Mama Refill In A Day

Last weekend, on a very gorgeous Saturday afternoon three women gathered for my first ONE DAY Retreat.  It has been challenging for moms to get away to a two night retreat although the enthusiasm is there, so I was inspired to hold a one day retreat.

We gathered in my mother’s home which overlooks the Puget Sound and offers relaxing on the deck, walks to the park and Sound, quiet corners and spacious patches to refill.

We shared what fills us up physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally, explaining the challenges and insights along the way.  We held each other’s sacred sharing with grace and allowed ourselves to be.

A great start to summer before kids are home 24-7.  We journaled and reflected on how we will get our refill this summer even if it is only in a five minute meditation. 

One thing that struck me when the women shared their stories is how they were giving themselves permission to take care of themselves.  Saying yes to yourself starts with that hall pass and you are the only one that can hand it out. 

Starting with a five minute increment, how will you take care of yourself this summer with the kids home?  What will you give yourself permission to do?  My hope is that every woman reading this pulls out their hall passes without hesitation this summer.  Your whole family will thank you because as I like to say…empty cup = bitchy mama….full cup = happy mama.

The Wheel

Every day I have a choice.  In every given day I have the opportunity to make a choice not just once but over and over and over again regarding how I react to the stresses, demands, highs and lows of parenting.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice and many times I make the wrong choice but I am learning new ways, discovering different directions, trying new tactics.

There is so much going on for everyone right now with the end of the school year.  Spring sports, celebrations of endings and beginnings, school projects and activities, this and that and that and this.  The endless spinning of our lives as parents keeps us moving and often in too many directions.

A shortage on school activities, things to respond to, house chores, errands to run, items to check off the list doesn’t seem to be around the corner so it is up to me choose to stop the wheel every now and then.  It is not only necessary it is vital to my well being.  Sometimes I need to stop the wheel and just coast and only be for the moment.  It’s quite revolutionary to discover, no one will fall off the spinning wheel of life if I stop and attend to my cup, my cup which sits at the center of the wheel.  Actually if I do, the wheel won’t spin out of control knocking myself and those around me flat on our asses.

One morning last week I had a choice and I had to make it quickly.  Walk my daughter to school or drive?  We live two blocks away and usually walk but this morning my son was already at a play date for the morning and I was going somewhere by car after taking my daughter to school.  I had felt pulled in a hundred directions, unanswered emails were piled up in my inbox, my ‘to do’ list was growing and I was going away for the weekend the next day.

We walked. After kissing my daughter goodbye in front of her school, I moved at a much slower pace than I would in the car.  I still had to be at the next place and attend to all the stuff but I was giving myself permission to slow down. I even stopped on the sidewalk and bent down to pet my dog before walking with him again.  I was unconsciously filling my cup, a brief refueling.  Breathing in the fresh air, noticing store front windows, smiling at strangers, greeting acquaintances, all bringing me to the present, slowing down the spinning wheel.

One clue to slow down for me is when I am given an opportunity and I hear the “should” voice.  That damn, cursed “should”. If I am thinking I “should” this and I “should” that but an opportunity has appeared that nurtures and fulfills me, like a walk, a rest, a sitting down to a meal, a reading a book, a call from a friend…then that is the choice I SHOULD make. Refill first so I can give again. And give with love not bitterness.

Bringing my wheel to a stop prevents it from spinning out of control, that’s when I get a cold, get run down and frustrated, sometimes depressed.  Bringing my wheel to a stop has never caused me to “get more behind”, whatever that means, instead it has brought me the gift of the moment and helped make my wheel spin more smoothly.

What would happen if you stopped your wheel and did something just for you right in the middle of a time when you felt like there was no way in hell you “should” stop?

Lasting Presents

Last month I celebrated losing 24 lbs. by buying myself a bouquet of my favorite flowers. Tulips. A big bouquet, orange and white.  When the tulips died a week later, I bought another bouquet, just because.

It felt good to be buying myself a present but of course at first there was hesitation, guilt. I buy my kids a pack of gum, new coloring pens, a packet of hair clips, just because and they are over the moon and I have no guilt.

I am working on getting to that place of love for myself.  That after all is why I have been working on losing weight, getting healthy, being aware of what I put in my mouth and why.

The tulips filled me with joy those weeks they sat on our piano, offering color and hope.  Joy from a simple bouquet of flowers? Yes.  Perhaps they were a reminder that I have been getting healthy and putting myself first, perhaps it was just the simplicity of their beauty that struck happiness in my heart.

I have been looking for new coffee mugs but haven’t wanted to spend too much money on them. So the other day at Peet’s Coffee and Tea shop I found them, the big, brightly colored mugs I have been looking for, on sale.  Before making an impulse purchase I sat in the shop sipping my cup of hot steaming goodness.  I wrote in my journal, simply sat and looked around, enjoyed the quiet and really tasted my coffee instead of guzzling it down.  When it was time to go, I saw the mugs again and without guilt or hesitation I bought four.  Then at the cash register I saw a package of two chocolate covered caramels, I bought that too.

Filled with gratitude for the alone time I spent in the coffee shop and happy with my new purchase I drove to pick up my daughter from school.  My daughter loves chocolate just as much as I love flowers so when I pulled the chocolate out of my purse her eyes danced, she licked her lips.  Together we shared the sweetness of the chocolate covered caramel and the flavor of the big grains of salt sprinkled on top.

The flowers, mugs, and chocolate didn’t bring me joy, but what they represent certainly did.  I acknowledged my worthiness by buying myself little gifts.  The flowers and chocolate of course are gone.  I will sip many cups of tea and share many good conversations with friends and family as we drink something hot and soothing from these mugs.  It won’t be the mugs that bring joy it will be the honoring of myself that does.  Aware that I am worthy of sitting down, sipping, enjoying, being.  Showing my children that I need nurturing too is a lasting gift I can give them.

Something Green

Yesterday I had 40 minutes between dropping one kid off at school and volunteering at the other kid’s school.  40 minutes, I could catch up on email, throw in laundry, sweep, mop, dust, get the house clean for the weekend. One issue though, I was really hungry. It was lunch time.

So I let the chores wait and I prepared myself a lunch. A healthy lunch.  I took time chopping my lettuce, cooking my fish.  I know so radical, all by myself on a Friday afternoon with so much to get done and there I was not only preparing  myself a healthy lunch but I sat down, on a chair, crazy I know, and ate it.

We as stay-at-home parents think it is takes too much time, time we don’t have, to prepare ourselves a healthy lunch and then actually enjoy it, instead of eating it on the run.  By preparing myself a satisfying, healthy meal I was avoiding being hungry when I picked up the kids, then stuffing in something quicker and less healthy.  Forget about the snappy, bitchy remarks that would sneak out of me because of low blood sugar.

We pack our kids’ lunch boxes, make our husbands’ coffee, all with love then we give ourselves the shaft and shove in something quick and tasteless or full of sugar. 

When was the last time you sat down to a meal, by yourself and enjoyed it?  I dare you to try it.

Something healthy in the cup.

Good Sore

On Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, I woke to smiling faces standing at the foot of my bed and sore muscles.

The previous day, I attended an all day yoga retreat, Motherasana, at The Bainbridge Yoga House (www.bainbridgeyogahouse.com).  My idea of a perfect Mother’s Day treat, in more ways than one.  And that is how my cup was nurtured, loved and filled to over flowing, in more ways than one.

Mentally, I connected on the ferry ride over with a friend of 17 years, we caught up, shared, listened.  I met interesting lovely women, engaged in inspiring conversations. 

Spiritually, I laughed and played like a child, doing handstands.  Letting the tears wash over me when I listened to a woman’s story of recently losing her mother.

Physically, who can do two sessions of yoga in one day and not feel good?  I pushed my body, contorting it into poses I have never heard of before.  Who knew I could be a pigeon, a bird of paradise, a cobra and a child all in one afternoon?  Oh, the power of letting go.

Let’s not forget the chocolate, vegetarian mouth watering lunch (www.danatreat.com), fresh strawberries the size of a blooming rose, asparagus that kept me going back for more – good food, that must fall under all categories: mental, spiritual and physical. I’m certain.

At the retreat I did many downward dog poses, something missing in my Bikram yoga practice, so my sore shoulders lasted through Sunday and reminded me again on Monday.  A good reminder.  A reminder of how good it feels to take care of myself, what a blessing it is to all who know me.  And like my yoga instructor said this morning, This is touching all those who know you

When we fill our cups, recognize our needs and stand up for getting them met we are definitely, touching all those around us. 

I was ready to play with my kids on Sunday because I had let myself dance to my own tune the day before.  As we all did handstands in the grass I was more aware of the joy in my heart than the sore ache in my muscles.  And everyone was aware that mommy had a full cup.

After a day of filling my cup at The Bainbridge Yoga House, I could breathe more playfully in the green grass.

Tea for Two

I am definitely an extravert. I get my energy connecting with others.  Nothing fills my cup more than engaging with a friend, finding common ground, sharing with each other about things that matter.  I can do without the small talk.  I mean sitting down for tea or a meal with a friend and engaging in a heart to heart. That inspires me and lifts me, gives my day a bonus gift.  The sharing and connection doesn’t have to be long or highly intense, even brief sharing can fill me up and prepare me to give back to my family and to the world. 

The time I spend with a friend or family member isn’t about the cup of tea or the glass of wine.  It is about the connection we have shared, the experience of being together and being there for one another.

Is your cup spiritually or mentally given a refill when you connect with someone in your life?  How often do we put off calling a friend, answering an email, sitting to chat for an extra ten minutes?  Do we think are children will stop breathing, the dirty dishes will fill up the house?  Connecting with someone isn’t a guilty pleasure, for some it can be a necessity.  Your children will see how more engaged you are with them when you have had time for yourself and a friend and trust me, the dishes will still be there to wash.

Who have you been wanting to reach out to, but simply haven’t had the time?  Sometimes making the time for that connection takes care of all the little things you were worried about.

Words In My Cup

I have a stack of books on my night stand and on the floor in front of my night stand I have a basket of books.  I am known to read more than one book at a time. One on something to feed my spiritual side, one to tap into my creativity, to inspire and one to entertain, usually a good novel.  Right now my novel is The Help, by Kathryn Stocket.  The story carries me out of my own world and feeds my curiosity, wonder, watering me mentally and in some ways spiritually as well.

Reading words that someone has carefully created on the page awakens my soul and definitely fills my cup.

I don’t make it a priority though.  I often save reading until the end of the day, when the house is quiet and it is time to crawl in bed.  I end up reading less than five pages, even though I’m riveted, the heaviness of my eyelids too much to fight off.

A couple of times this week, I grabbed The Help off of my night stand and put it on the kitchen counter or the living room coffee table so that it was in my sight, reminding me of my desire to read more often, to really make it a part of my daily life.  It helped.  I got in a few pages of reading when I otherwise would not have done so.

What do you need to put in your sight so you remember your needs and not just leave them tossed aside?

Does reading feed you and fill up your cup?

Cup of Tea

My husband and I have a long standing joke about a cup of tea.

I will be craving a cup of hot, soothing tea, a caffeine pick me up, so I’ll boil water and make myself a cup.  Many times I just boil the water not getting to the cup of tea part.  The kettle will whistle and I’ll turn off the burner and be too busy attending to the kids needs, I’ll forget about the hot water in the kettle.

If I do actually make it to putting a tea bag in the cup and making a cup of tea it won’t be uncommon if I leave the cup on the kitchen windowsill to cool – forgetting about it, and discovering it hours later.

If my husband makes me a cup of tea and here’s where the joke is, he’ll say, Honey, I’ll just put your tea on the windowsill so you can forget about it.

This is what can happen not just in parenthood but in life, when it comes to attending to our needs.  We make attempts then get interrupted and distracted and forget about it.  Pushing it aside, telling ourselves we’ll just have to wait.  Other needs come first, our children, our job, our spouses, our parents, etc, etc.  So like the cup of tea on the windowsill, we turn cold and forgotten.

This is where practice comes in.  Start with putting the cup of tea in a more visible place, limiting the possibility of being ignored.  Make a list of the things YOU want to do for yourself: long walk, reading a book, meditating, watching a movie – uninterrupted, phone conversation, taking a class, painting a picture…whatever it is, then place that list in a visible place.  Seeing it every day may help remind you, Hey, I want and need to take care of myself. 

Then practice a new phrase, one that allows you to sip and savor your cup of tea and attend to the list on the fridge: I matter, I will make my cup of tea, and drink it too.

My friend, Angela Fleet, fills her cup by taking a painting class every Monday when her kids are in school.

Who Crawled Into Your Cup?

Today I was filling my cup spiritually, physically and mentally by showing up to yoga class.  This has been an odd week for me with one child home for Spring Break, the other still in school. I have felt lopsided.  Regular schedule out of whack.  So I needed some order, some cup refilling.  With the hubby away for the next four nights, I hired a sitter, grabbed my water bottle and headed to hot yoga.

Earlier in the day, before yoga, the kids and I colored eggs.  And I have to say every year, I love this activity.  I let them go crazy, tons of cups with colored dye all over the table.  This year they got into it even more than in years past, experimenting with the colors.  It was a proud creative parenting moment.  Proud because they were the creative ones, I didn’t have to be the one forcing the activity, or the only one doing the activity, they were in to it.

"My cup full of joy."
My cup full of joy

Later in yoga class something out of order, off routine happened.  Right after our fourth pose, just as the sweat was dribbling down my back a yogini spoke up and said, Someone is banging on the front door and it looks like they really need to come in.  I couldn’t see the front door, but I could her a loud male voice, not angry loud, just loud.

The instructor went to check it out and came back asking if there was a Jane Doe in class.  Jane stood up immediately and went to the lobby, hubby John Doe followed.  We all got back to our business of sweating, centering and breathing.

Soon hubby came back, but wife was still in the lobby. I could see a portion of the lobby and snuck a look to find that a child was sitting with her mama, Jane Doe.  The rest of the 90 minutes went on with hubby back in class and mom sitting in the lobby with her child.  I don’t know the story, I just know a little girl wanted her mama right when her mama was doing something just for her.

That happens though, right? That happens to all of us. If it happened to me, if the sitter showed up to class with my children what would have I done?  Well, our sitter is only twelve and doesn’t drive so if something were truly wrong, an adult would have gotten me and of course I would have headed to the lobby leaving my mat and towel behind.

Not knowing the particulars, I felt for the mom.  Hubby got to come back and finish class while she held her daughter.  She looked so calm, so unruffled when class was over and I caught eyes with her in the lobby.

Maybe the little bit of class that she got was enough.  Maybe holding her daughter was all she needed right then too.  For it can work like that sometimes…filling our cup can happen in the moment we are holding our child, being where we need to be.  Dying Easter eggs.

by J.G. McGlothern

A Cup of Good Health

I appreciate this week’s weekly question proposed in The Prosperous Writer, an e-zine, by Christina Katz. (www.christinakatz.com)

She asks, How do you stay healthy? Have you always been healthy or is good health something that you have had to cultivate?

For the most part, yes I have always been healthy but as a mom I have had to cultivate new habits to replace the unhealthy ones I had created from the stress of parenting.  As a parent we empty our cup daily and it is up to us to be creative and listen to what we need in order to refill.  To fill my cup physically, I have a new focus, Bikram yoga.  I started going two years ago on my 40th birthday.  But it was only this past September when I committed myself to going four times a week.  This activity feeds my soul in so many ways.

My original excuses were time and money.  The classes aren’t cheap and they last 90 minutes.  But because I have put myself first I’ve made it work.  I said no to guilt, shame, and excuses.  By saying yes to self-care and refilling my cup I have become stronger, healthier, calmer and on many days more balanced.  Bikram Hot Yoga is a 90 minute moving meditation connecting with my body, mind and soul.  The results are lasting, life giving, healing.

As a former runner my body was ready for something different.  As a mother I needed to clear my head and as a woman my soul was thirsting for a deeper connection.

With yoga I see my body reshaping, getting stronger but most importantly I am learning the very best health lesson…remembering to breathe.  No matter how great all the sweating makes me feel, if I’m not breathing I’m not refilling my cup.

This lesson to breathe comes home with me from the yoga studio and gets an opportunity to be practiced in my daily life.

When I hold my breath through the parenting drama I cut off all hope, energy, and love.  Remembering to breathe calms me, centers me and keeps me from losing it.  And isn’t that what good health is all about?

by J.G. McGlothern

One Cup of "Peace and Quiet To-Go" Please

Many years ago my step-dad built a cabin in the woods on a cliff overlooking the water.  Driving down the dirt road you could only hear the tires on the gravel and the wind rustling through the trees.  Anyone who slept there would claim it as the best night of sleep and would sleep in later than normal. The silence of the woods had the most amazing calming effect, boosting everyone’s spirit.

When I lived in Tokyo, I would take a train to the country on my days off, escaping the noise, pollution and people.  Seeing the green trees would transport me to a place of calm, an awareness of how stressed I was living in a crowded city miles and miles away from my native Pacific Northwest.

This morning a mom offered to take my son, and the two boys I watch every Thursday for a couple of hours.  She drove off with a car full of five boys, leaving me with a new plan.  I would absorb the silence, fill my cup with self-care, instead of emptying my cup with housework.  The house is unusually quiet and I feel myself settling into this gift, aware of how much I need silence.

Sometimes all we need to re-charge is a cup of silence.  We may not be able to drive to the woods, hop on a train to the country or send our children away, but we may get five minutes to sit in silence.  Let me re-phrase, we may get the opportunity to create five minutes of silence.  I could have ignored the gift and filled this time with stuff that doesn’t replenish my soul.

What would happen if you turned off the radio, I-pod, television, telephone ringer and just sat in the silence?

Would you feel guilty?  Want to quickly fill that void with noise?

You may very well have difficulty embracing the silence at first.  You may feel completely weird and uncomfortable.  On the flip side you may eat it up and be transformed to a state of calm.

You won’t know until you try now will you?

by J.G. McGlothern

Holding Out Your Cup

In yoga the other day the instructor said to us as we lay on our backs in the resting pose, Now just receive…lots of benefits from this resting place.  They make it sound so simple, so natural.  Just receive.

Instead of just receiving we as parents, women, human beings fix, control, analyze, doubt, agonize over, get all guilty and make it oh so complicated.

When was the last time you received a compliment without going into a long excuse or explanation instead of just saying thank you?

I see these little gifts as moments of opportunity for a free re-fill.

When my husband says, You look good or a friend says, I like that idea I am going to practice simply saying thank you and receiving the benefits of being acknowledged and appreciated.

When was the last time you received the gift of time and filled it with busyness?

I also see these moments of opportunity, a time to hold out your cup for a free re-fill.

When my kids are sleeping, like now, I am going to seize the moment and exercise, write, breathe, rest and reap the benefits, standing strong with a full cup.

Shoulda Woulda Coulda

SHOULDs don’t usually fill ones cup. I will be as bold to say, If you think you SHOULD do it and your heart is not in it then it ain’t fillin’ your cup sista.

I learned something last week that was life giving. I learned that if you decide to do something in consolation, meaning when you are in a good place and decide to back out of it when you are in desolation, meaning not in a good mind set you ain’t doin’ anyone any favors.

Last Saturday during my hot yoga class I vowed to myself to come back on Sunday. It was going to be my church. I was having a great session, noticing the benefits, my body, mind and spirit singing and connected, that I wanted to come back on Sunday.

Well, on Sunday, home with the family, having a wonderful quiet morning, bonding not rushing off to church I felt like I SHOULD stay home. We were gelling as a family. I felt guilty about leaving them to go to yoga. I felt guilty about my decision to take care of my soul, my body, myself.

After polling the family…they were cool with me leaving, so I went. And backing out of the driveway, I remembered what I read a few days earlier, When you are in desolation, don’t go back on decisions you made in consolation. In other words, never back out of something you decide to do when you are in a good place just because in the moment you are in a bad place.

I was so grateful I stuck to my guns, instead of staying home with the family because I felt I SHOULD. We had a great rest of the day together when I returned. I was able to be more present for them because I had filled my cup spiritually and physically.

That's Not What I Ordered

Many of us know intuitively what we need to refill our empty cup: a run around the lake, a weekend without children, to watch a favorite TV show uninterrupted, a pedicure, lunch with a friend, Sunday worship.

I am in the middle of a throat virus. I am tired, low in energy and need 800 mg of ibuprofen to swallow without wanting to cry. Although I may think I need lunch with a friend, a weekend away, or a run around the lake to fill my cup, my body has another plan. Rest, liquids, moving slowly. Honey, lemon and quiet contemplation.

For over a month doctors and physical therapists are working with me to figure out my ankle issues. Shooting pain up my leg that I didn’t ask for. I don’t want to do my stretches and wear the brace…I want to go for a run around the lake.

We have all been there. That place of impatience wanting our present condition to be over with. Well, sister it is your gift to give yourself permission to not do and to just be. Yes, you didn’t ask for it but baby you needed it. So there.

The Cup by J.G. McGlothern

What is this cup I speak of anyways? I have been using the expression, “My cup is empty or full” or “Damn, My cup needs filling: for some time now. Many of us use the expression. This idea, this expression has moved me to starting a business around it and now a new blog. So what is THE CUP?

For me, my cup is my soul. My essence. My being. My source. When I don’t tend to the cup or I have used up all the good in it, I am drained, bitter, angry, confused, hungry … empty.

Since becoming a parent it has taken me awhile to figure out what fills my cup. My needs have definitely changed since my kids were wee little ones. When our first child, my sweet bird daughter was a baby, caring for her filled my cup. Watching her every move filled me to overflowing. Now that our children are 8 and 5 ½ my needs have shifted along with theirs, often pulling us apart.

So that the gap doesn’t get too wide to reach across I need to care for my cup, nurture it, love it just as much as I love and care for our children.

My cup holds my heart, my passions, my yearnings, that still small voice. And when I am too drained or busy to tend to my cup the whole family falls apart.

Nothing makes me sadder than to hear a friend say they feel too guilty to do something for them self. Too tired to follow their heart, too busy to listen to the voice inside. That is when we need to take a breath, a deep long breath and ask the question how can I get a re-fill?

I am learning it doesn’t take much to refuel your soul. And it is different for everyone. I need a walk, a few moments of silence, some music, to read something that spins my brain waves or a connection with a friend. Others need a workout at the gym, to volunteer, a bubble bath, or a drive to Starbucks.

Our needs can change but I know for sure even if we don’t define it as such we all need to regularly fill our cup, emotionally or spiritually, mentally and physically.

All moms deserve a re-fill, ideally before they run on empty.