Pamela Llano Zesty Mom
Under a cozy blanket with the added warmth of my laptop, I’m typing away the last morning of January from the comfort of my bed. I’ll need to get up and go to my real job soon, but for now, I’m really grateful to have a few minutes to drink coffee and spill my thoughts. This is self care.
The first month of this new year (and yes, I can still call it new, it’s only 1/12 of the way through, so that’s still pretty fresh in my book) has been a lot about that~ simple comforts that add up to actually consciously taking care of my own self~ It's an idea that's still relatively new to me.
Everyone has heard the whole oxygen mask theory parents are always told about~ the one where you have to make sure you have enough air so that you don’t pass out ~ otherwise you can’t take care of the things and people you care about…blah, blah, blah…
Unfortunately, the accompanying suggestions never seemed very practical or realistic to me. As a new parent, I never cared about getting my nails done and the idea of paying for regular massages would have left my thrifty self more stressed than ever.
When my kids were little, our homeschool days usually started with stories in bed, big, late breakfasts and hours of playing and learning by the creek. That all filled my internal reservoirs and kept me full through all sorts of hard things.
Sometimes we would play spa and they would paint my nails or cover my feet in mud, and that was as close to those treatments as I needed to get. As long as I got a little time to myself now and again, I was good
What counts as self care for one person may be completely different for another, and it changes based on where you're at in life, maybe even by the day or your mood. The point is, you need things to refill you and take care of you, because you're the only you that you've got.
A few years ago life changed, and got busy. I became a single mama / primary breadwinner. My kids got bigger and started being involved in twelve million different classes and activities, all of which I had to drive them back and forth to. These are great enrichment for them, but a life of work / drive / work / drive is not so enriching for me. In fact, too much of it could quite possibly make me flip my friggen lid. Or at the very least, suck the joy from my soul.
But thank Goodness, the new year has brought with some great things. I have a kid who drives now!!!! This is another huge transition in and of itself, for sooooo many reasons, but it is also hugely liberating for both her AND me. (Even if I am stuck home in the rain some days when she has my car, the fact that I did not have to get up and dressed to drive people around for 2 hours is well worth it.)
This has given me the gift of some time, which I am quite certain is worth more than money, because unlike cash which comes and goes, you can never get back time.
And there are oh so many wonderful things to do with that time!
One thing I’ve been doing is yoga~ at least two times most weeks. There is a gym that is literally 6 minutes from my house (which is an incredible blessing after living remotely for so many years) AND my health insurance will actually reimburse most of my membership after I’ve gone 35 times. How amazing is that?
Since I sit on backside entirely too many hours of the day for my work, and my outside time has been limited due to weather, my body had been feeling a bit atrophied in the lower extremities, and I'm totally up for the challenge of stretching my way to a practically free gym membership.
Especially because these days, when I say things like “I’m not as spry as I once was…” I notice that the accompanying old person voice comes entirely too easily. And that's terrifying.
But, the regular yoga is helping me feel less achey and more stretchy. I’m even seeing what might possibly be the start of a muscle underneath my winter caloric stores!
I was actually feeling pretty spiffy about my improvements in strength and balance, until I took my mom to see these Absolutely Amazing Acrobats the other night. The performers inspired me, as they always do, but I was also completely humbled by actually flexible people. Still, I’m taking baby steps.
Another super self care splurge I’ve been treating myself to is sacred sauna time. The sauna is included with the gym, so it’s not actually costing money, just time, but it’s definitely time well spent. Life has taught me not to take books into the sauna because the heat melts the glue in the binding, making the pages fall out, and leading to large library fines.
But, I haven’t felt like I could just sit there and do nothing but sweat for 15 minutes. I’m not that zen with time yet, so I take in a notebook and scribble page after page of poorly spelled, grammatically incorrect ramblings. I’ve processed a lot in that writing and in addition to the snippets of clarity about some mental and emotional things which I have no desire to share, I also learned that
Other January awesomeness included going to a couple of art galleries, a painting class (with wine!) a ladies movie night, board games with family friends, and a few other niceties. I laughed with my partner, kids and friends, rode my bike on one of the few sunny days, winged it on a couple of entirely new (to me) kinds of soup recipes, which were all delicious, tried some new vitamins and started reading 4 different books. (Who knows if I will finish any of them, but the point is, I started!)
I got a long overdue haircut to keep my bangs from poking my SweetHeart's eye out, went to my favorite burrito place, even though there were perfectly good leftovers in the fridge at home. Somehow, doing both of those things in one day made me feel like I was out with Tom and Donna on Treat Yo Self Day.
I'm not sure if that means I'm just an easy going, low maintenance kind of gal, or that my standards are too low. Perhaps I've just gotten too adultish...speaking of which, I made a couple of healthcare appointments using my fancy new planner set up, and I feel like that's good self care too. And to offset the boring, I bought myself a pot of pretty flowers too.
None of these things was mammoth on its’ own, but collectively, it felt like self care supreme. That's what this month has been about for me, and it feels like a great way to kick off a year.
I can see that the generic parental advice is true. When I'm good to myself, I'm in a better place to roll with life. And that’s where I want to be.
What counts as self care for you? Tell us in the comments below. If you don't know, I encourage you to play around and find what feeds your soul, and share the joy of a happier you.
I know I can’t be the only one who gets sweaty armpits and heart palpitations when people start asking them to commit to things. I’m not talking about relationships or even bank loans, but things like working a snack bar at your kids sporting event or making a dentist appointment or, God help me, trying to coordinate dates for a vacation with multiple people~there’s always something to plan for, and it can leave one mumbling to themselves with crazy eyes and furrowed brow.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Maybe it’s because planning seems so adult-ish that I have resisted it for so long.
To me, planning means committing and apparently, I seem to have slight commitment issues.
I know that in some ways, saying that sounds ridiculous because I’m a woman who has committed to some really big things over the years…. ideas, people, situations. And I stuck to them through all kinds of thick and thin. As a single mom, I just bought a friggen house on my own for goodness sake.
But, planning stuff, and then putting it on a calendar is a newish concept for me, and it’s definitely taking some getting used to.
For some reason, agreeing to be at a certain place at a certain time a month from now is really stressful, and at times, it physically causes me to wear a deer in headlights look with the addition of flared nostrils. I know I look like a madwoman, and I feel like one too, but I can't help it.
I think the subconscious logic is something like this~ saying yes to one thing will likely mean saying no to something else because you are no longer free at that time. And for me, the idea of the loss of freedom is more than a little scary.
It’s mildly terrifying when you think about the fact that there’s always one more thing being asked of you, and these everyday things can easily fill up the days of your calendar and eventually…. your life.
I've met parents who work outside of the home a full day and then spend all of every evening driving to kid activities and grabbing drive through food 5 nights a week. They have no time at home as a family to play with all of the things they worked to buy, let alone to develop any interests they have of their own. All of their waking hours are dictated by outside sources. I can't help but wonder what happened to their dreams and interests? And it makes me sad.
No wonder teenagers think adults are boring.
Of course I want to help other people and be involved in my community, but not like that...I want to be the captain of my ship.
If you don't consciously plan your time, what happens to the things you actually want to do with it?
Whether big dreams to travel the world or write a book, or little things you want, like to go to yoga, or color and play board games with your kids, or have tea with your friends... when the days get filled, they slip by and those things you wanted...they never happen.
Somewhat ironically, it seems the best hope of making the things I want to happen actually happen lies in the very thing I’ve been avoiding...planning.
, I ventured into the world of planning inspired by Jennifer Lee, a smart and creative lady who has the habit of covering entire walls with calendars and sticky notes. For the last couple of years, I’ve printed out colorful monthly calendars from Leonie Dawson and spread them out on a wall so you can see all 12 months at once.
It’s a big chunk of wall space, and kind of looks like a rainbow colored command central, but it’s really helpful to be able to visually see the grand scheme of things for the whole year in one gander, no page turning necessary.
Aside from the rainbow joy of this, the method of having the whole shebang visual at once has helped me figure out all sorts of things.
I can see when it makes sense to get away or to stay home. I love travel and adventures, but I also need to balance it with time with my pets and working on my home and my garden, not to mention my relationships and my mind.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed with the work of life, and/or being a whiner and forgetting how good things actually are, I can also see all the fun things I’ve done lately, and that helps me shut my piehole a little sooner, which my family probably appreciates.
Also, a HUGE bonus is the ability to backtrack easily. Say you have a big goal that’s going to take some work to get to~ maybe you want to finish a book or painting, to teach a new class or climb a mountain or to be able to order dinner in Spanish on your vacation to Mexico...whatever.
It’s great if that goal goes on the calendar with a date~ but it probably isn’t going to just get done by that time unless you backtrack and do all the little steps that need to happen ahead of time.
Seeing the whole year in one shot makes it easier to go backwards and figure out what you need to begin when, and to keep you on track (or help you catch up or readjust when you fall behind.)
Unfortunately, I’ve missed all kinds of things I wanted to do in life because I didn’t count back and start when I needed to. Just in the last couple of years, I wanted to lead a young writer’s workshop for National Novel Writing Month, enter a painting in a juried show, submit an essay to a national contest~ and I blew it on all of them because I didn’t start when I needed to.
I know I’m not alone in that.
So, I'm learning~ even though I’m more of a timey wimey kind of gal who is rather challenged when it comes to it punctuality and scheduling, planning really is what makes stuff happen.
It’s the only way I can show up for all the miscellaneous things that are a part of parenting and life, AND not lose out on the things my heart and soul really wants.
There were a few months last year, in the midst of moving and temporary tiny cottage life, when I had no wall space to have my command central, and I missed it indeed.
This year, in addition to more backtracking, I also added a new piece to my planning regime with an actual paper planner (also from Leonnie) I’m only a few weeks into the new year, but I’m liking the weekly view spread and the spaces for to-do lists and scheming of all kinds. Plus rainbow colors. Those help.
I added tabs for the months, and am working on a ribbon page marker to make it even easier to see where I’m at. It’s early in the year, but so far, so good. I’ve been carrying it with me a lot and getting compliments and questions galore when I pull it out.
I figure if I have to get adult-ish and plan, I might as well make it colorful and fun.
This year, I'm planning for family camping trips and adventures before my oldest takes her next flight from the nest, art nights with my Lady Friends and journeys with my partner... I have writing and creative goals, and lots of stuff to make and do... I have skills to learn and things I want to share... Gardens and fruit trees to plant, walls and canvasses to paint, a bathroom to remodel...a great big world to see... So much to do, and only so much time.
It's a good thing I'm learning to plan.
I'd love to hear how you've made planning work for you. Please share in the comments below!
It’s a strange feeling for a mama to have her baby be 6000 miles away from home and from her.
Even though I’ve spent years ~ pretty much my children’s entire existence~ encouraging them to dream big, to spread their wings, to fly…..it's a bit of an ohmyfriggengoodness moment as I'm realizing now that they are really doing it.
As usual, reality and theory are two different things. It's like wanting to raise children who question things and don't blindly follow along~ the theory is great, but when they question you...well, not so much fun. Anywhoo, I wanted this kid to soar, and here she goes, taking a chunk of my heart along with her.
Barely a month after her 18th birthday, my Girl Child and her lifelong friend landed in Milan~ which is across countries and oceans~ it’s on another freaking continent for Goodness sakes.
It's farther than she's ever been, farther than I've ever been as a matter of fact, and they are on their own.
While they both technically meet the legal definition of adults, there are no actual grown ups along.
In the months leading up to their pending adulthood, the girls bought themselves plane tickets and Eurail passes with money they had earned themselves. They prepared madly for their grand adventure, with hours on the phone and skyping late into the night, planning routes, researching hostels and museums.
Their skills were impressive and their enthusiasm contagious~ I mean, they were going to Europe!!!! I haven’t managed to get myself to Europe yet! How could I not be both impressed and excited?
In the midst of working hard and saving toward her big goal, my Girl Child told me that she knew she would be broke when she returned from her trip, but that she would rather be broke and have gone to Italy than to have money in the bank and have never left town.
My smile was huge. I know I can’t take credit for who she is, but at that moment, I sure felt like I had done something right. She’s a girl after my own heart, that’s for sure.
So, the time came, and the girls drove off into the rain to the international airport in the big city.
As the oldest of my offspring, this solo adventuring is new and unfamiliar territory for me as a mother.
My Little Girl Child is now halfway across the world, several time zones away. She is adventuring with her wonderful friend and having the time of her young life.
She texted me a picture of the “BEST MEAL OF MY ENTIRE LIFE!” (And yes, the all caps emphasis was hers) It was butternut squash and sage ravioli, although she noted that there were only exactly 8 of them on her plate. We laughed that she obviously wasn’t in Murica, where we routinely expect portions 4 times that size.
They went to Florence and Rome, met people, ate great food and saw amazing art and architecture.
They sent lots of beautiful pictures, including one (not so beautiful, but memorable anyway) of a statue they had read about before they left and hunted all over to see in person.
It was of a round older man who was naked and riding a turtle.
It makes you wonder what on earth inspires one to think of, let alone sculpt such a thing, as well as the many hours the artist had to spend on bringing this image into physical being. I mean, it's no quick sketch...this had to take a while. Why?
I'm including the picture below with the disclaimer that you can never un-see this.
Since they took off, I’ve felt proud and happy and nervous all at the same time.
I’m thankful for who she is, who she with, and that we live in a time where she can message me daily, and send photos and we can do free video chats and keep in touch while a world away.
Most of all, I’m thankful to be her mom.
Now they're in the last days of their adventure, and I'm looking forward to having my Girl back in the nest, even though I know this is just the first of her flights out into the great wide world. Yes, I'm a proud mama indeed.
I spent a good deal of the first two days of 2016 in my pajamas, happily lounging about my home. Sometimes I was hiding out in bed quietly to give the illusion I was sleeping in, while I was actually writing, reading, dreaming and scheming. I’m ever so blessed that the houseful of family and friends either respected my faux slumber or they slept in longer than I stayed in hiding.
Other times, I was chopping and cooking and crafting, intermixed with games, sitcoms and snacks. We really only left to drop off the offspring at assorted locations, do short errands and visit friends.
After a busy holiday season that left me feeling like I’m not as spry as I once was, I’m ever so thankful for a little lull and a chance to reflect. That and a cocktail enjoyed in silence.
So, with my bed covered in colored markers and my 2016 workbook and planner I’ve purchased the workbook for several years, and have loved both the process of working with it and the results I’ve seen from doing so. This year, a planner has been added, which appealed to both my inner list making taskmaster and my rainbow unicorn loving sides.
Before diving too far into planning a new year, I completely agree with the idea of spending some time contemplating what transpired to get you where you are right now.
Looking back to last year, I’m realizing that I rang in 2015 with a bit of a stressed out feeling of foreboding. I was with people I like, in a place I enjoy, but there were situations brewing in my universe that left both my gut and my jaw feeling a bit on the clenched side.
It’s not really surprising that it seems my gut might have been on to something.
As the year progressed, several kinds of proverbial shizzle hit the sprayer.
While most of the things that went wacky in 2015 weren’t really within my realm of control, and I don’t really know how I could have prepared myself for them, I’d still like to figure out a way to incorporate listening to that little voice~
Or in this case those grinding teeth and mildly churning stomach.
I hope this doesn’t read as complainer-ish because 2015 was certainly not a bad year~ it was actually rather awesome in so many ways. And some of the really hard stuff actually directly led to or made room for other much better things than I had known to plan for.
One of many amazing things that transpired is that I bought a house of my very own~ which felt very much like some serious pulling up of my Big Girl Pants!
Buying a home wasn’t a dream, or even a plan on my radar. I was actually quite content where I was, but life happened, and I had to move. It was hard to navigate, but here I am, in a place that fits my family better and is an investment (another tug up on my Big Girl Pants.)
I find it hilarious that the county I reside in lists on the official title that it my home is owned by an “unmarried woman” although a little part of me also feels like “Frick Yeah~ I did this!”
This was among several other Big Girl maneuvers of 2015, all of which involved a whole lotta learning and growing, following my heart and figuring out how to tend myself. I’m just beginning to dabble in the art of self care, and it’s not as though I ever really depended on anyone else to take care of me~ It’s just that it recently has become clear how important it is that I actually do it, lest I a major freak de sheik occur.
Everything from finances to health, and relationships to planning my future underwent significant growth and change, and it required a good deal of time and effort on my part.
It’s a good thing that all those years of homeschooling my offspring left me quite familiar and comfortable with the concept of learning all the time. A few topics were money, business, household maintenance and building and other Big Girl Trouser wearing subjects.
One HUGE thing, which actually preceded my new home, was the finalizing of the settlement from some really unpleasant matters. They had been dragging on for years and sucking life out of me, as well as draining precious money from my family budget.
It required choosing my own peace and going against expensive “expert” advice, but I tell ya what, walking away was one of the most freeing decisions I had ever made.
I also legally changed my name back to the one I was born with, but haven’t used since I was old enough to write. My name was changed in my young childhood, without much in the way of choice or explanation, probably due to my age.
Then I was married at 21, and I took his last name because I liked the sound of it. It’s what I went by for over 20 years, and I even kept it for a bit after the divorce because my kids had it and I felt like the name identified my family. But now, they are big enough to not care what my last name is.
It felt symbolic to prune that dead wood and try on the name I was given when I came into the world, but barely used. And I like symbolism. I would also like if people could pronounce my new name, but whatever.
2015 had travels near and far~ the biggest being a trip to Nicaragua with a group of teens, including my own. We worked really hard, physically and emotionally for 10 days to build a school in a remote village. That was immediately followed by family time in Costa Rica, lounging and playing.
I tried new things with art, teaching and writing, adopted a dog, and grew more food than I ever had in my life. My Girl Child, who is also my oldest, turned 18, so I have technically grown a human into adulthood, and rather successfully I would say, because she's smart, funny, kind, hard working and all around awesome.
Although I gained a lot of things last year, one thing I was a little worried I had lost was my laugh. As I looked back on the sporadic blog posts I posted, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a lot of serious contemplative subjects, and a distinct shortage of sarcastic humor that I so enjoy. I don’t know when the heck I became so serious, but I’d really like to get back to laughing at life more in 2016.
I’m feeling good about the outlook for this year, as it has started out well. I did a lot of processing and expressing in the wrapping up of 2015 (it was not exactly a Festivus “Airing of Grievances” but perhaps it could have been to my family and partner’s dismay, although it was pretty darn therapeutic for me).
This New Years Eve had laughter, friends of many ages, good food and games, with some explosives at midnight.
It’s only a few days into the New Year, and I’ve had the chance to visit people I have missed, to ride my bike, walk my dogs, talk and connect with each of my kids and my partner, and even hold a cute baby.
I’ve been writing like crazy, made art, read, de-cluttered a bit, had a Girls Night with comedy, cocktails and carbs last night and spent some time in the sauna this morning.
As I was releasing toxins, both literally through sweating and metaphorically through writing frustrations in a journal, two young blondes in coordinated work out apparel came in. They were perky in both body and personality and as they chatted about their Boot Camp class yesterday and today’s hour of cardio and core. For some reason, I found the whole scene hilarious and could barely keep the smile off of my face.
There was a time when I might have disliked them based purely on their incredible levels of fitness and bounciness. But today, I was just amused at the fact that even on Jan 2nd, I had no illusions of being that active or perky. My gym life pretty much consists of a little yoga and an occasional sauna. I gave silent thanks that they didn’t ask me about it, and focused to keep my smile from bursting into a giggle imagining myself in a boot camp.
Maybe I haven’t lost my laughter after all.
Wishing you all the best in 2016, and looking forward to a year of adventure and fun, wherever it takes me.
Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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