A Walking Stick

I don’t know if you are at all like me, but I sometimes find myself getting stuck thinking about my present stressors or over-focused on the self-improvements that I am still to conquer. Getting stuck in these thoughts is the worst. I get overwhelmed somewhere between what tasks are not done, what new challenge is coming, and how I don’t feel prepared for either because I am not strong enough. Getting stuck SUCKS!!!

My son is 11yo and he was just diagnosed with ADHD last year. He was diagnosed with Inattentive Type, and even though he tries to hide it from his teachers and peers… I sometimes observe him really get stuck. He stands there thinking, and thinking, or not thinking but trying to look like he’s thinking through a problem or a thing. Honestly, it tests my patience. I know you are thinking, give the child a chance… I timed it once and witnessed him stuck for almost ten minutes trying to decide what to next. I nudge him, encourage him, prompt him, but I can’t unstick him. He has to decide it’s time to move on. It’s time to let go of the fear of consequences, let go of the fear of making a mistake, step back from near sighted vision we all have when we are so close to a thing, and look at a bigger picture.

I decided I would try something new with him recently, and you’ll have to stay tuned to find out if it works, but I started to wonder if he would feel encouraged if he remembered where he started and how far he came. If I reminded him of how much his handwriting has improved in the past year, would that remind him that he could achieve his goals and shift his focus on his spelling. If I reminded him that six months ago he struggled to do a 2 minute plank, and now he can do a 6 minute plank; would that encourage him to achieve another physical goal. If I reminded him that last year he used to sit and read at recess, and this year he has a D&D group that he meets up with; would that encourage him to expand his social circle.

Getting stuck SUCKS!!! I know, because I was reminded watching and observing my son that I spent a lifetime before meeting Susan of getting stuck. It wasn’t that long ago that I was trapped in a prison of my own making. One that had walls of depression and handcuffs of self-loathing. And recently, I find that when I’m alone in the house, or not planned or prepared that those feelings of overwhelmed and unfocused rise back up. I have flashes of memories of not leaving my house for days and weeks, and memories of routines that completely lacked joy.

In those moments, I forget the task list, and I forget the choices for what fulfilling thing I can do are… I forget how to be grateful, and I forget how to be thoughtful of my wife and kids… I get stuck. Now before you get out your judging gavel… the difference in the man before you is that I don’t stay there for more than a few minutes now. Just like I have reminders of how lost I once felt, and how paralyzed I once became… they are flashes. Because everyday, I take a very brief but important and powerful look in my rear view mirror. A look at how far I’ve become.

MY secret I use to not getting stuck is that every time I get stuck, I lean on the story of my journey like it is a walking stick. I lean on it to keep me stable, and I use it to make sure that my footing is solid, I lean on it to move the brush out of my line of sight and find the trail for my hike. I have so much gratitude for my hardships, and I have developed real pride in my accomplishments. And I use that gratitude and pride to keep me from getting stuck.

I hope that you can do the same… take a look in the rear mirror and remember where you came from… maybe you are in the hardships of your life, and when you look back in that rearview mirror you see more envious times… you can use that too… Draw from the gratitude of those more pleasant times to give you future goals, and assurances that you can achieve the existence that you want.

I’m not encouraging you to live in your past… I’ve tried that too… I’m encouraging you to use the facts of your journey like a walking stick that gets you to keep moving forward.

Watercolor Wednesday: Kindness and Bookmarks

This week for Watercolor Wednesday, I wanted to tie it into our theme of kindness. So we didn’t just create a picture or do a tutorial. We created a gift!

I had ordered some plastic bookmark sleeves several months ago, anticipating using them for Lucy’s birthday party which I didn’t end up doing. It was twelve dollars for fifty of them. They are marketed also as photo booth picture frame things. Here is an Amazon link for them- this is not an affiliate link- just sharing information.

I then sliced watercolor paper into two inch wide strips to fit inside the sleeves. We taped the papers to the table and let the kids go to town. We made some for ourselves and each other, but we also made a couple to gift to someone whose kindness has helped us or made a difference to us.

We do watercolor Wednesday pretty regularly, almost every week. It is met with different reactions by each kid. Nick likes art, and some weeks if he likes the project, he really takes his time to do it. Other weeks, he has a list of a million things to do, and he will rush to the next thing quickly. Some weeks he chooses not to participate, which is okay too! Lucy loves art. She recently wrote a book at school about how art makes her smile and how she loves to do art. So she is fully invested and fully CONFIDENT! Jimmy loves to do it, loves to do it his way, can’t get enough, and is super proud of his masterpieces. Rami loves doing the art, and often has really great ideas. He is meticulous. He really enjoys the art, but he can get caught up in perfectionism and disregard the process. So he always learns really great lessons through the process.

I also gave the kids oil pastels to use too, thinking they might do some oil pastel/watercolor resist work. Lucy did a little bit, and I did one too. She loves the oil pastels. The I love Rory bookmark for her firends is done in oil pastels.

I made tassels out of embroidery floss. Tedious! But it really makes them look legit, and I got faster at it the more I did. We made a lot of bookmarks! 😀

I chose to give my bookmark to someone I work with who, I believe, is a very strong person and who inspires me. I put a French quote on the back that says, “Au milieu de l’hiver, j’ai decouvert en moi un invincible ete.” by Albert Camus. (My apologies that I do not know how to add accent marks on here.) Anyway, it means, In the midst of winter, I discovered in myself an invincible summer. This is one of my favorite quotes, one that I have represented on my body in a tattoo. During this difficult year, this person has brought that invincible summer. It hasn’t been easy, and there have definitely been mountain valleys on the journey. But I wanted to acknowledge her strength through this bookmark, which I did oil pastel resist under watercolor.

Teacher Appreciation Day

Last night was Family Home Evening. Our theme was kindness and appreciation. This is an ongoing theme. In fact, our theme for the year is “Keep kind in mind always.” So in honor of our dedicated and amazing teachers, we put together our teacher appreciation cards and gifts!

Nick led the lesson, and he did a great job. Everyone shared kind things they had done and seen that day. We talked about our teachers and what we appreciate and love about them. I am so grateful for our kids’ teachers, and I am just continually in awe of them and impressed with all they do to support our kids.

I spent many years as a teacher, and it was some of the best times of my life. But it was not easy! It was something truly unique and magical and for which I am so, so very grateful. I know how it feels to be a teacher, and I have so much respect and appreciation for these people. I want my kids to respect and appreciate them as well. Nick has told me that he would like to be a science teacher (then go on to be a principal and superintendent as well-hah!), and it makes me proud to hear him say that. No matter what he becomes, I love that he considers that now at this age. 🙂

We are doing kindness as a theme for the month of May. We attempted this in February, but I got Covid and the kids got quarantined, so things got somewhat derailed. I will try to highlight some of our kindness activities this month! And big ups to all the teachers out there who deserve the utmost appreciation this week and every week- thank you for ALL you do!

Book of the Month

I absolutely love to read, but I haven’t always made time to read for pleasure. When I was going through my divorce and learning to share my kids, I looked for some enriching activities that I had always wanted to pursue but didn’t have time for. I ended up subscribing to Book of the Month. I’ve always had a pile of books on my end table or by my bed, and my shelves are always full. Book of the Month is the original book subscription box, and I really love it. 

You get access to early releases, the books are vetted by actual readers, and they are very reasonably priced.  You receive a hardcover book each month.  

But the thing I love about it is that you don’t have to!  You can skip a month and not be charged for it.  I started this at the same time that I was early into my doctoral program and a relationship.  I ended up not having the time I hoped for leisure reading.  I love the convenience of being able to skip AND not be charged.  If you completely forget to make a choice or to choose to skip, they do not just send you something.  They charge you, and you have a credit on your account.  I appreciate this so I’m not collecting a bunch of books I’m never going to read.

The cost is $12.50-$16.67, depending on your membership plan.  Shipping is always free, and there are often opportunities to add books on for a discounted rate.  For me, at the time, I was trying to save money, but I justified this as something that promotes wellness and my goals, especially as I was getting used to sharing custody of my kids with their dads.  It also is literally the cost of skipping two fast food meals a month- I can do that!  😀  

This is a picture of my daughter receiving some books for her birthday with her look of joy- similar to me each month getting my box. 🙂

Another thing I really love about it is that it is a convenient way for me to read things I might not typically.  The books all have reviews, they give you info that’s good to know before you read- for example, I am sensitive to reading about certain abuse situations, so I appreciate that info ahead of time!  They give you a synopsis, genre, and about the author, so you can make an informed decision.  I have enjoyed every book I have received, so they are doing a great job at giving me the info I need to decide!  I have been part of a book club, but with the inconsistency in my schedule the past couple years between doctoral work, work, kids, etc, this is a different way that encourages me to read and read new things. It’s really important to me to model a love of reading for my kids. I really love our reading time together, be it me reading to them, them reading to me, or us just reading together in one another’s company. All the photos in this post are of my kids reading, because believe it or not, nobody’s really out there taking pics of me reading my BOTM books. 🙂

For my birthday, my husband gave me an amazing little cabana so I can hide out and read outside- my favorite place to read, believe it or not. 😉  I’ll be excited to get my next box and test it out!  

**This review is in no way associated with Book of the Month in any official capacity. I just like it and wanted to share.**

From the archive: The Restorative Power of Salt Water

From the archive. Originally written May 31, 2016.

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It’s time to talk about my trip.  There’s so much to say, really.  Of course, I need to do the whole photos and recap post, but first, I think I’d like to talk about the effect of the trip on me personally.

When I walked out of that school on my last day there, I walked out with tears streaming down my face but I sighed a big sigh of relief.  Not that it was over, but that my last day was finally over.  I felt like I had been dreading that day forever, and had been living that day over and over everyday through a thousand different “lasts.”  After that, I went home, picked up my babies, and headed to the airport.  We flew just the three of us to meet their dad who had been out of town for business for a week.  I was so proud of myself when we arrived in Denver!  I felt like an accomplished mom- a real mom- for having successfully flown somewhere with two children three and under on my own.

Utah was so wonderful.  I immediately felt at ease when we arrived there.  For so many reasons.  But being reunited as a family, the mountains, Paul Simon, and my old, dear friends did wonders for my soul.  Utah was sweat- hiking, dancing, playing with the kids- lots of activity.

We headed off to California.  We went to Disneyland with the kids which was truly delightful.  Lots of play time.  We went to an aquarium and the beach.  I love the sea.  Nick does too, which made it extra lovely.  We stood at the edge and let the waves roll upon us together.  I had to hold tightly to him because the water is so powerful.  We did that over and over again, and it might have been my favorite part of the California trip.

Spending time with Spencer and the kids brought me back to Earth.  Spending time talking to Sam and listening to Paul Simon reminded me of who I am.  Salt water- tears, sweat, and the sea- restored me.  When I came home, I felt a million times better than I did when I left.  And a million times more like myself.  And a million times more ready to take on this next chapter of my life.  Isak Dinesen was right when she said, “The cure for anything is salt water- tears, sweat, or the sea.”  I needed a dose of each to cure me.  And it has.  I’m so grateful.

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