Aside

Intimate moments

This doesn’t apply to everyone, but something weird happens when you’ve been married to someone for almost 20 years like myself. The details of life can wear you down, flip the script and highlight all of the negative things about your beloved spouse whereas in the beginning years, you focused only on the beautiful things.

Recently, a memory flashed in my mind of when I was recovering from giving birth to my daughter. I was heavily sedated in the hospital due to extreme pain after the anesthesia wore off from the c-section and I remembered my husband whispering a message in my ear a few times, “Get better…our babies need you.” One might argue he said that for selfish reasons, but I know he was encouraging me to get better so I could take care of OUR babies. They all needed me including him. I also have memories of him kissing me on my forehead from time to time as I was sleeping. If he still does it, I wouldn’t know because I sleep like a brick nowadays. Whatever the case, when I think about very intimate memories like those, I get a warm feeling inside and am reminded of the unmistakable love my husband has for me. Hold on to memories like that. Use those reminders to fuel the flame and draw closer…not farther away.

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I need a change

Do you ever feel like something needs to change in your life, but you don’t know what? I’m at that place. I’m not sure if it’s my job or my perspective, neither or both, but I’ve been searching for something lately. One minute, I think, “Just ride this wave…things are good and smooth!” Then another minute, I think, “I need something new in my life. I need to SHAKE things up!” I’ve been praying about it too. Whatever the case, I made a move today that may set the wheels in motion to shake things up. The truth is that it’s not like me to remain still.

I’ve been thinking about giving back to my social work community and becoming a field instructor after all these years (really only 5 since I got my license). That means that I would supervise a student (preferably graduate level) at my agency for the duration of their internship. I work at the macro level, meaning I work with organizations and systems rather than with individuals and families. When I worked in direct practice (micro level) in the mental health field, there was never a dull moment because clients kept it interesting. By working in program development/implementation and public policy, things can get boring and monotonous. However, I do not miss the thought of having a caseload. My ideal mix would be to work in administration, yet be close enough to clients to see progress. I get a little bit of that in my current role.

I read some information and sent a few emails, which perked me up (not that I was down). I also ended up committing myself to some extra work to the tune of developing a curriculum. We’ll see how that goes…if it goes at all…I have some questions out.

I’m curious to know how you manage those moments of wanting a change, but not being sure of what that entails? Feel free to drop a line. I’ll keep posted on my endeavors.

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Glowed Up

It’s been 13 days since I’ve been on a vegan journey and it’s been amazing. I’m all GLOWED UP from the inside out and I want to tell everybody about it. I started to type that “no, I’m not going to be a vegan for the long haul”, but that’s mostly because the whiff of french fries and broiled steak still gets my mouth-watering and stomach churning.  I’m more than half way through this cleanse. When the 21 days is over, I may very well decide that I’m a convert. I’ve definitely entertained the idea of becoming a vegan. However, this has been a lot of work. It’s a commitment to better eating habits. It’s a commitment to myself. 

I’ve been on the fence about doing this particular cleanse, Fresh Start 21, Spring Edition, partly because I’ve completed 2 and started a 3rd one with Simple Green Smoothies earlier this year.  I completed Simple 7 and Thrive: 7-Day Reset. I attempted Fresh Start 21 (fall edition) back in February 2017, but at 5 days in, my dear friend took me on a weekend spa adventure. The great recipes in the Thrive cleanse opened my eyes to the vegan possibilities. I didn’t know vegan food could be so filling, delicious and creative. In addition to the cleanse guide which included a meal calendar, a shopping list and the recipes for smoothies, snack, and meals, there was a very supportive, Facebook Live group – the icing on the cake. It was so helpful to read daily posts from participants from all over the world. To know that I wasn’t alone was comforting and encouraging. It was a fun experience, which is why I was very interested in joining the most updated Fresh Start cleanse. The format is very similar to the Thrive 7-Day reset.

So why did I need a Fresh Start? I’ve been wanting to kick my sugar habit for a while now and my bout with breast cancer was good motivation. The main reasons why I wanted to do the cleanse was to develop the habit of being more deliberate about food choices, gain more energy and focus, to feel lighter, kick the sugar habit, and lose a few pounds. I’ve been open to learning new recipes and incorporating more whole foods into my diet.  Most people in my circle know that I’m all about green smoothies, but I wanted to go further. I frequently post pictures on my Facebook page of green smoothies and healthy ingredients/meals.  I even wrote a blog post about my love for green smoothies (you can read about it here). I attempted to do Fresh Start Fall Edition on my own in early February, and as I typed earlier, I got through 5 of 21 days. I had been receiving emails about the Fresh Start Spring Edition, so it was on my mind.

What led me to ultimately take the challenge was that I knew the Live Facebook group would be supportive, and let me tell me you, it’s been amazing. I’ve enjoyed communicating with fellow Rawkstars (cleansers) from around the world. The orchestrator and co-founder of the Simple Green Smoothies movement, Jen Hansard, and the recipe creator, Lindsey Johnson, communicate with us frequently by answering questions, offering tips and encouragement, and checking in to see how we’re doing. It’s been entertaining and refreshing to see how honest folks are as we complete the cleanse.

Fresh Start: Spring Cleanse

Fresh Start: Spring Cleanse

So how am I doing on the cleanse? The first week was the honeymoon phase. The recipes were great and filling. I wasn’t hungry during that week at all. It was exciting communicating with other cleansers. The prep was grueling, but I soon found out how helpful the prep actually is during the week, especially as a busy working mom. What I like about this plan is the flexibility to move snacks & meals around and rotate the ones you really like into your schedule. 

The second week (which I’m in now) has been more challenging because this is where the cleanse really kicks in. Calories and proteins are drastically reduced and grains, legumes, and bananas are omitted. I’m not going to lie. I’ve been hungry all week and not all of the recipes appeal to me. However, I’ve been sticking to it despite having a small cheat meal yesterday.  My husband and I took my daughter shopping for Easter. While out and about, we naturally got hungry. My husband suggested burgers for himself and the kids and I began to panic. What is neat about the restaurant he chose is that they have fresh vegan burgers. I ended up having a quinoa vegan burger, green style (lettuce as the bun). I know…I wasn’t supposed to have quinoa this week, but I took the plunge.  I also had 6 french fries (they were ok).  When I got home I enjoyed my cheat meal, but got right back on track and ate one of my avocado lime popsicles. My scale let me know this morning that the cleanse is doing its job, which has encouraged me to keep going.

At day 13 (of 21), some of the benefits of the Fresh Start: Spring Edition cleanse that I have personally experienced are:

  • Clearer skin (The GLOW)
  • More energy
  • More sound sleep
  • Feeling lighter
  • 4.5 pounds of weight loss

This has been a success thus far and I plan to keep going. I’m all GLOWED UP from the inside out and I’m glad that I’m doing this for myself. I saw my oncologist this week and he told me that I was healthy, looked great, and to keep doing what I’m doing. That put a smile on my face. Regardless of whether or not I decide to become a vegan, eating more whole foods and less processed foods is the way to go for me. 

I’ll soon write another post of this experience. Stay tuned!

 

 

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Life is a beautiful mess…

Near the end of January, my dear friend sent a text asking how I was doing. We first met in the 7th grade and our friendship was sealed in high school. She moved to Texas some years after I did, so now we live just 2 hours apart. I caught her up quickly on my cancer treatments because she didn’t realize that I had already started and completed radiation treatment. Naturally, I was honest and indicated that I had been feeling moody and not wanting to be around people, more so than the usual. I attributed it to the hormone therapy I had started a few weeks prior. Her reply was an unexpected, pleasant surprise to the tune of taking me on a spa retreat. We scheduled it and it was AH-MAZE-ING! She picked me up on a Friday night in February and I returned that Sunday. Yup…a whole weekend of spa wonder, relaxation, exquisite farm to table food, and most importantly time spent with my dear friend catching up on everything.

First and foremost, I admire my dear friend as she is very successful in her field. She’s always been very generous. I attribute this to her parent’s example of generosity and unconditional love, which made a tremendous impact on me in high school. If I’m honest, I will admit to being envious of my dear friend at certain points in my life. As I’ve matured, I no longer feel that need to compare. I’m simply so proud of her. We each have our own paths, but we have an undeniable bond. Friendships ebb and flow with life’s milestones and we’ve experienced that in our frienship as well. She works hard, travels frequently, and takes great care of her family. We don’t talk all the time, but when we do, it’s like continuing where we left off. I know she has other friends. I have other friends, but nothing compares to this.

That weekend was beyond wonderful. It was what I needed – time away from my day to day busy life…time away from my husband and kids. After breast cancer treatment, I wanted to be lighter, not worry as much, and not take things so seriously, but something has been off and old ways of coping were creeping back in. That weekend, I was fed well and pampered. My dear friend and I caught up where we left off with ease, revisiting our history, talking about our relationship, catching up on our families, sharing our current struggles, and expressing our appreciation for our friendship. 

Have you ever experienced something so beautiful and thought that everyone should experience it? That’s how I feel about this. Sure, its great to be whisked away to a spa and be pampered, but that’s not the norm. That was evident to me as I was sharing the spa experience with my coworkers and telling them they have to visit at least one time. One coworker responded non-convincingly that it MIGHT happen one day WAY in the FUTURE. I thought about that and acknowledged that not everyone can afford to do something like this. Hell, I couldn’t afford to do it at the time that we did. Therefore, I contemplated what about that weekend made it so special. This blog is about self-care and our weekend at Travaasa Spa will go down in my book as one of the pinnacles in my self-care journey. The massages, facial, pedicure, manicure were amazing. The massage therapists were knowlegeable and caring, offering me tips on managing possible side effects of breast cancer treatment. Every meal was fresh and delicious. The equine experience with our guide and very own horse, Pete, was therapeutic and unforgettable. The service was impeccable. Despite all of that, hands down, the most meaningful exchange was the time spent with my dear friend. It was the fact that she carved out time in her busy life to spend a WHOLE weekend with me. That was the greatest gift.

That weekend reminded me how important friendship is, especially with regard to self-care. Spend time with your friends. Make time for your friends. Get to know people so that you can make friends. WARNING: It does require the willingness to be vulnerable at times, but that’s how you get people to know the real you. The benefits outweigh the risks. The return on investment is high. I consider my husband to be my best friend, but there is nothing like friendship outside of marriage. I only have two people who I consider dear, close friends and they’ve known me before I met my husband. We’ve maintained our relationships since we were adolescents and have been there for each other through life ups and downs. That is something special. That is something to be cherished. I’ve also developed other friendships over the years.  We make time for each other by having lunch once a month (with one group of friends) and having breakfast on the weekends after Zumba fitness class (with another group of friends). Solitude has its place, especially for an introvert like me. However, friendships provide support, comradery, fun, and love, among many other things. 

Courtesy of the staff from the spa, “Life is a beautiful mess, made better with friendship.” Get out there and spend some time with your friends. 

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You can change the atmosphere

Last month, I went on my first business related travel in months – a sign that my work life is back to normal. I welcomed this trip because I was in a work “slump”. My attitude has not been the greatest due to some recent decisions made that were out of my control. Those decisions impacted one project that I had been working on for about 3 years. I often use the travel time on these trips to reflect and regroup, and boy, did I have some epiphanies! Intellectually, I know that the I have the power to change the atmosphere with a positive attitude, but it takes work. Sometimes, it feels comfortable to mope around and not do anything about it, but it doesn’t provide any long term benefits. Here’s a personal example from my business trip of changing the atmosphere.

This incident occurred at the airport on my way to my destination. Yup…I hadn’t even left the city yet and I was faced with a lesson. I tend to require extra screening when I go through TSA and that day was no different. I was so annoyed because I got called to the side even after they practically make stripped me down to the basics – shirt and bottom. I was told by security that the following areas on my body were of concern: my left wrist, my waist, my groin area, my left breast, my knee, my right hand, my right kidney, my second toe on the right foot, my lungs and my thyroid gland (not really on the last few, but you get my drift). I don’t normally get embarrased when they pull me to the side. My outlook has been that this is routine, but this day was just ridiculous with all of the friskinh. It seemed like it took forever. I partially kept my gaze on my items that were in the bins waiting for me. I didn’t want anyone to walk off with my stuff. I was impatient and annoyed with all of the questions and frisking. 

By the time it was over, I was outdone with irritation. I went to grab my stuff, reached for the shoes and the security guard asked just as I managed to put one on my foot, “are those your shoes?” I looked at him and said, “Yes.” There was a slight delay in my mind registering what he had actually asked, so I came back with an “I hope so since I’m putting them on MY feet.” We exchanged a laugh. He said he was trying to cheer me up since I looked so serious, but he could see I didn’t get it at first. He was only joking and knows that people only reach for their own shoes. I attempted to explain that I was annoyed with the whole frisking process. What’s interesting is that saying it out loud made me question why I made a big deal about it. He asked me a follow up question and then we parted ways. 

That security guard changed the atmosphere in my mind because I was on my way to a full pity party due to that experience. I walked away from him asking myself why I had been so annoyed. I know this is routine. I arrived at the airport early to account for the process. Telling me that I “looked so serious” reminded me that this was the opposite of how I want to carry myself, especially after recovering from a chronic, life altering health condition – breast cancer. I strive to be lighter in mind, spirit and body. Even the use of the word “light” in my blog title, Enlightened Social Worker, provides a clue to how I want to be. That experience did ENLIGHTEN me to my attitude. I’m not immune from reverting back to old ways. Also, as part of my breast cancer treatment, I’m required to take a medication for at least 5 years. The medication is essentially hormone therapy and I believe that it does affect my mood, which is a side effect. I’ve been more conscious of it and make adjustments as needed (I may decide to be more reserved and stay to myself at work or home to avoid spewing my agitation on some unsuspecting soul).

Someone may believe that I was justified in my feeling that day. My point is not to berate myself because I realized that my attitude was not what I wanted it to be. The point is that with humor, the security guard said something that sparked a change in the atmosphere of my mind. He changed the trajectory of my attitude and I loved that. That’s how I want to be for others. Even the Bishop at my church has preached on this in the past. You have to believe that you have that power and you do because it doesn’t take much. This can be accomplished through simple acts of connecting with people even if for a brief moment. You can do it for yourself with postive self-talk. Out of habit, you may be feeding your mind negative messages (like I do) and not realize it. However, I catch myself and when I do, I change my self-talk to encouragement or whatever is useful for that moment. 

I’m so glad that I received that reminder that day. And I can be funny too, so I need to channel more of that, especially when I’m stressed. How do you go about changing the atmosphere? 

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Cat nap

In my quest to open myself up to more love and joy, I acquired a pair of adorable, male kittens – Beignet and Cannoli. In case I didn’t tell you before (I’m pretty sure I did), that was one of the best things I did in 2016. I love them! I traveled on a business trip a few days last week and I missed the kittens more than I did my own kids (it’s the truth!) My kids are getting more independent (16 and 11 years) and don’t want to be around me as much, but my kittens can’t seem to get enough of me. Both kittens got neutered the day I flew out last Wednesday, so I wanted frequent updates from my husband on how they were doing. Beignet had it rough. They had to get my husband’s permission to give him extra anesthesia because he was biting and wouldn’t allow the vet to insert the IV.

My husband didn’t know know what he had gotten himself into because he was getting calls practically the whole day after he had dropped them off early in the morning. Had I brrn in town, I would have been receiving those calls, but I was in Lubbock, Texas anxiously waiting for updates. The kittens did fine and are recovering well from what we can tell. They definitely missed me while I was gone. I love receiving their cuddles.

It has definitely been an adventure with two kittens and I’m having a hard time imaging our lives before them. They’re lovable, adorable, comical, frustrating, fun, mischievous, and calming. In the featured picture, Beignet had fallen asleep in my TJ Maxx shopping bag next to a pile of my dirty clothes. I’ve learned from my kittens that when the urge for a cat nap hits, any place is fair game!

 

 

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Imperfection Part II

Isn’t it interesting how upon learning a new concept, you see it vividly in others, but not necessarily in yourself. Well, that’s not the case this time because I know all too well how perfectionism has played out in my life. I do see it in others too. I’m done with it although this is easily said than done.

  • Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgement, and blame.  

  • Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception-we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable-there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.

  • Perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgement, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. So rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right.

 

  • Feeling shamed, judged, and blamed (and the fear of these feelings) are realities of the human experience. Perfectionism actually increases the odds that we’ll experience these painful emotions and often leads to self-blame: It’s my fault. I’m feeling this way because “I’m not good enough.”

This is Brene Brown’s definition of perfectionism from her book entitled The Gifts of Imperfection. As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve experienced the pain of perfectionism for most of my life. I’m all too familiar with shame, blame and judgement. The definition of perfectionism is both liberating and frightening to me. It’s liberating because by choosing not to live like this anymore, I am free from being so concerned about what other people think. It’s frightening because I see it in my family and how I was raised. I can see that so many people are needlessly torturing themselves (not that there is ever a “need” to torture yourself). As I’ve developed more self-compassion, I’ve realized I’ve become my own worst enemy based on my thoughts. I’m a work in progress.

Self-care entails practicing self-empathy and self-compassion. Stop worrying about what other people think because they will have their own perception regardless. Brene already confirmed (see above 2nd bullet) that there is no way to control perception. The idea of being perfect is an overwhelming weight to carry on your shoulders. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

If my rational logic has not swayed you from your perfectionistic tendencies, I suggest that you do some work to challenge your thoughts. By way of work, I mean maintain a journal so that you can explore these concepts further. How does perfectionism manifest in your life? Is it harmless (I need to get the recipe just right so they’ll enjoy it) or causing you grief (if I don’t get the recipe just right, they’ll think that I didn’t learn how to cook the cultural dishes that were passed down and I won’t be able to pass them onto my children)? What are you afraid people will find out about you? Practice visualization. Imagine how much lighter you’d feel without the burden of perfectionism.