Two Friendly Reminders for When You’re Feeling Stuck

It’s funny how random events in our day will teach us profound lessons. This morning Welina shut herself in our bedroom. As soon as she realized that she had trapped herself in there, she started hitting the door and crying. When I tried to open the door I found she was sitting right in front of it and I couldn’t open it. For several minutes we sat at an impasse with her screaming hysterically and me trying to tell her to move away from the door. Eventually she gave up and crawled away, and I was able to open the door and let her out.

The whole incident taught me two things:

  1. We are the key to solving our own problems – I was completely helpless in this situation. Me helping her was completely dependent on her helping herself. So many times I find myself looking outward for the someone to bail me out of a tough situation, when really no one can help me unless I take action first, whether it’s asking for help or putting myself in a better position to receive help.
  2. Often a problem will resolve itself once we get moving – If all I want to do is sit on my butt and cry, that’s all that’s gonna happen. I am the poster-child of sitting and crying (which is probably where Welina gets it from) and making decisions is NOT my strong suit. Seriously, I wish I could make a career out of NOT making decisions because I would be set for life! I can’t even decide what kind of candy I want or what I want for lunch or what I want to watch on Netflix after the kids go to sleep. But in those moments where I suddenly become a responsible, decision-making adult, and act on it, I get stuff done, and it feels amazing. Being stuck in analysis paralysis is a sure-fire way to end up sitting and crying and wallowing in self-pity.

Life can sometimes feel like a series of doors we can’t get past, and I think we’re allowed to sit and cry for a little while, but consider this a reminder to us all that there is always a way out if we’re willing to look for it.

My #1 Insight from The Happiness Project

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Have you read The Happiness Project? I know I’m a few years behind, but it’s taken me forever to get going with it – more than a year. It’s a great read, but for some reason I wasn’t making reading a priority, or maybe I was reading at the wrong time because I kept getting interrupted by small people and I found myself in that doldrum where you keep reading the same paragraph over and over and over again but never move forward….

I finally decided to make this book a priority because I really did want to see what sorts of insights Gretchen Rubin would come up with, and I loved her voice and her down to earth nature.

I probably need to re-read the book and take notes, because there are a ton of great insights throughout, but the biggest take-away I found was her mantra to “Be Gretchen.” She talked about how she was sometimes ashamed that she liked the things she liked because she thought others would think she was juvenile or boring or unsophisticated. She made an important distinction between liking the idea of something and actually liking something. I think her example was world travelers. Their lives look so interesting and exciting and romantic and many of us think we’d like to do something like that, but for Gretchen, nothing sounds better than her New York apartment and a good book. Sounds pretty lame compared to being a world traveler right? Perhaps, but the point is to be ok with that, to own it, and hold fast to the things that make us, us. 

That got me thinking about my own life and the things that I love, many of which get pushed on the side or suppressed because I’m trying to appear like I’ve got it all together, or that I’m interesting or cultured or smart or whatever. It could be anything depending on who I’m with. I had a thought today – I often look at others and wish that I had what they have, or wonder what it would be like to live their lives. Today I wondered if anyone thinks that of me. I hope I haven’t projected the idea that my life is perfect, because it is FAAAAR from.  I think the commandment “Thou shalt not covet,” has more to do with us being content and living in gratitude than harboring jealousy. It’s essential to happiness and I suck at it.

When I do this dance of comparison I feel drained, inadequate and pathetic, but I’m a Grade A people pleaser – and I will do almost anything to win your approval, so much so that I will  betray myself and forget to Be Joelle.

I’ll be 30 in a couple months, and while I don’t want the drama of being a teenager/early 20s, those were also the years where I felt most like me, and most comfortable in my own skin. I was unlike anyone else I knew, and I certainly didn’t try to be like anyone else. I practiced a lot of self love, and did what I enjoyed. Because of that, I could hang with anybody. I was very slow to judge and I wasn’t afraid to ask questions and get to know people on deeper levels. I was not afraid of what they thought of me. I was up for anything. It was amazing and liberating and fun. 

Considering all this, my main focus for the foreseeable future is to Be Joelle, and really pay attention to and do the things that genuinely feel like me vs. the things that I do simply because I’m trying to win approval or appease people or even make money.

I’ve started simple.

Thinking about and considering these things is the first step.

The next is vocalizing some specific things that I need to do in order to be more congruent. Keola and I have had lengthy discussions on the topic as we’re both feeling incongruent with ourselves at the moment.

Next comes adding in the things that are missing from my life. That means being more creative – writing, taking photos, drawing, being musical again (singing, playing piano/guitar/flute, writing music), being more physically active after baby arrives (running, hiking, maybe dancing hula and maybe joining a canoe club), spending more time in nature, and reading actual books (not clicking through articles in my Facebook feed.) To be honest, I don’t do a lot of these things not because I’m worried what people think about me if I do them, but because they’re hard to do with 3 little ones. They were pushed on the side for more practical reasons, but it could also mean that I’m trying really hard to be a good, self-sacrificing mom (so other people say “Wow what a great mom you are!”). I wear fatigue like a badge of honor.

Some might argue that removing the things that are incompatible with us should come before adding the things we love, but letting go is often the hardest and longest step. The years since we got married have been challenging and I haven’t completely healed from some of the things that we went through. This will take time and compassion, but I think that by filling my life with the things I love can help me be free from the things that aren’t good to hold on to.

How about you? Are there aspects of yourself that have been pushed on the side over the years that you’d like to bring back? What does living in congruence with yourself mean to you?

Benefits I’ve Noticed from Slowing Down

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I can’t tell you how nice it’s been narrowing my focus to our home and family these last few days. I feel like I have space to breathe. I cleaned the house yesterday! Man did it need a good once-over. I started an “Out” box where I randomly throw stuff we’re not using. I returned lots and lots of things to their proper spot. It’s amazing how many things get stashed in random places that make no sense (remote control on the bathroom counter anyone?), all because I was too in a rush/distracted/lazy to put them back where they belonged. I banished the kids’ toys/books/stuffed animals/clothes/balls back to their room. I started a mixed recycling basket out of an extra laundry basket we had. It’s shameful how much recyclable stuff wasn’t getting recycled because we had no place to put it. It’s even more ridiculous how easy it is to start a mixed recycling basket. It consists of getting a laundry basket and sticking it outside. I’ve been meaning to do it for WEEKS but didn’t until yesterday. I’ve managed to keep up with the dishes. I’m almost caught up on laundry. I vacuumed the entire house. The best part about my cleaning frenzy,  is that it wasn’t a frenzy. It was like a cleaning stroll because that’s the only thing I gave myself to work on, and I didn’t really have a set list. I just kept seeing things I wanted to do so I did it, slowly so I didn’t break sweat (and at this time of year, I’m pretty much always sweaty). When I got tired I stopped. I even had time to feed Leo by hand. I usually just put a plate in front of her and watch her scatter her food all over the house because we don’t have a high chair (but we will tomorrow!). I worked on dinner fairly early. And, oh yeah…I journaled in the middle of the day.

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 On Monday I had to take Leo to the doctor (she got a weird skin infection but it’s going away now) and it was nice to be able to focus on JUST taking care of her.

This morning after dropping everyone off at school/work I came home, changed into workout clothes, stuck Leo in the stroller and jogged down to the park which, because it was 8:30am was completely empty. I let Leo run around a big field while I ran sprints (I was a sprinter back in the day and I still love it so much more than jogging. Jogging = bleh). We came home, showered, and I put her to sleep. And now I’m writing this blog post in daylight. That NEVER happens.

Why am I telling you all this? Honestly I don’t really know. It’s certainly not to impress you. These are all things I should be doing but wasn’t because my life was too centered around my various business activities. I think I had fallen into the trap of giving the pursuit of money (not to get rich mind you, just to get on better financial footing) a higher value than the other responsibilities in my life like making sure home is a nice place to be, or taking time out to exercise and make decent food. Those non-monetary things are more important than we realize, and contribute vastly to living a rich life.

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My head is still mulling over business ideas, but now I really want to protect this space I’ve made for myself. I don’t want to sacrifice it for money. My sanity and happiness is worth more than that, so whatever I do has to fit into the lifestyle I want. I don’t want a successful business so later I can have my ideal lifestyle. That may never happen. Now my plan is to have my ideal lifestyle today and if I can, create a business that fits in and around that lifestyle without disrupting it. Fortunately my ideal lifestyle is not expensive so I can 🙂

This morning I read Courtney Carver’s excellent post about being more aware of what sucks our energy and what gives us life. She recommends taking notice of these things by listing them down, which I will be doing once I finish this post, and then to reclaim our power over these things by doing more of what we love, letting to of the things we truly can’t control and recognizing that our demons aren’t real, they’re just thoughts that we can control. I highly recommend that you read it if you’re battling negative thoughts.

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That post to me, is just further confirmation that taking these steps has been beneficial. Since noticing and stepping away from all the business stress I put myself under, I’ve felt so much better. It truly was a major stressor and energy zapper and needs to be re-imagined. As I’ve been experiencing these changes over the last few days (and thinking about these things with Keola for months AND months) I’ve begun to accept that building a life around what we love and creating space to care for ourselves and our home and our families is vital.

Is there something in your life that’s taking up too mental/emotional/physical space? What would life be like if you pulled back the reigns on it, or let it go completely?

Living Your Dream, Right Now

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“The absolute, most sure-fire way of physically moving in the direction of your dreams on a day-to-day basis, without messing with the “cursed hows,” is living them, now, to any degree that you can.”

This quote showed up in my Facebook timeline the other day, posted by a friend of mine. It articulates perfectly some of the things I’ve been thinking about and feeling lately. I tend to be the type of person that thinks like this: “If I can’t have it all, and if it’s not perfect, and if I can’t have it RIGHT THIS INSTANT, I don’t want it.”

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It’s a character flaw of mine I suppose – not being patient and working diligently towards a goal. Of course, that’s not entirely true. I play the piano (though I’m out of practice), I play the flute, I graduated from high school and college. I taught myself graphic design and started a business and had (and stopped, and started and stopped hehe) and had two kids who I’m proud to say are still alive. All those things take diligence and patience and hours and HOURS of work. But lately I’ve been feeling like time is passing by faster and faster and faster and getting from 0 to 100 takes too long. I have dreams. Keola and I have dreams. We have things we want to do. We can see the life we want for our family, but it seems so far off and almost unattainable that it’s almost easier to just hold on to what we’ve got – except we know we can be greater than what we are.

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The solution to our dilemma is found in that quote, and lately, we’ve been doing just that – little things that are moving us toward the life we want to be living. We’re both former athletes. We want to be more active as a family – so we started exercising together. Noweo and I like to run together, and I can totally see that becoming our thing. We went on a hike last week to a cinder cone (where lava used to shoot out but it’s dormant and now it houses an ancient forest) so we can get some exercise, re-connect with nature, practice photography and explore a cool new place that our kids have never seen before.

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Keola wants to publish a novel, so he’s been working on it a little every day. I of course am working on new designs and expanding my product line and looking into new methods of production. I’m also looking into ways to gain more skills and education in the world of graphic arts.

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One day, we’d like to be working for ourselves and having our kids working and learning along-side us. We’ve always been a family that loves being together and we’ve hate that Keola has to leave us for 8 hours a day and go to work. We haven’t realized that goal yet, and all the work we have to do to get there seems daunting, but when I think about what we’re currently doing, we are actually living much of our dream right now. It’s not everything, but it’s what we can do today to move us in the right direction, and it’s already making a difference.

What do you want for your life that seems too far away to ever happen? What can you do TODAY to make that dream happen?

How to Get Over Bad News FAST

Bad News

On Monday we received some disappointing news about a job Keola applied for. It was located here on Maui, and we had really been feeling like we should be back here. We were so close we could taste it. We were hoping that we’d come here on vacation and be able to house hunt and maybe even secure a rental while on vacation. We spent happy evenings on Craigslist dreaming on a little spot on Maui to call our own. Apparently that’s not gonna happen…not with this job.

But that’s OK. We’re OK. Today I was thinking about why we’re ok, and here are the strategies I employed to get over this bad news fast. Maybe they can help you through a less-than-ideal situation:

1) Let yourself feel sad. Taking time to own and acknowledge your feelings helps it pass faster. It’s such a relief to just feel what needs to be felt when the feelings come. We both gave ourselves permission to feel down about it, and it wasn’t long before the feeling passed.

2) Trust that whatever’s best for you is what will happen. The last time we lived on Maui, we went through rejection after rejection trying to find work. At the same time, we were trying to help Keola’s grandmother sell her house, and THAT whole process kept hitting snag after snag after snag. Can you guess what happened when Keola was finally hired for his current position? Grandma’s house sold and we were able to find the perfect little rental cottage that fit her budget and it all happened within a couple weeks. Whenever I think about wanting things to happen in my own time, I remember how EVERYTHING worked out for the best in the end, and I’m so glad we were there to make sure all the loose ends were tied up with Grandma’s living situation.

3) Remember what’s good now. Before we received the “bad news,” we talked about how we’re actually in a really good situation no matter what happens. Keola’s still got a great job that he loves. He’s gaining experience that will only make it easier for him to get employed after his current position disappears in a year. We also talk about him going back to school and getting a PhD. My business is getting busy-er. If he ever lost his job, I could put a lot more time into my work and hopefully keep us afloat. Remembering all the things we’ve got going for us helps us to not feel hopeless.

4) Remember that good may still come of it. The guy that called with the bad news told Keola that there wasn’t anything wrong with him and encouraged him to keep trying because he’s definitely a good fit for this particular organization. He was even nice enough to pass his application along to another department who’s hiring. This new position seems to be an even better fit given Keola’s skill set and work history. We’re not holding our breath on that, but we were encouraged by this man’s kind words of encouragement.

6) Think about your next action steps. While we’re enjoying our time with family and being on this beautiful island, we look forward to going back and getting into the groove of things. Nothing is worse than being in limbo, and now that we’re not, we can get back to being fully involved in everything we’ve got going back home. And you know what? I’m looking forward to it.

5) If all else fails, Wendy’s has a frosty with your name on it. We actually did go to Wendy’s that night, but it was mostly a simple anniversary dessert (Hilo doesn’t have Wendy’s and night time frosties was a guilty pleasure of ours while we were living on Maui.) Still, never underestimate the power of a chocolate frosty.

So there you have it. This list isn’t comprehensive, and it may not even work for you in your situation, but it’s what I noticed about how we handled this particular setback. What are your tried and true methods of handling disappointment?

Celebrating Awesome No. 2

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Every week I’m sharing things from around the web that moved me – whether it was to laugh, cry, ponder or cheer. There is some really awesome stuff happening all around us and I want to celebrate it.

Ok I lied. I now listen to two podcasts. This one is right up my alley!

THIS is what I need to be doing. Only read if you want to be told the hard truth about writing.

Tania I’ve missed you!

Cute Asian baby dancing. Need I say more?

I’m an aunty! I’m SO stoked and proud of my little sister for delivering a GORGEOUS baby girl. Welcome to motherhood!

Have a great weekend! We’ll be cleaning and packing and getting ready to go to M-A-U-I for two and a half weeks. I. CANNOT. WAIT.

Celebrating Awesome No. 1

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Every week I’m sharing things from around the web that moved me – whether it was to laugh, cry, ponder or cheer. There is some really awesome stuff happening all around us and I want to celebrate it.

Can’t stop thinking about these words from Jim Carrey.

This amazing documentary really made me think about the critical need for involved fathers. (available on Netflix)

The only podcast I’m currently listening to.

If you’re from Hawaii (and even if you’re not) and you haven’t seen Billy Kenoi’s HPU commencement speech, stop what you’re doing and CLICK.

Without Fighting, Is There Any Passion? Danny has a great answer.

Have a great weekend! xo

Morning Routines for Moms: Can it be done?

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I hear TONS of people (or is it just a few people over and over?) talk about morning routines and how important they are to having a productive day, blah blah blah. It sounds SO GREAT I’ve made MANY, MANY attempts to have one of my own – something that allows me to step into a new day with intention, having paid a little bit of attention to myself so I don’t feel robbed and utterly depleted by the end of the day.

The thing is though, that all of these people who talk of having glorious 1-2 hour routines where they exercise, read, write, walk for five miles, or whatever, don’t have little kids. As much as I’d like to have a morning routine, I’m just about ready to give up on one because I’m either too tired to get up before the kids, or if I do get up, the kids wake up earlier than usual and if they’re awake, forget about it.

The words routine and kids don’t always fit nicely in the same sentence.

It’s possible that the routines I’ve tried in the past were unrealistic. Maybe I wanted to do too much. Maybe I need to lower my expectations for what can be accomplished in a morning routine at this time in my life. So I’ve decided that instead of having a rigid set of actions, it’d be better to choose a few things I’d like to do and prioritize them so that if my morning got cut short, at least I made time for the most important things.

My ideal morning would have the following:

  • Prayer/meditation
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Exercise (or some kind of movement)

If I could do it all, GREAT. But if all I got around to doing before Leo wakes up was meditating for 5 minutes, I would just call it good and be grateful that I had five minutes to do something for myself. I’ve accepted that my life doesn’t look like the lives of many of the folks I look up to and read about with their zen-like morning routines, and that’s ok, because I wake up to two beautiful faces who absolutely light up when they see me, who make  their first ten minutes the most radiant part of my day – even if it does disintegrate into poopy diapers, spit up and oat meal rubbed into the couch.

Moms – have you managed a decent morning routine? HOW do you do it?

Habit Building in 2014

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Last year a few months after Leo was born, I went to see my childhood dentist, who promptly told me I needed a root canal and 11 fillings. Not bad for having not really gone consistently to a dentist for 10 years (except for 2 other teeth I had to pull in that time), but still disappointing because I’ve gone countless times since to fix all the problems in my mouth. Well, no more. Ever since that first appointment, I’ve started to floss every night before bed and I intend to keep it up. Flossing has finally become a habit after years of knowing I should do it but not.

I cannot tell you what a big deal it is to be able to say that, and since realizing this has indeed become a habit, I began to ask myself “why now?” What it boiled down to was me being so sick and tired of my mouth being problematic that I decided to take caring for my mouth seriously.

And that was that.

This attitude is boiling into other areas of my life as well. I don’t know where it’s coming from, but I’m filled with a desire to take action, whether it’s the blog, business, the house, my kids. I’ve spent so much time (YEARS!) talking about things that I want to get done, never committing fully to anything in case it tanks and I get disappointed. I’m sick and tired of that. I want all that to change however, and I truly believe that habits will help.

Encouraged by my success with flossing, here are some other habits I will be working on this year:

  • Making the bed every morning
  • Blogging every weekday ( so far so good!)
  • Incorporating a daily cleaning routine into my schedule
  • Tidying up the house (with particular emphasis on the kitchen) before going to bed
  • Journaling regularly (not quite sure what that means yet)

These all have to do with a greater desire to

  • Live in a beautiful and orderly environment
  • Stay in touch with my self
  • Keep my creative juices flowing

I definitely won’t be tackling these all at once, and I certainly won’t be expecting success right away, but I will be chipping away at them slowly as I feel my determination to work on them intensify. I’ve been extremely kind to myself as I’ve worked on flossing and blogging, and I’ve discovered something interesting: the kinder to myself I’ve been, the more determined I’ve been to not let myself down. I fully embrace not having the answers and not forcing changes that just aren’t ready to be made yet. This should be interesting, and I’m so excited about a new year of habits.

p.s. I’ve been subscribed to Leo Babauta’s Habits of Entrepreneurs (NOT an affiliate link) and it’s been so great to watch what habits do for successful entrepreneurs (who also happen to be really nice people.) It’s a paid subscription, so the quality is great and I’ve enjoyed it so far.

My Go-To Lunch

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Lunch is often the forgotten meal and for that reason, keeping it simple and eating the same thing every day is the best way for me to eat something good. For the past few days it’s been this salad. It tastes fantastic, and it’s got enough going on in it to keep my taste buds from getting bored. Here’s the recipe (and you can easily use your favorite meats/veggies/fruit – the great thing about salads is there are no rules):

Romaine lettuce (as much as I want, but usually three large romaine leaves chopped)

Rotisserie Chicken (I just eye-ball it, but it’s probably about 1/3 cup)

1 small apple

Dried cranberries

Sunflower seeds

Feta cheese

This dressing or whatever dressing but I think a vinaigrette works best.

I’m not overly concerned with calorie counting or portioning. I know that each food on its’ own is whole and unprocessed (besides the dressing) and I love the way I feel after eating it – satisfied but not weighed down by heavy starches, content but not tired. This salad keeps me going strong till dinner. I’m not sure how long I’ll eat JUST this salad, but it’s a good starting point and from here I can experiment and try new things.