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Archive for the ‘Free to be me’ Category

18 years ago today, my birthday twin posted on his blog for the first time. I know this because that’s what he posted on it today. You can read it here: http://wilwheaton.net/2019/08/6584-days/

“I enjoyed writing in my blog (powered by Greymatter!), and I felt like, for the first time in my life, I could speak for myself. My voice, which had only been heard through the filter of teen magazines, or vapid entertainment press, a voice which had been tightly controlled by the adults in my life, could finally have a chance to speak on its own truth.”

Holy crap! That resonates with me!

womanvoice

I started blogging the same year Merriam-Webster declared “Blog” their word of the year. YouTube was launched a year later. With three children under the age of five, I was desperate to find something that was just mine. As a youth minister’s wife, I longed for a place to express myself outside of the fishbowl I was living in. I was starving for connection with people I could be myself with – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Like Wil, I started blogging to stretch my wings a bit and find my voice, but I got to do that with a MUCH smaller audience because I’m not famous for anything, anywhere. Less pressure. The people in close proximity didn’t know what blogging was, so there was a sense of safety in the vague anonymity of the web. My how things have changed, huh?

I’m still struggling with my voice. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sarcastic. Sometimes it’s irritated or angry and I want to scream, “Go ahead! I F***ing Dare You!” Sometimes it’s weighty and sorrowful, and sometimes it holds the giddy excitement of a first kiss. At least that’s how it seems to me.

Blogging has given me a place to practice my voice, and I’ve learned a lot in the past fifteen years. Here’s a quick top ten:

  1. I have a voice but I’m still nailing down what it sounds like, because like my speaking voice, I know its sounds different to me than it does to you.
  2. I have permission and the courage to use the voice I have, even though sometimes I have to dig pretty deep inside myself to reach my courage.
  3. WHO reads my words is more important to me than the size of my audience.
  4. I blog to connect, entertain, challenge, inspire, and to explore and process the world around me. I blog to give others the gift of going second and permission to speak freely. If I want others to do that, I’d better be doing it too.
  5. My goal isn’t making money. If you’re blogging to make money, good for you! I hope you’re wildly successful! That’s just not the point of this for me.
  6. I am not always right. I have apologized for the things I’ve written SO MANY times through the years. #eatinghumblepie #beingteachable
  7. It’s okay to only write here sometimes. As long as I keep paying for my domain name, this thing isn’t going anywhere. I write in other spaces too – some private, some public.
  8. We all grow as we go. I keep my old posts – even the ones I no longer agree with – to honor who I was then. That woman was trying to find her voice too.
  9. Not everything that floats through my head needs to be written down or spoken. WORDS! I love them. I have lots of them. The word-vomit temptation is real, friends. I fight it all the time. You’re welcome. 😉
  10. Words have the power to heal and mend, so sometimes I write. I hope when you meet me here you’ll choose to see the best parts of me even when I show you my unloveliness. Surely we can find some common ground to heal and mend together so we can help heal and mend the world.

Wil inspired me today. I appreciate his journey, and using his paragraph that I quoted above, I’ve created my own version:

I’ve enjoyed writing on my blog. It’s given me an outlet to speak for myself and share pieces of who I am. My blogging journey has felt a lot like puberty – the beauty of personal development contrasting with a voice that cracks during the moments that will cause the most embarrassment. My voice, which I have allowed to be tightly controlled by my fear of what the religious people in my life would think of me if I spoke freely, is finally getting a chance to speak its own truth. My voice is one of love and inclusion, but also authenticity, which means there will also be times when I say, “I f***ing dare you.”

Have you found your voice? What has your journey been like? How are you using your voice now? Permission to speak freely…

Find your voice. Change the world.

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Day 3.

I have a love/hate relationship with Fridays. I’m guessing ninety-nine percent of the people I know LOVE Fridays. It’s the last day of their work week, or they are living for the down time they get on the weekends, or whatever. Then there is me. I love Fridays for one reason only – It’s the one day a week I teach kids other than my own. I love our school. I love my teacher friends. I love my students. I hate waking up at 6:00am.

H-A-T-E with a fiery passion.

For my new friends stopping by, here’s a little Niki trivia for you: I used to think I suffered from insomnia – I don’t.  What I do have is called DSP or Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase. That’s the official name for being a night owl, and yes, it’s a real thing. It means left to follow my natural circadian rhythm, I will go to sleep later at night and wake up later in the day. When I do this, I am my best self. The other name for it is DSWPD (Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder). WHY is this classified as a disorder? Because we have socially acceptable times for sleep??? The most common treatments are time-controlled Melatonin, or light therapy to “correct” the disorder. What if I don’t think it needs correcting?

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I am not a farmer, so there is no need for me to rise with the sun each day. I am no longer in the bleary-eyed bliss of young motherhood, so I don’t have to grab snippets of sleep whenever and wherever I can get them. I am not part of the Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 crowd. I am a woman who found a way to embrace being a night owl in an early bird world. What else could I do?

BK (before kids) I worked a few jobs where I had to be up early, but since then I’ve been in positions that were flexible enough for me to set my own schedule most of the time. My babies were not early risers. (Thank God!) As teenagers, they still aren’t. I suspect they too have DSP.  After all, it’s believed to be genetic. Benny certainly doesn’t have it. I am married to a man who wakes up before the sun without the use of an alarm. He can’t sleep in. Poor guy. Speaking of alarms, let’s get back to Fridays.

In 2021, my homeschooling and teaching days will end. Pete will graduate from high school, and I will no longer have to set my alarm for 6:00am on Friday mornings. It will be bittersweet, but right now the thought is just sweet. Why? Because it’s Thursday night and I will be up early tomorrow morning. Thursday nights are the worst. Even after I’ve completed my pre-Friday checklist, my brain is not ready to slip into sleep mode. Tonight, I’m up blogging. Most nights I read until my iPad slips and hits me in the face or falls on the bed or floor. (True story.) I keep it in an Otterbox case for a reason. 😉

How about you? Any other night owls up reading this way past their socially acceptable bedtime? Or are you one of my early bird friends that will read this long before I am up showering for school? THAT is called ASP or Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase by the way, and is also considered a disorder.

Try not to sustain an eye-rolling injury as we both laugh at the experts.

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Day 2

I’ve been working on my 2019 planner. Like an office supply junkie needing a fix, I’m surrounded by my stickers, rubber stamps, washi tape, bold colored pens, and my favorite pencil. This is my toolbox for coping with the chaos of life. Planning calms me. Making lists and highlighting important dates to look forward to helps me breathe easier. It’s one of my best brain dump practices. Paper and pens are my thing.

nerdy girl

My friend Don has been showing me his bullet journal pages for a couple of years now and I hate to admit it, but I’m a bit jealous. I’ve purchased 157 blank books in my life, give or take a few, and I’ve filled about 4 of them. But I’ve filled a planner every year for as long as I can remember. Don makes his own planner, and he’s amazing at it. I think it calms his brain too.

Mary, another dear friend, special orders an Erin Condren planner every year with her name on it! Yeah, they do that. I’m a little jealous of that too. Yes, I know I can order one, but we are in different planner tax brackets for the moment. I dream of owning a planner with my name engraved on the cover. *sigh* (I’m kidding about the sigh.)

That may be one of my goals for 2020. That seems like a good goal, right? Or maybe I shouldn’t jump ahead a whole year. I should tackle this one first. Baby steps.

Are you a planner or a pantser? (Do you fly by the seat of your pants?) I’m a planner that sometimes embraces spontaneity. I’m off to brain dump before bed, but here’s a picture of my two planners. The tall one is for work. The spiral shorty is my personal planner and fits perfectly in my purse. The lighting isn’t great, but you get idea.

2019planners

What’s in your toolbox?

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I’m not embracing a single word to focus on for 2017, but if I was, it would probably be GRATITUDE. Even in my darkest nights of the soul, my life is filled with people and things I am so grateful for. I know there are many tools available to help me focus on those things. I was even gifted a gratitude journal. There’s only one teensy weensy problem…I hate journaling. Really. I hate it.

I love writing, but journaling and writing are completely different beasts! I fill my blank books with lists and story ideas and writing “Niki loves Benny” in my best penmanship. I don’t journal.

But…

On a melancholy, wintry day in 2015, I sought solace in a cup of chai at Starbucks. While I was chatting up the barista, I grabbed one of those little freebie cards for iTunes apps they used to give out. My eyes were drawn to the big number 5 on it. If I had looked close enough to see the word “journal” I probably would have left it on the counter. When I finally checked it out, I was impressed, and it was FREE. Bonus! Thank you, Starbucks! *bats eyelashes*

5-minute-journal-logo

I love this app so much, I had my kids download it on their phones too. The simple format is appealing – I’m not sitting down to a blank page wondering what to write, I just follow the prompt, answering the same questions every day in the morning and evening. It helps me think through my goals for the day and reflect on the little amazing moments that add up to my life.

You can add daily pictures, set up notifications, and share their inspirational quotes to social media. It takes less than 5 minutes yet it’s had a profound impact on my attitude over the past year. Even on my bad days, it helps to focus on what went well and who I am. The daily affirmation might be my favorite part. It gave me a new perspective and I’m happier for it.

As for my kids, I’m helping them form habits that will serve them (and others) well and I get the added bonus of happier, healthier kids. We’re usually together when our phones light up with our journal prompts, which is fun.

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Need a celebrity endorsement? Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, is a big fan.

The Five Minute Journal is one of the simplest ways that I have found to consistently ensure improving my well being and happiness. Both in terms of achievement and actual measurable, quantifiable results.

Tim Ferriss, NY Times Best Selling Author

Sadly, the app is not free anymore, it’s $4.99 in the app store for my fellow IOS users. It is worth every penny!

Android users: I’ve read you can use the same principles with a journaling app like Dario, or 5 Minute Journal is also available in book form from the makers at Intelligent Change and on Amazon.

Try it risk-free! If you subscribe to the newsletter at Intelligent Change, they will send you a free quick start pdf for you to try 5 Minute Journal for five days. You can always unsubscribe to the newsletter if it’s just not your thing, but why not give it a try?

Do you journal? How do you motivate yourself and stay focused on positivity? 

Update: If the video isn’t working, here’s the YouTube link: 5 Minute Journal on YouTube

I’m kicking off 2017 by sharing some of my life hacks! Next up: LastPass!

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It’s Sunday night on the first day of the first month of 2017, and the eve of the first Monday of the year. I’m doing what I do most Sunday nights, planning for the week.

I’m snuggled in my bed, sipping something sweet, and poring over my calendars. Plural. I love my phone’s Google Calendar that syncs up with those of the rest of my family, but I can’t live without a paper version too.

Though my own brain and habits haven’t been studied and tracked, I know there is Scientific evidence that suggests by physically writing things down, we process the information better by creating spatial connections in our brains and we have an easier time remembering the important stuff.

I’ve always been a writer-downer. It is one of the tools that allows me to be a high-capacity woman. I’m a big fan of lists and I create them for everything: Grocery shopping, names I might like to use in the stories I’m writing, funny things my kids say, special information about friends I don’t want to forget, books I want to read, etc. All of this gets jotted down in the different sections of my paper planner, then some of it gets entered into my phone, and on the big family calendar on the side of our refrigerator.

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I prefer to see the whole month-at-a-glance, so I like the large flexi-planner. Mine is dated August 2016 – December 2017. My phone calendar is set to see the day-at-a-glance. Do what works for you!

calendar-pic

Each month I begin by filling in the squares with standing commitments like meeting times, food bank days, fieldtrips, and my kids’ work schedules and babysitting dates.

I use the extra blank squares on the calendar to record notes about the kids and that month’s book releases I’m excitedly awaiting. This month they’re on the bottom. My teenagers pay for their own phones, so this is where I record what they owe us and I cross it off when they pay it. Any other loans and notes about the kids get recorded here as well.

I use the side column to list birthdays and anniversaries of family and friends, and section off the bottom for our list of bills so I have a visual of what we need to pay for the month.

The top margin gets filled in with quotes, questions, observations, and other notes.

The circled dates are my paydays for my part-time jobs.

week-pic

The week-at-a-glance section in my planner is where I record notes as I think of them. Kind of like a daily sticky note of what happened or things I want to remember.

What I’m adding this year:

  • Book List – Books I’ve read will be recorded on the day I finish them.
  • Movie List – Movies watched will be recorded on the day I watch them.
  • Moving List – Daily recording of the steps I take. I plan to add a lot more of them.

Do you use a planner or calendar? More than one? How do you stay organized? 

I’m kicking off 2017 by sharing some of my life hacks! Next up: The 5 Minute Journal!

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My newsfeed this week was filled with stories about Mother’s Day being painful for some people (I know) and how we should temper our celebration of this holiday by honoring all women instead of just mothers. I read an article by a well-known pastor who said his church will not be focusing on mothers with their service today. Fair enough. I wonder if he’ll do the same on Father’s Day. Should we not single anyone out to thank them for their service lest it offend someone else?

When did saying thank you to one person mean you were leaving another person out? Is this a political correctness thing? Do they really mean by honoring mothers today we’re being exclusive instead of inclusive? What a load of crap! I don’t know how or where this new trend began, but it sucks!

Before you think me cold and indifferent to the pain floating around in the world, let me share a bit of my own story.

I struggled with infertility for seven years before I had my first child. I spent many Mother’s Days dying on the inside as I cooed at the baby sitting in front of me at church, and played with my friend’s kids. I know the pain of hope and wishing I was a mother.

I lost a baby in 2008. It’s the single most shocking and horrifying moment of my life, and I blogged about it here and here. My heart aches for all of the other women who’ve experienced such tragedy. I know the pain of all of those missed birthdays, hugs and kisses, and the little girl I’ll never know.

I grew up the daughter of a single mother with multiple mental illnesses. She’s no longer in my life, not because she died but because we cannot be in relationship anymore. I know the pain of not having a mother who could mother me. I meet women all the time who deal with that same pain, and I love several women who are missing their moms today because they’ve already entered eternity.

I get it. We are surrounded by wounded women. Many of us ARE wounded women. We should be sensitive to the experiences of others, but lessening how we honor mothers today doesn’t erase those wounds OR rub salt in them.

When we celebrate Father’s Day, we’re honoring the dads in our lives. Some biological and some not. We honor men who have fathered us and also the men who we admire how they father others. There are father wounds around us too, but celebrating fathers does not make men who are not fathers lesser in any way. It’s just not about them on that day, and that’s okay.

When we celebrate Veteran’s Day, we’re honoring the brave men and women who have served as military veterans in our armed forces. I’m not a veteran, so Veteran’s Day isn’t about me, but it doesn’t take anything away from me or cheapen my role in this world in any way to spend that day thinking about and honoring the veterans in my life.

Why can’t we look at all honoring holidays this way? Why do we have to perpetuate a self-centered, victim mindset? Sometimes it’s just not about you!

I am a mother. I’ve mothered hundreds of people in my lifetime and it hasn’t subtracted anything from the three children who live in my house.That’s the beautiful thing about love – it expands to fill the need.

Today is about celebrating who I am as a mother. It’s about honoring the sacrificial lifestyle I’ve chosen as a mom. It’s a time for my children, husband, friends, and family to acknowledge who I am and what I do.

Mother's Day card

Today is a thank you for the thousands of meals I’ve cooked and the mountains of laundry I’ve washed, dried, and put away for them. It’s a thank you for cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night, and my amazing splinter-removing skills. It’s a thank you for spending weeks reading the Harry Potter series aloud, and months teaching them phonics so they would someday be able to read Harry Potter on their own. It’s a thank you for the late night talks about navigating friendships with people who hurt your feelings, and puberty, and frustrations with school. It’s a thank you for the many miles I drive every day to get them to work and back home or connect them with their friends.

While I am grateful for the ways my tribe honors me on other days of the year, today is special. I get two days a year that are all about me, Mother’s Day and July 29th – my birthday. Let me have them! Let me be celebrated by my loved ones how they see fit and don’t tell them their actions are insensitive to the wounded women around them. That’s not fair. To those who think by honoring moms you’re being insensitive to other women, I ask you to rethink your position.

If you are a mother, I honor you today no matter what your circumstances are:

Those who have birthed a child, I honor you.

Those who have given a child a better home through adoption (both the giving up and the taking in), I honor you.

Those who chose not to keep their child and hope to be reunited with them in eternity, I honor you.

Those who have no children of their own but choose to love other children in their lives, I honor you.

Those who have lost a child, I honor you.

Those who wish they had a mom who cherished them, I honor you.

Those who are navigating difficult mother/child relationships, I honor you.

Single mothers, I honor you.

Married mothers, I honor you.

Widowed mothers, I honor you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Moms!

You are seen. You are loved. Thank you for who you are!

For everyone else: Choose to honor a mom in your life today! Kind words, a text, a phone call, a card or letter, flowers, chocolate, or time spent with them and for them. They deserve it.

kiddos

These three each gave me a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, and the rest of the day to do whatever I want…by myself. Happy Mother’s Day to me! 😉

 

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Here it is, the last post of the challenge. As I have not yet gone to sleep for the night, I consider this a completion of the challenge on time. Hooray! I chose this challenge because I love writing and I wanted it to aid me in my quest for discipline in that area. I’m a work in progress for sure, and I’m today’s topic.

You can read about me up at the top of my blog under the “About” page and the “I Love” page. If I weren’t me and had to describe me to someone who doesn’t know me, here’s what I’d say:

“I like her. She nice, brave, fierce, sassy and a great friend. She loves people and does all she can to help others. She’s a good wife and mom. She’s a reader, a healer, and she never gives up.”

My tagline for everything is this: Freedom fighter, people lover, word artist, Chai fanatic, and so much more! My hope is that people will take the time to get to know the “so much more.”

And here we are at the end. I’m proud of my fellow challengers for sticking this out with me. It’s called a challenge for a reason, and we did it! Thanks for reading along with us!

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

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