Month: December 2017 (page 1 of 2)

The Time I Realized I Was No Longer Cool (A New Year’s Eve Story)

Can you believe we’re almost to New Year’s Eve already? It seems like not too long ago I was sharing my half year review, now I’m thinking about what to write in my year-end review this Sunday!

As my husband and I sit here making our yearly last minute plans for the occasion, I can’t help but think about one New Year’s Eve in particular. It was one of those moments when adulthood really snuck up on me and I realized that I wasn’t the care-free 20 year old I had been.

When I was running the other blog I had shared this particular story, hoping that there would be others who could relate to that crushing sensation that we are now adults. What I found was that we have all had those moments, and they just keep coming with more and more frequency as time goes on.

Today, I would like to share that story here exactly as it ran on December 31, 2014, and remind you all that just because we’re not “cool” anymore, doesn’t mean that we don’t still rock in our own ways. We’re just a different kind of cool now!

Without further ado, here’s the story of the time I realized I was no longer cool.

***

New Year’s Eve kind of snuck up on me this year. It seems like I have been busy from October on. It all started with my daughter’s birthday, which was then followed by Halloween, a few other get-togethers, the Motley Crue concert, Thanksgiving, and the about 8 million Christmas gatherings.

My house is still a wreck from all the holiday hoopla and now it’s time to break out the champagne and watch the clock. I have no idea where the time went, but I do know that it’s only 10 A.M. and I am already exhausted.
New Year's Eve clock, champagne, glasses, the time I realized I was no longer cool. Adulthood snuck up on me.
Is staying up ’til midnight mandatory?

With all the talk of plans and parties and resolutions, I find myself thinking back to previous New Year’s Eves. Of the 8 times Almost-Husband and I have rung in the New Year together, there is one celebration that really sticks out in my mind.

My daughter was about 2 months old for her first New Year’s Eve. We hadn’t made any plans as I was still getting used to this whole motherhood thing and wasn’t quite feeling up to par. Well, that and the fact that Almost-Husband and I are chronic procrastinators.

Being a hormonal mess added to my reluctance to do anything to celebrate. I remember feeling lonely and left out as I read everyone’s Facebook updates, showing me everything I was missing out on. I felt trapped and unwanted. I also felt tired. Extremely tired. I wasn’t sure I’d even make it to midnight or that I’d be able to enjoy myself knowing that my precious baby was spending her first New Year’s without her mommy.
Some friends of ours friends from out of town called while I was sitting around trying to figure out whether or not I should leave my daughter with someone for the night. They invited us to join them for a party they were going to about 30 minutes away. I declined, using the excuse that I didn’t have the time to pump enough milk for The Princess. I told Almost-Husband to go without me. I didn’t want him to miss out just because I couldn’t go.
I immediately regretted that decision once he was gone. I sat around feeling sorry for myself, wishing I could go out and have a good time with my friends. I’m not going to lie, I cried a little bit. Soon, I was on the phone to Almost-Husband. We decided that I would call up his mother and see if she’d watch the little one and I’d drive up and meet him.
I remembered that the year before I had showed up to a party with this same group of friends only to find that I was completely under dressed and immediately ran upstairs to rummage through my closet. All my nicest clothes were still much too small.
I called Almost-Husband again in tears. I had nothing to wear. I was going to look ridiculous. I should probably just stay home.
He assured me that things would be okay and that I’d find something to wear. I can’t remember what he said verbatim, but he gave me a pep talk, reminding me that he thinks I’m beautiful and that people will understand that I just had a baby. I hung up the phone feeling much better and settled on a pair of beige maternity dress pants and a low cut red sweater. I went back downstairs with my little one and did my hair and makeup, calling Almost-Mother-In-Law in the process to let her know I would be on my way shortly.
After dropping off my daughter I drove the 30 minutes with the radio cranked up, enjoying some alone time. This was going to be a good night. About 5 minutes from my destination I started to worry about my daughter. I felt guilty. It was a holiday, she should be with her mommy.
As I pulled up to the building where the party was being held, I noticed all the people coming and going. Nobody was dressed up “nice”. Instead they looked more or less like this…

everyone was dressed like ravers for the new year's eve party and adulthood snuck up on me. I realized I was no longer cool.
Yes, short skirts in the dead of winter makes total sense.

The few people who were “dressed up” were showing way more skin than I would ever be comfortable with. Hair was perfect, makeup was fabulous. Here I was with my hair left in it’s naturally curly state, my usual neutral makeup, and a plain khaki and sweater combo.

I suddenly felt old and out of place. I parked the car and decided that I wouldn’t stay long. I’d just spend a few minutes catching up with my friends and then I’d go home. I caught up with Almost-Husband and he tried to put me at ease.

Once inside, we found ourselves standing off to the side alone. I couldn’t drink since I was breastfeeding as well as driving us home. Everyone seemed to be in such a different place in their lives than we were. It was strange, just a year ago this would have been right up our alley. However, we were parents now and our priorities had changed. The more we talked, the more we didn’t want to be there.
We stuck it out until midnight, did the countdown, shared a kiss and were out the door. We hopped in the car and drove back home, laughing at ourselves. A new era had indeed arrived.
When we got to his mother’s they were all still awake. Almost-Mother-In-Law was shocked to see us. “I can’t believe you guys are home already! Did you even drive up there?” She asked with a laugh.
I quickly grabbed my baby and comforted myself with her snuggles. “Everyone there was like 12,” we told her, explaining how strange it was to not fit into a place we would have been all about not so long ago. She laughed with us. Here she had given us a night to ourselves and all we wanted to do with it was love on our baby.
The next year we chose to ring in the new year with a few friends at home, while my mother watched The Princess at her house just a few blocks away. This year, we will be spending New Year’s Eve as a family with another couple and their child. A nice, low-key get-together that I am really looking forward to. It’s such a huge contrast to how we spent New Year’s Eve before we became parents.
So many things have changed in our lives since The Princess came along. Our life now barely resembles our pre-parenthood days and I’m not going to lie, I miss parts of it. However, I can’t imagine ever going back to the way things were. Things may not be perfect, but my life now is far more enjoyable then it was back then. We have a purpose. We have a sense of direction and stability that we had previously lacked. Life is good.
2014 had it’s share of challenges, but I feel we’ve learned a great deal from the tough times. We also had some amazingly wonderful times. The year has been full of love and laughter and growth. I can only hope that 2015 is just as good!

The Best Thing About Winter

Cozy sweaters, warm jammies, fuzzy socks. Hot cocoa and hearty soups. Holidays and family traditions. When you stop to look, winter is full of wonderful little treats. Simple pleasures that are all too easy to overlook as we focus our attention on complaining about how damn cold it is. All of these things are great, but none of them compare to what I truly love about this season.

What I love most is how things slow down.

Sure, there’s a little bit of a hustle around the holidays. There’s gifts to buy, crafts to make, about 800 events to attend as you try to see everyone you hold dear. But, that’s only small part of the season.

Winter signifies the end of the year. The days are shorter, the garden no longer shows signs of life. Much like our friends in the animal kingdom, the cold forces us into a sort of hibernation. We shift our focus to staying safe and warm, spending most of our time indoors.

As we bunker down, we are afforded ample time to reflect on our lives and plan for the year ahead.  We are filled with the need to rest and recharge so that we can take on these new goals.

Personally, I love this quiet time. Nights snuggled on the couch with my family or curled up with a good book. A nice, quiet respite.

I will be taking advantage of this time and taking a short break from blogging to squeeze in some peaceful moments before the holiday madness ensues. I will be back after the New Year begins with some fresh new posts and insights.

I hope you all have a marvelously wonderful holiday season and that you find some time to enjoy the beautiful quiet this season has to offer. May your days be filled with light and love!

 

happy holidays, best thing about winter, christmas

 

Building A Self-Care Routine: How I Pulled Myself Out A Rut

Self-improvement is kind of my jam.

From the time I hit about middle-school, I have voraciously read any self-help books I could get my hands on and even pursued 3 concurrent Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology, Sociology, and Human Services. The frailties and possibilities of the human mind will never cease to amaze me.

As time went on, I found myself reading more and more about ways to further improve my life, and I imagine it’s a journey I will be on until I take my last breath.

Of course, every now and then, I find myself in a funk. No matter how good we have it, life will always throw us a few curveballs and provide opportunities to strengthen the skills we pick up along the way. If I’m being perfectly honest, the hormonal cocktail that has accompanied this pregnancy sparked one of those funks for me. Suddenly, I found myself questioning my goals and dealing with some issues that I had thought were already resolved.  After taking some time to wallow in the bog of bad feelings, I decided it was time to use this low-point as a reset button of sorts.

I quickly realized that the routine I had settled into was neither productive nor healthy. I had all but abandoned all of my self-care strategies and had pretty much stopped pursuing my goals. I was no longer living, just existing.

I decided to start pulling myself out of this rut by completely overhauling my routine, and I have to say, it has had an amazing impact. Before we dive into the particulars, I want to caution you against trying to follow anyone else’s routines to a “T”. We all have our own unique strengths as well as our own limitations, and our schedules and lifestyles are not identical. As such, it is much more practical to look at a wide variety of things that have worked for others and create your own plan based around what resonates most with you. This will likely take some trial and error, and there will be times you fall away from your intended plans. The important thing is to recognize the missteps and take action to correct them. Just keep on keepin’ on!

Identifying An Unhealthy Routine:

Before you can start making changes, you have to know what needs to be changed. This means taking a good long look at how you’re spending your time and energy and figuring out where the problems lie.

For me, it started with my mornings. I’d wake up at 5, make my husband’s coffee, then turn on the TV and park myself in front of whatever show I was currently binge-watching. I’d sit there, half-watching the tube, as I scrolled through Facebook or Twitter. I’d read a ton of articles and the subsequent comments, soaking in the arguments and formulating opinions. I’d wait forever to eat, constantly telling myself I’d get to it after I finished looking at this post…and then I’d click another link. Then my daughter would wake up and I’d realize that I’d wasted 3 or more hours and scramble to get in gear. Nothing was getting done, and it chipped at my confidence and left me agitated.

The rest of the day was spent trying to catch up and worrying about whether or not I would, in fact, catch up. Clearly, changing my morning routine was the first step.

 

insanity quote self care routine

 

Creating A Positive Start To The Day:

It should come as no surprise that how we start our day can affect its entire trajectory. If you start with stress, you’ll likely end with stress. Why not start with a positive outlook?

The first step I took was replacing the mindless TV watching with Ted Talks.  I know a lot of people prefer to start their mornings with quiet meditation, but that just didn’t work for me. However, listening to inspiring messages and learning something new before any negative self-talk could set in created a positive tone for the day.  I use this time to eat some breakfast as well.

Next, I scroll through Pinterest and look at inspirational quotes and positive messages while I let my brain wake up and my food digest. I follow this with looking over my running gratitude list and adding new items. Then I take a moment to look over the day’s to-do list and figure out how I want my day to flow.

With my intentions set for the day, I do a very simple workout (about 15 minutes) and hit the shower. This here is a big one: I use the shower time to focus on washing away negativity and starting the day with a clean slate. I then launch into some body-positivity exercises as I get ready for the day, which I will share in a future post.

By the time I’m dressed for the day, I’ve only spent an hour  or so preparing my mind and body for the day ahead, versus the 3+ hours I was spending on nothing before. From there, I get to work, which for me means sitting down to write. And the best part is? I’m actually motivated and happy to be doing it!

 

win the morning win the day positivity self care

 

Carrying That Feeling With You:

Over the course of the day, there are going to be moments that challenge the positive mindset you’ve created. One of the best tools I’ve found is taking a minute to focus on your senses and ground yourself in reality, and then making a conscious decision not to let whatever the stressor is get to you. Train yourself to correct negative thoughts by replacing them with positives. Pull up your mental gratitude list. Take a look at your Pinterest board full of positive quotes. Be firm in your intention to have a good day.

Another important aspect to carrying this positivity with you is to know your limits and avoid overbooking your day. This one has always been a bit of a challenge for me. It’s easy to overestimate what you can realistically do in a day, and even easier to drive yourself into burnout striving to achieve it all right now. Set smaller, more achievable goals and trust that the baby steps will lead you to desired results in due time. Think about what really needs to be done and don’t stress about what you can’t get to today.

 

don't stress, relax, all i can do is all i can do, rethink your schedule

 

Take breaks when you need to. Switch things up if you’re zoning out and not bringing your A game to a task. Find a way to make it enjoyable if it’s something you can’t avoid. Do what you have to do, but don’t let it drag you down!

Schedule time for fun:

Do something that is just for you every day.

EVERY DAY, GUYS!

I don’t care if it’s quietly eating a candy bar or blasting your favorite song in the car on your way home from work. Read a book at lunch, play a game on your phone while you wait for your potatoes to boil. Do something that makes you smile!

It’s easy to tell yourself you don’t have time, but 5 minutes is all it takes. If you can find more time, take it. Take a class, call a friend, play a game with your spouse, watch your favorite guilty pleasure movies, paint something even if you’re not good at it.  Play is so important!

You absolutely have to make your own pleasure a priority. No one else is going to do it for you, and feeling like you are living only to meet the needs of others will do nothing but make you feel drained and resentful. Life’s stressful enough without adding to it by denying the need for simple enjoyment.

End On A Positive Note:

I cannot stress this enough: set an end time for your day.

This is something I stumbled upon when my daughter was about 2 years old. I was working on something, be it housework or blog posts or a myriad of other projects, from the time I woke up until the time I forced myself to go to bed. I was constantly stressed and couldn’t figure out why. After all, I was making all sorts of progress, I should have been happy!

I decided then that after 7 o’clock I was done. No housework. No replying to emails. No work, period. I still adhere to this guideline, and it’s been a lifesaver.

I also make sure we have dinner as a family at the table every night. It’s a time for us to come together and discuss our day, and allows me to reflect on how grateful I am that we are all in this together. The rest of the evening is spent on hobbies or relaxing, sometimes together, sometimes separately. I try to keep my focus on enjoying our time and being more loving, forgiving, and understanding instead of letting the stress of the day affect my family. This requires some gentle reminders to myself, as we all faulter in these goals from time to time, and some days I miss the mark completely. It’s then that we have a chance to own our mistakes, apologize, and start over.

Before bed, I make my to-do list for the next day. I then take some time to reflect on the past 24 hours. I congratulate myself on the things I accomplished, even if it’s been a “bad” day and the only thing I did was get out of bed. I go over the highlight reel of the day in my head, looking for the tiny moments of joy as well as any big moments: my daughter said something cute, I heard this song, I ate this delicious thing, I survived the grocery store. I think about what I have to be grateful for and what I want to carry over to the next day. All in all, this takes about 10 minutes as I wait for sleep to come, but it makes a huge impact. If I fall asleep before I make it to that point, I simply move it to the morning.

 

evening routine self care

 

Accept “Bad” Days:

Sometimes life gets in the way and we don’t stick to our routines for one reason or another. When this happens we have two choices: we can feel bad, dwell on our “failure” and give up. or we can shrug it off and jump back in. You don’t even have to wait for tomorrow to start over, just start where you are as if you haven’t missed a step.

Of course doing all of these things every day is “ideal” but honestly, “most” days is good enough! Allow yourself some wiggle room. Plan for lazy days, sick days, fun days, or anything else that could throw you off and just keep rolling.

 

comeback after bad days, self care routine

 

Whatever you do, remember that this is a journey. Some of these tips may work for you, some may not. Just keep striving to be the best, healthiest you you can be and things will be fine.

Now it’s your turn. What do you do for self-care? What goes into building your routines? Tell us about it in the comments below!

 

 

More Than Love: 3 Keys To A Happy Marriage

“You need to write a blog about loyalty and marriage and accepting each other and growing together…”

I stared at the message in my inbox, taken aback by the request. In all the time I’ve been blogging, this was the first time a reader had requested a specific post. I felt proud that someone found comfort enough in my words to come to me for advice, yet I also felt a little scared that I couldn’t rise to the challenge.

The more I thought about it, however, the more that fear dissipated. As both someone who writes romance novels and someone who has been with her partner for 11 years, I’ve definitely learned a few things about what makes a relationship thrive. I’ve spent my entire life watching the people around me and learning from both their struggles and their successes. I’ve done a fair about of reading on ways to improve in various aspects of life. Surely I can shed some light on this topic.

I think most of us can agree that marriage is a big deal. I mean, standing in front of all your family and friends to declare that you are going to spend the rest of your life committed to the person beside you isn’t something to be taken lightly.  With a room full of witnesses, you make promises to one another. You promise to let nothing come between you, to remain loyal, and to grow together. Forever. In our case, we also asked those in attendance to make a vow to respect and uphold our marriage as well, to refrain from behaviours that could tear us apart and to hold us accountable to the promises they heard us make.

While most of us grasp the weight of this ritual, we also carry these mythical notions of what marriage looks like. We all want the fairytale “happily ever after”, but none of us really have a clue what that looks like. We get it into our heads that love should always be easy and that any amount of struggle is a sign of impending failure. The romantic notion of stability clashes with the inevitable changes that we and our partners will go through. Anything that doesn’t fit the perfect script in our heads causes us to fear that something is wrong, and we begin to see “warning signs” everywhere. Left unchecked, this can spiral into chaos and tear a relationship apart.

On the flipside, the desire for happily ever after can be the very thing that causes us to reevaluate our notions of what a healthy marriage looks like. It can allow us to see the things that we can improve upon to strengthen our bonds.

The reader mentioned three things in their request: loyalty, acceptance, and growing together. I believe these are the 3 biggest components to a successful marriage. I also think they can be the most challenging.

Acceptance

This goes beyond “in sickness and in health” or “for richer or poorer”. Sure, there are external circumstances that cause stress and we have to be willing to go through those times together, but there are also a lot of internal circumstances that we tend to overlook.

The thing is, none of us are perfect. Truly loving someone means accepting them for 100% of who they are at any given moment. Not the 60% you fell in love with. Not the 10% you know they could be. The totality of who they are and the history that shaped them.

 

healthy marriage, relationships, growth

 

 

Acceptance comes with knowing who they are and why they do the things they do. It’s respecting each other’s differences, as well as respecting each others’ boundaries and priorities. It’s knowing that it’s okay to not always be on the same page. It’s knowing when to let those things go and when to search for a compromise.

This doesn’t mean you have to like every single thing about a person. There are plenty of things about my husband that drive me nuts. Likewise, he has to deal with my insecurities, indecisiveness, and a slew of annoying habits. He loves me through these moments, accepts them as part of the deal, but he also doesn’t keep me there.

Which leads us to the next point:

Growth

We all want to see our partner be healthy and happy. When you love someone, you want what is best for them. However, this can lead us into a trap of thinking we know what’s best for someone else. This sort of thinking can lead to resentment on both sides and poison our relationships with one another. There can also be a fear of growth. If one of us changes, could it harm the relationship in some way?

Everyone of us will grow and change throughout our lifetimes. It’s up to us to make a conscious decision to grow together. To teach and be taught by one another as new points of view and habits develop. You have to be willing to learn to love each other at each new stage.

 

marriage, quote, growth

 

You must provide a safe space for one another to grow physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Be there to lend an ear or offer your thoughts. Give them encouragement and praise as they reach new milestones. Allow them to explore their own interests without fearing that it takes away from what you have built. Look at your challenges as a couple as lessons to learn together.

All of this must be done with a gentle touch. You can absolutely suggest a healthy change without seeming domineering. You can encourage them to take better care of themselves without forcing the issue. Accept them where they are and move forward together.  This also means letting hurts of the past fall from your mind. If we’re hanging on to old resentments, we’re blinding ourselves to any positive changes that are right in front of us.

Loyalty

When we think of loyalty, a lot of people’s minds often go straight to issues of fidelity. While remaining faithful is certainly a part of loyalty, there are many other components that are just as important.

Loyalty means being committed to standing by one another during difficult times. It means putting the needs of your relationship first and choosing to stay and fight instead of cutting out when things get hard.

This can come in many forms. Sometimes it means putting the needs of your partner before your own for the sake of the union. Sometimes it means standing up for your partner or your relationship when others make critical remarks. Sometimes it means holding your tongue when you feel like complaining to someone else, and discussing the issue directly with your partner.

Loyalty means thinking about how every decision you make affects the relationship as a whole. It means discarding the opinions of others who would have you fail and standing by your convictions.

 

marriage, loyalty, quote

 

Of course, the key to all three of these points is communication. We can’t read each other’s minds or reach conclusions based on assumptions. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and transparent. You also have to be willing to listen to your partner without judgement when they speak their truth. You have to learn to speak each other’s language and find ways to reach understanding, even when it seems impossible.

Every couple is different. It’s up to you to determine what works for your marriage and to work together to create the framework that allows your love to flourish.

Love starts with a feeling, but it’s survival is a choice.

 

 

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