Day 15: It’s all about You. #findingjoy challenge

(if you’re wondering where days 9,10,11,12,13, and 14 are — well, they’ll be coming — let’s just say life got a bit busy. Wait. Super busy. Like flying to Denver and driving to San Francisco and back in five days kind of busy for work. So, please know I’ll make it up and get the whole challenge up there and in a cool format in the future.  But, but, but, for now — all the videos are on the YouTube Playlist and on the FindingJoy Facebook Page)

So today?

Today it’s about giving back to you. Taking time out of your busy to step back and do something for yourself.

With no guilt.

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I’m serious. Sometimes I’ll take a break or treat myself to something and then when I’m done I’ll get all angst ridden thinking that I’m behind and I shouldn’t have stepped back.

We’re not doing that.

We’re going to take a break. Buy chocolate. Garden. Call a friend. Or anything that is awesome for us. I mean it. When you give to yourself you recharge yourself and you then have reserves that are ready to give, fight, and do what you need to do.

So today?

Today I went to Starbucks. I know, no surprise. But, I made a special trip and went with my bff Maria. And we laughed and tried to entertain her rather precocious two year old daughter, Emma.

It was great.

And then I got back to busy.

So do it. Take time for you.

Share about your “you time” in the comments below, with the hashtag #findingjoy or on the finding joy Facebook page. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing about your awesome day.

~Rachel

 

when life isn’t what you thought it would be

I just said that to a friend of mine today on the phone.

I told her that I never thought this would be my place in life.

My story.

I think I secretly wanted Hallmark.

Wait.

I know I wanted Hallmark.

I wanted the flowers on my birthday, the being the treasured one, the beautiful house with all of the perfect furniture, with kids who got to participate in what they wanted, a bank account where I didn’t go to bed fearful that the power would stay on, and just no crazy angst. I wanted some bubble gum and marshmallows and rainbows and glitter life that didn’t have the valleys and pits and mud puddles of reality.

Truthfully. That’s what I thought life should be if you’re good enough.

(No wonder I write so passionately about being enough.)

My life is so far from perfect it’s not surprising my site is named finding joy.

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So some truth. Because, honestly, it is when one is raw and real and truthful that healing can begin. And in that place of exposing of one’s life does it allow others to feel the bravery to talk about their lives without hiding behind the cloak of fear, shame, or not feeling valued.

So I will finally be real.

I’m in the midst of a separation. I’m a single mom of seven kids. Some of my kids are angry at me. I work over sixty hours a week trying to make ends meet. I deal with people who simply don’t respect me and treat me like I’m nothing. I deal with people who tell me that people that treat me like nothing are no big deal. I’m tired. And oftentimes I want to put my head down on my table and cry and eat ice cream but most of the times the kids ate it so there’s none.

I don’t like to talk about it. Or write about it.

It’s embarrassment, really.

Somehow I wanted my life to be the exception. I wanted to be the one who was always loved, cared for, and important. I didn’t want to feel unimportant. I wanted holidays to be a certain way. I didn’t want stress. I didn’t want to go to bed every night with my head on the pillow and feel so utterly completely alone.

I know I’m not alone. I know I have friends. I know there are those who love me and will stand with me. I know that if I picked up the phone at any time someone would be right here for me. I know that.

But, in my house, most of the time it is just me. It is me in the morning and at lunch and at bedtime. There is no one across the table for me to smile at when the kids do something funny. There is no one to think of me on their way home and grab my favorite iced caramel macchiato (well, in the summer, as in the winter the only option is extra-hot). There is no help with bath times or when the kids are sick  or any of that.

I am not complaining.

I am just telling you my reality because I know that there are some of you out there who are in the same spot. Maybe it’s not exactly the same. Maybe it’s because there’s extreme financial issues and you always thought you’d have enough (I’m there too — holy moly — is that stress). Maybe your child is sick. Or you’ve dealt with death. Or something I can’t even articulate.

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Life so often doesn’t look anything like it was thought to look like.

Except, that you know, I think our picture of life has been distorted.  Somehow the illusion that life can be beautiful if it is a certain way has been accepted and it has created this place for everyone else to live in ambiguity and purgatory of real life beauty as they stare at their life canvas. Somehow the idea that our lives look like Van Gogh’s swirls of craziness competes with the Monet’s that we thought life should be. And then, then, then it can be this sense of loss. This feeling like we’re not worth it. That life cannot be beautiful unless it is a certain way.

It’s not true.

I’ll tell you. I work harder than I ever thought one would work right now. I do because I love my kids and I believe in the message that I get to write every day. I believe in finding joy even when life is the antithesis of Hallmark.

Someone needs to stand up and say that Life is Beautiful even when it is messy.

So I will.

Life is beautiful.

My kids love me even when they tell me they hate me or that this is the worst day ever. They just do. I know it. My house may not be the trendiest, most beautiful, and awesome designer place, but it is my home. I’m getting some wrinkles and am so tired, but I have a body that is still living, moving, and has the ability to give.  I have friends that stand by me and love me when I make the stupidest mistakes.

It’s hard to let go of what we thought would be the ideal dream of life.

But it’s in the letting go and acceptance of where one is that the joy can return.

Living for an ideal that simply cannot be strips the happiness right off of the heart. Living grateful for your today fills life with meaning that cannot always be explained.

So I choose to live.

To move forward, climb the next mountain, and to see beauty.

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In my messy, not perfect, working hard, life that belongs on Bravo and not Hallmark.

Which, honestly, is probably where most of us would really be. We just need to share. To admit the truth. To love those no matter where they are. To support. To care. To not judge. And to be there for the other. To look at those whose lives are challenging not with pity but with admiration for their courage.

It’s not about about perfection.

It’s about loving. Caring. Giving.

That’s community. Life.

And ultimately – joy.

From me, in my broken but yet beautiful life, to you.

You are valued. Beautiful. Worth it. You contribute great value to this world.

Even if life isn’t what you thought it would be.

Carry on brave mother. Carry on. 

~Rachel #iamenough

15 Things That Don’t Define Motherhood – and the One Thing That Matters

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For real. Don’t let these fifteen things take away from your awesomeness.

Enjoy. And remember – there is no perfect – just real.

1. Making Mistakes. We all make mistakes. Many of them. Some are silly and small. Some big (like forgetting when recitals are or losing things or well, you know, those mistake things that we wish we didn’t do.) But, mistakes happen. Learn from the mistake and move on. That’s what we teach our kids. So extend that grace to you too. And sometimes, even when we make mistakes, it’s simply part of learning, being creative, and taking risks. Don’t judge the mistake too quickly as a mistake, but rather remember the heart and determination behind what you do.

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2. Having an Always Clean House. I would love an always clean house. But I also have four boys ten and under who love to be creative and move through the house creating creations that I all too easily label messes. Is my house perfect every single moment? Nope. Is it perfect when someone pops over? Nope (why can’t that ever happen? People seem to pop over when chaos just erupted). So by the nature of raising children there will be times of messes. So you know what? Let your friends in even if it’s not perfect. Just be you. Proud of you.

3. Not getting frustrated. Not going to happen. Several years ago we had a fish tank and my son Elijah would drop things into the tank for fun. (He was little). I duct taped the tank. Tied it down. The day I found the $100 electronic toy in the fish tank was the last day of the fish tank. Let me tell you – Frustrated. Parenting is oftentimes an exercise in frustration mitigation.

4. Always being on time. You’ll be late. Even if you hate being late like I do. In fact, I despise being late so much that I tell people the wrong time that we need to be there sometimes just so we’re early. Oh yes, and by the way, don’t use the phrase hurry up hurry up we’re going to be late. You know why? Your target for everyone is we’re going to be late. Switch it to let’s get going so we’re early. The new target? We’re going to be early.

5. Your work situation. Let’s face it. Some of us work. Some of us stay home. Some of us do a mixture of both. Don’t let that decision define motherhood success. Ever. Motherhood success cannot be based on an external variable like that. And work on not judging – because chances are there’s a mom that wishes she had it the other way or vice versa and in that moment they just need love. That picture? Taken at 37k feet as I was traveling to Denver (and then driving to San Francisco) for work. I’ve stayed home, worked part time, and now worked full time while traveling and staying home. In all of them? I loved my kids and did my best for them. That’s what matters, really.

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6. Your educational choices. Again. Truth. My kids have been homeschooled, attended a private school, attended a charter school, attended a virtual school, and attended public school. Hmm…I think I might have covered all the options there. Let me tell you this – the educational choice that you make is your choice for your family. There isn’t the perfect choice. Love your kids and know that you’re doing the best for them in this moment.

7. Wishing for a break. Breaks are good, really. And those days when we just want to eat the Ben and Jerry’s and watch television? Well they just happen. Grace, really, grace.

8. Breastfeeding, Vaccinations, or any of those other Controversial Topics that I’m not going to touch. Yep. Not going there? You know why? Too much angst in it really. I get that we all have opinions and I love love love that about us as a culture. But when the opinions become dogmatic and we forget the heart of the person with an opinion other than our own then it’s too far. Be confident in your decision. Don’t feel threatened by others. And always be willing to learn other’s point of view and to let your own be challenged.

9. The use of electronics. Several years ago there was another blogger who wrote a Dear Mom Letter about being on the iPhone. It was, in my opinion, a bit opinionated. Here’s the deal. We live in an electronic age. I don’t think that it’s going away in a short time. So we have this new variable called electronics to deal with – each family establishes different rules. Don’t feel guilt over your decision. It’s okay if your kids use electronics. And you too.

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10. The perfect life. Pretty obvious, right? But sometimes it’s hard to feel like you’re good enough, smart enough, doing enough, and all of that if you’re life doesn’t match the picture of what we think life is supposed to look like. The truth is that most lives are messy and that there isn’t an ultimate perfect ideal in life. So live your life with joy and tenacity and don’t allow the myth of perfection determine happiness.

11. Having kids that don’t make mistakes. Just like you’ll make mistakes your kids will make mistakes. It’s part of learning, really. There will be times where you will be like what in the world were you thinking? But you’ll be the one to be there for them. To help them pull up their boot straps and fight. To teach them the truth in the apology. To love them when they sometimes don’t feel worthy. That matters. Greatly.

12. Bad Days. They’ll happen. Circle the good days on your calendar and start taking note of the awesome that you do every day. Challenge yourself to look at your life with a lens of gratitude and give yourself the grace to deal with the hard days.

13. Knowing what to do in every situation. Oh my word. Let me tell you there are so many times in motherhood where I have no clue what to do next. Both decisions seem to be daunting. Or I cannot see a decision. Or I feel frozen. Here’s the deal – make the best decision you can and move forward knowing that you did your best. Sometimes in motherhood, or in life, the decision doesn’t seem obvious. That’s okay. It doesn’t define you. It’s just a decision. So think it over and know that you’re one of millions of moms wondering/hoping that they’re making the right choice.

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14. Feeling alone. There are times in life where one simply feels alone. It’s not an awesome feeling and it can overwhelm on those days when we just need a friend. First, be a friend for those that need a friend. Oftentimes we don’t admit that we need help or a friend so sometimes it’s so crucial that we just simply are there. During those alone times – reach out.

15. Externals. Like these: having the newest house, fresh paint, kids in trendy clothes, having kids involved in every sport, having a new car, and on and on and on. Those are externals. Chances are when we reach the end of our days that we will wish that we had spent less time worrying about the things that fade away and more time with those that we love. The moments matter more. When the externals are a determiner in happiness or success then we rob ourselves of the beauty in the moment with those we love.

And the one thing that matters?

Love your kids.

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Just love them. For who they are. Love them in their crazy backwards wearing teeshirt selves.  On their good days and bad days and the times when they won’t even talk to you. Just love them.  You giving of yourself day in and day out and day in and day out is a beautiful life giving, honoring, unbelievable, and awesome thing.

That matters most.

~Rachel

 

10 Things Happy Moms Don’t Do

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1. Base self worth on other’s opinions. Happiness that is dependent on what other’s think of you is happiness that will never appear. The truth is that there will be others out there that might not like you, might not like how you parent, might think you’re making the wrong education choices, feeding the wrong food, and on and on and on. So much of motherhood is being confident in your own choices that the opinions of others can simply be that. Opinions.

2. Expect the perfect day. It just won’t happen (and you’ll never be perfect anyway – motherhood is refining). If happiness came from the house staying clean, from the laundry being folded AND put away, from the kids never fighting, from dinner that was stellar without crazy cleanup, with no financial issues or relationship drama, and all of that well, you know, happiness wouldn’t come. Expect the real day. And be grateful for the moments.

3. Gossip about other moms. Simply don’t. Please, please, please don’t. Gossip doesn’t help anyone. No one. It doesn’t help you nor does it help the moms that you’re talking about. All gossip does is chip away at happiness as it makes you compare, contrast, and judge. So no gossiping.

4. Base success on the state of the home. So tough, really, but true. When you have kids in your home your home will probably look like you have kids living in your home. You can have it spotless at 8am only to look like you never clean ever by 8:15am. Kids do that. Do what you can. Keep it clean. But, you know, kids like to dump stuff out, mix paints, color on things, and create things. And that? That means a mess often. Your success isn’t based on the throw pillows always on the couch, nor is your happiness.

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Day 8: Clear the Clutter #findingjoy

Stuff can suffocate joy.

Sometimes we can look at stuff as being the answer – we hope for new things – and yet every single thing that we have in our homes becomes something that we have to manage as well. Think about it – it’s one more thing to find a home, put away, deal with and so on.

The stuff can be great. But it can whittle away at the joy.

So today we’re going to clear the clutter.

We’ve worked at clearing the clutter in our minds – worked on the mindset of I am Enough and I Matter and I am Worth It. Those things are so important. DO NOT STOP. See your awesome, embrace your awesome, and pursue your dreams.

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They matter.

But let’s make it easier for us to operate out of joy. Think about this – so often I get so frustrated when things get messy in my house. the kitchen counter being cluttered is like a green light for the counters to go to you know what which is a green light for the living room which is, well, you got it. So I guard the spaces that I need clean.

Part of that is having just a bit less. Less, in some ways, is truly  more.

What can you get rid of today? What are the things that you are holding on to?

There is great freedom in filling a sack of things to throw and donate and get rid of.  There is freedom in having just a bit less. And in some ways it is a symbolic act of letting go. After all, we’re letting go of that mind stuff that holds us back, but now, now we’re about creating space for more awesome.

Your challenge? Fill one bag of stuff you don’t need. Post it using the #findingjoy hashtag and let’s lighten the load.

~Rachel

Day 7: Pay it Forward. Spread Joy. #fidningjoy

This might be one of my favorite days ever. Yesterday we blessed someone who blessed us in our lives – so many of you wrote me telling about how you called people out of the blue, wrote people, met people, and so on. All in saying thank you and you matter back to those in our lives.

Today? Today we are going to pay it forward. To others. Here is why:

The picture below? It’s so super sweet to me. It’s my son Caleb at our local grocery store. He had saved and saved and saved money to buy these sticky hands. Finally, I relented. And then he kept asking to purchase more. I was like  Caleb that’s enough. And then he said, and it brings tears, mom they’re not for me. They’re for my brothers because I love them so much.

That’s paying it forward friends. For real.

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So today (or whatever day you are on) what can you do to pay it forward? Hold a door? Say hello? Smile? Bring flowers?Buy coffee.

Do something.

Spread joy.

Thanks for joining our challenge.

Thank you also for telling so many about this challenge and spreading joy.

~Rachel

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If you are looking for all of the challenges you can find all the videos on the FINDING JOY YOUTUBE challenge page.