a year of giving.

as promised, the unveiling of 2019’s word of the year comes with purpose. over and over for the last few months calls to service have been showing themselves. opportunities to extend kindness and share any gifts I’m able to. we have been looking for places in our life to minimize the “stuff” in order to better flourish in areas we find the most joy. so, with today being #givingtuesday I thought it would be the perfect time to start manifesting our intention for next year.

the year of giving.

a·bun·dance (n.)

  • bountifulness of the good things of life; prosperity.

it seems as though we are at a time in our life where we are less at the point of survival and are beginning to peer over the edge of thriving in many aspects. a sweet spot of reflection. in that space we get to choose what to do with our abundance. humility & grace & compassion can grow here, even though they are three of the hardest paths to follow. we all get into our ego and habits even despite our best efforts to live with good intentions. but I want to raise little humans who help. who are mindful. who show kindness without being prompted or without seeing need; humans who show up because it is in their hearts to do so. mostly because it has so beautifully been shown to us.

the last two years we have really allowed ourselves the “glow up” or the reveling in a newfound freedom to explore what we want as a family. never in their growing up years could I afford this, financially or emotionally. while I wish I could go back and change the years of trying to survive, because the risk and reward affected them equally, I cannot. the result has made for some amazing memories though. we have travelled, done lots of things together as a family, and even indulged a little more than we should. we truly learned to work as a team through the hard times and how to enjoy each other’s presence no matter the situation. 2018 was the culmination of meeting our needs and checking off most of our big wants. the littles, who a friend recently pointed out were more medium than little, are at a new age of understanding. they save their own money and know what it means to not have enough, as much as they know the excitement of acquiring a thing they have worked hard for. now, is a great time to share our abundance. we don’t have a lot, we have enough to share though. i’ll forever be ballin’ on a budget which is why I have really sought out ways to start small.

without being preachy, I wanted to talk about some of the ways we are taking advantage of #givingtuesday and how we plan to give back now and in the future year(s), as well.

  1. the internet is a buzz today with opportunities to donate in any denomination or make purchases that benefit a charity or organization. so, if none of the things I mention below are in your wheelhouse, there are tons of options that require just a few extra clicks. and keep in mind that most of these larger fundraising efforts aren’t perfect but they are better than nothing. one of the easiest ways to give is to by shopping with companies who give back. there are a ton of retail sites offering a portion of your purchases to be donated. take the extra step to make conscious choices about how you spend your money over this holiday season. some of my favorites are, The Bee & The Fox, ETSY, Vital Proteins, and Lush.
  2. the gift of life. this one involves quite a bit of work but the power of this gift is incredible. a while ago, a friend shared the Gift of Life Marrow Registry on their page. I’ll leave it up to you all to research the benefits of this cause but order the kit, get swabbed, and send it back. Gift of Life has over 300,000 donors in 48 countries and have helped make over 15k bone marrow matches. it was painless and quick and my donation could help for years down the road. you can also take today to sign up as an organ donor or give blood. not all contributions need to be monetary to make a difference.
  3. shop small & support your community. this is a no brainer. the reciprocity has immediate impact.
  4. use your phone. yep. there’s an app for that. I’ve found three favorites, actually, that are well worth the precious storage space. Charity Miles is just like any other fitness tracking app you would download. it lets you choose a charity, log activity from walking to bike riding, and turns your miles into money that are donated directly. they also have some cool affiliate links that multiply your support. Give Tide is one I’m most excited about. it rounds up the change from your purchases, by linking to your card, and shows you what impact a single person/family can really make. you can set a weekly cap, track your donation, and create a team of family and friends to meet fundraising goals. it’s pretty customizable, user friendly, and has the same security features used by other sites like Acorn and Venmo. CoinUp is a similar app you could use. and lastly, Share The Meal. this app gives you the opportunity to purchase a meal for someone in need all across the world. this company’s costs are paid by grants so 100% of your donations goes directly to feeding a child. you can go a little further and join The Table which is their “monthly giving community” that uses direct cash contributions to allow families to decide which food purchases best suit their needs. this is important because we often times don’t allow those in situations of struggle to make choices for themselves which causes cyclical dangers. empathy goes a long way.
  5. this one might be the biggest change for our family… double up on necessities. we have gotten the wish list for a local organization St. Vincent de Paul, who helps provide goods, shelter, and financial assistance to our community. the plan is to take advantage of two-for sales and promotions on items from their list of needed supplies every time we buy them for ourselves. we keep one, donate one.

that’s a lot to digest, I know. what I’m trying to remind myself is that small steps are still steps forward. we will give time, goods, or money however we are able, when we can. and I know that we are not all called to service and we don’t all have the capacity donate. but I think we can all find a path that works even if it’s just being a bit nicer. I am all too aware of the ripple effect created by positivity and kindness. through this intention I hope we find ourselves a little more open minded and lot more grateful.

cheers to the year ahead, our year of giving.

“each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. and God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

2 Corinthians 9

the waiting season.

today I committed to this blog, and even a platform upgrade, for another year. because what else might I need that $65 dollars for?! but there was a black Friday discount and I couldn’t resist the urge to further customize this dear diary outlet of mine. especially when I just rsvp’d to my first blogger event. (shout out to Honeyteller Blog and The Gem City Mama)

to be honest, I still haven’t figured out what I want my voice to sound like here or even who I think I’m talking to when I write these posts. my attempts at blogging are a bit scattered so far. all I know is that I made a goal to share and am attempting be a person out there achieving goals, despite being busy or uncomfortable or potentially failing. part of the lesson has been sitting still and believing that I have something to say that will resonate; part of the lesson was allowing myself to say the things that will resonate even when they are hard things. more so, learning to use my voice with ardor and compassion because I worked really hard to love the place it is coming from.

most of the time I send these posts out in the universe and pretend that no one reads them at all. I use them like an echo of growth. what have I learned about myself in this process?

so far this year, as a blogger, I have learned the following things about myself: I use way too many commas but will never stop using the Oxford comma, forcing myself to write consistently or on schedule makes me cringe, and I feel pretty alright talking about being a mom but still feel very protective when talking personally about my little humans. it’s important to me to find a balance between openness and privacy when sharing here. and I will always struggle with letting go of caring about how I am perceived. perception does little to change who I am these days, but the more cultivated view to spectators gives me a freedom to share only what I choose while remaining authentic. a bit of a shield, I’d say. without it, anxiety becomes a very real thing. not sure if any other bloggers out there feel this way. not sure it matters. but after year one I’m grateful for not feeling exposed or raw in order to gain an audience, I just feel lighter. maybe the real goal wasn’t to start a blog, it was just to share the things I love as well as the pain points of mental health and how I navigate motherhood with simple and faithful intentions. because that’s my every day life. it was hard to get those all into a cohesive theme. I ultimately gave up trying and only wrote when I felt like it. the weeks that I spent creating in the kitchen, you got recipes. if I was writing poetry and metaphors, there’s a page for that. and the blog itself was a catch all for the facets of myself. I’ve learned to like their randomness instead of feeling lost without a visible direction. shame on me for spending so long making myself small. but here we are, proving that you can be loud and remain gentle and live to blog about it.

with six weeks left of  2018, we are filled with anticipation for the holidays and simultaneously setting our intentions for next year. the little humans and I will sit down with real paper and a pencil to reflect on what we accomplished so far and what we plan to do in the future.  as a whole, most of what we set out as a family to make happen, happened. we travelled to five new states (14 states total), I quit biting my nails, the kids each found a after school “sport”, and we got a brand new car. there are a few personal goals that weren’t quite checked off the list and a couple plans still to be made that will carry over. of course, there are also this year’s lessons to turn into practice, adventures to map out, and new achievements to be made. we weren’t without the road blocks along the way and they weren’t any less painful, my nana passed away and there’s an upcoming surgery for my littlest, but we are getting through them together. with grace & in the pursuit of joyfulness, our words of the year. it seems silly but picking our word(s) of the year has always been pretty easy and something I look forward to. it sets the tone for how we want to approach this simple little life of ours. and it’s remarkable how they manifest themselves in the world around me. book titles, signs in shops, bible passages, and conversations. they feel serendipitous. they proved to be something I was meant to acknowledge not to seek out which was a breath of fresh air compared to years prior where I was always left reaching. so, I am embracing the sitting still. the wide-eyes. the open heart. the setting of intentions. as soon as we choose our word for 2019, y’all will be the first to know.

here’s to hoping the end of the year is vibrant and reflective; also, full of family and moving slow through the good stuff. the advent season is, after all, learning to find joy in the waiting.

fits and starts.

“…do this with humility & discipline.

not in fits & starts,

but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love.” ephesians 4:1-6

 

alright, so this message has a bigger purpose BUT what if the acts of love you need to show are for yourself. and also if maybe, just maybe, a call to kindness and service would be amplified in effectiveness if I started at home; home being myself.

today, I updated the Pursuit of Joy Project post with moments 50 & 51. halfway through. and, to be honest, I’m surprised I have been able to keep up with it. sticking to something isn’t a quality I would list for myself. I guess I get excited about too many things or I hit a roadblock and reevaluate or the enthusiasm dissipates. it’s not that I have trouble committing, it’s that I can’t seem to allow myself the follow through. forever a work in progress. but joy, gladness not based on circumstance (peter 1:8-9), is a full-hearted intention. even if I update a few days late or a few days at a time, instead of posting on a regular schedule. 51 moments of joy in 59 days. i’ll take it.

in typical-of-me fashion, I find that I am subconsciously sorting these moments to make sure I have given everything in my life it’s proper attention. compartmentalizing and balancing are qualities I would list for myself. motherhood moments. friend & partner moments. work or family moments. I am still working on the lack of attachment to circumstance. rather, the lack of attachment to my joy having to belong to others as well as myself; that my happiness should be mutually beneficial. this is a multi-layered realization. at the root, I am grateful to be at a place in my life where I have enough to offer. for many years I did not. but as it extends, I am still not always comfortable giving myself the love I give to others. that’s where I reach too far for the idea of  happiness. it can create resentment and selfishness that are hard to shake.

we/I do this in all sorts of ways. staying busy, being materialistic, seeking companionship/attention (ahem, social media), or competitiveness. it seeps in all the time. and while I think I’ve done a pretty good job of removing most of the exterior negative from my life, the hardest work is still looming.

these shared moments are not any less joyful or appreciated. I don’t think that’s what is being said but I do think that the combination of joy, humility, and discipline is a life goal hat trick achieved by few. so, I set out a new project within a project for myself this week. live more simply and find the magic in that. I want to see what I can cultivate by stripping happiness down to it’s very basic form. to hopefully find a bit more of it. to hopefully find a way to keep sharing it. moments of joy brought to AND from yours truly. this will be an extra challenge with Halloween this week so a few little human moments might trickle in but…

I’ll be back next Monday morning with the results of my week or they can be found on the original post linked above- moments 52-58.

 

warmly,

Eliot.

 

autumn eats.

the palate of changing seasons.

for fall, everything gets heartier and more indulgent, for me at least. so, over on my garden to goodness  page I am adding a few fall-friendly recipes as well as some staples in my kitchen.

first up is the much requested oat milk tutorial. it’s so creamy and delicious AND simple. there is nearly zero waste involved in this process, which I love, and it can added to pretty much everything. I recommend making it EXTRA vanilla and pouring it over cereal or adding it to your bread dough for added earthiness.

stay tuned for more additions & share you results if you try these recipes out!

hand me another lemon.

hey life, hand me another lemon.

I dare you.

I’m not really sure if I’m being prepared for the life of an expert lemonade maker or if the universe is so full of sour that we all have to take on this much. but what I want to dive right into this week is how I have been feeling in this culture of “check in on your strong friend.” what I see a lot are the people in our lives who are the first to say how awful *insert struggle/crisis/trauma/grief* is. they offer advice and the occasional, “you’re so tough, this is only preparing you for something better.” I generally, and in the realm of faith, believe them as I am also reminded that this path was designed for me. I am never alone in my struggle; as I can, alternatively, always share in my joy. which brings me to the other people- the ones who cheer and congratulate how far you have come and how big the odds were once you have beat them. a friend who celebrates at the finish line. all these humans, full of kind words and support are necessary. but I’m wondering about the people in the kitchen helping you cut lemons. how very few times I am asked how I am WHILE I am doing the work, processing the feelings, or sitting alone wondering how I will make it all happen. now, don’t get me wrong, I have these humans for which I am grateful that ask me how my heart is and listen and show up. it is the casualness with which we tend only to validate the struggle and the victory that leaves me feeling pretty blah with interacting, most of the time. because no one wants to be uncomfortable or to hear a response loftier than fine.

social media has been an interesting place to observe the lack of appreciation for just being okay when okay is not your norm.

so last week, I took a break from sharing. I wanted to fully enjoy my evenings at home since work has been a huge tornado of 9am- 4pm intensive training days and problem solving meetings. I felt like I was playing catch-up all week. but I also needed a break from social media in general. I’d found an article about self care and shared, alongside it, some tips for friends of people with atypical mental health. I got a whole lot of friends asking if I was okay. I was. but very, very few of those people have ever asked me this before. they needed a flare gun to go off before initiating their kindness. most of the time, that’s gonna be too late. especially when the internet is your highlight reel. I ended up taking the story down. it made me feel guilty or like people assumed my happiness wasn’t real because I was also sad or that they somehow had an open door with which to discuss my stability.

the whole situation gave me weird feels because for me personally, this harvest season has brought with it a crop of highs and lows. in recent days, more external lows and internal highs, thankfully. but I am not one to hide that, even online. it’s sad that I regretted my vulnerability because I have been feeling more comfortable with myself. feeling secure in my ability to thrive not just survive. and with that comes less of a need to reach for validation. not that using social media always implies this, it’s just that I have often found myself aimlessly scrolling looking for the thing that will make me feel included or a page that justifies my thinking. I doubt I’m alone in this mechanism.

reflection is truly a humbling tool. one that I use to break my cycle of comparison. it helps me re-pattern my brain to be able to see beyond immediate obstacles. I want to be able to curate the landscape of my attitude. it is important to me that I honor the duality of each day and pay attention to my emotional response to each situation. this can be a struggle for the bipolar brain- keeping all the wires running and free of unnecessary kinks. documenting moments of my choosing helps to create a way for me to ease through irrational thought processing before it becomes a heightened reaction. this is how I have learned to balance my capabilities with my circumstances.

which is why I started The Pursuit of Joy Project at the beginning of last month. the list has made it to over 25 and I spent the better part of my free time away from social media reading over the moments I selected. (you can find them here) mostly, because I needed to find a clearer head space as I navigate through a couple life situations with inevitably difficult futures. (we are all fine but this mama heart is tired) I am finally finding an emotional place where I’m able to let my shoulders roll back and breathe through each moment for what it is. such a relief it has been to spend less & less time recovering from the lows and more & more time being present with my happiness. it’s nice to be able to share all of it with my humans even on the days I shut down and don’t want to.

takeaway from this week’s post- check on your friends, period.

be the friend that shows up for the in between. know that I ( and those in your life with mental health variances) will probably get by without you. they are filled with so much joy when they don’t have to. I have no idea what I would do without my people. I hope you have people too. if you don’t, you know where to find me. if you have the wrong people, the ones who only show up for the before & after to drink your delicious lemonade… reconsider your energy allotment. just sayin’.

candidly,

eliot.

*note- this is, in essence, my journal. you volunteered to read this. thank you for that. I have no intentions of ranting or educating about mental health. I’m just sharing my experience. not sure why I feel like all my posts need a disclaimer, but here we are.

the laws of harvest.

do you remember the first time you failed at something?

how about the first time you had to live with the consequences of that failure?

when I was kindergarten, I made a parachute out of craft paper & yarn to assist in the free-fall of my twin sister from our playhouse. thought out, to the best of my 6 year old knowledge, I was proud of my contributions to amateur flight and even more proud of my sister’s fearlessness for being the one to jump.

to the surprise of everyone reading, she hit the ground with a thud. our mom was probably mad. the parachute was torn. and my sister was a little banged up; the extent, I cannot recall. but, the potential danger and fear of failing again were scary enough that our first try was also our last. as a memory, the details are fuzzy, but that feeling is not. life often writes the lesson before we believe we are ready.

the contraption failed. we failed. I failed. nothing about humans will ever be as predictable as gravity. but fear of failure swells up in all of us.

the laws of harvest. you will reap what you have sewn. your choices accumulate and cause a ripple effect that can be absorbed by everyone you encounter. this is, obviously, good and bad concurrently as we walk our paths imperfectly. continual works in progress. it’s all about choices, right? choosing to avoid the possibility of failure is also a choice. it says that your faith, faith in all capacities, does not supersede your ego, comfort, or fear. these traits are inherited and shared and adopted. and most importantly, not without consequence.

let me direct this thought on a personal level.

the three littles are now in 7th, 6th, and 4th grade. both girls are in ap classes and the boy says that this year is “way tougher” than last. they have all entered a whole new responsibility tier when it comes to school. I watch my three very different children ride the wave of failure and cope in entirely different ways…

my son is an avoider. a bad test score snowballs into a missing homework assignment because he doesn’t want another bad grade. in his fear, he is unable to see the compacted issue. he uses the mask of indifference and shrinks into a smaller, less capable version of himself to avoid failing again. sigh, my sweet boy.

my middle daughter is the most type-A of the littles but has seemingly learned early on how to be cognoscente of her capabilities. she continues to try harder and is able to brush off a less than ideal grade because she knows in her heart that she did her best. this is equal parts perseverance and, dare I say, ego.

my littlest lady is a true empath. she fears that others failure is also hers, just as she praises their successes with the same passion as she celebrates her own. a feeling that is true but no less cumbersome. she is hard on herself and cautious about failure in a way that is entirely opposite of the rest of her personality.

through them I see my own failures. I see the ways I have chosen stay quiet or rise above or put others first. they are a reflection of the behaviors they see, as am I. so, when I say we are raising each other, I mean it whole-heartedly.

most of parenting has been a big, gigantic mirror in my face. sometimes it isn’t pretty but it is always real. I am trying to teach my littles that their fears are their own to hold on to but that it is a choice to do so. choice comes with responsibility and consequence and can also be shed at any time. even if we baby step into our fears, we are still going in the right direction.

I am also learning that we do not all reap in the same season. results are not immediate. our standards are not universal. someone else’s fear and failure can be manifested in an entirely different way. I can still admit to seeing others’ successes/failures and feeling some sort of way about them. do I always think beyond my expectations? nope.

I’d like to share this as an intention that I’ve set and recently stumbled on. as a reminder to be patient with people but take no shit. because there will continue to be droughts but there will also be harvests bigger than we believe we deserve. and I am no less responsible when I let my fear become habit.

love & light,

eliot.

ladyfest dayton 2018.

a very sweaty room full of people, most of them friends I love so much.

a little stumble in the beginning.

and a last minute decision to go on stage barefoot.

thanks to my sweet girl for always capturing my performances.

ladyfest was one for the books. here’s a video of my piece and of me looking like I sat in a sauna.