Infectiously Happy

Four small Ways to Instill Confidence in Small Children. 

Super Flying Palmer... Courageous. Assured. Free.
Super Flying Palmer… Courageous. Assured. Free.

Recently Palmer told me that some other kids didn’t like him. My heart broke. I know that everyone can’t like him. There is always going to be someone that doesn’t like you. But, um, I think he is awesome so I had a little lump in my throat. I went in for further understanding. I mean, I need to know why I might fight someone. LOL. Just kidding, kinda. So he told me that the “mean guys” didn’t like him and they told him so. When I asked him how he felt about it he said, “It makes me sad.”  Cue all the feelings. I then asked him, “Do you like you?” I wasn’t ready for his answer. “Yes mama, of course! I love me!!!” So I asked, ” Do they ever hurt you physically?” And he replied, “No, because I know how to keep myself safe. I wouldn’t let them just hurt me.” That’s when the room got dusty and the dust got in my eyes. I sat with our conversation for a bit. As I said in the beginning, our “likeability” is fleeting. Wanting to be liked has held me in bondage, stifled the truth and prolonged my involvement with interactions that were not serving my best self. I have been slowly, over years, shedding that need to be liked but it’s hard. I don’t want to pass that on. On another layer, because I am raising two BLACK people in a world that is consisently devaluing our experience, I have sincere intention around making sure they know their worth. In all things, I have no control over anyone but myself. I do have control over how I interact with them. I control how I will affirm them. I control whether or not I give them agency over their minds and bodies. I am working hard every day to show them they are capable, powerful and important, even at three and one year old. We can take small steps in our daily lives to give them a confident outlook on their experience. Just a few ways…

Give them responsibilities. Somewhere, somehow, the lie started that children can’t grasp responsibility. Every day, Palmer has jobs. Small jobs, that I can easily do, usually much quicker but I need him to know what it feels like to take care of something. Sometimes his jobs are convenient for him, like putting his shoes in the basket when we come into the house. Sometimes his jobs are not his favorite, like putting away his toys before bed, when he still wants to play. That is real life. Even at three, he understands what he is supposed to take care of. He gets responsibility. He may even go off if you try to take care of it for him because somewhere inside, his little soul has pride in getting it done himself. As he grows, as Duke grows, they get bigger jobs. And eventually I am swinging in a  hammock while they make me smoothies and sweep the kitchen. Just (kinda) kidding.

Let them create.  I am not talking about a pinterest project. I mean let them create their own entertainment, help with meals, create their own fun. We can be overbearing in our need to make “fun” activities or keep them from making a mess. Let them make messes. Let them see what they can do, what their efforts can bring forth. It may take longer. Make time for them. They deserve our time. The greatest fun I see Palmer have is when he is making his own food or playing a game that only he knows the rules to. He has a things for paper airplanes and origami that makes mail or my writing notes unsafe. The joy I see when he is immersed in his own versions of meditation through play are inspiring.

Listen to them. Even if they do not yet have words. Listen to the sounds, pay attention to their body language. Feel the energy they are giving you. They know what feels good, what they want. We can allow them to say no. It is how we teach them to keep themselves safe and listen to themselves. Palmer is old enough (physically and mentally) to tell me alot about himself. I remind myself constantly to plug into what he is really saying to me. Even with Duke, who is just finding words, those little screams are his way of communicating. I vocalize that I am listening, even if what they don’t like, getting a diaper change or seatbelt, is needed. I will tell them, “I hear you.” “I see that you don’t like ____ .” If I can adjust the situation to be more pleasing, I do. For me that is about letting them know that their discomfort is important and their experiene is valued. Try showing that to grown ups, it’s much harder work.

Check our egos. They are not ours. They came through us, but they belong to themselves. We would serve them and ourselves to remember that. Our behavior has to reflect that they are small humans and not property. We have to treat them with the same respect we require because from day one they are learning what it means to be treated kindly and humanely from us. It can be hard to walk in this truth because as parents we don’t want to be judged harshly if our child is not listening our crying in public. That is our ego. The reality is that your child will not listen. They are going to do things that may embarass you or make others uncomfortable. They are learning in each moment, so they aren’t trying to manipulate you. Most likely thay are asking for help or expressing overwhelming feelings.  We have to make sure that our interactions with them are not being fueled by fear, anger and ego. Violence (Read: spanking, popping, physical intimidation) have no place in raising confident humans. It serves the purpose of breaking, training and controlling through fear and pain. You cannot build someone up and break them down at the same time. Our ego is easily bruised, even as parents. We have to be willing to check it and interact from a place of understanding and ease.

 

Just small steps that can leave a big impact. I know because my mama parented me this way. This is my intentional legacy to them. My dedication as a mother is to free, empowered, confident people who can trust themselves.

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What do you want to create?

what-do-you-want-to-createI’m going to slide into this post like I have been posting regularly… like I haven’t been writing this post for a few months… like I am not finishing up at 1130pm on a Saturday, with a baby tied to my chest… Lately I have been asking myself the same question. What do I want to create? Why should I be a part of this or that? Why should I work on those days? Why should I start a new project or offer new classes? The why is rooted in one thing: my motivation. What am I trying to create in my life? The lives of my small children? In my community?  I think it is important to check in often to make sure that your daily actions are in line with your focus. So lets start with my motivation/goal/focus… most simply it is EASE. I don’t mean I want everything to be easy. By EASE I mean I don’t want my peace disturbed. I don’t want temporary situations and emotions to take me to places of needless suffering… I want joy to be the norm of my day. I want my ease to inspire peace within every single person I have contact with and experience I am a part of. For me ease can mean a lot of things. It means being rooted in my choices for occupation and lifestyle so even in tough times I don’t want to abandon it. It can mean financial abundance so there is not the stress of figuring out how to make ends meet. It can also mean the freedom to enjoy the things that bring me joy daily and not just on the weekend, in the midst of a jam-packed schedule. I am at the beginning of a phase of teaching less, preparing and learning. I am pulling back and turning inward. I am making space for changes, growth and creation. I want to remind you that we are each powerful in our own lives, so the ease I seek can only be created by me. I have a few notions on how…

Minimize. I think I have been saying this for a while but, Less is more. We deserve to have order, focus and a sense of direction in all aspects of our lives. The more we have, the more fragmented our energy becomes. For me, it has been important to focus on what is contributing to what I want to create [read:EASE]. This means my interactions are changing, my habits are changing and my spaces are changing. I am walking in the practice of aparigraha, sanskrit for Non-Attachment. I frequently come back to ask myself, “What do you want to create?” and I let my answer serve as the guide. What stays and what goes, are tied to the answer. The purging is not easy but it is necessary.

Take daily action. Take the big steps or the baby steps, hell crawl if you need to but take action. Talking about the life you want is great. Contemplating. Reading. Studying… All of it is beneficial and inspiring, but it is wholly useless unless it is accompanied by action. We will let fear paralyze us at every turn, but life is truly meant for living and thriving. We cannot expect to live if we are only trying to survive or addicted to the suffering that comes with living a life without purpose or drive. Connect to what you really want. Make a list of the steps that get you there. Then get to work on creating.

Remember it is all temporary. The road to ease may  be filled with little pebbles. The irritating kind that find their way into your shoe when you are really on the move. Maybe there is one small one or a whole heap that make you feel like you can’t continue, like you selected the wrong path. It is in those moments that you must have a conversation with yourself. I have to remind myself of the temporary nature of everything. The ability to connect to my goal of creation refocuses my energy but also serves to give perspective.

Be authentic in your quest. Be real. Be vulnerable. Tell the truth. And this one will make you unpopular. We are so conditioned to put on a mask and create an identity that we are not creating a life we love. It becomes the opposite of ease. We are consistently trying to keep up the façade and it is exhausting. Even in business we are taught to keep a firm line between personal and business. I had to ditch that advice. I am mindful of business needs but I am honest with my clients, students and business partners. I want to create wellness in my community and to do that I have to make it personal. I have to be real about where I am on that journey.

I am one week into this self-imposed period of reflection and preparation and I already feel a big shift. I have enjoyed some long over due moments of rest. I am looking forward to the time with family that comes with this time of year. I am looking forward to sharing more here. I will continue to ask myself, “What do you want to create?”. I want to challenge you to do the same. Let’s be mindful with our lives, intentional with our energy and open to the unfolding of our individual journeys.

What do you want to create?

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Raising Boys is Gross.


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In a few weeks, I will welcome a second son. And to answer ahead of time, it’s unlikely I will “try for a girl”. I wasn’t disappointed.  I am all about everything happening exactly as it should. I am supposed to be mothering two sons. In my short time in this role, I have come to the understanding that the raising of sons is gross but more like disgusting and it has nothing to do with my actual children. I am a woman, raised by another woman so I know the truth of what we face in the expectations and limitations of how we are socialized. I have though, come to a whole new understanding of what it means to try and raise boys to men in a society so consumed with outdated ideas of what makes a man…

Men shouldn’t cry. Do you know how much it kills me to hear parents say to their sons, “stop crying, you’re being a baby?!” So everyone, even grown men, have tear ducts meaning everyone is designed to cry. It’s actually scientifically proven to be a stress reducing and cleansing operation both physically and mentally.  Somewhere along the way it was invented that crying is a lesser emotion so as a man it shouldn’t be done. I call malarkey. I actually make space for it. Palmer you are crying? Let’s talk about why. Come to me so you can be comforted. Let’s actually use this moment to learn more about you. How in the hell is it helpful to teach our sons to suppress a natural body function to perpetuate a false idea of manhood?

Your worth is tied to what you do. Or who you love. Or what you wear. I want to raise fearless, free humans. I refuse to teach them that they have to curtail their passions, their interests and their life’s work or decisions to a mold of worldly standards. Go to these schools,  get these kinds of jobs, buy all the things so the world can see how manly you are… This thinking creates unhappy drones, living lives of suffering.  When I talk to my grown sons I want to hear light and inspiration in their voices. I want them to be so happy with themselves that they make the world around them a better place. It starts at a young age by encouraging your children to create and play on their own. Actually exposing them to things broader than your own interests or letting them play just for the enjoyment of it creates space for them to discover passions and life interests. The focus on what you memorized or what score you got on a test, just reinforces the warped idea that success is measured by trivialities.

Women are here for your entertainment. Or conquest. Or to serve you. And the only way I can do that is by being a real woman with flaws and honesty. By becoming the highest version of myself,  loving myself and lifting other women up I hope to show my sons that women are humans with equal capabilities, goals and contributions. Connect with a woman, knowing that she is complex and worthy of engagement on intellectual and spiritual planes.

It all makes you gay. Playing with dolls or expressing interest in “girl toys” is not a life changing thing. Dance classes and playing in your mother’s things is not an early indicator of anything. Children learn through engagement and observation. I want my sons to know how to gently care for a baby because one day they may have a family and I want them to be the type of loving father they are growing up with. If they are talented in dancing, fashion design or anything else deemed “feminine”, I am here for it because it doesn’t make you gay!   And get ready to clutch your pearls… you dont control who your children will be when they grow up. You do contribute to how they will navigate life. Will they be able to trust you enough to come to you? Will they feel loved and supported instead of tolerated should they live and love differently than you?  File this under “things you should know about me”: being homophobic is the quickest way to ensure your exposure to my children will be cut. I won’t do it. I don’t know who they will love and for the sake of all possibilities I am not going to let you poison their thinking against others based on foolishness.

We are all multifaceted. We are all having very human experiences. I want my sons to know they are more than earnings, sexual conquests and dumbed down emotions and experiences. It’s disgusting that for some it’s going to seem weird or strange. As a fearless and free mama, I am willing to take the risk in the spirit of nurturing whole individuals with a life that exudes love, truth and joy.

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The Guilt of Grief

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I think transparency is the best policy. In all honesty I would love to write you a both about a fun adventure or family vacation, but right now I am grieving. I feel guilty for even typing this blog but I think if I share what it feels like I might help someone. Two things happened yesterday: 1) I finally went through the last bag of mail from my Aunt’s house. There was nothing important to see, but when I opened the bag the scent of her perfume took over my whole office. It was beautiful and heart breaking, all at once. 2) I inadvertently deleted the last voicemail my Aunt left me…

My own life, like many of you, requires that I have to keep moving. Business to run, family to nurture, yoga to teach, baby growing inside… They all require a certain “get-on-with-life” that I am capable of navigating. I must also honor the fact that I am having a hard time dealing with the loss of my Aunt. Daily I am hit with waves of longing to talk with her or to receive a voicemail, it is most frequently accompanied by uncontrollable tears and followed by a deep sense of guilt. I feel guilty for suddenly making my home a solemn place or ending an evening of laughter with tears as I cry myself to sleep. I’m distracted and disorganized and that makes me feel guilty.  There is an internal dialogue that runs for me and sometimes the logical part of my brain only serves to feed my guilt.  That’s what this post is about. I’m working through it and sharing in the process…

 

 

But you seem so happy. And I am. The smile you see is real. The joy that lives in my heart is genuine. In my own attempt to manage my grief I choose to focus on my joys, instead of my suffering, but the suffering is still there. The joys keep me going. The bring me back from my tears because who can keep crying when the cutest little voice is singing Itsy Bitsy Spider to you?

 

At Least Your Aunt is not suffering. It sounds good.  I know folks are trying to help me when they say it. Sometimes it makes me feel good because it is true. The last few days I spent  with my Aunt were heartbreaking so to know that she is not in pain brings comfort, but I feel guilty for wanting her here. In our last few conversations we had to talk about what seemed inevitable but we both thought that there were months or years to say goodbye to one another. There is a guilt because part of me wishes it had all taken longer. I logically know it happened exactly as it should have. It takes time to reconcile  the heart and the head.

 

You have so much to be grateful for. I do. More things that I can list, which is why I feel so guilty about my continued tears. I often judge myself because if I am so grateful for everything else, why I am letting my suffering invade every day? My focus is gratitude, but it is difficult. There are so many people who love me and are supporting me by making space for me to be sad, reminding me of the fullness of life. It is human thing to acknowledge that in life there exists the balance of good and bad.

 

Time Heals.  Well what is taking so freaking long? I remember when my grandfather died and every day I found a quiet place on campus to cry. I cried every morning when I showered. I buried my face in the pillow so my roommates wouldn’t hear me cry myself to sleep. I am not sure when but at some point that ended. I still miss him, especially on important days (my wedding, Palmer’s birth, etc.) but it is with joy I remember him, very rarely with sorrow. If I have to miss Pat I want it to be with joy. I don’t want this lump in my throat when I have to say her name, so impatiently I wait for the whole time heals things to really work.

 

I am taking steps daily. This post is one step. I am dedicated to my yoga practice. There is a list of so many folks who support me daily with so much empathy. I know it is evolving. It will get better. I just wanted to let someone else know they are not alone. Remember we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Excuse any typos. Tears + typing = errors.

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The Compassion To Do List

compassionThe past week, I ended up having so many conversations about the concept of compassion. It is an easily understood concept but not so easily executed in daily life. Online and in real life we are so quick to make an assumption about what another person should be doing based on our understanding of their situation that we end up being thoughtless and judgmental, potentially causing further pain to those around us.
It’s easy to say that someone who doesn’t return a hello is just rude or that the person driving slowly in front of you is ruining your day but how much different can our daily interactions be if we remember that each person you encounter is having their own experience and for a lot of people, life is filled with pain. Your unfriendly coworker maybe in an abusive relationship or the survivor of severe trauma and what you consider being rude is them just trying to focus on keeping it together to get through the day. The person driving slowly, may have only learned of loss and is trying to get to their destination through tears or anguish. So maybe you think you can’t help relieve the pain of another, I made you a list of  simple ways to show compassion on a daily basis…

Give a compliment that has nothing to do with someone’s physical appearance.

Give a hand, a smile or encouraging word to a mother or father with their hands full in a restaurant, grocery store or airport.

Carry an elderly strangers groceries for them.

Offer a coffee to your grumpy coworker.

Share a joke in the elevator.

Don’t beep your horn at the person driving too slowly in traffic.

Say thank you to all service employees and use the name on their name tag.

Call a relative who lives alone.

Make a meal for a friend, neighbor or family member and invite them over to fellowship.

Send a “just because” card to someone you love.

Ask people how they are and truly listen to what they share. 

Smile at strangers.

Let someone know you see them doing something hard and encourage them to keep going.

Randomly thank the people who raised you for getting you to adulthood.

Send good morning texts to people you love.

Don’t have the last word.

Reach out to your spouse/significant other during their day to thank them for all they do.

Tell people you love them and why you love them as often as possible.

Let someone into your lane while waiting in traffic.

Cut yourself some slack and do something that brings you joy, because we cannot share with others something we are not willing to give to ourselves.

Have an amazing week!

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What Pat Taught Me.

celebrating her Birthday!
Celebrating her Birthday!

 

Close your eyes and imagine I am about 11 or 12 years old, lying on a rented beach raft that floats gently away from the Hilton Head shoreline, under the perfect summer day. Just beside me, on an identical raft is my Aunt Patrice. She is beautiful and full of laughter. As we float further and further, we hardly notice because we are making up imaginary stories about the clouds floating above us and the creatures living under the water. Occasionally she grabs my hand to make sure I don’t drift away from her. I feel safe. I feel free. I feel loved.  Only moments later on this summer afternoon, our lackadaisical drifting is abruptly interrupted by the sounding horn of a Coast Guard resuce boat. We had drifted out into open water where large boats were just on the horizon. They warned us to return to shore and moved along. My Aunt Pat laughed and slowly she and I paddled our way back. One for the record books. The time we almost got lost at sea.

This is what I call my lasting memory of her. She made me feel safe. She let me be free. She made me feel loved. Last month my Aunt passed away and to say I am having a hard time is putting it mildly. This is difficult and I am taking time to honor all of the feelings I encounter. This memory is the one that sustains me, but also makes a lump in my throat. I have a million memories of her but this one helps me float to sleep peacefully. I am using this post to be open about my loss but also to share some of the most valuable lessons I learned from Pat. I could say I writing this for the people who are reading it, but the truth is I am writing this for me. I can only manage my grief if I tune into my gratitude. I am grateful for her life, for the role she played in my life and the lessons she left for me. I am very fortunate to have a loving mother but I can really say I had two. She and my mother met at Clark College (Now Clarke Atlanta Univery) living two doors down from each other in a dormitory. My mom married her brother and my Aunt Pat, who never married or had children, treated us like her kids. We spent our summers with her. She was present to celebrate our births, birthdays, graduations and life’s moments. My mom is the rule maker and follower. She is kind but doesn’t play. I learned how to negotiate on her. My Aunt Pat was the rule breaker, the party girl, my confidante. She is the one who could talk to my mom on my behalf in favor of new clothes, ear piercings and personal freedoms. She lived, like really lived and there are some lessons to her life that I felt like sharing….

Show Your Love Through the Details. My Aunt was obsessed with the details, presentation, the wrapping of every gift or meal. She made freaking flowers on the potato salad from left over egg, celery onions. She was going to be late ALL THE TIME, which drove everyone crazy, but in it there was a valuable lesson for me. She was meticulous about remembering your favorites, your birthday, your favorite color. There was a card that arrived on your birthday, your favorite meal when you visited, a reminder that is no one else cared she did. If she loved you, you knew it because she used these details to lift you up and to make you feel loved in times of grief or celebration. I want to be a giver of those same feelings, just as she was. I want people to leave me and feel better knowing someone always cares.

 

Celebrate Everyday in Every way. To live with my Aunt Pat (as my brother and I did every summer growing up) was to know how to party… while you cook, while you clean, as you drive to work  and while you got dressed. Yes it may take longer, but it will definitely be more fun. Music turned up loud, dance moves between every action, singing at the top of your lungs. Our summer evenings were filled with card parties and cook outs. The nights were long and joy filled. Every holiday was just a run on of celebration and I think sometimes she didn’t even sleep. She made normal days festive and memorable. It is a reminder that each day is a chance to celebrate our lives, with people we love.

 

Love People Exactly Where They Are. Pat had a wide circle of friends. She loved everybody. She showed me, though, that the people you love can be flawed, and they can hurt you and you can love them anyway. Once I called her because I was so hurt by someone I loved and I couldn’t understand how they could be so mean and self centered. Long before the Four Agreements came along, she explained to me that everything that had been done or said wasn’t even about me. She went on to explain that without making excuses for them, I had to accept who and what that person was and release my hatred because they were operating on the highest level they had, that anything besides continuing to shine a beacon of light was below me. It’s a lesson that has helped me continually.

 

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I miss you Aunt Pat. Love always Kelley

 

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Thank You Palmer

JMarkPhotos“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” – Osho

It has been an incredible year. The time elapsed at hyper speed and on 12/13/14, our village celebrated Palmer’s first birthday. In a lot of ways the time spent with family and friends was the perfect representation of the love and support Frenchie and I have received and the joy Palmer has brought to our corner of the world. I wanted to share the images that were captured, but also I wanted to take time to say thank you to my little guy. I am so grateful for the chance to be his mother, to teach him the power of his own mind, to show him what love looks like, but I have had my own lessons in this first year. Being his mother has opened up a part of my own heart that was filled with anxiety and resentment. I have always had a love for life and for my family and friends but like Osho said motherhood has made me new….

Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself. I, like anyone else have been hurt. I have experienced let downs, misunderstandings, pain. For a very long time I carried anger and resentment because of it. I couldn’t understand another person’s motives, they disappointed me and I held on to that, not realizing that it was poisoning me. Before marrying Frenchie, I was forced to take a long look at those feelings and forgive that person, my own father. When Palmer was born am additional light came on for me. Without making excuses for him, I realized how utterly overwhelming the task of parenting is. He had given what he had available. My own attachment to what he should have or could have done was not serving anyone’s growth or happiness. I am not perfect and even if I make all the best decisions for Palmer, there will still be mistakes. And in the same way I hope P will love me anyway, I decided to love my dad. I mean I always loved him, but I was angry. Realizing that and forgiving him has made more room for love. And I (you) can always use more love.

Speak Life into your situation. This year has been filled with ups and downs. I love being Palmer’s mother but it comes with it’s own tests of will and endurance. From Palmer’s NICU stint to our current bedtime battles, my pervading mode of operation is to remain positive. It is all temporary. I will deal with the portions I control and remain grateful regardless of the outcome. On those first days when P was hooked to so many monitors and they were giving us more bad news than we could handle, I received my first lesson on the power of my own positivity. I surrounded myself with people who would speak love and life into our situation and in every moment I could, I passed that on to him. During a breast feeding session in the NICU a nurse heard me singing a song to P and said, “What are you singing?” I explained that I was only uttering one word: Breathe. That’s all I needed him to do so he could come home. And he was listening. He was released only a few days later, even though we had been told he would remain for weeks. I try now to always speak love and life into him, especially in tough, sleepless moments, when I want to pull out my hair and run screaming down the street!

If you ever encouraged me, sent kind thoughts, prayers or love in our direction, I thank you. Our ENTIRE village is amazing and they have made our first year as a family really incredible. I am so grateful that Palmer is loved by so many. One day I hope Palmer is googling himself on the internet and he finds this post, so this last part is for him:

I love you Buddy. I thank you for bringing out the best parts of me. You have created joy for everyone around you and for that I am so grateful. Your Papa and I are so proud of you. You bring so much happiness to our days. I hope you always know and feel the love that surrounds you now.

-Mama

Please enjoy the pictures from his birthday celebration! Many thanks to Uncle Jeff of JMark Photos for these images!!! Thank you to Tiffany at Sweet Slices for the beautiful and delicious cake and cupcakes. And Many thank yous to Jasiatic with Eat Your Bliss for the delicious vegan foods!

Team Carboni-Woods
www.sweetslices.com
Fresh Rolls by JasiaticPapa. P & Aunt TineshaTinesha & PP & Gigi
Fruit Salad by JasiaticP and Aunt Jessica Palmer & Lailah Palmer & SundiataONE!Blow out the CandlesCake?full housewhat is so funny GigiMarquita, Grandma Tiny and PSetarra & Moyeh Marquita & Sheenaparty peeps1P & Tiffany party peeps 2Palmer Addis

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Equanimity.

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e·qua·nim·i·ty
ˌēkwəˈnimitē,ˌekwə-/
noun
1. mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, esp. in a difficult situation. Presence of mind.

Last week something amazing happened. I met my son for the first time. At 12:37pm on 12/13/13 he came bursting into the world. Instantly the only thing I could do was love this nine pound, five ounce bundle of happiness. It was more than I could have ever imagined and I have learned what it means to truly maintain my gratitude/happiness/peace despite less than stellar circumstances.

Besides the normal blues associated with post-partum, the juggling of new responsibilities and the fatigue of caring for a new baby, Frenchie and I were not prepared on Saturday when Palmer was whisked away to the NICU after concern for his breathing uncovered that he had respiratory distress associated with immature lung function. He had been born three weeks early to avoid complications for me and we were left with questions and fears about the future and health of our new son. When I was dismissed from the hospital on Monday, Palmer could not leave and we were given timelines as long as two weeks. I was devastated. I had eaten right, I had exercised moderately. Heck on Friday they handed me my baby and told me he was perfect. So why was this happening?

Enter your new vocabulary word. Only a week earlier my friend and yoga teacher, Stacy said to me her intention for the day was to practice equanimity. There are no coincidences in life and as I laid in my hospital bed in tears because I was scared I was jolted back to my center by this word.

Of course I learned so much in these few days and Palmer was released on Thursday, earlier than predicted, due in large part to the stellar care he received but also I think because Frenchie and I, along with our family and friends had the presence of mind to pray for his healing, focus on the good, and visualize his release from the NICU.

Here’s my suggestions for remaining equanimous in the face of daunting situations:

Release attachment. Attachment is the cause for suffering. No doubt about it. In my mind, once he was here and deemed healthy we would go home together in a few days and I would get busy learning and growing with him. Running back and forth to the hospital, having to express breast milk for someone else to feed to him and seeing him full of probes and IVs didn’t fit anywhere in my birth plan. I cried… Several times. And then I realized I was creating my own suffering by wallowing in scenarios of what I wanted instead of dealing with what was. The plan was evolving, the plot was thickening and I needed to flow with what was going to get my son back to his best health.

Focus on your power. Can I tell you that initially I felt powerless? I couldn’t feed my baby. He was four days old before I had the privilege of changing a dirty diaper because for nearly two days we weren’t even allowed to touch or pick him up. I remember feeling like I wasn’t even a “real mom”. But then I had to remember that if nothing else I am powerful in thought. So every morning and every night I focused my thoughts, on bringing him home on getting good reports from his daily checks. I decided that I would focus on eating well and remaining hydrated because he needed milk and I was the only one who could make it.

Let love lead. Fear will stamp out any hope so in the midst of your storm you must move to the polar opposite… Love. Love will stamp out fear every time. I was tired. Running back and forth to the hospital all week wasn’t the type of rest I needed after my c section but how else could I tell Palmer every day how much he was loved and supported? We copped a squat beside his little bed and in each moment I used that love to remain focused on his improvement, instead of dwelling in the fear associated with our child being sick. I surrounded myself with those who were going to hold me up and love me through this.

Be transparent. While I chose to primarily keep what was going on this week to myself and my family, I decided in the end that I needed to share. Often I encounter people who assume that I am happy because everything goes according to my plan. They assume I preach happiness because that’s all I know and that tough times grace past me. I am being transparent now because for me this time has reenforced what I always say: happiness should not be determined by your circumstances. Each moment of this week I have had to decide that I was going to focus on our happiness and the result is a healthy, happy baby snuggled next to me as I type. :-)

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Happily Changing

Ever heard the saying: “Day by day nothing seems to change, but pretty soon everything is different”? So many things, for me anyway, can be like this. Weight loss, career growth, children growing up, grown ups growing up…

Change is one of those things that can test even the happiest, content disposition. Even when you wanted it, planned for it or expected it, there can be difficulty navigating. Whether its a change of relationship status, financial loss or gain, weight loss, or in my case, having a baby, change can leave one feeling overwhelmed and confused. Even when it is the happiest thing you can think of, change will carry its own lessons. Frenchie and I have been in love for 8 years and decided, planned and cannot be more excited about the baby we will meet later this year. Still there were unexpected feelings and shifts that left me feeling out of sorts. Halfway through I thought I would share what I am learning so far about my own happiness and how to expand on it in the mist of change…

Allow. Plans are nice. They give you a guide, a foundation, a point of reference. But they can be flawed and unrealistic. You have to ALLOW yourself mistakes. Time alone to reflect, tears if needed and celebrations when things go perfectly well. Even with the best intentions, you will encounter unwanted experiences and you have to ALLOW these things to unfold. You cannot always control what’s happening around you, to you… But you can control how you ALLOW it to affect your happiness.

Keep a record. A week or so ago I started writing to my son. Mostly so he could know that he has always been loved, but also for myself. I never imagined even as little as 8 years ago that Frenchie and I would be at this point and I never want to forget this time. It is the happiest, scariest, most wonderful and utterly overwhelming time of my life. I want to always remember it. You owe it to yourself to be able to look back at what you have come through, accomplished, created or been a part of. There will come another change that may seem harder than the last and there is no greater encouragement than a record of your own strengths, weaknesses and learned lessons.

Be transparent. Some changes are obvious to everyone around you. Some not so much. For example you lose 50lbs. Everyone who sees you will know you lost weight and most likely comment on it. You should be happy and hopefully you are. What no one else may see is the struggle you have with your new body or the new attention. They may not be aware of the difficulty you face with maintaining. My advice? Be open with those close to you. No one is a mind reader and the best way to let people know you are working through new feelings is to tell them. I’m not saying you should be complaining or venting to everyone you see, but it’s unfair to those you work, live and play with if you keep your feelings bottled up. If you don’t tell them you may need extra time alone, support or encouragement it’s unreasonable to expect them to know you need it.

Change is inevitable, unavoidable and necessary. If nothing ever evolved, life would be a constant stream of repeated and eventually boring events. Every time you go through a major change, pleasant or not so much, you become stronger and you owe yourself some happiness throughout the process. :-)

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#100ThingsThatMakeMeHappy

Me with a Popeye Punch on an average happy day!

Last week on twitter a trending hashtag, #100thingsthatmakemehappy, caught my attention.  It made me smile to see the related tweets and to be honest I was a little bit surprised because I often find the trending topics can be so negative. This was a welcomed change for me and it got me to thinking.  Can I come up with 100 things that truly cause happiness in my life? I think it becomes easy for us (us being humans) to constantly express what we don’t like, what we think makes us unhappy,  to the point that we lose focus on what truly matters. So shouldn’t it be just as easy to think of things that bring joy? As my mind started rolling I came to additional questions… If you can’t really wrap your mind around what makes you happy, how can you expect to attract people and experiences that will add to your happiness?  How can you truly add to anyone else’s happiness if you aren’t clear about your own needs? How much more could you connect with the people in your life if you had a clear outline of what makes you happy on a daily basis? So anyway, I made a list.  It was kind of hard. You probably don’t believe me, so I challenge you to make one of you own.  I would be super interested to see your list…  Maybe we can learn something about each other, and some things about ourselves…

 

1. Sunshine

2. Long afternoons on white sand beaches

3. Frenchie serenading me with Bill Wither’s songs

4. A good workout

5. Silly text messages from Pineapple and Mango

6. Hugs

7. Inspiring documentaries

8. Museums

9. Day Trips with Mi Amore

10. Fresh flowers

11. Delicious vegetarian dishes

12. Holding Hands

13. Wii parties with my family

14. Yoga

15. Nail polish

16. Natural Hair

17. Silly conversations with 6 years olds

18. Working on my genealogy

19. Surprise parties

20. Buddha statues

21. Gallery crawls

22. Slow dancing while dinner cooks

23. New earrings

24. Full moons

25. Old pictures

26. Historical walking tours

27. When my Aunt Pat calls me Kelley Belly

28. Ice cream

29. Chapelle Show reruns

30.  A good book

31.  An afternoon in the park

32. Honesty

33. A cold Popeye Punch from Luna’s

34. Moments when I realize how much I have grown

35. Cupcakes

36. Being tickled

37. Massages

38. One of a kind souvenirs

39. Trying something new

40. First class upgrades

41. Remembering my wedding day

42. The red clearance sticker at TJ Maxx

43. Roller coasters

44. Hot cocoa

45. Smiles from strangers

46. Cuddling

47. Voicemail messages from my mother

48. Learning something new

49. Helping a friend

50. Spending time with my brother O’neill

51. When Frenchie offers me his last bite

52. “Give It To Me Baby” by Rick James

53. Cards in the mail

54. Surprises

55. Wrapping gifts

56. Sushi

57. Consignment Shopping

58. Sunsets

59. Snorkeling

60. Rollerskating

61. New friends

62. Anniversaries

63. Laughing hysterically

64. Memories of summers spent in Columbus

65. Farmer’s Markets

66. Old Buildings

67. Trying new foods

68. Family Reunions

69. Encouraging words

70. Sitting outside on summer nights

71. Vintage accessories

72. Concerts

73. New readers on this blog

74. Helping a stranger

75. Romantic Gestures

76.  Functional Art

77. Finding notes/letters/cards I had forgotten about

78. Weddings

79. A good movie on the couch on rainy days

80. When the scales reads a smaller number than the last time

81. The smell of sunscreen

82. Juicing

83. Skipping

84. Catching up with old friends

85. Morning meditation

86. A clean house

87. Trying on expensive shoes that I have no intention of buying

88. Seaside meals

89. Action movies with lots of shooting and car chases

90. Spending lazy afternoons with my momma

91. Giving away things I no longer need

92. Morning walks on the greenway

93. The moment when your hard work pays off

94. A comfy house dress

95. The Orchid Pavilion at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

96. Go Getters

97. Being reminded that I am appreciated

98. Future Possibilities

99. Cooking

100. Traveling

 

Making this list was an excellent reminder for me to honor my happiness daily. I think when life gets busy or things aren’t going the way we planned this list can be a great reference of what can bring you back to your “happy place”.   Of course I can’t just go away to a beach destination whenever I feel a little down, but for me most of the things on my list are easily accessible without much means or time.  I keep telling you that being happy is not as hard as some people would have you believe.  Be awesome and as always, thank you for reading… Don’t’ forget to share your list below!

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