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Archive for the ‘Free to be me’ Category

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!

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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.

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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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This one changes often. I could tell you about my movie husband – Jude Law. I already told you about my first movie crush – Wil Wheaton. I really love Val Kilmer – I’ve seen all of his films. I think Anthony Hopkins is amazing too, but for today I’m going with a more shallow option. Stephen Amell. He’s gorgeous, he can act, and he’s an archer. I have a thing for archers, remember?

Stephen is a Canadian actor best known for his starring role as Billionaire Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, on the hit CW show Arrow. Thanks to Netflix, I can watch my favorite episodes and scenes over and over again. Like this one:

*happy sigh*

I love the character created for the show. Stephen is excellent in his portrayal of the tortured Oliver/Arrow. And the fight scenes! I could watch him fight all day long. I hope to see him star in other roles in the future. Maybe DC will get their crap together and make a decent Green Arrow movie!

Max and I agree that DC has better TV shows and Marvel has better movies. We are fans of both comic book universes. I’m just happy they both have archers! *wink wink, Hawkeye!*

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

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

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

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If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?

She’s adventurous, feisty, and desires to control her own destiny. She’s a gifted archer and good with a sword, but it is her spunk that drew me in. I love her playful relationship with her dad, and I love her bravery!

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Merida of the Clan DunBroch

Don thought I’d choose Katniss Everdeen. I thought about Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I could have easily chosen Eowyn again, or one of the other kickass heroines I love so much, but Merida has been on my mind. I relate to her defiance against traditions and expectations, and admire her fighting spirit. And who doesn’t love her red hair? 😉

I share some of her less desirable qualitites as well, I suppose. She’s brash and sometimes acts without thinking only to regret it later. Been there. But I couldn’t help cheering when I watched this scene:

She’s been my Facebook profile picture many times, she’s currently my cover photo, and friends send me pictures of her. Fans of Merida have drawn and painted amazing depictions of her. This one by artist Heather Theurer is my favorite:

Merida_sm

A few years ago, my friend Michelle bought me a figurine which now sits in my office. Every kid who stops by wants to play with her because she’s beautiful, posable, and her accessories rock! She only came with one arrow, which I assume is enough – she’s that good. I love her.

She inspires me when I write by reminding me I too am brave.

merida figurine

 

Have you stopped by my fellow challenger’s sites lately? We still have a few days left to catch up and finish our challenge!

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

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

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

 

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For Christmas in 2013, Karen gave me a copy of Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. She had already read most of it and was sure I’d love it, and she was right! I’ve been reading it and incorporating it into my life ever since.

Vulnerability-Quote-2-Brene-Brown

Brene Brown is a research professor and storyteller who studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, worthiness, and shame. She’s written three #1 New York Times Bestsellers, her 2010 TEDx talk “The Power of Vulnerability” is one of the five most viewed Ted talks in the world. She inspires millions of readers like me through her websites, interviews, and public appearances. I post her quotes on Facebook a lot.

From The Gifts of Imperfection:

“People may call what happens at mid-life “a crisis,” but it’s not. It’s an unraveling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re supposed to live.”

As I’ve been working my way through the book for the second time, reading all of my underlined passages again, I am painfully aware of the places I’ve been digging deep, being brave, and making difficult choices that are making me a more wholehearted person. The word “No” isn’t as scary as it used to be, and I’ve increased the frequency of its use. Friends, it is SO much better than saying “yes” and being pissed off later because I knew I should have said no in the first place. I’m doing hard heart work, and the results are beautiful!

Some other lessons I’ve learned:

  • Our stories aren’t meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege and we should ask ourselves who has earned the right to hear them. (p. 47)
  • Incongruent living is exhausting. (p. 28)
  • Cultivating self-love and self-acceptance is not optional. (p. 28)
  • Practicing courage, compassion, and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. (p.7)
  • Courage is contagious. (p.54)
  • Here’s what is truly at the heart of wholeheartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is. (p.24)

I own the other two books and will read them soon. Check out Brene Brown. She’s one of my courage-boosters and currently on my list of Top Ten Most Inspiring People.

These people inspire me too:

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

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

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

 

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