Memories are created when you least expect it. The other day I was helping my adult daughter organize her home office and guest room. She is newly married and has been very busy with her career. Needless to say, those two rooms began to take on a form of their own as the newlyweds settled into married life while still juggling their own independent commitments. They have not had the time to arrange and decorate the rooms to their liking. So, my daughter asked me to help, and I, of course, was happy to do it. Secretly, I just love spending time with her! We spent one day shopping for storage containers, bedding, and decorative items for the guest room. Then, the next day we tore into the project with full momentum! As we uncovered stashed wedding items, we took time to reminisce on that wonderful day, even opening the garment bag that held her wedding dress. There was a lot of ooooing and ahhhhing at the beauty of the dress and much giggling about the search and the awkward scenarios of the dress fittings.
Then, we came across pictures from her senior year of high school softball. There was the medal from when her team won their District Championship. This brought feelings of pride and accomplishment for her. We even found a few softball pictures from when she was 5 years old, which melted my heart. She reminisced on the many great softball memories she had made with her teammates. We packed all these items in a special “Memory Box.”
Finally, we came upon the unused and unwanted pile. We laughed at the stack of unused gift cards she had forgotten about. We chuckled at the unworn dresses that still had the tags on them. As I rolled my eyes, I resolved never to buy her anything again! She readily agreed, even though she knew I wasn’t serious. I then took the opportunity to quote my mom. In times like these, she always says, “We are so blessed.” And she is right. We live in abundance, and we are truly blessed.
On that simple yet beautiful day, we created memories. I will cherish the sounds of my daughter’s laughter when she found a stray sock in a strange spot, laughing together as I asked, “How did that get there?”. I’ll remember the resounding “Ugh!” as she found one more tumbleweed of dog hair after a thorough vacuuming of the room!
As we completed the organization of the guest room and office, we felt more and more pride in the work we had done. The hard work was unfolding before our eyes in the form of two beautifully put-together rooms. The time we spent together cost us nothing, nor did the memories we created. As an added bonus, we had such fun accomplishing a do-it-yourself home project. I love spending time with my kids in whatever way I can, even if it’s cleaning out closets.
When my daughter asked me to help out with this project, we didn’t know we would be creating memories along the way. Perhaps years down the road we will do it again and reminisce about this time together. Sometimes you are making memories when you’re not even trying!
What I have learned: Memories can be created when you least expect it.
While meeting with a potential client, we discussed how ironic it was that I was now helping others publish books! How did life take me to this point? We were having dinner together to discuss her new book and her aspirations to become a published author. She was a fellow co-worker of mine, so we also spent some time reminiscing about working together in education. At that time, I was a principal in an elementary school, and she was a consultant working alongside me to guide me in this leadership role. We worked together on projects to help the staff and students attain greater achievement scores. We hit it off right from the start, as we are both very self-driven women characterized by our can-do attitudes and ambitious goals. Now, some seven years or so later, we are reconnecting and working on our next passion projects.
We began by discussing how my past experiences in education led me to where I am today - writing books, blogging, creating videos, and mentoring others. She started asking me how this journey of mine came about. I explained that I was at a time in my life when I was very unhappy with the way things were going in my career. I began researching a virtual education company long before the world went virtual. This was a place I wanted to work for so badly. In the spring of 2020, as the pandemic hit the U.S., I was forced to quarantine when I returned from a vacation. I really didn't have anything to do because school was cancelled for a few weeks while we figured out how to teach virtually. During that time I began cooking, writing, and truly finding my joy. I was able to focus on the things I loved doing.
I began to spend a lot of time writing and developing this company, Creative Living Ideas. As the return to in-person work loomed before me, feelings of anxiety began to arise. I felt an emptiness in the pit of my stomach and began feeling like I didn’t want to go back to the challenging times I had been encountering in the school setting. I was feeling calmer each day I was at home and away from those challenges. I began listening to motivational speakers on YouTube, reading self-fulfilling books about motivation and positivity, listening to affirmations, creating vision boards, and writing out my goals. I began to think about how I wanted my life to be and what I really wanted to do. I envisioned what I truly wanted my life to look like. I pictured it in my mind each day. I came to the conclusion that there were three things I desperately wanted: to work for the virtual company I had been researching, to publish my own books, and to help others publish their books.
At this point, summer had ended and COVID restrictions were loosening up. It was time for me to return to the building. Earlier in my career, it had been my happy place, but I could no longer call it that. So following the guidance of many self-help books, I began to put the tools I had learned to work. When it was time for me to physically go back to school, I had to visualize what I wanted my life to be. When I walked into the building, I began thinking about the things that brought me joy. I began thinking about the books I was writing and publishing. In my mind, I would replay images of the books and words I wanted to say instead of thinking about not wanting to be in the building. I learned that if you continue to repeat and ruminate on the negative thoughts in your mind, you're going to have negativity surrounding you. But, if you envision what you want your future to look like and consistently hold that image in your mind, it will eventually materialize.
In the fall of 2020, I was able to truly fulfill my dreams and find my joy. I have a new job, have three published books, and am now helping others publish. All I want to do is spread joy to other people by helping them bring their stories to life.
What I have learned: When you envision joy, you will find it.
Even at my current age, I get this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as the days get shorter and the cool fall weather hits. Every year it’s like I am taken back to being a child waiting for the school bus. It’s a feeling like I need to vomit but don’t understand why. Once I would get on the bus and make it to school, things would get better. Now decades later, after years of being an educator, I realized I was having school anxiety.
How can I be transported back some 40 years ago each time the weather changes and September rolls around? How can I still experience the same feeling in the pit of my stomach? I have to remind myself I am the principal, not the student anymore. I have to tell myself I don't have to feel this way about going to school. However, sometimes our triggers stay with us throughout our lives.
It took me a long time to conceptualize “triggers.” Fortunately, mental health has been highlighted so much more now compared to the 70’s and 80’s. Back then, I don’t know that anyone would’ve been able to identify that feeling in the pit of my stomach as school anxiety. It’s an anxiety born from anticipating fearful comments from peers, not being accepted into social groups, or feeling inadequate in the classroom. As a student, these fears and worries would engulf me. The cool weather triggers these feelings for me to this day. It's amazing how strong triggers can be.
School anxiety and separation anxiety are real. And, they are really, really tough. Fortunately, there are a lot more options for kids in school these days. Kiddos can attend school virtually or in-person. When my daughter was going into kindergarten, she was elated and couldn’t wait to get homework. My other daughter (raised by the same biological parents, mind you) had tremendous separation anxiety. I would get ready in the morning, and she would hang on to me crying and saying, “I love you! I love you!” She would be pleading for me not to leave her. It was so hard to watch. It was also rather difficult to understand because I had worked every single day of my children’s lives, and she had gone to daycare for five years. Why all this anxiety all of a sudden?
I ended up taking her to therapy, and we tried some different strategies to help ease her school/separation anxiety. At age 5, we tried putting colorful pom-poms in my pocket and hers to keep with us throughout the day. When she would miss me, she would rub the pom-pom and know that it was a connection to me. Of course, I would do the same for her. When that strategy became less effective, we had matching bracelets to remind us of each other throughout the day.
After a few sessions, the therapist told me the anxiety would probably ease up when she turned 6 years old. Remarkably, she was right! When my daughter turned 6, she was over her anxiety and went to school with no issue. Elementary school years were better than middle school years. One of her triggers was riding the bus to middle school. It was complete torture for her. We were able to help her tackle some of that anxiety by taking her to school a couple days per week. Some things were so difficult you can’t put a Band-Aid on them, so therapy continued to help support her emotional state. We created worry jars where she picked a container, wrote her worries on a piece of paper, and put them in the jar so she didn’t have to worry about them anymore. We bought worry dolls, so she could give her worries to the doll who would take care of them for her. We bought journals and wrote in them at night. We found time to bond by choosing activities just for the two of us to do together. I don’t know if we solved the anxiety issue, but we were able to recognize it and try different methods to cope.
As an adult, I look back on those moments and am grateful we shared them. She still uses many of the strategies as coping mechanisms when her anxiety arises. Triggers and anxiety are real. Finding solutions to calm oneself during those times can be challenging but necessary. If you are struggling with anxiety and triggers, do your best to take care of yourself. Control what you can by removing the trigger, and then find the right strategy for you.
What I have learned: Triggers can stick around for a long time; keep working through them.
Not so long ago, I was walking with a friend. We were just talking about life, and I shared how I had gained so much weight in the last year after taking a remote work position. I was really frustrated with myself. She listened quietly to how I was feeling, the changes I was making towards better health, and the tactics I had tried to rid myself of the extra body weight. After I rambled for probably half a mile, she responded with, “I believe in you.” She didn’t help me make excuses about how hard it is to lose weight or how we are aging. She didn’t try to offer advice on the latest trendy diet. Her only response was, “I believe in you.” After she said it, we just continued walking quietly for a little bit. I have thought about that conversation for a while. Her words were simple but powerful. “I believe in you.” There was no dramatic emphasis. It was just a beautifully simple message, uplifting and powerful. In that moment, I truly did believe that she believed in me.
Since then I began thinking about the messages we give to our children. What types of messages do we send our children? Do we send them mostly negative messages, or do we send messages that let them know we believe in them? It’s important that we instill values and morals in our children. But unless we tell them that we believe in them, that they can accomplish anything, that they can be the person they are striving to become, they’re not going to believe in themselves. Our words are powerful. It takes many more words to build someone up than it takes to tear them down. Making sure we are telling the people we care about that we believe in them is essential to a healthy relationship. You can make good choices. You can get that dream job. You can finish school. A belief sparks a vision, and that’s when incredible things happen.
What I have learned: “I believe in you” is a powerful statement.
I recently spent an entire week at our lake house alone. Yes, completely alone. No husband, no kids, no dogs, just me. I don't think I really had any goals for my time alone, but, as the week went on, I began to rediscover myself. I learned that by spending time still and alone I began to feel comfortable being with myself. Don't get me wrong, I still made multiple calls to the family. I still put out whatever fires needed to be put out at home. I still organized...from a distance. But mostly, I was alone with myself. I wasn't planning on going on this journey. I was just planning on spending a week at the lake.
You know I've always wanted to go to one of those spas where all you do is meditate, walk around, eat healthy, and get massages. Then it hit me, I was actually able to do that for myself this week. I had no one to answer to, so I took myself to get a massage. I did an at-home facial. I meditated and practiced yoga on the deck overlooking the lake. I went for a walk out in nature twice a day. I was beginning to feel like I was Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love. And in case you're wondering, I did eat pizza every night just like Julia. I was loving myself and loving the time alone. I was in my pajamas by 6 p.m., and it felt great!
While waves of loneliness came and went, I knew that I needed to continue being alone. I knew it would help me find comfort in my own skin. It turned out to be an amazing experience, one that I would like to do more often. I don't know that I had any deep epiphanies that week, but I did have time to organize my business, plan future ideas for the company, work on writing, and just dream about life. It was a wonderfully productive week. I also made myself stay put for two full days and nights in a row without running any errands. This was quite a challenge for me, as I always seem to have something on my social calendar. But, I did it. It may be something I continue to incorporate into my life.
As I was going on a walk one afternoon, I was thinking about how you, my readers, can establish this alone time in your life. Maybe you are a working parent. Maybe you have young children or elderly parents to care for. Whatever the scenario, how do you find the time to be with just yourself?
You may not have the opportunity to be alone for an entire week, but I bet you could find a few hours to carve out some alone time during the week. I highly recommend that you speak to your spouse, your partner, or whomever you live with to try and figure out how you can carve out some time for yourself. I don't mean time for you to be alone to do the laundry, to clean the house, or to go grocery shopping. I mean for you to be still. For you to be quiet with your own thoughts. It’s surprisingly easy to do when you make the effort to find time for yourself. You could always escape to the bathroom or closet for a few moments of silence and stillness. You could go on a nature walk around your neighborhood or at a local park. You could sit and stare at a lake. The possibilities are endless. Maybe you and your partner could give each other time alone. I hope you find the time to be still and love yourself!
Don’t get me wrong, the week alone took work to stay focused and to stay home. I was excited for my family to come down to the lake for the coming weekend. I was looking forward to the hustle and bustle and all the craziness of the family. I would never change that chaos for the world, but being alone for the week made me feel brave. It made me feel strong. It made me feel comfortable. It made me appreciate my family even more than I already did. And, it made me love myself a little bit more too.
What I have learned: Be still and love yourself. Take care of you!
I stepped on the scale today and, to my dismay, I gained back the 2 lbs. I lost yesterday. I seemed to be in this downward spiral of not being able to lose any weight, and it was incredibly disappointing when I stepped on the scale today. You see, I’d been working so hard over the last month by eating healthier, working out every single day, and standing at my work desk. Doing all the things that are supposed to result in a fitter me.
But no, not today. Today I gained back the only 2 lbs. I’d lost in the past month! It was so discouraging. I wanted to throw in the towel. But, I put on my workout clothes and begrudgingly stomped through the house. I thought to myself, “Why am I even doing this? What is the point?” Let me tell you, I was in a spiral of negativity. I had to dig deep, and I mean really deep. It was time for some serious soul-searching.
I trudged out to begin my walk and the frustrations just continued to repeat in my mind. Why can't I lose the weight? Why won't it come off of me? What is the problem here? Maybe I should just give up. Maybe I should just quit. Dig deeper, dig deeper…
Then, as I began walking up the first hill, I made it to the top without feeling winded. I took a deep breath, exhaled, and all of a sudden my rational brain came forward. I began to think to myself, “I am getting stronger every day, and I know that I am building muscle. I know that I am increasing my lung capacity and helping my heart. I know that I am making my legs and body stronger.”
Digging a little deeper, I came to the realization that I am grateful for what I have been doing for my body. I know I’m getting fitter and stronger everyday. I am grateful to know that my workout clothes still fit today. I am grateful that my husband snuggled with me in bed this morning, regardless of whether I gained those 2 lbs. or not.
Breath deepening, pace quickening, and steps lightening, I realized that I am a work in progress. I am a WORK IN PROGRESS! As long as I’m on a forward trajectory, I cannot go backwards. I can choose which direction I am going. I am choosing to go forward. I’m going to be the best me today. Those 2 lbs. will come and go, and I will not allow the scale to dictate my emotional or mental state of mind. I am doing good things for my body everyday! And, I am still a work in progress! I challenge you to dig a little deeper this week. Where are you still growing? Where are you progressing?
After a long weekend at the lake with friends, I woke up stiff and tight with knots in my back. I worked all day and kept thinking I should get a massage somewhere after work. Still being away from home, I decided to do a little research on spa’s in the area. To my dismay, all the salons I found were going to be closed by the time I was able to get there. I began to feel like it just wasn’t meant to be.
I then remembered a resort hotel that was nearby. I gave them a call, and, miraculously, they had an opening at 6 p.m. I happily took the appointment. The lady on the phone told me to make sure I got there early, so I could enjoy the steam room and other amenities prior to them closing at 7 p.m. I thought that was pretty nice, so I got there early. When I arrived, I was kindly directed to the changing area where I was able to change into a robe. The receptionist waited for me outside the bathroom, then led me to the steam room. She told me that if I wasn’t out in 20 minutes, she was going to check on me because you didn't want me to be in there too long. I thought it was pretty kind that she was concerned about my well-being in the steam room. After my steam, she guided me to the relaxation room, where they had an assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, snacks, and heat wraps. The room’s lights were dimmed, and I was offered a seat in a very comfortable, heated massage chair. She gave me all of these different options to choose from while I sat and waited for my massage. I relaxed back into the chair, turned on the massage setting, closed my eyes, and felt the warmth radiating from the heat wrap into my neck and body. I was instantly at ease. After a few minutes, the massage therapist came out and kindly led me to the massage room. Let me tell you, that was the most amazing massage I have ever had in my life. The personalized and attentive care provided by the resort staff was so appreciated. The experience was above and beyond my expectations.
I’ve had plenty of massages in my life, but the customer service at any of those other appointments cannot compare to this one. Not only did the receptionist go the extra mile by inviting me to come early and enjoy the amenities, but the massage therapist truly worked out the kinks and knots in my back, took time to listen to my concerns, and helped the areas of my body that were hurting. While I was laying on the table, I was thinking about how incredible this experience was. I've been to some pretty nice hotels and resorts, but they've never gone the extra mile like this. It made me think about whether or not I go the extra mile for people. Do I go the extra mile at work for my students and their families? I would like to think I do, but I will definitely be more cognizant of the service I provide to my students and families. I will continue to reflect on this incredibly revitalizing experience, and I’m going to pass that great service forward to my students and their families. Who would have thought a massage at a lake resort could be such an enlightening experience?
What I have learned: Going the extra mile by treating others with extreme kindness and generosity can make a world of difference.
If you’ve never experienced summer in the Midwest, I highly recommend you try it. While the temperature can be sweltering and the humidity can be thick, summer in the Midwest provides a unique atmosphere. One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to lie on my raft in the pool and just relax. Just the other day I was doing this very activity, and I began to absorb my surroundings. I was able to listen to the water ripple across the pool as it was being pushed out through the jets. I could hear the locusts in the background making that clicking noise that is so well-known to Midwesterners. As I looked around, I realized I was surrounded by a halo of Pin Oak trees that have these gorgeous, large leaves that flutter in the wind. I was also surrounded by flowering trees, such as the apple tree in my backyard and the redbud trees providing wonderful shade. A dragonfly floated through the air across me and landed on my knee, as I drifted aimlessly around the pool by the force of the jets. From one side of the pool to the other, I felt like I was the ball in a game of Pong.
In times like these, my mind takes me back to when my kids were little, and the pool was all they wanted every day. They couldn’t wait to invite their friends over to go swimming. They filled each day with splashing and giggling. I remember the times when I was required to be Shamu and dive to the bottom of the pool with them riding on my back. I remember the swimming lessons that occurred each week at my house and the treat box that was saved for a sweet delight after lessons. I remember the other moms and I making the kids sit out and give us quiet time on our rafts in the pool. During that time, it just seemed like it would never be peaceful and quiet around the pool. Yet, today I float, surrounded by peace.
Back in those days, I didn’t take the time to look at the water rippling, to hear the locusts, to see the dragonfly, or to watch the leaves flutter. But I am so grateful for all of the experiences past and present. Perhaps those crazy, chaotic times are what helps me appreciate these quiet, peaceful times even more.
I think it is a great idea to spend time with your child and teach them how to be mindful and listen to the summer sounds. It could be a great bonding experience for you both. Like I said, if you’ve never had the opportunity to experience a summer in the Midwest, I highly encourage you to take a trip and experience it. But, if a trip isn’t in your immediate future, you can practice mindfulness anywhere at any time.
What I have learned: Summer sounds of the Midwest are amazing. Take a listen
How do you prepare for stressful times in your life? Balancing it all can be quite a circus act. I can relate. I remember back to school time being very fun and exciting for my kids, but it was usually extremely busy and chaotic for me. Gathering school supplies, going to “Meet the Teacher” night, reviewing the kiddos’ schedules with them, easing their worries, and containing their enthusiasm kept our homelife busy. Because I was teaching at the time, I was also busy getting my classroom ready for my incoming students, which was both exciting and exhausting. I loved my job and always tried to make everything just right for my students. I wanted to make sure my students had an organized classroom experience and my kids had a stress-free transition into their own classrooms. Needless to say, life was really busy. I know not all of you are in education, but I am sure many of you are busy juggling other careers, managing a household, and experiencing life. As a working mom, I have to spend time getting myself organized and plan things out in advance. I need structure and routine to calm life’s unexpected storms. Tips to keep YOURSELF organized:
Keep a calendar with dates for work and social engagements.
Limit social outings so you have sufficient time to recharge. Being a social butterfly, I try to only schedule two social engagements per week.
Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. I like to rotate between yoga, working out, and taking walks.
Prep meals for the week ahead of time.
Set your alarm a little earlier than usual and try to go to bed at a reasonable time.
Spend time goal-setting or planning a path for completing work projects.
Spend less time on social media to give your brain a break.
Pick up a book and read it, even if it’s just for ten minutes per day.
Lean on someone to help you when you need extra support.
Tips to keep YOUR KIDS organized:
Keep a calendar with dates for back to school events.
Visit the school and find their classes/classroom.
Schedule a day when you will get school supplies for your child. Tell them what day it will be and mark it on the calendar.
Create visual schedules of the new routine.
Talk to your kids about the back to school transition. Answer any questions they have.
Review routines that change during the school year (earlier bedtimes, homework workspace, etc.).
The more prepared you and your child are, the less stressed out you will both be. Be sure to communicate with your child about what to expect during this transitional time.
What I have learned: The more organized you are, the better prepared you will be for life transitions.
I knew from the moment I first kissed my husband that he was the one for me. How in the world can a person know that at 17 years old? Well, when you know, you know. That is all I can say. I remember my heart filling with love in that moment and feeling like it could quite possibly burst! I had never felt so connected to a person in my life than I did with that one kiss.
When we were first married, we started out with $400 in the bank. We were literally living on love. We were not prepared for anything, neither the bills, nor the chaos that life can bring. Not the sleepless nights of parenthood, nor the joyful moments with the children. Not the heartache of losing someone you love, nor the overwhelming love of having a child together. We did not think about any of this when we started our life together, but I knew one thing for sure. I knew we were not going to give up on each other. I knew from the moment I met him that he believed in me and would support me in all the ways I needed. I also knew that I believed in him. I believed he would uphold his vows, walk alongside me, push me in the right direction, and sometimes hold me back to protect me. I knew that he was going to be true to me and be kind to the people I loved. I believed that he would work hard for our family, and he always has. I knew he was a good man with a giant heart and that is what I needed. We vowed to always work it out together. That is what we have done for 30 years.
Younger people make comments about our long relationship like, “I want to be like the two of you,” or “I am holding out for a marriage like that.” I am always honest with them and tell them that it doesn’t just happen. WE WORK ON IT! We work on it together. We make adjustments, compromises, and admit when we are wrong. We go on dates without our kids and without our friends. We do things TOGETHER. We say we’re sorry and then we actually change our behavior so that it does not happen again. We work together. Call it 50/50 or 100/100, either way it takes a concerted effort from two parties. That is how it works.
When he proposed to me, we actually argued. I wouldn’t say yes until he agreed it was FOREVER! We bantered back and forth a few times, and when I was convinced, I said, “Yes!”