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Five Minute Friday {11}: Listen

14 Jun

When I listen to my heart, it tells me to keep being brave. To stay open and to keep giving and sharing my story, especially when I feel like giving up.

This week I’ve listened to the waves methodically sweeping in, crashing into the sand in gentle whispers while laying on the beach reading. I’ve listened to tropical birds coo and sing, their vibrant chirps awakening me from naps taken under the shade of palm trees.

But my favorite sound, by far, has been the joyful laughter of us, four friends reunited.

Our voices reminiscing over meals shared together. We listened to each other declare short term goals, we remembered all that we have experienced in our many years of friendship and marriage, and we discussed how hard it is to raise a family.

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I’m so grateful for this week.

It’s our last day here in paradise. By this evening we will have returned to the reality of normal life. And I’m quite sure that we’ve all been refreshed and energized by this vacation. I’m excited to arrive home and listen to the sounds of my family settling back into our routines, our summer together.

Time to return to living my story. One glorious day at a time.

Five Minute Friday

Brave: Five Minute Friday {5}

3 May

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BRAVE

The choice to end life. To stop living. To not go on any longer because fighting is too hard, it’s exhausting, and giving up would be so much easier.

 

The plan was made. Actions carried out.

 

The sand was slipping swiftly through the hourglass of life. Time was literally running out.

 

Then, suddenly, something awoke within her. She called out for help. And her cry for help was answered.

 

Natalie made the choice to be brave.

 

Now, she is telling her truth. I am watching her exude brave.

 

And I am so very proud of my friend.


Five Minute Friday

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Sunday, May 5th is her Live Day anniversary. I am running a 5k to recognize and celebrate her decision to choose life. In honor of Natalie’s battle to overcome suicide, I am walking The American Federation for Suicide Prevention’s Overnight Walk, June 1st-2nd.


Please visit Natalie’s blog, ItWillNeverHappen2Me.com, to read her story of what took place a year ago this weekend.

Friend: Five Minute Friday {4}

26 Apr

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What I love about my life is that I have many different types of friends surrounding me with love. Whenever life throws me a curve ball, or things are perfectly boring, or I just need to try something outside of my comfort zone to mix things up a bit because I’ve been feeling a little dull, I just reach out to a friend to reconnect and nourish my soul.

 

She makes me smile over coffee.

She lets me cry if I need a release.

She hugs me when we say goodbye.

 

I would be lost without my friends. They each hold a piece of my fragile heart in their hands and I hope they feel the same about me.

 

Because life is so much better with a friend to walk with.

Five Minute Friday

Ten Reasons I’m Thankful I Went to Wild Mountain

21 Mar

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Back on November 15th of last year, I took a deep breath as I clicked the “Complete Transaction” button to send in my initial deposit on the last day of early bird pricing for the first ever Wild Mountain Memoir Writer’s Retreat in Leavenworth, Washington. I told myself it would be okay as I exhaled slowly. I didn’t exactly know how I’d pay for the entire trip, but I did have a part-time job that provided a steady stream of additional income, so I figured we would make it work. Somehow. Besides, I had asked for my husband’s blessing before going ahead to book my ticket. He was 100% supportive, as always.

Little did I know just how much of an impact this writer’s retreat would have on my work, let alone on who I am as a person in general. It’s a little unreal how much a beautiful resort, jaw-dropping scenery, incredibly brilliant and inspiring published authors as instructors and presenters, fresh organic gourmet food, and vivacious, supportive, funny and highly social attendee writers can impact one’s sense of purpose in the world. But, man, I can honestly say that I came home a more empowered writer and person in general.

In January I booked my flight using frequent flier miles we had been saving up for a rainy day. (The retreat was in Seattle, I take that as a sign from up above for many reasons, rain being one.) I decided to take an early flight out on Thursday before the retreat, in order to give myself an entire day and a half to settle in and adjust somewhat to the 3-hour time change before the retreat officially started on Friday evening. That proved to be one of the best decisions I made in booking the trip. I had a great flight out to Seattle from DC, and enjoyed the next 24 hours relaxing, exploring the resort, and writing while listening to Ed Sheeran’s new album on repeat before the rest of the retreat-goers arrived on Friday night at 5:30pm.

 

Then it got wild.

 

Here are my Ten Reason’s I’m Thankful I Went to Wild Mountain:

10. A mountain resort set withing the picturesque and uber-relaxing Cascades Mountains. I seriously was in complete awe of the beauty that surrounded us the entire weekend. From the snow-capped mountains to the bubbling waterfall with it’s soothing melody. It was the perfect setting for writing, reading, and learning.

9. The food was simply incredible. Top-of-the-line gourmet, organic, fresh and delicious. I fed my body just as well as I fed my writer’s soul last weekend.

8. A break from the reality and stress of everyday life. I packed for an adventure, and it was one heck of a ride from start to finish. I’m still glowing from the whole of it all.

7. Community. From the moment I met my roommate, Natalie, to the last hug goodbye at the airport, for forty-eight hours I was wrapped in a sense of comfort knowing that I was surrounded by my people. My tribe, as I like to call them. Writers who write and who truthfully share their stories for the greater good of people who read them.

6. Hands-on instruction from rock-star authors who so generously and passionately offered up their best knowledge on the craft of memoir writing. Techniques, tips, and tidbits of advice were wrapped with gorgeous bows for us. I am so very grateful to Ariel Gore, Candace Walsh, Suzanne Finnamore, and Theo Pauline Nestor (and Scott, for encouraging her to just go for it and host the retreat) for making the magic happen. Sitting next to Cheryl Strayed after her keynote address (written specifically for us) was a dream come true. She took her time in signing my three books and gave me a hug at the end. She is so amazing. My favorite piece of wisdom from her talk was to write until you find the bigger picture. I learned that I need to find a universal thread for my memoir in order to make it a book which many people will want to read. I’m happy to report that I think I found that universal thread during Theo’s two classes and I can’t wait to start sewing my story together with it.

5. Meeting a blogger who I deeply admire and respect. The witty and beautiful Ann Imig won the Writer.ly 6-word memoir contest and received a scholarship to attend the conference. Ann is the brainchild behind Listen To Your Mother, “a national of live readings by local writers in celebration of Mother’s Day,” which was born in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, and has grown to 24 cities this year. I was so honored to have met and gotten to know her over the weekend and am now privileged to call her a friend.

4. Feeling like I was back in college again. The resort had a cabin set-up, and each cabin had between one to four beds, so we were grouped based on the package we selected. I chose a room with one roommate and was so perfectly matched with Nat, who ended up becoming my best friend at the retreat solely based on the fact that she and I just “clicked“. On Saturday afternoon, she wrote in our free time, and ended up reading me what she wrote, to which I promptly replied, “Nat, that’s your first blog post right there.” We spent the rest of the break before dinner creating her very own blog, It Will Never Happen 2 Me, and then went to the bar for a celebratory drink. So fun to be a blog instructor for a few hours.

3. Cheaper than an MFA. I think I heard this phrase mentioned more than once during the retreat. I’m pretty happy about that right there, given my love of a good deal and my admitted regret to having wished I studied Creative Writing as an undergrad.

2. I left the retreat emotionally and physically exhausted, and yet, I was more energized and inspired than ever before. I couldn’t wait to get home to start writing again, to apply all of the incredible things I learned. I even wrote on the red-eye home because I was so uncomfortable in that damn window seat. Some of it is actually usable material, which is surprisingly fantastic.

1. New friends. I gained an unbelievable community of like-minded, highly intelligent, encouraging, fun-loving people. We’re blowing up Facebook these days, if you haven’t noticed. And I’m sure it’ll continue. We’re serious writers and we’re keeping in touch. I can’t wait until we all get published and get to have a Wild Mountain reunion to celebrate all of our accomplishments.

What a weekend. I changed. My book changed.

And this is only the beginning, folks.

An experiment in hugs

17 Jan

“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” ~ Virginia Satir

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I read an article on the interwebs awhile ago via a pin on Pinterest with that quote as the subtitle. Isn’t that pinteresting? I thought, as I clicked the link. It went on to discuss ten ways in which a parent could connect with their child from the moment they woke up, during the day, and right on up until bedtime. I really enjoyed the article, but of all of the suggestions, the one that hit me the hardest was the 12 hugs one.

I am a huge hugger. I love them. It comes as no surprise to the people who know me best: I am a highly affectionate person. Hugs are perfection to me. I love to embrace a friend who I haven’t seen in a long time, my child when he or she is crying from a skinned knee, and my therapist after each monthly appointment. My family is especially big on bear hugs. I remember being hugged frequently growing up, and hugs became even more meaningful to me after I left home for college. My parents were on the verge of tears when they finished moving me into my dorm and we were hugging goodbye. Me, not so much. I could taste freedom, fun, and the excitement of being on my own for the first time in my life. But three months later when I drove home for fall break, I was the one on the teary side of the hug. Comes back around, I guess.

There is just something so wonderful about having someone wrap his or her arms around you. You immediately feel loved. It is the ultimate expression of caring for someone, in my opinion. It feels good.

Hugs are so simple. So why don’t we give them more often?

After reading the article, I made it a point to aim for twelve hugs for each of my kids the next day. I think I ended up with six or so (if even that many) hugs during the day. Wow. That was harder than I thought it was going to be. Maybe it is really important. Whenever something is hard (think eating right or exercising) then it is usually a pretty important habit for us to add to our daily routine. Plus, if hugs make us feel so much better, this is a no-brainer, right? I started thinking about my hug distribution approach.

So, four hugs a day for survival, huh? I know I give the kids each about that number a day, but shame on me, my marriage is barely surviving. I thought about our normal routine – a hug and quick kiss in the morning before he leaves for work, and another one when he comes home. Sometimes a squeeze while one of us cooks dinner, and occasionally a snuggle in bed before falling asleep. Most days we were barely getting by on our usual disbursement of hugs.

This family needs more HUGS, I thought. It was time to plan my strategy.

Mornings I can definitely get a bunch under my belt to start the day off on a good foot. I’ll give the hubby a snuggle hug in bed before we rise and shine to start our busy days. The kids will each get a good squeeze to wake them up with a smile. Once I have their breakfast ready at the table, I’ll hug them each before sitting them down to eat. In order to transition from breakfast to the next step in our morning routine, I’ll send my husband off to work with a hug and kiss and will hug each kiddo before taking them upstairs to get dressed and brush teeth. When I drop them off at Mom’s Morning Out or preschool, I’ll give each another embrace to send them off to play, and when I pick them up I’ll give them each a great big bear hug and kiss to tell them how much I missed them. At home before nap time, I’ll give each kid a cuddle hug to tuck them in, and when they wake up two hours later I’ll hug them again.

(In case you’re keeping track here, we’re up to two husband hugs and seven hugs for each kiddo.)

Whenever someone has a meltdown or in case of a sibling squabble, the fix is easily a hug. This is typically the case for us when we’re late and need to get a trip to the potty, shoes on and coats on, all within a five minute span which can be next to impossible sometimes so it usually calls for a hug to help calm the situation.

By dinnertime, we’re usually at eight to nine hugs. After dinner, we tickle-wrestle and hug before heading upstairs for bathtime and bedtime. There are hugs given as we pull the sopping wet children from the tub to wrap them in warm, fluffy towels. While reading stories in bed, we each hold a kid in our arms, wrapping them with love. And a final hug once the books are read and it is time to turn out the light. My husband and I hug again after the kids are asleep, while brushing our teeth before bed, and before closing our eyes for the night. It feels good to give and receive so many hugs in a day. Makes me feel more complete, happier, closer to my family.

This little hug experiment taught me a great deal about the amount of affection I currently share with my family and friends. Starting this year I am making it a habit to hug more, hug often, and hug with all my heart.

Why? Because I’m scared of the day when I won’t be able to hug them, when one of us is no longer here. I want to be sure to give and receive as many hugs as I can because hugs are quite possibly, one of God’s most amazing gifts that He gave us: the ability to put your arms around someone you care about to show them your love and affection, your support, your thankfulness for just being there.

Hug your spouse more, hug your kids more, hug your friends and family more. I’m pretty sure they’ll return the favor.

 

Have you had your twelve hugs today?

 

My insecurities & a birthday wish for my daughter

11 Dec

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I’m struggling lately folks. And since it’s on my mind, I feel the need to write about it here. My place to type things out, to figure things out, to vent things out. I hope you don’t mind that it won’t be all neat and pretty. Just probably my rambling and not making much sense, but I have a feeling I’ll feel a whole lot better once I get it all off my chest. A blogger I follow calls it the root of blogging: uninterrupted narcissistic rambling.

So here goes. Bear with me.

My daughter turned two yesterday. Two whole years old. My precious baby girl who just recently spent eight days in the hospital fighting pneumonia and Kawasaki disease, celebrated her second birthday with a play-date party at our house where six little friends – all boys! – and her brother, spoiled her and showered affection all over her cute little blond pigtail head. (Literally. One of the little guys just couldn’t get enough of her – by the end of the morning she was practically in tears when he came near her to give kisses – it was hilarious and I have the pictures for when they’re older.)

I had gingerbread sleighs for the kids to decorate with icing and candy, and wooden snowmen ornaments that they colored with crayons and markers. For lunch I made them peanut butter and fluff sandwiches, cut in a triangle to make a reindeer face (my friend’s idea – I’m not that creative), complete with pretzel antlers and maraschino cherries for noses. I had hastily cut up fresh veggies that morning, which I served with Ranch dip, and I had leftover fruit salad from a brunch we had been to the day before.

Leftovers. This is where it started.

I had intended to order a pizza for us moms – the four of us could have easily polished off a medium pizza. But with all the craziness of 8 kids running around, I just didn’t have the energy to deal with it. And since my husband the amateur chef had baked up to gourmet-like pizzas from scratch the night before when his parents came over to celebrate baby girl’s birthday, I offered that as an alternative, not even thinking how terrible it made me look as a hostess. The salad my mother-in-law had brought over to go with the pizza had gone untouched, and so I had that to go with the pizza I served heated up from the toaster oven.

We supervised the kids eating first, then we adults took our turn. After everyone had lunch, we sang Happy Birthday to the birthday princess, and the kids ate strawberry cake that I had actually thrown in the oven an hour before when I realized I had almost forgotten to bake her cake. For us moms, there were the cupcakes my in-laws had brought over the evening before – a dozen in all – so we had six remaining and I had the moms pick one of those as dessert.

The girls all brought gifts for the birthday girl, even though I had said “please no gifts” on our casual email invitation. They are my two old roommates from college and my best friend from college who is like a sister to me. I love how our boys are such good friends and my daughter loves running around with them too. Watching our kids play brings us all such joy, I know this because we always talk about it.

I am sure that all the kids had a fantastic time and I’m sure the moms probably did too. I had a fun too. But after everyone left, and I had dropped my son off at preschool, tucked my daughter in for her nap and cleaned up after the little party, I kept thinking about my crummy hostessing skills and how I wished I had put more effort into the Mommy side of the play-date menu.

I wish I would have done a better job of de-cluttering and cleaning up in general before our guests arrived. I wish I would have made some sort of special sandwich or salad for my friends who drove a half hour or more to get to our house for the party. I wish I would have made little goodie bags for the kids. I wish I wouldn’t have forgotten to offer the girls drinks during lunch.

I wish, I wish, I wish. I find myself saying those words a lot lately.

I could barely sleep last night. I know it probably sounds so ridiculous. After tossing and turning for nearly two hours I finally caved in to my sleep meds and took an Ambien so that I could get some shut-eye.

I woke up today still upset about it. Embarrassed, even. I called my mom on the drive home from dropping the kids off at daycare. I was quickly in tears and she was very sympathetic. Apparently, she said, this is something she and I both suffer from. We say or do something, or forget to do something all together that we regret very soon after, and then subsequently beat ourselves up about it for several days.

“It’s a hormone thing honey,” my mom explained.

Definitely a trait I wish I would not have inherited.

It’s not just this incident though. Lately I’ve been feeling so torn. Reminded me of this post I wrote back in September about balance. I’ve been wondering how other moms do it all. How do they do ALL THE THINGS? And they do them SO DAMN GOOD TOO.

I just feel so inadequate sometimes.

I should be writing a post about how unreal it feels to have such a smart, beautiful, funny, independent, social, happy little girl who adores her big brother and has a passion for learning and all things art. How her perfect blond curls make me smile at the sight, especially when they’re tied into those cute pigtails that fit her personality so well. She has a fierce determination to do things her way most all of the time, and does the back arching thing if you’re holding her and she wants to get her way so much so that you have to put her down for fear of dropping her on her head. Her eyes are an perfect blend of blue and the lightest green. They sparkle with mischief pretty much every hour of the day. She loves bedtime the most and will never protest when we say it’s time to go upstairs for bath. Strangers find it incredibly adorable that she still signs – Thank You most often, but also Milk and Please a lot – even though she is talking more and more these days. The pacifier is still one of her best buds and the dentist said it is perfectly acceptable for her to continue using it until her remaining four molars come through, since it is such a comfort to her. You hardly ever see her without her pink giraffe lovie blankie held tightly in her fist, corner knots usually being poked into her baby ears as her own soothing mechanism.

I love that I keep this bipolar blog, and also my private family one with photos and videos, as an everlasting journal of my life, my family, and my journey living with mental illness. Because I hope one day my kids will grow up and learn that their mom is trying the best she can. And even though she may compare herself to others, and she may wish she could be the perfect mom who has it all together all the time, all she’ll ever be is theirs.

This will never change. Just the same as how my love for them will always be as strong as our hearts beating life through our bodies.

Except unlike hearts which will eventually stop one day, my love for them will go on forever.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Baby Girl. Mommy loves you with all her heart.

And more.

xoxo

Thoughts for a friend getting help

23 Oct

I “met” Kim of Make Mommy Go Something Something online in the months following the launch of my blog. She had several years of experience under her belt, so I reached out to her for help and she responded immediately. We began chatting over email and even talked via Facetime a few times. Kim, like me, also has bipolar disorder. But hers is Bipolar II while mine is Bipolar I, meaning her moods tend to swing to the lower end of the spectrum and mine are the opposite – I tend to have higher mood swings to the extent of becoming manic if I do not get enough sleep. We connected right away, both being young moms who enjoyed blogging about the struggles we faced with our condition, our kids, and our home life.

Kim is such a cool person. So funny, smart and kind. I started joining in on her Secret Mommy-hood Confession Saturdays series, a fun link-up party on her blog that she created. With this part-time job (that I should be putting hours into right now, but I’m blogging instead – much more imortant right now than work, imo), I’ve lost touch with my friend. And I miss her.

She’s going through a lot right now. I know exactly what she’s going through and it’s gut-wrenching.

Reading that she recently entered the hospital to get help for the deep depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety she’s been battling of late takes me back to my last two hospitalizations. My heart breaks for her, but at the same time, I’m so incredibly proud of her for seeking the help that she knows in her own heart that she needs to get well. To be there for her husband and son. To feel human again.

I was there too. Those times were the lowest lows of my life. I missed out on almost two full week’s of my son’s life because I was so sick I needed medical intervention to bring me back to reality. And although I may not have wanted to go at the time, being forced into going to the hospital was just what I needed to re-start my life.

I got do-overs. I learned how to take care of myself so that I hopefully won’t have to go back to the hospital again. But, in the end, if I do have to go back at some point, I know from experience that it’s not the end of the world. It’s so that I can get well. And getting well and staying well are the most important things when you’re living with a mental illness.

Kim will get there. She’s getting her do-over right now. And I know in time she’ll be well because she’s doing what she needs to do, however hard it might be right now.

She inspires me. Not only her writing, but her personality and her sheer determination. She’s a true warrior.

Get well, my friend. Miss you and thinking of you every day. Sending love and hugs via the interwebs.

xoxo

Life and the sweetest moments in photos

10 Oct

My husband and I just got back from a five-day trip to sunny California to see one of my childhood friends get married. My mom and dad agreed to stay with the kids so we could have a nice, relaxing trip. A chance to recharge our batteries, so to speak.

It was so incredible. Being able to do what we wanted and not have to worry about the kids was so nice. It took me back to our first five years of marriage. Plus, we got to hang out with my best friends at the same time as a bonus. The weather was amazing – bright sunshine and perfectly warm days followed by crisp evenings with a slight nip in the air.

I thought about the kids, don’t get me wrong. My parents texted pictures of the kids so we wouldn’t miss them too much. But the moment I saw my mom’s number pop up on my phone as we were sitting out by the pool having cocktails before dinner the second night, I knew something was wrong. They had to bring her in to Urgent Care because when my mom was lifting her out of the bathtub, the little princess felt she needed to exert her authority by sitting down as my mom was pulling her up by her hands. My immediate thought was that her shoulder popped out of the socket. But the doctor determined it was her elbow and after reviewing the x-rays, the little lady turned out to be just fine.

Her mom on the other hand, was a little shook up. But I knew she was in good hands with her Grandma and Poppy. After finding out everything was fine and her arm was doing much better the next day, I was able to relax for the remainder of the trip and enjoy the time with my friends and hubby. We did sightseeing in Los Angeles (saw Rodeo Drive!), went out to eat at some trendy restaurants, and witnessed our friends tie the knot on a gorgeous ranch property overlooking Malibu beach. Dinner and dancing followed and we took tons of photos, so as to capture the perfection of the day in frames that we could cherish forever.

On the flight home I started to feel melancholy. I love the times I have with my friends, but I get so choked up when I sit down and think about how little time I actually get to spend with them each year. We all have families and careers and other responsibilities that seem to fill up our calendars so that when we do all eventually get together, we usually start planning our next get-together. One of my friends coined it our own special “bucket list” of things we want to do together. On the list so far is a camping trip, a sailing trip, and the wedding of the last of the six of us to get married.

Then I get home late Sunday night and the next morning I start feeling anxious and teary. I couldn’t put my finger on it as to why, other than I had read an excerpt from a book of a woman who had lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks and it made me so scared and sad. I’ve always been afraid of death, afraid of whether I’ve done enough in my life before I die. It didn’t help that my mom joked that she doesn’t think she’ll be around for her granddaughter’s wedding (she’d be in her 80’s).

I’m even more scared of losing someone I love, than I am of actually dying myself. The only people who I’ve lost who I was close to were my dad’s two college friends and I didn’t have day-to-day contact with them, just lots of memories from growing up. I worry about what will happen to me when my Grandma passes, or if I ever lost a close friend. I don’t know if I could handle the hurt.

For now I am thankful to have an appointment with my therapist tonight. I’m going to discuss this all with her to see what she thinks. I’m sure she’ll have some ideas for me on how to cope. In the meantime, I’m looking back over all the pictures we took this past weekend and am smiling at the memories with friends whom I love dearly.

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