Tag Archives: happiness

Lessons from the First 4 Months of Motherhood

Motherhood is sure stretching and growing me in many ways. I’m only 4.5 months in, so I’m a total newbie still, but if there’s one lesson that stands out in my mind so far, it would be this:

You are not in control.

Ha. Any mom who is reading this right now is probably chuckling and nodding her head.  I sat next to a really sweet lady at church a few weeks ago and we got chatting about our kids. Hers were several years older than mine and she asked how I was adjusting to life with a baby. I said, “Well, it’s definitely teaching me that I’m really not in control!” She laughed and said, “Honey, control is an illusion. None of us are ever in control.”

So. True.
But before having a baby, I definitely lived under that illusion at times. Okay, most of the time.
My life was so orderly, running like a well-oiled machine (for the most part). And there’s nothing like having a baby to teach a Type-A, schedule-loving, extremely organized person that life will be so much betterimg_2379 if you just let go of trying to be in control!

You realize as a mom that everything is flexible. I used to hate that word!! 😛 Now it is my lifesaver and my mantra.

Want to meet for coffee? Ok, I’ll be there around 10:30. Oops, baby had a diaper blowout…be there at 11!  Need to run to the grocery store? Wait, she’s falling asleep so I think we’ll just go after nap-time. Babies are great at helping us crazy Type-As learn to just go with the flow. 🙂 It wasn’t an easy transition for me, but I’m slowly getting more used to it and becoming more…dare I say it, flexible.  😉  let-go-of-control

Because I’ve always been a timely person who hardly ever cancels on anyone and hates to make changes to the original plan, I feel horrible when I have to reschedule or arrive late to a coffee date with a friend. It doesn’t happen too often any more (I’ve learned to build in a 20 minute buffer to get out the door, haha!) but when it does I always apologize profusely and struggle not to feel like an awful person for keeping someone waiting. Did I mention I also have a perfectionist side? I’ve also been learning a lot about being okay with imperfection in my life. (Not that I ever thought I was perfect, but I definitely tried to be.)  I think I need to re-read the book The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. My counselor recommended that to me during my recovery from anorexia, and it was very instrumental in my healing. Anorexics are notorious for being perfectionists, and I was definitely not the exception.

Speaking of imperfection, motherhood has helped me be okay with an imperfect house too! While I still maintain a pretty clean home and keep up with the dishes and laundry for the most part, I’ve loosened the reigns a lot when it comes to dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms. I realized one day that my friends would still love me and come over to hang out even if my coffee table was dusty and my bathroom hadn’t seen Windex in a couple weeks time. Imagine that.

All of this to say, I’m really grateful for these lessons that motherhood is teaching me so far. I’ve got a long ways to go, but my other favorite mantra in this stage of life is “one day at a time” so I’m just going to keep chugging along. 🙂

Not only is this little cutie an amazing joy and blessing, but she’s teaching me so much every single day. I’m really thankful for this mama life.  ❤

How to Set Goals You Can Actually Achieve

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me, that I LOVE goals. And lists. Lists of goals. Goals on lists. Basically, any combination of these two things is enough to get me excited.

love listsI’m the kind of person that adds items to my to do list that I already finished 5 minutes ago, just so I can have the immense enjoyment of crossing something off my list.

The other day, as I searched feverishly for a wedding invitation in the mess of papers on my desk, I ended up sorting through the entire pile and organizing everything, quite accidentally. So, of course, I grabbed my to-do list and wrote down “organize papers on desk” and then drew a very satisfied line through it with my blue pen. I’m not kidding.

(Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.)

Without goals and lists, I’m pretty sure I would go insane. Goals keep me focused and motivated. Goals help me push through distractions (i.e., mindless Facebook surfing) and remind me of better things to do with my time.

My daily goals – some people might call this their “to-do list” – are the things I’m hoping to accomplish that day. I love to write down my daily goals first thing when I wake up in the morning (or sometimes the night before) because it helps me prioritize my time.

work from homeSince I am self-employed and work from home, there’s no boss waiting for me at the office, no outside accountability as to whether I worked all morning or laid in bed watching Netflix in my pajamas. I’m responsible for making sure I actually get things done every day. So, goals are essential in my world.

My daily lists have various types of goals: some are tasks related to developing my business, others are reminders of client emails I need to send or workout plans that need to be designed. Some of the items are simply errands that need to be done or a reminder that it’s probably time to do laundry. (Especially if my husband has been wearing the same holey pair of black socks for several days in a row because every other pair is waiting to be washed…)

These goal lists help me stay motivated on a daily basis (and ensure that laundry does get done at some point…) but I also like to have bigger, over-arching goals to help structure my entire year.

As you can imagine, the end of December is one of my absolutely favorite times, because, well, there’s Christmas, yes, but ALSO…. I have a socially acceptable excuse to make lists, set new goals, and dream about the fresh 365 days ahead of me. My inner nerd really comes out in full force around the new year, as my husband can attest. (When I asked him if he thought my obsession fascination with goals was over-the-top, he declined to comment. Something about it being a trap, he said.)

We actually had a date night at Starbucks early in January, just to talk about our goals for 2015 – both personally, and as a couple. Armed with notepads, ballpoint pens, and a steaming cup of coffee, we sunk into the leather couch at our local Starbucks and hashed out our goals for 2015. We brainstormed ways we wanted to grow, learn new things, change our attitudes and habits, and chase our dreams. It sounds corny, I know. The kind of thing you’d read about in Oprah’s magazine. It reeks of rainbows and unicorns and fields of daises with the headline “follow your dreams” in a scrolly font. But I promise, it’s really quite practical and down-to-earth. FullSizeRender

We wrote down goals on an array of topics: everything from places we want to travel, special date nights we want to go on, specific ways we want to use our money more wisely, friendships we want to invest in more fully, and new skills we’d like to learn in 2015.

If you’re not the kind of person who naturally enjoys goal-setting, you might think this process sounds exhausting, like yet another impossible standard you’re setting for yourself that can never be reached. But it’s not meant to be that way at all.

As I studied to become a Certified Personal Trainer, one of the things I learned about was how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. You’ve probably heard of this concept:

S.M.A.R.T. goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  Once you focus on setting SMART goals, you no longer have a list full of vague concepts like “be more financially responsible” or “eat more healthy foods.”   Instead, you write down, “put together a detailed budget plan that I can realistically follow, and put $____  into savings every month.”  Or, “Make home-cooked meals 3 nights a week and pack my lunches for work instead of eating out.” 

smart goal setting conceptThis is key to setting goals that you will actually accomplish. As an example, for most of my life, I’ve always set a goal at the new year to “journal more consistently” and every year, without fail, I do well for a few weeks, maybe a month, before it peters out and my journal goes un-touched for weeks or months on end. I love to journal, but it seemed I could never make it into a consistent habit.

Then, last year, I decided to make it a more specific goal, and I wrote down, “I want to journal every week day about 3 things that I’m thankful for.”  And although it didn’t happen every day, it definitely became a consistent habit that I’ve kept up ever since. Because it became realistic (only doing it on weekdays when I’m actually home and around my journal) and achievable (not pressuring myself to journal pages and pages on end), I was able to reach my goal and grew to love journaling far more than just the “3 things” that were part of my goal.

goal setting

Questions for you:

Do you currently set goals each day? What about goals for the year?

Do you have a good or bad taste in your mouth when it comes to goal-setting? Why?

What’s one goal you might want to make for the month or year ahead?

Just a quick picture to say…

From my Instagram this morning:

cards game ice cream

“Being ‘healthy’ for me looks like this. Enjoying ice cream at a Cards game because it sounded good, and not worrying about how many calories or grams of sugar it had. After recovering from #anorexia, I have grown to love a life of BALANCE. Everything in moderation, folks!! There’s nothing fun to me about depriving myself of sweets and treats. Been there, done that, been that person eating carrots while everyone else enjoys cookies. #itsnofun 😦  I no longer try to have obsessive control over everything that goes into my mouth.  Life’s too short to miss out on things like ice cream. 🙂 I’m so thankful for my journey of #recovery and that I’ve learned to let go of the obsessions!! I feel better now – emotionally AND physically – than I ever have before. #eatingdisorder #everythinginmoderation #balance #lifeistooshort #dontmissout #iloveicecream #edwarrior #edrecovery”

A Pandora Ad that Got Me Thinking

The other day, I found myself in the comfy, upholstered rocking chair in my room, snuggled under a blanket with a book from the library that needed to be returned the next day. I was trying to power through the final few chapters and a cup of Earl Grey tea sat next to me on my dresser as I read. My Pandora Classical Piano station played softly in the background, making the scene feel even more idyllic.

Pandora is a lovely invention, and one that I take advantage of quite often when reading, writing or working. However, they do seem to have a knack for interrupting my contented enjoyment of Mozart (or Michael Buble, depends on the day) at just the wrong moment with one of their peppy, just-a-little-too-loud ads that disrupts my peaceful moment. If only there was a thumbs-down button for the ads as well as the songs, right?

I’ve got to give Pandora credit, though: I don’t remember giving them much information when I signed up except for my gender and email, but they have an uncanny way of targeting ads that are just close enough to my interests to make me wonder how they know me so well. A few weeks ago, an ad played repeatedly throughout my day for a bridal show going on that weekend that I had just attended the day before. Pandora knows I’m engaged?? It was a little creepy, I’ll be honest.

I’m sure Pandora doesn’t actually know that much about the details of my life, (hopefully?) but it’s amazing sometimes how they seem to hone in on just the right ads for my demographic.

Back to the other day, though. I was enjoying my book and the sound of gentle piano music coming from my speakers, when the sonata ended abruptly and a perky female voice came on and asked,

“Ladies, now that the holidays are over, it’s time to start thinking about yourself… Have you been considering a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, or other cosmetic procedure? St Louis Cosmetic Surgery wants to make this your BEST YEAR EVER! For a limited time, save 15% on any surgical procedure. Some restrictions apply. Call today to set up your consultation at St Louis Cosmetic Surgery!…”

Now, I know that plastic surgery is becoming more and more normal for women these days, and I’m not trying to get on a soapbox about that right now. But what caught my attention about this particular ad was the connection being made between the perfect body and the best year of your life. Did you catch that?

“St Louis Cosmetic Surgery wants to make this your BEST YEAR EVER!!”

Do you see the subtle – but certain – assertion being made?

Ladies, if you just get that nose job, tummy tuck, or breast augmentation that you’ve been longing for, then this year is going to be your BEST ONE YET. No matter what happens, if you get this surgery, your year is guaranteed to be AMAZING!! 

Wow, that’s a pretty big claim, in my opinion.

What about all the tough, heartbreaking things that could happen in 2014?

Getting laid off from a job
Grieving the death of a family member
Dealing with financial instability and debt
Trying to make a stressful marriage better
A falling out with a close friend
Dealing with infertility
Battling serious health problems

Not trying to be a downer here, but there are a LOT of unknowns and uncertainties about the year ahead, for each and every one of us! We don’t know if this is going to be the BEST YEAR YET, and that’s ok. But do you see what this ad is subtly trying to say? They’re not just selling plastic surgery, they’re selling happiness. Peace. Courage. Stability. Comfort. All of the answers to the not-so-great things you or I might face in this coming year.

It’s as if they want us to believe that having the “perfect” nose, tummy, or fill-in-the-blank body part is going to get us through the struggles, heartaches, and agonies that might come at us in 2014. Like somehow when we’re trying to figure out how to make the rent this month or stop fighting with our spouse every day, having had that breast augmentation or liposuction is going to magically make it all better.

And you probably already know what I’m going to say next: it won’t.

love yourself firstYou might think I’m taking this Pandora ad waaaay too seriously, but it’s because I believe this is a much bigger problem than one cosmetic surgery clinic trying to sell something they can’t deliver. This is something that’s thrown at us every day from many different angles.

The media, culture, whoever you want to call it, wants women to believe that having the perfect body is the holy grail of happiness. If it’s not plastic surgery, it’s dieting, calorie counting, following a weight loss plan, or some other method. The premise behind it all is the same: having a better body would solve your problems. But it’s not true.

I bought into that lie for several years, and guess where it led me? Um, nowhere. I worked my butt off (literally) trying to get the “perfect body” and fantasized about the day when I would be tiny and skinny and subsequently never have any stress at school, work, relationships and especially the fitting room of Macy’s.

But even when I got there, even when I achieved “the perfect body” I’d been running after, I looked in the mirror and thought, “yes, I finally feel thin and pretty and model-like, but now what?

Life is still stressful with skinny thighs and toned abs. You still have bad days at work and arguments with the people you love. Losing those “last 5 pounds” doesn’t magically bring you happiness or put you at peace with yourself.

My encouragement to you is this: don’t buy into the lie that happiness is wrapped up in that “ideal body” you’ve envied on magazine covers and Pinterest graphics for far too long.

Those models might have a great body, but it doesn’t mean they’re happy. Happiness is something altogether separate from the way you look or the number you weigh on the scale. Don’t let anyone – even a perky advertisement on Pandora – convince you otherwise.

Brides and Body Image …a little soapbox rant

Note: This is the first in a series of posts on my experience as a bride-to-be. Yep, that’s right – my guy popped the question on November 14th, and I said YES. Can’t wait to marry him this summer!! 

Stepping into the world of wedding planning websites as a newly engaged woman is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Thrilling, because who isn’t excited about planning their own wedding?? Terrifying, because of the bombardment of headlines and articles, proclaiming 10 Wedding Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make and 12 Things Every Bride Needs to Know. I can feel my stress levels rising already.

One of the more useful things on The Knot is the checklist feature, which organizes your to-do list and keep you on track with all the big and little things that planning a wedding entails. Sounds helpful, right? I thought so too, which is why I eagerly entered my name and wedding date and hit “create an account” a couple days after getting that ring on my finger.
bride ecard
A couple days into my relationship with The Knot, I came across an article titled 10 Things to Do As Soon As You Get Engaged. Sounded urgent and important, so I clicked the link. (Marketing at its finest, right? They sure know how to reel us me in.)

The first item in the glossy photo slideshow was “get a manicure” and I proudly made a mental “check” because I’d already given myself one at home the day before. Nothing like freshly painted nails for showing off the gorgeous diamond, right?

Feeling pretty on top of things, I continued to click through the slideshow, until I came to #5 which boldly proclaimed in big, black letters on my screen:

“Choose a Diet Plan and Start It.”

The picture showed the back of a (size 2) model in a wedding dress with a salesperson holding a tape measure around her waist. Talk about intimidating. And #5 went on to say that brides should “choose a proven plan like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.”

Excuse me?

First of all, since when does a bride-to-be want to start thinking about a diet in the first week of getting engaged?! I was still on cloud nine at that point and showing my ring to every checker in the grocery store that asked how my day was going.

“Choose a diet and start it?” Um, no thanks.

My deeper problem with #5 is this: why do brides even need to diet for their wedding in the first place? I understand that every woman wants to look gorgeous on her wedding day, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get healthy and fit before your wedding. My problem is with the endless pressure on women to always be on one diet or another – and never be happy with our bodies. What if I was a size 18 bride-to-be and I was completely fine with being a size 18 on my wedding day? What if I wanted to enjoy my engagement and the planning process without counting calories (or “points,” in the case of Weight Watchers) all the time and obsessing over every bite of food that enters my mouth? This is something that really makes me mad, so I apologize for the soapbox rant.
contentment

But seriously, can we stop pressuring women about weight loss and encourage them to be confident and happy in their own skin? Since when does a size 4 bride automatically look more gorgeous on her wedding day than a size 14 one does? In my opinion, the media – or whoever you want to call the forces behind these messages – realizes that us brides are a little whole lot of anxious about everything being “just perfect” on our wedding day, and they know just how to play into that fear. All around us there are subtle messages that if we just lose some weight and finally achieve “the body of our dreams” then somehow all the other stress of the wedding will disappear and the day will be blissfully perfect. Which is a big, fat lie.

Believe me, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my battle with food and body image, it’s that size and weight does not equal happiness. Period.

No matter how thin/toned/fit you get your body to be, that alone will NOT bring you true happiness.

So here’s my suggestion to myself and fellow bride-to-be’s:

Instead of starting yet another diet in hopes of creating the perfect wedding day or finally being happy with your body, step back and focus instead on what the wedding is really about.

You’re marrying the love of your life, and isn’t that more important than what size is on the tag of your white dress that day? I know body acceptance and self love isn’t easy – believe me, I still struggle – but let’s do what we can to treat our bodies with care and respect.

Rather than finding a diet plan to follow for the rest of your engagement period, why not start working on loving your body at the size you’re at? That doesn’t mean you can’t work on eating healthier or try lose some weight, but check your motives first. Are you counting on Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig to bring you happiness? Because I guarantee you, they can’t.

Begin today to push back on the messages of our culture. Realize that happiness can come at any size.  Make the decision to stop hating your body and give yourself some grace instead.

You’ll be glad you did.