This Sunday is Easter.  It’s also the birthday of my sweet angel Connor, my first born who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  He would have been 23 years old.

His birthday has only fallen on Easter once before – the first year he was gone.  I still recall the pain I felt that day.  Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays.  The beauty of spring and the hope of rebirth.  It was impossible for me to wrap my head around how this beautiful day could bring me such sadness.  All I could think about was how unfair life was that my baby wasn’t with me anymore.

And now here I am 23 years later.  Does it feel different this year?  Yes. The pain isn’t as raw.  It’s more of a dull sadness that hits me at moments I least expect.  For those of you whose grief is still new and all-consuming please know, you’ll get to where I am.  As the Executive Director of First Candle I frequently speak with families who have just experienced a loss.  They look at me with hope.  Seeing me let’s them know that somehow, they will go on.

But this isn’t a typical Easter or year.  Because of COVID 19 we’re isolated from one another and witness the struggles of so many people both financially and emotionally.  That first year I survived Connor’s birthday with the help of friends and family who surrounded me with love and hugs.  My heart breaks for families who have lost a baby and don’t have that support right now.

Today my husband’s dad is being buried.  We can’t attend because it’s too far away.  His sister will Facetime us so that we can be virtually present.

This weekend we will plant a tree in honor of Connor and his dad.  For me the tree represents hope through loss.  The year Connor died I received a Rose of Sharon plant.  Over the years it grew to over 12 feet tall.  When I looked at it, it was a reminder of just how far I had come in my own grief journey.  We moved from that home so now we will plant a new tree and our grief journey will continue.

Am I the only woman out there who’s sleep pattern is completely wrecked by this quarantine? For those of us who are used to living by a schedule and keeping our family’s life running smoothly this is completely screwing us up.

Or is it?

I’m a firm believer in the universe providing teachable moments that allow us to re-adjust. OK, this is more than just a moment – it’s a giant time-out.

I think most of us needed it for various reasons but for those of us who are caregivers, moms and entrepreneurs one of the lessons might just be to ease up.

As is typical of me, I started out this quarantine with a game plan – and my trusty white board.  Afterall, I work from my home office regularly, how different could this be?

I started lists of projects my teenagers could help me with when they were done with online school.  I assigned cooking, spring cleaning and activities with their brother Spencer who has intellectual disabilities.  Spencer was my greatest challenge.  He attends a day program and routine is critical for many people with intellectual disabilities.  I planned exercise time, drawing, Facetime with his friends and “some” TV.

I also had to plan what to do about my mom who lives with us.  As with many people from her generation, she likes to go to the grocery store every day rather than do a big shopping.  She also visits my aunt in a nursing home daily.  I had recently convinced her to start doing an exercise class at the senior center a few times per week.  Even though she lives with us she has her own schedule and I was nervous about her becoming isolated.  And so, I factored her into my plans as well.  We would have game nights and I would take walks with her and look through old photos.

Then there was date time with my husband to consider.  Greg has Primary Progressive MS and uses a power chair so our dates usually consisted of going to the movies or out to dinner with friends.  Clearly that was now out of the question.  I envisioned some quiet dinners alone – which I didn’t think through given that there was nowhere for the rest of the family to go during these quiet dinners!

I even factored in my own changes.  Rather than going to the gym I’d do classes online.  I already practiced yoga at home so throwing in some cardio and weight training would be easy.

And then the first day of quarantine happened.

It felt like a snow day with the kids home.  Rather than waking up at my normal 5:30A and meditating I found myself shutting off the alarm and sleeping until 7.  I rationalized that since the girl’s didn’t have to head off for school I’d still have extra time before they got up.  Spencer turned on the TV the minute he woke up.  I figured it was the first day and I wanted to get into the new routine so I’d let it slide.  My friends and I started texting about how crazy the world was becoming and before I knew it, it was 10:30.  I started thinking about what I was going to make for our first big family dinner.  If it was our normal routine the girls would be at cheer practice and wouldn’t be home for dinner.  Now suddenly I was faced with the prospect of making dinner for six people EVERY NIGHT.

By now it was 2P and I needed to buckle down and work.  I couldn’t take the time to walk the girls through the chores I wanted them to do and they were more than happy to spend the entire afternoon watching Tik Toks.  By 4P I realized that I hadn’t gotten a workout in so I tuned in to a live Zumba session on Instagram.  I quickly learned that to do an exercise class that required me to watch an instructor on my tiny phone is virtually impossible.  By 5P my son wanted to help with dinner which is wonderful, but he can’t do this without supervision so any chance of catching up on work was gone.  When dinner was done all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch Netflix.  The idea of family game night went completely out the window. Instead baking cookies seemed like a much better idea.

And so, my carefully planned out day resulted in me sleeping in, working too little, eating too much and my kids glued to their devices. Even worse I was wide awake until midnight – something unheard of for me. Which threw me off schedule again the following morning. I could see a vicious cycle beginning and was stressed out how to make it better.  Afterall I’m the Queen of running a household efficiently. I was sure I could conquer this challenge.

But I quickly realized I couldn’t. Life has taken on a new rhythm. Days and weeks feel longer and schedules just don’t seem to work.  With my daughter going off to college next year I’m grateful that I have more time with her.  Usually she’d be off with friends or at cheer practice.  I’m happy that she also has this time with her sister and I’m sure she’ll remember that fondly. I’ve taken walks with my mom and my husband and I have done double dates on Zoom.  My mom and Spencer have been playing Xbox Bowling – something they both enjoy tremendously. We’ve also set up FaceTime so she can see my aunt in the nursing home every week. And I’ve gotten back to work and have the opportunity to focus on doing more videos with inspirational people which is something I had put on the back burner.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that life keeps moving forward, maybe a bit messier and not as efficient, but mostly enjoyable.  We’re not the family that plays games together, but we’re all assembling masks for healthcare workers tonight which to me is even better.  But more importantly we share laughs and love and in the end that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

If you’re a working mom you’re probably already getting stressed out between trying to home school and work remotely. 

Now more than ever it’s important to set up an exercise routine for your kids as well as yourself.  Not only will it destress you but get you into shape for beach days that we can hopefully enjoy in the not-too-distant future. 

Here’s a list of some of the gyms and facilities around the country offering online workouts:

YMCA – Whether you below to a Y or not, head over to Y360 on YouTube for workout at any level.  There’s Barre and Yoga classes, Boot Camp and Active Older Adults (super important to keep older adults active right now!)

Planet Fitness – The workouts will be live-streamed at 7 p.m. ET each day for the next two weeks. And if you can’t make it live, the workouts will be available on-demand on Facebook and in Planet Fitness’ YouTube channel. No equipment is needed, and the classes last 20 minutes or less.

Pamela Reif’s Video Workouts – Even though 20 minutes may not seem like a long enough time to get your sweat on, you will be breathless halfway through this video. Squat jumps, push-ups, and planks, oh my! Choose between full body, arms, abs, and even yoga sessions.

Yoga With Adrienne – I’ve been doing Adrienne online yoga sessions for over a year now. She has them broken down into different categories and there’s something for everyone – Runner’s Yoga, Yoga for Digestive Health and a perfect one for now – Yoga for Uncertain Times.

Free Trainers  – I’ve never tried this site but it caught my eye because they create a full body workout plan that’s customized for me.  I don’t need anything except a mat and some dumbbells (or cans of food.) I’ll be posting some videos of me doing this one!

In the summer I live for my late afternoons at the beach with my girlfriends.  After a rough day at work, the chance to unwind and share some laughs – and wine – can change things around pretty quickly. 

Ladies, I found some great products that make your time at the beach together even more enjoyable!

I have been, or can be if you click on a link and make a purchase, compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value for writing this post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Beach Vacation Accessory Turtleback Sand Coaster Drink Cup Holder Floating Wine, Beer, Cocktail, Drinking Glasses for the Beach Waterproof Universal Floating and Underwater Phone Pouch Easy Set Up Beach Tent with SPF UV 50+ Protection Tovolo Outdoor Wine Holder Bamboo Table

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day who’s going through a divorce.  She’s filled with anger towards her ex.  Whether it’s justified or not, it’s how she feels.  But what I pointed out to her is that this anger that’s raging inside of her is not changing or affecting him in any way.  I mean, it’s not like she made some sort of voodoo doll and was able to cause him some real physical pain (although I’m sure she’d like to.)  The only thing that her anger is accomplishing is making her stress level go up, most likely causing health issues and definitely preventing her from moving on with her life and being happy.

As I’ve begun my journey as a motivational speaker and blogger, I’m coming in contact with many people who are struggling with anger at their significant other, friends, kids, co-workers and neighbors.  And yes, they’re even angry at themselves for choices they’ve made that they deeply regret.  Their thoughts are consumed with how they’ve been wronged and how life is unfair.

Whether it’s trying to understand why a good friend has chosen to walk out of your life, why an ex-spouse continues to try and hurt you or why a family member has said hurtful things, you’ll probably never learn the reason.    You could also be struggling with feeling like an inadequate provider for your family, a “slacker mom” who never does as much as the other moms or poor body image.  The holidays tend to accentuate these feelings as we think back on previous years when things might have seemed better.

Let’s face it, it’s hard letting go of a grudge and equally hard letting go of feelings of inadequacy.   But the old cliché is true – the only person you’re hurting is yourself.  And so I’m asking you to give yourself the most valuable gift you could ever receive this year – acceptance.

Accept that people are making the choices they’re making and that’s there “thing.”  Stop trying to forgive or even understand.  Allow them to go on their way down their own path.  You can’t control them or change them but you canturn the energy inward and make peace with yourself about the situation.

And next, accept yourself.  The idea of “perfection” is imposed by outside people and doesn’t exist.  You’re strong, beautiful and have the power to create the life you want.

Are you ready to be happy?

AlisonKids

Let me start out by saying I love my kids more than life itself and I wouldn’t trade being a mom for anything in the world.  The minute my first baby was born I was changed forever.  I’m also not debating the pros and cons of being a stay-at-home mom versus a working mom.  I respect each woman’s decision in that regard.

BUT, every mom needs to be more than just a mom.  Once I had kids I had no choice, I needed to continue working for economic reasons.  But I also wanted to continue working for my own personal fulfillment.  I knew that I could support myself no matter what happened – and everything did happen. By no means am I saying that every mom should work, but there needs to be something to fulfill you spiritually, emotionally and mentally along with being a mom.  As moms, we get wrapped up in our kid’s activities and social lives.  Usually, their friend’s parents become our friends, but oftentimes we have very little in common except the shared friendship of our children.  When we stop talking about our kids and their activities, what’s left?

Too often I hear moms saying that they’re “getting by” for now or they’ll live their lives once the kids go off to college.  But, here’s the problem.  None of us are promised a tomorrow, we only have today.  And even if we’re not hit by that proverbial bus, once our kids are in their late teens we have so completely forgotten who we were as women before we had kids that we fall into a depression.   Yes, we all have a warm glow about being a mom at Mother’s Day but it’s kind of like the day after Christmas or New Years – now what?  We return to the same old/same old.

We can’t live our lives through our kids nor should we.  They have their interests and activities and we need to find what makes us passionate in addition to motherhood.  Is it training for a 10K marathon, taking a painting class or going on a mission trip? Or, possibly, it’s turning a hobby into a business.  I know the response most of you will have – “I don’t have time with everything I need to do as a mom.”

There are so many reasons we come up with as to why we can’t find time to develop ourselves personally and/or professionally, but here’s why we should:

You’ll be a better mom – Let’s face it, when we’re stressed, overwhelmed and don’t feel appreciated we snap at everyone around us, including our kids.  Discovering or rekindling a passion for something will make you happier and more energized.  And, as we know, a happy mom is a happy family.

You’ll teach your kids valuable life skills – Unfortunately too many ‘tweens and teens suffer from “entitlement issues.”  They think they deserve to be driven everywhere and not have responsibilities at home.  People are amazed that my intellectually disabled son at 15 years of age cooks, does his own laundry, vacuums and snow shovels the driveway.  My kids know that mom has to so they need to pitch in.  All three of my kids, including my 8 year old, are self-sufficient and enjoy having responsibilities around the house.  They understand that each family member chips in and shares responsibility equally.

You’ll be healthier – Whether it’s starting some physical activity, joining a group that shares a similar interest or taking a class, you’ll reduce your stress level tremendously because you’ll be stepping away from your regular “mom routine” as chauffeur, event coordinator, cook, housekeeper and peacekeeper. Stress reduction is critical for everyone as it can lead to high blood pressure, asthma, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and a host of other chronic issues.

Have you carved out time to develop your “other side?” I’d love to hear what you’ve done and how it’s made you feel.

 

Heather Borden Herve´ is bringing GOOD News back to her community

GoodMorningWilton

Recently I joined a women’s small business group in my town.  It started out, as most things do with women these days, with a question I happened to post on our town Facebook page.  I wanted to see if anyone had some marketing tips they wanted to share with me.  Within a day, there were at least eight women entrepreneurs who also had questions.  It became apparent that all of us were looking for business support for our companies and yes, somewhere to commiserate about the challenges of owning our own companies while being mom.   While all of us are at different growth stages for our businesses and our challenges might be different, what struck me is how dedicated and passionate we all are about what we do.  Nothing against men, but there’s something about a mom with a mission that’s truly unstoppable!

So I’ve decided to start highlighting some of the incredible women I meet who are doing amazing things to make this world better, happier, safer and healthier.  I already have a bunch lined up but send in some suggestions about moms you know.

First up is Heather Borden Herve´, editor of GOOD Morning Wilton.  Heather, like so many of us, was tired of reading about violence, natural disasters and just plain nastiness.  Local community sites seem to be filled with criticism and gossip.  Heather wanted to do something different. She wanted a nice community newspaper that focused on the good parts of our community—new businesses, longtime businesses that haven’t gotten as much exposure, profiles of good people to know in Wilton, and things that happen and make news around town and in our schools.

And so, this month Heather launched GOOD Morning Wilton.  As Heather explains, “This was about wanting my kids to see that supporting good news was a way to make the local world around us safer, better and stronger as a community. I wanted to make sure that a main part of that was celebrating kids who do good, who aren’t afraid to step outside what all their peers are doing and stand up for the right and good thing. The category of “Teens Caught doing GOOD” is part of that, for kids who create programs, help others, stand up for what’s right should be celebrated and held up for community accolade, to hopefully encourage role modeling for other kids.”

GOOD Morning Wilton is the kind of news you want to read, with the kind of information you need to know. News that’s reported, written and told by writers who live in this community and who care a great deal about it.

Just as crucial, here’s what you won’t find on GOOD Morning Wilton: There’s no police blotter. Nor will anyone have to slog through news that doesn’t involve Wilton or the people who live here. Most importantly, it’s a news source about the community that respects what the word community means.

Heather’s vision of what a community newspaper should be is something more places should adopt!

Disclaimer – I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. All opinions stated within are my own.

Kid ZoneRecently the folks at ZonePerfect sent me new bars for my kids to try – Kidz Zone Perfect. Thank goodness they were smart enough to send me three so I wouldn’t have my kids fighting over them! I figured my ten-year old would like them as she’s my competitive cheerleader and is always looking for something to grab before practice. My son, who’s 14, will devour everything in the house if I let him. But I was most curious about my youngest daughter’s opinion. She’s my pickiest eater and I worry that she doesn’t eat enough healthy foods. I sneak fruits and veggies in where ever I can but snacks for school are always a challenge as she’s been known to simply throw out the healthy snacks if she doesn’t like them.

Well, as the old Life commercial goes, “She liked it!” I was impressed to learn that ZonePerfect asked everyday moms and their kids to help design the new bars. They held “build-a-bar workshops” where moms could discuss what they expected from a nutrition stand point and kids got to help create the flavors (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Caramel Crunch, and Yellow Cupcake.) My daughter loved the Yellow Cupcake. I tasted each one of them myself and they really were good. Plus, each bar has 23 vitamins and minerals, five grams of protein and three grams of fiber.

If you want to check them out yourself, here is a $1.00 off coupon for any flavor Kidz Zone Perfect bars.