09 April 2014

Embracing Self-Care: Health and Spirituality

Note: This is part two of a series. Part one is here.

When I was a practicing Christian, there was a direct correlation between my physical health and my spirituality. If I felt like my spiritual life was lacking, I felt more tired, I seemed to get sick more easily. I fully believed it was my body's way of telling me I needed to keep my spirituality in check.

As an atheist, I have a different perspective on the relationship between my body and my mind/spirit.

I do believe there is a direct relationship between my physical health and my mental/emotional health. But it's the other way: when I'm not physically well, my emotional and mental health suffers.

I've been trying to focus on physical self-care lately so I can feel better mentally and emotionally. I've been trying to make healthier choices in my diet, exercise more regularly, and keep up with preventative care and check-ups.

It's not always easy to focus on my health when I'm working and have munchkins, but I know that when it comes to being the best mom I can be, it starts with being the healthiest mom I can be. So it's important for me to do what I have to do to be healthier. And (bonus!) when I take care of myself better, I feel better overall. When Mama's happy, everybody's happy!

Are you including your physical health in your self-care?

06 April 2014

National Poetry Month

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve
by Adrienne Rich

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb    disgraced    goes on doing

no diagram the sentence


04 April 2014

The Eighth Day

Early this week I watched a short film called The 53rd Hour. It's by a single dad who gets visitation with his kids every other weekend, and it focuses on that first hour after saying goodbye.

My situation is different from parents who only see their kids every other weekend or just in the summer. I'm lucky that Monty and I have shared custody, so we each get the kids about half the time in a week-on-week-off schedule.

But that doesn't change the fact that it's always hard to say goodbye to the munchkins, knowing I won't get to hug and kiss them for another week.

Monty usually picks them up in the evening, so the hardest time for me is the next day. The evening is okay because I use the time to pick up the house, run the kids' laundry from the week, get myself organized for the coming week. I don't always think about that time being without the kids because it's such a part of my normal Sunday evening routine, whether they're with me or not.

But that next morning can be killer. I only have to make breakfast for one. I don't have to convince Puck that he absolutely must comb his hair before school. I don't have pigtails to tighten six thousand times before lunch. On that eighth day there's a void in my schedule that would be taken up with food and putting on socks and the slow walk to the mailbox and back, stopping at every seam in the sidewalk to jump over it.

The day kind of floats by. Without a traditional job and no pre-K schedule to remind me of where I am in the day, it's supper time before I know it, and I'm scrounging among leftovers for something to eat at my desk while I work. There's no bubble bath and lotion on shivering chicken legs before bed. There's no trip (after trip after trip) to the bedroom to put Tink back in bed to give Puck another hug to tuck them both in one more time. There's no checking on snoring bodies with arms thrown wide once more before I go to bed myself.

There's just me.

I tell myself--and others--that the schedule is good, especially with my job. When the kids are with Monty I put in extra hours and do my cleaning and shopping so that when Puck and Tink are with me, I can devote extra time and attention to them. I don't have to work quite such long hours. We can go on adventures. But I still feel it deeply when I wake up on those Monday mornings to an empty house and go about my day.

There are lots of reasons it's hard to be a single parent. It's hard to be the only parent home taking care of munchkins. It's hard to be the sole financial support for a child. It's hard to balance self-care with child-care when you don't have another parent in the home that can take the kids for a walk so you can shower.

And if you share custody--even minimally--with another parent, it's really hard to get up the next morning and know that those munchkins aren't there to give hugs and kisses and demand a different breakfast from the one you've actually made for them.

The 53rd Hour is geared toward dads. It's geared toward parents who have to wait a couple of weeks to get their kids back. But every eighth day, I feel what they feel: two toddler-shaped holes in my life for another week.

The eighth day hurts. Every damn time.

02 April 2014

Embracing Self-Care: Know Thyself

Listening to your body is a good first step
toward embracing self-care.
This is the first week of my participation in Embracing Self-Care. This week's prompt is "Know Thyself."

Self-care is something I've been trying to pay more attention to lately, especially in terms of my physical health. I'm trying to eat better (plant-based diet) and take better care of myself (exercise) so I can be happier and healthier, which will make me a better mom to Puck and Tink. As I've been taking steps toward better health, I've begun paying much more attention to my body and the signals it gives me when something is wrong (or not). That has helped me better understand what I need to reach my goals.

Knowing your body/mind/spirit and its needs is the first step toward real self-care. After all, you can't take care of yourself if you don't know what you need.

If this is something new to you, one good way to start listening to your body is by keeping a journal. If you journal regularly, you'll know when something is "off," and journaling about how you feel will help you learn what you need to put things right again. I find that the more often I write in my journal, the better I am at gauging what I need and why. Even if you don't journal, make a note of how you feel (both good and bad) so you can start to learn what you need to be happy and healthy.

Knowing yourself is also important on a larger scale in your life. Yes, it helps you take better care of yourself (short- and long-term), but it's also a good way to make sure you're headed in the direction you want to go. Knowing who you are and what you need/want will ensure that you don't get stuck or settle or give up on your dreams.

Take some time this week to think about what you need to be healthy and happy.

Next week: Health and spirituality

31 March 2014

A busy spring is coming.

This spring is going to be busy for me. There are appointments, birthdays, and trips, and this is in addition to a regular school and work schedule for us. Oh, and did I mention I'll be at a wedding Memorial Day weekend? That, too.

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be doing a lot of planning and getting ready for the events to come at the end of April and throughout May.

I'm looking forward to it, really. I like keeping busy in my day-to-day life. I usually have plenty to do, but there are days when there's more downtime than not. And those days can be difficult, especially if the munchkins are with Monty.

Of course, the best part of the busyness is that I'm getting the chance to spend time with friends and family, meet new people, and make good memories. I'll take the busy to carry me through to the summer, and then I'll take some time to relax and put my feet up.

26 March 2014

Embracing Self-Care

My go-to is a great cup of coffee.
How do you take care of yourself?
Stacy over at A Delightful Home is doing a community blogging project on self-care over the next month.

I think it's easy for people--moms, dads, siblings, children, anyone--to neglect self-care in favor of the things that Must Be Done. We run ourselves ragged until our bodies physically force us to take a break with a cold or stomach bug, which we rush to heal from so we can get back to it.

So I've decided to participate in this little project. It will help me think about my own self-care and hopefully encourage you to do the same.

If you would like to participate, I encourage you to check out Stacy's post (linked above) and, if you want, post your links on her blog to show your participation. Here's the rundown of the blog prompts for the project (taken directly from Stacy's post):
Week 1--Know Thyself: We'll be talking about our own personal needs and how that may be different for each individual 
Week 2--Health and Spirituality: How does our spiritual and physical health (or lack thereof) affect us 
Week 3--Peace in the Home: What steps do you need to take (or have already taken) to make your home a more peaceful place? This could be the way you decorate, decluttering, organizing, setting up routines. Anything! 
Week 4--Taking Some R & R: This week we will discuss ways to unwind and relax. What restores you?
I hope you will at least think about how you take care of yourself (or don't) during this time. Take care of yourself and those you love.

20 March 2014

Getting help from your support system makes you stronger

I read a blog post yesterday about accepting help. Farah's perspective is as a mother with an auto-immune disease (lupus) who has young children. It's imperative for her to accept help when she needs it for her health as well as the health of her children.

I empathize with her. I know what it's like to be a mom of young ones and to struggle to do and be all to them. I know what it's like to feel like you shouldn't/can't ask for the help you need because why can't you do it on your own? Isn't this what you wanted?

I get it.

I chose to be a mother. I chose to divorce Monty. I chose to move three states away from my entire support system. Isn't this what I wanted? Then I should be the one to make it happen.

The interesting part of coming across this blog post this week is that this is something Yvaine has brought up with me, as well. For a long time, I've had to be the one to do it. (It being pretty much everything.) When it comes to stuff around the house, especially, I just get up and do it. Yvaine wants to help and to be involved in those ordinary day-to-day things that make up a life.

I'm realizing that asking for help is not about relying on others to do what you can't (whether or not you should be able to do it on your own), but about relying on the right people in your life to make you stronger. It doesn't matter whether or not I can do it on my own because I have people in my life who care about me and want to do what they can to let me know they care, and to help make me a stronger person through their words and actions.

So I'm working on asking for help. It's going to be hard for a while. (It was difficult for me to sit and watch Yvaine work on putting together a chest of drawers for me.) But I'm beginning to see that I don't have to do it alone.

Nor should I.

16 March 2014

Fluff and Stuff

From MTTSM, who is a brilliant, funny, and touching blogger. Please, please read her blog!

What is the last thing you watched on TV? I don't actually have a TV, so my screen time is on the computer right now. The last thing I watched was Doctor Who with Yvaine.

When did you last step outside? What were you doing? I walked across the apartment complex to get the mail less than an hour ago. It was beautiful outside.

What is on the walls of the room you are in? There are a couple of notes taped next to my desk, and a beautiful picture of a construction paper vase with hand-drawn flowers from Puck, who said he drew it just for me. I plan to get a frame for it.

If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy? After I was smart and paid off debt, I would buy a new car and a house.

Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.
 I love the ocean, but I get nervous around water.

Who made the last incoming call on your phone? My mom. She butt-dialed me.
What was the last book you read? It was another reread of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read it somewhat frequently and take something away from it each time. I also just started Quiet by Susan Cain.

If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do? 
Well, I'm in an apartment, so there's not much I can think that I would do, really. I suppose I would make the kitchen a little bigger so I could have a bigger sink.
What was the last thing you bought? Florida wildflower honey at the farmers' market. I know, right?

If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be? I think I would choose Jasper Fforde. He's my favorite author, and I would love to talk to him about creating worlds.

Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
 Barnes and Noble, of course. Or Soul-Flower.

Is the glass half empty or half full? Neither--it's ready for a refill.
Name something that took you by surprise. Getting tackled by Yvaine this weekend.
Name one TV show you will watch every time it's on. There are a few: Criminal Minds, Law & Order, and Law & Order: SVU.
Name a movie you will watch no matter how many times you've seen it. There are a few of these, too. The Princess Bride, Stranger Than Fiction (even though I'm not really a fan of Will Ferrell's work), and Monsters, Inc.
What's your favorite musical? I'm always up for musicals, but I don't think I really have a favorite. When it comes to favorites, I gravitate more toward plays than musicals (Wit, Proof, The Laramie Project...).
What’s the farthest-away place you’ve been? Germany.

What’s under your bed? 
An empty overnight bag and an empty file box. I don't like having things under my bed.

What is your favorite time of the day? When I get up early before the kids to work. It's quiet and peaceful, and the whole day is ahead of me. It's full of promise.

What Inspires You? People who fight for what they believe/want, especially when they're making positive changes in their lives.

08 March 2014

Still coming out.

Image source
My dad was one of the first people I came out to.* I was in central Illinois and he was in northern Illinois, and I did it over the phone, my hands shaking the whole time.

He was one of the people I was really nervous about telling. I didn't know how he'd react, so I was afraid that one phone conversation would end my relationship with my dad.

It didn't.

It was hard for him, but he listened. He asked a few questions ("Are you sure?" "How do you know?"), and we ended the conversation. In two years, we haven't talked about it since, except the one time he let me know that George Takei is gay when I was up visiting. For the past couple of years it hasn't been a big deal. I wasn't dating anyone, so it never came up. I was gay, but my dad didn't have to deal with it.

Things are a little different now. I'm dating Yvaine, and it's time to talk to my dad (again) about the fact that I'm gay. It's time to let him know that he can't keep pretending I'm straight.

I know it can take time for friends and family of LGBTQ folks to come around. And I didn't want to give my dad an ultimatum or force him to decide right now whether he accepts me or not. What I did want to do was to make him think about it and realize that he can't ignore my sexuality.

So I told my dad I needed to talk to him when he was alone. I wanted to talk before I went up to Illinois for a quick trip because he'd made plans to see me, and if he needed/wanted to change those plans, he'd have time.

He didn't change his plans. Of course, we didn't really talk about anything once I told him I'm dating someone. We're going to talk about it again once he's had time to think about how he feels about it.

On the scope of things, I know I'm lucky. When I came out to my friends and family, I wasn't disowned or lose anyone because of it (at least that I know of). Most people I've told have been incredibly supportive and understanding. Others have been taken aback, but have since come around. Still others (who I suspect are far less supportive) just don't talk about it, but don't treat me poorly because of it.

I'm thankful for that. But still, I know that dating Yvaine changes things. Saying I'm gay is one thing. Being gay is something else entirely. Apparently.

I don't know what's going to happen when my dad and I talk again. He might be fine. He might not. He might want to meet Yvaine. He might tell me that someone I'm in a relationship with is not welcome in his house. He might avoid the conversation for far longer than he should.

In the meantime, we're having dinner when I'm in town next week. And we'll just have to see what happens.

*A teeny bit over two years ago, actually.

06 March 2014

No offense, I just don't want to be around....you know....people.

Image source
I am an introvert.

This means that while I often enjoy social interactions, I need to "recharge" by having time on my own. In a world that seems to laud extroversion and look down on introversion, it can be difficult to be as introverted as I am.

It was more of a challenge for me when I was in school and when I had an office job. Being surrounded by extroverts all day, many of whom (with the best of intentions) tried to get me to "come out of my shell" or "try new things," was exhausting. When I got home all I wanted was to be left alone, thank you very much.

Since then I've done some reading about introversion.* At first, it was in an attempt to overcome it. I wanted to be more extroverted. I wanted to be what I thought was "normal." But I know better now. It's not something to overcome or hide or apologize for. I'm introverted because that's just how my brain works. And there are many strengths to an introverted personality.

Now when I read about introversion, it's to learn how to better embrace it and fit it into my lifestyle. I want to know how to talk to extroverts about introversion so they can better understand why I'd rather stay home and read than go out to dinner and a movie and drinks and a party. I want to know how to use my introversion to my advantage in working with clients.

As I continue to learn how to live as an introvert, I'm incredibly lucky to have people in my life who understand this part of me, and who encourage me in all the best ways.

Growing up my parents never forced me to be more outgoing. They encouraged me to do activities and try new things like dance, scouting, baseball, and music. But when I wasn't involved in something, that was fine, too.

Yvaine is an extrovert, but was an introvert once upon a time, and has a genuine understanding of what it's like to be inside my head. We have great conversations, and it's okay if we just sit and muse for a while.

I'm thankful for people who don't take offense when I just need to be left alone for a bit.

I bought Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I haven't read it yet; it's on my nightstand for this weekend. I'm hoping this book will better help me embrace my introvertedness so I can continue to live authentically me with no apologies. And maybe understand myself better.

I like who I am, and who I'm becoming, and this is a major part of it.

I am introverted. And I count that in my assets column.

*Lots of moments of "Well, that explains a lot" in my reading.