This is 40

This month I turn 40.

As this notable birthday approached, I kept waiting to feel some sort of feelings about it all. An impending and overwhelming sense of mortality, perhaps. Maybe a surge of youthful recklessness, an irresponsible spending spree, or the desire to become a yoga teacher. I was ready for anything.

Instead, I decided to close my business, learn about WWII, and start investing in higher quality clothing items, particularly those with elastic waistbands.

Not bad for a going over the hill journey.

As the big day got closer and closer, offers for parties and gatherings to celebrate came my way, but none of it felt right. I’ve never loved big celebrations where I’m the focus of attention. What I was craving was quite the opposite: Alone time. Quiet. Vast open space and a bed to cocoon in, alone.

Yes, a solo weekend away at the Oregon Coast is what I wanted for my birthday!

Luckily, my wife understands these introverted needs of mine and doesn’t take it personally. I’m certain this in one of the contributing factors to our 16 years together. That and our uncanny ability to get all of each other’s jokes, however dry or cryptic.

My weekend away arrived, and with it a flurry of excitement mixed with a bit of anxiety. Would this time away in fact be relaxing and rejuvenating, I wondered. Or would I feel unsettled, unsure of what to do when I got there, missing my family or feeling guilty for having this gift of time to myself?

I eagerly packed my hiking clothes, yoga clothes, bathing suit for the hotel hot tub, pajamas, slippers, a knitting project, two books and as many journals, tarot cards, colored pencils, markers, my DIY pedicure supplies, and enough toiletries to do skincare treatments for a gaggle of 30-somethings. I had no idea what I would end up doing all weekend, but I wanted to set myself up for some of my favorite pastimes.

The first few hours I was at the coast did feel unsettling. The possibility of doing anything I wanted felt daunting. With the absence of dependents or an outside schedule to guide me, I was literally unmoored. So I did what I usually do when uncertainty strikes: I walked.

I took to the beach and meandered over rocks and chunks of shell-studded sand. I peered into briny tide pools glistening with clusters of mussels and the pastel-colored tentacles of dozens of sea anemones. I watched wave after wave roll toward the shore and crash into the rocky coastline. I scanned the surface of the water for whale spouts. I took deep, unhurried mouthfuls of sea air and kept moving, one foot in front of the other. Eventually my shoulders relaxed and my mind stopped spiraling. By the time I headed back to my hotel, my head felt clear and open.

I could do whatever I wanted, But I didn’t have to do it all. Now and moving forward into the next decade of life.

Over the next 24 hours, I settled into an intuitive schedule of resting, eating, walking, reading, soaking, writing, and sleeping. Thoughts of the outside world mostly faded away and it was just me, listening to the waves.

I didn’t have any huge revelations or breakthroughs on my weekend away. But what I did experience felt far more powerful. I felt affirmed in my path and content with myself.

This is the true gift of turing 40.

Some Thoughts on Reading

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I’ve loved reading since I was a kid. I would read anything I could get my hands on, from The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High to Dean Koontz and Edgar Allen Poe. I loved the scholastic book catalog and trips to Waldenbooks at the mall where I would sit on the floor, surrounded by books until I was forced to leave. As a teen I discovered literature and poetry and soon I had a carload of books to pack up with every move in college and beyond. I always had a book with me, and would read any chance I got.

Then something shifted. My life as a mother, particularly in the baby days, didn’t leave me with much mental space for reading. If I was reading a book, it would take me a long time to get through it, and I would often finish it feeling meh. I had lost the ability or desire to lose myself in the story, fictional or not. This was the first time I realized that reading books is a skill, and spending time doing it is a choice.

So when my daughter was a toddler and life started to feel somewhat predictable again, I decided to return to books. I would make the time and try to rediscover my love of reading.

Setting a reading goal for myself felt like a fun way to stay motivated, so when January rolled around I resolved to read 12 books that year. This was before I was on Goodreads or keeping track in any sort of way, so I can’t recall what I read or how many books I read that year. But what I do know is this: my love of reading was rekindled and my ability to dive deep into a story was restored with each book.

Why I Read

For me, reading is a way to connect to myself and to humanity at large. I read to reaffirm what I already know, to discover new ways of understanding the world, to challenge my beliefs and privilege, to have adventures beyond the scope of my reality, to connect with the stories of other humans, to be entertained, to escape, and sometimes just to have fun.

When I read, I’m giving myself a gift, a little something that exists just for my own satisfaction. It’s not for or about anyone else. Reading connects me to my truest self, all the messy, complicated, romantic, intellectual, cynical, silly parts of me that maybe get set aside in my day to day life. To me, this is time well spent.

Making the Time

Last year I read an astonishing (to me) number of books. It was quadruple the amount of books I set out to read in my first reading challenge, and I had to ask: how did this happen?

Well, I decided to make the time.

First I looked at how I was spending my “leisure time” (quotes because as a working mom I didn’t feel like I had much time to spare). I quickly discovered there were pockets of time lost to social media, tv, and similar.

I almost always read before bed. This meant adjusting my bedtime so that I’m hitting the pillows before I’m actually ready to fall asleep. I also always read in the bathtub; it’s my favorite place to start a new book!

Another way I make time to read is by always having a book downloaded on my phone via the Kindle or Libby apps. Libby connects to your library card, and you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks alike. I’ve also started making sure I have an audio book downloaded – usually non-fiction – to listen to in the car or on walks. Pro tip: if I’m reading a longer print book, sometimes I will also borrow the ebook from the library. That way instead of losing 15 minutes to social media when I’m in a waiting room or early to school pick up, I can read my book.

Another shift: I gave myself permission to stop reading a book I didn’t love. My reading time is precious! I’m not going to squander it trying to get through a book that I’m not connecting with. Sometimes I put the book aside for another time; there are seasons and moments for books, and when the timing is off, it just doesn’t work.

some of my January/February books

My Reading Life Now

This year my goal is to read 50 books. I’m off to a strong start thanks to my February sabbatical. No job and a social media break have given me loads of time to read, and I’ve loved every moment of it. You can check out the books I’ve read so far this year on my Goodreads page.

A year or two ago, my friend Hannah shared that she was reading books via the Book of the Month Club. I was in another reading slump by then, now with two kids and a business in my life. I missed books, so this seemed like a great way to get excited about reading again. Plus we could talk about the books and trade!

BOTM highlights 5 books by contemporary authors each month, with a mix of genres and styles to choose from. It’s been a lot of fun discovering some new-to-me authors and genres. Hannah and I always text each other around the beginning of each month to compare thoughts on that month’s selections and share what we’re thinking of getting. We also chat and meet up regularly to swap books back and forth.

The March books for Book of the Month were just announced today. I’ve been excited for Daisy Jones & The Six and was thrilled to see it was included in the selections. If you’re interested, you can check out the selections here . 

I’m curious: do you identify as a reader? Why do you read? What’s your favorite book you’ve read in the past year?

Summer Bummer : Living Without All the Answers

“Are you having a good summer?” she asked with a hopeful smile.

I took a deep breath and felt just how tired I felt in my body.

I could see that she too was tired. A fellow mom and entrepreneur, she knows what it’s like to be juggling a very full life. And so I knew I could tell her the hard truth: No.

I was not having a good summer.

The intensity of that realization hit me like a tidal wave.

Summer is supposed to be a fun, carefree time, right?! I felt anything but carefree.

What was I doing wrong?

That afternoon on the way home from work, I cried. I had to pull over at a park and let the tears flow just to ease the tension and fear of all that had been going on.

Business had slowed down drastically in the spring at the shop. In an effort to cut down on some expenses, I was working more. I had been agonizing over some other business decisions for weeks, and I was having trouble turning off my brain. 

I am also launching my new side hustle: mentoring creatives. And hosting out of town family friends! With an already packed schedule, my self-care routine was out the window.  I was impatient with my children, I had hadn’t been making anything, and I hadn’t seen mu friends in weeks.

Which all adds up to less laid back summer fun with the family. I felt stretched thin and perpetually tired.

After being sick twice in under a month and suffering from insomnia, I decided it was time. Time to take matters into my own hands again instead of letting life run away with me. I’d like to say I created the opportunity for myself, but we happened to have plans to meet family for a weekend in the mountains. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

I decided to unplug from email and social media and say yes to all the fun opportunities that came my way that weekend.

We picnicked in the mountains. I waded in a lake with my kids. I cast on a new sweater project for fall. My sister, mom and I made a pie together. I went down a waterslide on a double inner tube with my wife. We let the kids eat all the treats and stay up past their bedtimes. And I did my best to clear my head of all things business related.

I came back not only refreshed, but a little bit lighter. I don’t have to have all the answers right now. I don’t know what my life and businesses will look like six months from now, and that’s okay.

Sometimes letting go of trying to hold all the pieces together and figure everything out opens you up to see new solutions or let the answer arrive in its own time.   As I get back into things it will be easy to slide back into worrying about what happens next.  But having taken this time to reset will help keep me moving forward with less stress.

For the rest of the summer, my decisions will be ruled by finding joy, being present with my kids, and reconnecting with myself. And just in case: I plan to have another unplugged weekend at the end of the summer!

Now I’m relieved to say that yes, I am having a good summer.

 

From Uncertain to Confident: A 5-Minute Reframe

Self-Doubt_Featured

I’ve been doing a lot of work around getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. With facing my fears and moving forward in spite of them.

One of my favorite tools to leverage the discomfort and get me out of the cycle of self-doubt is to do a Fear Dump. This powerful 5-minute exercise will take you from feeling uncertain to feeling more confident and powerful. I got this idea from my business coach Megan Flatt, and it works wonders!

Fear Dump Exercise

  • Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Write down all of your fears and uncertainties around a new idea.  Don’t censor or edit yourself, just let it ALL out!
  • At the end of 5 minutes, go through the list and ask yourself: Why is this statement NOT true?  I want you to literally cross out all the negative words in each sentence.  This act will instantly reframe the fear into a very powerful statement.

For example:

I’m afraid that I don’t have a unique message to share with people.

becomes

I have a unique message to share with people.

—–

I’m afraid people won’t want to buy what I make.

becomes

People want to buy what I make!

Powerful, right?!

This simple exercise can help you build confidence around a new idea, give power to the positive, and help banish the uncertainties and fears that have been holding you back.


What’s one uncertainty you’re living with right now?  I’d like to challenge you to do a Fear Dump and share one of your new power statements here.

Creativity, Self-Care & The Mama Advantage

themamaadvantage-episode2

I recently had the honor of joining my business coach Megan Flatt and fellow Mama CEO and writer Parrish Wilson on a new podcast: The Mama Advantage.  Megan’s premise for the podcast is that as women, mothers, and entrepreneurs, we bring added value to all of our roles. She’s exploring this idea alongside some very rich topics. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Listen in to Episode 2 to hear each of our stories of rising up and starting our own businesses while also having young kids. Parrish and I share what creativity and self-care mean to us, and we even share our own Mama Advantages.  I dive into my views on the role of creativity and the value of self care in my life; and I enjoyed hearing the other women’s views as well.

I’d love for you to give it a listen and let me know what you think!

Click here to listen to the podcast. 

Thoughts on self-care & why I eat standing up

Thoughts on self-care & why I eat standing up

Thoughts on self-care & why I eat standing up

Some days it feels like the needs of my children are incessant. From the moment my eyelids open into the 5am darkness to the moment their little bodies succumb to sleep, they NEED.

They need love, snuggles, attention, comfort, and reassurance. They also need pancakes cut up just so, a cup of juice -no, I SAID WATER!, poopy bottoms wiped and then balanced on the “big” potty. They need latex gloves put on both hands and fire truck ladders extended. They need me to listen and offer feedback. They need me to basically bear witness and be available to assist them every second we’re together.

Which, in some ways is totally fine. That’s parenting, and meeting their needs is my job.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times where I hide in the bathroom pretending to poop for 10 minutes so I can take an Instagram break. Or that I don’t join them at the table because the second my ass hits the chair someone needs me to get something or wants out of their chair.

Occasionally, on the really tough days, I sit them at the table facing the tv while they eat.

I eat standing up in the kitchen, in plain view but far enough away to not trigger the Need button. I hunch over the plate scooping forkfuls of leftovers into my mouth while scrolling through Facebook, eager to accept my Mother of the Year award.  But I am okay with it, because on some days, this is one of the only peaceful moments I get. Some days, this is what self-care looks like for me.

Motherhood is made up of these messy moments, times where we’re doing the best we can. And as much as my kids need of me, I need me too.

What does self-care even mean, anyway?!

To me, self-care means practicing self-love. It means connecting with my self in a space that is free of outside distractions, and treating myself super well.

When I say self-care, I’m not talking about a full on day at the spa (although that would be amazing!).  I’m talking about finding small pockets of time to be alone with yourself and your thoughts. Time to focus on the habits that bring you a feeling of calm, healthfulness, and strength.  Sometimes that looks like eating standing up while your kids watch tv so you can catch your breath.

I can hear some of you thinking:

“That’s all well and good, but isn’t that a little selfish?”

“Self-care is totally indulgent.”

“Easy for you to say!”

“I don’t deserve it.”

Whew.  I hear you. In fact, I’ve said all of those things to myself!  But I would never ever say them to a friend. So, why are we so judgmental with ourselves?  Why don’t we deserve to treat ourselves well?

Listen to me when I say this: You cannot afford not to practice self-care.

Still not sure?  What if you replaced the word “self” with “health”?

Health-care isn’t selfish or indulgent or unnecessary.

This subtle shift in perspective really opened my mind to possibilities. Because healthcare isn’t selfish, it’s necessary!  I have to take care of myself to be around for my family and my business.

If you thought of self-care as a form of health care, what would it look like for you?


Over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing a bit of my journey back to me. I’ll be exploring heath, self-care, parenting and making changes in my business.

I hope you’ll join me and share some of your thoughts along the way. Thank you for being here.