Thankful for Motherhood

Mother’s Day is an annual opportunity for me to reflect on all the ways I appreciate my mother: her kindness, support, and consistency have been a life-long blessing, and I’m so thankful for her. It’s also an opportunity for me to check-in with myself as a mother: how am I showing-up for my children, what’s working and what isn’t, and am I pleased with the decisions I’m making on behalf of myself and my children?

*I started writing this on Mother’s Day, and then life sent me down a few twists and turns, a cultural revolution began, and I celebrated my birthday. Now I’m back to writing and feel these thoughts are relevant even if Mother’s Day was a month ago.

As the oldest in the my family, I remember feeling like my little brother, the youngest by 6 years, had such an easy childhood in comparison to mine. My parents had very strict rules for me that didn’t seem to exist by the time he was a similar age, and it felt so unfair. Now that I’m a mother of three (parenting an age span between teenager and preschooler), I see first-hand that maturity and insight change parenting, the unique differences in each child’s personality requires me to show-up differently in their lives (respond, educate, set boundaries, discipline, etc.), and life circumstances and support systems have a direct influence on priorities and decision-making. I simply can’t parent my youngest like I parented my first born at the same age; they are different people, and truthfully, I’m a completely different person. While this may seem so obvious, I find that writing and discussing topics like this can help to identify areas of over-complication, mom-guilt, and self-sabotage. Sometimes we just need to say something out-loud to realize that our thoughts, feelings, perception, or actions don’t make sense.

I’m a high achiever, always self evaluating because I want the best for my children, and I also want to set a great example for them. It’s easy as a mother to doubt, second-guess, over worry, and compare until every decision either feels wrong or overwhelming. I’ve thought a thousand times “why is this so hard?” or “you’d think I would know what I’m doing by the third time” or “I didn’t see this coming”. As I truly consider and evaluate the unique preferences, learning style, attitude, and personality of my three children, I not only gain insight into each of them and their needs, I also see areas where I could adjust my approach, parenting style, and expectations to better help them navigate life. Like a coach, I want each of my “players” to be the best version of themselves, not identical to one another, because the success of the “team” is reliant on each individual having different strengths and developing their unique talents and skillsets. Sometimes rules and structure smother creativity and growth. I’d like to shift my mindset so that every time something is difficult I first think “what does my child need right now to feel safe, understood, and like an individual?”, and I believe that this will bring me to a new level of patience and caring, especially in moments of frustration.

With this heightened perspective on parenting, a shift in attitude and new goals outlined, I’m able to recognize that my parents were simply showing-up for my brother differently because it’s natural to parent your baby differently than your first born, and with this knowledge I’ll rewrite my immature interpretation of my own childhood, which naturally heals some lingering hurt, and give myself more grace in the areas where I’ve unfairly applied my childhood misconceptions to my approach as a parent.

Epiphanies like this are worthy of celebration, because anytime we can recognize how we’re allowing a feeling, interpretation, idea, or opinion from the past to complicate, misinform, or poorly shape our future, that’s huge! Like pat yourself on the back, jump up and down, scream from a mountain-top, and tell your bestie, HUGE!

Now whenever we learn something about ourselves, that doesn’t necessary solve the problem or open the door and answer the question… knowing and changing are completely different. We can be incredibly wise on behalf of ourselves and others while living in contradiction, so self-evaluation and realization comes with a choice, and I’m a “get back on the horse”, “bite the bullet”, “no pain, no gain” kind-of person, so whenever I’m faced with the choice, I’ll dig-in and transform. In the context of parenting, this has required me to face some “shoulds” that have been influential to my mindset, attitude, and decision-making as a mother that are appropriate to modify.

  • First, the family rules, morals, and culture can be the same for everyone while the approach or method for applying or following them can be individualized based on personality.
  • Second, my family can be whole without a husband. I am strong enough to navigate everything on my own, I am independent and capable, and I’m built for the life I’m living. My journey has always prepared me for the next chapter, and while I want to share my life with someone, I’m not broken, half a person, or lessor because I’m single.
  • Third, I can parent my children according to my beliefs, structure, and family culture without the permission or approval of my closest friends and family, and that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect and love them, or that I don’t appreciate their insight. Sometimes we need to hear how someone else would approach sometime to discover our path.
  • Fourth, when everything feels like it’s upside down, that doesn’t mean I’m failing myself or my children. It’s ok for things to be difficult at times, and since I know growth happens when we’re under pressure, I want to lean-in when there’s tension instead of resisting or resenting it.

I’m so thankful for my children, and I love being their mother. Sometimes it’s a beautiful, lighthearted experience that matches all my youthful expectations of motherhood, and sometimes it’s hard-as-hell. The time between euphoria and darkness is the majority of our life together, and I recognize that’s an incredible blessing. My little humans are great people; funny, creative, spirited, inquisitive, and as different and they are similar to one another. I’m in their lives to guide, protect, and provide opportunity for them to discover themselves, with the hope they are prepared to navigate life on their own someday. Parenting is such a powerful, complex, beautiful, heartbreaking experience, and I am who I am because I’m a mom. For all the ways I can always grow and improve, I’m proud of myself for how I show-up, love, and care-for my children. I’m proud of who I am, and so thankful that I’m a mom.

Non-Racist or Anti-Racist?

I moved to AZ from MT when Olivia was 3 years old. We’d been in our new home maybe a week when Olivia asked a black woman “what color are you?”. I felt so embarrassed; truly mortified and apologetic, wishing my outgoing, chatty daughter would just keep her mouth shut! But I’m thankful everyday for that encounter because it opened the door for powerful and necessary conversations with my little girl, and gave me the ability to educate from a real-life experience instead of just books and tv (we came from a tiny town with minimal diversity). I’m also very thankful that the woman she questioned took the time to kneel down and kindly talk with Olivia about skin color, hold her hand, and show her love.

I’ve said many times over the years that I’m so happy to be raising my kids in a large, diverse city, and that remains true. But it’s also true that me and my family aren’t faced with the daily injustices of racism. I’m aware of inequality and always feel compassion for the suffering of others, my heart hurts and I’m often shocked at our lack of cultural progress, I’m discouraged by the way humans treat other humans, and I believe we have unfair systems in place that perpetuate inequality. I briefly dated a black man and experienced first-hand the judgments that go with a mixed-race relationship, and witnessed his purposeful caution whenever we were in public to ensure the comfort of others and prevent unnecessary attention or concern. It was a foreign experience for me, and I quickly learned ugly truths about culture, society, and humanity. As a woman I’ve often felt unsafe, recognize that I’m an easy target for abuse because I’m small and female, and I’m always extremely aware of my surroundings (alone and with my children), but I’ve never had to consider the way I was created as offensive to others, or that my race is the sole reason for being poorly treated, unfairly judged, and falsely accused. I’ve never had to fear for my life because of my skin color.

With this knowledge, I’ve continued living my life without considering that this injustice is also my fight. Sometimes we don’t know what questions to ask, and sometimes we get so caught-up in our own journey and struggles in life that we become tunnel visioned. It’s also easy to think that being a good person and knowing you aren’t racist is enough. I’ve lived with peace-of-mind knowing that I’m not adding to the problem, a heavy heart whenever tragedy strikes, and I proactively educate my children on equality, love for everyone, compassion, and not making judgments or forming opinions about people based on appearance, race, or religion. But the truth is, I have a grandmother who is racist, and I’ve chosen to “keep the peace” within that relationship instead of standing up for what I know is right, and all the recent events have opened my eyes and heart to the damaging, negative, and powerful effects of silence and tolerance.

I’m one to internalize, pray, study, watch, listen, and have deep conversations over public protesting, and I’m often uncomfortable with controversy and politics. Writing this is outside of my comfort zone, and that’s a major reason why I chose to explore my thoughts and share them. While I don’t want to say something wrong and I definitely don’t want to offend anyone, I feel compelled to be part of the solution instead of just sitting on the sideline. What that looks like for me right now is a deep-dive into racism (reading, watching and listening), and educating myself on the best ways to educate my children. Until now I hadn’t taken the time to thoughtfully consider the privilege I experience because my skin is white, and I can clearly see how ignorance and silence are a massive part of this systemic problem.

I believe that if everyone was more compassionate and educated, mankind would naturally be more loving, and the world would be a more humane. What we need is more anti-racists, because when we’re against something we talk about it, we believe in it, and we’re passionate about our reasons for opposition. A non-racists can sit quietly and not feel that the issues are personal. When we don’t identify with something (we’re “non”), we can live in a neutral, potentially indifferent position. Since the issue here is racism, we’re talking about an entire population of people under attack, living a more difficult life simply because of the color of their skin, and this calls for change! It’s time for more human kindness, complete and total equality, and broken systems turned upside down. There’s simply no room for neutral when our neighbors are suffering! If everyone felt passion for this injustice, change would automatically come because there wouldn’t be another option.

I support law enforcement and believe our first responders are under extreme scrutiny right now because of the failings of a small percentage of police officers. No government, business, process or system is perfect, and people are imperfect; we fail, get defeated and hurt, stand up and try again, recover, rebuild, support and love one another, heal, and win. True change, from personal to cultural, is often motivated by a hardship. When I consider the human experience, it’s truly amazing what we can accomplish, overcome, and recover from when we choose to get up after falling down. I absolutely don’t support abuse-of-power or the killing of innocent people, and I also believe every individual has a choice when they’re face-to-face with authority (no matter your skin color). I support freedom of speech, but I don’t support violence as a response to violence. I pray that this stand for Black American’s opens doors for true, lasting freedom and equality, that it not only highlights areas in our local communities and governments where we can improve, but that we see proactive action taken to improve the lives of all American’s, and above all, I hope this reformation creates more genuine love, kindness, and acceptance throughout all of humanity!

Creating Balance with Routine & Self Care

I used to have a commute to-and-from work and a lunch break by myself four days a week; it was my time to daydream, walk, listen to music, pray, make plans, decompress and compartmentalize. I used to have Monday’s to myself while the kids were in school; it was my time for long hikes, writing, and content creation for social media inspiration.  Most of my writing ideas and personal breakthroughs happen when I have space and time to think.  I am reliant on my alone time to refuel, and know that I’m a better mother and friend when I’m taking care of myself.  

Quarantine eliminated all of the balance in my routine, and for maybe the first month of working from home, constantly sharing space with my kids, and increased responsibilities (cooking, cleaning, and activities to help manage boredom, conflict, and screen-time), I felt so overwhelmed and stretched thin, with a constant pressure to be in multiple places at once (physically, mentally, and emotionally). I’ve spent a lot of time in counseling and reading self-improvement books, and like to think that I’m decently self-aware (although it took me a while to recognize why I experiencing so much stress and see that I was starting to create some self-destructive patterns), so when I identified my never-ending state of exhaustion and a heavy sense of loss, I spent some time considering the things I’d “lost” and quickly discovered that by creating a new routine I could structure my work-from-home life to create the balance I desperately need.

I want to show-up for myself, my family, and my work with enthusiasm, passion, creativity, and a light heart, and that’s impossible when I spend everyday depleting myself without refilling myself.  I’ve been following my new routine for a few weeks now, communicate with my children when I’m available and when I’m not, and so far it’s working!  Everyday, I walk around my neighborhood in the morning before cooking breakfast (or go for a very early hike), I listen to music and dance around the kitchen while cooking, and then I go to my “office” a few minutes early with my tea, write my daily gratitude, take some deep breaths, and mentally shift into my work brain.  Every hour I take a 3-5 minute to walk around the house and check-in with each of my kids, and stretch. Mini yoga sessions are a new favorite work-day escape.  Lunch is family time, and I look forward to “leaving work” to spend time with my kids. A couple times a week we get take-out as an excuse to get in the car as a family (most of the time everyone but me is barefoot and missing necessary articles of clothing for public decency, making it extra exciting for the little ones).  After work, I go for a quick walk or spend a little time in my bedroom to shift my brain from work-mode back to my personal life.  Dinner is a loud, busy, high-energy time of day, the kids are eager for my attention and pull me in multiple directions, and it takes a purposeful decision to be in the moment and match their energy when every day feels like it’s been a week-long.  After dinner, when the kids are playing and/or watching tv, I put on my running shoes (even when I don’t feel like it).  Sometimes I listen to club music from the early 2000’s and run fast, and sometimes I listen to country music and speed walk while finding cool things to take pictures of.  Either way, I separate myself from all my “to-do’s” and “shoulds” for a little while to spend time with myself and refuel. When my energy is really low, I have some silly habits to get myself in the mood (like fake laughing until it becomes real, jumping up and down, spinning in circles with my arms outstretched, and lip singing to the music in my headphones). . . I’m sure I look crazy, and I’m ok with that!

I wouldn’t choose many aspects of this quarantine life, but prioritizing self-care and making the most out of these circumstances has created a lifestyle I’m thankful for, peace in the face of uncertainty, and growth and adaptability I’m confident will have life-long value.

How do you self-care? Please share so we can learn from each other!

Here are some photos from my recent walking and hiking adventures:

“A” Mountain, Downtown Tempe, Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ

We Learn to Fly by Falling

I want everyone to love themselves, to be the most authentic, true, honest version of themselves, and to experience life with heart, passion, enthusiasm, drive, and appreciation. I lived for years trapped in a shell of fear, self-protection, insecurity, and sadness, believing the entire time that I’d simply become an adult and life was harder than I’d expected. I tried living as I thought I should, I tried fitting into the picture I’d created as a child, and I tried pretending I was happy when I wasn’t. I didn’t know when my life crumbled to pieces that it was my moment of liberation. . . it took a while to see beyond the anger and pain, but I think it’s truly amazing that we can learn to fly by falling. When our eyes are opened to truths we refused to see and we give our heart permission to move on and heal, we begin to transform. Everyday is a new beginning, and every ending is the start of something new. Maybe we need the heartache, disappointment, and loss to help us appreciate the real heart of living – the things that truly matter? Life is a combination of highs and lows, and when we stop resisting the lows or expecting life to be an easy, flat road, the sooner we’ll get to a place of peace, gratitude, and true appreciation for the human experience. Life is lived in the heartbeats between birth and death; we don’t know the number of our days, so let’s embrace the journey!

There isn’t a secret to being happy or a quick fix to a broken heart. I believe that willingness to change and quickly forgiving are necessary for recovery and ongoing happiness, and I also believe we can distract ourselves for long enough that we believe we’ve healed without fixing anything, which sadly takes our hurt into the next chapter of life. There is a difference between internalizing and releasing pain, and that isn’t something I recognized for a long time. I took every difficult experience as a sign that my tough exterior was too soft, and my loving heart was too kind. In the process of building walls on top of walls, I buried hurt on top of hurt, and believed life would be better “next time” because I was “smarter and stronger”. This did nothing but set me up to repeat the past over and over.

In our own unique ways, I believe we all have a “coming to Jesus” moment with ourselves; an experience or breakthrough where “enough is enough” and we’re ready and willing to end the cycle of disfunction. I often wish that life was like a movie, and my breakthroughs were an inspirational montage set to an awesome soundtrack. Instead, my most transformative turning-point related to heart healing took place in my bedroom while listening to a song about forgiveness on repeat, with hot tears streaming down my face, I fell to my knees and embraced my brokenness. I experienced the deepest sense of self-compassion for the hurt I was holding onto and the wounds I’d been able to heal, I mourned my loss and heartache, acknowledged all the fears that were haunting me, and rocking back-and-forth with my arms wrapped around myself, I felt peace in a way I’d never known. My children were on the other side of the door, and as quickly as the moment came, it was replaced with the need to care for my family, but in that experience I was forever changed because I finally stopped caring about what had happened to me, or the people who had wronged me, or what other thought about me, and simply loved myself, embraced the pain instead of fighting against it, forgave myself for everything I’d done or chosen that resulted in my brokenness, and I started positively talking to myself. Instead of saying “what’s wrong with you” and “why did this happen to me” and “your dreams will never come true”, I said “you are enough” and “I was created to shine” and “I am worthy of happiness, kindness, and love”.

I’m a survivor of cheating, physical and emotional abuse, religious hypocrisy, miscarriage, divorce, slander and deception, and financial loss. These are truths about my past, they are experiences that have taught me and shaped me, but they aren’t my headlines. They don’t define me. I am light hearted, have faith in God and others, hope for a life-long love, and a peaceful spirit. I experience joy every day, and appreciate the life I’m living with happiness and freedom. I don’t fear heartbreak or hold myself back from trusting and loving others, because I have faith that when dark days and heavy experiences come, I am equipped to navigate the difficulty, learn from it, and come out the other side a better, happier version of myself. My past and my healing journey have taught me that I’m strong enough for the life I’m living, and when I need to rise-up, fight for myself or my family, or start over in some way, I am capable. I refuse to hold myself back from the experiences in life that could result in loss or hurt, because I believe there’s more light in the world than darkness, and I wouldn’t just be protecting myself from pain, I’d be missing out on happiness, and limiting my own growth and potential.

My biggest hope in sharing my story is that you are inspired to be courageous in your own life, to walk away from dysfunction, to be true to your authentic self, and to ignite the fire burning deep inside you. It’s easy to become a shell of ourselves and not even recognize how lost, bitter, sad, untrusting, or broken we’re living, but we make decisions everyday based on how we view ourselves and the world around us. Unhappiness will create more unhappiness, and positivity will create more positivity. The choice is yours. The world needs more honesty, passion, love, and kindness, and I believe the purest emotions and actions come to life and become our reality when we release our hurt, let down our guard, and allow our uniqueness to shine. So marinade in the happy, sweet, calm, joyous moments in life; run from the people who use and abuse you; walk away from the experiences that steal your peace; and forgive quickly and freely (even when undeserved). Our human experience will include beauty and heartbreak, but we have more influence over how our experiences shape us than we give ourselves credit for.

Every day I choose happiness and live with gratitude because I have another opportunity to enjoy my family, challenge my mind and body, work, create, laugh, experience more of the world that I live in, and connect with the people I love. On great days and tough days alike, I go to bed thankful for the moments that brought me joy and the moments that taught me something new.

Positively Changed by Isolation

I am forgiving toward others, understanding of others, patient with others, and appreciative of diversity and uniqueness within humanity, my friends, and my family. . . yet I am relentless with myself. I set very high expectations and demand a level of greatness from myself that I wouldn’t expect from others. I know it’s unhealthy and creates unnecessary stress, and it’s something I’m consciously aware of on a daily basis. This mindset and approach to living was born out of dark and abusive times – a way of rising above and trying to gain control in an uncontrollable situation. I know the “when” and the “why”, and I also know it isn’t necessary anymore. I’m free of the abuse and unhappiness, but there are some lingering side effects and negative habits I’m still working to release. I literally feel guilty for relaxing, feel like I’m letting my children down if I feed them something simple (or god forbid, unhealthy), and I regularly go to bed disappointed in myself for all the things I didn’t accomplish and the goals that are still unrealized, while also feeling guilt for being so hard on myself.

I’ve been trapped in this dysfunctional status for years without recognizing that there was even a problem, believing that part of healing, learning, growing, and starting over was to be brutally honest with myself. I’ve been a self-help junky, practiced meditation and yoga, created healthy fitness and eating habits which have resulted in weight-loss and toning, I’ve created a new culture in my home with improved parenting and communication, I’ve deepened friendships and live with a very present, thoughtful awareness for everything I’m thankful for, and most of the time I feel very positive and hopeful about life, my goals, and my future. Yet I still suffer from disappointment, and punish myself for not being good enough. So it’s easy to say that I’m in constant contradiction with myself.

Then the world suddenly changed. Self-quarantine. . . social distancing. . . stay-at-home orders. . . whatever you want to call it, I’ve been home with my children since spring break started at the beginning of March. I work full time from home, two of my three kids are homeschooling, we eat, play, relax, fight, sing, dance, and cry together. . . everything happens inside our home, together 24/7. This season of change and challenge has brought to the surface all my weaknesses, fears, insecurities, loneliness, hopes, dreams, and goals. I’m in a bootcamp with my mind, body, spirit, willpower, parenting, patience, and energy. My desire to be self-reliant and do everything 110% has officially been tested and broken. Without the distractions of a fun office environment and a social life, I’ve had plenty of time to sit in silence with myself, and wow, I’m learning a lot! Maybe the biggest blessing in all of this has been improved self-talk; true kindness and love for myself, and an overall sense of peace in the middle of chaos. For the first time in many years, I go to bed feeling a sense of accomplishment (even though my house is a mess and there’s always something left undone), I’m finding ways to relax and give myself a break from responsibility (without feeling guilty), and I’ve let go of self-imposed expectations that were creating stress (without feeling like a quitter). In this season of isolation I set myself free from the “musts” and “shoulds”, and without knowing the outcome I created a new version of myself; a woman who is more hopeful, happy, lighthearted, and capable of living without guilt and regret. I believe peace is found through living in the moment, focusing on gratitude, doing your best, and showing yourself the deepest kindness and love.

Quarantine (the stresses of isolation and the excess of time alone), forced me to dig deeper into my hurt, nature, and expectations for life, family, and love. My willingness to pay attention, really own the negative ways I was treating myself, and feel all the feelings, ultimately allowed me break a dysfunctional mindset I’ve been battling for years. And let me tell you, it was painful, sad, and so hard to let go of ideals and habits created for self-protection. I’ve seen amazing things come out of dark times over and over again in my life, and this is another example of a lovely transformation motivated by uncertainty and hardship. I am thankful and excited to move forward as a healthier version of myself!

Dreaming of Adventure

I love traveling, and have since I was a child. My parents made road trips exciting with little stops along the way and games to get us looking out the window, camping was always adventurous, and selecting a local restaurant over the highway hotspots would take us into the heart of new places. I’ve definitely been discovering and experiencing the world for it’s artistic potential since I was very young. . . long before I started carrying a camera with me everywhere I go. It’s as if my brain frames the scene from the moment I notice something interesting. I appreciate light and texture, old and new, majestic and barren; and I get lost in the moment of discovery. When I’m taking pictures everything else fades away, and I’m on an adventure to capture and create something special. In that moment I’m fearless, lighthearted, and free. The world around us is truly magical when you’re paying attention!

I’m daydreaming of adventure and travel right now. My heart was created for exploration, and I love experiencing the energy, heartbeat, and pace that makes every destination unique. From the mountains and beaches to little towns and big cities, they all have a special power over my imagination and appreciation for life! Because of the current “social distancing” orders, I’ve become VERY familiar with my small neighborhood and nearby hiking trails. I’m thankful for the moments when I’m able to leave the house, and also recognize a growing desire to see something new, feel a different energy, and experience the imagination and enthusiasm I feel when exploring a new area.

When social restrictions are lifted, I’m going on vacation! In the mean time, I’ve started compiling a list of local adventures that honor social distancing, and plan to go out with my camera more often to enjoy my art while creating opportunities for adventure and excitement. This restless heart just needed a new perspective!

What is it that your heart is urning for? Is there a creative, outside-of-the-box way to add it to your life? When everything changes and it’s outside of our control, life can feel heavy, unfair, and overwhelming. I encourage you to listen to your thoughts, feel your feelings, and take special care of yourself right now! Do something to honor, love, and care for yourself – either something you’ve always done and let slip because of this pandemic, or maybe something you’ve wanted to try or learn but haven’t prioritized yet. The other side of this situation is coming, and I think it would be wonderful if we all got through this feeling excited about the future and proud of how we handled this crisis. So I invite you to join me on a journey of discovery. Will you identify something that will ignite your imagination, create enthusiasm in this particularly unique season of life, and find a way to add it into your daily routine? Together we can create a sense of pride and accomplishment in ourselves that I’m confident will act as momentum to drive us into the next season of change with a stronger sense of self love and self awareness. A new normal is right around the corner; let’s make it amazing!

I Am Capable

The other day my children were sitting on our back patio while I cut-down what felt like a forest of weeds that had taken over my entire back-yard. This involved using an electric trimmer for the first time, and with admiration my youngest told me I was POWERFUL! I felt like such a badass! I’m proud of myself for being the super-woman of my own life, and for setting a great example for my children. They know what hard work, responsibility, organization, dedication, and positivity through the highs and lows of life looks like, and also that their mom is capable of doing all things. I’ve built a life for myself that I can handle independently, and I’m proud of myself.

Most of the time I feel very strong, light hearted, and at peace. Everything is right where it’s supposed to be. I have a happy and rewarding life that’s centered around my wonderful family, and I live with intention, gratitude, and love. When I sit back and honestly evaluate who I am, where I’m at, and what I have, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. So when my restless spirit and deepest desires surface, I often question my own feelings. . . who am I to want more or feel dissatisfied when I’m already so blessed?

But the truth is that I was created for partnership, companionship, and love. At my core, and likely because of my parent’s example of a happy marriage and the positive family that I was raised in, I want more. While I’m capable of living life independently, and happy in my daily existence, I still hope that my journey will include a wonderful partner.

When I was younger I “needed” a relationship. My identity and worth were contingent on being married. So when marriage disappointed all my hopes and dreams, and eventually failed, I didn’t know how to view myself as anything other than broken, worthless, embarrassed, and lost. Who would want a single mom with three kids? It’s almost funny now to think of those days… and those fears… and the torture I unnecessarily put myself through. The truth is that I’m so thankful for the brokenness and failures because of how much I learned about myself, and because of the person I’ve become in the process of healing. Without the good and bad, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I like who I am. So I no longer view my past as baggage to regret or be embarrassed about, but my god, getting to a place of acceptance and peace with my disappointments in life is a massive accomplishment!

We’re all a work-in-progress, and while I don’t believe we’re ever “ready” for the biggest or most meaningful experiences in life (like having children or falling in love), I’m living in a wonderful, peaceful, and rewarding place with myself (and children) right now. I have faith that when it’s time to open my heart to love again, being self-aware and self-loving will allow me to experience companionship with equality instead of insecurity, and that’s exciting to envision and anticipate. With or without a relationship, I am capable, worthy, and enough.

Parenting According to Love Language

I was talking with a friend about The 5 Love Languages and suggested to her that there’s value in knowing the love language of our children, friends, and family, not just a significant other. It was a fun back-and-forth that got deep fast, which is my favorite type of conversation.

Being a parent is a life-long study in love, forgiveness, and adaptation; a journey I approach with the mindset of a student, the patience of a nun, and the strength of a lioness. It takes serious willpower to be a great parent, and I believe there’s a difference between having kids and raising them. My goal is to raise my three wonderful children into authentic, genuine, self-sufficient adults, and I know that doesn’t just happen by getting older. They need my positive and consistent example, to feel accepted as unique individuals, to be understood, and to be guided.

What I discovered after years of frustration, is that I had to approach situations from different angles until I found the thing that worked. This may seem so simple, but I know I’m not alone here. In all areas of life we often do the same things over and over, wishing, hoping, or even expecting a different outcome. It’s also natural to deliver love according to your own Love Language, instead of the way your loved-ones are designed to receive love. Just like a teacher can’t deliver a lesson from a single perspective to 20 students, my natural approach or thought-process can’t communicate to all three of my children in the ways they need to feel love or be disciplined. They have different personalities, different spirits, and what drives them is unique. Once I adopted this mindset (or self study) and discovered HOW they are wired, I was able to customize my parenting style for each of them.

Here are some truths about my children that help me parent them in ways that match who they are and how they function:

  • Olivia is very sensitive to words and tone, she is literal, independent, creative, kind-hearted, and stubborn. She requires structure, and is wise beyond her years to the mood and energy of others. Words of Affirmation is definitely her #1 Love Language, followed by Quality Time and Physical Touch. Her sensitive soul needs to hear often that I’m thankful for her, proud of her, or happy when she’s helpful. Without regular praise she gets overwhelmed by negative feedback and allows it to define her. She tends to isolate herself but loves deep conversation, laughter, and being social.
  • Miles is creative, independent, quiet, and a little shy. He desires praise but is awkward when receiving compliments and affection. He’s very black & white in his approach to everything, with a self-imposed expectation boarding on perfectionism. Words of Affirmation is definitely his #1 Love Language, like his older sister, followed by Quality Time. Because he loves being alone, getting sent to his room wouldn’t be a punishment, so timeouts have to be in a public place of the house. He’s so sensitive and such a rule-follower that he doesn’t get in trouble very often, although picking on his little brother is his biggest weakness. He acts like he doesn’t like hugs and kisses, but clearly appreciates my efforts to break-through his little shell.
  • Pierce is my wild-child. He’s social, a peacekeeper, extraverted, demands time and attention, wears his emotions on his sleeve, and is a lover. He doesn’t want to do anything “lonely” so independent play is very hard for him, and a timeout in his room is a serious punishment. He doesn’t care about rules like his sister and brother, and is quick to admit a wrong-doing without fear of the consequence… almost like he believes he can live outside of the rules. Quality Time is definitely his #1 Love Language, likely tied with Physical Touch, and closely followed by Words of Affirmation. Pierce acts like the end of each day arrives hours too soon and that bedtime is somehow robbing him of “enough” time to play and snuggle.

We have a set of rules in our home that applies to everyone, but the way I spend time, show love, teach, and enforce rules is unique for each child. While this may seem like a lot of work, it’s actually freeing. Before I considered WHO each of my children are as individuals, there were more issues and unnecessary escalations, because I was parenting according to my way of reasoning and communication alone. I think it’s import to note that making this shift after years of parenting one way took deliberate effort, and for my daughter who’s dramatically older than her brothers, there was a season of transition and sometimes a feeling that things weren’t “fair”. We work through these growing-pains of change when they arise, and I know if this is something you adopt, it’ll become your new normal very quickly!

This shift in mindset and approach feels like a celebration of the special differences in each individual that creates our family, and a more thoughtful way of raising my children. I hope to empower them to more closely know who they are, and to also learn from a young age how to communicate and treat others who think, act, and respond differently. Their emotional intelligence and character will shape their futures, and I pray that my roll in their lives has enough positive impact to counterbalance the negativity and hardships they’ll naturally face.

Rising Out of the Ashes

I used to be very critical of myself, thinking things like “you failed” or “you’re not good enough”. Combine these crushing thoughts with body-shaming and a declining relationship, and it’s easy to say that I was a disaster. During that downward spiral in my life, I was desperate to be happy. . . even obsessed with the idea. I grew up believing in love and “happily ever after”, and assumed that my life would naturally include a wonderful relationship, fulfilling work, great friends, and the joy of raising children when I was “grown up”. Finding myself in a life unlike anything I’d ever hoped for was heartbreaking. I tried to plan happiness, feel happy despite the circumstances, and even attempted to control situations or outcomes to create happiness. But no matter how hard I tried, I was left wanting. Obviously all of this was very toxic, but when you’re lost in unhappiness there often isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, or enough hope to see a way out.

I am thankful for the opportunity to experience life after such extreme unhappiness; thanks to this second chance, I appreciate and love and dream and hope more fully than ever before. But that didn’t come over night, and I learned that “time doesn’t heal all wounds” like people say. I discovered as days turned into months that it’s far too easy (and maybe even natural) to be defined by your circumstance and hurt, and to let it create truths about yourself and life that aren’t actually real. The fear of the past repeating itself was so powerful that I didn’t believe positive feelings or thoughts of happiness. For a while I simply survived, viewing myself as broken. It took a long time to start trusting myself, and to listen to my heart over the opinion of others. While I was motivated to create a new normal for myself and children, it was overwhelming to think of life as anything beyond functional.

Just like cancer requires a treatment plan, recovering from hurt and loss requires an action-plan. I discovered that as long as I was focusing on the hardships of my life and allowing anger to live in my heart, I was stuck. For me, the things necessary to start healing were:

  • acceptance
  • self-awareness
  • forgiveness

I needed to embrace my new life, acknowledge the situation for everything that was out of my control and for everything that I contributed, and then forgive MYSELF. I stood in front of the mirror, looking myself in the eyes, and said “I forgive you” over and over as hot tears burned my cheeks, and realized in that moment that I blamed myself for things I had no control over. I was torturing myself over a situation I couldn’t changed, and as a result I wasn’t actually living.

I also forgave my ex-husband. He’s the father of my sweet boys and I’m so thankful for them. I spent nearly a decade with him, and there are memories worth remembering. I learned very valuable things about myself in the decline of our relationship, and I’m very thankful for the ways that recovering from our divorce changed me. A mentor of mine related my transformation to the “refiners fire” and a “phoenix rising from the ashes”. I have been blessed beyond measure by losing my past life, because I was willing to embrace my recovery journey.

With a heart ready to hope, dream, try and grow, I started reading and listening to stories of women who transformed their lives. Each was an example of challenges overcome, a passion for more, and a will to change… and with a similar fire burning inside of me, I took bits and pieces of each inspiring example and adopted them. I truly felt called to do something wonderful with my second chance in life, so I set goals, created a goal-tracker, celebrated my little wins, and learned to not second-guess my commitment to an action whenever I missed a day. I started with this set of challenges:

  1. daily walking
  2. drinking extra water
  3. daily gratitude
  4. giving-up an unhealthy item (soda)
  5. dedicated me time

My life was forever changed! In the process of doing simple actions day after day, for myself and because I wanted to, I created and achieved bigger goals (like starting this blog and running a 5k). The way I show up in life and believe in myself is unlike anything I could have imagined a few years ago. I was worried about taking time away from my children (mom guilt is a real and ever present battle) but quickly discovered greater energy and drive for creating memories and enjoying life with my family. I’m confident now that life will continue to improve and grow in unrealized and exciting ways, because I’m mindful and live with intention. Throughout this multi-year journey I fell in love with myself and my life. I’m happy, and I don’t need to think about it, or worry about it, or wish for it. I’m simply happy.

This is my current set of daily/weekly goals:

As you can see, some items have been missed. When I first started tracking my goals it was devastating to me when I missed a day, and I would immediately question the value or need for the action in my life, thinking “maybe I’m too busy?” or “maybe it doesn’t have that much worth after all?”, because no matter how well I did going forward, it would never be perfect. I believe the difference between those who hope and dream without ever realizing their potential, and those who exceed expectations over and over again, is their perspective on the “day after perfect”. There are two choices: you either choose to keep going or find a reason to give up.

I recently experienced the ending of another relationship, and the loss hit me hard. First of all, dating as a single parent is an investment of precious time and energy, and a huge leap of faith. I gave my all with hope that better communication, boundaries, openness, and honesty would mean success, and in many ways I was right. I opened my heart, learned more about myself, and was courageous to try dating again. Ending the relationship was a loss, but not a failure, and that distinction is important. This experience healed past hurts, and left me with more hope than sadness. Everything I experience is part of this wonderful, complicated, unpredictable journey I’m on, and my heart is better for the love that was temporarily shared.

We all have hopes and dreams, and we all have past experiences that will either hold us back or function as motivation to launch us into action. It’s your choice, and I wish on your behalf that you let your guard down and believe in your potential.

You are worthy of experiencing your greatness!

Writing a Book

I’ve been creative writing and journaling since I was a child, and I’ve had a goal to publish my own book since college. As a young aspiring photographer, my original vision included hundreds of stunning photographs from around the world, featuring personal stories and inspiration. I dreamed of working for National Geographic, so this idea was very fitting. Through the influence of a respected professor, I realized my greatest talent in photography was portraiture, so after graduation I opened a small-town studio in Montana, and quickly discovered my talent for connecting with people… I fell in love with networking, community involvement, and being a business owner. As a byproduct of life moving in a different direction than planned, my book idea faded into the background.

My life has changed in remarkable and unexpected ways, and I’ve taken each set-back, challenge, or opportunity as an invitation to evolve. I’m a high achiever willing to take risks when I believe in the potential for growth and positive impact. My artistic passions will forever influence my professional and personal life, but over time I transformed my other interests into new talents: business management, developing professional culture, creating a unique client experience, consulting and inspiring business growth, and high-end boutique sales. Photography moved into second place when I joined the dental field, and I quickly fell in love with orthodontics.

When I was awarded a top sales person in my industry at a national level, I got the itch to write a book again. I created an outline, list of potential chapters, page after page of notes, and completed the introduction. I wanted other treatment coordinators to be as successful as me while loving their special roll in each person’s transformation, and to see private practices exceed their financial goals while providing an exceptional client experience. Then I got divorced, becoming a professionally-driven single mother of three. There are challenges, judgements, and contradictions as a single working mom that were so eye-opening to me that my focus in writing changed. I set my business book aside and started writing about my life: the hurt, hardships, motivation, habits that helped me heal, work-life balance, mom guilt, and my beautiful transformation after loss and change. I was desperate to give others like me hope, and a light at the end of their tunnel.

Then I changed my career for the third time, and allowed my busy life to get in the way of this dream. I currently have three partial books, with a powerful and ever-present desire to inspire personal and professional growth in others, and positively impact people and businesses on a global scale.

I started this blog to practice writing, and to discover my style and voice. Since I don’t know how to write a book, I’m treating this journey like a personal study, and right now Brené Brown, Rachel Hollis, and Gretchen Rubin are my top influencers. My goal is to complete a rough draft by the end of this year…. wow, just sharing that made my stomach turn-over. It’s official. I’m no longer talking about this dream, I’m taking action. This is maybe the most intimidating goal I’ve ever set for myself!

Thank you for being here with me!