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Lesson #11:

It only takes 10 seconds to change your life

When I was pregnant, I probably watched every YouTube video related to women’s birth story. I talked to as many women that would share their story. I was anxious, having never given birth before and terrified of the pain. I knew it was going to hurt, I think I was just looking for something comparable to wrap your mind around. I went into labor on a Friday afternoon and the rest is history. At first I thought the pain was bearable. It felt like my body was completely tensing, from the tops of my thighs to my breastbone almost like a gigantic cramp. As the pain became more intense the only comfort I found was in the bathtub and I slept there Friday night. I focused on groaning through the pain, determined to give birth without any pain medicine. Like I mentioned before, I have some sort of thing about suffering for the things you want. I was in labor over 24 hours and finally told my husband it was time to take me to the hospital.

For as long as I was in labor, my body wasn’t relaxing enough to dilate so the hospital had me walk around the halls for a while. While I would stop and start to groan in the hallways my husband would remind me that each contraction was my body hugging our daughter. The imagine of my body welcoming my daughter by hugging her was extremely comforting to me. He may not even remember saying it, but with each strong contraction, that’s just what I kept telling myself. “You won’t be able to hug her this tight for a long time. Let your body welcome her with love.” When it was finally time to push I was now terrified. As your adrenaline starts pumping, your mind starts envisioning every possible outcome of this experience. At the end of one of my first pushes I told the midwife I was scared, and that I wanted her to be honest with me if my pushes were helpful or not.

She told me that the most amazing blessing lied on the other side of 10 seconds of bravery.

By God, was she right and 12 minutes later, my daughter entered the world. I remember when the dump of serotonin happened I started shaking and felt completely beautiful. I told my husband and my nurse that I felt so powerful, how I imagine someone who just ran a marathon to feel.

Fast forward to about a month later, my husband and I had to have one of the toughest decisions of our relationship. I wanted to go back offshore and finish my contract up until I was tenured with the company I worked for. Me going back offshore would be at 6 weeks post partum, and meant that I would be without my husband or daughter for 3 weeks. That also meant that my daughter would have to be at my mother’s house for 3 weeks so that we both could work and that my husband would be without us as well. I pumped and prepared for this, but the morning it came to leave, my husband and I cried and cried.

I can’t tell you how painful that morning was. I remember going to the heliport and getting out of the car and just thinking, “10 seconds. Just focus on the 10 seconds of bravery.” I had kept a brave face the entire day, until I heard the helicopter wheels come up and we were over water that I could not stop crying. I knew my life would be forever changed. I wanted to quit a million times over, but because I pushed through the blessings my family has been able to enjoy have been well worth it. My daughter will grow up and never remember me shipping out. I know that this experience speaks more to my character and a true test of my marriage.

My point being, since that moment in the hospital I remember what the midwife told me and apply it to my life every day. You can do anything for 10 seconds, even when completely terrified, exhausted and when everything in your body says you can’t. You are so much more powerful than you even know. When I was little and got upset, my mother used to have my count to 10. My daughter is not even 2 and she can count to 10. Those 10 seconds in your life will define who you are and what blessings come into your life. So chose bravery, chose for 10 seconds to believe within yourself.

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Lesson #8:

Happiness is not yellow, it’s blue

For more information: Reach out to Jackie Dawson at Totem Butterfly at http://www.totembutterfly.com

I feel that most people think about happiness as a feeling that is burst out of your chest, where your cheeks hurt from smiling so much and you feel so carefree. The feeling like you could walk on water and fly. It is effortless and easy. Even though the smiley faces we have become so familiar with are yellow, I have learned that happiness is actually blue. I want to challenge this way of thinking because I think it is creating an unrealistic expectation for happiness. I have been through a lot of pain in my life time, and I am sure I am not alone. Maybe you have gone through some pain yourself and feel like you are never going to get to that bright yellow smiley face again.

Last summer, I lied in the hammock as my husband, daughter and our dog played in the kiddie pool on a hot day. I looked at my family in front of me and felt so grateful. So grateful for the heat of the sun on my face, the laughter of my family in the background, the cool breeze rocking back and forth on the hammock brought and for the house that stood for all of the hours we sacrificed for this moment. I closed my eyes and just tried my best to take a mental picture and never wanting to forget this feeling. I was happy. Not in a burst out of my chest, felt like I could fly sort of way, but in an intense amount of peace that I felt in the moment. I realized that happiness is not yellow, it’s blue. It is the calming peace that consumes you. I think if we have a more realistic view of happiness, the pressure on chasing after the yellow smiley face is a lot more obtainable.

When we connect happiness with a feeling of gratitude it becomes a choice which can be scary for many people. Sometimes we associate happiness with something that happens TO us rather than something WE cultivate within ourselves. That means that if we are unhappy we have to confront an uncomfortable part of ourselves. If you turn on the television or listen to the radio, all too often we are consumed that happiness is a certain tax bracket or social status, when it is those people that are hurting the most. Last year I felt like I was on a bicycle headed down hill and I had lost control of the pedals. Do you remember the overwhelming panic that you feel and just have to hold on? It sounds cliché, but I really felt like I had no control on what was going on in my life and had a very “what else can happen” attitude.

In October I decided to participate in my friend Jackie Dawson’, Totem Butterfly 10 days of gratitude. In this, she had us fill out what would seem to be a daily journal of questions about ourselves, our fears, and finally listing things we were grateful for that day. I did a lot of self growth in that month. At first my gratitude’s would be very broad like “I’m grateful for my husband, my daughter, my dog, my job and my car.” Honestly, at first it felt forced to look around and find anything in my life I was grateful for. After doing this daily for a month, I found myself writing things like “I am grateful for my dining room table that has hosted many holidays, coloring projects, financial planning and arguments that lead to forgiveness.” The gratitude journals were not something we had to share with Jackie, if we didn’t want to but just getting in the habit of seeing the world through a different lens, lead to so much happiness.

When you think of your “happy place” where do you think of? Most people I have asked this say something to the effect of near the water or someplace outdoors. I think if you would have asked me 5 years ago I would have said the same thing. I love being on the water and always have. I have such an appreciation for the power of the waves, and the beauty of a calm day. Leave where your “happy place” is below! If you’re interested in transforming your soul and taking the first step to happiness through gratitude, check out Totem Butterfly. This isn’t a sponsorship, I just really loved how this transformed the way I saw my life.

Lesson #3:

Mind reading is the work of magicians, not men.

When you get married, you lay the baggage of your childhood at your spouse’s feet. You become your most vulnerable self and you build the foundation of your marriage on that. You look to your spouse in the eye and say that even after knowing all of their trauma and regrets – I love you. I’ve heard a few friends talk about how people change after marriage, and while I do not believe that to be all together true (maybe we just pay attention more once the parties and honeymoon are done) I think there is a sense of relief that comes when you are vulnerable. My husband is not an emotional person and if you ask his friends and family they will tell you that they have never seen him cry. He always masks a smile or a joke to cover up his feelings. I don’t remember a time where he wasn’t the class clown, but the truth is I see someone completely different. I know the man that balled his eyes out when the nurse said “Congratulations Daddy” in the hospital after our daughter was born. I know the man that was so upset after seeing something horrific at work, that came home and put his head in my lap and cried. As we grow older and further along in our marriages, maybe that seems as though your spouse as changed – try to see it as you have been trusted with seeing more of the real them.

My type A self, is a planner and I struggle a lot with asking for help. I know that in my marriage, the load is meant to be shared with my husband but oftentimes I feel like if I ask for help it means that I am not capable or worthy of the responsibility. I find comfort in pain and struggle in a strange way. For instance, I feel as though if I do not make sure that the house is picked up, the floors are mopped, the dishes are done, the laundry is prepared and the linens are clean and the house is ready for the next day I am not worthy of having this family to take care of. I would rather suffer hours of sleep and stress than tell my husband, “I need help.” It is a personality trait that I consciously try to work against and struggle with. The overwhelming need to want to take care of everyone and be the one who can be relied upon is due to my own childhood trauma.

I am not going to change overnight and I know this about myself. I am open with my husband about how I am feeling and he knows me well enough when to notice when I need him to carry the load until I can catch my breath. If I am being honest, most of the time I do not need to even tell him when I am overwhelmed. I will come home and dinner will be made, the house will be picked up, my laundry will be folder on my nicely made bed and my diffuser will have my favorite scents in it for when I go to sleep. This is my love language, like we talked about for Lesson #1, and I go from feeling like I am going to burst to being overcome with love.

Tonight, when you are talking to your spouse about your day I want you to ask them, “How can I help?” When they vent about work and all of the traffic they sat in and had to get home and rush to get dinner ready, what could you have done to help? When they response, use that response and recognize that you are in a partnership and are willing to carry the load. Sometimes people like me, have a hard time asking for help on our  own, but need to be prompted. It shows that it is not that they cannot handle their responsibilities, but more so that you want to carry them together. Whether that means you order a pizza while you are working late and your wife is running behind or you put the kids to bed. The best part of a marriage is the everlasting team you create.


Lesson #2:

OWN the dog food

I parent my daughter in a way that I call “intentional parenting” which is something I am looking forward to talking much more about in the future. When I am making a decision or responding to a question o f hers I try to be very deliberate in my response. There are so many different ways to parent and it feels like everyone has an opinion regarding EVERYTHING related to parenthood. I try to live my life without any judgment. I recognize that everyone comes from their own background with different expectations, culture and struggles than I do. I had never experienced real judgmental people before I became a mother. I am sure there were people who spoke behind my back about my relationship or career or family, but never to my face. I’ll never understand why a group of women who know how difficult it is to raise another human being, are so tough on one another.

When I had my daughter, it was hard for me to get dressed. I felt like I was constantly going and going, that putting on clothes or brushing my hair felt like a waste when I had so many other things to get done. My mother made me feel guilty, like if I didn’t immerse my child into social activities then she would be awkward and inept to handle elementary school. I decided one day to get dressed, put on deodorant and pack us up for the day to hang out with perfect strangers. I was nervous to meet new people and had come up with a handful of excuses why I couldn’t go. But I went. I sat in a room in the library with other babies, my daughters age, and listened to the other mom’s brag about how great their newborn was doing in swimming lessons, or how well they were at sleeping at night and how great cloth diapers were for their babies and the environment. It seemed like the more I listened, the more I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. My daughter screamed when I put her in the tub (let alone a POOL!), she would sleep for 4 hour stints and then would be up, I had chosen to use disposable diapers because the thought of doing any more laundry made me want to curl up in a ball. 

One of the little girls in our Mom’s Group, crawled up to her mother, Christine, and started to get fussy. Christine, obviously a little embarrassed that the other children were quiet while her daughter was having a meltdown, frantically went through her diaper bag until she pulled out a bag. Her daughter was thrilled and started to wave her arms in the air as she saw it. It was just about to glance down at my phone when I heard one woman say “did you really bring goldfish to feed your daughter?” Christine was pale as a ghost now, and started to stutter as she tried to explain to a group of mother’s acting like a bunch of detectives. The “detectives” dug in further questioning Christine about all of the chemicals and processed foods she is giving her daughter. Christine looked gutted and the longer I waited for Christine to stick up for herself the more mad I got. I didn’t want to step on Christine’s toes but I felt like I needed to step in. After about 5 minutes of listening to this interrogation I belted out, “my daughter at dog food yesterday – so at least this is human food.” Christine looked at me with relief as the women quickly changed the subject to talk about what everyone almost caught their children eating and less focused on the goldfish.

I sat in my car in the parking lot of the library with such anger. How could they be so judgmental and VOCAL? How could goldfish be so taboo?

I learned that if you OWN your struggles with parenting, no one can make you feel less without your permission. I OWNED that I am not the earthy crunchy mother who knows what her child is doing at all times – and yet I know that I love my daughter, I know that she is healthy and that I am trying my best. No one is making me feel guilty or unworthy without my permission. If anything, I can laugh at my struggles because she gets into all sorts of stuff! As soon as I put the struggle out there and accept it – their power goes away.

I just want you to know that you are doing an awesome job. If your kid has never seen a  television or if you need to put on the television every day for some peace. If you feel your kids the most organic, non-GMO delicious meals ever known to man or if your child has goldfish snacks. Just know, that a happy parent and a stable home is far more valuable then anything else in that child’s life. Do not give anyone the power to make you feel less than. OWN your struggles.