Super Power Training

Late one night not long ago, my son was engaged with me in an epic battle to avoid going to bed. Every excuse and delay tactic he could throw my way got tossed. Eventually, he settled hard on the old “monsters” routine and we were at a stand off. I was tired and depleted from trying to talk some reason in to a five-year-old. Then, I blurted out an unusual solution. “I have super powers, and I put up a forcefield around our house. No monsters can get in. They can’t even see us.” After a few follow up questions regarding the strength and coverage of this forcefield, my son smiled and finally laid down to go sleep.

Success!

My son felt safe thanks to my “super powers,” and I got to go to bed. The following weeks, however, my son started asking more questions about my powers and what I could and could not do with them. I started to feel guilty about lying to him…

Enter my completely unintentional start to walking the path of mindfulness.

Yes I know, it’s another freaking article about mindfulness! Don’t run away just yet, and yes I will probably bust out the other M-word before this blog is over. I have never been “good” with or consistent at meditating, and the word mindfulness was an interchangeable synonym in my brain’s thesaurus. I was surprised to find out that they are not.

I started my mindfulness journey sitting at my temp-job desk, a cubicle no bigger than an elementary school desk, listening to Audible. I’m late to the audiobook scene. As an English major in undergrad, I maintained my love of good old-fashioned paper and ink books with entitlement. But, when faced with 40 hours a week of mind numbing drudgery to pay the bills, I finally caved and signed up. I had no idea what I was missing.

I have been absorbing so much from self-development books such as Happy is the New Health by David Romanelli, The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner, The Craving Mind by Judson Brewer, Healthy as F*ck by Oonagh Duncan, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, The Five Keys to Mindful Communication by Susan Gills Chapman, The Mindful Day by Laurie J. Cameron, and Peace in Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh among others. Mindfulness is a topic touched on in all these wonderful works, and I have had some seriously wonderful success applying mindfulness practices in my own life.

Back to my super powers. I do now believe I have started to develop a real super power, and that is mindfulness. I saw the opportunity to change my lie to my son to something wonderful. After a few weeks of intentionally applying mindfulness practices in my life, my son and I have bonded and connected on a new, deeper level. When we spend time together, I live together with my son in that moment and have observed just how much he loves being around me and doing things together.

I asked my son one morning if he would like to start Super Power Training with be in the morning before leave for work. He was all for it. After a quick YouTube search for Mindfulness Meditations for kids, I was happy to find a whole range of options. For the past two weeks we have spent anywhere from 4 to 8 minutes sitting, breathing, and meditating together. My son has a hard time sitting still, but we make a point to begin and end our time together sitting up straight and taking deep breaths. He has slowly been getting better at it, and so have I!

Making Super Power Training part of the morning routine keeps me accountable to my meditation practice every day, added precious quality time with my son to my day, and sets both our days up for success from the start. I am amazed and grateful for just how big of an impact living mindfully has already had in my life, and I am excited to see just how much things will change.

Instead of getting told about the F-bomb my son dropped on the playground, I get to hear about how he spontaneously gave his teacher a hug for the first time. That is some seriously good shit!

Pregnancy Safe Teas

Tea has been a long time interest in my life. My mother would always drink herbal teas while I was growing up. I didn’t appreciate tea when I was younger, but I have become a tea enthusiast since I started college. My first fiancé was Taiwanese, and I loved going shopping in Asian food stores with him. I tried all the different teas I could find and consider myself an expert at that point. I was completely unaware that most if not all ethnic groups have different and wonderful types of tea they traditionally drink. 

Once I left college, I got a tea of the month subscription through Teavana from my ex-husband for my birthday. My tea-encyclopedia exploded past the basic jasmine, green, white, and oolong teas I found at the Asian food marts. Rooibos teas, fruit infusions, matcha, nutty/savory black teas, and many many more made their way into my life. There is almost an endless variety to be found and tried. 

Prior to finding out I was pregnant, my favorite teas were Zest tea for a caffeine kick and Yogi/Traditional Medicinal teas for a plethora of health benefit specific blends. 

Now that I am pregnant, however, I cannot enjoy these teas. So, I thought I would share a few teas that I have found to be pregnancy safe. The first tea I grabbed when we decided to try to get pregnant was this Raspberry leaf tea.

There was some confusion on my part as to what the health benefits of this tea are for pregnant women. I, like many other women, thought it was a tea to be drank to help induce labor. However, upon doing more research into this tea, I found that it does not induce labor at all. This tea actually helps strengthen the uterus and can help stabilize a woman’s menstrual flow. As such, I bought a big bag of organic Raspberry Leaf Tea right away. This tea is best drank paired with another, more flavorful, tea, but it can be drank by itself. If you are anything like me, though, and like to forget you are steeping tea, I will warn you that this tea can get quite bitter if left to over-steep. 

To replace my sleepy time tea with heavier hitting ingredients, I have opted for my local grocery stores organic brand of lavender/chamomile herbal tea. While searching for this tea, I ran across Celestial’s Tea Well – Gut Health tea. Normally, I drink detox teas and Traditional Medical’s Smooth Move tea to keep things flowing. So, I was excited to find this Gut Health tea as a pregnancy safe option to keeping my gut on track. Instead of herbal laxatives and detoxing agents, Celestial’s Tea Well – Gut Health tea offers prebiotics, probiotics, and fiber all wrapped up in a warm, creamy cinnamon oatmeal flavor that is both comforting and tummy friendly. 

I also grabbed a box of Bigelow Benefits Calm Stomach to pair with my Raspberry leaf tea. Calm Tummy tea is a good precaution for any nausea I might experience. I was very lucky with my son not to get any nausea unless I absentmindedly took my prenatal on an empty stomach. However, I know that every pregnancy is different. So, I figured I was better of safe than sorry. Plus, the tea tastes yummy whether I need it to settle my stomach or not. 

These are just a few teas that I am currently enjoying. As with most things during pregnancy, if you are unsure if it is safe to use, take, eat or drink; check with your doctor. I am not a medical professional and am only speaking from my experience. 

What teas do you enjoy? Are there any other pregnancy safe teas you recommend? 

Another Bun

I am going to have to spill the beans here, because I cannot keep such a monumental life change out of my writing. A week ago, we confirmed that I am pregnant! This will be my second child, my husband’s biological first child, and it’s a whole new ball game this time around. 
The first major difference of this pregnancy this far is the fact that I don’t have health insurance. Last year was the first year of my life I haven’t had health insurance through my employer, and this year will be no different. We signed up for a plan through the Market Place; however, I cannot pay the premium and start coverage until they have confirmation that my state plan has been terminated. So, I am sitting in this uncomfortable limbo waiting for paperwork before I can schedule an appointment with a doctor. It’s not an ideal place to be at the beginning of a pregnancy.
On the plus side, I have been alcohol and nicotine free since prior to becoming pregnant. I started taking a prenatal about a month before conceiving as well and have cut out all other medications, caffeine, and risky foods. It has only been five years since I was last pregnant, but I was surprised to realize how much I had forgotten already. 
No more medicinal teas. No more melatonin to help me sleep. No more eggs medium done or soft (unpasteurized) cheeses. No more energy drinks; even the “healthier” ones. No high intensity (high impact) exercise. No super hot baths (a necessity for surviving Chicago winters). 
It sounds terrible, and initially it is uncomfortable to not be able to reach for something in the medicine cabinet to fix all my problems. However, after a week of grumbles and growing pains, I am surprised with just how well, healthy, and pain free I can live without those things. Herbal teas, staying hydrated, meditation, heating pads, and Reiki seem to be keeping this formerly medicated momma pretty happy. How lovely is that? It makes me wonder how much time, money, and energy I have unnecessarily expended putting chemicals in my body. 
I will say, however, that I have yet to master sleeping well throughout the night without any form of chemical assistance. I have gone from hardcore prescription sleeping medications during college to medicinal tea with passion flower and melatonin supplements to help me fall and stay asleep. I am, somehow, able to fall asleep on my own relatively fast these days with the aid of SleepStories in the Calm app, but I am waking up several times a night and tossing and turning. This could be attributed to hormonal changes, but it is probably largely a transitional hiccup from no longer being on anti-depressants and sleep aids. I am also sure that it would be much worse if I was not exercising regularly. 
Regular exercise during the winter is more challenging this year than normal. Usually, I look in to a gym membership, but that is not a risk I want to take in this pandemic. So, I am left to lean back on my tried and true YouTube fitness channels to keep me on track. Thankfully, owning a home for the first time has given me the advantage of having a whole room to exercise in. Woohoo!
As with my first pregnancy, I anticipate a lot of research into healthy nutrition, exercise, and more, which I look forward to sharing with you along the way. So, stay tuned for lots of pregnancy tips and updates to come!!

Nine to Six Feet Under

I was never cut out for the corporate world. The thought of 9am-5pm jobs made me shudder. I could hardly handle 8am-3pm in high school. When I was little I would tell anyone to their face I would “NEVER” work for someone else. I was going to be my own boss. Reality really likes to kick me in the teeth.

Before I knew it, I was working for my high school as a tech intern, then Dominos for one “glorious” summer, then I started my brief job at Best Buy around 4:30am on Black Friday that year. Finally, I found myself with a 9-5pm job at the company my mom worked for, Adventist Midwest Management Services. This company was bought out several years ago, but I spent ten years there; on and off during school breaks and finally as a full time employee after graduating from college. My Bachelor of Arts degree is in English Literature. I graduated, however; at the end of 2009, and the job market was not doing well. I fell back into the world of medical billing/collections and haven’t been able to get myself out since.

I jumped to a different big medical billing company after I got married hoping for a challenge and upward mobility, but I just found more of the same monotonous boredom that tortured me all day long. So I made the decision to quit and become a personal trainer. I got certified the same night I passed another test; a pregnancy test. Back I went to the world of medical billing to save up for the bundle of responsibility now on its way.

It was hard to tell  I was pregnant until month 7 or 8. I was running right up until I got put on bed rest. One long night in the hospital with steroid injections and magnesium sulfate fun, and then I was home. But my son was impatient to get out into the world. I was back at the hospital in for a ten day stay with talks with NICU doctors as well as a surgeon in the even I started hemorrhaging after giving birth. Due to a low lying placenta, I was at risk and a hysterectomy would have been the only salvation. Three weeks prior I’m running in the fall breeze, now I was hoping my son and I made it through alive.

Blood pressure medication, of all things, kept contractions under control. As long as I took it and was on bed rest, the little bugger would keep cooking and I got the first chance I had in years not to be working full time. I knew that as soon as I went off the medication it was “go time.” So my pregnancy was kind of unique in that I could time when I was going to go into labor. It was a Saturday morning when I stopped taking the medication.  I went out with my mom to go buy a baby blanket and get some food and fresh air before the big event. My son was born at 5:43 am the next morning. Everything went fine aside from major game plan change of getting an epidural at 6cm. I wanted an all natural birth, but for all intents and purposes, I had been having contractions for a month and a half. Enough was enough and god bless that anesthesiologist!

Anyway, back to the topic of work. I found being a stay-at-home-mom to be far more work than a 9-5pm job, but it was much more rewarding and far less boring. I was fortunate enough to have almost two years at home with my son before I had to reenter the workforce full time. It was necessary as I had filed for an order of protection against my ex and (obviously) planned to file for divorce. In the span of a week and a half, I got a brand new car without a penny down or a job, found a daycare I wasn’t completely terrified to leave my son at, and found a job that started the Monday after I interviewed. Talk a bout a whirlwind; It was a crazy, stressful, and challenging time.

After the initial anxiety of leaving my son in the care of strangers for 9-10 hours a day, I found some appreciation for being back in the world of adults; working to support myself and my son. Alas, it was again in the field of medical billing, and after no more than six months I was, once again, bored to tears. A mixture of infatuation with my new love, hatred for my cubicle jail, stress from the divorce, and lack or relying on AA for support lead to a period of relapses. I missed too much work and lost my job because of that. Despite a solid month of looking for something in a different field, there was nothing that would compensate me at a rate I needed to survive. So, I wound up at my previous company’s biggest competitor; once again, in a cubicle.

Part of me thinks that I stayed with my ex as long as I did for the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mom. I hated him, but I also hated working a 9-5. Eventually, I saw that if I was going to survive and do what was best for myself and my son, I had to get away from my ex. So now we are divorced, I am working a job I don’t love but need and can’t complain about, and I’m moving back in with my mother. I suppose I am hoping in the interim, I might find a way to carve out a new career path. If I stay on the course I am currently stuck in, I am certain it will eventually kill me spiritually. That may sound over dramatic, but you don’t know how much I loath the ice box rat maze in which I spend 40 hours a week.

Going Home

I know I am not the only person my age finding themselves moving back home with their parent(s). With the state of our country and overwhelming student loan debt, it is not uncommon. I, at the age of thirty two years old, am moving back home with my mother. Not only that, I am moving in with my three and a half year old son and my partner. At first, the thought seems ridiculous.

Psychologically challenging initially, having to return home after over a decade of independent living, seems terrible. I have to return to the home I use to loath; the place I called a cage that I did everything in my power to break free from. The cage, however, was mostly mental. I was a teenager with an authority problem when I first left. I returned home from college to unwelcome “house” rules, and once again did whatever I could to fly the coop. In truth, I was being inconsiderate and living in a dream world in active alcoholism. My poor mother had to deal with it all; me being there and completely intolerable, or me leaving her trying to light that bridge on fire as I went. Thankfully, motherly love is flame-retardant.

Fresh back in the doors of AA, I see this coming home as an opportunity to be of service to my mother; to make a living amends to her and help take care of the home and her now that she is older. My sponsor put the words “being of service” to it, but I already felt as though I plenty of reasons for atonement. I welcome this homecoming as an opportunity to do just that, and I am beyond grateful to have such a supportive and helpful partner with whom to do this.

I get to make amends to my mother by fixing up the place, cooking, cleaning, etc., my son gets to be closer to his favorite Grandma, and as a family unit, we will all benefit. We get to save up money and take time to align ourselves properly for the next phase; whatever that may look like. I never thought the day would come where I am actually looking forward to moving back home.

While I have no desire for it to be a permanent situation, living back home will be a reprieve from the financial tornado I find myself in these days. I will take care of my debts, start saving money, and plan for a more stable financial future with all my hard learned lessons. It is a fresh start in familiar place. I can’t wait to go home.

Changing Changes Everything

It is still very hard to say that my sobriety comes first; even before the people I love most in my life. It took the lessons only relapse could teach me to realize it is absolutely necessary. A lesson if forgotten, I place those people in a position of potential harm. Being in a healthy relationship with a loving, amazing partner is this alien experience in comparison to my past. It is a wonderful change, and I want to continue to make myself a better person and a better partner.

This is not the only relationship that is changing. I am completely redefining, in my mind, what it means to unconditionally love my son. It’s true that as soon as he was born, I knew I’d do anything for him. I’d give my life for his. It was simply a new fact of life; cemented the second I held him in my arms for the first time. How could anything possibly corrupt that?

Alcoholism is an insidious disease. Cunning, baffling, and overwhelmingly powerful, I found out that this disease could even overcome my maternal instincts. That was my bottom; when I realized that. I hated myself so deeply for not knowing better. I have had to learn to forgive myself for that, because I sincerely didn’t know. I had absolutely no control over my drinking and had no clue how to fix that. Thank goodness for my first sponsor. She brought me into AA and showed me the solution.

For a year and a half I grew as a person and worked the steps, but I coddled my little boy, due to the turmoil at home. After I had kicked his father out, my sponsor wound up going back out there (drinking.) I thought I was fine, but I completely lost my way. I found myself back out there and hurting myself and the people I loved once again. I knew I needed to get back in to AA and get a sponsor. I tried, two different sponsors, in and out, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t honest from the start. I had a trust issue from my first sponsor.

I don’t know how I wound up back in the program whole-heartedly again. It was not of my own doing. I started talking to an old friend, fell in love, was open about my drinking problem. We went through some rough patches together, and somehow wound up diving in to the program together at the same time. It’s nothing short of amazing.

I am changing my behaviors toward my partner, my mother, myself, and my son. Although I still want to coddle him and make any discomfort go away, as I feel responsible for the hurt and confusion as a result of divorcing his father. But, I know it had to be done and in the end it is for the best. My son has so many people in his life that care able him. Grandparent’s, parents, teachers, friends, cousins, and even AA friends! His world is so much bigger than mine was at his age. My goal for my relationship with him right now is to maintain healthy boundaries and respect, to make sure that he feels safe and loved, and I want to make sure to take the time to be present with him in some kind of activity each week. All the drama and worry that surrounds his father is out of my control, and I will have to trust my higher power to watch over my son as it does for me.

I also want to be an example to my son of how to be happy even when things aren’t 100% how you want them to be. I want to show him how to pursue healthy goals and dreams and to teach him kindness and understanding toward all beings. The best way I know how to do any of this is to do it myself. He’s a smart little one, and pick up on everything. Although I cannot manage or control his life or who he becomes, I can show him how life can be when lived in kindness and love.

Next!

It’s hard for me to put my feelings into words right now. Life has me feeling like a pinball bouncing around the bumpers and flashing lights of a pinball machine. There are so many amazing things going on in my life. I have wonderful, supportive people helping me along. All the same, I’m bouncing around from one thing to the next like a crazy person.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the “problems” I have to deal with today, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t damn tired. We managed to get the condo cleaned up, renovated, listed and under contract to sell in like a week and a half. My bankruptcy lawyer is ready to go as soon as we close, and taxes are finally filed. My ex is slowly getting his stuff out after two and a half years (with much assistance from myself and my partner.)

We’ve sat down and made a plan for moving in with my mother. Never thought I would be feeling positive about that! We’ll be tearing up carpet on Saturday and getting flooring installed ASAP. My partner is looking into what he could do as far as getting mortgage in the future. I have to sell my son’s crib and go through all my stuff to see what I can get rid of, and during all this we are going to meetings, working a solid AA program, and seldom have down time. When we do, we are usually napping. One thing is for certain; we need a vacation soon!

But that’s just another thing on a long list of things to do. To prevent getting overwhelmed, we’ll take things one day at a time and support each other. Before we know it things will have settled down and we’ll be on a plane before we know it. At least I really hope so. Until then, strong coffee and lots of naps will have to get us through. Oh, and ice cream; lots of ice cream! So, what’s next?

Life Goes On

It’s a ride, this life of mine. I am only thirty-two, but I feel as if I have lived through a lifetime of events. College, jobs, marriage, alcoholism, recovery, relapse, home ownership, car ownership, parenthood, divorce, selling real estate, bankruptcy, and now I’m moving back home with my mother. I’m finally in a healthy relationship with a real partner that I truly love, and although finances have hit the fan, the future looks bright; building from a clean slate with many lessons learned.

Last Sunday my realtor and her family came over for dinner. We all know each other and by the end of dinner, the kiddos had ripped every pillow off the bed and engaged in one epic pillow fight. This week was stressful and physically demanding due to necessary last minute home repairs and cleaning, but somehow we managed to pull it off. The condo is officially listed today, and we already have four viewings scheduled. I’m so grateful for such a wonderful realtor and new friend, as well as a super supportive partner without whom I could not have done this.

My ex is still who he was, but I’m learning to handle his behavior in a healthier way. It is nice to not constantly be at war. I would have never thought we could sort everything out like this. To be real, I am doing everything, with much help from wonderful people, and he is just not resisting and going along with it for the most part. That is the best I could have hoped for, and I’ll be satisfied with it. With the help of my sponsor, another amazing person in my life who deals with an alcoholic ex-husband, I am learning to set healthy boundaries. I’m learning how to not be surprised by his behavior, because he has always been like that. What should I expect? I am grateful for the ability to get less rattled and be far less sensitive to his provocations. Sometimes, still, I fail myself by reacting poorly, but I am doing a hell of a lot better than I used to.

Getting back into AA was awkward at first. It didn’t come with the pink cloud it did for me like the first time. I felt like I was returning the disappointment of a potential success story. I hate feeling that way. Perhaps it is a completely self inflicted perception. I wouldn’t put it past myself to dream it up, but that’s how I feel among my old friends. So, I’ll make new friends, and keep in touch with old ones. I don’t regret coming back into the program for a second. I’m just trying to find my groove in this place again. I supposed all expectations must be left at the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MSA

I don’t know how to feel right now. I have to be in court in two and a half hours to submit a marital settlement agreement (MSA) to hopefully avoid a full on trial. All I can really say for sure is that I feel tired. All of this legal crap has been very draining, and I’m ready for it to be over. However, even after the divorce is finalized, my legal journey is not over. I must then file for bankruptcy to wipe the slate clean and try for a new beginning.

I have learned from my mistakes, and I know I am a different, stronger person today. I have the support of a loving partner, my mother, my sponsor, etc. Still I feel alone in this at times like these. I am the one who has to walk the path, and there is no denying that it is scary. I worry that I am doing the right thing filing for bankruptcy. I am scared not knowing where I will be living soon. I am sad for my soon to be ex-husband and troubled by the effect it may have on our son. I do not doubt my decision to get divorce in any way. I remember the hell we used to live in, and divorced parents is a million times better than that. Still, he will be different from his friends growing up. He may harbor resentment, hide his sadness, bottle up anger or who knows?

I would think as a child of divorce myself that I would have the tools already equipped to handle this with my son. The situation; however, is very different. My father never put up any fight for custody, and I was glad when my parents got divorced. I was nine and I hated being around the fighting. They were clearly miserable, and the divorce was a necessary relief to everyone. My son is only three and a half. He has two parents who love him and want to be involved in his life. He probably won’t remember the fighting, hopefully, and may not have perspective on why his parents split up. His father will never say it was his decision; therefore, I will be to blame when my son gets upset about it. What do I say to that little boy? I’m not going to say that his father was abusive and we were both miserable and treated each other poorly. The generic “sometimes mommies and daddies want different things” explanation seems like an insult to his intelligence even at his current age…

But this is all worries about the future, and I know I cannot predict or control it. I know I have to stay in this day, but today sucks. I am scared and sad. All I can do is pray, and hope it goes well and is over with quickly.

Between Life

As a human being, I still feel like a child some days. I can feel like the insecure teenager I was in high school, or the curious and slightly less insecure college student, or the pretending to be an adult “grown up.” As parent, I feel different and much more educated.

I can still remember my two best friends from HS coming to visit in the hospital after I had my son. Paraphrasing one friend, she said “[dude, can you believe you like, made a person!?]” I just smiled and laughed, but my head wasn’t wrapped around the reality of the situation yet either.

One of the most terrifying moments of my life was coming home from the hospital with that little “nugget,” as my friend would call him. I managed to get him in to the bassinet/rocker thing that he practically lived out of the first two months. My husband went out for something (probably a pack of smokes), and I passed out on the couch rocking the tiny human to sleep. I remember thinking I have no fuckng clue what I’m doing here, as I drifted off. He returned about 20 minutes later, and I don’t know why I remember this, but he said the one kind thing I can remember him saying for years before and  after that. He said, “[y]ou’re a good mom,” and he was sincere. I still didn’t have much experience in keeping that defenseless little thing alive, but I felt a whole lot better. I thought, as long as I do my best for him, everything will work out.

About a week later, I broke down in a sobbing lunacy, because I thought I was never going to sleep again. My son never slept well nor through the night until he was at least a year and a half old. It was during this sleep deprived nightmare that I found out I was an alcoholic, and with the turmoil at home (5 hour fight-a-thons), I’m not sure how I survived those first couple years. Yet here we are, and I feel all the wiser for it.  As a mom, I feel like my real age. In regards to anything else in life, this is usually not the case.

I can remember my heart beating over middle school crushes like it was yesterday. Not so long ago I snuck out every night to hang out with my friends. Only a handful of years ago I was thriving in academic glory in college. I’m certain I just got married recently, but somehow I have a 3 and a half year old and am over a year into divorce. When the hell did all this happen?

Now I’m in this weird in between space. I have a not so new partner, but we are evolving and recovering anew in sobriety. I have a young child who is dealing with grown up situations. I have a stable job that I am ready at any moment to leap from to a more enticing opportunity or more fulfilling career path. I have had a home for six and a half years, filled with both horrible and wonderful memories, that I will soon have to leave. My days with this last name are numbered, and I have so much uncertainty about the future that I’d be terrified if it weren’t for the amazing program known (or not) as AA. It is the one constant in my life that will always be there, and as long as I lean on it, I know I will be ok.