Excellence Rewritten

There was a mushroom in my meal at a nice restaurant in San Fransisco at the beginning of my birthday weekend in wine country. The lightheaded, tired sensation which begins my reaction came quickly. I have a chronic mold allergy which is managed well unless an unforeseen exposure to fungi occurs. So annoying. Some explosives happened in the bathroom after I tried to puke up my amazing shrimp and pasta meal.

Control has become my mode to manage my illness. My life is controlled by the word “no”, no mushrooms, no black pepper, no soy protein, no dairy – anything fermented like beer, vinegar and other fun things. I have become slowly building the tolerance and enjoyment to wine. This vacation had been the dream for several years as I began to enjoy a glass here and there. I knew I would have to recover from the wine trip, but the mushroom came out of left field. No matter how careful I usually am, an exposure can still happen.

For the past twenty years or so I have told any waiter/waitress about my allergy. There is never a meal ordered where the mushrooms have to be removed. I only order meals were a mushroom would be accidentally added instead of forgotten to be removed. Those of you with allergies know what I am talking about. It had been eight years since my last exposure. There have been a few near-misses and a slight hint of something here or there. I had wondered if an exposure would be as big a deal now since I am so much healthier than I used to be. Nope, not a thing, apparently. I reacted the same as last time. What I wasn’t prepared for was my onset of anger and frustration over the exposure. It was a true accident, but what the loss of control opened my eyes to some deeper issues.

In this year’s theme about excellence, I can tell you this past month of recovery has taken me out of the game. I have been in brain fog, inflammation, secondary infection from the inflammation, weight imbalance and all the anxiety that comes from not being at my best. I gave up recovering on my own and went on medications to help me kick it. The medications worked, but those also caused general fatigue. If I took my own instruction about giving myself grace on my bad days, my prolonged weakness might not have seemed so bad. I didn’t take my own advice. 

Let’s talk about my deeper issue. My humanity and my imperfect body cannot always run at top speed. I control my environment because I haven’t learned how to survive without it. I have missed out on  a lot of joy because of it. Previously, loss of control would come at the high cost of tiredness and fatigue. I have lived so long controlling where I am and what I eat I have no idea what to do otherwise. 

So, does excellence arise in my life only when the environment is controlled? Or do I need to redefine excellence in my own life? In this past month, was anything excellent? Yes. I was too tired to yell at my girls. My girls enjoyed a quieter mom. My body had to rest. It was forced because I couldn’t do anything else. I understand better what a high resting heart rate feels like in stress. It will make me more empathetic towards friends and patients struggling with anxiety or infection. I read three novels. I pushed myself at the gym (once my heart rate had returned to it’s normal rate) and realized I am capable of more than I thought when I am at my weakest.

Yes, excellence should be redefined in my life. It is not what I do for people or how much I get done. It’s doing and being who I am in each moment to the best of my ability, whatever that looks like each day, especially in weakness. Excellence does not need to be overwhelming. It can just be the by-product of showing up and being present in the moment for myself, my loved ones, and those around me. Excellence doesn’t need to be a giant laid out plan. It is just the daily choices which accumulate to a life well-lived. 

In weakness or strength and everything in between, let’s give ourselves a moment, take the pressure off and show up for the next moment in whatever way we can. For me, it means looking at what control is keeping me stuck and what I can let go of so the next exposure doesn’t bring so many butt-hurt moments. 

My wine glass is raised to your moments of weakness where taking care of yourself produces excellence. Cheers.


Excellence in Life’s Challenges

What makes you think of when you hear the word “discipline”? I have been listening to a book which includes instructions on personal discipline in the areas of daily focus and morning routines in order to start every day with excellence. After the work I have been doing this past year with energy zones this seems practical, however, it leaves me wondering if routines really do produce excellence.

I have been in some January blues. I knew I was, but didn’t know how to shake it. I have a daily routine and doing my best to be consistent with my energy zones. It’s a less busy time of year and I am curious if my soul needed some downtime. To me it looks and feels like blueness. So, instead of trying to shake it, I decided to just kept moving forward. I haven’t been my best, but it’s been good enough.

After falling while sledding a few weeks ago, my pain has been a steady companion. I have been allowing my own advice about pain to prevail, (see my previous blog). I haven’t rushed to fix the issue. I have been in the gym, to the chiropractor, taking appropriate pain medications and oh, yeah, I quit coffee. Coffee has been soul liquid for me since high school, but I have been struggling with reflux. My water intake has increased out of sheer sadness. I also allowed myself to splurge on a massage.

I woke up the other morning and the fog had lifted. The pain has improved and is not narrating my day. I have taken care of myself. The routines, yes, have been incredibly helpful, but I would argue routines and daily disciplines do not create excellence. I believe excellence shows up when challenges arise and we face them head on. We become healthy when we choose with courage to face what comes next in life.

I met an incredible mom this week. She almost lost her home in the Marshall Fires. Her friends have lost their homes. They had made it through Covid-19 right before and now her youngest was freshly diagnosed with a chronic illness as a result of the virus. How much more, she wondered out loud to me, can she handle. Yet, this beautiful woman had a smile on her face, ran towards the challenge of a new illness with boldness and was beyond kind to me, a perfect stranger. She knew she had plenty to grieve in regards to it all, but she choose to be present in that moment for her daughter. That is excellence in the midst of challenges. I pray I have that same grace when life hits me unexpectedly.

Years ago, I sat with a mom who was loosing her youngest. She asked me how she could go on. Knowing she had a home full of children, I told her this: you get up. You get up every day until you figure out how to move forward. Just get up. It was my way of encouraging her to not hide and loose herself in the loss.

Everyone will have times of exceptional achievement, but most days are just mundane. We can’t make every day epic, but we can make it excellent. Facing challenges can look different every day. Excellence may be getting out of bed. It may be doing the dishes for the tenth time that day. Excellence may be pursuing the dream you have for your life. Excellence may be ignoring all your responsibilities for the day to snuggle your ill child. It’s a word of kindness to the person ahead of you in line who has too many things in their cart. It’s showing up tired to your daughter’s homework without becoming frustrated…okay, maybe that one is just for me.

Excellence to me is facing whatever is next in our lives, not ignoring the difficulty it brings, but choosing to walk forward. Routines and daily discipline can help us through the moments of un-motivation, blueness and busyness. Routines help us become resilient. Energy zones can help us be productive and more efficient, but excellence comes from within.

If you are feeling blue, I understand. It is difficult to get out from under the fog, especially if you live in a grey weather area. So be gracious to yourself, kind to others and find those routines to get you going every day.



Excellence in the Midst of Pain

At 11-years-old my education in pain began after a muscle injury in my neck. As I grew older I would learn about many kinds of pain, but my first lesson was on muscle pain. The second lesson was on the pain of sadness and grief. Pain began to diminish my ability to perform my normal daily routine and school activities. As I celebrated birthdays, I also learned more about what caused my pain and the reasons it didn’t go away.

Pain is a tough thing. It can’t be seen, but it can be consuming. It is distracting and frustrating. It can produce anxiety. The sadness in relations to pain can be consuming. The loss of function, the loss of care-free living and even the loss of identity can send us into hiding. I learned early on to focus on the pain so I could get over it more quickly in order to function. This focus turned into frantic anxiety over being “okay” as I got older.

By the time I had arrived at 12-years-old, my acute pain (pain that recovers within a reasonable time period) began to turn into chronic, or long lasting, pain. My muscle pain had grown to nerve pain. Another injury occurred to my jaw and my pain spread from my neck to my jaw. 

It is often said if we talk about our weaknesses, we will always have something to talk about. I could talk about pain and attempt to manage it all day long. I am turning 40 next month and my life has been marked most by my pain and who I have become because of my pain, the pain which has become my daily companion for the past 29 years.

This year, 2022, we will talk about excellence in all areas of our lives, but I believe in order to get to those places we have to acknowledge our companions. For some of us, it’s emotional, for example, anxiety and fear. For other of us, it’s something physical, for example, pain or disability. There are many other kinds of companions all at once. 

So, what does excellence look like when our companions seem louder than who we want to be on some or most days? If I have learned anything in 29-years, excellence is the choice to be kind to myself. I’m not great at the practice. On paper for me it looks like this:

  • Give grace to myself to breath and be still a little longer
  • Get out of bed every day, even when its the hardest thing for me
  • Drink lots of water 
  • Quiet the mind and surrender the anxiety (for me, surrender is at the feet of Jesus)
  • Move enough to loosen up and get the mind off the pain
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Don’t overdo the pain medications
  • Plan the day so there will be energy to be patient with my family later when I’m too tired
  • Let go of what doesn’t need to happen today
  • Ask for help (health professional, family, friend)

Pain doesn’t need to win. You may need to rest all day, so make that your plan. Rest or movement may be the best kindness you can give yourself. Empower yourself to know that is the choice you are making. Not giving the pain the power over your mind will give you more courage and strength to keep making great decisions for yourself. 

**Nurse Moment**

Chronic pain can give leave to overdoing it on the pain medications or the substances of choice to numb out. These habits can become addictions, even when we never had that intention. Sure, maybe that’s not you, but taking a close look at our pain management strategies every once in a while is just as important as the pain management itself. Just “one more” can cause drastic harm to you or the people you love. Be honest with the medical and mental health professionals in your life. When light is shed on what we have kept hidden, it helps take the power away from the shame. Pain doesn’t need to own us and neither does the management of it.

Let’s be excellent in how we take care of ourselves. We will have a greater ability to care for others once we take care of ourselves.

Here is to 2022!


Resiliency in Efficiency

“Resilience” has been the buzz word for 2021, at least in my world. I spent the year learning about and working through my own understanding about resilience. As I dove deeper into the discussion, my ears would perk up anytime I heard even a faint whisper of the topic. This past fall I discovered some nuggets of pure gold around timing saving. For me, becoming more efficient turned into resiliency into a daily practice.

It all started when I was listening to the amazing Bianca Olthoff’s podcast on my way home from a work trip to Maine. If you haven’t heard of Bianca Orloff yet, she is a powerhouse. She is fierce in her love for God, family and people. In her podcast “We’re Going There” she was interviewing a leadership guru, Carey Nieuwhof. Nieuwhof was talking about his own path out of burn-out.  My attention was grabbed. I leaned in to their conversation. I even took notes. Nieuwhof explained the energy zones he structures his day around. He was helping Olthoff process her own work day and productivity based on his three zones, green, yellow and red.

I grabbed his book and began to process my own energy levels. Nieuwhof’s book, At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy, and Priorities Working in Your Favor is an easy book to digest. His theories are easy to understand, no mountain to climb during implementation. I enjoyed it so much I signed up for his master class. Need I say more? I recommend this content because this method of structuring a day took Nieuwhof from burn-out to exceptional sustainability. I wanted to see if it works for me.

I am busy, constantly. I work two or three days a week at my nursing career. I lead the school board at my girls’ charter school, and I own and operate my photography business. I have the drive to do everything, but snuggle against the desire to be the best mommy and wife above all those things. I wake up early in the morning ready to take on the world, yet I have a massive slump in my day around 3-5 p.m. where no matter what I do, the world seems to be ending. It’s the time when I most need to be “on” because everything happens from 3-5 p.m. every day. I pick my girls up from school and golden hour doesn’t happen any other time.

Based on Nieuwhof’s zones, we have a three to five hour period of creative/high productive time per day which he categorizes as the green zone. We have yellow zones which can occur throughout the day. These are the times we can get things done, but we are not as productive. Our red zones are the times when, for me, the world is ending and I reach for more coffee! The morning, turns out, is my creative/productive time of the day, but I was not optimizing my productive time during the day. I thought I needed to do the things I hated to do first so I could get them done. His methods, once applied to my day, changed my life almost immediately. 

I don’t usually sell things, but as an advocate for resiliency, I wanted you to know about it as we start 2022. I have spent several years working on my habits and dreams. I have spent my days off from nursing attempting to cultivate my photography business, yet would spend hours at night making up for my ineffectiveness during the day. If self-care is resiliency, prioritizing and having the energy needed for the day goes way beyond self-care.

This has been a bounce back year for my photography business after Covid. While my goals were hijacked like so many other’s dreams, I began to see new clients emerging in hopes I could capture their families together. Instead of running around feeling as if my head might fall off by everything I had to do, I began to give my best with every session.

I began to apply the zones to my life and I am leaving my busiest season ever with energy. In previous years I would end feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. I am making plans for the future instead of being overcome by the holidays and longing for self-care. Sure, self-care isn’t something to dismiss. We all need self-care, daily, but instead of it being the exception, we can take the time to practice it throughout our day or week.

Check out Bianca Olthoff’s “We’re Going There” podcast wherever you listen.

Find Carey Nieuwhof at www.careynieuwhof.com, At Your Best anywhere books are sold, or his leadership podcast “The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast” wherever you listen.

Happy New Year! I am looking forward to exploring excellence this coming year, inspired by Horst Schulze and his book Excellence Wins. I hope to explore the question: Can we be excellent in everything we care about while still experiencing resiliency? I can’t wait!

Reputation vs. Integrity

I thought upholding my reputation was the key to success. I was wrong.

I work in an industry where valuing the dignity of all humans and providing excellent nursing care is honored and celebrated. My reputation as a nurse is as good as my work. I choose, whenever it is in my ability, to be excellent. If my boss recognizes this, great, no sweat. My reputation is intact and strong. 

As the pandemic interrupted life as we knew it last year, I began to seek to understand our world, our school district, health department, and local, state and federal government. Instead of being overwhelmed by the amount of information I didn’t know, a habit I had previously, I dug deeper. One article lead to another. One hashtag lead to more conversations. I decided to focus on getting our students back to in-person learning.

By the end of May I spoke at our children’s school board and by the end of July I was voted in to serve two months short of a three-year term. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Only really knowing pediatric nursing, I learned nursing is a small bubble all of its own. Policies and guidelines in the medical world do not always align to the business or educational world. I desired to be a health professional within our school board. This was my ambition, but I learned quickly that I had a lot more to learn about this world I stepped into than I had to give. My understanding of culture and climate change was far more useful immediately than my understanding of vaccines and childhood mental, physical and emotional illnesses.

Under the pressure of a pandemic, there was time to ease into my new experience. Contexts, back stories and level setting needed to happen quickly to get me up to speed. I was ill equip for the job, however, I held onto as much humility as possible. As I began to take on more and more I had to make some decisions of who I was going to be in this environment. I felt like I was a deer in headlights. I justified not standing strong over one issue for my “reputation”, stating this was most important if I wanted to be effective for the long term. Thinking back, I definitely missed out.

I was confronted with doing what I believed to be right at the risk of my reputation. I began to learn what it means to let go of what other people think of me (my reputation) and press on to do the challenging work in front of me.

I now believe that the risk of loosing our reputation can paralyze us from doing the right thing and finding resilience in the midst of difficult experiences. 

I have had the opportunity in this role on this board to focus on leadership, being mentored and learning to be honest about my inexperience. I have also realized that what I stand for may hurt or deplete my reputation. It’s only in this experience that I have been able to begin leading from the right place instead of a place of protection.

I believe leading with integrity brings us life-giving opportunities and humility. We may lead in a way someone, or let’s be honest, whole groups of people, doesn’t like, but we can undeniably show integrity in all aspects as we lead. We can show what the Oxford dictionary defines integrity as: moral uprightness and a state of being whole. 

Everyone has a reputation whether good, bad, or indifferent. I may have a reputation with coworker as bossy and arrogant. I may have a reputation at the nonprofit I serve with as giving and kind. I may have a reputation with my husband as determined, or thinking I’m always right. If I chose to bend over backwards for each reputation I have, I will only be exhausted. These opinions of me can be easily flip flopped by one word, one action or one decision I make. 

My leadership roles became a whole lot easier when I stopped caring about my reputation and became consistent in who I am in every situation. My messaging, my values and my difficult conversations came out of the same state of doing my best to be whole. I started sleeping better. I was able to understand that no matter the outcome, success or fail, who I hold myself to be is what matters most.

I hope this brings some encouragement to you. Being a yoyo is exhausting, so take a look at the place where you lead from. You might find a new place. 



Prioritizing Relationships

Prioritizing relationships…what does this mean?

It means whomever you value the most is who should be prioritized in your life. These are the people you would talk to every day while you are on vacation, for example, your children, your spouse and your besties. Research has shown we are unable to have more than a few intimate relationships at a time. We may have a larger circle of people around us as general friends, coworkers, and maybe regular clients, but not everyone can know everything about us or receive our best.

If you work in multiple areas or have more than one career, we can have an overload of people in our lives. We may be great at keeping up with social media, but our in-person relationships start to fall away from our time and energy. If any aspect of our lives is highly emotional, our ability to be present for our prioritized relationships can also fall short.

I experienced this realization three falls ago. I was the lead ethics liaison for the pediatric intensive care unit I worked in. I was project oriented. I thrived on difficult conversations. People, who I would never have in my circle on a general basis, sat down with me to discuss challenging stuff about patient care. “Drained” was more often my state of mind than not. My busy, growing photography season was drowning me.  There was icing on the cake as well. I traveled for a weekend to be with one of my friends who lived in a different state. Although I wanted to be with my friend for her surprise engagement (she is one of my prioritized relationship), I felt overwhelmed with guilt for being physically away from my children. 

This weekend away brought some key realization to my work/life balance. I was honored to be present for my friend’s engagement, and what was even more special was that her family was present. My friend was thrilled to have everyone there, especially her mom. I realized something in my own life had to change if I wanted to have the kind of relationship with my daughters like my friend has with her mom. At the rate I was going, I could not see my girls expecting or wanting me there for special moments of their lives. 

My girls are still of the age they want me to be with them so I decided I had time to change. I did not want to emotionally be too busy for them. Being away for a few days wasn’t the issue. It was being chronically disengaged emotionally because my priorities were off.  Over time, I was becoming more disconnected from the relationships I wanted to prioritize. I made a plan to quit my job and did so about two months later, finding something else emotionally draining. This lead to another job change a year after that to be home more often.

Being a role model for girls around productivity, leadership and success is necessary. If they strive after these things without being engaged in the most important relationships, I wonder if they will have learned the right things? I still struggle to give myself first to my prioritized relationships, but I want to keep improving until I’m flourishing in this. Being an extrovert means saying “no” to what seems great, when the thing or people are not my next best thing. Letting my clients wait a bit before answering or taking a few days off when my girls are out of school create a game changer for our relationship. I’ll find the time to be a great businesswoman, later. I don’t want to look back on life and wish I found more time to be a great wife and mother.

Do you have some relationships to prioritize? Resiliency comes when our lives are full with the right things. Does your relationship with God, your family or your spouse need attention? The world will keep going while you take a moment or two to say “no” and find connection with your people. A long time ago a pastor of mine said, “whoever you want sitting in the front row at your funeral are the people to invest in”. It may be rough to think about, but it is a great reminder of whom to prioritize.

On this busy day, take a few minutes to inventory your relationships. Text or call your people. Be intentional with no strings attached on the relationships you want to prioritize. Your day will be more joyful, I promise! Don’t shame yourself for what has previously happened. Today is a great day to get started. Let’s be a community that shows up for those we want front and center in our lives.


Who We Are and the Voices We Listen To

Last blog I talked about how I was seeing resiliency in a whole new light. It’s not just about habits and self care. I believe, while all these things help, it’s about who we are as a whole. It’s about the emotional, social and physical health of ourselves. The world we encompass, whether we are at work, with family or enjoying our favorite things, contribute either positively or negatively to the resilience we have. 

Never have I seen this more true than I do right now. For example, bring up masking and a vaccine and you either have a friend or someone who seems to be putting up walls. Whether you are in a leadership position, a shift worker or a mom sending her kids off to school, we all have these two topics on our minds. I had hoped we could take the topic in smaller doses and then get on with life at hand, but the polarization of beliefs are jeopardizing relationships and taking up energy. It can just about put us over the edge. 

The shift between friends and faith have occurred as well. If one person stands on their beliefs while another one stands upon the same beliefs for the opposite discussion there can be division. Who is right? What is right? Where is God in all of this? The loss of faith comes more quickly when there is a loss of trust with humans. Maybe it’s just my experience, but it’s exhausting and difficult to want to engage with previously trusted friendships or even our spouse.

Everywhere I look it seems the world we know is in crisis. The internet and world businesses have created places across the globe to feel like the other side of the world are our next door neighbors. We are closer than ever, yet don’t we seem further from each other sometimes? Emotions are already at a heightened level so gather around a group who is upset, on edge or  ready to moan about everything and our ability to rise above drastically gets harder. 

For example, work stress has taken its toll and you are feeling less and less inclined to get to work in the mornings. You decide to grab drinks with a friend after a long, terrible day. You find out, quickly, that happy hour is more like vent hour and you both leave feeling discouraged. Sure, you are in similar situations, but you feel less likely to get up refreshed the next morning.

Maybe your marriage is in crisis and you can’t seem to find a breath of fresh air. You call a friend who has been there for you through thick and thin only to listen for an hour about her falling apart marriage. Sure, similar hardship, but does the camaraderie create a resurrected desire to figure things out and start fresh?  

Who we are, and who we are around, matter. Our bones, the stuff which comes out when we are at our worst, shows us what we are made of. Everyone has moments of grumpiness and seasons of grey and gloomy skies. Everyone handles hard things differently, but our ability to get up again and endure comes from two things. Having good bones to support us when we are down and the people we surround ourselves when the times are tough.

The reason people in the helping community (nurses, firefighters, etc) become bonded together is because they go through unspeakable things together. One thing will affect one person while another thing affects someone else. We have learned to be there for reach other because we all need to come back to work. I am strong when a friend is down and out after a rough shift. My coworkers understand when my tone is short because they see the day I am having and come along side me in support. The relationship goes both ways.

That’s the kind of relationships we need when it comes to resiliency. The relationships which remind us to get back to what matters; to pick ourselves up again and to show up even when it’s hard. Finding like-minded people to do life with can only enhance this ability to be resilient. 

I’m not encouraging you to throw out friendships who might not agree with you. We all need to learn to understand others and grow together. I am encouraging you to know what friends to incorporate into your resiliency practices. Which friends encourage you to take care of yourself while challenge you to see life in new ways, through new opportunities and in new strength. Lean into those voices and do the same for them. 

As we keep learning what it means to be resilient, let’s keep digging into who we are as individuals and as groups of people. Let’s get an X-ray to see what our bones are made of and figure out how to strength ourselves at our core so we can have a stronger foundation when the rough seasons come. The people we listen to and do life with do matter and can strengthen us when our foundation wants to waiver. 


The Stories We Tell Ourselves

During my hour commute home a couple of weeks ago I was listening to an audio book with tears streaming down my face. Traveling the week before, being overwhelmed by my to-do list and failing to see my purpose clearly left me depleted. I began to question my ability to reach for the stars in my ambitions. I had started writing this blog in the airport. I abandoned it when I became “uninspired”. How could I have anything to contribute to the topic of resilience in the state I was in?

Now, during my commute I stopped my audio book. I flipped over to a podcast by a favorite author/pastor/influencer to stop my thought process from derailing any more. The podcast up next to listen to was about body shaming and changing our own narrative. The stories we tell ourselves usually are limiting and are important for us to acknowledge and talk about. The idea of detrimental stories we tell ourselves is not a new idea, but it is an idea I see more and more being talked about. I think it’s time to talk about as we work through being more resilient.

When I was 18-years-old I decided to become a water aerobics instructor. I had been recovering from a muscle fatigue disorder through water aerobics for four years. I already felt like I lived at the pool, so why not get paid for it? It was a job I could also transfer to anywhere I went to college. I made it through my certification course. I had overcome so much already to achieve this certification. My voice, often thought of as quiet and gentle, would become accustomed to projecting over the water. I was sure of it. The day arrived for me to teach my first class as a certified instructor at my regular pool. I was a novice, for sure, but I thought everyone there was supporting me. An older man, who was awkward to say the least, had also attempted to become certified through the exact same program. He did not pass. Irritably he participated in my first class, so I straightened myself up and taught.

After the hour class all the older ladies cheered for me. The man, however, pulled me aside and told me how terrible my voice was. I’m not exaggerating. He told me, “No one would want to listen to you”. He told me I needed voice lessons to correct what was so wrong. I remember just standing by the equipment, bewildered, having no idea what to say. I sensed he was jealous. I didn’t cuss back then, but I’m sure I was more frustrated than the limited vocabulary I had at the time. I shed some tears and my boss gave me a hardy pep-talk. She couldn’t stand the guy either. Pep-talk or not, I was still defeated. His voice remained in my head.

Years later, still hiding and feeling self-conscious about my voice, I would allow his words to be part of the stories I told myself. The first story was this, “No one would want to hear what I have to say.” The narrative turned into a lie. A lie the man at the pool never said. He only critiqued how my voice sounded, not what I said. Neither his words or my lie was true, but, over time, I had grown to believe both.

By the time I graduated college my true story was beginning to form. I was learning to overcome difficulty. I was rising up as a strong woman, a confident young nurse and someone who cared about the resilience of others. I had become confident in my water aerobics instructing, which was a great foundation for my nursing career. I was capable except when I was invited to share my story out-loud. I was reduced to stomach aches and a sore, hoarse throat. The voices in my head, including that awful man’s voice, were louder than the strength and the power within me.

These stories, the ones we tell ourselves, can keep us small. Depending on the narrative, we can be prevented from moving forward. The subtle whispers or boisterous voices overpower what we know is true, our wisdom and our courage. Instead of adventuring out to a new assignment, a new career or even new habits, the narrative repeats until we have bottled up any courage we might have. We allow lies to be thrown in our faces every time we start thinking about being courageous. We allow ourselves to be diminished to the same routine, the same job or the same self-reflections. 

In the next few blogs I am excited to talk about this topic more fully. I have been reading an incredible book about the stories and possibly the lies which inhibit our curiosity. They may even deplete us when life doesn’t go the way we think it will or should. Since my tearful commute, I have been digging deep into the core of resiliency in my own life. I’m eager to process and share with you what I am discovering.

In the meantime, what narratives are you listening to? What lies are you allowing yourself to believe as truth? Speak them out-loud, tell a trusted friend about them or claim what is true about yourself over the lies. These methods can be a great starting point to defeat them. 

Making Space in Our Schedules

For a girl who normally works part-time with an occasionally extra shift here and there, a few photo sessions sprinkled in during the week and volunteer time taking the rest of my “work” time, last week kicked my butt. I crammed all my work, plus extra, into seven days. Sure, I get eight days off now for a family trip, but I was a hot mess after my long stretch. Working early morning and long days, enjoying a holiday and attempting to snuggle with my girls whenever possible before falling asleep, lead to pure exhaustion. I was able to finally reflect on how loosing blank space in my schedule depleted my resilience.

Listening to a book about carrier choices and finding what we are driven and passion about has been helpful this week to reignite my focus. In the initial chapter of You Turn, by Ashley Stahl, she talks about blank space in her calendar for self-care, regrouping and finding herself again. In all honesty, I had kept most of my calendar a blank space yesterday. My house being a disaster, I rescheduled plans to entertain friends at my house. We met for ice cream instead. We are headed out of town so my girls are out of their minds with excitement and anticipation. My girls missed me during my long stretch of work, so they were glued to me. Don’t get me wrong. I love them and I love being with them, but when I need a few minutes to find my space, my two little mini-me daughters don’t understand this.

Add on top of my needed space, my disaster of a house and my exhaustion from 72 hours of work in 7 days, my girls were in moods. I apparently was also in a mood. By the time I sent them to bed I had asked my oldest to stop talking so many times…something I rarely do. Her birthday is two months away and you would think we had told her she would get the mood. My youngest threw a few fits. We had to rise to the occasion for her dance class (first one I had attended and she had been too nervous to go in without me). We managed to go shopping, pack our bags and get chores done, but the space I had intended turning into chores. I was even more exhausted by the time I sent them to bed. My husband asked why I sent them to bed so early (summer bedtime is more relaxed) and I replied, “the day just needed to be over”.

I know I am not alone. We can talk a good talk about boundaries and self-care, but some days it just isn’t possible. I am learning more and more that resiliency is a good talk when we don’t have to go home to little ones or a relationship which needs our attention. As I get into her book, Stahl talks about boundaries between work and life, and life and work. Being able to guard our emotional health as we put everything into our work. I am eager to learn more about this as I work through her book. Finding the balance between who we are and what we care about while choosing to keep enough boundaries is something I need to keep learning.

Today I went for a walk first thing to clear my head and make sure my stress cycle could be complete. I put myself together (put some make-up on) and went through the schedule with the girls. I asked my babysitter to stay later so I could have an hour to myself. I started the day with a healthy breakfast, and finally, didn’t miss the coffee I used to start my day with. My outlook is better and I am ready for the day. I’m excited about the work I do have today, and I’m thankful for the time I get to spend with you.

Resiliency is a work in progress. Some days, however, just need to be over. It is not because it’s lousy to live. It’s just because we are tired and grumpy, and we can’t seem to turn it around. Chalk it up to a day and plan to restart the next one with a new outlook. Find gratitude for what you do have. Tell a friend or the people in your house something you love about them. Start fresh and plan some space in your calendar to be with yourself. Figure out how to make it happen and keep the appointment. You are just as, if not more, important than everything else on your schedule.

Let’s keep at it together. I’ll let you know how I’m doing with it! Have a great day!


Resilience in Mothering.

Mothering. It’s hard work. It’s hard when your child needs to wear a mask and he or she keeps pulling it off. (I’m in an airplane as I type this with my girls). It’s hard when they are hungry and you haven’t been to the store in a day, or seven. Mothering is difficult when you have worked all day, whether on the laundry or at the office, and everyone is hungry and counting on you to start dinner. Mothering is hard especially when we beat ourselves up for not doing it all, getting it all done or having the right conversations every time with each child. 

A good friend of mine recently told me she had a good mothering day. It was a feeling to celebrate, but let’s be honest. Most days we do a pretty good job mothering. So many women, even within our own communities, have different circumstances. Socio-economic status, personal or family values, living situation and many more factors which contribute to our feelings around mothering. The grade we give ourselves is usually a comparison with another mothers in similar situations as our own or a reaction, either good or bad, to our own upbringing.

Within my own experience as a mother I have learned to have a few habits to help me in my resilience. The first is to be visibly excited to see my children. Being visibly excited to see my daughters in the morning or again after a separation (after school or after working in my office for a couple hours) lightens my mood and delights them. This practice also reminds me to set my focus on them. I was encouraged to do this by Lisa Turk… in her book “Best yes”. It has been a game changer. I can be so easily distracted with other things if I don’t choose to make this a habit. 

The second is explaining to my daughters when I am stressed or overwhelmed. I tend to be more quick to yell or to be short with them when I am not doing well myself. Telling the girls upfront also helps me stay calmer. When I do loose it, I try to quickly apologize. I know I will grade myself on my mothering more harshly if I don’t. It’s also a great practice. My girls are more quick to apologize and to forgive if I model it first.

The third habit for my resilience is to have one key thing I intentionally do with them a day when I am with them all day. Sometimes I’ll plan an ice cream shop trip on scooters for no reason. Sometimes it’s setting an expectation for one of them to achieve something, being with them the entire time, and then going nuts about how proud I am or how much I trust them when it is over. Ding, ding, ding. This one goes a long way to boost my mothering good-feelings. Bonus, it fills my girls cups. I can then work on something else on my to-do list for a second win of the day feeling satisfied.

I have also found it crucial for my resilience to have one or more mothers surrounding me. They cover me when I have messed up the schedule, one of the sources of my anxiety. They love my children tenderly and stand in at events or parties if I can’t be at my girls’ every important moments. My husband is my parenting partner, but other mothers are often the fuel to help me recharge. We are not alone in this mothering journey, yet it is often too easy to attempt to go it alone.

The last key aspect of resilience for me in mothering is having my own identity and my own interests. I love being a mother, but it’s just one piece of me. I am a nurse, a photographer, a wife, a Board member and a volunteer. I bring women together for community. I invest in younger women. I have my friends’ children over. I make time for my faith and try to blog weekly. My girls come with me for some of it, and other times they stay with others or go to school. Life, for me, is a balance. Life is also a constant rebalance which needs tweaking before, during and after each season.

So, when we grade ourselves as mothers, remember this: We are more than we think we are. We are worthy of love and honor just as much as the other mothers in our lives. We are the envy of someone else’s life. We have been entrusted with little humans and so many women wish they were as well. This realization may not make our days any easier, but a little gratitude for what we have been given may make the next few minutes seem a bit sweeter.

As you read this, your children may be screaming in the background (newborn to teenagers).  Breath, Mama, and conquer the day. Figure out the habits you have which help you feel like a great mama and accomplish one of them today.  Get back on your feet, just one more time, and one step at a time. Breath a little more deeply, count to ten and remember to be grateful for your screaming child, or the other mothers in your life, or the five seconds of peace you might get when you go to the bathroom.

Thankful for you. Mothering makes the world go around and connects us to each other. Rise up, all you mamas. You have got this!