The Best of 2013

I’m not going to lie, 2013 kicked my proverbial ass in many ways. In other ways it was one of the most eye opening and life defining years of my life. Entering into motherhood three years prior had left me feeling like I’d lost myself. Losing my sister three years ago left me feeling broken.  I continued moving forward because that is what life is about, that is how you get unstuck from the muck and that is how you create the life you want, but in many ways it was just me going through the motions as opposed to me really living life. On the outside it looked like I was getting stuff done, sticking to a plan, on the inside it was like watching a movie and wishing it was over so I could sleep. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, I love my husband, I love my life, but sometimes life knocks you down and makes other plans and you can stop and wallow in that shit or you can give it the middle finger and keep on moving even if you are injured (see that old intentional living I have been going on about for months).

2013 gave me a sick baby and doctors and hospitals and people I wish I had never had the need to meet, but am so grateful I did. It had my family discovering that Celiac Disease is actually a positive thing (when I consider the other potential options). It had me falling in love with my husband all over again by being lucky enough to watch him embrace his life as a responsible adult (something I think men struggle with). 2013 had me reach my pre baby weight but not my pre baby body (I still hope to shock and amaze you with before and after photos one day, maybe a 4 pack at 40 kind of thing by June??) but I learned my ability to be a dude is far more important than a flat stomach.  2013 saw my mother move to our property, my oldest learning how to be a good big brother, and my youngest potty training himself. 2013 let me reconnect with old friends, find my soul sister, and create laughter. But 2013 also brought me something else, this blog.

To some of you that may not even be note worthy. To me it has been a journey, and at times, an eye opening experience as I peruse all things in life looking for a better life, a happier life, a good way to live. By writing about my thoughts, by conveying what I have learned and all I have read I have not only learned much about me, I’ve learned so much about that better life. I am now able to turn off my mind when it tries to harm me with thoughts about my past or future, thoughts I cannot change and events I cannot alter. I have learned how to find happiness in this moment, how to let go of pain, how to manage my finances, how to talk to my husband, how to confront constructively, and how to love more completely. I have far more patience than I did when I started this journey and I can actually see the me I used to be before kids, before loss. There she is, looking at me in that mirror. There she is lounging surrounded by pups. There she is playing games with her kids. She didn’t disappear, she just got a little lost.

I spent a lot of time this year feeling defeated, scared, beaten down, broken, just utterly lost. I was frustrated that life wasn’t what I had been sold, that things could go horribly askew without my consent, and that so many people all over the place, every where I looked, were suffering. Then one day I sat down and I Googled happiness. I Googled, happy life. I Googled Zen. And it changed everything. Something so silly and ridiculous changed everything. So while we are better off financially than we were, our son thankfully does NOT have cancer, and our family life is full of laughter and peace, I know, I know in my heart and my head that I got to this place thru the journey of intentional decisions. Of choosing to shape my future so it would not be defined by my past. Of choosing the identity I wanted instead of the one I had fallen into.

While I think there is value in many of the posts from 2013 (I am bias after all), here are the most popular posts and those YOU found value in. May 2014 be a year where we all continue to make our own destinies and give the middle finger to anything that tries to stop us.

Things Dads Do- Apparently you all love videos, especially if it is a video of my husband doing questionable things with his children.

How to get laid more- Apparently you all love having sex too. I’m shocked by this one. :)

I help you all pick a deodorant- or at least I make you feel less alone picking a deodorant.

3 Songs- I got a lot of feedback on this one that it reminded people to remember what they love about their significant other. It went a way I didn’t expect when I wrote it, I’m glad you all took it another way. I was instantly more grateful.

You and Your Finances- This one made you all feel a little less alone. I know it made me feel less alone and it was the first step, a coming out if you will, that allowed us to get on the road to fixing our finances.

How to Kick Ass at the Gym- Speaks for itself.

and my favorite, not just because it is about me, but because writing it and really considering it,  opened my eyes and reminded me of who I am and why I like that person. About Wendy

Getting Un-Stuck from Useless Patterns of Mass Destruction

There are two things I absolutely adore about my husband- okay there are more than two, but for the sake of this post, there are two- the first is he is incredibly patient and laid back. I mean seriously laid back (notice the chaos of the picture above and the man just sat there smiling through 30 minutes of this failed attempt at a family photo with dogs). Which is a good thing because while I can be like that, I’m not always, so it’s nice to know there will be a level head around when mine is on fire. The second thing I love about him is his ability to change and break patterns in his life with seeming ease- bastard- I mean love of my life. I used to think people didn’t change, or rather couldn’t really change their core behaviors and patterns of life, my husband has more than proven me wrong. But even though I have this amazing role model living in my home, I have struggled with the ability myself. I can’t seem to let go of patterns that aren’t working for me in favor of more productive or at least better patterns- even when I know they aren’t working!

Patterns is an interesting word and I suppose it can broadly cover all the areas of letting go I plan to address. It could relate to bad habits, or patterns of shopping, or conversational patterns with family and friends. So if this post seems vague on how to let go of patterns then I apologize, but I think it has to be somewhat broad because it can apply to so many things. What I am primarily talking about are all your life patterns that help you navigate and interact with the word around you. Many of the patterns you do everyday can actually inhibit or outright prevent your happiness even when they seem to be productive on the surface. In addition, many patterns can be hard to let go of because they are comfortable and “known” even if they aren’t healthy or are even self-destructive. Consider the pattern of women who always choose abusive men for relationships. Obviously not good, obviously shouldn’t do it, but it is comfortable and what they know. So no matter how terrible, it is the option they often choose. What you’ve always done is easier to continue doing because there is less fear in the known than the unknown.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. I work from home, and by that I mean I do actual work from home that a company pays me to do, not that I “work” because I am a mom. So essentially, I have two stay at home jobs, I am a mother to two boys ages 3 and almost 2, and I work as a technical writer for a government contractor. When I wake up in the morning I am lucky because I do not have to set an alarm, fix my hair, or put on uncomfortable clothes to then hit the highway and a long commute to the office. I wake up naturally, for the most part, and I stay in my pjs or sweat pants all day too. :) I’m not ashamed of this fact. But because I work from home there are other pressures I have to contend with that wreak havoc on my brain on a daily basis. When I wake up I am a flurry of activity and multi-tasking. I pride myself on being able to “do it all” and then more even I didn’t know needed doing. If I don’t have a load of laundry in the washer and the dryer, the trash taken out, two kids up and clothed, 5 dogs fed, email answered, and work related issues addressed by 9 am then something is wrong and I am convinced that this will translate into a terrible day where nothing is going to go right. This is my pattern, get everything done in a hurry so I can… do more stuff in a hurry. Seriously, by the time my husband strolls in from work at 6 pm, this house is spotless, clothes are clean, folded, and put away, the gluten free made from scratch dinner is ready to eat and on the table, my work is usually complete with deadlines met, the children are alive and more or less unscathed, the bills are paid, and I am still in my pajamas.

Now, some of you might be applauding me for my super woman capabilities, others might be skeptical that I am lying, but there are a few of you who already see where this is going… that pattern of behavior is not good, it isn’t working for me half as well as I think it is and empty laundry bins are not as important as engaging with my children and truly enjoying my day. If you go back up and read the list of things I got done, you will see that not one of the items was truly for me, not one of the items directly benefited my children beyond alive and unscathed, and at the end of it all I never feel accomplished or content or peaceful or even happy. I usually feel harried, resentful, angry, annoyed, and frustrated. Yet the very next morning I will do the exact same pattern of behaviors because there is something broken inside my head that equates the number of chores completed with my self-worth. I’d like to let go of this pattern. I’d like to un-stick myself from this ridiculous self-imposed rat race that has my children frightened of me and my husband binge feeding me ice cream in a failed attempt at soothing the savage beast that has become his wife.

Off Topic- the ice cream diet does not work- even if you skip dinner in preparation. It will only leave you with the sugar drop twitchy eye, and a muffin top.

So how do you let go of patterns in your life when most of them derive from real world needs or assimilations? I mean clearly my laundry needs to be done at some point, though clearly it doesn’t need to be done daily, or before 9 am or arguably even by me. Letting go of patterns and getting un-stuck is something best attacked in small bites. It takes time to find new patterns and to discover what actually works best and creates peace in your life.  Remember the goal isn’t to just find a different pattern, the goal is be happier and find a place of contentment. The goal is find patterns that increase your enjoyment of life, so you don’t want to hastily adopt new drastic changes because those might be just as useless as the ones you are trying to stop. If I just stopped doing everything I do at home then I can tell you with absolute certainty my house would fall apart, I’m not joking. But if I adjust things a little at a time and find new patterns to address the underlying issues then I can change the pattern and replace it with a healthier more useful model.

If the hubs can do it, so can you! Though remember he is remarkable, just ask him and he will be happy to tell you all the reasons why. :)

For me the morning pattern sets the tone for the whole day, and the tone wasn’t working. So I made a deal with myself that I would change just one thing each week to see how it felt and whether or not the house actually fell through a sink hole because I didn’t wash bottles right away. The first week I started getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual so I had time to check in with work and address issues there before my kids were even up. This allowed me to not only feel less hurried but I was able to get a few small tasks done and feel instantly accomplished (I will likely always crave a sense of accomplishment). Once this is taken care of I can get my boys up, change diapers, make yummy carrot muffins (I tell them are cupcakes) and read them a book. That’s right, the second week I started sitting my flannel clad butt on the couch and read to them. It turned out to be a really nice way to start the day. They munch on their food making adorable eating noises only people under the age of 4 should make, and I get to connect with them first thing in the morning so they KNOW they are important and rank high on my to do list (instead of somewhere beneath laundry and trash). Once the book is done, I will often read a second one(living la vida loca over here) or I will get their help in rounding up laundry. Now they feel important and I still get my clothes clean. Since we do this every morning it means 1 load a day and no piles of clothes or daunting days of load after load. They help with the trash and even feeding the dogs (which I could argue isn’t helpful, but I won’t).

By the time my mother arrives to watch them so I can get in my real work of the day (that which I get a paycheck for) I feel relaxed and connected to my kids. I don’t feel frazzled or anxious and they don’t feel ignored and unimportant. Its 9 am and maybe I can’t say I got everything done, but I can say I didn’t have to yell at anyone. Hm… better, right?

By changing the pattern of the morning, and how I approached the tasks I wanted to accomplish, I was able to change my whole day and still get the majority of stuff done in a timely manner. One of my Intentional Identifiers was to be a better mother, more connected, less easily frayed. I changed the way I feel about my kids and they changed their interaction with me. There is a lot more thank you mommy and way less spitting than before- for those of you without kids, 3 year olds spit a lot, I mean like a lot a lot. I didn’t just do it all at once, and I didn’t even really make a plan. I just changed a little bit at a time and I kept making minor adjustments until the new pattern worked better. I have let go of my old morning routine and I think it is safe to say no one around here misses it.

Bottom line is change is hard, even change that creates something better or grander or more spectacular. Anytime you let go of something you are really saying “this no longer works for me” and that is a scary thing to admit. You risk your sanity, your happiness, and sometimes your relationships with others when you make the leap of faith involved in letting go. I think letting go of patterns can be easy because you can do it just a little bit at a time, see how it feels, marinate in it if  you need to before adopting it as a new pattern. If you do it slowly enough, you probably won’t even notice the growing pains involved in changing your core life patterns. The balance is taking your time and massaging the details around to fit but not going so slowly that you really aren’t making progress and you slip back into the old pattern. Or worse you make abrupt changes and you can’t stick with them because your hardwiring never had a chance to catch up.

There is a lot of peace and contentment to be found with letting go of useless patterns. Things you probably don’t even think about or take for granted that it is just “the way things are” can have a profound effect on your mood, your happiness, and your life. If you are stuck in a pattern that isn’t working for you, maybe never did work for you, I encourage you to adjust the pattern until a new one fits. After all, my husband can’t be wrong! (or so he tells me)

Letting Go- Week 5

Letting go seems to be the “it” thing to do. Whether you are stressed, anxious, sad, or just feeling like you aren’t getting your way, someone will invariably tell you to just let it go and your problems will be magically solved. There are lots of versions of let it go, and all of them are equally vague. Some even follow up with a religious add on like “let go and let God”, which is even more puzzling to me. It is almost like no one really knows how to do it, we just feel better saying it. We all know we should, we all know it will feel better once we do, but in the end no one seems to know how to pull the trigger.

Letting go is not my strong suit so that may be why I can’t seem to do it or to even grasp what people are talking about. People say to let go, but they never say how or when or what I’m supposed to let go of. I could probably identify the what to let go of (we all have things in our lives that are doing us more harm than good), but even if I did, the how would still elude me.

Am I supposed to just stop caring? Just stop thinking about it? Stop trying to improve or change things that aren’t right or fair or good? And if that is what I am supposed to do, then how do I do it? If I could just stop whatever it is, then I probably wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place and no one would be telling me to let go because I wouldn’t be holding anything. This is on par with the woman who is solving her debt problem by overpaying her min balance… uh if I had money to overpay I wouldn’t be in debt.

I have decided that week 5 should be about letting go, because if I never let go then I can never be open to anything new and change in my life is unlikely to happen. There are lots of things I’d like to let go of, but letting go has never been easy for me and it remains one of the most difficult things for me to do no matter what it is I’m trying to let go of.

When I was a little kid my mother would clean out my room every couple of months. She would always wait until I was not at home before she would go through every single closet, drawer, nook and cranny I had. She would organize and throw things away. Before you judge her, let me say what she threw away was most certainly junk or trash that I never used, couldn’t use, or just shouldn’t have to begin with. Whenever I got home to find that her ritualistic cleaning had taken place I would quickly do a mental check on what remained and what had moved on to the great green trash bag in the sky. I would cry and throw a fit about my privacy and how that something or other was my favorite and how could she, but secretly on the inside, I was relieved. It felt good to be rid of the items, it felt good to have space and fewer things to sort through. It felt good to let go of useless items that no longer fit in my life. It felt good to lose them and not be forced to say goodbye or purge them myself. This way I got to reap the rewards without having to do the work. I didn’t have to be the bad guy.

As a child I was something of a hoarder, if you ask my husband he will tell you I still am. What he doesn’t know is how big of a hoarder I was. I used to hoard rocks, not because I liked them or used them, but because when I saw them outside they seemed lonely and cold. I used to save old gum. Seriously, no joke. Big wads of chewed up gum in various colors and flavors all stuck to the top of my jewelry box in a massive giant clump. It wasn’t like I was going to ever chew those again, but I couldn’t throw them away either. It felt like I was telling the gum, “you’re no good, nobody loves you, you are no longer useful”. Perhaps I clung to the gum and broken toys because I knew all too well what it felt like to be neglected or tossed aside for a toy that made more noise or had more flavor.

I no longer keep secret stashes of used gum (thank God) or even broken toys, but I do seem to cling to just about everything else. I am no better at letting go in adulthood than I was in childhood. The only thing I have gotten better at is not acquiring new things in the first place. If I don’t bring new things (items, experiences, people) into my life, then I never have to worry about the day when I might have to let go of them. Nothing lasts forever, but if you never have it to being with then you never have to say goodbye either. If only my mother could just swoop into my life and make the judgment call on what should stay and what should go, I could once again have that overwhelming feeling of a fresh start, of a clean jewelry box, and less life clutter. Unfortunately, I am no longer a little kid, and even if I let my mother cleanse my life like an exorcism it wouldn’t really be me letting go, it would be her. And doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose behind letting go?

So this week I am going to identify what needs to go, in a figurative and a literal sense. I would like to find a good way to let go, one that both respects and nurtures the little kid inside me who would rather compile a mountain of chewed gum than throw it away, and one that respects others and doesn’t do damage to them. I would like to release the burdens I have been carrying around that are no longer productive, useful, or even my burdens. I would like to say goodbye to my fears, anger, frustrations and patterns that continue to prevent me from living intentionally and obtaining the life I want.

I’d like to have the final, last, knock down, drag out fight with every aspect of my life that isn’t working so I can start fresh and build again with better supplies.

Out with the old and in with the new. Gone with the useless and in with the useful. I’d like to say what I mean, be heard, and make change happen. I’d like to find space in my life for the happiness I deserve. I’d like to stop letting others, and their insecurities, dictate how I live and what I feel. I’d like to make my family and myself strong, happy and awe inspiring (of course if we end up being enviable that’s cool too :)). Now all I have to do is let go.

I think we all have things we need or should let go of. I think an uncluttered life is a peaceful life. I think the heart and the mind work better when our lives are simple or simplified. Not having to worry about the minutia of life is a great way to live, and having fewer minutia to worry about is a great place to start. There are several kinds of things that you may need to let go of. I’ve listed some below.

Tangible items

Patterns

Beliefs

Habits

Friends

Family

Notice I didn’t list stress, or anxiety. I mean duh. Of course you need to let go of those, but in order to let go of a feeling or unconscious physical response, I argue you must first let go of whatever is producing that response. And the 6 things listed above are the most likely culprits to why you feel bad, are stuck, anxious, or stressed out. If you can attack the list and find ways of letting go of those items, then the negative feelings associated with them should GO right along with them.

Each day this week I will talk about one of the things on the list and suggest real, doable ways of letting them go.  It won’t always be easy, but by the end of the week I’d like to be free of some things that have been causing me strife, so that next week I have free space to let in or create the intentional life things I choose.  Stay tuned!

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