Motherless Self-Care Part 3

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My middle daughter reflecting…

 

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Spring is such a natural time for us to energize and allow new ideas and ways of being to emerge and bloom.  Our family spent some time this weekend discussing how the emergence to light of Spring –  from the darkness of winter – naturally calls to us to move from a place of being more internal and reflective to action oriented and growth.  We asked ourselves, “what do I wish to have grow or bloom in my life next?”  I love embracing the seasonal and natural changes in nature to self-growth.

Today, I am going to wrap up this 3 part series on the unique challenge of Self-Care for those of us who would consider ourselves ‘motherless.’  The first two parts focused more on the heart of the matter – going inside and doing the deep, intimate work required to care for your highest self. This series will focus on the more lighter, perhaps more tangible ways I have found to mother myself.

One of the questions I ask myself is “What are some of the things I wish or miss not having my mom?”  And, then I take that list of ideas and I provide them for myself as a gift from above.  I hope that makes some sense, but after making peace with the loss of a mother’s unconditional love, I have empowered myself to take on the role of becoming the giver of my own love.

As women, we are notorious for attending to the needs of many and neglecting those of our own.  So here is a list of some of the ways in which I have found to be a mother to myself:

  • surround myself with words/note & quotes of affirmation.
  • enjoy ‘comfort foods’ as needed – mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs.
  • pick up a new accessory from time to time, just because you like it, or its pretty – this can be a delightful way to feel special.  I imagine my  mom walking in to my house and saying, “I saw this and thought of you.”
  • Indulge in holiday treats, buy yourself a box of chocolate hearts for Valentine’s Day, enjoy a McDonald’s Shamrock shake on St. Patricks Day…

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    Shamrock shakes with my daughter.  A tradition I remember with my mom…

  • Continue small traditions you remember.  For me, occasionally I will purchase those disgustingly delicious lady finger pastries they sell at the grocery store in the bakery.  They come in a pack of 5 on a Styrofoam plate with plastic wrap.  I remember my mom buying them and we would eat them all on the ride home from shopping…I do that sometimes…I don’t eat all five, but I eat one and recall that time with her fondly.
  • Enjoy a movie with popcorn, by yourself.
  • Order take-out from time to time to take a break from cooking.
  • Take a nap.
  • Meditate 10-20 minutes a day (once upon awakening and set your intention and once before bedtime to put your day to rest).
I would love to hear some of the ways you mother yourself -please let us know ways in which you do or ideas of how you think we can better love ourselves like only a mother could.
There are two other rituals or traditions I find nurturing in maintaining a connection to the physical loss of my mother or a loved one.
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My Mom’s Candle.

Memorial Candles – First, on most days, I light a candle for my mother.  I buy those tall glass candles you see many times at alters of churches or memorials.  You can buy them anywhere – I buy mine at the Dollar Store.  They are so pretty and simple & burn for weeks.  They can be transparent with pretty colored waxes or sometimes, if this resonates in your heart, they have pictures of various saints.  I always pick a pink candle for her. My mom was not very ‘girly’ but for her funeral, she selected the most beautiful, soft colored pink pastel dress to be buried in – I loved that dress and it made her look so feminine.  That is why I choose pink.  I set this candle visible to me and throughout the day just look at it and smile and take peace in her ‘light’ in my home…

Symbols – I know many of my friends that have grieved the loss of a  love one, cherish a symbol that serves as a connection, a god’s wink, a sign, or affirmation from their loved one.  One of my friends has a beautiful connections to dragonflies.  For her, when a dragonfly is around or near, she feels it as a sign from her son.  She has pictures, paintings, drawings of dragonflies in her home.  This serve as a loving rememberence.  For another of my friends, it is the beautiful cheerful red cardinals.  While her husband was ill, cardinals became a symbol of hope and encouragement and up until his dying day, were placed in their lives when needed.  As a matter of fact, the day he was admitted in to the hospital,  as my anxious friend walked into the intenstive care she was struck immediately by the stunning image of a cardinal hanging in the nurses station – It was the only piece of art in the entire unit.  Recognizing the signifigance of this image – as a sign that this was exactly where her husband was supposed to be – without a moment’s hesitation, she had the portrait taken down and ran in to her husbands room with it and said, “honey, look, its a cardinal!”  She lovingly placed it at the foot of his bed.  He did not come home from that stay, he passed away.  But this symbol served as a sign to them and continues to provide her love and encouragement after his passing.
For me, it has always been a rainbow.  My mother was a religious woman and we had a personal love of the idea of ‘his promise is in the rainbow.’  She took great peace in this concept – I do too.  Since her death, I have had the most amazing experiences with rainbows.  Whenever I have been going through a particulary trying or challenging time, perhaps had big decisions to make, or was enjoying a celebration, the gift of a rainbow has appeared.  These rainbows always bring me peace and I feel like is colorful hug from my mother that whispers…‘everything is going to be ok.’ 
In 1997, my husband and I were driving across country with our two cats to begin a new phase of our lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I was so nervous, anxious to be moving so far away from everything familiar to me. As my husband and I crested the Sandia Mountains on Route 66 we were greeted not only with a rainbow, but a DOUBLE rainbow.   They were so vibrant, big and in a desert sky radiant!  I immediately found peace

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A sign from my mom in Paris, France. 

and knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.  These rainbows continue to connect me to her love and provide me with comfort and peace.

Motherless Self-Care Part 2

“When a daughter loses a mother, the intervals between grief responses lengthen over time, but her longing never disappears.” 

Hope Edelman “Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by Hope”

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Yesterday, we explored the idea of how Self-Care may take on a different meaning when you have lost your mother. I shared how the actual physical loss, my mother’s death, when I was 15, removed the feeling of unconditional love in my life and for years I was angry and search for ways to replace it. Truth told, it can not. It is one of the sad realities of losing a mother – whether you lose her to illness, old age, disease, addiction, neglect or abandonment. For many, we spend much of our life looking for others or things to fill that loss. Self-Care is discussed in many circles, especially in relation to women. While I agree self-care in the area of rest, nutrition and exercise are important, this other level of self-care I am referring to is healing, integration, acceptance and the identification of how you, and only you, (not your friends, spouse, children…) can become the river of unconditional love to yourself – the ultimate self-care. If you can love yourself that deeply, all other aspects of your life will begin to flow.

I shared that the most powerful and meaningful gift you can give yourself to nurturing & healing your past is good therapy. I will leave that there. Good therapy and consistent inward looking is key.

I also find there are other practices that help me mother myself, or supply me with some unconditional loving. First, surround yourself with wise, loving female mentors along your journey. Pay attention…they are there. I thank my mother for always making sure these strong females have been and continue to be carefully placed in my life at different stages. Since her death, I have like my own Mother Jedi Council.

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Who is on your council?

 

 

Ann WayeJedi of Love. Ann was my best friend’s mother. She taught me what family can look like – connected, joyful. She put her children before everything and had a gift for being engaged in the life of her kids without judgement. Because of this, her kids told her everything! Maybe TMI at times (lol), but she listened and she really knew her children. She took me in, like a little orphan, right after my mother died and let me stay there. After high school, she let me bring my stuff to store, loved me. Now as an adult, I know what an inconvenience I must have been – I ate her food, slept in her house, stored my things, never paid rent, came and left as I wished and she never made me feel unwanted. Such a blessing. She gave me a ‘safe place’ while I figured out where was I going after high school and college.

Darwin PrioleauJedi of Power & Dreams. Darwin was the Dean of the Dance Department where I went for undergraduate studies. (How I went to college is kind of a funny story for another time). I was and eventually graduated with a BSN in Science and Nursing. While there, I fell in love with the dance department and worked on a minor in dance. Darwin was this amazingly talented, wise, intimidating dance figure that had a Maya Angelou presence. I (like many) were in awe of her, and like children with their parents, I wanted nothing more than to please her and receive her praise. One day, in my dance journal she left me a note that said “please make an appointment to see me.” When I nervously walked in to her office and took a seat, I really didn’t know what she was going to say. But, she started with a question… “Vickie, what do you want?” What do YOU want…I never thought about that…I was too busy surviving…this question is THE question, “What do I want…” The other mother/mentor feeling I remember is that she believed in me. She told me that she knew I could make it in the dance world if I desired. That confidence in me was powerful.

Rachel GrahamJedi of Steadfast Unconditional Love. I call her my ‘mothersisterfriend’ because she is all those things. She is a mother’s heart. She instantly understood my deepest, most saddest, vulnerable parts of me and could handle it. Not only handle it, she is one of those rare people that actually can and will lean into ‘the yucky’ and hold your hand. She showed me that life is not pretty, easy or always turns out the way you plan, but what matters is the people you love. You love them fiercely.

Toni DeAngeloJedi of Pixie Dust. She is my Italian dream mom. She showed me that humor, laughter and being present matters. She is a sprinkler of magic fairy dust wherever she goes. Toni is like the delicious spices you add to a meal. She was my first nursing mentor who shares her knowledge to make you better and helps you remember life is fun! She has transitioned from my nursing mentor to a lifelong mentor.

Shelley TakeiJedi of No Limits. Shelley is my mother-in-law and I am beyond grateful for her presence in my life. From the first day I met her, I felt accepted and welcome to her family. She possesses that wild woman energy that says “do it!” – “go for it” and always encourages your thoughts, dreams and decisions. She is an embody of challenging the status quo. Although she can not be or replace my mom, she has been a steady, loving, motherly presence in my life for almost 27 years.

Judy MajiJedi of truth. Judy is my stepmother and has always respected the boundary of her role. She has spoken to me and understands that my mom was ‘my mom’ and she could never replace her. I appreciate that wisdom. She is a rock. She has shown me what it means to always ‘be there’. She has shown me that you don’t turn your back when family disappoints and when you are needed you ‘step up’. She speaks words of encouragement to me and they really fulfill a need for praise and validation. She doesn’t lie, she is a straight shooter so I trust what she shares with me.

Rivka Moskow FromJedi of the Soul. Rivka is my spiritual and life coach. She is the like Jedi Council Superior for me – my Yoda. She is an aware and loving soul with the gifts and talent to help anyone become whom they were meant to be. She comes from love and understanding. She speaks directly to the soul and does not symptom manage, but goes deep. Very deep. She holds you accountable to yourself and is my personal definition of true Self-Care.

Julie BogartJedi of Home & Connection. Julie is like the youngest, coolest most wise grandmother like presence. She provides experiential wisdom in the most important areas of self-care and raising an intact family. Although her business is supporting homeschoolers with online literature and writing courses, she truly is a mother’s dream coach – she empowers you with her knowledge & enthusiasm. She knows the bottom lines and is not afraid to ‘go there’. She has changed my life. She has changed my families life. She has been the number one motherly figure in my life that doesn’t just say, “Sure swim upstream!” she like screams  “Grab a life paddle, flippers, snorkel and don’t just swim upstream, JUMP in and swim any direction you wish!”

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Spring is a perfect time we are naturally inclined to bloom.

 

All these beautiful women – embodying all the different aspects of a mother – knowledge, wisdom, truth, insight, accountability, empowerment, love, laughter, steadfastness, commitment, trust, spiritual connection…brought to me just at the right time, blessings. Our mothers may be gone, but through the special people that are sprinkled into our lives – some for a reason and some for a season – we can weave a quilt of unconditional motherly love.

Wow. I didn’t plan on going this route with this entry! I had initially just meant to say “surround yourself with mentors”…but I let the muse flutter where she wished. This is actually not my list of other things I do to self-care for my self at all! I guess that means a Part 3! Until then…

Motherless Self-Care – Part 1

This is one of the only photos I have of my mother and I.  Looking at the background of the photo and our appearances, I would guess this photo was taken within a couple years of her death.  I keep it in a picture frame in my room – the fuzzy, out of focus, blurred image sometimes matches my memory of that entire time period of my life.  When you lose a parent, especially a mother, a tailspin can occur that makes self-preservation and survival your only parachute.  For many, the day your mother dies you  forever lose the person who was your true confidant, your cheerleader and fountain of unconditional love. I was 15 when my mother took her last breath.  15.

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My mom & me. In our kitchen.

Unfortunately, my family was dysfunctional and not intact and all of us, my step-father and brothers, where left on our own to process  this huge loss – which at our ages, we did not.  There did not seem to be the resources or support available today to help us grow, understand and support us through this loss.  All of us went our own ways and still struggle.  I decided not to become a ‘victim’ and became a master at surviving.

About 4 years ago, I entered therapy and began the work necessary to ‘go there’ to face many issues of loss, abandonment, trust and anger.  Oh, the anger.  I had so much anger inside of my heart.  This anger would come out of me and at the people I loved the most – my husband and my children.  To many, I always appeared happy (and I was) but there was the dark, bubbling river of rage inside me too.  I never was violent, but I could become so irritable, use loud, hurtful tones and also could throw or slam things.  I would always feel terrible after I did it and I knew anytime I indulged this anger I was causing damage.  Through this work, I realized I WAS angry. I was angry my mom died, I was angry I had a sick and dysfunctional home, I was angry I had no one on my side, helping me, guiding me or taking an interest in my life.  What I know now, is the day my mother died I lost unconditional love.

I have several friends and I am aware that to be “motherless” can look many ways.  For me, it was the actual death of my mother.  For others, it can be a mother who has abandoned the family, is not present, distant, or abusive.  There are so many ways this motherless existence influences our lives, but the one area I had a personal revelation in and hope that perhaps can help someone else is in the area of ‘self-care’.  When you are motherless, self-care looks different.

Self-Care has many forms and for this, I am talking about unconditional love.  I so desired someone in my life to love me and care for me (like a mom) unconditionally.  So, I looked for it – in my boyfriends, husband, friends and children.  And, unfortunately, they cannot and should not fill that void.  They can love me, support me and encourage me, parnter me, but I am talking deeper – maternally…

To ask my husband or worse, my children to fill that void or loss my mother (or your childhood) left is such an unrealistic expectation to place in their hearts.  They could never fill that ache in my heart.  What I have discovered, honestly, makes me sad, but I know to be true.  I will never have the unconditional love of a mother, ever again.  Period.

I had to let that settle inside me.  I had to allow that to be acknowledged and embrace that truth.  When I became aware and accepted this truth, I felt a lifting of expectation or disappointment of unmet needs in my relationships.  I could look at my family and appreciate them and enjoy them without any attachment to how they could help me feel better.  I also had to work on healing damage I had inflicted on others and empower them to realize my anger had nothing to do with them.

Then, the bigger revelation came in a day of reflection.  I am the only person that can give myself unconditional love.  Me.  I am not talking about self-care like exercising (although that is important too).  I am talking about loving yourself 1 million percent. Even the aspects of yourself you keep secret or hidden from most – loving all of it because it is who you are.  It is your unique path and journey and all the pieces of you are worth love.  The best gift of self-care is not a trip to the nail salon or massage therapist, but to a therapist. A good therapist or life coach with the talent, insight and awareness to help you unconditionally love yourself and integrate all those pieces of your past to become your highest, best self.

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Self-care takes center-stage.

While good therapy and reflection I believe are the key to living an awakened, intentional life, I also have some rituals and traditions that I nurture to try to ‘mother’ myself.  I think, due to the length of this post and the sounds of a house waking up –  I will save for tomorrow.

 

#momentofenchantment – Bedtime Journaling & Lunches!

Moments of Enchantment.  Moments of Enchantment are when you take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.  “Extra” ordinary – add that little ‘extra’ something to make life a little more sparkly, magical, fun, intentional, connected, alive…

Bedtime, for many families, consist of a set of rituals and practices that our kids will remember forever.  My husband says a little mantra when he puts our girls to bed that they can recite on demand – he tucks the blanket around each girl very tight and kisses them on the forehead and all the while he says, “The best part of every day is when someone you love tucks you in…because, it means they are there for you, they care for you, and they love you.”  Then, he finishes with, “You know who that someone is?  It’s me!”

Bedtime Journaling.  I remember when my girls were in public school, I would make sure I did the little things to let them know I was thinking about them, little moments of delight, that made them feel special & loved.  At lunch, this would be by the daily post-it note I would place in their lunches.  One of my daughter’s loved those notes so much, she kept every single one for a year.  A box full of lunch notes from mom.  Sometimes, these traditions ingrain in the hearts of our children and you see them carry on the tradition, too!  My youngest, Kamiko, has enthusiastically taken on the duty of packing our lunches.  Even though we now homeschool now, I have found that continuing to pack lunches saves me so much valuable time and kitchen hassle when trying to accomplish school and home demands.

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Personalized lunch totes add to the Enchantment

 

To keep her packing lunch enthusiasm up and reward her gift of service, I have sprinkled some enchantment and made her a special large lunch tote we keep in the pantry that is filled with many lunch box treats, snacks, and sides that I have her select at the grocery store. To keep it easy and fun, we each have our own Personalized 31 Thermal totes for her use and I purchased a bunch of the reusable cloth zip lock bags (they come in so many cute prints and designs!) and Tupperware, fun/cute little ice packs and store them where she can reach them and do her thing!  She loves it – and she also makes sure that each of has our own Post-it note from her too!  Here is my note from yesterday – yum.

 

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My Lunch Note

Kamiko packing lunches is a win -win.   Fostering a grateful and helping/service oriented heart in children begins when they are young.  Listening to her desire to help and her cheerful spirit at creating our lunches was a win-win for our family!  She can perform an act of service and kindness to our family by making us lunches, she saves me an enormous amount of time and energy by eliminating lunch prep and clean up during valuable time during our school day and she is working on her writing skills and expressing feelings toward us while writing each of us a personalized love note.

 

Does she leave bread crumbs, mayo streaks and knives with sticky peanut butter on the counters?  YES!  YES! YES!  But, she has to start somewhere.  I can gently start introducing the idea of a good clean up over time.  For now, I celebrate and encourage her independence, service and kindness.  I routinely say to my little people, “look for the ways you can show your gratitude always.”  For little people, many times, it is acts of service-words of kindness.

Now, as they are beginning to move past the younger elementary stages – I have a 13, 11 and almost 9 year old – I am always searching for more ways to keep open lines of communication with them.  Here is what I did – I bought three writing journals, individualized journals to their interests and personalities.  I also bought each girl fancy or fun writing pens and markers to make the experience a little more ‘magical’.  For example, for my youngest, I selected for her a little kitty journal with a lock and a miniature pack of glitter pens.

Beginning was easy! I just wrote the first entry explaining that these were our bedtime journals – just a little journal between them and I – where they could tell me anything on their minds.  I shared that my hope was  we could write back and forth to each other regularly, but not with any expectation of how often.  A safe place to share our feelings, thoughts, questions, silly things, pictures, drawings, etc.  I date them, sign them and sometimes add little touches like stickers or new pens.  I bought some cute Easter pencils yesterday and will stick it with their journals this week.  I keep it simple so we will do it and the kids have loved it!

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Bedtime Journals

 

Journaling is such a wonderful habit to encourage in your family.  Not only for the vehicle of expression and sharing of thoughts, but it can also help foster the writer in each of us – Yesterday, Kamiko made a observation that she was looking back in her journal from last year and she can see how much her spelling has improved!  One day, these journals will be such sweet mementos of their childhood.  How I wish I could hold something like this in my hands from my mother today…

We have no set expectation or rules on how often we journal to one another – it is very loose.  When one of us finishes an entry to the other, we simply sneak into their room and place it under their pillow for them to find at bedtime.  There is nothing sweeter, or more enchanting, than crawling into bed at night and reaching under my pillow and feeling the thoughts of one of my girls waiting for me…ahhh, sweet dreams indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the whisper…

IMG_2144 (2)“I don’t know what I’m doing, but…

…that has never stopped me before.”  That was something my husband said this week on Periscope.  Periscope, for those of you unfamiliar is like ‘live’ blogging.  He has become interested in this social media platform and just jumped in and went for it.  I, on the other hand, am always a little slow to test the waters.  I have wanted to blog and write for over a year now, and with his one statement, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but that has never stopped me before” I became inspired, to listen to my whisper and decided to just go for it! Julie Bogart, one of my Momma Rockstar gurus wrote in her book A Gracious Space, “follow inspiration whenever and wherever she leads (she is not a lengthy visitor) — So…here we go…thank you for walking side by side with me.