pans and other a sundry items. I was so worn out after this. During the week we had our meals but ended up with a lot of waste. Not cool. 

Meal evolution part 3. I find something cathartic in being organized. Knowing how things are going to play out helps my inner peace. Upon more research I decided we were going to try meal PLANNING instead. My goal was to lay out dinner for every day of the week and shop ONCE. My original system was rudimentary and simple. I sat down and wrote out every meal I knew how to cook and things my family liked. To broaden my selection I made a board of “Recipes to Try” on Pinterest. This would add to my database of meals. On an index card I wrote out the days of the week and started plugging meals in. From there I would take my recipe cards and compile a grocery list, sorting it down to sections of the store. Below is an example week: 

Meal Planning

As The journey to meal freedom progressed, I wanted to be set free from breakfast and lunch. BLD freedom sounded bliss! {Fun fact: We spend on average $200/week on groceries. You eat 84 meals a month. This comes out to about 9.50/meal! That’s not even per person. 5 days a week we feed 6 people too! Not only is it healthy but big savings to your wallet.} I went on the hunt for an app that could take my meals I plugged in and create a grocery list for me. After a lot of research, I found Meal Plan. Best app purchase EVER. For $2.99 (it’s $3.99 now) I can import recipes from the internet, or manually add my own.   

meal plan app

So here is how we roll. For breakfast we pick simple, easy and nutritious. Eggs (you can make the night before), shakes (if I know I won’t have time in the morning to blend up a smoothie, I premix my protein powder in my shaker bottle and put in the fridge). I’m going to skip to lunch, we will come back to lunch.

For dinners I start with nights we have activities, give those guys the easy meals. Next I plug in meals that use similar items. One night we might be having Mexican Buddha Bowl that uses roasted sweet potatoes, and another night that uses roasted sweet potatoes as another ingredient. Don’t double do work! Knock those bad boys out once and then put the remainder in the fridge for the next meal. Same goes for things you use all the time like sautéed onions and garlic or even quinoa. 

Now back to lunch. Lunch is leftovers! Ok I know some people turn their nose up at the term “leftovers,” but hear me out. Remember the meal prepping idea? Leftover lunch is no different than those meals you prepped in advance. The key to success is presentation. The brain bases its likes off of look/color and smell. Start by doubling what you are making (I’ve tweaked ours since I also feed my mom and sister lunch during the week). This should make enough for dinner and then lunch the next day. Get a set of good containers (we recently treated ourselves to a set of glass containers). This truly helps to have a bunch of one type. 

Leftovers Look Awesome

Start small. Create your meal database, whether that be a stack of index cards, post its, or  an app. Keep a well-stocked pantry. Be flexible. Have fun with it! It may seem intimidating at first but the planning pays off! Getting one extra task off mama’s plate, makes for a happy mama. Next time when they ask, “What’s for dinner?” you already have an answer. If you have any questions, let me know! I’d love to chat. You can find me @identiteeshirtco or @whatsthefigidea

Much happiness,

Stephanie

Do You Dinner Stress, Prep, or Plan?

Caring For Yourself, Happy Family, Happy Habits, Limiting Beliefs

Meditating Like A Mother

So I want to pick up on my Mindfulness Made Easy post from last week, and talk about the same concept as it relates to meditation. As much I want to meditate, I struggle to fit meditation in. As a work-from-home mom with a preschooler and toddler around, there just isn’t a good and quiet time to block off for meditation.

Or so I tell myself. I have this belief (excuse) about meditation that’s difficult to shake — like mindfulness, I have to do it “right” or there is no point. I have a perfect meditation scenario in my mind — a silent chunk of time with my oil diffuser making soothing water drip sounds as a calming scent wafts over me. And I tell myself it has to be exactly this or I can’t do it. Sound familiar?

I have this belief (excuse) about meditation that's difficult to shake -- like mindfulness, I have to do it
Photo by Lisa Zoe on Unsplash

But why have I decided that meditation has to be perfect or nothing? Because I’m looking for an excuse not to practice? A limiting belief regarding how much peace I’m allowed to feel? I’m not sure. But this “there is no perfect time for meditation” excuse is a big one for me.

Meditation for some is the practice of noticing what bubbles up into the mind and letting it go by concentrating on breaths or a sound. This is the essential piece in my own practice. And once I realized that I could do the same with little people bubbling up into my meditations space — acknowledge them and let go of the loss of my “perfect” meditation environment — suddenly I had more space in my calendar for practicing meditation.
I wanted to share a video I took this week. My purpose for filming my mediation was to share a few deep breaths on Instagram Stories as a sort of calm motivation. But what happened while I was taking the video is so much more what meditating like a mother often looks like for me. Enjoy!
If you are interested in meditation, but never find yourself getting around to it, what excuses do you make to avoid practicing? Are they real barriers or limits and constraints you have made up? Meditate on that for a bit!

If meditating is something you are interested in, what excuses to you make to avoid practicing? Are they real barriers or limits and constraints you have made up?

Caring For Yourself, Happy Habits

Mindfulness Made Easy

Mindfulness is a big buzz word right now and everyone wants to be more mindful, including me, but it feels like this HUGE thing. Right?

What do you think of when someone starts talking about mindfulness or being mindful? I first imagine meditating in a dark room for 30 minutes — a goal I have set for myself so many times, but never get around to it.

When people start talking about mindfulness it makes me imagine somehow plugging into the world or the energy of the world in a way I don’t usually.

Mindfulness makes me think of mental exercise. Mental exercise makes me think of exhaustion. And then I think, well I already have enough EXHAUSTION (thank you very much) and I keep scrolling.

Mindfulness-2

But What If The Hype Of Being Mindful Is Distracting From The Ease Of Being Mindful?

What if we removed mindfulness from the hype and pomp and all the extra? What if we separated mindfulness from that gorgeous photo of that impossible yoga pose on the beach? What if we removed mindfulness from the 30-day Instagram challenges? What if we approached mindfulness from its core?

The most simple definition of mindful is:

mind·ful   (adjective)   conscious or aware of something.

Mindfulness is then simply a state of being conscious or aware of something.

Did your head just explode too? Yes, It’s just that easy.

You Can Be Mindful Anywhere!

You can switch in and out of mindfulness all day long! And, yes, that’s doing it right! Our brains help us plan, and contemplate, and sense danger, and feel joy just as much as they can help us move in and out of mindfulness.

It’s not an Instagram challenge! It’s not a 30-minute meditation. It isn’t impossibly difficult mental gymnastics.

Mindfulness Is…

  1. Being aware of the temperature of the water when you wash your hands. Noticing the smell of the water. The sound the water makes as it exits the spout and hits your hands and the sink below.
  2. Mindfulness is taking a minute to watch the rain fall outside. Watching the drops splat on your wood deck or form tiny puddles on the concrete. Smelling the rain. Feeling the dampness in the air. Being conscious of the size of the rain drops and the air pressure.
  3. Mindfulness is taking a moment to be conscious of the water falling on your head and over your body in the shower, how your sheets feel — crisp, heavy — when you wake in the morning, the smell of your morning commute, the sound of “quiet” when your kids are all at school — the fridge rumbling, the tinkle of the dishwasher as a glass rattles, the hum of the air conditioning. It’s coloring with your kids and noting the way the wax spreads across the area you’re filling in.
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Being Mindful

Mindfulness Is Simple

It is also rooting, grounding, connecting, heightening, a place from which to draw gratefulness, peace, and strength. It is all of those HUGE things, but it is also so simple.

Instead of trying to be mindful today, I ask that you notice the times you are mindful today. I guess I’m asking you to be mindful of being mindful. All those mindful moments are a practice. There is no right way. There is no set amount of time. There is no trying to be mindful.

You Are Mindful Already.

Uncategorized

That Happy Birthday Girl

It’s my youngest’s birthday today. She’s 3! I just love the little girl that she is today — funny, strong, feisty.

My Baby

She’s tough, sweet, happy, curious, and kind.

Farm Toddler

She isn’t afraid to test boundaries. For her, “no” is a complete sentence and one she uses often. She recovers from physical and emotional bumps in a way that astounds me.

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She is the inspiration for this blog and community. (I wrote about that here.)

Thanks for coming into my life, little one. You have taught me a lot about happiness, brushing things off, recovering from a bad moments, and building happiness back into my life.

Happy birthday to a little girl I look up to {even when I’m looking down}.

Caring For Yourself, Real Talk

Moving Beyond The Meme

Had I had more sleep, that incident in the library last week could have looked very different. I would have still left feeling Other, Outcast, Less-Than. All those moments leading up to that conversation in the library would have still hit me like a ton o’ bricks, but I would have pushed them away as I usually do, made a joke to my husband or had a chuckle with a friend that evening, and kept moving.

Because I can’t react the way I did last week each time I’m reminded what my skin color means to others. I would be exhausted and pissed all day long, as I was, actually, until Tuesday of this week.

And humor in the face of adversity is a great healer and release from tension. A joke, memes, a good dose of cynicism has it’s place. As a former positive psychologist who researched humor (“humor researcher,” if we’re being causal), I can say that humor is absolutely helpful in maintaining well-being in the face of stressors. But your responses to my post last week were a reminder that we need to move beyond humor, now more than ever. Even if it is exhausting and tiresome and extra work.

This blog and community was born from my desire to move beyond the tired mom meme of “wine-o-clock” that I see constantly on social media. The joke is funny and it has that “we’re in this together, friend” quality. But as I talked about in one of my early posts (You Need To Stop Treating Yo’ Self), after you have a laugh and pour that wine, you need to take another step to address that exhaustion. Make changes to break the cycle of kids/life leaves you exhausted and stressed so you’re waiting for wine time. Go to bed earlier, set some boundaries, workout, meditate, eat better. Treat yourself, yes! I had two PopTarts for breakfast yesterday. And a glass of wine with pizza delivery the night before. But care for yourself too. I also ran 2 miles, ate a bowl of broccoli and rice for lunch, and read myself to sleep.

Treat Yo Self
Proof author believes in treating yo’ self

So I did the extra work last week. In reality, I did it because I didn’t have the humor in me to fortify me and move me forward. I wrote about some of my experiences present and past — trying to leave out buzzwords that are divisive — to help people see what it is like to be in my shoes. And that extra work was met with more readers in one day than this little blog has ever had in a month!

And more importantly, my post resonated with you. And boy was I flooded with your responses! I spent a good part of Friday last week responding to your messages on social media. You showed me empathy. You showed me sympathy. You told me you will rethink how you approach POC with curious and well-meaning questions. You told me that you knew someone who needed to read that post — your friend, your son. And I was blown away.

One of the many replies that really hit me straight in the heart — in a good way — was from a truly well-meaning, curious-about-the-world woman and friend of mine. She returned my post with a vulnerable and honest response of her own. You can read it in the comments section of my last post, It Isn’t Even About That Conversation At The Library. It was a gift to see someone truly hear me, rethink, and share her thought process in such an open way. And gifts like that come from doing the work. They come from moving beyond the meme, the joke, the headline, the troll responses. They come from sharing our stories.

So thank you for reading and sharing and responding to my post last week. As someone who overthinks how to respond to troubling situations to the point of not responding at all, every single one of your thoughtful replies meant the world to me. You did the work too by reaching out back to me. And if even for a brief moment, it changed our thinking, made us feel connected, and that is real positive change. That is breaking a cycle.

Real Talk

It Isn’t Even About That Conversation At The Library

This has been a rough week.

I had two nights of serious insomnia this week while trying to wrap my mind around this deeply entrenched mess of systemic racism, people in power pretending at governing adding fuel to the fire, gun safety, people safety… It’s too much for me a lot of the time and it keeps me awake. I don’t just see the news. I feel the news.

I told you about it on Instagram on Monday and Tuesday. And I was scared to tell you. I’m supposed to be that happy mom. It is my handle and my blog name. It’s not called that heavy mom. But things get heavy for me sometimes, that’s why I started this journey to begin with. So I shared it with you, trusting that you have heavy days too and wouldn’t mind if I shared one with you. And I was blown away by your thoughtful and warm comments. I can’t tell you how your kind words, that I have no doubt you chose carefully, meant to me. Thank you for taking that time and consideration.

And by Wednesday I decided to be happy again. “I need to block that noise out and concentrate on what is near me and what I CAN do. My family– raise kind and conscious humans; my business — keep celebrating diversity in the prints I offer. I’ve got this. Happy!”

But the problem is that I don’t get to choose to block out the news or avoid what troubles me. Because my skin color is the difference that troubles so many. I’m a walking problem for racists and well-meaning folks alike. And Wednesday afternoon, as I was trying to grab a few books for my kids from the library and get home to finish making dinner for my family, a racially-weird conversation was thrust upon me.

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The conversation as I remember it and shared on FB last night.

It was hardly the most offensive or personally disturbing encounter I’ve had, not even close. But insomnia + the end of the day + already trying to pretend some emotional stability after watching the gun safety senate hearing, watching our children walk out of schools nationwide begging to be safe at school, it was too much.

And I’m not even mad at the person who asked me if my last name (Free Man) is a REAL ex-slave name. She’s a nice person. She checks books out for me without scanning my card because it’s a small town library and I’m there a lot. She has no idea what it feels like to be me on the other side of that conversation. She has no idea about the emotional baggage I was already carrying to her counter along with those books — baggage from that day, from the 30-some years of life I spent being reminded that I’m less than, not always welcome, different, other.

When it all came down to it, I was angry and sad that that conversation was going to stick with me on the car ride home, while I made dinner, while I ate that warm and spicy curry I had been previously anticipating just sinking into the comfort of. I was sad that I was going to have to perform happiness for my kids until bedtime and that I had an even more exhausting evening ahead of me instead of the relaxing one I had designed.

Because my skin color is the difference that troubles so many. I'm a walking problem for racists and well-meaning folks alike.

My otherness, an otherness I ALWAYS feel (and usually comfortably feel to be honest), felt so expansive in that moment because I can’t fully describe that scenario to anyone close to me. Not my husband who would love to understand, but knows he can’t and hugs me and repeats that he’s “so sorry,” wishing that he could just “so sorry” it away while knowing he can’t at all.

He can’t imagine what it is to walk around in this skin. This “former slave” skin. Light enough to be approachable, dark enough to be less than, here for your entertainment and your curiosity. This “freed slave” skin. Dark enough to be all black to you. Not black enough to be black to you. Definitely Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Polynesian, anything but black. This “just like when I have a tan” skin. Whatever-It-Takes-For-You-To-Be-Comfortable-With-Me-And-Not-Have-To-Change-Your-Perception-Of-THEM skin.

That conversation in the library makes me feel sad that even these random and thoughtless conversations are different for me. That my husband could have had that same exact conversation and say, “That was weird.” And it would fly away up into the sky to be forgotten for the nothing it was. But for me, it’s suffocating as heaps of all those other times fall down upon me and bury me in the remembering. Too many other times.

That conversation in the library isn’t just that conversation in the library. It’s that other time I was other, last week, last month, 30 years ago. That time I had been turned away from depositing money INTO a bank for my mom when I was in middle school, only to turn around hand that money to my sister (white/blonde) and have her come out of the bank with a deposit slip. I could never shrug and say, “Maybe that was just a cranky teller. Maybe that IS the policy.” 2017 isn’t the year I realized things are different in America. I’ve known my whole life.

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Author with daughter not talking about freed slaves

It’s like those times my mom (white) still hands me a credit card to charge something when we are out together but she doesn’t want to go into the store. “Mom. I’ll just pay. No big deal.” “Take it! Your sister does it all the time!” “Yes, mom. But we’re different. They will probably ask me for my ID.”

It’s like all those times people have asked me where I’m from and “born in Connecticut,” “spent my youngest years in Brooklyn,” “grew up in Pennsylvania,” “the US” wasn’t enough. They wanted another country and an explanation for my otherness. And they pressed until I had to give myself up and say, “I don’t even know. I’m adopted. The paper work says African-American and Irish-American.” And, most, even after all of that, don’t back down and apologize for nagging such personal information out of me, they tell me I’m wrong and tell me where I’m really from. And I say OK and walk away…. other, wrong, impossible, having to deal with what it means to have been shoved into a box I have no business being inside for someone else’s comfort.

But there is a happy ending to this story. At pickup the day after my library encounter, I had two separate conversations with moms of culturally different backgrounds from me. Despite our differences we have a shared otherness that stands out in a crowd. And they understood. They heard me. And shared their stories which were similar to mine. And I heard them. And we stood there talking in that similar difference, able to navigate through our cultural differences without being offensive, or fetishizing, or visitors at a zoo. Because as one of the women I spoke with said, we’ve been doing just that our whole lives. We grew up learning how to read a situation, navigate the various “worlds” and cultures we’ve lived in, went to school in, or merely passed through briefly.

And maybe that’s why it’s sometimes so hurtful to me when others seem incapable of doing the same. Incapable of reading my extreme discomfort in an awkward conversation or are looking to me to explain my situation so that they can better navigate our “new world.” I’ve been doing that work that seems so mysterious and impossible to others since I was a child. I simply needed to, so I did.

But that aside, aside, I’m holding onto that feeling of ease I had while talking to women I don’t even know that well, but hope to get to know better. And I felt elated walking away from that playground (even if “walking away” for blog purposes was more like rushing  away to find a bathroom for my kid — She made it! Yay!) There was an amazing ease despite talking about racism, well-meaning blunders, and our otherness. There was so much ease in those conversations that I didn’t even realize I was craving or missing or needing so badly.

Happy, Limiting Beliefs

The False Stories You Need To Drop Now To Find More Happiness

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have caught my IG stories or posts about this book I’m reading called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. It’s about how FALSE stories we have constructed, or were constructed for us, in childhood limit us from realizing our full potential in many aspects of life.

And for many of us, maintaining/pursuing/enjoying happiness is an area that is constantly undermined by limiting beliefs. Somewhere inside of you, perhaps barely noticeable under the rest of everything, you are likely holding onto a false story about the amount of happiness you are “allowed” to experience. And when you go beyond that allowed point, you unconsciously pick a fight with your partner, get sick, worry about something out of your control, all in the name of returning to “normal” levels.

Maybe you constructed a false story in childhood that you didn’t deserve to be happy. So when you start to feel happy, really truly, undeniably happy, you start deflect that positive energy. You push that happiness away with worry, anxiety, doubt, even fear because, under the surface, you don’t think you DESERVE this happiness. True Story: You are an amazing human being who deserves, and can receive, unlimited happiness.

Shedding Limiting Beliefs

Maybe a long time ago, someone told you, or subtly indicated to you, that you should never outshine others. And feeling happiness triggers this false story. You believe that your happiness is bringing others down, and you don’t want that. True Story: Your happiness raises other people up. Makes them feel good. Your happiness is warming and kind and generous and giving.

Maybe you carry a false belief that good things bring big burdens. So it would follow that happiness is just a sign that a bigger bad is to come. So you shut the happiness out before you can fully feel it, lest the big bad around the corner senses your happy feels and comes for you. True Story: Crappy things happen sometimes but not because you let positive energy in, or basked in the glow of happiness. Allowing yourself to feel happiness generates more happiness in yourself and others. And in fact, happiness makes you stronger and more equipped to handle stressors. Happiness is strength for your immune system, mental well-being, physical well-being, and interpersonal relationships. Happiness brings big bounties. 

Happiness brings bounties

But instead of feeling fully happy we worry, we look for things to criticize in ourselves and others, we deflect happiness and positive energy, or we find ourselves getting sick or hurt right after something amazingly good happens.

This happened to me after I doubled my all-time high sales month in my handmade business last year. In July of all months, known in retail as the “summer slump,” I more than doubled my previous highest sales month which had been during the holiday shopping season. I was totally ecstatic, blown away! And then I had sinking feeling of dread for no reason, followed by a debilitating migraine. It was the worst migraine I’ve ever had. For two days I couldn’t get out of bed, talk, eat. I had hit my self-imposed ceiling. Yet I had no problem fulfilling orders on time and nothing about the increase of sales was unmanageable. Nevertheless, my body was shaken to the core. Perhaps it was a freak migraine with bad timing. I can totally hold space for that. But perhaps it was my body reacting to this sudden surge past my limiting beliefs and false stories about finances, my worth, and what I’m deserving of.

I have limiting beliefs about pretty big things in life — finances, my potential. And even though I’m still wrapping my mind around the idea of UNLIMITED happiness, I do allow myself to feel huge amount of happiness, before going into guilt and anxiety, but it wasn’t always that way.

When I was first married to my husband, I found myself waiting for things to get “REAL,” to confirm my belief of what my relationship had to look like. The story that was crafted in my childhood was that personal relationships had love, but were also tense, argumentative, fraught, upsetting, and dramatic. And the longer my marriage didn’t look like that (despite my attempts to make things argumentative, angry, tense — shout out to my unflappable and calm husband — thank you!), the more confident I became that relationships could be loving without the tension and anger and squabbling. That felt good and eventually turned into my TRUE story.

And that’s what it takes to turn off these limiting beliefs. A new TRUE story.  Like the ones I wrote in italics above. You can start by re-writing the false stories in your life that are holding you back. Create the story you want about happiness; the story with the best outcome. Make that your new true story about the abundance of happiness. Write it in your journal, reconstruct it in your mind, or act out that NEW TRUE STORY daily, for years even, until you believe it.

What NEW and TRUE story can you write to help you receive more happiness in your life?

The False Stories You Need To Drop Now To Find More Happiness

Caring For Yourself, Happy Family, Q+A

Q+A: Dropping Mom-Guilt

It’s our second Q+A video and this one is about mom-guilt. And I had been thinking… what do I have to say NO to, in order to drop mom-guilt. I talk about that here!

Hope you enjoyed our second video Q+A video! These videos will be quick, informal, straight-to-the-point, and delivered in 3-ish minutes. Easily digestible answers to your important questions, one at a time!

Have a question about parenting, self-care, finding more happiness in your life? Follow me on Instagram @thathappymom and stay tuned for the next question roundup!

Dropping Mom-Guilt