Monday, September 30, 2013

31 Days of Mindful Moments

It’s that time of year again-the 31 Days blogging challenge hosted by The Nester.
I like to use this as an opportunity for self-reflection.  Last year, my theme was Being the Person.

This year’s theme is Mindful Moments.
This theme was inspired by my focus for the year to be awake, present in my surroundings and the world around me.  This has been challenging.  Distractions are so easy to find in this world.  I was inspired by Jen Hatmaker to take moments out of each day for refection and gratitude. 

Mindful moments.
As a social worker, I am often greeted with the harsh reality of the world around us.  Sometimes I float through my days as a way to escape the tragedy I see around me.

But this escape doesn’t protect me from pain.
I see it every day in my real world too.  The struggle to survive another day is very real for those close to me. 

I also realize that when I am having some of my best days, some of you may be experiencing your worst.
Those of you with your desperate prayers are so close to my heart.  You remind me that I need to love deeply.  Your story inspires me to be awake.

So for the next 30 days, I am going to be purposeful about these moments of reflection and gratitude.
I am going to use verses from the hymn, Lord of All Hopefulness, as my source of meditation to keep me centered.  I heard this a couple of months ago, and this beautiful music has brought some clarity about how I can create these mindful moments throughout the day.

For the morning:
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

For mid-day:

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

For the evening:

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Before bed:

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

Each day I will share a meditation from my day and explain how this maybe influenced my attitude or day.  My hope is that at the end of these 31 days, I will have a new routine of mindful reflection and gratitude.
My hope is that I use this as an opportunity to become more awake.

31 Day Posts:

Day 2-Evening Grace

Day 3-Blissful Day

Day 4-Relief

Day 5-Excuses

Day 6-Endurance

Day 7-Sewing

Day 8-Sincerity

Day 9-Drifting

Day 10-Stillness

Day 11-Pillowcase Therapy

Day 12-Enough

Day 13-A Good Day

Day 14-Contrast

Day 15-Already There

Day 16-All Is Well

Day 17-Strength

Day 18-Projects

Day 19-Slowing Down

Day 20-Getting Lost

Day 21-Creating Quiet

Day 22-Before Sleep

Day 23-Morning Validation

Day 24-Pajamas

Day 25-Let It Go

Day 26-A Fall Afternoon

Day 27-Forced Rest

Day 28-Ready

Day 29-Truth

Day 30-To-Dos

Monday, September 23, 2013


It has been years since I have been on a bike for fun.  Over ten years, I bet.  In fact, I’m pretty wobbly on a bike.  Thank goodness this is a still shot and not a video.

You know this love-hate relationship I have with running?  I like the sense of accomplishment, my body likes the exercise, I need the mental release.

But the actual running…sigh…there are moments when I would rather not be doing that.  Moments when my legs feel heavy and slow, moments when my lungs feel like they have no air, moments when the side stitch feels like my body is going to split in half, moments when I want to give up.

But this day riding a bike…I felt free.  Just like when I was a kid.  It was amazing.

I thought of my little Lucy’s words last year when we were enjoying a day and she said, I like this, right now.  I don’t have that feeling when I run.  Ok, I’ve had it a couple times, but it is usually fleeting with the incoming lactic acid. 

Riding a bike though, I can get behind that feeling.  I enjoyed the right now.

And this wasn’t serious bike riding.  As you can see, we are in a parking lot.  We rode over to the kids’ school.  By the way, isn’t this an amazing view?  Ten years out here and I still can’t get over the view.  I hope I never do.

No special butt-padded riding suits needed for this ride. 

It was about enjoying the moment.  Enjoying the right now.  Enjoying the simplicity of riding a bike, the rush of incoming childhood memories.

Of course, I will still run.  I have to run.  I’m too addicted to that post-run feeling.  And I love the simplicity of running.  Shoes and clothes are the only requirement.  Mark the Garmin is a nice perk.  No need to worry about flat tires or broken bikes.

Or spandex outfits.
Speaking of simplicity....I updated the comment box.  I hope this makes it a bit easier to leave comments.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Two weeks ago I wrote a post about mindfulness. 

And then I found the past two weeks flying by.  How did that happen?

I have been forgetting things.  I have been escaping.

That feeling has been driving me crazy.  I have been going through the motions.  I haven’t really been awake.

Maybe I am making some progress.  Maybe before I wouldn’t have realized that two weeks had completely slipped away.

I’m trying to retrace my steps.  Figure out why I lost track of time.

Scheduling got in the way.  I simply need more down time.  Every weekend has felt rushed and full of to-dos. 

I haven’t been taking care of myself.  I started a craft project a couple of weeks ago that I haven’t finished.  I haven’t been writing.  The change in the daylight has shifted my running schedule, and I am losing out on a run a week.  Translate that into I have lost a therapy session a week. 

I have been hiding.  Hiding in my books.  Hiding in my covers as I flop down to sleep at 9 pm, completely worn out.

I have been taking things personally.  Things that are not personal.  They never really are, anyway.  But that is where my brain goes when it is tired or my heart is weary.  I lose the gift of perspective.

I’m searching for the reset button.

We are headed into my favorite season, and I want to enjoy it. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Dead Sea

Photo stolen from my mom's facebook page

Back in July, there was a blog post by Lisa-Jo Baker floating around facebook, When You Think Your Love Story is Boring.  She wrote about how remarkable the every day love is.  Does it look like a movie?  Of course not.  How could it?

A real love story is about the day to day.

She wrote, love really lives and this ordinary unremarkable love walks slowly every day alongside.

It’s not about a scripted romantic moment.  It is about staying together through the every day.

And there is beauty in that.

Today my parents are celebrating 50 years of marriage.  When I think back on their marriage, I don’t see a series of romantic moments.

I see two people who have walked through live together, living their love.  They have shared this ordinary unremarkable love every day for 50 years.  The years have slipped by fast, I’m sure.  As with any marriage, there may have those long seasons of struggle.  As a kid, you can be oblivious to the reality of your family. 

At times, you can see moments with couples, not movie scripted romantic moments, but glimpses into their ordinary unremarkable love.  I remember one Thanksgiving.  It was after dinner and the dishes were cleaned up.  Some of us were gathering in the family room to watch whatever football game was on.  My dad and mom were standing in front of the fire in the fireplace with their arms around each other’s waists. 

It made me wonder what they were thinking in that moment.  There was the simplicity of that ordinary remarkable love.

Years later, married with kids of my own, I look to moments like that, moments that Billy and I share where our simple love lives. 

When I look at my parents’ marriage and wonder how they have influenced my life and the love I have with Billy, I think about our walk through life.  Through the good times and the struggles, Billy and I have stayed together.  At times, our walk has been a lot like a trail run, stumbling over if we took one look off the path we were on.  That’s part of the journey of life, I suppose.

But the years (and my parents) have taught me that when we are stumbling, that moment (or season) will pass.  I look at my parents’ marriage for that ordinary remarkable love that walks alongside.  I look to Billy for it.  And of course, I have a song to share that makes me think of it, The Dead Sea by The Lumineers.

You told me I was like the Dead Sea, you’ll never sink when you are with me

And this too:
I’m like the Dead Sea, the finest words you ever said to me
Honey, can’t you see, I was born to be, be your Dead Sea

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.  Thank you for your beautiful ordinary unremarkable love.  Thank you for being the Dead Sea.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mindful Moments

I started out Labor Day weekend by making a to-do list.  Why do I do that to myself?

After running errands and cleaning on Friday, I spent Saturday watching Mystery Inc. with the girls.  I did run 12.5 miles, so I did accomplish something.

But why am I justifying that to you?

Why can’t I simply enjoy a well-deserved day of nothing?

The girls had a sleepover Sunday night with Billy’s parents.  When I found out that we wouldn’t be picking them up until 4:30 on Monday, I stalled out.

I already completed two tasks that I needed the kids to be out of the house for-going through their old school work and cleaning out a closet with unknown contents.  Let me explain.  My kids (Lucy more so) like to hold onto “stuff.”  They would justify keeping every piece of paper in the stack.  And while I value teaching them how to do things like clean up and get rid of things, at times, I need to go through the stack myself.  And the closet with unknown contents…well…maybe I hid something in there before taking it to Goodwill.  I didn’t want to risk it.

Once that was done, I wasn’t sure what to do. 

I scrambled to come up with something.  And nothing came.  I didn’t want to start a new project.

But I couldn’t simply be.

I hesitated to turn on the computer.  I’ve been down the Pinterest rabbit hole too much.  I didn’t want to see my day disappear there.

In fact, after Billy and I were done with our projects, I made us leave the house so we wouldn’t get sucked into the computer or tv. 

We went for a walk.  In my happy place.  And still I was restless.

I thought back to the book that I read a few months ago by Jen Hatmaker that make me start thinking, what if…

One of the “experiments” in the book is taking moments out of the day to be mindful, to express gratitude, to be present.  This was something that immediately drew me in because at times, my entire day slips away.  And not necessarily because of the usual time wasters (internet), but simply because I haven’t been mindful of the world around me.  I haven’t been present.  Jen Hatmaker used a book of meditations for these moments of reflection.

I thought of this restlessness in my heart the other day, and how moments of reflection might help me stay more grounded, peaceful.

So the question of what if…came up again.  What if I took moments out of my day to be mindful of the day and world around me?  What if I used these moments to express gratitude for the day behind me and seek wisdom for the remaining day ahead?

I don’t have a book of daily meditations.  I was drawn by something else.  A traditional hymn, Lord of All Hopefulness.  I only heard this a month ago, and when I did, it spoke to my soul, as music sometimes does.  Each verse seemed fitting for a meditation for each part of my day.

Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,

Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy,

Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,

Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,

Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,

Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,

Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,

Your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,

Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,

Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,

Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,

Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,

Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

I tried to link this to a youtube video with singing, but I wasn’t really jazzed about any of the clips.  I do like this ukulele version, so click here, if you would like to listen to it.

This leaves me with that what if… question again.  What if I spent a few moments of reflection during the day?  Would this bring me peace?  Would this calm a restless spirit?  Would I be more awake?

I think I will take this particular what if out for a spin.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


This business of parenting is challenging.  I feel that moms have it even more challenging.  I don’t see dads comparing themselves to each other, feeling inadequate, feeling torn between working or staying home, feeling like they are not enough.

Ok, ok, maybe there are dads out there that struggle through that.  Or maybe all of us parents struggle on some level.

I suppose because I am a woman and have mostly female friends, I see this more as a mom issue.

Having young children can be terribly isolating at times, especially if you have limited supports.  Your schedule is dependent on naps or feeding times.  The physical exhaustion can be so intense.  You can struggle between wanting to have some time to yourself and not feeling like you are giving enough to your child.

There have been many moments in the past couple of years when I feel like I am finally coming up for air.  I am sure that part of this is leaving survival mode.  Some of it is simply coming out of the preschooler/toddler stage with my children. 

On the weekends, I can go on a two hour run and not feel guilty about having alone time.  I realize that those moments are helping me become a better mom.  I need that time alone.  I need that time to feel good about myself.  And it’s not just running.  Sometimes it’s journaling or crafting or reading or cooking alone.  It’s those things that make me feel like a separate entity from my children, like a real person. 

When I talk to moms with kids in that demanding stage, it is easy for me to remember those days.  I see the struggle with some of those moms.  The desire to redefine themselves now that they have added “mom” to their list of roles.

I wish I had words of wisdom.  Sometimes, it’s an accomplishment to simply survive those years.  Looking back on it, maybe there are some things that would have made it a bit more bearable.  To be honest, I can still use these reminders.

We are not the mom next door to us.  And we are not supposed to be the mom next door to us.  We are individuals.  We have our own values and our own way of raising our kids.  And that’s ok.

We can make it through this business of parenting by creating supports with other moms.  We need to share frustrations, successes, questions with other people who have been there.  And when we see other moms who are struggling, we can offer to be a support for them, watch their kids, listen to their stories, bring coffee.  Now that I see myself as emerging from some of that physically demanding part of parenting, I enjoy supporting moms who are still in the trenches.  Sometimes, all we need to hear that we are not alone.

It is ok to renew our spirits and take care of our own needs.  It is ok for us to have other roles outside that of “mom” and interests that are unique to us.  Having a hobby (or interests or goals) doesn’t mean that I am neglecting my children, it means that I am nurturing myself.  And that helps me be a better mom.

Exercise is great at getting out that negative energy and helping gain perspective about this business of parenting.  This is something that I neglected when my kids were toddling around.  It can be hard to fit into the schedule.  It has to fit between all of the guilt for spending 30 minutes by yourself.  Sigh.  Let’s all reread the previous paragraph just for good measure.  The other benefit to exercise as a mom is that it can make you feel a little bad ass.  Why yes, I have two children and I just ran 12 miles.  Not that I’ve ever thought that….

If you are a mom of young ones, hang in there.  It’s ok if you aren’t cherishing every moment with your child because your child is having such a screaming fit about going into Kohls that it reminds you of that scene from The Omen where they try to take the spawn of the devil into a church.  It’s ok to table that moment and cherish some others.

But please don’t be fooled.  That physically demanding time changes into new parenting challenges.

We can make it through those too.  Let’s stick together.