Work Life Balance (ish)

Balance?  What’s that?

We all know that the work life balance is the bane of an Enrepreneur’s existance.  It takes SO long to get into grove of our work and then, once we’re in the zone, BAM, your toddler barges in and asks for a drink of milk (from the pink cup).  Then in walks the 15 year old.  She wants to talk.  And you’ve been wanting to connect with her for ages and you know if you let this opportunity slip by it may never come again…  So you bite your tongue, say “come in” and grit your teeth through the next 15 minutes of rambling nothingness.  You think you’ve done the right thing, but you’re kid knows you weren’t fully present with her, so you watch her walk away with regret before you turn back to the work you really need to get done… because girl, Mama needs a paycheck!

Don’t worry.  I’m not going to tell you to “cherish every moment” because “tomorrow they’ll be grown”.  That’s bull.  As much as I would love to do nothing but shower my kids with affection and life lessons, I’m a single mom.  The comfortable roof over my children’s head, the food on their table, and the ability to have a mother without a chronic eye twitch means that I HAVE TO WORK.  I need to sit down and like, create stuff.

And no… much to my chagrin, eating ice cream while I talk about whatever I want isn’t actually creating anything… other than an increasing waistline.

BUT, after pounding my head up against the wall for a while, I finally figured something out!  I need a PLAN!  Well, there’s a lot more to it than that, but just flying by the seat of my pants doesn’t work for long term success (mind blown).

So I created something to help me!  And I’d love to share it with you ❤

Weekly Content Planner

This, my friends, is my weekly content calendar.  It’s simple, it’s pretty, and it’s exactly what I need to help me focus on what my heart wants to share with you.  Isn’t it pretty??? Just click the image below to download it :)  Have fun creating!

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Stupid Grief

I’m going to say something that most people won’t say out loud.  Grief is stupid.

There.  I said it.  Grief is stupid.

My ex and I have a great relationship.  We’re good friends.  I always enjoy hearing from him.  I enjoy my new life here in Utah (oh, did I forget to tell you?  I moved to Utah.  Love it!).  Sure, I’m stressed.  Of course I’m over worked.  I’m more physically and emotionally exhausted than ever have been.  I’m a single mom.  It comes with the territory.  But I’m still happy.  I still go to bed every night thinking “I’m so blessed.”

Except for last night.  Which brings me back to my original point.

Grief is stupid.

I’m not going to talk about the stages of grief, or how long it should take or whatever else you may find on some authoritative website about grief.  The only thing I’m an authority on is myself, and half the time my grasp on that is fairly tenuous.

Yesterday was a great day.  I was so productive.  I worked like gangbusters and had some awesome ideas.  I ate so well (and I feel far less bloated today because of it).  I spent time with my kiddos.  We had a good dinner.  I even had some time to relax and enjoy a *small* bit of ice cream after the kids went to bed.  I turned off the lights at a decent hour and settled into my very comfortable bed (I insisted on keeping my mattress in the divorce… it’s my favorite).

Then it happened.

I started to cry.  What??? It was a good day!  Why on earth should I be upset!  No discomfort, no catalyst, no noisy kids, no sense of overwhelm.  No trigger of any kind.  I just missed him.  I missed his smell.  And snuggling up to him after a long day.  In all of my reading about divorce, and single motherhood, and co-parenting, no one told me that I would miss him the most when things were going well.  Or that I would long for that daily companionship the most when I’m content.

So I’m going to say it again.  Grief is stupid.  It’s messy.  Depression and anger come on suddenly and without warning.  I can go months without feeling any sort of regret and then BAM, all of a sudden I wish I could go back in time and do whatever it takes to change the outcome of the last year of my life.  Grief interrupts my awesome vision and messes with me.

And you know what else?

Sometimes grief lies to me.

Now, that is going to tick a lot of people off, but I don’t really care.  This is my story and guess what, my grief lies to me.

My grief tells me I’ll never love again.  It tells me I screwed up the best thing in my life.  It tells me that if I just worked hard enough, or changed one more thing about myself, I would still be happily married.  My grief tells me I’m not good enough.  Not pretty enough.  Not thin enough.  My grief tells me my children will forever be scarred and will resent me for the rest of their life.  But that’s all a lie.  All of it.  Even the last one.

The cure for grief

The reason why I know this is because I know who I am.  Back in April, Brian K. Taylor said, “Coming to know our Father changes everything, especially our hearts, as His gentle Spirit confirms our true identity and great worth in His sight.” And if I know Him, then I know as long as I am following Him, then the grief can’t hold me captive for too long.

I FEEL things!

I am an Anne with an E.  I feel things.  And I feel them deeply.  I am not a woman who has ever been able to run away or hide from my emotions.  Nor do I think it is ever necessary to do so.  I believe my emotions are my spirit trying to tell me something.  So when I say “grief is stupid”, I’m not saying I need to “get over it”.  I’m saying I hate how it sneaks up on me.  And I hate how it lies to me.  And it’s stupid.

Emotional pain is just like physical pain.  In fact, the most poignant and intense pain that any of us feel in this life will be emotional.  Our friends won’t be able to see it, but the wound is there and it can be very deep.  And just like a physical wound, healing is a process and it takes time.

Healing the wound

The pain I feel is like unto that of a severed limb (as is likely the case with anyone who has lost someone through death or divorce).  And I still have phantom pain in my heart.  Even though enough I know I did everything in my power to make it work.  Even though I am confident my children and I are going to be fine.  Even though Matt and I are still friends and get along very well (not just as a divorced couple, but as people).

But the healing process is not the same as the lying, stupid grief that makes me cry when I should be sleeping.  So when I woke up this morning and (in spite of my dream about dating Steve Rogers/Captain America) I still felt sad, I had a choice.  I could either curl up and wallow about my sad lot in life, or I could try and use the sadness to help me heal.  Like a wound that itches when it starts to heal, I can either scratch it and open it up again, or I can apply healing ointment to protect it from the elements and kill the nasty germs that are festering inside.

The lies?  Yeah, those are the nasty germs.  The ointment?  That’s Christ.  He is the healing balm of Gilead.  And my Savior held my hand as I talked to Matt this morning and told him, among other things, that I missed him.  And He’s got his hand on my shoulder, drying my tears as I write this. Because this is how I heal.  This is how I keep from scratching the healing itch.

It’s for everyone

If you are dealing with grief in any form, please know there is a way to soothe the ache.  It’s not going to happen overnight and you will likely have to apply the ointment and change the dressings several times a day at first, or (as in the case of heart transplants) you may need to have a very strict daily routine to maintain the progress you make for the rest of your life.  It depends on the wound.  It depends on you.

And, as is the case of my abdomen after three c-sections, it may still hurt for the foreseeable future.  But it doesn’t have to stop you from creating and living a life you love!  I would gladly exchange my formerly flat and pain free stomach for those awesome kids of mine.  A little bit of scar tissue and aching in my belly is totally worth it.  And the occasional tear filled bedtime and sleepless night worth the growth and increased knowledge and love for my Savior that I’ve been able to experience in the last year.

I AM happy!  I cry all the time but I am so happy, hopeful, and excited for the future.

Provided I don’t believe the lies.

Beautiful Reality

A while ago on Facebook, I shared a talk by Dieter F Uchtdorf. He said, “”If you consider success to be only the most perfect rose or dazzling orchid, you may miss some of life’s sweetest experiences.” My favorite thing to photograph are spontaneous moments that reflect those sweetest of experiences. I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of people don’t “get” it. They don’t understand why I take pictures of crying babies, skinned knees, and toddlers throwing tantrums. I do it for the same reason I take pictures of giggles, laughs, beautiful sunrises, holding hands. Because those moments are real and remembering all of them (warts and all) gives me strength.

A few months ago I was in a bit of a depressive slump. I had just started studying videography and was experimenting with making my own family films.  The process really helped me enjoy those ordinary, every day, moments that I’m always talking about, but I felt the oppressive weight of inadequacy and shame for all of those years in which I didn’t.

One week when I didn’t take enough video for a new family film, but my children were clamoring for more, I collected some of our old home videos from my very first digital camera and put them together.  While I was watching I couldn’t help but notice evidence of my motherly efforts in the periphery.  There was a casserole dish left on the table with a couple half eaten plates; evidence of a homemade meal that we ate together as a family.  A laminated piece of paper with the letter “A” was taped on the wall; proof that even before I started homeschooling, I tried to teach my children the things they needed to know.  I saw books on the floor, babies running around in nothing but diapers, and a sink full of dishes.  All proof, not of my chronic laziness, but that motherhood is hard and I did the best I could then, just as I’m doing the best I can now.  Sometimes my best looks better than others.  And that’s ok.

All too often I forget to be patient with myself, and that’s why I take the kinds of pictures that I do.  Because when I look back and see pictures of Alice sitting on her brother’s head, I am flooded with memories of their friendship and playfulness.  I remember how patient he is with her and how she would invite him to play by patting the space next to her in on a chair and say, “sit”.

I don’t want a million pictures of my kids smiling beautifully at me.  I already know they are gorgeous.  I want pictures that show who they are, not just what they look like.  I want pictures of what life is really like, not dressed up versions of what I think it should be.

Not everyone gets it.  Not everyone appreciates pictures of their children showing obvious delight in their naughtiness.  But I adore them.  My life isn’t always pretty, but it’s a beautiful reality.

A Letter to my Daughter – 5 Ways to Heal a Broken Heart

My darling baby girl,

Except you aren’t quite a baby anymore.  You’re a beautiful young woman who is just beginning to feel the excitement that life, and love, have to offer you.  It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?  You know that feeling you get when he walks into a room or you see his name pop up in a text message.  Your heart speeds up just a little bit and your stomach might do a backflip or two.  It’s wonderful!  And because of the divorce between your father and myself, you already know what it feels like to have a broken heart.  The confusion, frustration, the pain behind the eyes when you try to hold back the tears… that’s not so wonderful.  Quite tragic, actually.

I get it.  You may not be ready to admit it right now, but your mama knows a thing or two about love.  And I’d love to impart some wisdom that, while it won’t protect your heart forever, it might just help you avoid the unnecessary heartbreak a lot of us feel these days.

And I want you to trust me.  I’m not just your mother.  I am a righteous and passionate woman who has loved more fiercely than I ever could have imagined, had my heart broken in more pieces than I can count, and has managed to come out on the other side more confident, have a stronger relationship with my Father in Heaven, and am stronger than ever before.  Instead of being afraid to love again, I am eager for this second chance, determined to set a good example for you.

So here is some advice that I wish I had known the first time around, and that I am determined to practice from now on.

Remember who you are

Let’s get one thing straight: you are a a force to be reckoned with!  Your value and worth depends on nothing more than the reality that you are a beloved daughter of God.  Every day, I look in your face and think “how did I get so lucky?  I can’t believe I get to be your mom!”  You are talented, smart, hard working, funny, compassionate, and SO STINKIN’ CUTE!

But you are so much more than that laundry list of characteristics and talents!  You are Divine in nature.  You are utterly unique and no where on earth will you ever find your equal.  You are meant for greatness and no one can take that from you.  No one.

Look, sweetie, life is hard.  You’re going to fall, you’re going to have your heart broken.  You’re going to cry so hard that you don’t think you’ll ever be happy again.  And when that happens, I want you to remember who you are!

I don’t just want you to take that idea and tuck it into the recesses of your mind.  This isn’t just something I say just out of habit or to make you feel better when you’re feeling down.  This is true.  And I want you to do whatever it takes for that knowledge to settle into your heart and take root.  Let that confidence and knowledge lift you into the air!  Fly as high as you can, and then let it dust you off when you stumble and fall.  It’s impossible to stay down for long when the certainty of your Divine Nature reaches your whole soul.

Let it color everything in your life, including how you treat other people.  Remember they are meant for greatness, too.  And interactions with you should always bring other people closer to knowing who they are and just how much they are worth.

If he ever makes you feel like you can’t be happy without him, he’s not your guy.

Move on.

Remember your beauty is the least important thing about you

I’m not gonna lie, being told you are beautiful feels wonderful.  But, I’m going to tell you a secret: It gets old.  I will be forever grateful for your dad for helping me realize that I am more than just a pretty face.  He helped me realize how smart, strong, compassionate, forgiving, and excited I am for life.

As a beautiful, articulate, funny, single woman, I do attract a fare amount of attention.  As will you, so listen well, my love.  Do not commit yourself to anyone who makes you feel like your beauty is the most important thing to him.  Ever.  Because it is, in reality, the least important thing about you.

When a boy is getting to know you, he should be asking you questions about yourself.  What books do you read, what movies do you like, where do you see yourself doing in five years, what is your favorite flavor of ice cream?  You should be able to talk about ideas, shared interests, and have fun.

You should never feel like you need to look perfect in order to keep his attentions.  Being attracted to the way someone looks is easy.  And you, my darling girl, are NOT easy.  You are complex, you have dreams, you have imperfections… and if he doesn’t want to know or hear about any of those parts of you, he’s not your guy.  And if his looks are the most important thing to you, you’re not his girl.

Move on.

Know your own mind

There is an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where we meet a woman whose race is one in which the female can “imprint” on her partner, thus becoming the perfect spouse for that person.  She takes upon herself his hopes, dreams, desires, and tastes.  In every way she morphs into what he could possibly want in a woman.  If the man she was with wanted someone loud and energetic, she became loud and energetic.  If he wanted elegance and thoughtfulness, she became elegant and thoughtful.

Do not be that woman.  

You are your own person.  Don’t be afraid to speak your mind.  Don’t conform to some else’s interests.  Don’t pretend to like football just because he does.  Don’t stop listening to your favorite country songs because he doesn’t like country.

By all means, be open to new things!  Allowing yourself to experience things that he enjoys together is totally cool!  Go to that basketball game with him.  If he loves tennis, go ahead and give it a shot!  But if you try it, and hate it… don’t be afraid to allow him to play tennis without you.  Don’t for a second thing that you can “become” his dream woman by changing who you are.

You are uniquely you!  Embrace and love who you are and what you dream!  Sing along to soundtracks as loud as you want, get lost in your art, continue to fall in love with the characters in books and cry when the story ends.  Keep loving God keep striving for excellence.  Keep dying your hair whatever color your want and dress in a way that makes YOU feel awesome.

Don’t let him change you and don’t you try to change him.  He’s not your guy.

Move on.

Go ahead, be boy crazy!

Here is the advice no other mom would ever give, but I’m going to give it.  Be boy crazy!

As a single girl/woman, I’ve always had crushes on a lot of different guys.  I used to be ashamed of that.  People told me I was boy crazy and needed to get a life.  And they were right on both counts, but I’ve come to learn that being boy crazy is not a bad thing.  It’s nothing more than a reflection of the passion I have for life in general.

I see that same passion in you.  You’re right there with me, singing at the top of your lungs to the latest hit musical.  You cry during the same episodes of Doctor Who.  You squeal and jump when the characters in your books make poor choices, and you completely lose yourself in whatever art or educational project catches your attention for the week.

Whatever anyone else tells you, I am your mother and I am telling you NEVER LOSE THAT PASSION!  Don’t tone it down, don’t hide it, and whatever you do, don’t you EVER be afraid to fail, to cry, and to get back up again.

I know what a lot of people are going to say.  A lot of people will say that giving attention to more than one boy at a a time is akin to taking on the identity of Violet from It’s a Wonderful Life.  They couldn’t be more wrong!  Remember, we already established the fact that you are not easy.  You know your worth.  You know you’re amazing!  Allowing several boys to catch your eye does nothing more than dilute the individual draw that each of them have on you.

In other words, the more guys you like, the less you will like a single one.  And at this stage of the game, Sweetie, you do NOT need to be focusing all of your romantic attention on one dude.  When you are 16 and your crush doesn’t like you, you’re world comes to an end!  When you’re 16 and one of your 10 crushes doesn’t like you – Meh, no big deal.

Let me tell you a story.  When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a crush on a guy my age who I will call “John”.  Massive crush.  We were at a school dance and I followed him around, eventually working up the courage to ask him to dance.  He looked at me with disgust and said no.

I was devastated.  Being the passionate woman that I am, I started to cry and think of nothing more than my breaking heart.  As I started to flee the gym, another one of my crushes caught my eye.  His name was Tim.  He was beautiful.  And two years older than me.  I’d adored this guy for years.  He was was the older brother of a classmate, knew I was head over heels for him, and was always so nice to smile at me when I blushed as I passed him in the hall.  He saw the tears streaming down my face, ran over to me and asked me to save the next dance for him.

Absolutely stunned, I nodded my agreement and at the next slow dance, he carefully and gentlemanly took my 15 year old self into his 17 year old arms and gave me the most wonderful memory that I could ask for, and that I am still grateful for, over 20 years later.  If I could track Tim down and thank him for healing my tender broken heart, I would.  My devastation was immediately replaced with excitement.  The pain of John’s rejection lasted for no more than five minutes.

That is why I don’t want you focusing all of your romantic affection on one dude. When you are 16 years old, or recovering from a break up no matter your age, the last thing you need is for you to allow one person to have that much power over you.

BE BOY CRAZY!  Be art crazy!  Be subject crazy!  Be life crazy!  This is the time to figure out what you want in life, in friends, and in a partner.  When one of those dudes doesn’t live up to your standards, say goodbye and replace his name and face with another.  There are so many wonderful young men out there!  Please don’t saddle yourself down before you are ready.

And trust me, you’re not ready (and at the time of this writing, neither am I).

Meet, become friends with, and get to know as many eligible young men as possible, stay chaste and virtuous, live your awesome life, and let the cream rise to the top.  And let him do the same.  Eventually, after you have left home, discovered who you are and are rock solid in your goals and in your happiness, you’ll eventually find each other (whether you’ve known each other since you were kids or not).  Only then should you start investing more of your heart in him.  Then slowly, cautiously give him all of it.

And if he’s not investing in you or giving you his heart because you aren’t what he is looking for, he’s not your guy.

Move on.

Create a life you love for YOU!

Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, someone will break your heart.  Sometimes the life you planned doesn’t work out and you wonder if you will ever be able to move on.  It sucks.  Let it suck.  Cry.  Scream!  Wet your pillow with your tears and let the snotty tissues pile up in your trash can.  Call me and rage about the injustice of life.  Pray like your life depends on it.

Then pick yourself up and live again.  Remember the things that you used to love!  Remember your passion for musicals, art, and Doctor Who.  Remember your talents and the hope that the future holds.  Start to daydream about the life you always wanted.  Travel, meet new people, do one thing every day that gets you closer to that fabulous life that relies only on the vision you create with God.

Happiness and joy is like an ice cream sundae.  A man in your life is like the cherry on top… but the ice cream (you know, the most important ingredient)?  That’s ALL you, hon!

Create the life that YOU want, and if that one special man wants to be a part of it, cool!  If not…

Move on.

Love, Mom

Confessions of a Divorced Mormon

So… I’m divorced.  A divorced Mormon.  Whoa.

How’s that for a phrase I’d never thought I’d say.  But you know what, I never thought I’d say I lived in New Jersey, I never thought I’d prefer reading non-fiction to fiction, and I never thought I’d fall in love with MMA.  Life is full of so many twists and turns, and an infinite number of new experiences that can enrich our lives if we only let it.

And I’m choosing to allow this experience to enrich my life.

This is coming as a massive shock to, pretty much everyone who knows us.  The overwhelming consensus is “Um, WHAT??  You’re joking right?  Not you guys!  I never saw that coming.”

Neither did I.  Until I did.

When I was a young mother, I couldn’t understand women who didn’t like being a stay at home mom.  Until I did.

I couldn’t relate to women who struggled with chronic depression.  Until I did.

I couldn’t understand women who looked forward to the of the start school year so they could get some peace and quiet.  Until I did.

I couldn’t relate to women who felt the need to generate an income by working outside of the home.  Until I did.

I couldn’t relate to people who would feel so much emotional anguish that they would escape into activities that created physical pain, just to feel some semblance of peace.  Until I did.

I couldn’t relate to people who were “triggered” by something as simple as a song on the radio or a talk in Sacrament meeting and had to choose between leaving the room or allowing the world to see the tears streaming down her face.  Until I did.

I couldn’t understand people who could ever think that, outside of abuse, ending a marriage would be a better option than preserving it.  Until I did.

And I didn’t comprehend the complete peace and healing that my Savior offers me on a moment by moment basis.  Until I did.

I didn’t understand my worth as a woman and daughter of a great and powerful God.  Until I did.

I didn’t understand the the power and peace of forgiveness.  Until I did.

I didn’t understand how vulnerability can be a source of strength.  Until I did.

I didn’t think I would ever feel happier and more whole as a divorced, single mother of six children than I did as part of a traditional marriage and family.  Until I did.

So, What Happened?

That seems to be the question on everyone’s minds.  The details of what broke down between Matt and myself aren’t important, and it all boiled down to one thing: regardless of who we each were when we met and got married, over the last 17 years together, the woman I had become and the man he had become, were no longer compatible.  We have different goals.  And those differences cannot be reconciled.

Staying together was causing far more problems and heartache for the two of us and our children, than getting divorced would.

Yes, this was very fast.  Between the first time divorce entered my thought process and when the judge dissolved the marriage was nine months.  But I can assure you the process wasn’t rushed, nor was it a knee jerk reaction, nor was it pursued without extensive counsel (first from the Lord, then from both professionals and ecclesiastical leaders).  Whenever someone looking from the outside would suggest something, our response was always the same: Yeah, we did that already.

The speed of the divorce can be attributed to one thing: We’re still friends.  We’re both super nice people.  We still have each other’s back.  Breaking up is hard, but it needn’t be hostile.

We aren’t playing the part of getting along “for the sake of the kids”.  We ACTUALLY get along.  We still text each other funny things, give a quick hug when we see each other, and defend each other when the people in our lives start to badmouth the Ex.

Everything happened so quickly because we didn’t fight about division of assets, custody with the children or finances.  Neither of us feel the need to punish the other person and disagreements were quickly diffused when they sprang up.

I have completely forgiven him for anything he may or may not have done, and I would hope he’s forgiven me for any of my trespasses against him.  And while I would never wish divorce on any one, if it needs to happen, I pray everyone else’s can be as quick and as comparatively painless as mine has been.

What’s the hardest part?

I can’t speak for what has been difficult for Matt during this whole process, but the hardest thing for me has been the changing dynamic of our relationship.  Yes, we are still friends.  Good friends.  But that’s all.  Things like keeping the bathroom door open or laying down on the bed to watch a movie together are no longer appropriate.  Flirty texts and stealing kisses when the kids aren’t watching also have had to stop.  As has laying my head on his shoulder or smacking him on the backside when he walks by.  All of these are “husband” things.  Not “friend” things.  And they’re hard habits to break, especially when we still get along so well.

I don’t love him romantically anymore, but sometimes my heart likes to remember what we used to have. And when that happens, it’s usually best for me to take some space and reconnect with the plan God has for me.  And now that I’m legally and lawfully single, it’s going to be a lot easier to remind my heart that there are millions of wonderful guys out there, and one of them is my guy.  I just don’t know what he looks like yet.

The truth is, Matt’s still there for me when I need a shoulder to cry on and I’m still there for him.

I also miss having “a person”.  He’s just a friend now.  He’s not the person I automatically reach to call when anything exciting, sad, boring, or otherwise noteworthy happens in my life.  Or when I just want to connect with someone during the day.  Not having a replacement yet can often leave me feeling very lonely.

And, let’s get real for a sec… I miss the physical intimacy, not as much as some of the other things, but I do still miss it.

Now what?

Now we move on!  We each create the best life we can for ourselves and our children within the circumstances we are in, which is all anyone can do.  And, I have to be honest, I’m kind of excited to re-enter the dating scene.  Last time I went on a first date, I was insecure, hated myself, and didn’t think I would ever find love.  In the last 17 years, Matt played no small part in helping me realize how beautiful, talented, smart, and all together awesome I am.  And in the last two years, my dear Father in Heaven has helped me allow that knowledge penetrate my heart.  Dating is going to be very different this time around.

Contrary to popular belief about what it means to be divorced, we are STILL a family!  My children still have a loving and devoted mother and father.  He sees them as much as possible given his schedule and we don’t use the children to manipulate each other.  He is no more absent from their lives than he was when he lived with us (given his crazy schedule).  And when we are no longer living in the same area, he will be no more absent than he would be if he were deployed.  Modern technology ensures that he can still read them bedtime stories and help with homework.

We will always be in each other’s lives.  For eternity.  We have six little people that guarantee that.  Our family will grow as we each meet, fall in love with, and marry other people, but we are always going to be a family.  Traditional or not.

Matt and I refuse to be the quintessential divorced couple.  That kind of animosity and bitterness is just not in us.

Regrets?

Just one.  I don’t think my next husband will be nearly as good as making apple pies as the first.

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8 Weeks to Awesome Week 1 Meal Plan

10 weeks ago I started an 8 Weeks to Awesome Facebook group and, with the support of the lovely ladies there, I tried to lose 20 pounds in 8 weeks.

I didn’t.

I lost 8.  Mostly because of my tonsillectomy.

But I’m actually totally cool with it and loved the group so much that I’m starting another round today!  Want in?  Click the image below for exclusive recipes, exercise tips, motivation, and access to our private Facebook Group.

Cool.

My goals are pretty simple, portion control and daily movement (MMA as much as possible because it makes me happy).

So here’s my meal plan for the week.  I’m not fussed about which day gets what, and I may end up repeating stuff, but I do like to have options.

Breakfast

Snack – I’m going to stick with fruit, vegetables, sugar free Jello, and the occasional string cheese or caffeinated soda (Mama needs to stay awake!)  Regardless, I’m going to try to keep it under 100-200 calories.

Lunch – I really can’t do the 3 gourmet meals a day thing.  Mama ain’t got time for that!  I’m going to try to keep lunches to leftovers, salads, or crusts from my children’s sandwiches.

Dinner

My workouts for the week

  • Monday – Muay Thai and BJJ
  • Tuesday – Heavy Bag Workout or running (5-6 miles)
  • Wednesday – Running or BJJ (4-6 miles)
  • Thursday – Muay Thai and BJJ
  • Friday – Muay Thai or BJJ
  • Saturday – Running (3-5 miles)
  • Sunday – Off/walking/yoga (ok, not yoga… I hate yoga).

No. A Bubble Bath is Not a Way to Reward Yourself.

This morning I kicked off my 8 Weeks to Awesome weight loss challenge.  As I was creating the meal plan printable for the week, I did a quick google search to find common ways my participants could reward themselves for meeting their goals.

And the more I read, the more annoyed I got.  At the top of the list were things like bubble bath, enjoy your lunch outdoors, call a friend, go to bed early, read a book, and shave your legs and put on clean sheets.

That last one may have made me throw up a little.

Really?  Is this what the world has come to?  Are our priorities so out of balance that we use shaving our legs as a dangling carrot?  No wonder I can’t lose weight!  How is the promise of shaved legs going to get me through an ice cream craving or nudge me out the door when I don’t really want to go on my run?

I’m the mother to six children.  Sometimes I go days without exercising, eating a meal while sitting down, or even taking a shower.  Bubble baths and cleans sheets are not rewards for doing something hard.  Bubble baths and clean sheets are things I deserve to have in my life because I’m a human being and have every right to feel fresh.

Do you know what else isn’t a reward?  Clothing that fits.  My closet is full of clothing that I hate.  I don’t wear them but I won’t get rid of them.  And I can’t replace them because I have them and that would be a waste of money.  I keep my crappy, frumpy clothes “just in case”.  Just in case what?? Just in case my feeling fat and ugly is going to serve me well one day? Just in case the world would be a better place by my feeling like a whale in dirty workout clothes?

Exercise?  Also, not a reward.  I love to run, but it’s hard.  It’s work.

Grocery shopping without the kids?  Hell, no!  NOT a freaking reward!  In fact, there is no context in which a mother of six should say “kid free time” is a “reward”.  Kid free time is something I need to be able to put together a coherent thought, not a way to treat myself when I’ve hit my exercise goal for the week.

I’m sorry.  No.  This has to stop.

I am a beautiful, creative, powerful, and dynamic being.  These so-called “rewards” are not things that I use to treat myself when earn it.  These are things I need to be incorporating into my daily life because I deserve to feel beautiful, confident, creative, and powerful!  Sure, it would be nice if I could feel that way on a regular basis without any prompting, but life is hard and sometimes I need a little external stimuli to remind me of how awesome I am.

No one should have to “earn” the right to feel good about themselves.  I have battled depression, anxiety, and self-loathing for much of my adult life.  There are times when it’s easy to chase those negative thoughts away and there are times when it’s almost impossible.  I’m not going to pretend that I have a magic formula for mental health, but I do know it’s a lot easier to confront and defeat the downward spiral when I’ve done my hair and put on my favorite lipstick.

Every day I see women who ignore their own needs for months and years on end, then wonder why they feel worn out and ready to give up on life.  And I’m no different!  We all carry the weight of the world on our shoulders then wonder why we can’t sleep or why we find comfort in a pint of ice cream.  We continually put ourselves last, and then wonder why everyone else in our lives ignores us.  We dangle the promise of buying ourselves a bouquet of flowers if we reach our weight loss goals, and then wonder why we can’t seem to keep our heads out of the trough.

Stop it.

We are not doing anyone any favors by playing small, especially not ourselves.  And I am never going to be the woman I really want to be if I don’t treat myself as if I’m already her.  A small bowl of my favorite ice cream, or pretty flowers, or an inexpensive outfit that makes me feel pretty aren’t the carrots I need to dangle in front of me to reach my goals.  Those are the things I need to give me strength to keep chasing that carrot, even when I’m tired and the journey seems too hard.

Self-care isn’t selfish.  It’s not something you only get when you’ve crossed everything off your to-do list or have been “good” all day long.

Women need to stop prioritizing everything else above our own health and emotional well-being.  This life isn’t a game of “last martyr standing”.  We don’t win a price for neglecting ourselves.  We can take care of ourselves without neglecting the important things and people in our life.  We can surround ourselves with beauty and people that uplift us without “earning” it.

The Best Diet and Exercise for Your Personality Type

I’ve been a runner for more than 20 years.  I love running.  I’m not even very good, but I still love going out for a nice, hard run in the morning.

But, after 20+ years, all the articles I read about the dangers of running and the importance of cross training got to me.  Eventually I got to the point where I would mix weight lifting, spinning, and other activities in with the running.  I was religious about my workouts.

Just kidding.

I would put together an awesome, 6-day plan for a “well balanced” workout, tape it to my wall, do one or two days, skip a week, binge eat, and “start again on Monday”.

I have heard all sorts of wonderful things about HIIT, Cross-fit, P90X, Insanity, walking, weight training, Zumba, and every other workout regime out there.  And since other people clearly know what’s better for me than I do, I stopped running and tried them all.

Then I cried and went on a run.

The same is true for dieting.  Whole 30, Real Food Revolution, Keto, Weight Watchers, blah, blah, blah.

I’ve heard it all.  I’ve tried it all.  Cried all the cries.

I remember when I did Whole 30 a few years ago.  Actually, it was more like “Whole 8” because that’s as long as I lasted.  I was in one of the many Facebook groups and forums dedicated to the cause, when an argument broke out about whether buying non-organic or grass-fed beef was equivalent to injecting high fructose corn syrup straight into you veins.

I hightailed it out of there (since the pizza was ready), and started counting calories again.  I’m not always consistent, but it works when I do it and it doesn’t make me cry.

It was about that time when I realized at everyone was full of it.  And I discovered the very best diet and exercise plan ever invented.

Ready?

The one I will do.

Yup.  It’s that simple.

The most effective, nutritious, and earth friendly plan out there won’t do me a lick of good if I don’t do it.  So, I don’t care if Jillian Michaels scoffs when I put my favorite ice cream in my grocery cart.  As long as I have the calories in my bank, and only have one serving, I’ll still lose weight.  And also I’ll be happy because of the magical ingredients in that ice cream.

The variety of diet and exercise plans available doesn’t need to confuse or discourage us.  This isn’t a tug of war for our eternal souls.  It’s a potluck of ideas.  Just take the ones that work for you, and leave the rest.

There is no “right” way.  Just the most effective way for YOU!

The best diet for me is calorie counting (I try to keep it around 1200-1500 a day) because if Mama doesn’t get her ice cream and pizza, Mama gets cranky.  So I eat whatever I want!  I just eat less of it.  I’m a grown woman.  I CAN stop.

The best type of exercise for me is running, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Muay Thai (don’t you dare ask me to lift weights or do lunges).

What kind of exercise do you like?

  • running
  • BJJ
  • Muay Thai
  • videos
  • yoga
  • walking
  • swimming
  • weight lifting
  • mountain biking
  • road biking
  • spinning
  • dancing
  • aerobics
  • HIIT
  • Crossfit
  • hula hoop
  • calisthenics
  • P90X
  • Insanity
  • Tabata
  • kettle bell
  • strap a donut to your kid’s back and chase after them!

And way more!  Surely you can find ONE kind of exercise that you enjoy!  If you haven’t found one yet, keep looking.  Keep trying new things.  Keep finding new ways to do it.

I love BJJ.  It looked fun and after trying it for a few weeks I realized I liked it as much as (if not more) than running.  Same with Muay Thai.  Not only are they a KILLER workout, but they reduce and anxiety stress like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.  It’s good for me and makes me feel strong.  So I found the time and money to do it.  I never would have realized I had this passion in me if I hadn’t tried it.

So, keep trying new things.  You may hate it, but you may LOVE it!  And it may change your life.

But Courtney, I don’t have time!  I have little kids at home and I just don’t have time/money/energy.

Sorry, Honey.  I’m going to call you out on this one.  I know what it’s like to have a ton of kids home with you all the time, but I promise you still have options.  You don’t do it because it’s not a priority.

And there is NOTHING wrong with that!  It’s totally ok to say, “you know what, this is not the time nor the season to worry about losing weight”.  I’ve done it myself on occasion.  But intentionally choosing to prioritize other things is not the same as not having the resources to do something.

If you are in a time in your life where you have more important things to worry about, then that is totally cool!  But if you dread exercising or “clean” eating, it’s not because of your situation.  It’s because you haven’t found something you love to do yet.  So that is your challenge.  Find something you love that IS within your means and I promise you will MAKE the time to do it!  BTW, I totally dread clean eating.

Monday morning I am starting an 8 Weeks to Awesome Challenge and I’d LOVE for you to join me.  It’s just a bunch of cool people, doing their own thing, trying to lose weight and be healthier and cheer each other along during the process.  Click below to sign up and you’ll get a free diet/exercise plan (one that I made up), and be part of this amazing community of ladies (plus one dude so far).

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Screw Fear – Screw Procrastination

Yesterday, I was listening to Think and Grow Rich for Women And heard something that really resonated with me.

The author was was talking about procrastination. Something I struggle with. She said procrastination is the opposite of decision and rather than avoiding the negative feelings associate with a particular action, procrastination actually CREATES those negative feelings. Instead of looking forward to a feeling of accomplishment, you dread the action itself, then dread it because you dread it.

I need to stop it.

I put off things all the time.  Lately I’ve been dreading sharing all of my plans and ideas with you.  Because even though I’m confident in the things I am creating, and even though I have the skills and knowledge necessary to help people…I dread it because I keep thinking one of my friends or family members will see all of my programs and challenges and think “there she goes again, trying some new thing. She needs to just keep her head down and be normal. Besides, her life is a mess, what makes her think she can help other people in their lives?”

Yup. I said it. My life is a mess. But you know what, I don’t care that my life is a mess. I’m very happy, secure in my self-worth, and I have focus and a clear direction.

And that happiness isn’t dependent on other people’s actions. Even the people in my own home. Sure, I get pissed off, and lose my temper. My feelings are hurt and I cry. But if someone asks, “are you happy?” I can honestly, without reservation, say YES!

That can’t be said for most people. So yes. I AM equipped to help other people through their messy lives! Life IS MESSY! And the more we pretend it’s supposed to be pretty the messier it gets.

So, no. I won’t keep my head down. Running this coaching/mentoring biz is HOW I clean up my messy, beautiful, exciting, and turbulent life.

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