Words of Wisdom

When I worked as an English teacher, I liked to give my students random writing prompts as a way to relax. It started out as a daily bell work assignment, and later turned into what they called “relax writing.” After they watched the movie Wonder, they wanted to use some of Mr. Browne’s Precepts as writing prompts.  In case you haven’t seen the movie, Mr. Browne was an English teacher, and the precepts were thought-provoking quotes he shared with the class. Soon after the novel was published, a follow-up book with 365 precepts was published with a quote for every day of the year. I began to notice a positive change; the more they were exposed to inspirational quotes, the more progress I saw in their work. Most importantly – I noticed a change in their behavior. They felt human. They learned it was okay to be stressed. They learned that it was absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed with all their work and it had nothing to do with the level of intelligence. 

I am very proud of the positive outcome of this technique, so now, I’m going to share a few of my favorite quotes with you. I hope you will read them, let them sink in, and allow yourself to do something for yourself for a change. It could be the start of a brighter, happier you.

 On relaxing: 

"To help have less stress, take time to relax." Catherine Pulsifer 

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…Including you.” –Anne Lamott

On peace of mind:

“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” —Eckhart Tolle

“If there’s no inner peace, people can’t give it to you. The husband can’t give it to you. Your children can’t give it to you. You have to give it to you.” —Linda Evans

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Create a Happy You!

For the last few months, I’ve been feeling like - I think Carrie Underwood described it best in her song “One Way Ticket” : like a fish on a hook, like a bug on a dirty windshield. Nothing was going my way, save for the occasional perfectly plated pasta dish, and perfectly winged eyeliner. Small victories! I decided that I could sit here and stew in my own misery, or I could get up and do something, even if it was something small. 

 I’m too nervous to divulge information about my bouts with anxiety and panic attacks, which eventually trigger episodes of extreme sadness, for fear of being told to “get over it.” So, I did the next best thing: I sought answers on the internet (silly, I know).  That’s when I came across an article titled, “6 Ways to Create Your Own Happiness.” 

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12605/6-ways-to-create-your-own-happiness.html

I was so pumped after I read it, but then when I started to apply a lot of these methods into my own lifestyle, I thought, “ how realistic are these methods for moms?”  I decided to tweak them to work for moms! Here’s what happened:

 1.    Write your achievements. 

“Train your mind to find the positive by listing your achievements.” Who has time to make lists? If we had that time to spare, we’d much rather fit in a nap, shower, or a good movie.  How about this as an alternative: focus on the things you do get done and give yourself a high-five for each one. Wake up and make breakfast? High-five! Get the kids to school on time? High-five! Get a smidge of cleaning done? High-five! This will train your mind to acknowledge the great things you do get done, as opposed to the things that you didn’t have time to tackle. Since you’re in charge of your own happiness, instead of seeking gratitude from someone else, praising yourself ( with the help of that precious baby’s grin) will get you in the right frame of mind. 

 2.    Decide to make yourself a priority.

 “You shouldn’t only think of yourself on a random girls’ night or on your birthday.” Focus on doing things for yourself to improve your well-being. Mom guilt is real, y’all. If we so much as brush our teeth before checking on the baby when naptime is almost up, we feel like CPS is going to come a knockin’ on our door. Take a walk; studies show that walking 30 minutes a day can improve your mood and boost your energy. If you’re anything like me and you have a lot of work to do in the house, open up the windows and let the sunlight brighten up your home. Play some music and relax. Think of the things that relax you the most and find a way to incorporate them into your daily routines. Your mind and body will thank you!

3.    Fill your day with tiny things you love.

 “Sometimes, happiness is in the details.” Ok, I can really get on board with this one! Yesterday, I had a breakfast date with two of my best friends. Both have small children, 6 months and 10 months, and they were in dire need of a girls’ day out! Words can’t describe the difference in their demeanor after our breakfast date. They were so wrapped up in work and being moms and wives, that they forgot to do those little things that they loved – even the babies bonded and are now BFF’s!  Call a friend over; not only will you get a break, but you’ll have an extra set of hands, and an extra person to laugh with. 

4.    Create visuals of your awesomeness.

Alright, ladies, it’s time to put your Instagramming skills to use! Snap that photo! Record that video! When you’re having a bad day, go back and scroll through them. Those little smiles, and those chuckles are the gold star next to your name. Your awesomeness and bad ass-ism is the reason behind those photos and videos. As an added bonus, take photos of your kitchen ( or maybe it’s just my kitchen that needs this) when it’s clean. Look back on those photos for motivation when you’re feeling down! You are awesome and you can do this! Say it with me! 

5.    Do something new. 

 It’s easy to get stuck in routines. Try something different. Try a new breakfast. Is your hair always in a fun-bun ( mine is )? Try putting it half-up, half-down. Or wear it down completely. You choose! Changing up your hairstyle works for your confidence. Change your wardrobe a bit. Are you usually in an oversized t-shirt and pajama pants? That’s cool. Try some yoga pants and a scoop neck tee. Try some leggings and an oversized tee. What about food? Pinterest, girlfriend, Pinterest! My kids think I learn all my recipes for meals and small snacks by watching Gordon Ramsay on repeat. Nope. Pinterest.  Changing little things here and there will bring out that smile everyone knows and loves. 

6.    Craft your day to create a win. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean bust out the scissors, construction paper, and glue ( unless that’s really your cup of tea, then by all means…).  What is your biggest goal for the end of the day? I’m a writer, so my goal is to have at least half of my current writing assignment complete. Does it always happen- hahahahahahaha. No. But- I still have that as a daily goal and I strive to complete it. Like today, this blog post was my goal, and here I am…bad assing my way to the end! Yassss!  Start with small goals to create your win! At the end of the day, you’re going to feel like you actually got something accomplished. 

Most importantly..don’t ever forget that Rome wasn’t built in a day. These things take time, and so should you. Take time for yourself. You matter so much! Now, close this blog post and go work your inner bad ass! <3 

A Mom's Gotta Do What a Mom's Gotta Do ( Now, Get Out of Our Way) !

I’ve really got to stop mom bashing myself, but it’s so tough! Just when I think I’m doing well, I jump on social media to check out some funny memes. Instead, I’m greeted by the onslaught of the parenting experts (with no children, mind you)! 

Society has taken a dislike to moms who work for a living ( we’re such selfish bitches ) – but wait – they also complain about moms who stay home ( lazy, love to live off their husband’s hard earned dollar). I’m sure you’ve heard them all!  

 What they fail to realize is how damaging their assumptions are, especially for moms dealing with postpartum depression. I know this firsthand. 

 Y’all know I love to tell stories and I’ve got like a million of them! 

 When I was in my 20s, I worked retail. I loved the environment, the people I worked with, and how quick and easy it was to be promoted. I was living the life! However, I failed to realize that my kids were miserable. There were times when I wouldn’t leave work until 10 pm, and they were already asleep. I would only see them in the morning before they went to school. I was a working mom and I was hurting them. Guilt. 

 I finished my degree and was able to pursue a career in education. I worked as a substitute teacher for CCISD, then snagged a full-time position at King High School. The hours were the same as my kids, and we got to spend evenings and weekends together. That should’ve solved my problems, right? Wrong. The pay was crap and I couldn’t afford to give them the luxuries that their friends had. Again, guilt. 

 I decided I needed more money and I sought out a career in teaching. The pay was amazing and the hours were still  the same as my kids. I figured I was on top of the world. I could finally afford better things and still get to spend time with the kids. Could this be the light at the end of the tunnel? Nope. Wrong again. Now, a lot of my free time was spent planning lessons, grading papers, and finding strategies to gain my students’ trust and make them enjoy my class. Basically, I was putting other people’s kids above my own. Guilt. 

 Why can’t I get this right? Am I a horrible mother? Why can’t I work to provide for my family AND be there for them? I was really putting myself down at this point. My husband jumped in and told me I should focus on my writing career, which allowed me to work part time at Del Mar College. I was the happiest I’ve ever been. I was at the top of my game – then the semester was over, and I was back to minimal pay. Guilt. 

 I got a job at a retail store that I won’t name. I was offered a position in management and I thought everything was going to be great. Then, came the abuse. I won’t go into details, but I was berated by my boss. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t take a break, I came home crying every night, my body was in constant agony. All my kids wanted was a hug. Every morning, all they wanted was to talk to me about their previous day. I was so tired. They spoke, but I didn’t hear a word they said. Guilt. Misery. Lots of tears. Self-loathing. 

 Thankfully, I am no longer at this job. No matter what I did, I found myself questioning my ability as a mother. No matter what we do for our children, we’re always going to feel that we don’t do enough. It’s up to us to let the naysayers, the mom shamers, and anyone who has nothing but negative things to say, fall on deaf ears. Only you know what is good for you and your family. You want to work – do your thang! You want to be a stay home mom? Whistle while you work!  Hang in there, moms; I know it’s tough, but our kiddos need us more than anyone else in this world! You’ve got hustle in you- it’s up to you to find it! 

 As always, our peer support groups are available for you. Come talk with us. Vent. Let it all out. 2019 is a year of change! Let’s do this! 

Feeling Broken

Just the other day, my husband and I walked past the baby department at Target, and I asked him if he ever wondered what “Peanut” would be wearing, what he’d play with, how his laugh would sound, and he replied, “ yes, every day; I think about it all the time.”  I had a miscarriage 3 years ago.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the what if’s. What did I do wrong? What if I ate something bad? What if I did something wrong, and now I’m broken? Have I failed as a woman?  I don’t speak much about it, other than with my husband. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss are topics that are too taboo for society to deem worthy of conversation, so we find it easier to shut them out and pretend they don’t exist.    

This evening, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, when it popped up – “ Michelle Obama reveals her miscarriage heartbreak.” Did I just read that correctly? Michelle Obama? But she is so graceful, so beautiful, and so professional – how can she….”   Then it hit me. Just because she exudes so much strength, power, and grace on the outside, doesn’t mean there isn’t an aching heart on the inside.

As I read through the article, I realized that she was expressing a lot of the same emotions and frustrations as I was. She felt hurt and confused. She blamed herself. She felt like she was a failure as a woman. I wanted to share this article with you today, because just like me, there are other women out there that need to know they are not alone in their struggle. We all deal with it differently, but knowing there are others out there experiencing similar struggles makes a smidge of that pain easier to deal with.  We have to start somewhere!

 Break the silence. Shatter the stigma. We’re here for you.

 You can view the article at this link:

 https://nypost.com/2018/11/09/michelle-obama-reveals-her-miscarriage-heartbreak-turning-to-ivf/fbclid=IwAR2E3rO0hp4mn7AXYruuQt8S-sGCtd_RV7OrGed7M0uHqZCmNtZG-qsR8a8

Changing Our Views on Happiness

As we near the end of October, let us be reminded of the babies that were too precious for this earth, and left us far too soon.  Too often, we feel that we should be silenced about our struggles with fertility, miscarriage, or loss of a child, especially when we see others rejoicing in the perfection of their lives. 

Those of us that use social media are often led down a false reality of everyone’s version of happiness. We see the happy couples with their perfect children-with the ability to have children. Your neighbor’s friend with the straight A son, who is an all-around great student. What we don’t see is the stress behind the mom struggling to balance work and keeping her child on task. We don’t see the husband who is away at work for months at a time, missing out on the child’s milestones, leaving the mom to fend for herself and the kids. We fail to acknowledge or to admit the problems we face , our flaws. We think that our inability to have children makes us flawed. I’ve even heard some women say they aren’t “ real women “ because their bodies failed to produce children. We also stay silent about what hurts us. 

The worst part is that we keep these feelings bottled up and refuse to speak about them. We say we’re ok, when we’re dying inside. We fear being touted as the “Debbie downer” of the bunch. Let’s try something. Going forward, let’s take a moment to appreciate ourselves. 

Every day, look in the mirror and say something nice about yourself. It could be something as simple as “you look amazing today,” or something as deep as “ you did great today!”  Changing our approach to happiness could help with our self-esteem and how we handle challenges. 

Speak up. Talk to someone. Vent. You don’t have to handle your problems alone. 

The Journey of Jesikah Gutierrez

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The empty nest.

I didn't really think about it before it happened and it's still a journey everyday.

All of a sudden, there's all this time you didn't have before and you're forced to confront everything, including self, that had been pushed aside for so many years. I didn't recognize the woman in the mirror, but I knew that she was worthy and deserving of love and so much more. It was and still is daunting, but thankfully I've also discovered my life's passion in the process -- helping to lift other women to be the best they can be for themselves and their families.

What I have found is that by working with and lifting other women, I also lift my family - my sons and daughters. Having an empty nest forced me to look at myself and nurture the woman I am and the woman I strive to be.

The Journey of Edie Villarreal

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I was miserable for six years.

Hearing the word menopause, still makes me cringe. It reminds me of all the pain, sleepless nights, and mood swings I endured for six long years.

When I was younger, I thought having a period every single month was bad, except when I was pregnant with my three children. But going through menopause was much worse.

You often hear people making light of this “change” your body goes through, but most of those people are not the women who have gone or are going through it.

It changes who are you and at times I felt like I was going insane. You can’t fully explain what is happening to you, and the symptoms are absolute hell.

I couldn’t sleep and the night sweats were so bad, that every inch of my body perspired. It felt like my body was on fire and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it. Even my pajamas irritated my skin and they actually hurt.

It was a constant battle of taking my clothes off to cool down, but then getting cold and putting them back on only to get hot again.

It was all night, every night.

I couldn’t sleep, so I would get extremely cranky during the day and that’s where my mood swings took over.

I finally decided to go to the doctor and was prescribed an antidepressant, which helped, but it wasn’t a cure. If I forgot to take my medication one day, all the symptoms would start again.

I was on the medication for six years and had to be weaned off because the doctor said it was too long to be continually medicated that way.

The worst of menopause is now behind me, and most of the “change” is over. But I will say that our families need to continue to support us through the changes in our lives and be considerate of our different emotions and feelings we may go through.

The Journey of Michelle Villarreal Leschper

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When I was pregnant with my first child, everything was a dream. I dreamed of what kind of mom I would be, how spunky and fun my daughter would be, how we would breastfeed and have time to bond, and nothing would be “that” difficult.

Then, I pushed an 8-pound baby out of my vagina.

My daughter wasn’t ready to come out, but she was at the cusp of being too large for a vaginal birth, so I was induced. That made my labor long and at times complicated. I pushed for nearly four hours, had an episiotomy, but still tore. Recovering from a third-degree tear was excruciating and it seemed to get much worse before it got better. I couldn’t sit right for weeks, and I was trying to figure out how to breastfeed and pump to build a milk supply because I had to go back to work at 7 weeks postpartum.

With each passing day, my body healed little by little, but my stress and emotional levels only increased. After I returned to work, I forced myself to pump three times a day. I walked out of meetings and didn’t answer a ringing phone, all to get a couple of ounces of milk for my daughter, that she seemed to be sucking down quicker than I could pump it out. My body also wasn’t fully healed, so I would occasionally get sharp pains and couldn’t sit for extended periods.

It was a lot to take in and a lot to handle, especially for a first-time mom. I often looked at photos and videos of my daughter while I pumped at my desk, in an attempt to produce more milk. It only made the emotional wave stronger.

At some point, my pumping times turned into crying sessions. I sat at my desk, pumped, and sobbed. I often called my husband, and while he had words of encouragement, I kept telling myself that I went back to work too early, and that I needed to be home with my daughter.

I was sad, upset and angry. I felt guilty for leaving my daughter.

I reached out to a therapist and it was one of the best decisions I made for myself. I didn’t have postpartum depression, but I did have the baby blues and stresses of being a new mom.

The therapist helped me cope with all the guilt and the string of emotions that went with it. We worked through setting small, attainable goals for myself, so I didn’t feel so overwhelmed. Once I started to achieve those goals, I started to enjoy life and my family.

I didn’t feel so alone anymore.

It took three months, but my body finally healed. My mental health took a little longer, but things did get better. My husband became my support system and took on responsibilities to help in any way he could. My parents, my sisters and my friends were also right there whenever I needed them.

If there’s one piece of advice I can give to a mom, it is to ask for help – and not just when things become overwhelming. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you a real mom.

From one mom to another, we all need a little help every now and then. We will support you!