Elves, Pizza and 2012

Norm, our Elf on the Shelf, showed up today.  He was wrapped around the salt shaker on the kitchen table and the kids were beyond excited to see him (or perhaps it was the 1st day of Advent calendar sugar adding to the hype!).

A relatively new tradition, Norm has been with us for 4 years now.  He arrives on the 1st Dec (magically from the North Pole) and he hides in various places, always somewhere where he can watch the action, and at night he goes to The North Pole to keep Santa informed, presumably on the antics observed so Santa can assess the naughtiness or niceness of the goings on in the Mullen house.

On Christmas Eve he returns to the North Pole.  His job is done for the year.

OK, I find this whimsical felt character somewhat delightful, and the accompanied exceptionally good behavior of my kids a definite plus!

The cheeky observer

This year as I look into Norm’s cheeky little face, mischief and twinkle in his eyes, I think about the value of noticing what’s going on in your life.

That’s all he’s doing.  No judgement.  Pure and completely silent observation.

I know I’ve written about the power of noticing before, and I still see more and more gifts from this noticing tool, in multiple areas of my life.

For example, I noticed that I was highly irritated by Christmas music in the stores before Halloween.  It literally had me twitching.  Instead of whirling into an anxiety-fueled trip to overwhelm land, I was able to notice my visceral and mental reaction and process accordingly.  It was not the music that was making me flinch, but the thoughts and ‘shoulds’ associated with having not started planning, shopping or even considering the holiday season.

As we wind up 2011, a year I swear went faster than any before, some key noticing can go a long way.

Get on your lab coat  

Rolling up the white sleeves of your crisp lab coat and applying your scientific genius to the findings.

Grab a pen and start jotting, or maybe drawing…

What worked well?

Ponder the main areas in you life – family and friends, significant other, health, career, personal growth, money,  physical environment, and fun and recreation.

Yes, let’s not just notice the stuff that didn’t work or that you want to change, let’s celebrate the successes, let’s acknowledge the joys, let’s see where your strengths flexed and your light shone.

If visuals help you do this, you can draw these as slices on a virtual pizza and jot notes in the 8 segments.  Once you see what’s in your 2011 pizza, what ingredients and toppings would you like to see in your 2012 pizza?  The same?  More of one ingredient, less of another?  New toppings and flavors or more of the same deliciousness?

What was challenging?  Why was it challenging?  What would you like to learn and take forward?

Inventory your daily tasks.  Look at the ‘have to’ items.  Do you have work arounds or creative ways to bag them, better them, or barter them (3 B magic created by Martha Beck).

What about the things you love – are there areas you could extend them?

Let’s get intentional

What are your intentions for 2012?  Could noticing your learning from 2011 help you focus on what you truly desire for 2012?

I’m not asking you to write a thesis, or a fancy business plan – but knock yourself out if you like – even asking the questions and letting them settle in can stir some truth and grace to the surface that may help steer you as you enter the new year.

Each day I see Norm this holiday season, it’s a reminder for me to notice my own steps on this path and glean the wisdom, the magical breadcrumbs along the path, for this precious life journey.

Want to join me?  Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

A Little Acknowledgement Goes A Long Way

He looked at me with those gorgeous green eyes.

“I only said ‘Hi Ms. <<Name>>, how ya doin’?”

But he did so much more.  He made a notable impression.  In that simple encounter.

The Back Story

I went in to my son’s school for my weekly classroom volunteering.  While I was signing in, the school secretary made a point to tell me what a lovely child I have and how she gave him a Buzz Buck (a written complement).  Apparently, while passing her in the hallway he had greeted her by name and asked her how she was doing.  She told me she was touched by how well-mannered and polite he was.

This month he received the ‘Administrator’s Award – In recognition of outstanding citizenship:  Mannerly – Demonstrated Common Courtesy.’

It speaks to me not just of manners but of the simplicity and power of acknowledgement, that basic human need.  A four syllable word that can forge connections in an oh-so-busy world.

The Boy Back Story

My son didn’t see anything special in what he had done.  Just an everyday interaction.

I asked if he met the lady’s eye when he talked to her.  Yes.

I asked if he was genuinely interested when he asked her how she was.  Yes.

I asked if he waited for a response when he asked her how she was.  Yes.

I asked if he listened to and responded to her response.  Yes.

Four simple details that meant that a very special lady noticed and rewarded him.

Squids and Kindness – what?

Last week my daughter was proud to tell us that she had been honored by receiving the Squid Award – it’s an award within her classroom where classmates vote for people who show kindness, encouragement, and are role models for them.  She won the award.

Just the week before during parent teacher conferences I learned how she had helped a friend on the playground who was upset and frightened.  She took the time to truly see her friend, not make fun of her or dramatize, but be an empathetic and compassionate companion for her friend to be with while seeking out help from an adult.

How thankful I am for the learning and reminders of true grace I receive from my children.

Communication or Connection?

In this world of texts, facebooking, tweeting, cell phones and land lines, emails, so many ways to communicate, where overwhelm is more commonplace than calm, there seems to be so much communication but perhaps less true connection.

I was thinking about these small honors that my children received last week, and how they struck my heart with more than just examples of good manners and kindenss.

They acknowledged other people, made a connection.

Connection is an essential element in our human experience.

And as Brené Brown says in The Gifts of Imperfection:

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Acknowledgement and connection.  Simple and powerful.

I acknowledged my children for their manners, kindness and values in action.  They inspired me to revisit the importance of acknowledgement and connection.

Are there people in your life you have not been acknowledging in your busyness?

Are there aspects of yourself that would welcome acknowledgement?

Do you connect with those around you or do you just communicate?

I’d love to hear your comments.

Noticing My Way To Wellness

How busy are you?  Constantly?  Does time fly by in a whirr of activity?  Is noticing on your to-do list?

It might sound odd.

Noticing

Why is noticing so important?

Well if you subscribe to the notions that what you focus on expands in your life and how you do one thing is how you do everything, then noticing is one of the keys to creating what you want in your life and making necessary adjustments along the way.

Whether it’s noticing sensations in your body or observing your thoughts or emotions and then with openness and compassion, absorbing the messages and feeling the feelings.   It’s all exceptionally valuable to live a meaningful and inspired life.

Allergy Gift

For example, recently I’ve been having more allergic reactions to food than normal.

I find it frustrating, confusing and fear-filled.

Food used to be such a joy for me.  Now it takes focus to manage my thinking – wondering with each bite, what will happen?  Will I get hives? Will my throat close?  Will I lose my airway? Will benedryl work or will I need to use my epipen?  Will I be OK?

Catastrophic thinking stomps around my mind and emotional tornadoes swirl with each hive or swollen part.  While I move forward with medical investigation and mind-body coaching to get to the root of this, I noticed a gift wrapped in this experience.

Making space

I slow down while eating.  I’m not as externally focussed and distracted during mealtimes.  I’m tuning in.  I’m noticing how my body is feeling and the sensations it offers to me.

The Gift?

Eleven pounds of effortless weight loss over 6 months.

I had gained a few pounds during spring but was still within a healthy weight range for me.  The food allergy challenge caused me to become very present to my body’s cues and highlighted the power of noticing and the part that this tuning in plays in wellness gain.  I am now not only at my pre-baby weight, but at the size I was in my twenties.

It’s not that I’m enjoying the allergy situation.  Anything but.  I’m just looking at the gift of being more in tune with my  body and the benefits this has brought.

In my wellness gain / weight-loss practice, one of the tools I use is the Hunger Scale from Brook Castillo’s If I’m so Smart Why Can’t I Lose Weight?.  It utilizes a scale of -10 (so hungry you could eat the table) to +10 (Thanksgiving dinner times three), with 0 being neutral (not hungry nor satiated).  The idea is to eat between -2 (when you’re just feeling the first sensations of hunger) to +2 (satiated and still energized, not full).  It’s an effective tool to help listen in and tune in to your body.

It’s simple – notice and listen

Sometimes you may not even act on the noticing.

But by noticing and listening you gain important data you may not otherwise have gleaned.  Perhaps even slowing down and prioritizing self-nourishment not on-the-run stuffing or mindless eating is the message of the day.  Perhaps it’s learning more about the type of food that feels good in your body.

In being vigilant about what I put in my body (healthy, mostly organic, minimally processed food), and noticing the bite by bite sensations with the food, I have stopped eating much sooner as I have connected with the subtle signs of satiation.

I have left finish-your-plate-there-are-people-starving-in-this-world syndrome, or the eating the whole portion that I think my body ‘should’ eat, or even going by portion sizes on boxes or in diet books.  Those are based on averages and facts not on the innate minute-by-minute wisdom of my very own body.

It’s been interesting to note that the amount of food it takes for satiation varies from meal to meal and day to day, but I have an excellent in-built tool that lets me know exactly what I need, if I would just be present enough to notice.

It’s a simple but very powerful practice.  I have a client who has noticed her way to 30 pounds of weight loss, and an amazingly enriched life in all areas.  It started with food journals and noticing.

Multi-level Noticing

Noticing works on so many levels.

For example, being an HSP (highly sensitive person), as 15-20% of the population are, mealtimes, and certainly eating out at parties, can be a highly stimulating time.

Lots of sounds, aromas, tactile stimuli, tastes, sights for your system to process.  Often in this stimulation-rich environment, you can lose connection to the peace withinNoticing, accepting and appreciating this can help you prioritize that inner connection, and you can learn so much about yourself and what your body needs from these experiences.

Invitation to Notice

If weight loss and health gain are not your thing, I invite you to look at areas of your life where your satisfaction is not at an all time high.  Are there areas of your life where noticing and listening could open doors, improve relationships, enhance careers, lead to better parenting?

So what do you notice about your life?  Is your body speaking to you?  What is the gift?  I’d love to hear your comments below.

Girls Helping Girls

Ever been moved so deeply by something, that you find it hard to put into words?

One word.  Girls.

I am one of 3 girls.  My mother went back to work to provide the best education for her girls.  Our education was the grounding for our life’s journeys.  Not once did I question whether I would finish school or go to university.  Thanks to my parent’s dedication.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I could sense her gentle soul.  Her slight shifts and dainty kicks were teeny flutters inside me.  From the moment she was born, her sunny disposition and dimpled smile have illuminated my world.  When her little hand slips into mine, it fills my heart with love.  Her smart and sassy energy, brilliant mind, kind heart, and hilarious sense of humor inspire me.

I’ve been blessed by the girls in my family (my Mum, sisters, aunt, grandmothers, daughter) and amazing friends.

So when I read this blog (The Image That Took My Breath Away) by Tara Sophia Mohr, my breath was taken away too.

I took a dander over to The Girl Effect website.

“The Girl Effect, n.

The unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.”

Here are a few of the facts from The Girl Effect Data:

Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70% are girls.

An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages to 10-20%.  An extra year of secondary school: 15-25%.

When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to only 30-40% for a man.

By investing in girls, families and communities are bettered.  It’s as simple as that.

I invite you to watch one or both of these short videos to learn more and consider joining me in supporting The Girl Effect.


After watching these videos and others of girls who have benefitted from The Girl Effect, I couldn’t help but feel deep sadness at the thought of all the girls whose education ceases at 12 and who are married by 15, whose lives may end early due to pregnancy complications or HIV.  Girls trapped in poverty.

I wondered how I would feel if this was my daughter.  My precious child, who lights our family, whose possibilities seem endless.

It’s time.  Time for all our girls to have possibilities.

Want to give your support?  Click here to find out how you can help, you can spread the word and/or donate online or via text to help girls overcome their top ten things that stand in their way.

Click here to read other bloggers’ posts about The Girl Effect.

What’s Your Everyday Legacy?

I lay my head on the table.  Fatigue smothered me and exhaustion spot-welded my feet to the floor.

It was only 4pm and I was sitting with my kids while they did their homework.  I felt like death warmed up.  I had felt this way for a couple of days and with my husband away, I was wondering if I could get up and make dinner before taking the kids to karate, getting them through showers, bedtime stories, and lights out.

When I’m not well, I can easily get into an old rut of negative and catastrophic thinking.

“What if there’s something really, really wrong with me!”

“What if I collapse and nobody is here for the kids?”

“What if I have to go to hospital in my Hanes granny knickers left over from pregnancy that somehow never made it to the trash (last pair in my draw – laundry was undone).  Wasn’t I taught that you have to wear matching underwear at all time – JUST IN CASE.  Wait – do I even have any matching underwear anymore??”

Unhelpful at best and damaging at worst, thoughts whirl and can take my emotions, actions and results down with them.

Then inspiration…

No matter how I felt in that moment, and with the utmost self compassion, I asked myself how I wanted this to be as a part of my life experience.   Did I want to be the snippy, frustrated, raving homework Mom – further sapping my energy and these precious moments with my kids – or did I want to gracefully see it as part of my everyday legacy, and act accordingly.

Everyday legacy.

It seems like and oxymoron, doesn’t it?  Everyday is so commonplace and normal and legacy seems so grand – the ultimate gift of your life’s work / being that you bequest to those you love.

Do you have an idea of what your legacy is or what you’d like it to be?

It’s a big question.

I’ll give you an example.  I never met my husband’s grandmother, Grammy.  She passed away a month before we met.  She clearly lives on in the hearts and minds of her family.  Every time her name is mentioned, smiles cross lips and you can feel the heartfelt warmth and love there even more than a decade after her passing.  Every family gathering, funny stories of Grammy burning the biscuits (“Oh the biscuits!”), or ironing the socks, or the full breakfasts she insisted everyone eat before leaving for work, her frequent and infectious laugh, or any number of memories they share, all with smiles and laughs. It’s a love legacy.

I can’t say I have my legacy clearly mapped out in any of the areas of my life, but I have always been clear that I wanted to be an instrument for good and love in the world, and parenting is on the top of that list.

Nagging, berating, hair-on-end cross-eyed bargaining, or emotionally checking out due to exhaustion were not in line with my legacy, sick or well.

Noticing

Noticing my funk and misalignment helped me shift in the moment and return to qualities and values that I do want as a parent – love, connection. presence, support, play, fun.  That’s what I want my everyday legacy to be.

I was able to sit up and look at my children with fresh eyes.  To feel my body symptoms and emotions around feeling so crappy (frustration, disappointment, sadness) and in a loving and non-nagging way explain what was going on for me and ask for their help in getting it all done.  Everything shifted.  The kids enjoyed helping, the hugs were delicious, and dare I say healing?  They took more responsibility and let me rest.  And I felt better.

What’s your everyday legacy?

Do you feel it fitting in to your ultimate big picture and purpose?

If not, I invite you to some simple small steps – pause, evaluate, create, align and enjoy!

I’d love to hear your everyday legacies if you’d like to comment below.

Smelling the Roses

Exactly this time last year I wrote Time Is Not a Renewable Resource after hearing the gut-wrenching news about a child in my daughter’s 2nd grade losing his Mom to cancer.

As I reread this post, I remember the passion I felt in writing it, how moved I was by this tragedy, how I wanted to reach out and share a message to enjoy our time while we have it.

While much has changed for me this year, I noticed some areas of my life where old patterns have crept back and snuggled up so surreptitiously that I had not even noticed.  Revisiting this post helped me see clearly where I have not been fully inhabiting my life as I want to, where I have oscillated from the future and the past without being in the present.

The present that patiently waits for us to rejoin and be amongst our gifts.

One morning last week, after putting my children on their respective school buses, I was walking around our development before returning home and starting my work day.

It was a gorgeous, early autumn day, with bright sun and cool air.  Only the tips of the branches were hinting at orange, and it made me smile.  This is my favorite time of the year.  Perhaps it’s the drop in humidity, or the breath-taking colors of the nature, or the seasonal fruits and veggies, or that it’s my birthday month.

I was feeling good.  I turned my mind to my intentions and plans for the week.  Lost in thought, I almost missed something.

A scent wafted around me.  I pushed on, eager to finish this lap, check exercise off my to-do list, and be in the shower and at my desk in good time, ready to start my day and knock off some items from my seriously lengthy list.

And then.  Delicious whiff.

There it was again.  Hard to ignore.

I looked around and saw my neighbor’s rose garden.  I was smelling the roses.

Oh, the irony.

As I was pushing on to get into the future faster, I had totally missed the rose garden.  I’d already passed it on 3 previous laps.  There had been no stopping and smelling the roses during those laps.

After pausing to enjoy the subtle perfume and timeless beauty, I laughed as I walked on and made a note to engage the pause button more often.

To really be in the moment, connect and hear my body’s messages, feel my emotions, notice my thoughts, embrace my spirit.

Our lives are can be just so packed, with social expectations abounding and glorification of exhaustion and super-achieving, and it got me thinking…

Maybe….

Maybe stopping the over-achieving, struggling, people pleasing, list-checking craziness would allow us to actually get more meaningful things done.

Maybe making space would allow us to deliver priceless results on the fewer projects we choose to focus on, and a sense of clear satisfaction rather than the frenzied rush to the next item on the over-burdened list, or the dizzy dance around the items, not completing one to anyone’s satisfaction.

Maybe by being selective and doing less we could feel relaxed and be invigorated at the end of the day, not taking the stairs on our hands and knees with a scrunched up list in our hands and dark rings around our eyes and a half-hearted fist pump having moaned to our spouses and barked at the kids.

Maybe we could connect to the people in our lives verses pass them by in our preoccupation with getting it all done.

Maybe we could connect to ourselves and live our lives in technicolor and not stuff it all down because we ‘don’t have the time’ to experience it.  Or we think we’ll have time to enjoy it all ‘later’.

What would your maybe be?  What would you do if you consciously chose to do less in a day?

To connect more.  To love more.

To be more ourselves.

It’s all there for us.  In the here and now.

That’s the present.

In Remembrance

Today is a memorable day.  Ten years ago our world changed.  Today we remember and honor those who lost their lives.

Ten years ago today I was a new mother.  I had a 6-moth old baby (Joe) and we were vacationing at the Outer Banks, North Carolina with my husband’s family.

There was a hurricane off shore.  The skies had been gray and the clouds were dark and heavy.  My young son had cried each day on the beach as the howling wind and rough surf scared him.

But on September 11th the sky was a clear, cerulean blue for the first time on our vacation.

Still, I decided to stay at the beach-house that day, to play and keep him entertained indoors rather than brave the beach and his upset, in my sleep-deprived and worried state.

You see, only a few days after our vacation, Joe was scheduled for brain surgery.

He had a dermal sinus tract, which basically meant that when he was developing, part of his brain ended up on the outside of his skull and what looked like an odd mole to us was actually 3 types of brain cells and a possible gap in his skull.

Having had a highly interventional pregnancy, and despite this beautiful gift of a child, I had had no more than 1-2 hours of sleep at a time due to his sleep/screaming pattern.  His allergic colitis and our associated concern over whether he was in pain or just didn’t want to sleep impeded our efforts at sleep training.  I was completely exhausted.

That fateful day, my husband and his father and brothers had gone to play golf.

As I was standing with a baby on my hip and a jar of butternut squash in one hand and prunes in the other, wondering what I was going to pick to be sprayed with this meal time, my husband came running into the house, taking the stairs two at a time.

“We’re at war”, he shouted.

I stood, dumfounded, as the men thundered up the stairs and went to check on their loved ones, switch on the TV for updates and generally pace in unsettled mortification.

I wondered if they’d been collectively hit on their heads on the golf course until I turned and saw the images on the TV.  Horrific visuals, clip after clip, shown over and over again.

Fast forward 10 years, and Joe asked me if I could record a show for him about 911.  He was interested in learning more about the history of the day.  As I surfed to find an appropriate show for him, I started watching some footage, and felt myself glued, jaw dropped, and throat aching with unfelt emotion as the images crashed before my eyes.

In my sleep-deprived, new mother state, with my son’s upcoming surgery, I was conscious of the events of 911, but somehow the fear, pain, and grief around these events was not fully felt at that time.  It’s as if I compartmentalized the events and chose to avoid processing the painful feelings.

As an empathetic person, watching those pictures became so unbearably overwhelming and painful, that I shut them out.  I visited the past and the future, anywhere but the present, unless I was tending to my baby.

I’ve since learnt that suppressing emotions, not processing nor honoring nor tuning in to the intuitive genius of our emotions, is not how I want to live my life and nor is it helpful or healthy for my body or wellbeing.

Just because an emotion is stopped in process, doesn’t mean it just goes away.  If it is not felt all the way through, it is stored in our body.

I used to want to be joyful or happy all the time.  Who wouldn’t?  But as I have learned, when you numb the challenging emotions (fear, sadness, grief) somehow you also block your ability to feel the wonderful emotions (joy, love).

Numbing emotions is universal.  It doesn’t just let you feel the good stuff and magically dissipate the not-so-good stuff.

Emotions are meant to be felt.  They are there to help us.  And as I watch this 911 coverage, 10 years later, I allow myself the tears and flowing emotions, sadness, grief, loss and also pride, love, and awe at the courageous heroes and heroines of that day.

I understand now that my emotions, as much as my mind and intellect, my physical body, and my spiritual connection, deserve awareness.

There is much to learn from these messengers in our bodies.  If we’re willing to listen.  Ten years on and I’m all ears.

Knowing You, Loving You

Do you know yourself?  Do you love yourself?  Thought-provoking questions.

I’ve been sitting staring at my Myers Briggs report.  I see myself in the words, resonate with the strengths outlined, nod at the identified weaknesses, and shyly toy with the how to overcome challenges section.

It’s funny because I have taken this test before and didn’t see myself clearly in the results.  Over the past few years I’ve taken a number of validated assessments including the following: instinctive/conative style (Kolbe), Strengthsfinder 2.0, True Values, Archetypes and Virtues in Action (authentichappiness.com).

I’ve dug deep with excellent, intuitive coaches, mentors and colleagues to integrate the learning.

As I look at this repeat test which I requested to look at a subset career report, more fact-finding for myself and my business, I came out the same profile type as before.  Acceptance and openness seep in as I read.

I laugh at myself.  I thought I was something different.  I think I even wanted to be something different.  I just love the other profile that I thought I was.  And yet, it’s not me.

I’m amused because this is the process I go through with my clients too.  This is the Book of You program I have created.  With gentleness and empathy, holding up the mirror during coaching and with validated assessments to create a timeless resource of grounding in your own awesomeness, and here I am arguing with the results because I wanted to be a Mini Cooper and came out as a Soccer Mom Van.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a Soccer Mom Van, it’s just not a Mini Cooper.

My Myers Briggs Type Indicator is ESFJ.  I came out as ‘The Caregiver’.  What’s so bad about that?

Nothing, it’s just I didn’t see it as a superpower, because it’s just who I am and has always been who I have been.  I thought there ‘should’ be more.  I overlooked my gifts and value.

That’s the beauty of coming face to face with yourself, perhaps through assessments, self discovery or working with a coach.  You start to see your superpowers and learn to expand them, rather than overlook them and chase after something that may not be a strength, instinctive or intuitive match for you, and in fact can be in direct opposition to your unique strengths and talents.

We grow up tuned in to the needs of those around us, often so eager to please and fit in, that longing for belonging fueling our connection.  Sometimes we change ourselves to be accepted and to be loved.

Or so we think.

But true love is unconditional.  Unconditionally loving yourself, accepting yourself, showing yourself compassion and being truly yourself, and courageously being seen for who you are (tiara and warts) is the key to love and belonging.  And fitting in becomes a sad second.

So, as I sit here and see myself in all these assessments I have taken on this coaching educational path, as I absorb this Book of You that I have created, I see that I’m something special.  We all are.  Especially when we’re being our true selves, not just who we think others want to see or who we think we need to be to be acceptable.

It’s not always easy to let ourselves be seen.  We can feel so vulnerable. So I ask, who are we not to be our full selves?  Who are we to hide our light in the world?  Who are we to withhold our own unique and brilliant talents?

Shine on.  As you.  Be you.  Truly seen.

Great (Summer) Expectations

This article may be entirely written for me, by me, but I’m sensing it may be helpful to others, so I’m sharing this on the blog.

The summer’s shift in schedule was thoughtfully anticipated and planned.  It was organized, discussed, shared and agreed to within the family.  Instead of lots of camps for the kids this summer, I changed my work schedule to allow more home and family time.

What I hadn’t accounted for was how big a step this was for the kids.  The end of the school year had been chronically over-scheduled with school and after-school sports and activities.  Going from this to ‘make your own schedule’ for sections of the day (that sounded like heaven to me) was a big leap.

On the first day of summer my great expectations went down the toilet with a loud woosh.

One of my children was lying on the floor wailing about boredom by 9am.

It left me stunned, confused, and frustrated.

But really, it was all just feedback not failure.

We talked as a family and made readjustments.  We heard and saw each other.

We each talked about our intentions for the summer and shared them as a family (Click HERE to get the free summer wishlist family worksheet). We set out strategies and baby steps to achieve our goals.

From this understanding came flow, smiles, laughs, fun, play and connection.  Everything I had hoped for.

And then.  I got a stomach virus.  I felt sick, weak and dizzy for several days.  Old acquaintances, Overwhelm and Frazzled Baggage came to visit.  Misery and Grumpy also joined the party.

I felt the need to rest and sleep it off, but I was caring for my children and my business, so I went back to the old pattern of pushing through.  No stopping, taking stock, taking care of myself, I did the full-on head-down get-it-done-even-if-it kills-me mode.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, I complained about everything, saw every woe and anticipated many more.

As this old pattern lingered, my husband called me on it (bless him!!).  I felt the warm wash of shame as I realized that I had not only stepped back in time, to an old, defunct and negative pattern, but I had bought in another unwelcome guest, the Perfectionist.

I had choices.  I could take responsibility for my state of mind and emotions.  No need to play the blame game.

I could access the learning.  I could accept that my grumpy old baggage had surfaced and apologize to those who’d experienced her.  I could choose to love myself in spite of the imperfections.

My children were so gracious when I apologized to them.  My son hugged me and went back to talking about baseball cards.  My daughter pinned me with those piercing blue eyes of hers and said, “Oh Mommy, everyone makes mistakes.  It’s OK.”

Oh to be so accepted and to be able to turn to a clean, open page.

The Learning (Relearning):

Being everything to everyone doesn’t work, mostly because it’s not possible.  Taking care of others requires me to take care of myself and my needs too.

Practice:  You can’t expect to reap the benefits of practices that you know about but don’t actively do.  Many of the self-care practices I built in to my day had gone by the wayside as a side-effect of the new summer schedule.  I would never cut out showering or cleaning my teeth due to lack of time, but self care in the form of meditation, walking, yoga, and writing are every bit as important to my wellbeing as the shower and teeth cleaning, and they’d vanished from my day.

Making Space for you:  Seriously.  Don’t just dream about it, plan it in.  And then do it.

Staying present:  Even just focussing on your breathing for a few breaths can help with grounding in calm and out of stress mode.

Notice without judgment: Had I made space, I may well have noticed the old patterns that did not serve me and the associated emotional drainage.

Getting Real and Simplify:  Are all those things on the list achievable?  Can you use the 3Bs (Bag it? Better it? Barter it?).  Can you ask for help?  Can you engage your support system?

Self empathy and compassion: Self beating self doesn’t work.  Seriously.  Who wins? No plan is perfect because perfect doesn’t exist.  A plan can be good.  It can be fun, playful, restful, it can be many things – check in with your intentions – modify as needed.

If you’re confused, go in:  If you find yourself asking everyone else on what to do and how to do something, going in to discover your own truth and acting on that is so worth the effort.

Boundaries: Assess the boundaries you’ve set.  Are they serving you?  Could you use your open-hearted no more and have you taught people how to treat you?

Connect: Frazzle and catastrophic thinking impede the ability to connect with those you love and saps productivity.

Gratitude: Being thankful for the many blessings in your life.  Focussing on thankfulness extends the joy in your world.  So simple, and yet so powerful.

So next time you have great expectations, take a look at what’s going on, harness your inner Nancy Drew or Marie Curie and dispassionately dissect the findings, take the feedback and make empowered choices and changes.

What do you do when your expectations don’t match your intentions?

Intention Loves Practice

I’m thinking about intentions and honoring intentions this week.

Intention:

a thing intended; an aim or plan

the action or fact of intending

(one’s intentions) a person’s designs.

I have an intention to live an intentional life.  And then life can get in the way.

Sometimes I feel as if my intentions can become foggy in the haze of busyness, approval seeking, multitasking and constantly focussing outward instead of inward.

Especially in spring.  Spring is always a busy time for our family with seasonal sports and end of school activities.

It’s also impacted by allergy season, where it seems like the mucus in my sinuses impedes any mental clarity and inspired action.  My swollen, itchy eyes are red slits and I see little of the world.

As the earth wakes up after the long, cold winter and gives an awe-inspiring array of beauty in every imagined color and texture, all I feel is my brain screaming “MY GOD – POLLEN – RUN FOR THE HILLS, WE’RE DOOMED!!!” and my body responds with the appropriate catastrophic and very mucussy response.

This year is the first year that I have managed the entire season on less than 2 medicines.  Usually I’m on seven.  I have enjoyed every snow drop, crocus, daffodil, flowering dogwood, every shade of green, every waft of honeysuckle, every beam of warm sun with cool breeze.

Looking back on it I’m wondering what was different this spring and if there’s something to learn about it and share.

I had started to fear Spring in March.  I started to catastrophize about it with much dread and gnashing of teeth.  I almost passed on a wonderful teaching opportunity as I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, such had my previous seasons’ experience scarred me.

And then.  I remembered the famous coaching truth “Live it to give it.”

How was I living it to give it when I was hiding in my office watching spring through the glass and hunkering down over my boxes of tissues and allergy medications?

So I set and intention and I figured out a plan.

My intention was to have a healthy and happy spring.  I reintroduced a daily practice of gratitude.  I was thankful for every little piece of evidence or example of my healthy and happy life, from a hug from my children, to a smile form my husband, from a walk to the bus stop without major incident, to the beauty around me.

I added in some vitamin D, green smoothies and committed to good nutrition.  I started a nasal steroid early and took antihistamine as needed.  I self-coached on my fears and stories of all the springs I’ve spent unable to breath, on steroids, with painful sinus infections and allergic reactions to antibiotics prescribed… lots of scary evidence I was choosing to relive in the present of experiences that were well behind me and didn’t need to be alive in the moment where everything was absolutely fine.

I have just had the best spring ever.  In what papers are telling me was one of the worst allergy seasons on record.

Not for me.

It wasn’t part of my intention.

I was not symptom-free, or medicine-free, or meltdown-free – ie, it wan’t perfect, because there is no such thing as perfect –  but in my imperfection, I was able to enjoy every one of the little league baseball games, soccer games, walks and bike rides, picnics and field day events for the first spring in over a decade.

It’s amazing to me and I can’t say that I fully understand which of the changes I made this year contributed to such an experience for me, but it started with an intention, was followed by some planning and inspired action, and a heavy dollop of practice.

What in your life would you like to change?  Could you play with some intentions linked to practices and see where it takes you?