beautiful, chronic illness, confession, depression, fibro, gratitude, home, journey, self care

Inception…

I love the interaction and responses that I get from my readers re: Mask Monday and their journeys of self-care. (I can honestly say it is one of my favorite things!) I decided to make today’s blog post and Mask Monday a marriage of something to address a few of those questions. Mask Monday is not something I started. Let me be very clear about that. I saw it tagged on Instagram and being educated in esthetics and very passionate about skin care, I ran with it and practice it most Mondays. Initially I thought this would be a great opportunity to practice homemade face masks, but let’s be honest, we all have lives and while I soon realized this wasn’t super realistic in my day, every week, it wouldn’t likely be practical in yours, all the time, either. I do attempt homemade DIY skin care fairly frequently, (I have shared some of those in my newsletters.) and am currently working on a few things in that realm of skin care.

Today, though Mask Monday will be a key feature in this post, what I really want to address is the self-care aspect of it. While regular skin care is important, the act of intentionally take care of yourself is far more so. A few of my regular Mask Monday followers have confessed that this is the only time they really have for themselves, each week, as they sandwich it into busy lives, motherhood, work and other chaos. My response to this is always one of encouragement, and hope that they can sandwich a few more moments throughout the week. The art of living simply is becoming ever so trendy, and yet it still seems just out of reach for many of us.

If we can manage 15 minutes most Mondays, than let’s be intentional about it. The 10-15 minutes that our mask sits, feeding our skin, is our time to nourish ourselves. No dishes, or laundry. No checking in on social media. The care of self we take, within the time frame of the self-care mask on our faces, is vital.

I am not going to tell you what to do with your time, each of our needs are different. I will encourage you not to spend them on social media or technology of any kind. Though our lives have become more dependent on these things, they are pretty much the opposite of self nurturing.

Sometimes I do a few chores, but I make sure these are things representative of why this sacred slot of time is. This morning, mask on skin, I washed my make up brushes. Sometimes I brew a pot of tea and just dwell within the process, clearing my mind. There are days I stretch, journal, pick up a novel, paint my toe nails, write a note to a friend… These things work for me and fill my internal bucket, they may look different for you. Whatever they are, be intentional, and remember to take care of yourself.

I am a big believer in whatever we do, let’s do it well. The act of nurturing ourselves should not be the exception and it seems like often it is. There are days when I am just exhausted and doing a mask feels like the only thing I can manage, and even that feels daunting. On days like that, I may spread out my yoga matt and stretch, or just lie there and try to focus on the things I am grateful for. There are days when I drink a glass of water and take my vitamins, then choose a healthy snack (usually something rich in antioxidants) and practice just being while I enjoy it. On the really great days I do a hair mask as well. (Honestly those don’t happen as much as they should.) One of my favorite Monday things is to stare at my vision board. (Don’t have a vision board? Maybe take your fifteen minutes to start working on one! A Vision board is a GREAT way to love yourself!) Listen to you. Not the voices that tell you it’s a waste of time, or to do it later. Not the voices filled with negativity. Find what your soul is telling you today TODAY. It may not be what you need next time, and that’s ok. This intentional time for you is the most important thing you can do for you, so let’s do it well.

There is a need, and though I am no expert, I have read your questions and notes and heard what lies behind many of them. I’m going to make Monday posts here more focussed on self-care. Some days this may be loosely connected and other days it may be a brief blurb. I hope they help us all, as we journey through this life.

 

chronic illness, confession, depression, family, fibro, gratitude, home, journey, Lately

Shoeboxes…

Several years ago, when we were sorting through our  attic stuff to move to Michigan, we came across the Orange shoebox. Just seeing the shoebox will cause us to give pause. Makaila, our beloved golden retriever and Genny’s childhood best friend, was diagnosed with bladder cancer. As her health deteriorated we, as a family, gave her the best week ever. The week was filled with her favorite things and foods. Our Idaho vet has a cool program where you can have your dog cremated and scattered at a local Christmas tree farm. It was beautiful and fitting. 

This shoebox has become this heavy thing which we carry through life, but cannot part with, nor would we want to. This shoebox seemed like such a solitary life weight, until last August anyway. After five years alone, we had to add another shoebox. My beautiful dog Paisley hid her cancer so well that when we realized she was sick, she had such a short amount of time left. We did not have the time to afford her best week so we settled for a really awesome best day. Both of our girls had loved peanut butter pancakes, soft serve vanilla ice cream and car rides, so we said tear-filled-smiling adventures with those.

The loss of Paisley hit me so hard and I was left with a gaping hole. Seven months later I stumbled upon a listing for a litter of puppies in southern Illinois. I’d wanted a beagle for as long as I could remember. I knew that, as I approached this new chapter of life, the companionship of a dog would really make the difference.

I fell in love with the last of these little puppies. He, my Mr. Knightley, was instantly smitten with me. He loved me almost immediately and though he wasn’t quite Paisley shaped, he was Knightley shaped and come to find out- I needed that hole filled too. It was early on that we learned his beginnings had been less than ideal. He was so young and required a lot of attention and love. The first five-week that he was mine found me with very little sleep. Most nights he snuggled into my neck and chest while I just held him tight and soaked his puppy goodness into my soul. It seemed as though my little snuggle puppy could not get close enough, and I was all too happy to comply.

As time passed it become clear that our Mr. Knightley- my Mr. Knightley– was going to have a bit of a tough time. About 5 weeks ago he had a traumatic experience with growing pains in his back left leg. The ordeal left both Gen and I pretty severely bitten and him very shaken up. We forged through it though, and fell even more in love with him. About two weeks ago it seemed the growing pains were at it again. He received a soft diagnosis of Panosteitis and an appointment to follow-up was scheduled for two this past Tuesday. We were encouraged to keep his movement limited, and just love on him and as comfortable as we could.

Tuesday did not go well. A full blood panel was done and Wednesday  morning found me sobbing on the phone, with the results. His kidneys were not working. His other organs were compromised. The kidney thing wasn’t new, they’d likely always been damaged. We were encouraged to not let any time pass, as he was suffering immensely.

My adorable little blue-tick beagle Knightley, with the black heart on his left side, did not get the luxury of a best-week-ever, or even a best day. He got to lay on my chest, breathing turned shallow over night, content to just be with me. We were at a loss with how to love him in special ways as he wasn’t eating and we’d only had three months with him, and many days within those months had been struggles. We weren’t sure what his best things ever would even be, except one… The boy loved his puppacinos. For eleven minutes of that forever-long car ride, that sweet little puppy was beside himself with joy.

His heart and body gave out as they injected the sedative, prior to euthanization. One moment he whimpered, staring into my love filled eyes, and the next he was running free and playing somewhere far more heavenly. This afternoon I gathered his tiny collar and his favorite chew toys into a shoebox. Another shoebox, another hole. An empty home and painfully empty arms. For three months and seven days I was deeply connected to this sweet little baby boy, and now I am not.

Goodbye sweet boy. 

 

beautiful, confession, creative, depression, family, friendship, gratitude, home, journey, marriage, parenting

In the moments…

I had a conversation, earlier this week, about routines.

I used to be the queen of routine. My mornings went just so. My evenings and bed times went as they should have. I fell asleep to the same thing, every night. I had a prep day, every monday, where I diced and chopped, whipped and baked. My family ate well and all of the delectable and home-made things were at their disposal. I dabbled in sewing creatively. I wrote just under 30 hours a week. I took photos, thousands of them. I preserved engagement and family photos for clients and seldom felt overwhelmed or stressed.

I am not going to lie, there was a sense of security within those predictables. I knew what was coming and when, often how. Was I happy? Sure. How could an anal, organization freak not find happiness within the confines of such a life? That life, and those impressive time management skills feel about a dozen lifetimes ago.

When we moved back to Michigan, in 2013, my routines went out the window. I tried to reestablish them, but this was a lost cause. As a wife and mother, my world was known to gravitate around the lives of my husband and kids. With my son and older daughter so far away, with my approaching high school youngest being unpredictable and struggling, and a husband whose schedule (and geographical location) changed from day-to-day, I flailed…

Prep days, for example,  quickly became moldy bread (thanks, midwest humidity) and stale cookies, (thanks, crazy schedule.),diced vegetables became uneaten bags of smelly mush. Loneliness moved in. I missed my friends, I missed my sister. I missed my nieces and nephews, but more than that, I missed my life. My marriage, my family and the way we all functioned so well within the confines of those routines. My husband often refers to the big change (which became a big change in all of us, in negative ways) with regret for taking me away from my life. What he fails to see, no matter what explain, is that it wasn’t the place that made the life, but us and our intentions.

Four years later, I am in an entirely different frame of mind and approaching an all new stage of life. (Empty nest!) There has been a lot of storms and turmoil to navigate over these four years. It has been hard. No, that’s not true, hard doesn’t crack the surface.

I am different.

I am more free than that queen of routine. Chained and shackled, then, within the perimeters of a false sense of structure and security. Anyone familiar with routine is forced to come face to face, at some point, with how easy it is to hide (and often times, disappear completely) within them.

I lack routine now, and though I love my freedom, this is a struggle I am really avoiding confronting, and it is time to change this. Now I throw together the occasional minimal prep day, simply for my ease of mind as our rental kitchen is about the size of a shoebox. We no longer eat bread or cookies, so that saves the future science project scene. I do have a fairly consistent skin care routine, so at least all hope is not lost. The personal, quiet time, though… And the writing… and the adventures in life through the lens of a camera… and the reading, even the picking up of a book… These are the areas I struggle. The solace in a cup of tea is something I’ve gravitated towards, recently. Piece by piece I am emerging from a four-year cocoon into the sunlight of a life that has possibility.

Now I simply need to learn to design the routine around where I am, who I am and what I need- and not anyone else. I ache for a life of beautiful, hand crafted moments. Today’s new routine attempt is to remember that I am the one in charge of creating those.

 

depression, journey, parenting

My red dot…

Today has already held a beautiful morning walk, two cups of rich, hazelnut coffee and a good chunk of time playing with the dogs, in the grass, while soaking in some sun. Emma found a baby turtle, which my daughter and husband are fighting tooth and nail to keep and raise as our own. (meanwhile, I am advocating to return him to his natural life)

Outside was fresh and spring-like, blossoms blowing in the breeze, swirling about us. Puppy paws and denim bottoms are slightly grass stained in that glorious way. Inside, green furry feet nap while sounds of Bach swirl about, in the air. Gen is attending a class online and I am stepping through the tasks and minutes, striving to pause and ground myself in gratitude. This isn’t always easy.

Sometimes paychecks seem smaller than we’d like, but I have to remind myself that they are exactly what we need.

Sometimes disrespect is hurled at us and we have to remember, amidst our frustration and exhaustion that there are mothers who have lost their children and this moment is but a blip on the timeline of a life.

Sometimes the puppy has an accident in the house. Sometimes you get sick and you’re exhausted and feel entirely alone. While all of these things are real, and valid, and current in this house, these are not ALL times, but sometimes. The true value is in the perspective.

Sometimes your husband buys you a bunch of flowers, with his last few dollars, because he knows you love them. Eventually they sit, sad looking, but still feet away from wherever you are because, if you are like me, they bring you such joy.  Life is made of the sometimes, both the bad ones and the good.

Life today is thin, grey curtains blowing in the breeze, the air filled with cello sounds and clean, spring smells. Today is the kettle boiling, soon to become a pot of tea. Today is as peaceful and poignant as I choose to make it, and whatever happens, I choose to make it real…

I am here.