Learn to Dance in the Rain

Lately, it has seemed as though I’ve had one problem after another, with no end in sight. When it rains, it pours…

I spend forty hours a week at a job that is beyond frustrating. I am a writer at heart, but my current profession, the one that pays the bills, is a school teacher.

The dream has been, for many years, to do this writing thing full-time and actually make a living doing so.

Until that glorious day becomes a reality, I’m left to drag myself out of bed every Monday through Friday and force myself to look on the bright side. It’s not that I don’t love teaching… I do. My students make me laugh, and feel pride every day. I have always been a teacher in some way, shape, or form since I was seventeen and began teaching ballet to five-year-olds. I get such a thrill when a child experiences success, in part, because of something I have taught them. Sadly, though, the stress and frustration, in recent years, regarding the educational system, far outweigh the feelings of joy I once had as a teacher.

As if that’s not enough, I have another squall I have to handle at home.

My daughter, who has Down Syndrome, has not yet accepted, our new puppy, Primadonna. Her fears and anxieties have been ongoing and it’s something I’ve come to realize I need to assist her with. Helping her to overcome her fears is one of my many jobs as her mom. Let me just say it’s chaos and the house is constantly an utter war zone. The two of them dictate every minute of my so-called spare time.

Yet another dark cloud looming overhead, is the fact that I am failing miserably at keeping up with the laundry, cooking, and cleaning. The dirty pile grows taller each day. The clean pile sits for so long that it’s a wrinkled mess of unacceptable choices. There are always dirty dishes in the sink. And between rushing through each day and a puppy in the house, the floor must be swept daily. There are quite literally just not enough hours in the day!

All of this has led to months on end of neglecting myself. Which led to frustration and sadness.

I found myself stuck in the tumultuous storms of day-to-day obligations. Meetings that should have been an email, analyzing data, family schedules, puppy training, taking care of a special needs child, making time for date nights with my husband, etc., all of which have left zero time for ME.

I stopped working out because I either didn’t have the time or lacked the energy. Rushing all the time from one responsibility to another I made a bag of chips or pack of cookies my go-to snacks, and because I didn’t have time for an actual meal, and justifying it by claiming ‘I didn’t eat today’.

When it rains, it pours.

I’ve uttered those words more often than I can count. I’ve prayed for all of these problems to be solved, for my struggles to become easier, and for my heartaches to heal. But, the times, although fewer than I’d like to admit, I was able to ‘let go and let God’, were the times I made it through to the other side with much less pain and a little more perspective.

I realized if I were to pull it off, I had to make major changes! No one else could do that for me. I have to do it myself. I cannot stop the downpour of trouble, but I can protect myself so that I don’t drown.

It was time for me to do the work!

I journaled my thoughts and feelings. (My journal is like a best friend. I tell her all my secrets, my heartaches, and struggles, and she listens and waits for me to discover my own answers.) I began to recognize the things, people, and circumstances that were standing in my way. I realized which aspects I had control over. I revisited my priorities and then, I created a plan.

I now make myself a priority. I made time in my schedule for daily exercise and eating whole, real, nutritious foods. Not only do I feel better, but it will improve my sleep, digestion, and energy level and reduce stress. I blocked out time to do all the things I love, the things that make my heart happy, like writing, reading, date nights, sitting by the ocean bundled up in the off-season when I rarely see another person, an hour, or two, at the salon, or a visit to the local coffee shop to write or get cozy with a great book.

I learned that the bottom line is I have to take care of myself. It is a lot easier to handle the storms of life after I have a great weight-lifting session, a superfood smoothie, and time to journal and pray.

Take good care of yourself. Be mindful of your mental and emotional health. Do the work. Make the changes necessary. Listen to your heart. Feed your soul. You cannot prevent the storms of life, but you can be well prepared to protect yourself from the damage.

Easier said than done, I know all too well.

As for me, I will continue to aspire to cease worrying, by following my heart and making myself a priority. I’m getting stronger physically and mentally every day. I work towards doing something amazing every day. I worry much less about the storms because my soul is learning how to ‘dance in the rain’.

Footnote:

If you’d like to read the entire story, you can pop on over to my other blog, Life with Faith, to read more about raising a child with Down Syndrome.

Hope

This four-letter word is more powerful than most.

It ignites something in my soul. It instantly brings positive ideas and exciting forward-thinking possibilities to my mind. This little word creates… gumption.

As I look back over the past year, I am my own worst critic. It’s so easy to allow thoughts of all the things I have not accomplished. I’m reminded of the many goals set that were not achieved. And then, thankfully, I realize the mental-emotional harm I’ve inflicted on myself. And with prayer and meditation, I begin to see things more clearly.

This time of year, with Christmas, my father’s birthday, and the beginning of a new year, I am more emotional than usual.

Yesterday would have been my father’s eightieth birthday. He left this earth way too soon, twenty-three long years ago. I miss him still and always will. I do believe, though, that he’s with me in spirit… but some days, more than others, I ache for his hugs and would do just about anything to hear the roar of his laughter. I am, however, grateful to have had a father who instilled honesty, loyalty, compassion, and unwavering love and devotion to family and friends.

I had lunch with my sister, Dawn, as we always do on his birthday. Typically, for the past twenty-three years, I go out to eat with my mom and my sister. It’s always just his girls (as he used to refer to us), but Mommy was fighting a bad cold, so Dawny and I continued the tradition. We shared stories and amusing anecdotes about Daddy, as tears of joy, but also because of missing him terribly, filled our eyes. We laughed and cried as we always do. I read a few excerpts from my next book, The Red Quarters, since it’s about Daddy and the positive impact he always had on us and continues to have to this day.

It’s bittersweet writing about my father. It’s a very emotional experience for me. Although I’m extremely grateful for the twenty-seven years of having him love me, I can’t help feeling cheated that he hasn’t physically been with us for the last twenty-three. Despite the fact that I know, since I feel his presence, he is with me in spirit, it’s often not enough. He was my guide, my confidant, and my number-one supporter.

There have been countless times I’ve desperately wanted and needed him to help me navigate the murky waters when I felt as if I were drowning in my own pain and sorrow.

I’ve learned over the years, if I am very still, I can sometimes hear him. It’s a quiet whisper within my heart. During those times, like today reflecting on the past year and missing him on his birthday, I feel as if my intuition is communing with his spirit. My eyes fill up at first, and I’m overwhelmed with sadness. But if I sit with my eyes closed and my heart open, I can feel his presence. Then the sadness turns to joy knowing he is with me.

My mind interferes and bitches about him not being here in the physical form. But if I concentrate on my heart and ignore the negative thoughts in my head, I can hear him. I feel him trying to break through the resentment of loss and with my eyes closed, I can see him again.

I begin to ask him for guidance. “Daddy, what do I do?” He responds, “It’s okay, Pooh. You’re going to be okay.” I begin to argue, “But nothing is how I wanted it to be.” He answers calmly saying, “It will be.”

“Your children are beautiful, smart, and healthy. Thanks to you. Know I am with them too.”

“But what about the mess I’ve made of my life goals, Daddy? How do I fix it?”

“I don’t see a mess, Pooh. I see a strong, beautiful wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher, and writer that works hard and gives her best to everyone.”

“Thank you, Daddy. I hope I’ve made you proud.”

“You absolutely have! Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

“But I’m not… I haven’t yet…”

“Not yet, maybe, but you will.”

I try to keep the conversation going but he fades away having said all he came to say.

I dry my eyes and actually feel better. More optimistic. More positive. He has reached me from God knows where and reassured me with his love and support just as he always had.

In mere moments of prayer and meditation, listening to what I know my father would say to me, my spirit is renewed.

And there it is…

Hope.

What better way to start the new year than with a positive outlook toward the future. I may not have done all I have set out to do just yet… but I will.

Yet generates a bright outlook. Yet creates enthusiasm. Yet creates feelings of optimism.

So when you reflect on the things you have not accomplished this past year, tell yourself… not yet. As we begin a New Year, my wish for all of you is…

Peace in times of trouble.

Confidence in times of indecision.

A grateful heart in times of success.

True love for yourself and others.

And in times of doubt… HOPE.

My Christmas Miracles

We’ve all seen Christmas miracles happen in the movies. We smile and think, “How wonderful!”. It’s even more wonderful to truly believe, down in the depths of your heart, that miracles do occur. I have had my prayer answered countless times over the years. I’m known to cry at sentimental movies, no matter how many times I’ve seen them. I’ve actually cried at Budweiser-horses-in-the-snow or when a military-parent-surprises-their child commercial. Yes, I’m a little sappy. I’m especially emotional this Christmasy time of year. However, a real ‘Christmas Miracle’ not once, but twice this season left me filled with awe and overwhelming gratitude.

Recently, my husband and I decided to adopt a furry family member. It breaks my heart to think about those sweet animals in cages for so long, especially at Christmas time. We discussed the pros and cons and considered the responsibility very seriously. Our daughter, Faith, who has Down Syndrome has been afraid of dogs since a bad experience about eight years ago. We made the decision to adopt and planned how we could desensitize her of her fears. The decision was made, in part, because John and I have wanted a dog for the past several years. But also because raising a child with Down Syndrome is partly helping her to learn and overcome challenges. And I believe helping her overcome her fears is a worthwhile task.

The adjustment has had its challenges, but Faith gets closer to our tiny black lab mix every day. Primadonna is a sweet pup and seems very aware of Faith’s differences. She is patient and understanding where Faith is concerned. She will sit quietly if Faith gets upset. And Faith has allowed the distance between them to lessen a little more each day. Miss Prim has proven to be a great choice and we instantly fell in love with her.

A little over a week ago, Primadonna ran off while at a friend’s house. I was devasted. I cried and prayed. The search began that morning and continued well past nightfall. I eventually realized I had to return home, to take care of my daughter. We lived about half an hour away from where she ran off. I drove home at about twenty miles per hour, still crying, and praying I just might see her. I was heartbroken. I took a personal day from work and John and I returned to the scene first thing in the morning. After searching, crying, posting on every site imaginable, hanging flyers, and going door to door, in tears, we feared the worst. She had been outside in below-freezing temperatures, in a strange neighborhood, all night.

Then, our smart pup just ‘showed up’ playing with our friend’s dogs when he let them out in the morning. By the grace of God, Miss Prim was back! No one person found her. There was no heroic human event rescuing her from danger. We don’t know where she was or how far she had run. We had scoured the area calling for her along with several strangers that volunteered their time. Just when hope was running low, God blessed us with an actual Christmas miracle.

I was so grateful and more excited than ever for Christmas. It was wonderful! We felt so blessed, happy, and grateful. And then… As if that wasn’t enough, three days after Christmas…

Miracle two!…

There are everyday activities performed by teenagers that I believe some people take for granted. One of which is writing and basic fine motor skills.

As a mom, of a child with Down Syndrome, and a teacher, I have used every trick up my sleeve to assist Faith, in her sixteen years, with her writing and coloring. She hated to color. When I somehow tricked her into it, the page was all one color and a scribbled mess. I blamed myself for not knowing how to help her. I’m not sure which one of us has been more frustrated.

Then just this morning, at breakfast, she amazed me with her focus and showed off her much-improved skills. I watched in awe and cried in my omelet. She wrote, “mom” and “Matthew” (her brother) more legibly than ever. She proceeded to color a quite detailed picture. I did help, you can notice where, but the rest was all her! Not only did she vary her use of color choices but she stayed within the lines better than ever. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I play with her and help her practice her skills on a regular basis and have never seen this level of ability from her before today.

My second Christmas miracle!

This is why I will NEVER stop teaching her, playing with her, or believing in her abilities!

So, my friends, as we prepare to enter into a new year, I will leave you with my heartfelt, yet, unsolicited advice.

Don’t stop believing.

Believe in the kindness of others.

Believe in the abilities of others, no matter how different they are.

Believe in yourself.

Believe in the power of prayer.

And no matter how old you are or how defeated you feel, or what time of year it is…

never stop believing in miracles.

My Sentimental Christmas Tree

Decorating our Christmas tree is an important event, for me, every year.

It’s an old prelit tree with warm, incandescent lights with just a few that twinkle ever so gently. One day, when I can justify the expense, I may buy a new one. But part of me prefers the traditional, older charm of the tree. What really makes this tree meaningful are the ornaments placed on its branches. It truly is a walk down memory lane as each ornament is carefully removed from its box.

My husband and children help as the traditional Christmas music plays in the background. I’m not sure if the whole process is as special to them as it is to me, but they willingly participate for my benefit, and for that I am grateful.

Some ornaments are souvenirs from trips to Disney, and other vacations from years past. Others are handmade treasures made by Matthew and Faith, most of which are from ten or fifteen years ago. Many are thoughtful gifts from my niece and nephew. I even have saved several ‘Best Teacher’ ornaments from my students over the years. Each and every ornament is sentimental and has a special meaning.

There are painted balls, popsicle sticks glued together, and a couple thin, tin, throw-away ashtrays with plenty of glitter and shiny enough to forget for a second what they were used for thirty years ago. Faith’s sweet, little five-year-old, bella faccia glued in the center is what makes it to my favorites list.

Hands down, Matthew’s ornament that tops them all from his school-made treasures is ‘the book’. It’s just about the size of my hand, folded and stapled neatly. It’s made from an old-fashioned Christmas gift bag with holly and a reindeer. Inside, though, holds the true treasure of his seven-year-old thoughts. His own elementary handwriting is what makes it an all-time favorite! He wrote about Christmas being special to him because the family is all together and we wait for baby Jesus. He went on to ask Santa for toys and DS games and kindly asked him not to forget his little sister, Faith since she couldn’t write her own letter.

Be still my heart.

He even included a diagram of our home labeling every room, on each floor, complete with stick figures with big smiles. Lastly, he made a list of all the names of his second-grade best friends.

In addition to my children’s ornaments, my ‘memory tree’ lovingly honors our family pets, special events, and activities over the years. There are baseballs, horses, and ballerinas to remember Matthew and Faith’s activities.

Many of my nostalgic ornaments hold the coveted position of front and center.

Pictures of my children. The first Christmas with my husband. The weekend getaway when he unexpectedly proposed, down on one knee, on the beach, in Maryland. And then there are the tear-jerkers that honor our loved ones who left this earth too soon.

The iconic Tastykake krimpet. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of the days my father would snack, on the living room chase, as he watched his Cowboys during Monday Night Football. The ceramic Winnie the Pooh since my daddy called me Pooh bear as a kid (and as an adult). The handmade decoupage ball was made by my artist sister with more than a dozen wonderful memories of us with Daddy. And the infamous, shellacked McDonald’s french fry. As The Story Goes, I saved it in my five-year-old, dirty pocket for my sister because it was the longest one I had ever seen. When I got home I was so excited to give it to her that she didn’t have the heart to complain. I don’t remember her taking a bite of the mangled, dirty fry (I hope not.), but I do remember the thrill of giving it to her and her love and appreciation.

The victorian, pink, and gold hearts, and vintage angels from my sweet mother, hold memories of her thoughtfulness and love as she strung them within her handmade bows that tied my Christmas gifts together each year.

Finally, atop this treasure of a tree, perched with pride, is a gold, velvety star with taffeta streamers that once belonged to my parents.

So you see it may not be a fancy trendy themed tree with matching ornaments. The ornaments are not expensive or popular collector’s items. I won’t be featured in a home decor magazine or blow the minds of my Facebook friends with its beauty.

But my whole heart can be found on this tree.

It contains a lifetime of love, happiness, and family memories. And every year, as I uncover each one from within the protective tissue paper, I’m overwhelmed with emotion.

Happiness and joy as I giggle at kids’ crafts, and fun times in the past. Sadness missing my loved ones who left this earth too soon. But always grateful for the precious memories. And tears of joy for having had them in the first place.

Honoring Your Top Priorities, Relieves Stress

Stress is your body’s way of fighting back to protect you, often, from yourself. Notice when you spread yourself too thin, you may get sick. When we’re run down, overworked, and not sleeping enough our body will try to make us rest. For some, stomach issues strike or for others, like me, migraines halt all work and plans for, at minimum, an entire day. In extreme cases, that are not addressed over time, stress can lead to serious health problems like diabetes, heart issues, and cancer. Then we have even more to worry about. Then we’ve missed the deadline or canceled an appointment that then has to be rescheduled into an even busier schedule. It’s a vicious, unending cycle that is detrimental to our health and creates more turmoil in the lives of many.

Keeping your priorities in balance is one way to prevent you from drowning and keep your head above water. Life is chaotic for many of us. Working full-time, two jobs, or even three jobs while trying to take care of a family and still have time for ourselves is overwhelming. Maintaining your sanity can feel near impossible.

I’ve learned a few strategies that can absolutely help you to decrease and or cope better with stress.

Almost everything I’ve written about deals with some form of self-care. And during those rare instances when I can carve out spare time, I also read about self-improvement. I then began the arduous journey of a Master’s in counseling. After several years of researching, writing, and reading on the topic, I stumbled across coaching. I was already spread too thin, but truly believed, and still do, that keeping our Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health in balance is necessary to, not just be well, but to thrive.

So, in an effort to help others, while working on my own self-improvement, I recently completed my training as a Health and Life Coach. I learned best practices in order to help others, and in the process, uncovered my own personal pitfalls and which methods work for me to create peace. I discovered so much about myself and armed myself with countless tools to apply directly to my daily routine in order to keep my life in balance. All this, in order to learn how to live my best life and help others to do the same.

I am of the opinion that we are all a work in progress. Balance may not be possible every day all the time, but working towards it can decrease feelings of overwhelm. It’s not about the end goal, it’s about the journey! Our work is never truly finished. There is always another goal, a new plan, and another dream to strive for in life. I don’t believe the day will ever come when I’ll say, “Okay, I did it. I have balance. I am stress-free. My life is now complete.” Truth be told, even after the near-perfect days when all goes well and my spirits are high, low and behold there’s another deadline at work, an unexpected home emergency, or another diet plan bit the dust.

Life is a journey. There will always be ‘something’ that causes stress. It’s the ebb and flows, the ups, and downs, the twists, and turns that make the successes that much sweeter. The ability to rise above it all and still achieve our goals is, in part, what brings us joy, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment in life. How we handle it, and how we can manage and find ways to balance the chaos is what makes the difference. The one thing that never changes, is the fact that there will always be change. What makes all the difference is how we cope and rise above it all, despite the bumps in the road.

So, with that in mind, I’d like to share three ways you can decrease and cope with your stress.

  1. List your priorities.
  2. Focus on what’s most important.
  3. Organize your calendar and stick to your plan.

List your priorities.

What are your top priorities? The most important things to you, in your life, should be prioritized. These are the things and people you should place most of your attention on.

Think about it. Why do you work so hard? What makes your heart happy? What drives you to save for that vacation? Who and what brings you the most joy and feeds your soul? Those are the things that are most important to you. That is your purpose in life. Honoring your heart’s desire will lead to fulfillment, happiness, a feeling of accomplishment, and the peace we’re desperately searching for.

My family, my health, travel, and helping others through my writing are what’s most important to me. My focus is on my kids and husband, my physical, mental and emotional health, my writing, and my job.

Focus on what’s most important.

Now that you realize what drives you, that should be your focus.

My work hours go into the calendar first. Not that I feel the j.o.b. is more important than my family or my health, but I like to get my paychecks every two weeks and keep my health insurance. So, I put those times in Monday through Friday.

My kid’s and husband’s schedules and specific days and times in which we spend quality time together are then filled into my schedule before and after work hours. Birthdays, holiday plans, dance classes, and date nights are entered next.

Since my health is a priority, I schedule times for all things physical, mental, and emotional. I schedule all my doctor appointments directly after work. My health is not an option. It’s a priority and it’s treated as such. I enter the weeks we are going on vacation, the days and times I exercise, and the times I pray, read, and write. All of that is part of what keeps me healthy, and sane. It is absolutely necessary, especially with the day-to-day stress that’s not going away.

Only then, does everything else gets squeezed in, and only if there’s time and energy to spare. And why not? When I spend any of my time on the things or people that aren’t the most important to me, I become stressed and overwhelmed. It creates a negative inner dialogue driven by guilt, shame, worry, and resentment. So… I don’t do that anymore. I give my energy, and my heart, to the people and things that fill my heart with joy… above all else.

Organize your calendar and stick to it!

Make sure to set those priorities on repeat. For example, my writing time is not an option. It’s what I love to do and is my time to do what makes my heart happy. Date night with my husband is non-negotiable. So I put it in my calendar on the specific day and time that works for our schedules and click “repeat weekly”, duration… “forever”. Faith’s dance class is set to “repeat weekly”, duration is set for the last night of the recital. And so on. That way my priorities are set in stone, or I should say, in google. You get the idea.

Those are the things and people most important to me. Honoring what’s in my heart creates a feeling of calm amid the chaos of life.

Keep in Touch

Have you experienced uncontrollable stress? Do you know your heart’s desire? Do you think these tips will prove useful in your life? Leave a comment or question. I’d love to hear what you think. What topics would you like me to write about next? Find your peace. Stay well.

Turn your Panic into Peace!

Weekend Getaway in PA

You may not feel as though you can tackle the world with ease at the moment. But, chances are if you decided to keep reading after seeing this title, you have the desire to actually experience joy, in life. I’m here to tell you, it is possible!

We all get overwhelmed from time to time. Unfortunately, it is part of life. Adulting is damn hard! We are part of a society of overworked, stressed, overwhelmed, and sleep-deprived people. Our moods can soar to great heights and, sometimes when we least expect it, crash in a second. Busy, hectic, and unpredictable schedules lead to terrible eating habits and before you know it we have a whole new list of issues.

As a Health and Life Coach, I hear all of the above from my clients. I get it. Believe me when I say, “I’ve been there!” One of my favorite things to do is to educate and help others help themselves. I’m going to share three ways you can better handle your stress, and you can use these methods today! But before we get to the tricks up my sleeve, I want to share how I got to this point of learning to cope.

Listen, I’ve always been completely transparent with my readers. I’m all about keeping it real. So this topic will be no different because I’m no different than any of you. After soul-searching, further education, and doing the work on myself, I learned, and was able to apply simple strategies that I now know, make all the difference!

I am a full-time teacher, help my husband run our business, raise a teenage daughter with Down Syndrome, still try to parent a twenty-year-old young man, and run my coaching and writing business in my ‘free time’. I’ve had many days of panic, crying, and bitching about everything that goes wrong in my life. I have overeaten to the point of hating to look in the mirror. I have picked arguments with my husband and those close to me because of so much pent-up frustration. I used to talk so badly to myself about being a failure at just about everything that I’ve struggled with depression. Then, I had enough.

So I began the journey of deeper self-discovery. Here are three of the many ways I’ve learned to ‘Turn my panic into peace’ and take control of my own life!

  1. Start a Gratitude Journal
  2. Know your WHY
  3. Breathe

Gratitude Journal

First of all, an attitude of gratitude is essential. I can easily fall down the rabbit hole of endless complaints I have about how my life is going. I think about the dozens of emails I have yet to answer, the ever-growing pile of dirty laundry I have to do, or the fact that I haven’t reached all my career goals yet. That kind of negative thinking causes me to hate my life and develop a ‘why bother’ attitude.

It’s too overwhelming to only think about all you have to accomplish, what you haven’t done yet and the things you don’t have. It’s exhausting. But… When you focus on what is going well in your life, first thing in the morning, you are able to begin your day on a positive note. That in and of itself is a very powerful tool. Handling the day-to-day stress becomes much easier when you recognize, first, all you have to be thankful for in your life.

When I committed to making my gratitude journal a regular morning routine, everything changed. I begin my day remembering all I have accomplished, and how far I have come. I count my many blessings, like my beautiful, healthy children, my two published books, a loving husband, and a job I love. I even write a prayer of thanksgiving and a request to guide me through my next difficult task. It gives me feelings of great joy, and the confidence and calm I need to get through my day.

Know your WHY

The second tool I recommend is to find focus. I can stand steady and feel calmer when I remind myself WHY I work so hard. Why do I want or need to do the job at hand? Is it in alignment with my big goals? Will it help me accomplish my heart’s desire?

I have always been a goal-setter. It motivates me to think of the end game. It drives me to do whatever it takes to achieve what I truly want. But first, I had to stop and really think about my priorities and what my heart wants out of life. This is another topic I write about in my journal. I have wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember. I have always been a writer in one way or another but never had the confidence to put my work out into the world. When that little voice inside got loud enough, I listened. I read about it, researched, ask other authors what to do, and got to work. It was something I desperately wanted so I did what I had to do and made it happen.

What is deep inside of you wanting to come out? Your desires are based on your top priorities in life. What do YOU want? Not what you think you’re supposed to do. What does your heart desire? Ask yourself what are the things most important to you and write them down. That becomes the roadmap for your life. Write down your goals, hang them where you can see them, and create a vision board. Focus drives you and makes the difficult stressful days worth it. You feel less stressed because the end game is everything to you. Your top priorities become your motivation and make the work it takes to ‘get ‘er done’ feel more manageable. Know YOUR why!

Breathe

Life gets tough. Adulting is damn hard! Unfortunately, stress and overwhelm are inevitable. However, you can learn to lessen the effects and practice simple ways to cope.

I love practicing quick and easy breathing techniques that I can do whenever the stress begins to build. I close my eyes (unless I’m driving of course) breathe in through my nose for a count of five, hold my breath for five seconds and then exhale, through my mouth, for seven seconds. Sometimes once is enough, but you can repeat this breathing pattern as many times as you need to feel calmer.

Keep in Touch

Have you experienced times of uncontrollable stress? Do you know your heart’s desire? Have these tips helped you begin to feel calmer? Leave a comment or question. I’d love to hear what you think. Self-analysis is necessary at times. Just don’t beat yourself up. When we know better, we do better. Stay well!

Find Your Own Silver Lining!

My morning view!

It’s been a long time since we’ve chatted. I’ve missed this more than you know. My life, like yours I’m sure, has been a wild rollercoaster ride of change, uncertainty, fear, and also happiness. Our world is ever-changing.

It’s hard to believe I haven’t posted in almost a year! Life has taken hold of me and I, unfortunately, allowed the day-to-day stressors to overcome me. I’ve written quite a bit in the past about how to handle stress and get out of a funk. And yet I have failed to take my own advice.

I’ll fill you in on what’s new with me and share my personal struggles knowing you will be able to relate.

I’ll start off by saying, even in these crazy times we now live in, I have much to be thankful for. I have been blessed with an amazing family! Wonderful children that love me and make me feel immeasurable pride and joy. I have a loving husband that works hard and supports all my personal and career endeavors. We recently purchased a new house so that I could be closer to my family and the school where I now teach first grade. I’m so grateful for our beautiful home nestled among farm fields and vineyards. We are blessed to now enjoy peace, quiet and beautiful panoramic views. I thank God every day.

And yet, I struggle.

I have gained a TON of weight during the pandemic! Not only do I feel terrible physically, but it has a direct effect on my self-esteem, confidence, and therefore my mood. I can imagine many of you nodding right now in agreement. My entire adult life I have been a teacher. I have been a health and pe teacher, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and classroom teacher. I have always, at some level, taught other people how to take care of themselves and stay healthy. I have always been a healthy person, and for the most part, at a healthy weight. I, of all people, KNOW what to do and How to do it! So WHY am I NOT just doing it???

That alone is enough to leave anyone feeling lousy.

Okay, now add teaching a new grade level, which means learning a whole new curriculum, and the fact that I temporarily lost my mind and accepted curriculum work over this past summer. My original thought was, what better way to learn my new curriculum than to develop and write it myself?! So, although I am proud of the work I’ve done and yes, I do know my curriculum which I believe has made me a better teacher, the well-known non-teacher comments about “teachers don’t work in the summer” went straight out the window. I worked every… single… day.

Oh and did I mention, my husband and I started a new business during the pandemic for which I do all the bookkeeping, emails, and insurance. All while taking care of my teenage daughter with Down Syndrome and making time to do fun activities with her as much as possible.

To further prove my recent temporary insanity, but also celebrate a true personal win, I have completed the manuscript for my second book, Raising Faith: The Ups and Downs of Raising a Child With DownSyndrome, and have submitted it to the publisher. (YAY ME!!!)

So, to say I’ve been “a little busy” is an understatement. And now you have some insight as to why my ups and downs the past year have me now scurrying to rediscover myself.

We all have a pity party on occasion. For some people, it only lasts a couple hours and for others, it goes on for weeks or months. Let’s face it, life doesn’t always go as planned. It can be very easy to feel sorry for yourself and fall into the ‘Why me!?’ mentality. This pandemic has had a very depressing effect on me, like many of you, I would guess. Staying indoors for the better part of a year missing all the family and friends I used to gather with so freely takes its toll, especially on a people-person like myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I will forever be grateful that I married the man of my dreams, my soul mate, lover, and best friend. I will always thank God for my amazing children and loving family and friends. However, I am not just a mom, a wife, and a teacher. I am Gina, a woman that must discover and thrive on what drives my internal happiness and sets my soul on fire.

One of my favorite songs has the best line ever. “Lord help me, help my stupid self.” I’m sure many of you can relate to that. God helps those who help themselves. Sometimes we need to get out of our own way. The thing is, my friends, it’s not just us. It’s everyone. Sure some people have life-altering situations and suffer a terrible loss that can hold them down longer than others. But we all have stress and we all have to find ways to deal with the overwhelm of our own day-to-day.

I am a firm believer in allowing yourself to feel your emotions. Don’t put it on the back burner or sweep it under the rug. Feel your feelings. Acknowledge the emotion. If you are sad, cry. If you’re happy, laugh out loud. If you’re confused, question. That’s how we live in the moments of life. Whatever you do, do not unpack in ‘sad town’! You are not meant to move in. Visit to discover, but remember, you are just passing through. What happened? How does it make you feel? Why do you feel that way? What, if anything, can you do about it? And then, for God’s sake, MOVE ON.

Life is hard and doesn’t always go as planned. But, there is always a silver lining! Count your blessings. Do the work necessary to rediscover yourself! Get back in touch with what makes your heart smile and your soul soar and do that! Make yourself a priority. Take care of YOU! You are worth it!

Stay well.

Gina

A Love Poem for MY LOVE!

Roses from my Love!

Right away I knew, you were about to steal my heart.

Your sparkling blue eyes and devilish grin mesmerized me from the start.

So comfortable, at ease and confident, you made me feel the same.

Honest and open, refreshing that, there was no game.

Such a gentleman, lending me your coat and opening doors.

It wasn’t long after, I was saying, “I’m all yours.”

Only a short time passed, our feelings grew and we knew we were in love.

Every day since, I have thanked our heavenly father up above.

For a man that tells me often that I’m beautiful, smart and kind.

Surely, I know, a man like this is very hard to find.

Whenever I feel sad or stressed, he quickly eases my fears.

He wraps me up in his arms, and the whole world disappears.

With every new endeavor, he provides encouragement and praise.

By my side, supporting me in so many different ways.

And now that I can proudly say, he is mine and I’m his wife.

I promise to do all I can, to provide for him a happy life!

Stuck home? Lacking Motivation?

Truth be told, I’ve struggled with my own motivation lately. I know that I am not alone. So I decided to share my personal struggles and what I’ve done to overcome the blahs. As always, I write with the hope that you may benefit from my experience.

Recognize the Problem

Recently, I had been feeling extra lazy. I worked every day and did my best, of course, but couldn’t muster the energy for much else. I still made my to-do lists. Although, every day boxes were left unchecked I felt like a failure. My self-esteem took a hard it. I started to lose my motivation. I had no energy or desire to workout, write consistently, put away the laundry or cook dinner, as I had always done before. It happens to the best of us. Life gets overwhelming and it’s easy to fall into a rut.

I, like many of you, work from home all day, every day. I am a full-time, remote, 5th grade teacher, a small business owner, a writer and an author. I am a wife and a mother. We have four teenagers. The oldest two are away right now. One in the Army and the other in college. The younger two struggling at times with hybrid and remote learning. My daughter is the the youngest. She has Down syndrome and often needs my help throughout the day. Balancing all the responsibilities of wife, mom, teacher, writer and business owner is not easy. Needless to say, I am overwhelmed and a little stressed. I’ve learned to balance and juggle it all, in the past, for the most part. But recently I felt like I had been swallowed up in quicksand, being pulled down against my will. I felt out of control. That’s when I had those self-sabotaging thoughts of “Why bother?” or “What was I thinking? I can’t do all of this!” Which, of-course, can kill all motivation!

Working from home has it’s pros and cons. It provides freedoms I didn’t have before, such as a zoom meeting in pajama bottoms. That’s right! Don’t judge. You know you’ve done it. Fancy blouse, hair and makeup done, but those glorious pjs and slippers from the waist down. Professional, yet comfortable is, for sure, a bonus! I also now have the opportunity to accomplish things I need to or want to do, during my lunch break. Some days I’m able to complete two loads of laundry and prep dinner. Some days I can get to work on my next book. And on the days that the sky is clear and the sun is shining, I can go for a long walk through the woods around the lake or take a joy ride playing my favorite music and singing as I drive. But probably, the one I enjoy the most is having the pleasure of being able to put my daughter on the bus, in the morning, and also be home when she returns at the end of the day.

However, as most of you are aware, there are downfalls to working from home as well. Some days I think to myself, “If I have to look at these same four walls one more minute I’m going to scream!” Cabin fever is a real thing! And as nice as it may be to stay in those comfy pjs or yoga pants all day, they created a new problem to tackle… weight gain! Am I right? It’s WAY to easy to grow accustom to sitting too much, for too long. Sitting to teach on zoom. Sitting to create invoices and answer emails. Sitting to write. Sitting, sitting, sitting. I found myself getting too comfortable at home and very close to becoming lazy… another culprit of losing your desire to ‘get up and go’. Especially when you don’t have to actually go anywhere.

I began to notice a negative shift. I started to feel terrible, physically, because of the lack of exercise, bad eating habits, extra weight, gray hair, and un-manicured nails. But, just as dangerous, my attitude, drive, mood and self-esteem took a nose dive. I realized I had to make changes. I knew deep down this was not me!

Look Within

I started reading and praying to find my answers. I often used affirmations, in the past, to stay focused on my goal, so I started there again. There is a huge amount of motivational, and inspirational quotes and prayers on Pinterest, by the way. Check ’em out! I believe positive, uplifting and encouraging mantras really do help. This particular quote spoke to me and something just clicked. “YOU WILL NEVER ALWAYS BE MOTIVATED, SO YOU MUST LEARN TO BE DISCIPLINED.” It makes total sense, doesn’t it? It’s up to me. I can decide to change. No truer words were spoken about staying motivated, in my opinion.

Resolution

So, to that end, I accepted the fact that I lost my mojo. I surrendered. I felt as though I couldn’t control my blahs, given my busy schedule and stress level. However, being disciplined is something different. It comes from another place. I CAN control my thoughts! I decide to adhere to my to-do list, in order to accomplish a goal. I choose. Emotions can consume me and bring me down. They’re powerful enough to make me feel defeated. But, only I can control my thoughts. You’ve heard the saying, “What you think about, you bring about.” It’s so true. It is up to me! I don’t have to give-in to a feeling when my emotions are in a fragile state. I CAN be disciplined and use my head. So, that’s what I did. I read that quote over and over. “You will never always be motivated, so you must learn to be disciplined.” The serenity prayer is my new favorite and supports my new found quote, as well. “Dear God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Those uplifting thoughts I chose to tell myself made a big difference. My heart soon followed my head. I felt good again, very quickly. Positive mantras or prayers provide hope that not all is lost. I was accomplishing more and feeling better. And the better I feel, the more I do. The more I do, the more motivated I become. And all of a sudden… I was back! The old me. The happy me. Feeling balanced, accomplished and fulfilled.

We’re all in this unpredictable, whirlwind of our ‘new normal’. Life was already hard. Now we’ve been forced to adjust to an entirely new way of doing things. If you are lacking motivation, try positive mantras or prayer. They may give you hope, like they did for me.

Keep In Touch

When do you lose your motivation? How long do your slumps last? What has worked for you to regain your mojo? Drop your comments below. I’d love to learn about you. Remember, being motivated keeps us moving towards our ultimate goals. Just don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep on, keeping on.

Stay well!

Gina

Missing My Daddy

Me and Daddy 1990

December 30th would have been Daddy’s 78th birthday. He left this earth much too soon, only 56 years old. It seems so unfair that he has missed out on so much of our lives. He never got to meet any of his four grandchildren. He was so excited to be a grandfather. Having experienced life with him as a father, he would have, without doubt, been grand.

He wasn’t there as I feared for my daughter’s life while pregnant. He missed the emergency c-section and the 6 weeks she was in the NICU. He wasn’t there when she had open heart surgery or yanked out her own feeding tube, proving all the doctors wrong. He missed out on her first steps, playing baseball, cheerleading and her dance recitals. He missed her horseback riding and learning to ride a bike.

He missed out on watching Luke grow to be 6’9″ and a basketball star at 14. He never attended a basketball game or cheered for his grandson as he slammed dunked his way to victory.

He wasn’t there to watch Matthew protect and care for his sister. He missed the baseball games, tournaments and double-plays. He never got to see him pitch those winning games or watch him graduate high school and move out to West Virginia.

He missed out on all of Sammi’s years of dance recitals, volleyball games, high school graduation and getting her Psychology degree. He wasn’t there to meet her first boyfriend and didn’t get to scare him, like he did ours.

He wasn’t there as my mom, Dawn and I cried countless times for more than two decades as we struggled through life’s ups and downs without him. He wasn’t there to console us, pray with us and cry with us when my grandparents died.

He missed out on my job changes, finding my true love and he wasn’t there to walk me down the aisle.

Or was he? …

I cannot feel sad for him as if he missed out, when in my heart, I know he was, in fact, with us. His love transcends time and space. He was there for all of us and always managed to send a message to prove he was with us, in spirit. I know he was by our side through each heartbreak and cheering along with every victory. He has roared his boisterous laugh at every birthday, graduation and holiday party.

Every cardinal that visited at just the right time, made me feel he was there. Each sign that said “Sal” on a business, in an unexpected place , just when I wished he was with me. With every auto-correct of “dad” when what was originally typed was not even close, was him saying “Hi, Pooh! I’m here.” And so much more, all the many little things that have special meaning only to us.

But, perhaps, the most meaningful and convincing signs have been our Red Quarters.

Red Quarters he and my mother painted for us, as children, to play in the arcade he owned almost 40 years ago.

Red Quarters we never saw again or even thought of for decades, after closing the business and moving more than an hour away.

Red Quarters that only resurfaced after Daddy had passed.

These Red Quarters have been given to each of us, from Daddy, on the days of sadness and the days of pure joy, that one may think he missed. Received always when we needed him the most. A red quarter in the change from the Wawa, on the way to Faith’s first Dance Recital. A Red Quarter from the concession stand after Matthew’s first home run. A Red Quarter for my husband, the day before he proposed. And countless more, at sad times and special occasions. Just as he was always there for us when he walked this earth, he found a way to be with us still.

I treasure these gifts that God has allowed Daddy to give to us, so that we may feel, in our hearts, that he’s with us. The best, heavenly gifts… The Red Quarters.

Thank you for being with me… still.

Love,

Your Poohbear