April Showers Bring May Flowers

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Man, those April showers really hit us hard this year, didn’t they? I feel like for most of us April felt like this never-ending mammoth of a month. It was a month of anxiety with Coronavirus, Quarantine, homeschooling, job security (or lack thereof), and an overwhelming sense of nothing we could do about anything. Businesses were shuttered, our towns became seemingly ghost towns, and it seemed like we either had too much time on our hands or no time at all.

Is it any wonder that we are all looking forward to May?

The last week of April we had on and off rain showers with very little sunshine in between. The thing that has been getting us through this whole Quarantine is that it’s been sunny and 70’s for most of it. We’ve been able to play in the garden all afternoon, go for evening walks, and just feel the sunshine on our face. This last week, without that? It’s been tough (and that’s for someone who LOVES the rain). The boys have been cross, cooped up with too much energy and no good way to let it out.

In a lot of ways, it’s been a very physical manifestation of how so many of us have been feeling towards the end of April. A frustration, an anger, a desire to just get out and do something.

But then, Thursday as the sun set a rainbow came out.

Not just any rainbow, a clear both ends visible, double rainbow. This was our second rainbow of the week (we had gotten a partial one on Tuesday) and both also involved a moment where it looked like the sky was on fire. While I’m not normally the superstitious or symbolic type, it just felt like these were signs. Signs that things were going to be OK. That this rainstorm of a month was coming to an end. That there was hope for the next month or two while we transition. That there was sunshine around the corner.

Earlier in the month (maybe a couple weeks ago), I shared that I wasn’t OK. That I was struggling, and I wasn’t able to see the light, wasn’t able to see all the good around me, wasn’t able to keep my chin up. I spent that entire weekend crying off and on, and it was a really low moment in this year so far. Right now, I can say that I’m back up. I’m feeling about 75% my usual self and that feels so much better to me. I am starting to see the light, I have more good moments than bad, and I feel like I can start tackling life again.

Just like April just seemed to be a never-ending shower of everything, it seems like May is going to bring a bit of a re awakening.

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Feeling confident walking into May         Photo Credit: My Incredible 4 1/2 yr old, Colton.

 

A welcome reprieve as most of the world is going to start to see some level of restriction/quarantine lessening. While life may not look like it did before Coronavirus, I think we all can agree that we are happy to get back to some semblance of our new normal.

It’s funny how this year has really given us the phrase of “April showers bring May flowers” in both a literal and figurative sense. I hope that wherever you are, however, you have been affected, that you are keeping your mind and body afloat and that you too are able to see the May flowers that are coming our way.

When Being Home is…Overwhelming.

Man, it’s been a strange time hasn’t it? As the entire world seems to slow to a halt and we are all thrust into this new normal, it’s easy to get…well overwhelmed. As an introvert this is even easier. I think it’s also so easy to forget about this when you are not an introvert. But this post isn’t really about that.

Let me be clear…this post is not about the quarantine, shelter in place, isolation, lockdown, whatever you are referring to it as in your own country. I am 100% in favor of this and believe that is absolutely necessary. To me, this is not up for debate. This virus is not something to mess around about (and honestly if you just follow the mandate of staying home, it won’t be a long process to have it work its way through and out) and I am not going to debate something that, at this point, is semantics. Many countries have issued a lockdown measure of some sort, so whatever your feelings are, you are locked down.

This post is about what this actually looks like in terms of mental health. Of what we can do about that, of what we can do with our kids, what we can do for ourselves, and how we work through all of the confusion, overwhelm, and upset. No matter what end you fall on, no matter how this affects you economically, we are all dealing with a lot of feelings.

I don’t have all the answers on this. In fact, as I am writing this, I am struggling myself. I’m struggling with the amount of noise in our home, the never ending feeling of chaos, the nonexistence of a true routine, trying to do some form of “school” with a toddler who desperately just wants to go TO school, and trying to navigate having all 4 of us home ALL THE TIME. As much as I love my family and I’m grateful to have this time together, it’s TOUGH, and I think that is something we can all agree with.

For me, I am struggling with feeling overwhelmed with…well everything. We’ve finally got things up and running for Colton’s school, but that is creating it’s own problem (you can read about this below), I’ve got a million things that I want to accomplish, my husband is still working and going to school, and our house is just…much louder than normal. As an introvert who absolutely needs quiet and alone time it’s just making this a lot harder than I thought it would be. Today is the first day that I just wanted to breakdown.

So, what can we do?

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photo credit Daisy from Daisy Zimmer Photography (full photo on my SM)

I talked about how to stay positive last week (you can read that HERE), but what else can we do? I think honestly, the first place to start is to communicate and talk or write it out. Tell your partner or spouse what you NEED in a way that is constructive. For me personally, I NEED to have quiet time. I need to have 10-20 minutes at different points throughout the day of just quiet. Now, this is almost impossible with two toddler boys, but I try to find little pockets where I can take it. I also listen when he tells me he needs something. We are trying to find a good give and take with all of us being home as he is still working and doing school during this time. He has things that he needs the time to do and needs to take care of, and sometimes that means locking himself away for a couple of hours to get those things done.

So, for example, doing a little yoga first thing in the morning. My husband stays quiet during this and does his own thing (homework, check news, check emails) so I can ease into my morning before chaos ensues and the boys wake up. Once I am done with yoga, I try to take another 15 minutes to journal. I write out EVERYTHING. What I am feeling, what I am seeing, what I am hearing. I write about how the previous day went, what I want to accomplish today, and just a general “get your mind right” moment.

Another chance I get to get a little quiet (and build the endorphins) is a run (I mean it’s more of a run/walk, but you get the gist). This week I started doing the Couch to 5K program in an effort to get a little break/me time in my days. Since we are restricted to the house EXCEPT for groceries/meds and exercise outdoors, I am taking full advantage of the exercise outdoors option. This gives me a chance to just wander back into my brain, check out of real life, and run my feelings out.

Speaking of music, I find that just jamming it out to your favorite song or playlist is an excellent option. Blast the tunes, have a little breathing session or dance session and dust of the cobwebs in your mind. Music is such a big part of my attitude and I find even just two songs (right now Sunflower by Post Malone and SOS by Aviccii) is all I really need to get a mood booster. It also gives my kids a chance to wiggle about and I’m not hearing the nonstop chattering. We all seem to come together for those couple minutes, and it works.

Something else that I think is really important is to lean in toward whatever you are feeling. This is an overwhelming time and we are trying to figure out what life looks like and it’s ok to feel mad, to feel sad, to feel overwhelmed. It’s ok to take some time out to feel those feelings. THEY ARE TOTALLY VALID FEELINGS TO HAVE. No matter what your background is, no matter how this affects you, it is OK to feel this way. And right now, more than ever, I think that it is important for us to process those feelings. We will have a harder and faster burnout if we just continue to try and put a happy face on and hold it together.

This is especially true if you are a mom. Your kids are likely scared, nervous, freaking out, confused, mad, sad, everything that they can feel, they are feeling. While our first instinct is to hold it together, to be the strong one, it isn’t’ bad for them to see you struggle too. It helps them process their own emotions if we can be clear and concise about it. For me this is really key for when I am feeling frustrated or sad with not being able to do something or needing some space, my boys pick up on that and I explain to them exactly what is going on. This then stimulates a conversation (in as much a 4 and 2 yr. old can do) about how we are feeling. So, lean into those feelings, process them, and it might be easier for you to move forward and find joy in the little things again.

Going to quickly touch on school (as I don’t really know that I can truly talk about that). School is a hard one. I feel like we’ve really hit this hard as even though Colton was only in preschool for a month and a half he got really attached to it. If he could go every single day he could. It was his space to learn, to engage, to have a little “life of his own” for lack of a better phrase. He LOVED it and to have that yanked out from under him so soon has been a real struggle for him. Further, we are continuing with a digital learning plan with his school and that’s been…hard. He doesn’t have the same focus at home that he does in school and, of course, at home he also has little bro who wants to be involved. It’s been hard to try and explain to him what is going on and how we are handling everything right now, because the moment we explain it to him he just gets sad and says he wants to go to school. It breaks my heart.

I know that you moms of older kids are feeling that same pressure, but also adding in the academics to it as well. Luckily with Colton in preschool the hardest thing we are dealing with is focus issues, his academics and such are fairly straightforward for him. I’ve been reading posts from various teachers who all seem to agree- with this new normal, it means we need to adapt across the board. Forcing the kids to sit at a desk for 8 hours at home is just not feasible. So, lean into your kids. Listen to them when they say something. Interact with their needs. Some kids may work better at home when there is noise in the background, some kids may need to be at a desk every time they work, some kids may be focus on real world learning more than classroom. Each school is handling digital learning differently, but from what I’ve seen there is time that they meet with their teachers and do their work, and then there is free work time. Balance both of those with some real-world play and real-world lessons and a routine will start to emerge. This is a whole new level for all of us…give yourself and your kids grace. It’s not easy, but they will be OK.

Finally, if you are in a financial spot to do so, try and support some of your local or online businesses. I’m going to share a couple of my favorites that I have either ordered through already, or will be ordering through over the next couple months…

https://www.rachelallene.com/shop Rachel Allene is like the jolt of sunshine that we all need anyway. Her products are not only practical (hello mugs and shirts and coffee? We all need those), but they are absolutely adorable! They are the perfect amount of whimsy, beauty, and season. I highly recommend checking her shop out for your mugs and shirt needs.

https://www.bookshelfthomasville.com/ This is a small, local, independent bookstore in Georgia that carries most new releases, along with some merchandise. They are doing online orders, but also curbside pickup if you are in their area. I always love supporting independent bookstores, so this is the perfect chance for you to do so as well.

https://kelseyconversephotography.pixieset.com/guestlogin/travelprints/?return=%2Ftravelprints%2F If you are looking to spruce up your interior wall game, check out Kelsey’s travel photography. These are some incredible photos and would liven up any room that you want to. I would also just recommend following kelsconverse on Instagram because she is one of those genuine souls on the internet.

Also, as many have suggested, buy gift cards to some of your favorite spots. This is a great option if you want to support restaurants or other smaller in store places. OR if you want to support, but don’t need anything at the present moment. Buy a gift card and gift it or save it for a special occasion for yourself. This gives a small business some much needed cash flow in this trying time.

Finally, go show your blogger friends some love! Click on the links to their most recent posts, like them, leave them a comment, and spread the love around. Ultimately what this time is teaching us is to slow down, remember what community really is, and enjoy a little breather from the busy world we live in.

A Little Judgement Chat

Here is something that has been kind of frustrating me lately. This may seem like something coming out of left field with me and maybe it is a little bit, but I’m also starting to get a little tired of holding my tongue. I’m not going to be going all gung-ho into certain topics, but I do want to share a little bit more of the things that weigh on my heart. I want to say a little bit more about things that I see. I want to try and use my voice for a little bit more if I can/when I think it is appropriate. This is one of those times as I have not only experienced this, but have seen it in action firsthand.

Here’s the deal…we all judge. Say whatever you want, we all have judged someone or something at one point in our lives. Whether we pass judgement simply in our mind or to our significant others, or actually speak your commentary out loud it really doesn’t matter. As much as I try not to, I have definitely passed judgement. Look, it’s human nature (similar to comparison, but that’s a whole other conversation).

We talk and judge about looks, actions, relationships, speech, just about anything. Whether it is perceived or real, everything we do/say or don’t is judged.

The problem that comes with passing judgement is that we don’t know what someone else is going through. Even if they give us their life story, if they are a public persona, if they are private, we quite simply don’t know the full story. We may think that someone looks unkempt and make our own remarks on that, but they could be dealing with things that we could never imagine.

Another problem with judgement: it doesn’t give either person a chance to even begin to understand. Look struggling doesn’t discriminate on any level. You could appear to live a lavish, privileged life, and be dealing with an extreme amount of depression. Yes, you are in a privileged position, but you still struggle. Someone can recognize their privilege and yet still have down days. We cannot understand someone and whatever issues they may or may not be experiencing if we judge them before they can even open their mouths.

Judgement isn’t just external either, we are prone to a lot of internal judgement which can sometimes be even more damaging. There are a lot of instances where we feel certain assumed/perceived  judgements or roles that are placed on us. We feel as if we may not be living up to a role, doing things with smiles on our faces. Some of this can come from judgements we have in the past thought or expressed, or heard someone else express.

And this judgement is what prevents a lot of people from talking about problems. It prevents a lot of people from opening up about whatever they are dealing with. And when someone feels like they can’t share what is going on it festers inside them until they can’t handle anymore, and we get an explosion of some sort. Often times we then wonder, “what happened?”. “How did this happen?”. “Why didn’t they say anything?”.

It’s a vicious circle and it’s one that only we, as individuals, can break. If each person opens with a little more kindness, a little more of an open mind, and a little less judgement or unsolicited advice (again, a whole other topic), then maybe others will feel a little bit better to share. It only takes one person to start a change in this cycle. One person. Will you be that person?

A Little Insight into Travel Weariness

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Traveling is one of the best ways to spend our time, not only do you get to see new places, but you are experiencing new things, seeing new cultures, seeing different ways of life. It is so great, and I completely understand how a big chunk of advice that people give/receive when talking about life is to travel as much as possible. It is in fact a piece of advice I give out now as well. There is just so much to the world and so much to learn, see, and experience.

However, there is another aspect to traveling that we don’t talk about it: the sheer exhaustion of it all.

There are a couple of reasons as to this, one of those being that we feel as though we can’t complain. We are in an extraordinary position of being able to travel, to be able to see the world. Not many people are able to from just the standpoint of cost, let alone getting time off work, dealing with children and school schedules, and much more. It can feel even worse to be in these great opportunities and not 100% loving or enjoying them. Another reason we may not talk about it is that we don’t want to remember those moments. Nobody wants to see/hear/remember the hard times.

But, as we know, life is not sunshine and rainbows ALL the time and while traveling can be a blast and eye opening, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either.

So, travel weariness. Beth Sandland actually speaks about this in one of her blog posts, which you can find HERE, and she does a much better job than I do at articulating this. We all hit a point, no matter what kind of traveler we are, either while we are traveling, or shortly after getting home, where we just crash. We can’t go any further, we sleep longer hours, our bodies and minds needing all the rest they can possibly get. We find our energy to be at odds with what we want to accomplish, and we end up having a day or two of just catching up with ourselves.

This is a very real feeling. It’s something that happens to me usually after a couple of weekends away. I actually try to schedule our weekends away where we have at least a week or so in between a trip that is going to be more than one night. We can do back to back to back trips, but then we need a bit of a longer home time in between. We’ve found a way to make it work for us.

All this probably sounds a bit whiny, or a bit of “you shouldn’t complain” and maybe in a way it is. We are so incredibly blessed (as is anybody who is able to travel) and we don’t turn a blind eye to that. We wholeheartedly recognize the situation we are in and are trying to make the most of our time here. But, I also don’t want to shy away from sharing some of the harder bits either.

Traveling is exhausting. Traveling with two toddlers is even more so exhausting. It’s stressful. There are so many levels to that stress and exhaustion. Trying to balance family fun, with photos, with remembering everything, with making sure our kids are behaving. (I’m well aware of how this all sounds, but it’s really fun and it’s quite easy once you fall into what works for yourself/your family. I just want you to know that it is a lot).  There is a lot of planning and organization that goes into even just the long weekends away, let alone our longer holidays. But we love it. We love every minute of it. So, we put up with the exhaustion. On our longer holidays we try to keep a day of nothing, and when planning any trips, we try to book in a day after travel to catch up on home stuff before heading back into work.

So, there you have it. My look into Travel Weariness. Have you experienced it? Let me know in the comments below.

I See You

I see you. You, the mom putting out the picture of happiness. Radiating happiness. The mom that everyone thinks has her sh*t together. The mom who seemingly does it all. Mrs. Cleaver, caring for her husband, children, and home.

The mom who is the look of happy perfection and yet is crying out inside.

I see you. You, the mom crying silently in the car on the way home. The mom crying to herself, exhausted from being the one thread that holds everything together. The mom who gives until she has nothing left to give because she has no other choice.

The mom who wants so desperately to be there for everyone else, to be that happy bubbly person that she knows she is, but loses sight of her own needs in the process.

I see you. I see you because I am you.

It’s a hard thing to share. I’m the kind of person who loves to be that “light in the darkness”. I love to live a life full of happiness, who doesn’t? I love to lift others help, help them find those little positive moments, to be that person who is there for them when they need it. I don’t like to focus on the hard times, or talk about how the past month was a tough one, when I am now feeling better and things are looking up. I don’t want to bring those times up (aside from the random in the moment posting about them), because I don’t want to return to them. I don’t want to bring that back into my headspace, but if we don’t then we won’t learn for the next time. If we don’t share, others won’t know. I think it is equally important to share when times are good and when times are…well not so good.

Life is full of ups and downs for everyone and it is important to remember that even the people who look like they have their sh*t together still have their hard days too.

I also feel a lot of guilt when talking about what “hard times” looks like to me. I know that I am incredibly blessed to be able to stay home with my children, to have a roof over my head, to have food on my table, to not have to overly stress about our budget (although we do have one), to not have to worry about every little thing. I recognize that I am incredibly blessed to be able to travel with my family, show our kids the world beyond our town. I’m blessed to have a loving and caring husband (or partner if that’s your case), who will help our whenever and however he can.

I know that I am incredibly blessed in this life (although that doesn’t negate the hard work that I put in and have put in), but that doesn’t mean that I do not have hard times. Hard times look different to everyone, just like anything else in life. It is important not to downplay or minimize someone else’s hart times just because they look different than ours.

In August, my hard times specifically related to being mentally over exhausted. Our July and August have been non stop on the “doing things”, “people” and “noise” fronts and I just couldn’t catch a break to have an hour or two to myself. We talk about self-care (something I will be talking about this month) and how important it is, but sometimes we forget. I preach it, but wasn’t getting a chance to take my own advice. It’s a season of life and this past month has taught me a couple of things.

Also, in this time period, my husband’s work picked up quite a bit, he was in and out a little bit more (and had a long trip at the start of the month) and our boys reacted to that. Andrew became extremely clingy (to be expected), freaking out if I disappeared from his site for more than a minute. Again, a season of life and something that we are working on with him.

I say all this now, share all this now, because I’ve been really bad at sharing it in the moment. I hit a patch of about a week when I just retreated. Outwardly I was still that same person, but when we weren’t around others I hid inside. I carried on as best I could, but often times would end up crying at night, from being so tired, so worn thin. Feeling like the worn thread holding a piece of rope together.

I didn’t share in the moment for two reasons, both of which have been stated here. I don’t like feeling like this- no one does. I don’t want to bring myself down even more and bring others down. I also felt that guild and shame. I didn’t want to put my “not so important” problems above others who have what I would consider “real problems” (which, as I’ve stated above is utterly ridiculous). I retreated so far that I really just didn’t want to talk at all.

I don’t know what actually pulled me out to be honest. I cried. A lot. I wrote in my journal. A lot. I tried to “unpack” the things that were really bothering me. What was really getting me into this low spot. And, if I really think about it, it was probably a combination of things that just happened at the same time and reminded me of the good things. Then, I focused on those good things and over the process of a couple days started to feel better.

So, what’s the point of this whole post? It’s basically just me saying I see you. I see you, in the happy times, in the hard times and all the times in between. I see you and I want to help you. Tell me, talk to me; talk it out, write it out, cry it out, whatever you need to do.

Say Something. Tell Someone.

From the outside looking in, we were a happy family. How could we not be? All three of us, smiling cheery faces, eyes barely showing the cracks within us. And for a time we were happy. I’ll not deny that we had happy moments as a family. Moments that weren’t besieged with fear, with watching every step, every word.

From the outside looking in, you would NEVER have known what happened behind closed doors. You would never had known what fear the young girl was experiencing, what anger the mom was trying to control, or that dad was unaware for most of it.

That’s the thing about abuse. You don’t know. An abuser excels at hiding in public. A victim learns to shut up and become as little as possible. To not bring any attention upon themselves. Bruises can be hidden/written off/explained. You don’t truly know until someone says something. And a lot of times, when someone speaks up others don’t believe them. Especially in cases like mine, when we appeared to the world as a happy family.

But that’s one of the keys to healing, to moving forward. Say something. Tell someone. Speak up.

Living with abuse, or even living after the abuse has ended is like living with a constant weight. The weight of this enormous secret. Something that you’ve never talked about. It is a weight on your shoulders, a weight on your chest. It governs your every move, your every word, your every decision. Your every breathe is tainted by the weight of this secret. Even if you have left the situation where the abuse has occurred, your abuser still has power over you with this weight.

That’s the thing about abuse that no one really talks about. You leave, get out, walk away and it still follows you. It follows you mentally, emotionally, and physically. The weight of this secret is usually a big factor in the healing process, a big factor in all three of the ways abuse follows you.

Talking about it, telling someone, starts to lift that weight. It allows you to feel as if you can breathe again. You don’t have to tell the world, you don’t have to make any crazy public display, just tell one person. A friend, a stranger, a loved one. It doesn’t matter-just someone. Start lifting that weight off of your chest and start taking back control of yourself.

In fact, from my own experience, I had some folks who knew us as a family be shocked when I first spoke out. It was a surprise to some, not so much too others, but overall if I had never said anything no one would ever have known. I also knew though that I wanted to take back control. I wanted my voice back. I wanted to be “normal”.

While I’ll never be “normal”, I have become a person that I like again. I am no longer a shell, scared of the slightest thing. I’ve no longer got a weight on my shoulders/chest controlling everything. The first time I told someone that weight started to lift.

Talking about it, sharing my story, even just to one friend who already had an idea that something wasn’t right, allowed me to breathe a little easier. And slowly, ever so slowly because the healing process takes time, I started to take back control by talking and by writing.

I’ve faced some backlash, and I know others who have faced even more backlash than I have, but the freedom that we feel, the relief, that’s feeling of being able to breathe-that feels better than the backlash that comes. You may lose friends, you may face some backlash, BUT the freedom that you will get, the feeling of relief, the ability to breathe again without this weight. That is something amazing.