Let’s Talk About Self Care

Self care has never come naturally for me.

I’m a teacher, and I have become so accustomed to giving of myself that I don’t take some time for me, to do the things that make me feel like a real live person and not some shell of a robot going through life’s motions.

Most summers, I spend a lot of time perusing Pinterest looking for classroom ideas, new ways to teach the 5 paragraph method, or reading books that I am probably going to be teaching the next school year. Sure all of this is good stuff, but it is not self care. It is simply working from home and continuing the pattern of over-working my already exhausted self.

And this pattern needs to stop.

So, this summer, I am taking a break. I’m shelving my teacher hat that I wear 9 months of out of the year, and I am starting to take care of myself. I tweeted earlier that I can’t be a better teacher if I don’t practice self care this summer. Radical thought? No. It is a vital necessity for me to go into the next school year and be my best.

But what does self care look like?

I know everyone is different but self care for me looks like:

  • Reading the books that I have meant to read but haven’t. I have read 7 books since June, and it is amazing how wonderful it feels to read for fun. I know that there is this common misconception that English teacher get to read great literature all the time. We don’t. This is why I need to read books I want during summer break.
  • Spending time playing with my dogs.IMG_3820 They are the best dogs in the world. The End.
  • Cooking. I mean actually making food. This past week, I through together meal of leftovers and re-purposed them for a new dish, and it was amazing. I called it “Cleaning Out the Fridge” which was pretty much what happened.
  • Writing and working on that pesky I novel I want to finish soon. I have been getting some good work done on my novel this July. Sure, it won’t be finished or anywhere close to being done, but I am writing.
  • And on July 28th…my next published story comes out! I am beyond excited!

How do you practice self care?

31 Days of Poetry {day 5} Help Us See

Welcome to day 5 of our 31 Days of Poetry. Tomorrow, I will have all of this weeks links in one lovely spot for you. Join other 31 Day Writers over at The Nester.


To write poetry, you must help your readers see. It doesn’t matter what snapshot of life you want to encapsulate in verse, but you must help us see it. As a poet, I can trace my ideas of poetry to Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and H.D. Each one of these poets helped us envision something whether it was a fly buzzing around a corpse, a yellow cat-like smoke, a red wheel barrow, or a sea garden.

For me, I focus intently on an image, then allow the first words to bubble up and out in a hurried helter-skelter way. On paper or computer or Evernote(best app ever for writers). Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect because it won’t be. Just write the image and move on.

To write poetry, you must stop hiding behind pretty words. Poetry isn’t the loveliest words vomited on the page. That’s Hallmark, and it’s shit. You want your image to shine through nouns and verbs rather than being bogged done with adjectives and adverbs(oh grammar, I knew you would be helpful).

And because I couldn’t write an entire on poetry without some poetry here you go:

 

some novel 

i need to bury myself

beneath the covers

of some novel

(doesn’t matter which one

just no dickens or hardy;

austen and wharton are better).

let its words

soothe the rough places.

it pages like down comforters

pull me in so i won’t leave.

because everything

in the novel

will conclude neatly

and the characters live on–

i need this now.

an end point, a certainty,

a something.

Silent Story

Walking away from a blog, taking a break always makes the returning that much harder. 

18 days, an almost
blog suicide.

Every day life steals away my heart, a piece of soul. And my writing becomes sporadic; I wonder if I should simply quit this whole blogging endeavor. But some sort of siren song compels me to write. I return the blog updates, pushing back the dusty cobwebs of my small bit of internet real estate. Sitting down at my cluttered desk, I punch the keys for words and phrases and sentences hoping somehow to write what I am feeling, how the burdens placed upon me grow heavier. But I can’t.

Somehow, my story has become a sealed document. The words fester inside, longing for me to give them life on the page. Again, I censor what I want to say. Some days, I write about incounous things of puppies, of sunshine, of books, and of Jane Austen. Deep inside, my heart hardens just bit because I long to share the real life, the dirty, the unperfect. But I am trapped in the “life’s perfect” mask, and I can’t get out.

Maybe, this is why I have been away from my blog for so long.

I have a story to write out, and my blog should be a somewhat safe(albeit public place) to share my story. But it isn’t. I envy blogger who can write about their non-perfect lives, who write beautiful stories of mothering or my case step-mothering, who bleed beauty and brokeness. I feel like I yelling from behind a glass prison cell. Desperate for someone to stop and listen, to tell my story beyond the perfect. But I don’t think anyone hears.

Sometimes, I wonder how a writer survives under such circumstances. Can a writer exist and not write the her story that’s in desperate need of telling? I don’t know. I’m still deeply entrenched in this burdensome silence, and for awhile longer, I remain silent and strong and brave. Well, I put on a mask of bravery. I’ve learned to cry, to hurt, to exist in this oppressive silence. Then, I replace the real with my mask, my battle armor, and head out to stand firm against this unfair thing called life.

This is the only way that I know to be strong, to write out my story for now. 

 

The Saturday Evening Post


Happy New Year, Happy New Saturday Evening Post!

My bloggy friend, Elizabeth Esther, host a link-up each month called The Saturday Evening Post. We link our favorite, best, most thought-provoking post from the previous month and enjoy savoring the words of others.

Last month, I succumbed the the bustle of the holidays, real life stresses, and I didn’t write as often in this space. But I did write a post on Celebrating a Non-Perfect Christmas. It might have been the most popular, but the words healed a part of me that needed to let go of perfectionism.

So, head on over to Elizabeth’ blog, and link-up, read, and enjoy!

Cheers!

My One Word: Resolve

I do not have the power to keep any New Year’s resolutions. 

Since an early age or when I discovered everyone else making resolutions, I would mentally list all of the areas that would be so radically changed by December 31st. I never succeeded. One such year, I wrote my resolutions down in a beautiful blue journal. Of course, I would faithfully write in said journal all year(resolution #2 on the list). My list of resolutions was the only entry. Like so many others, I shrugged off my lack change and went about my daily life. No more thought given my list, my resolutions.

And there is a great community with those of us who can’t fulfill any of our resolutions.

We joke about our diets. We taunt those who have gym memberships that go unused. All of those books that we intended to write, friends to visit, to places to go, art to make–we shove them to back burner. I did. Something always became too urgent, too pressing for me. In my frantic life, I rushed from one emergency to another. I mean isn’t true that full calendar equals a full life? Deep down, I think not.

So instead of joining the resolution makers, I’m joining the #OneWord365 community.

Rather than a list of changes to make over a year, I will structure my life to fit my One Word.

For 2012, I chose the word RESOLVE.

This means in 2012, I choose things with more purpose, resolve to finish what I start. Rather than talking about my writing projects, I resolve to place my rear in the chair and write. For me, I resolve to be tenacious and selective of my time, the things that drain out the life from me. I will find myself saying yes to more things that frighten me, pushing myself beyond what I think I can do. Part of my resolve is to leave no room for fear to grow, to live in my soul, my heart anymore.

But more importantly, I resolve to live each day of 2012 by my One Word.

 

 

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Life Unexpected

Today, I’m joining Lisa-Jo at The Gypsy Mama for another edition of 5 minute Fridays.

The Rules:

  1. Write for 5 minutes on the topic.
  2. No editing or second guessing your words.
  3. Link up and comment on another post

Easy? Yes, it is.

Topic: Unexpected

Start:

White mug with a gilded handle holds hot tea not coffee this morning. Wrapped up in a blue penguin blanket, I hack out a few words between coughs and sneezes. Whether stress induced or shared germs, I’m sick. But this should be expected, right? Our bodies fails us, succumb to pain and illness, but yet I’m always shocked when I’m sick. This unexpected disruption to life.

Life is unexpected too. We celebrate victories; we mourn our losses. In our moments of weakness, we see how life brings us other unexpected gifts. Hot tea and orange juice, the words of friends, the gift of a quiet house–all reminders that life’s unexpectedness is both joyful and needful.

Stop.

The 6th Inning Wilt

Hello, humid summer, I haven’t really missed you! Little League 6photo © 2010 Frank Pierson | more info (via: Wylio)

 

Hazy heat blurs the green tree leaves, the stillness of the air stifles. Memorial Day evening—hot, humid, muggy…all those summer words associated with living in the South. Now, when it is this hot, I usually have my day all planned out—sit on my ass, in the A/C, and read. A lovely reading chair, books to finish and begin, and access to ice, but Little League games interfere with my perfect plan.

 

So, Plan B: lawn chair, battery powered fan, book(reading The Great Gatsby), and Moleskine notebook. I’m somewhat famous for bringing books and writing materials to just about every potentially boring event(a.k.a when my child isn’t playing, doing, etc. I really only care about watching my kid).

Simply put, I dislike being bored.

But then the sun blares down upon the pages, my hands sweat from holding the pen, and I’m forced to watch the game, or better watch the parents at the game. I squirm from the excess sweat hoping that when I get up from the chair that I don’t look like well…I have incontinence issues. It was really that hot, I promise. I looked like a hot mess.

That’s when it starts again.

My people watching diversion turns into compare myself to everyone else obsession. Other mothers with perfect air, lovely brown tans, sporting their spaghetti strapped tank tops. None of them playing the “check your shoulder for the bra strap” game. Aww, shit, I’m looking down at my legs white wishing I had worn shorts more before this evening. Of course, their perfect children ate perfectly well-balanced meals before the game while mine will eat what I can quickly throw together after the game.

I’m slowly wilting under the intense heat of comparison. Worst, I’m doing it to myself.

 

Easter

Gray dusk descendseaster_lilyphoto © 2007 Zest-pk | more info (via: Wylio)

As specter night whispers

Blasphemy.

 

Red pools drip

As last breaths push forward

Dead.

 

Black crosses pierce

As light flees across

Sky.

 

Grass-green seeps out

As life’s colors

Exit.

 

White lily blooms

As ruby skies sing out

Life.

 

Yellow sun shines

As Holiness proves

Victory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a Stepmom

The Long Hot Summer continues....The weather man says it's raining...photo © 2008 Keven Law | more info (via: Wylio)

 

 

The rain falls in soft cold, droplets. Covered by a navy blue shelter, three little Girl Scouts stand outside the Walgreen’s begging each person to buy cookies. I zip the purple coat of my seven year old daughter whose proclaims she is too cold. She stuffs her tiny hands in the pockets of my coat because my pockets are warmer. I chat with the other Girl Scout mother helping sell cookies. We talk about our girls are growing up too fast, getting prettier every minute, then it happens. The mother talking to my daughter says “your mom” which leads to a hurried explanation “she’s not MY mom, she’s just my stepmom.”

 

Silence, the knowing glance, the cold shoulder. All of the cliched, stereotypical images of stepmother invade that small 10 by 10 shelter. With people all around, I feel the cold pangs of exclusion, judgment. How dare I masquerade as a mother? Do I not know that I’m “just a stepmom,” the second class mother in the world of parenthood? I had forgotten. Maybe, this is why so many feel the need to remind me of my status in the traditional parental hierarchy.

 

I’m used to the reminders of my mothering inadequacies—the disapproving looks when I stand up in church to be recognized as a mother on Mother’s Day, mothers in the church patting me on the should telling me “I will understand when I am a real mom.” That’s when my emotional heart withers a just a little more inside.

 

Some days, I wish I were brave enough to wear a t-shirt proclaiming—I’m not the “other” woman, I chose to be a step-mother, so stop judging me.

 

Some days, I want to lash against the “real mom” clique. What more must I do to prove that I’m more than “just a stepmom” but a real mother? Each school day, I wake up my sleepy, sometimes grumpy step-children, hurry them to school. I sit in the frightfully long car line to pick them up, whisk them to our home and begin the arduous task of homework, snacks, and chores. I failed to mention the laundry, doctor visits, activities—how is this not being a “real mom?”

 

 

Frustration and anger tarnish my soul as I so desperately try to prove I belong in the “real moms” club.

 

 

Quickly, I’m drawn back to present. My step-daughter wraps her arms around my waist, whispers loudly “I love you.” Standing here in the cold rain, warming my step-daughter’s hands, I’m defying the stereotype, speaking against all of the derogatory connotations embedded in the role of stepmom. Rather than lashing out in anger, I choose to speak love through my actions. A quieter, gentler way of dispelling the myths of the evil stepmother begins with grace and loved filled actions. Being fully present with my step-daughter, spending the time to do something meaningful with her, carries a weightier, more powerful message. It is the message of grace. Not for the “real moms,” but for me. I release myself from the images of the evil stepmother with each grace and loved filled action toward my stepchildren. I become more alive when I focus upon the beauty of choosing to love my stepchildren. Through grace, I am no longer just a stepmom, I’m a mother.