Happy Holidays!

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This won’t publish until tomorrow morning, but as I write this it is many things for many people today: it’s the day after Christmas, which makes it the First Day of Christmas. It is also the fifth night of Chanukah. It is Boxing Day. It is the first day of Kwanzaa. Please add your holidays in the comments, and I can add them to my yearly calendar for next year.

I had so many intentions for writing and publishing last week, and part of the week before, including a a reflection on gratitude, a short commentary on something my priest said during a homily about everyday is Thanksgiving or at least the opportunity for thanksgiving, the emotional legacy I feel for the new Star Wars movie as well as something Supernatural finale related, holiday photos of our family’s menorah and Christmas tree as well as other shared instagram-type posts. The one thing I really tried to get done was a special Mental Health Monday before Christmas with ways to avoid holiday stress.

Instead of writing about it, and offering some advice I decided to take my unwritten as of yet advice, and not worry about writing and posting (among a few household things). For one thing, every time I looked at my ever increasing list of writing projects, I blanked. I closed the computer or the Kindle, and I walked away. There were presents to be wrapped, cards to be mailed (which had its own special stress for the lateness that they were received by me and losing my address book), our tree wasn’t up yet, our stove wasn’t working and I wasn’t sure how we were going to prepare Christmas dinner*. I tried to write to avoid the stress of the holidays that were on a timeline, and in making an editorial timeline at this time was really stressing me out. Each time I postponed a day’s planned posting, it increased my stress. And this isn’t why I write. While there is good and valuable stress that comes with my writing choices, this last week and some days was truly giving me bad, debilitating stress.

Once I made the decision to not write until after Christmas Day I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

There are six days left to this year, and it’s been quite a year. It is not only a year ending, but an entire decade. It’s kind of a big deal. I will write again before the New Year and then after as I discover which direction I want to travel in with my writing.

My advice for the rest of this week is:

SLOW DOWN.
BREATHE.
TAKE TIME FOR YOU. If you’re working, spend your break times eating, hydrating, meditating, reading or whatever it is that you do for you. At home, take time for you. You’ve worked hard all year; take a little time for yourself.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and have a Blessed and Peaceful upcoming New Year.

*A quick note on these things:

The presents got wrapped.

The cards we ordered from an online photo card store didn’t come, but we did receive another family’s cards. It took a little longer to get our own cards, but we did. No big deal, and an unavoidable delay. I sent the cards out in waves, and it turned out all good.

I found my address book that has ALL of my addresses.

We got our tree and lights up. My son put his Santa hat on the top, and it looks very cute.

Our oven hasn’t worked for months and we are buying a new stove. Unfortunately, it won’t be delivered until the weekend. (My son is already planning on baking a pizza the first night!) Fortunately, a generous friend offered us her countertop convection oven, and Christmas dinner was saved!

It all works out in the end, doesn’t it.

NEW SERIES ALERT! Rekindle, Renew, Inspire

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​Every fall, I spend some time on self-reflection. Part of that is my annual fall religious observances, part of that is the back to school mindset that I still have with kids in school, but also probably my slight obsession (I don’t have a problem, I can quit anytime) with school and office supplies. And in that self-reflection comes changes to my website. I let things go for months to see what works, what doesn’t, what I personally like regardless of response, and what evinces reader response.

Beginning later today, and running every month during the first full week will be two (so far) new posts as part of this year long series. One (probably posting on Mondays) will include a photograph that speaks to me, a quotation, and perhaps a personal goal. The personal goal is not necessarily to end at the conclusion of the month, and it’s not particularly a mantra, but it is something to think about in a meditative way, and I hope that others will join in and reflect on their own in relation to these personal prompts. The second post (on Fridays) will be about food. We all love food, and many of us have complicated relationships with several aspects of food. It may be a recipe, a memory, a recommendation. We’ll see how it evolves.

Join me on this new adventure, and please let me know what you think about the idea of this type of post as well as any of your own adventurous reflections.

Mental Health Monday – Having a RUFF Day?

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Simple Self-Care Mental Health from The Mighty.

As described on their website, The Mighty is “a safe, supportive community for people facing health challenges and the people who care for them.”

Acronyms are a simple way to check in with ourselves. RUFF is one of those. Click the link and read the article’s thoughts and suggestions.

Mental Health Monday – May 6th

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we’re kicking off Mental Health Monday with a few reminders and links:

Mental health affects EVERYONE. Mental Health is often confused with Mental Illness, and both are afflicted with social stigmas where we don’t acknowledge our issues, we don’t speak about them, and we ignore our friends and family who have them, regardless of the degree.

As a whole, we need to be more open and in that way, we encourage others around us that they can come to us, and they will receive support.
To start out this awareness month, check out my Mental Health Monday tag, an ongoing series of mental health stories and resources. I also have a Crisis Intervention Resource page that offers hotlines and some websites. I have already added the new Trans LifeLine to it.

Other resources to check out include:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
BetteruBetterUs on Instagram (helping people of color connect with therapists)
Project Ur Ok, on Instagram
The Carter Center: Mental Health
The Trevor Project
School of Awake (for young girls)

Five of My Personal Self-Care Practices

1. Take a Mental Health Day. This is especially helpful when you work full-time. Sometimes with all of the obligations and expectations, a day off is needed. I also allow my kids to do this if needed.

2. Tea. It is no lie that tea cures everything. And if it doesn’t cure it, it certainly helps put things in perspective. The time it takes to brew a cup of tea and drink it is often enough time to allow yourself to take a breathe, and it can be done anywhere – home, work, coffee shop on the corner.

3. Do something mundane. There are times when I get low and can’t focus even on relaxing, so I will put on a rerun of Supernatural and let that be my white noise. I’ve seen all of the episodes so I don’t need to pay strict attention to the plot, and I find comfort in the familiar voices.

4. Music. My go-to’s are the Hamilton soundtrack, Sign No More from Mumford & Sons, England Take My Bones from Frank Turner, and Adele plus the Supernatural soundtrack that I’ve put together.

5. Prayer. I know this isn’t for everyone, but if I can sit down and pray or read a spiritual book it does tend to re-center me so I can continue with my day.

Share 1 or 2 of yours in the comments!

March: Blustery, Green, Wet: Reflection

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A Self-Retreat

​Right about now, the middle to end of March, I begin to feel the heaviness. The clouds are fat with moisture, lumbering across a grey sky. When the sky is blue, the air is wintry cold. yesterday was grey, but I didn’t wear a jacket. I did, however have on my snood and gloves. That was enough to trick my body into thinking it was warmer than it was.

It’s not just the weather that’s heavy. Things are picking up for school assignments. Drama club has finally ended, but it’s been replaced by notes to parents for help on those end of year assignments, and how can it be the end of the year already? There’s Easter upcoming, full weekends, bills to pay, taxes to do, and nowhere to escape.

I’ve kept busy with my kids, our weekly television viewing, a church breakfast, reading Chernow’s Grant, tagging along to find The Lost Book of Moses, two days of reflection that were everything I’d hoped they would be, and more, and still not enough.

One or two times a year I try to give myself a retreat. A self-guided retreat, some planned out and some spontaneous, encompassing both spiritual and writerly things and if I’m lucky a tiny bit of travel, too.

I am lucky this weekend to be heading out on a spiritual-slash-writing retreat and I hope to bookend the weekend with two days of my own guidance.

If you don’t have a retreat center nearby, I would highly recommend giving yourself a self-retreat.

Begin by blocking out a few days in a row. I would suggest a minimum of three days. If that’s not possible, try and arrange your regular work days off to be two consecutive days.

Choose a theme. What are you trying to get out of this time “away”? Are you looking to get something done? Are you looking to get nothing done? Quiet time? Or contemplation? Meditation and prayer? Silence and solitude?

Will you bring music along?

Will you bring food or eat out?

Will you return home at times or is one of the objects to get away from home except for sleeping?

Be flexible, but plan your itinerary. You don’t want to spend most of your limited time trying to figure out what to do.

Have a map and/or a GPS.

Have a fully charged cell phone and keep the charger in your car in case you run out of battery power.

Even if you don’t normally use one, bring a journal. You can record where you went, the weather, what you saw, what you ate, what stood out to you, what you were thinking.

If you draw, bring a sketchbook and a pencil.

Dress in layers and bring a sweater or shawl. Wherever you are, you will either be too hot or too cold, I guarantee it.

Unless your phone functions as one, bring a camera. Looking at pictures later can highlight a memory.

Most importantly, know what you hope to get out of it before you go.

For awhile last year, I would take myself out to lunch once a month to “write”, and after awhile, it was rote, and I was getting nothing new out of it; nothing helpful. This kind of self-retreat is a good way to jump-start your creativity, your motivation, but also to jump-start your SELF.

[The above photo is from my first self-retreat. On that one, I had a little guidance from Father Jim Martin’s enhanced ebook, Together on Retreat, which can be found on Amazon.]