Less and More

less-and-more Sitting here, on the barstool at our kitchen island - my new favorite writing spot once the kids are in bed and Ben has kissed me goodnight before heading upstairs himself - the house is quiet except for the hum and rhythmic click of zippers from laundry being tossed around in the dryer.

I'm snacking on a bowl of the granola bars I made with the kids today. It's in a bowl because they never set and are all crumbly so I have to eat it with a spoon. I choose a kiddie spoon out of the drawer, realizing in that moment that we'll soon be getting rid of all the kiddie cutlery. At three and five my kids no longer want to use a tiny plastic fork or spoon, protesting when I still serve them cereal with the brightly colored utensils.

Practically every night I worry that I'm failing them as a mom. Why is it I always play back the mistakes I made during the day, rather than recall the beautiful moments we had playing and laughing and snuggling together? I wonder if I'm too focused on my own personal goals and feel guilty I don't consciously set goals as a mom.

I want to make significant changes in this new year, this fresh start. I want to check email less, and bake with my kids more. I want to complain less and drink in the giggles more. I want to not stress out over small things and hug my family and friends more. I want to be less critical and be more appreciative. I want to not freak out when the kids are simply being kids, and instead smile and file the memory of how they are at these ages away so I never forget.

Every day is a new chance to try again. Another day to try my best at being the absolute best mom I can be for my kids.

Planning the Future and Enjoying the Journey

planning-future-enjoying-journeyPhoto Credit: Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel via Compfight cc

It can be almost dizzying to have to plan for what's ahead, but yet keep your focus at the same time on the daily details that actually may make the future happen.

There is so much written lately about staying “in the moment” and how we need to remember to cherish the everyday little events that happen to us rather than spend all our time anticipating the next big thing: graduating college, getting married, buying a house, having kids, etc, etc. I even wrote recently about how the swift tick of the clock changed me when reflecting on my daughter’s hospitalization for Kawasaki disease.

I agree wholeheartedly with this concept of fully enjoying the time in our lives that falls in-between those major life events. But things also change when you’re planting seeds. You have to set long-term goals. Write strategic plans. Manage expectations of your backers.

Because success is on the line.

I’m starting to think like a real entrepreneur and I’m loving it.

So I write big goals. I check with experts in their respected fields. I make connection after connection.

There is a chance things won’t work out. There is a chance we could fail. But the only way to prove that chance wrong is to plan. To read. To talk it through. To set the bar high. To take the leap of faith because I believe in this project and its mission.

You know how I can tell This Is My Brave is a critically needed movement? Because people tell me every day.

And it’s the passion in their voice, the stories they share with me, the emotions they trust me with which whisper to me, “Keep going!” and "What you're doing is so important!" when my thoughts run away from me and threaten to bruise my confidence.

Every time I see an email pop up in my inbox from someone saying “I stumbled upon your blog and wanted to thank you,” my heart smiles. Because I’ve touched someone to the point that they took the time to write me an email and in it they tell me about how mental illness changed their life. I can’t even tell you how much this means to me.

Maybe it was a sibling, a child, a best friend, or a parent. Usually it is the person who is writing. Mental illness affected their life in a major way and they are relieved to find another brave soul who is open to talking about their experience. And they just happened to choose me.

Friends, the reason I created This Is My Brave is to encourage conversations - like the ones that happen in my inbox - to occur in communities everywhere. I want people to not have to be afraid of talking with their families, their friends, their neighbors, their religious leaders, about what it’s like to live with mental illness. To not be afraid to ask for help. The more people open up, the bigger the impact and the more lives we’ll save.

I want people to be helped by the sharing of personal stories. And we’re doing it in an energetic, eclectic way. The essays, songs, and poetic readings you’ll experience at This Is My Brave will leave you with a new, more positive view on mental illness. There are benefits to living with some of these conditions, believe it or not. Creativity, for one. Compassion, resilience, a fierce will to figure out what will bring relief are some of the others. I know there are more, too.

We want to show you what we’re capable of. In four short months we take the stage. I’ve been cognizant of the journey and have been diligently keeping my eye on the future at the same time.

Best of both worlds, for sure.

PS. I’ve been nominated for the WEGO Health Rookie of the Year Health Activist Award! I’d be so grateful if you’d take the time to endorse me via my Nominee Directory page. It only takes a minute - simply click the link and then select the purple thumbs up button beneath my profile picture. You can endorse me once a day until February 1st when they vote. {The 3 nominees with the highest number of endorsements will be named finalists!} Thank you so much!

Why I Declare My Goals

 1493334632_45256382eePhoto Credit: shirishbendre via Compfight cc

Back in June, my husband and I went on vacation with our friends to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversaries. One night at dinner, Tim asked us go around the table and share our goals out loud. Studies have proven that when you declare your goals, the act of simply vocalizing them to people, you have a much higher probability of actually reaching them.

I used to love goal-setting, but had fallen out of the habit since leaving the corporate world to become a stay-at-home-work-from-home-mom.

Ten years ago, in my career as an agency recruiter, I witnessed the power of setting goals. I’d talk about them to my boss and colleagues, and would work my tail off to attain them, seeing the direct results of my tireless dedication displayed on reports each week, month, and year of sales numbers.

These days, I am my own boss. There is no promise of a paycheck for the advocacy work I’m doing. Only the pure sense of accomplishing something that will hopefully help other people on their journey to recovery.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” - William James

Which is why I am so thankful to Tim for putting us up to the challenge of declaring our goals. I had said I wanted to write an e-book before the end of the year and self-publish it to be able to offer it for free on my website, but also to sell it on Amazon to reach people who might not have heard of my blog yet but found me via searching for books on mental health.

I’ve accomplished two of the three parts of that complex goal. The book is written and is available by signing up for my blog newsletter (which I haven’t yet officially launched - another goal in the works!), and it’s also available via the This Is My Brave website by signing up for the newsletter which will keep people informed of the progress of the show.

I hope to finish the process of self-publishing it to an online distribution channel (most likely Amazon, but I’m researching other avenues as well) by the end of November.

Right now I’m focusing on another recent goal that came to life: creating a Kickstarter campaign to fund our show, This Is My Brave. We have until November 15th to raise $6,500 which will be used to create the most inspiring, thought-provoking, entertaining show about mental illness the public has ever been invited to. If the show gets funded, we’ll have the capability of not only putting it on live in the Washington, DC area, but also reaching countless others by sharing the video of the performances after the initial debut.

Because of goals my life has meaning. No goal is too big. Take small steps and you’ll reach your dreams.



What goals are you working on? Shout them out in the comments and create some accountability. I'll support you and cheer you on!

Living an inspiring life

Yes, that is a bowl full of pomegranate seeds. I scooped them out myself. And of course, when I finished de-seeding this lovely fruit, I took a picture. Because it took a good 20 minutes and I was proud of myself for getting every last seed out of the darn shell.

Your life is your message to the world. Make sure it's inspiring.

I believe this to be true and I so want to heed this advice.

I registered for my second writer's conference this morning - a memoir writer's retreat - in March of 2013. I want to make my dreams of sharing my story a reality and I'm taking concrete steps towards my goal of publishing my memoir. I want to be an inspiration to other young women living with bipolar disorder who are wondering if they'll ever be able to have kids. I'm living proof that it is possible.

Now, let's be real here. I'm not perfect. I most certainly have my moments. Those times when I'm overtired, stressed out from a work deadline, and the kids are arguing over a toy - those are the times when I need help. And I've learned when to ask for it and how to not feel guilty about needing a little time to myself in order to re-charge my batteries. It helps me tremendously and then when I jump back into the action I am that much more prepared to handle anything.

Just like a pomegranate is a tough fruit to de-seed, I think I'm a pretty complicated individual. And yet, I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I'm the type of person who would share my life story with someone I just met, if they wanted to listen. I love meeting new people and making connections; I feel like that is such a huge part of what life is all about. I believe everyone on this Earth has something to share. Me? I want to share my story of how mental illness crept up on me and emerged out of nowhere, shocking the living daylights out of me, my husband, my parents, our siblings and our friends. How I rode a roller coaster of emotions for a year and a half before finally becoming stable and healthy again, only to be thrown on the same haunting ride of my past, landing in the hospital twice more, yet emerging a stronger, more determined and driven version of myself than I was before.

I've decided that I'm going to start carving time out of my schedule to write. An hour a day is what I'm going to start with. Whether it be a blog post, a journal entry, a chapter of my book, or time spent reading other memoirs, I'm writing down goals so that I can measure my progress. I learned a ton in Sanibel (and met a bunch of really extraordinary people) which I want to apply to my writing in order to improve and grow as a writer. Beginning in January I am going to set new goals, specific to my book project, so that I can truly hold myself accountable and make progress every day.

I can feel my dreams moving closer within my reach. Because if I write words, they turn into sentences; if I write sentences, they turn into paragraphs; if I write paragraphs, they turn into pages; if I write pages they will eventually turn into my book. Just like it took patience and determination to empty the pomegranate of its seeds (have you ever tried to open one of those darn things?? Talk about the fruits of your labor. Sheesh.), I will eventually get all of my thoughts out on paper in a concise, engaging story which will hopefully help to end stigma and educate not only young women living with bipolar disorder, but also their families, friends, doctors, and therapists. Just because someone is living with a mental illness, it doesn't mean they cannot enjoy the good life.

I love my life. I feel incredibly blessed. So glad that Thanksgiving is right around the corner because I have so much to be thankful for.

Goals and a look back at an old list for Five Things Friday

This Friday I thought I'd do a little blast from the past.

I've been thinking a lot about goals lately. Back when I was a senior in college, we had to write a list of five goals we wanted to accomplish in the next 10 years. I can almost picture that piece of paper in my mind. Part of me thinks that if I really look hard enough {read: dig through all my piles of junk and clutter} I'd be able to find it. Because I'm pretty sure I saved it.

We were told that by physically writing your goals down on paper you were much more likely to actually attain them compared to simply thinking or talking about them. Something about the act of putting it in writing that makes it seem more real, I guess.

I can remember four of the five things on my senior year list of goals.

  1. Get married
  2. Buy a house
  3. Have kids
  4. Make $100k in one year
  5. ?

I actually accomplished all of those things in the first five years out of college. But for the life of me, I cannot remember the fifth thing.

It still bugs me.

In the corporate world, I always had goals. It didn't matter whether I had a strict, micro-managing boss, or a laid-back superior who could care less what my numbers looked like. Because to me, I had goals in front of me for the week ahead, for the month, and for the year. If I didn't, my work tended to be just mediocre. By laying out the objectives I wanted to reach or exceed, I pushed myself harder and did higher quality work. My reputation was so important to me. I was always worried about what people thought of me and how they viewed me as a recruiter that I almost needed to better myself with each placement to keep up. It was exhausting. But looking back, I'm very proud of what I accomplished in the ten years I worked.

Now I'm a mom. I'm a wife. I'm a homemaker. I don't care so much what other people think of me, but I do care about feeling that I'm successful in my new career of SAHM. I haven't set goals for myself in over two years. Unless you count the 35-pound weight-loss goal I was determined to accomplish after the birth of my son. {I hit that one, in case you're wondering.}

I'm itching to write some new goals. Given that it's June 1, I thought it was a good date to lay out some monthly goals for the rest of the year. I think I'll stick to three goals for each month, so as not to overwhelm myself.

1 Volunteer at a nursing home
2 Start and finish the gardening work around the house (weed all flower beds, lay fresh mulch, hang flower baskets from porch)
3 Run four days a week
1 Clean and organize garage
2 Carve our initials into the humongous tree that lives beside our house
3 Do a 3-day juice fast
1 Take a photography class
2 Cook vegan/vegetarian the entire month
3 Repaint the kitchen a bold color 
1 Create Preschool boxes for each of my kids to collect their artwork and projects
2 Plan a fall {October} wine tour with friends
3 Do a 10-day juice fast
1 Go on a family camping trip
2 Go to church every week and become more involved by joining a group
3 Finish my manuscript
1 Be a "Room Mom" for a day at my son's preschool
2 Work hard on my abs and keep them in shape through the holidays
3 Finish holiday shopping and start a new rule that each child gets 3 gifts and each adult gets 1 gift from Santa in order to simplify things and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas
1 Throw a really awesome holiday party & make it a tradition
2 Format my manuscript into a blog book including my own photography
3 Sponsor a local family for the holidays

I'm hoping to hold myself accountable to these goals to be able to look back on the second half of this year and see all that I've accomplished. I think it would be incredibly satisfying to say that I was able to do what I set out to do. Not just for me, but for my family, too.

I'm excited about this. I feel a new energy that I haven't felt in awhile. It's time to rock this list. Let's go.

What do you think? Have you written out any goals since becoming a mom? What do you want to have accomplished by the end of 2012?



Getting back on track

I'm feeling extremely guilty for not having blogged in three weeks. When I initially started this blog, it was my goal to write a post a day and that has definitely not happened. Life happens, and unfortunately for me, sometimes gets in the way of my goals and ambitions. After I started the blog, I had a long weekend with my high school girlfriends, a trip with my kids to visit my parents while the hubby was on a business trip, then came home and got packed up for my trip to California with my husband for a cousin's wedding. Then our little man turned 3 and we threw him a birthday party with friends and family. So yeah, we had a lot of stuff going on that made it difficult to keep up with my lofty goal for this blog. But hey, I'm back at it now, so I have to at least give myself credit for getting back on track.

I've noticed recently that I am the type of person who gets started on an involved, long-term project, gets really excited about it and dives in with exuberance, only to find that my dedication dies down slowly over time until I'm no longer working on the project at all and have instead moved on to the next big idea. Kind of frustrating to say the least. I feel like I have lots of big ideas in my head which I've only just begun to scratch the surface of their potential. Part of the problem stems from my bipolar disorder, and the fact that when I become hypomanic I tend to feel like I can conquer the world so that is usually when I start something new and as the hypomania dies down, my interest in the project tends to decline as my mood winds down. But another big piece of it is the kids and the time and energy that they both require on a daily basis.

Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love spending time with them and doing things like reading to them or taking them on walks to the playground. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes wish for just four straight hours to dedicate to a project or a hobby like writing or sewing. Luckily for me, my wonderful husband sometimes will take the kids on a Saturday morning to give me some "Mommy free time" which is awesome. We'll tend to do that for each other - since it's football season he enjoys having time on Sundays to watch the games, so when he takes the kiddos on Saturday, I'll get them out of his hair on Sundays. It's our way of pampering each other I guess.

I definitely want to get back on track - with my writing and with my exercise regimen too. My 5k is coming up in less than two weeks (13 days to be exact!) so I'm aiming to get as many workouts under my belt as I can before the race. And if I'm not able to keep up with a post a day, I'll at least try for 3-4 a week. So my attempt to solve my "dwindling dedication to long-term project" syndrome is to modify my goals. Good place to start I guess.

Do you ever feel like your bipolar disorder causes you to lose focus? If so, how to you cope?