Category: Parenting

Preparing for Summer with Your Family: Prioritizing Your Relationship

Summer is an exciting time for families. Your kids are home, family vacations are planned, and you may often feel like you’re connecting more with one another. However, summer can also present challenges. If you work full or part time, having kids home may bring up issues with finding childcare or summer camps and activities for them to participate in. Even if you work from home or stay at home full time, this change in how you’ll be spending and organizing your time can feel like a disruption. One important thing to keep in mind is that even though your kids are home for the summer, your romantic relationship still is a priority. Here are a few ways to prioritize your relationship during family time or catering to the summertime activities that your kids are participating in:

Date Night

Date night doesn’t have to mean getting out of the house, and it doesn’t have to mean a fancy dinner or a show. Instead, tap into your creativity to create a “date night” that focuses on your significant other and still accommodates your summer schedule. Maybe you share a special dessert and watch a movie in your pajamas after the kids go to bed, or maybe you meet for lunch in the middle of your work day. The key is setting aside focused time for one another.

Vocalize Your Feelings

When we feel like we have plenty of time for our significant other and for ourselves, we might fall into a habit of not sharing how much that focused time means to us. This can evolve into forgetting to vocalize how much we appreciate one another and ourselves. When your life gets busy with kids being home for the summer, remember to tell your significant other that they matter to you. It doesn’t have to be a great speech, just a simple, “I love you and you’re important to me,” in the morning before your day starts can often be enough.

Make Family Plans Together

When your schedule shifts to accommodate your kids being home for summer break, it’s easy to have one person in your relationship take on all aspects of the planning. Instead, sit down together before school lets out and make plans. Whether that’s signing all of the little ones up for summer sports or deciding you’d like to take a week-long trip as a family, staying organized and unified before schedules get hectic is a great way to start things off on the right foot.

Approach Everything with Gratitude

Cherish the time you have during the summer with your family. It certainly isn’t the usual pace and schedule that everyone is used to, but change can be beneficial for the soul. Find gratitude for having your kids home, and for those special moments you share with your significant other as you continue to prioritize your relationship. The more gratitude you feel and express, the more you’ll enjoy all aspects of your season.


Self-Care

Winter for many is a time when colds and flus become a menace in our lives. If this is true for you then finding ways to stay conscious of what your body is telling you is paramount. Notice things like if you feel more tired than usual, or a tiny tickle in your throat, as such observations and treating them can be the difference between having a cold and it developing into flu.

Many of us are taught not to trust our bodies. If you listen, your body will tell you when it is time to slow down. Often we wait until someone of authority such as a doctor or our mother tells us to rest or to take a preventative homeopathic remedy, rather than thinking of it ourselves. By listening to our bodies and trusting in them we begin to take better care of ourselves. By being more aware of our bodies we may prevent or lessen the impact of the colds and flus we encounter during the winter season or any season.

Self-care is a lifestyle; it incorporates daily habits to ensure that you are taking time for yourself in the best possible ways – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Some ideas on how to enrich your practice of self-care on a daily basis:

  • Every morning set your alarm early to allow for 10-20 minutes of meditation.
  • Following your meditation do a quick body scan. This will allow you to hear what your body has to say.
  • Mindfulness will help you slow down and notice the details around you and within you. Once you are more aware, you might notice that tickle in your throat before it becomes a cough. For example: Every time you touch your phone, think about that phone. What color is it, what is the shape, how does it feel against your hand? Doing this will help you be in the moment every time you touch your phone. Eventually this will begin to occur naturally with other things or events as well.
  • Unplug! Sleep better and leave your devices outside of the bedroom at night.
  • Exercise in whatever way appeals to you. Walk, dance, swim, yoga, the gym. Do something, even if it’s for 10 minutes in your living room. Exercise increases blood flow.
  • Make small changes to create a healthy diet. Establish a routine for meals. Drink more water.
  • Take power naps. 10 to 20 minutes once or twice a day.
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine in the evening and plan for 7-8 hours of sleep. Your body will tell you how many hours you need, listen to it.

               catcleaning“Make yourself a priority in your life. Afterall, it’s your life.” Akiroq Brost


On Being Single during the Holidays

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The holidays, while they may bring joy, also bring certain people who we do not see much other times of the year. Those relatives, acquaintances and sometimes friends who ask the inevitable question, “Why isn’t a nice girl like you married?” – or some variant of that inquiry.

You are good with yourself and you know it. You like yourself, you like your independence. But sometimes deep inside you may wonder the same thing. Every Holiday Season is another marker of the passage of time. “Will it ever happen?” you ask yourself. Innocent questions by often loving and well meaning relatives make us wonder the same thing. “Why am I alone?” and with that question comes doubts. “Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I will never meet the right person.” The most important thing is to keep this thought from running rampant in your head.

The fact is you may not find the “right” person, at this moment in time. The “right” person may be in your life now, but you have to see him through a different lens, perhaps you can become more open to meeting people who may not look on the outside the way you had envisioned them. Perhaps, like my friend Lori, you will meet your soul mate when you are 47 after completing your PhD and working for years at a successful career.

Or, you could be a Florence Nightingale, Jane Austen, Coco Chanel, Clara Barton, Mary Cassatt, Luisa May Alcott, DNA Pioneer Rosalind Franklin, or Queen Latifah … to name just a few strong, talented women who have made their mark on the world living as independent, fulfilled, single women.

We really can choose the way we perceive our lives, and our perception changes the way the world around us reacts to us. Many people are unhappily married – many have wonderful relationships, just as there are many folks who are happily single and others unhappily single. One thing we can control is choosing to be happy, regardless of our relationship status.

Being single during the holidays, you join the majority of the population of the United States. In 2014, 50.2% of the population 16 and older were single as compared with 37.4% in 1976. You are not alone!

How can you shake those single holiday blues?

  • Say yes to every invitation! Even if you stay for 30 minutes, get moving and get out. You never know whom you will meet. It could be a guy, it could be a new best friend, a lead on a cool apartment or job for the New Year.
  • Whether serving meals at a shelter or collecting used coats among friends and coworkers for the needy, or helping your next-door neighbor shovel his walk, you can make a difference. Look around, you will see opportunities large and small. Do something … even if it’s just sharing a smile.
  • Contact old friends or reach out to someone new. Sharing a cup of coffee or glass of wine is a great way to feel socially connected. 20101231_0744

Whether the questions about your relationship status from that friend or relative is “well meaning” or not, if you don’t want to share, switch the topic of conversation back to them. Everyone likes to talk about themselves … now is the time to capitalize on that!


Creating a Sanctuary

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During the stress of election time, have you found yourself overwhelmed or burned out by the onslaught of newsflashes? The chronic barrage of updates and social media stories can leave you feeling frustrated, sad, or helpless. Do you ever fantasize about escaping to a simpler less hectic way of life? One way to cope and tune out is to create a sanctuary where you can retreat and restore your sense of balance and inner harmony.

What is a sacred space? A sanctuary is a sacred space; it is a uniquely personal place that you carve out to reconnect with stillness. A place that rejuvenates your nervous system and allows you to calm and center your energy. This can be a physical place or an imaginary space that with practice, you can access anywhere.
If you have room to establish a small area dedicated for meditation or quiet time, try decorating it with relaxing photos of your favorite spots: perhaps pictures of nature; oceans, forests, sunsets, or hiking areas with waterfalls that you can place around you. Fill your sanctuary with objects that encourage you to travel within. If room is an issue, make it portable; set the serenity stage then dismantle it when you’re done. Taking the time to carve out a sanctuary sends strong permission signals allowing your body and mind to honor quiet time.

Light candles, play soft soothing music and if need be, set a timer; even fifteen minutes can make an enormous difference. A sanctuary supports your efforts to drop inward to quiet the outside chatter, relieve stress and to approach life with a clearer, calmer mindset. Imagine if you never recharged your phone or computer? Creating a sacred space reboots your nervous system and disempowers fear and anxiety.
The idea of opening up and closing down is like the very beating of our heart; the chambers open and close, both are necessary to sustain life.

Rumi, the famous 13th century Persian Poet, noted.

Just look at your hand
closing the fist always proceeds opening it.
A hand that is always opened or closed,
is a crippled hand.
So your heart also contracts and expands,
just like a bird needs to close and open
it’s wings to fly.

Shutting out the world allows you to open to your inner self. It takes you back to the you, unaffected or categorized by titles. There in the quiet chambers of your being you are free uninhibited by age, illness, or the past.

Although multitasking is rewarded these days, it has detrimental effects on our ability to focus. Taking time to cultivate a sanctuary can boost your mental and physical well-being. If there simply is no room to create a physical space, then create one in your mind’s eye. Get comfy on the bed or sofa or throw pillows on the floor and close your eyes. Begin to imagine a place where you feel calm, secure, in harmony with nature; a sandy beach with a slight breeze, the warm sun on your back. Or in the mountains surrounded by autumn leaves and a babbling brook. Wherever your place is, close your eyes and create the sensory details, the smells and sounds; perhaps play nature sounds on your computer or phone. YouTube has a plethora of these kinds of soothing symphonies from the ocean to a crackling campfire.

Once you’ve created a place in your mind’s eye, focus on your breathing. Slow your inhales and exhales to the count of five, this is guaranteed to induce relaxation. If you have set a timer, release any lingering concerns about time. Stay in your sacred space as long as you need and let tension and stress dissolve. In time and with practice, this inner haven can offer you solace whenever or wherever you need to drop in for a visit.
As the days grow shorter and the animals prepare for hibernation, we too can slow down, settle in, and relish in the safety of your sacred sanctuary.


No Judgments Please

No Judgments Please

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by negative feelings about yourself or others? Do you yearn for a life void of crippling judgments that keep you frozen and fearful? The art of nonjudgmental is like learning a new language, it takes practice. Margaret Mead, the famous American cultural anthropologist, once said, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” Naturally this is a challenge, for inadvertently human beings pass down opinions and preferences, often unconsciously. Thankfully, life is dynamic and ever changing. As adults, we are free to re-program our life philosophies and belief systems. It is possible to cultivate the art of observing rather than categorizing and labeling ourselves and others.

When you release the need to place judgment on yourself or others, you lift any invisible partitions that may be isolating you from others. When we are afraid, the chambers of our heart race and love is cast aside. Judgments stimulate strong emotions that can cloud our true self and our ability to be receptive to change. Jiddu Krishnamurti, a globally acclaimed thinker and teacher who subscribed to no particular religion or philosophy claimed that “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” Judgments are often habitual, nonfactual, and spontaneous creating a sort of windstorm in our psyche. Learning one day at a time how to be nonjudgmental (which includes not condemning yourself when you fall off wagon) opens your life up to new possibilities. It gives you the freedom to indulge perspectives that differ from your own; without classifying them as right or wrong.

The following are a few basic tips to living with more observation and less judging.

• Observe language that triggers judgment such as; right/wrong, should/shouldn’t, fair/unfair. Become a witness to the verbiage you use to describe yourself and with gentle compassion rephrase them into describing your feelings. Rather than saying “I’m stupid or unworthy.” Try making a descriptive statement, “I feel anxious when I have to learn a new task.” Identifying the emotion behind the judgment helps reveal the crux of the misperception. Practicing loving kindness with your words can help you cultivate patience and a more positive, less fear based way of life.

• Become aware of your thoughts, when you learn to observe your thoughts throughout the day, you learn to let go of negative judgments. Imagine if you never saw yourself in a mirror, you would have no idea what you look like. If we don’t see our thoughts and patterns they remain invisible. By taking notice, we can stop judgmental thinking in its tracks. Perhaps every time someone expresses their belief system, we stop listening or when we are stressed we condemn ourselves. Being a witness to your thoughts is an initial step in letting go of patterns that knock you off kilter, and cause disharmony. Once you are aware, you can implement positive change.

• Begin to see problems and challenges as opportunities to grow. By embracing rather than judging a situation, you allow yourself movement for growth. When we stick our mind in the mud of old destructive, judgmental thinking we get stuck. Rather than inwardly cursing and blaming another or yourself, see challenges as an opportunity to practice your greater potential. Learning comes from solving a problem and often, we exaggerate our problems and see them as “Oh why me?” Hurdles and obstacles can become opportunities for creating positive outcomes. If we leave the judgment behind we have more mental capacity to search for solutions.

Mother Theresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Setting judgments aside cleans the cobwebs of your heart, mind, and soul creating space for life affirming love and serenity to grow. By practicing nonjudgmental living, we tear down walls and build lasting loving relationships with ourselves and others.


Slipping Mindfulness in and Anxiety Out

When you begin to feel anxious, recognize that anxiety is just a feeling and like all feelings, it is temporary. Consider what you were thinking right before you felt the anxiety, as thoughts create your feelings, not the other way around. Once you know what you were thinking dispute your thought by changing it’s language so that you feel calm. This is the first step in eliminating your anxiety and will allow for practicing mindfulness. Being in the present deliberately is the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness involves being actively in present time, being in the moment, paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Focusing your full attention on your breath will allow you to see your thoughts (positive and negative) as fleeting or transient. Thoughts come and go, they do not define you. Just as anxiety comes and goes, it can be as temporary as the thoughts that created it.

Practice a moment of mindfulness. Here is an easy technique to bring yourself into present time: Use all of your senses and notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel what your hands are touching. By doing this simple technique you will immediately be in present time.

Suggestions to fit mindfulness moments into your day:

Start your day right: while drinking your first cup of coffee or tea, focus on the smells, the color, the taste. Think about all of the people who are responsible for you enjoying this warm beverage – the coffee bean farmers, the roasters, the packagers, the shippers, the store clerks and so on. Send them a quiet nod of gratitude.

A doorknob: Every time you put your hand on a doorknob or handle, take a moment to center yourself and breathe. Get yourself in the present moment for even just a few seconds think about where you are, as opposed to where you will be.

Driving: Turn the radio and phone off. Breathe deeply. Enjoy the quiet and experience the moment consciously.

Shopping: Mindfully shop. Whether at the grocery store or at the mall; ask yourself, where was the product made? Choose colors and textures that make you happy. Don’t just buy to buy. Thoughtfully choose your purchase.

Silence your phone: When you are with others, keep your phone on silent or better yet, have it in another room. Be present with other people by giving them your full attention. This will show them they are important to you.

Use mindfulness to quiet anxiety. Mindfulness is simply attention to the here and now. Rather than letting life in thoughts that create negative futures, awaken to the gifts of each moment.


Finding the Positive

Author Wayne Dyer wrote, “Every time I see a coin on the street, I stop, pick it up, put it into my pocket, and say out loud, ‘Thank you …for this symbol of abundance that keeps flowing into my life.’ Never once have I asked, ‘Why only a penny…? You know I need a lot more than that.”

It’s really that simple. Day after day train yourself to say thank-you. We all know that the more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. Change the negative self-talk into positive, even if at first you don’t believe yourself. “I can’t believe I am late to work again, I am always late.” can be, “It was a tough morning, but I am glad to be at work and will adjust myself to what is. It’s a gorgeous day and I am happy to be a part of it!” Or, “I am so resentful that I have to work late, I wanted to go to the gym and now I won’t even be having dinner until 9:00” can be, “I’ll grab a healthy snack to keep myself nourished until I can have dinner. I’m lucky to have a job and I love so many things about it!” Even if you don’t feel like you love it at the moment, tell yourself you do. You can find something positive when you look for it. It sounds simple and it is. We often make life a lot harder than it needs to be.

It can take several months to make a shift, but changing the way that you talk to yourself every day will eventually have profound effects on your day to day attitude and even your physical health. You may be having a tough minute, but you don’t have to have a tough day.


Finding the Positive

img_0797Author Wayne Dyer wrote, “Every time I see a coin on the street, I stop, pick it up, put it into my pocket, and say out loud, ‘Thank you …for this symbol of abundance that keeps flowing into my life.’ Never once have I asked, ‘Why only a penny…? You know I need a lot more than that.”

It’s really that simple. Day after day train yourself to say thank-you. We all know that the more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. Change the negative self-talk into positive, even if at first you don’t believe yourself. “I can’t believe I am late to work again, I am always late.” can be, “It was a tough morning, but I am glad to be at work and will adjust myself to what is. It’s a gorgeous day and I am happy to be a part of it!” Or, “I am so resentful that I have to work late, I wanted to go to the gym and now I won’t even be having dinner until 9:00” can be, “I’ll grab a healthy snack to keep myself nourished until I can have dinner. I’m lucky to have a job and I love so many things about it!” Even if you don’t feel like you love it at the moment, tell yourself you do. You can find something positive when you look for it. It sounds simple and it is. We often make life a lot harder than it needs to be.

It can take several months to make a shift, but changing the way that you talk to yourself every day will eventually have profound effects on your day to day attitude and even your physical health. You may be having a tough minute, but you don’t have to have a tough day.


Letting Go of Negative Narratives

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“In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” – Deepak Chopra
All of us have a past, a history that we cherish, warm memories that makes us smile inside. But have you ever found yourself stuck in a story that you no longer want to play a part in? An old narrative that family or friends have cast you in? There are several ways to replace the worn out tapes of negativity with positive messages that will strengthen your ability to walk the plank. By walking the plank, I mean leaving behind the familiar and taking a leap into the ocean of possibility.
Letting go asks you to stop listening to stories that spout off negative messages of “you can’t or you shouldn’t.” Abandoning these narratives, gives you permission to step or leap over obstacles into the pasture of prospects and opportunity. The body responds to stories the mind spins whether they are true or not. By creating positive mental images and narratives, the body and psyche begin to shift; to believe that there are options and alternatives. Try replacing the “I can’t do this because I’m not…” with I can and see how the borders of your life expand.
Try to define yourself with what you can do rather than what eludes you. A friend was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at a young age and was given a list of do’s and don’ts. When she became an adult she began to study yoga and meditation empowering herself with new ideas that led her to realize her full potentiality. She released the story that had sold her limitations. Physically she grew strong and mentally she let go of fear.
How though do we step by step revise the stories that chain us to feelings of inadequacies? Here are a few ideas that may encourage you:
• Sit in stillness. Give yourself time to unravel the day’s “to do” list. This allows your mind to rest and recharge. It is difficult to re-write a negative narrative when your mind is exhausted. Sitting in stillness also allows you time to identify those narrative that don’t serve your best interest any longer. Stillness (even ten minutes) provides a sanctuary to go within a safe haven to observe your inner feelings and desires.

• Once you have honed in on a story you want to change, start small and steer clear of shame and blame. The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Take one story or thought at a time and gently re-write the scenario.

• Practice re-directing your thoughts and stories. Imagine batting them away or see them float past like a cloud out of your mind and body.

• Replace I can’t language with I can and I will. When revising a new story make yourself the hero. Whatever it is that you want to change or let go of imagine doing just that and say it out loud to yourself.

• Write it down. A good story or book tantalizes our imaginations; we see in our minds eye what the printed words suggest. Do the same for yourself. Write your story. Maybe you want to be an artist but were told by your parents that isn’t practical. Now is the time to erase that advice and pick up a paintbrush. Call yourself an artist, put notes around the house to remind yourself that you are worthy of following a dream or passion. Recall that person that loved your sketch or photograph.

By taking the time to let go of stories that hold you back, your load will be light enough to move forward into the horizon of change. Enjoy the revisions and writing the new version, the updated edition of you!


Valuing Traditions in Life

With the passing of Labor Day, we are reminded of the pleasures traditions offer us. How they are a rich fabric of our lives, if we pay homage to them. Have you ever stopped for a moment and reflected on the value of your own traditions? Perhaps the grind of modern life has caused you to let go of cherished familial, cultural, or holiday customs. Carving out time for a tradition can restore your sense of connection while providing opportunities to create new memories.

Traditions are a wonderful way to catch up with people you love. They can be as simple as a once a month coffee or as extravagant as meeting for a vacation each year. Maybe your neighborhood has an annual potluck supper? By taking the time to participate, you build and strengthen relationships. You also develop a sense of belonging, which combats feelings of isolation or loneliness.

Honoring tradition helps you establish your own personal identity. When you choose to celebrate with others, whether they are family or friends, this is a beautiful expression of what values you hold dear. Often out of respect for the deeper meaning behind the tradition, you may re-arrange a work-week or forgo a routine. Maybe you and your spouse decide that every Wednesday you have a date night away from the children. Or you commit to a spiritual practice. These micro adjustments can be powerful testimonies to what you value in life. Traditions are often examples or inspirations for others to follow their belief systems.

Children adore traditions. Think back to your own family traditions; my great aunt Rose would make honey cake and my mom would make a chocolate cake with a chocolate cream cheese frosting that to this day when I think of either I feel warm and fuzzy inside. Celebrating with your children can help build bonds while giving them a glimpse of their ancestral heritage. Traditions connect children to their cultural and familial past and paint a picture they can carry with them. They give them a safe sense of belonging and security in a changing world.

Traditions can be modified or adapted to better serve those participating. Perhaps your family doesn’t eat meat, rather than turkey for Thanksgiving you gather over a scrumptious vegetarian meal. All the essential elements are still there; the preparation, the togetherness, the laughter, the breaking bread. New traditions can be initiated as well at any time. They can be serious or silly. I had a friend who started a tradition of “birthday elves” for her children. She would decorate with balloons and streamers the night before her children’s birthdays. In the morning the kids would be delighted to find the elves once again had remembered them. The interesting thing was, even when the children grew to teenagers they still wanted a visit from the birthday elves!
When traditions come from the heart, they allow us time to express our emotions. To commemorate a passed loved one with an annual ceremony gives expression of the love and life of that person. Traditions give us permission to step off life’s merry-go-round and to reflect. By keeping relished traditions we create a haven for ourselves and our children; a place where we recognize the relevance of our past and the importance of our future.

As the fall season fast approaches, perhaps allow yourself time to renew the gift of celebrating traditions. Evaluate those that have meaning to you and have somehow been neglected. By weaving traditions into your life, the fabric of your life will be richer.
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