Face your fears to get over them.

Face your fears to get over them.

The title of my memoir, and tombstone, will one day read: “You were a lot nicer than everyone thought.”

I can’t tell you how many times someone tells me that after we become friends.

I’m not really offended by this anymore. It’s true, I suppose. I AM a nice person, quite a wonderful person actually, but there are definitely a few layers that you have to peel back to get to the real me.

And more often than not, it’s me that’s standing squarely in the way.

 Woman with anxiety sitting on chair

This lovely photo was taken last summer during a fun weekend for creative entrepreneurs. It was full of inspirational women, informative workshops and delicious food. One of the best parts was that I got to experience a DREAM destination: Camp Wandawega in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. THE Mindy Segal of Chicago’s Hot Chocolate fame made us dessert and shot the shit with us about creativity and making mistakes. Dream. Weekend.

And, side note, I’ve been obsessed with Camp Wandawega and it’s story and the incredible owners since I “discovered” it on Instagram or some featured Anthropologie or Crate and Barrel branding shoot, I’m not even sure where. I never even went to camp as a kid but something about this idyllic, back-to-basics place brought me such a sense of peace and calm. The place was heavenly and it’s where my dream for Renewing Mom Camp was born (and will one day come to fruition, damnit!). But that’s another post…

Anyway, while the event was near perfect, for whatever reason, actually experiencing it was quite different. Looking at this photo, I feel a bit of sadness about that otherwise wonderful weekend, because I didn’t really connect with the group as much as I had wanted.

As an introvert, I know that I need time alone to recharge. But this was something entirely different.

It had been a hot and sticky weekend of great workshops, inspiration and networking. At one point, during a break, the group was cooling off with a swim in the lake. Most of the women from camp, about thirty of us, gathered in the water and on the dock, talking, getting to know each other. Laughing. I didn’t join them.

Instead I sat in this chair. Paralyzed with fear and anxiety. About what, exactly, I couldn’t tell you. I pretended to work on my laptop and wrote in a journal to appear busy. I didn’t want anyone to know how I actually felt: lonely, like a little girl on the playground of a new school. I had no idea how to insert myself into a group that seemed to gel and spontaneously become “best friends.” I know that probably wasn’t true, but that’s the story I told myself. “Everyone had clicked and connected. Everyone by me.”

“Go down there!” I commanded myself. “If for no other reason than the fact that you are melting!”

But I sat glued to that chair. And I didn’t move. I hid my red, raw, teary eyes behind huge sunglasses. I sat and watched. Feeling alone and unremarkable, unworthy of knowing.

What. The. Fuck. Where did this awful, limiting, and totally untrue belief come from? And why? Where was the confident woman from just a few days, even hours earlier, that was so excited to be attending that incredible event? To experience the dream venue she had seen in magazines, inspired to shared her vision for a new business and to learn from other creatives?

I wish I could say that I got up from that chair and joined the group, ending the weekend with new friends, great connections and remarkable memories. Instead, I look at this photo sadly and really just want a do-over. Because I didn’t get up. I sat in that chair, literally and figuratively, for the rest of the weekend.

 Thinking woman
I try not to be a Monday-morning-quarterback and dwell too much about what I could have and should have done differently. But I try to learn from experiences. Because you don’t get any do-overs.

There’s no where to go but forward. Straight into it. And then through it.

I don’t know if it would have worked but I sure could have leaned into a little more, instead of hiding and waiting for the fear to pass. Because it never did. It never will.

What could I have done? I could have walked down to the water and sat on the dock with the group. I could have admitted to one of the women that I felt a tinge of overwhelm by everyone’s amazing business success. I could have asked more questions of the women sitting next to me to get to know them better.

On their own, none of those things seems that scary when I think about it like that. Yet they would have helped me face my fears head on and begin to move past them.

Facing fears doesn’t require cannonballing yourself into the lake. But you can sit a little closer to the water. Even dip your toe in a little bit.

Sometimes, probably more often than you might like to admit, you’re standing in your own way. So step aside, and get out of the way, so you can be on your way.

Six ways to (realistically) detox after the holidays.

Six ways to (realistically) detox after the holidays.

 Detoxing after the holidays. Healthy holiday food.

It’s that time of year when everyone is hitting the refresh button on their health. Too many indulgences and not nearly enough sleep, water, or exercise has left me feeling fluffy in the midsection. For many of us, we’ve been enjoying the holidays since pumpkin spiced everything hit in late September, which means it’s time for a detox.

Here are some easy and realistic ways I am detoxing after the holiday season to get myself back on track with my health. I also like to use these tips to reset myself after an “extra fun” weekend or a vacation too.

 drink water to detox after the holidays

1.     Drinking extra water. Like soooo much water that you feel insanely full. In fact, I’ll wait while you go pour yourself a glass now. It’s going to feel like a LOT at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly. It’s a simple thing to do, yet so easily forgotten. It’s a great way to flush everything out of your system, hydrate, and reset the body. Set a phone timer to help remind you to take a drink or get an app.

2.     Intermittent fasting. This means skip a meal here and there. There’s a ton of research out there to show how well this can work. Basically, fasting gives your body a break from constantly producing insulin. I generally stop eating by 6:30/7:00pm and skip breakfast. I drink black coffee or tea (no cream and sugar, that breaks the fast) and eat an early lunch/late breakfast around 11:00 to keep me full until dinner. I’ll have one small, protein-packed snack (hardboiled eggs, nuts, that sort of thing) in between to hold me over until dinner.

3.     Skipping most snacks. Snacking also means your body is constantly producing insulin because it’s constantly being fed. Also, when I snack, I always end up consuming more calories than I realize. A few years ago I did a weight loss program that had me cut out all snacks. I only ate when I was truly hungry at which point I just ate a small meal.

Paying attention to my snack consumption made me realize just how much extra I was eating! ALL. THE. TIME! For example, my husband and I used to finish dinner and, after the kids were in bed about an hour later, we’d get into some chips and salsa and graze while chatting about our day. I wasn’t hungry but it was just something to do. Skip the snacks, sister and you’ll see some dramatic results.

 Vegetarian meals help detox after the holidays

4.     Vegetarian meals. Adding several veggie-based meals to my meal plan for the week really helps me de-fluff, likely because I’m upping my veggie and fiber intake.

5.     Skip the spirits and sugar. This one is the least fun, I won’t lie, but there’s no denying that this is necessary after a holiday. Cold turkey is my favorite way to start though it’s admittedly the toughest. But after a few days, it gets a lot easier. You don’t have to do Whole30 (although I highly recommend it if you want a serious reset) but cutting out sugar and booze for a short while will undoubtedly unfluff your muff(in) top. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

 Skip the spirits and sweets to detox after the holidays

6.     Micro-exercise. Mel Robbins introduced this idea to me last week and I think it’s brilliant! Now I love a good workout to help clear my mind but working out every day has always proven to be really difficult for me. I’m sore from my workouts or just too tired. Mel suggested that in 2019 she was going to commit to daily micro-exercise. That meant doing something to move her body for five minutes every day. Whether it was squats, or sit ups, stretching, planking, lunges, whatever. If she did more, great! But otherwise she only had to move her body for five minutes in order to “check off” the box on daily exercise.

I love the idea of taking the pressure off of myself to do a “serious” workout every day.  I had been mixing in more walking and stretching in between workout days as ways to keep moving but the micro-exercising sounds perfect. Sometimes even a walk is too time consuming and in the mid-west, winter walks are usually on a treadmill (bleh). Get creative but plan ahead. Create a list of easy exercises you can do. Here are a few suggestions:

  • 5 one-minute planks

  • alternate lunges and squats

  • alternate pushups and planks

  • alternate jumping jacks and squats

  • alternate tricep dips and pushups

  • alternate crunches and side bends

  • stretch

 exercise to detox after the holidays

Are you battling a little holiday fluff or did you manage to keep things in check? What’s your favorite way to reset and get back on track? Comment below with your suggestions!

How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

 How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

I may have put my foot in my mouth when I claimed that “strolling the aisles of Target didn’t constitute self-care.” Or maybe I just haven’t been doing it right this whole time.  Because, recently I managed to completely turn my mood around with a quick trip to the bulls eye and an off-the-cuff mantra chanted in my car.

The weekend had been hot and rainy and basically miserable. So my husband decided that it would be a perfect weekend for a bbq. I immediately started panicking and thinking about all of the dishes that needed to be washed, things that need to be prepared/purchased/hidden/thrownaway/remodeled/reupholstered/repainted/ etc..  And that was just in the kitchen. The thought of a party immediately started causing me stress and anxiety.

I’m a great though often unwilling hostess so it was going to require a titanic-sized pregame mind shift to change my mood. And quickly.

The morning of the bbq my children and husband were driving me insane. The mood was not good. I was crabby and complaining and biting everyone’s head off. So, what did I do? I ran from my house as fast as womanly possible, grabbed my favorite new apple AirPod earbuds, and headed to the place where moms go to be understood, see friends, and restock every inch of their lives with “necessities”: Target.

 How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

So how did I get myself from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target?

Turn on the tunes to improve your mood.

My mood was foul. I put on my “New Mood” playlist. It’s basically my Rachel Hollis’ inspired list of “songs that make me feel like a badass” and blasted them as loud as I could take it. I got out of my car and walked through the parking lot into that Target with my (totally fake) badass attitude. I walked up and down the aisles picking out hamburger buns and tortilla chips as if everything was exploding around me, like the most awesome movie you’ve ever seen, the loudest, angriest, music I could muster from my playlist, blasting in my ears.

When I got back into my car, some 20 minutes later, I realized that I was SO close to flipping my mood but it just. wasn’t. quite. there. I was so frustrated. And still irritable. The party was in a few hours and I had another 10 minutes before I was home. I didn’t want the day to be a bad one just because I was in a funk! I had to do something more.

Fake a smile. A great big, cheesy grin.

Years ago, I used to force myself to fake smile when I need a mood change. It was SUPER cheesy but I read somewhere that when your face is in the shape of a smile, it triggers something in your brain to make it think it actually IS smiling so you actually feel like you would if you were smiling. Meaning that I could basically fake myself into a good mood.

If that had worked in the past, I figured smiling AND telling myself that I was in a good mood would work even faster.

Talk to yourself.

I sat in that car in the parking lot and plastered the biggest, fakest grin I could muster on my face. And then I started to talk.

“I want to be in a better mood.”

Crickets.

“I want to be in a better MOOD.”

“I WANT to be in a BETTER MOOD! I WANT to be in a BETTER MOOD.”

That turned into, “I’m going to be in a good mood. I’m GOING to be in a good mood. I’m IN a good mood.”

“I am in a GREAT mood. I AM IN A GREAT MOOD!”

I started talking to myself. In my car. Out loud. And I talked. And talked. And I repeated the same phrases over and over again. Fake smile and all. Until my words began to change. Became more positive. Stronger. Happier. My voice got louder. Stronger. Happier. Exactly what I wanted my mood to be. I said what I wanted to feel as though I was already feeling it.

And, then, maybe because I felt so ridiculous, at which point I no longer could feel irritated and annoyed, I actually started to feel good. Better. It was working. It HAD worked. Woah.

I pulled into my driveway ten minutes later and felt different. So much better. I hadn’t really done anything that extraordinary and I hadn’t been gone all that long, but I was changed. And I felt good. And the rest of the day was a lot of fun.

It’s a amazing thing, isn’t it? Mindset. How’s your mindset today? Maybe you need a quick run to Target? You don’t even have to buy anything. Just walk those aisles like you own the B and tell me you don’t feel better.

How to Prevent Mid-Year Burnout

How to Prevent Mid-Year Burnout

Getting Over “the Middle” Like a Pair of High-Waisted Jeans.

Clowns to the left of me. Joker’s to the right. Here I am. Stuck in the middle. With you?

Are you here with me? Feeling stuck? Halfway to the end. Halfway from the beginning. Too far to go back. Still so far to go. An overwhelmed mama. 

We’re still about a month away from the middle of the year, but this year is starting to feel a little heavy for me. I’m not quite sure why. On paper, things are awesome. The weather has been amazing, I’ve discovered a new Cider Rose that has made my life, I’m taking a family vacation with my sister and her kids in July, I’ve even managed to plan a few date nights and some of them even include my husband. Things are good! Great, even. But, somehow, I’m in a funk.

Last December, I got really serious about preparing myself for how awesome this year was going to be. I set goals, made plans, created vision boards, and drafted lists. I got a planner and pens and stickers and washi tape. And then I got ANOTHER planner to help me keep the planner organized. I was ready. 

And now, here we are, a looong way from December, and I sort of feel like I’m trudging uphill through knee-deep mud, carrying a backpack of good intentions and guilt. I’m checking the lists and planners a little less frequently. I’m hitting snooze a little more often. I’m feeling the chokehold grip of the daily grind getting a little tighter around my neck. 

What the hell, June? I’ve been waiting for you for MONTHS. What gives? 

 How to Prevent Mid-Year Burnout.

The perfectionist in me is also really pissed. “If we had just listened to Perfect Renata and let her run this show, we wouldn’t be feeling this way.” she seethes. “I made a lot of plans six months ago, I’ll be damned if I give up on them now.”

Why is follow through so damn difficult? Where did my momentum go? What happened to those bright, shiny, incredibly inspiring goals? Why do they now feel like baggage? 

The thing is, my goals don’t have to be something I have to accomplish in a one-year time frame. I don’t have to wait until December to determine whether or not I’ve been successful. If I break them down into smaller, short-term goals they become more attainable. And I feel less of the burn out because I’m not constantly running a marathon. Occasionally, as one of my favorite inspirational mentors, Lisa Druxman likes to say, it’s a sprint.

Druxman (who is incredible btw and if you haven’t read her book, get it immediately) has taught me that breaking down goals into smaller sub-goals leads to a greater likelihood that I’ll stick to and actually attain the bigger ones. The same thing goes for forming new habits.

I’ve been trying for years to consistently wake up at the same time. Three or four days per week, I have no difficulty (ok, more like difficulty that I can more easily overcome) getting up at 4:15 to do a 5am work out. But to do it every day? Or at 5am on days I’m not working out? I just cannot drag my a$$ out of bed for the life of me. 

It takes 66 days to form a new habit. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? At least not on day 2. But what about day 20? Shoot, I might not make it to day 5! Per Druxman, if you can break the habit down into smaller increments, say a few days or one week at a time, it becomes far more likely that you will attain your desired result. And when you achieve that goal, you’re that much more motivated to continue. 

 How to Prevent Mid-Year Burnout.

Unlike me at 5am. See above.

Have you been looking back at the goals you set last January? Are you like me and feeling overwhelmed and like a giant loser because you’ve stalled in your progress? Don’t scrap the goals, embrace the middle. Here we are. 

Now what can we do about it?

What can we accomplish today? THIS week? THIS month? How about in the next 2-3 months? Do it. Then do it again. And again. 

This how I’m going to prevent mid-year burn out. This is how I’ll keep trying to motivate and focus on getting over that hill, through the middle. I don’t suck as a person. I’m not lazy or worthless.. I’m entirely capable of achieving the goals I set for myself in January. I’m human. And I just need to reset myself a little bit. To put one foot in front of the other. And keep taking steps.

I’m pulling out the vision board from last winter along with my list of goals and action plans. It’s time to shake of the cobwebs and dust a little bit. And start again. Yes, today. In the middle of the week. Because today is as good of a day as any to get through this middle. 

3 simple and free steps to self care

3 simple and free steps to self care

Self care doesn’t have to be complex or expensive.

Four letter words are the best. Short, not-that-sweet, always to the point. But not all of my favorites are the salacious ones.

Two of my favorite four-letter words? Self-Care.

Unlike some of their naughtier counterparts, the meaning of these four-letter words isn’t always as understood. Does self-care mean taking a fancy barre class? Getting a weekly manicure or massage? A standing “date night” with your best friend? An extra five minutes in the shower? And for moms especially, what does self care look like?

Sure, those can be ways to take care of yourself, but self-care doesn’t always require a babysitter or extra money. It just requires planning, a little discipline and a desire to take care of yourself. Three things YOU absolutely possess and can implement today!

Now, don’t punch me, because you’ve actually heard all of these suggestions before. The thing is, you’re not doing any of them. Ergo you are overwhelmed, stressed, feeling burned out and disconnected from your life. Stop it. And start doing these things instead. Right now.

1. Fine-tune your evening routine to crush your morning one.

I really hate this one, but damn it if it doesn’t work. Every. Single. Time. The idea here is that every night, in some way, shape or form, get yourself ready for the next day. That will inevitably make your morning run 100 times better than a typical morning.

Three steps to self care

For me that means cleaning up my kitchen as much as possible before I go to bed: washing the dishes and running the dishwasher, clearing the countertops and kitchen table, and sometimes packing lunches packed or prepping breakfast (something like overnight oats).

Trust me, the last thing I want to do at 8pm after my kids go to bed is to stand in a room where I have been standing all damn day long. Every ounce of my being is screaming for me to RUN away from the dishes. “It can wait ‘til tomorrow,” the she-devil in my brain coos, luring me towards Netflix or mindless Instagram story scrolling. Every single night, I never ever EVER want to do this.

But, since I’m in charge of the morning routine at our house, setting it up the night before always makes my morning easier. 

Can you think of a way that you can simplify your morning by doing something the night before?

2. Take care of yourself by getting sweaty.

Sex, yoga, meditation, running, taking the stairs at the office, whatever gets you huffing and puffing. Several times a day. Every day.

I know that I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. And while you might say, “oh but I work out,” I bet you could probably still benefit from a little more heavy breathing. Consider adding meditation to the mix. Or taking a bike ride with your kids. Are you having as much sex as you’d like? Be honest with yourself. (And then with your partner.)

 Free Tips to Self Care

You don’t have to spend your day sweaty, just get more in touch with your body. How it moves and feels. What it likes and dislikes. What it responds to and shies away from. Start to pay attention to what your body is telling you and how it responds to the actions you’re taking. Or not taking, for that matter.

Consider the state of your sex life. Is it in a good place? A satisfying place? Just because it isn’t doesn’t mean it has to remain there forever. But, as favorite person of mine always says, “hope is not a strategy.” You can’t HOPE for things to one day get better. You have to take action.

So listen to your body and then make some changes. You deserve it.

3. Be the first person in your house to wake up every day.

This tip also really sucks. I mean, getting up in the dark? What in the hell? (This self-care thing is super fun, right? No wonder no one is actually doing it.)

Getting your a$$ out of bed is by far the hardest part. Once you’re out of bed, it gets exponentially easier to be awake at what probably is an insane hour. When I wake up, I repeat to myself, “I’m so happy to be awake, I’m so happy to be awake, I’m so happy…” to trick my body and brain into thinking that this early wake up stuff is something we actually want to be doing and not some bizarre circadian rhythm mixup.

 Free Tips to Self Care

Once you’re awake though, YOU get to choose what to do with your time. Journal, read a book, catch up on some work. Usually, I work out and then read or write with a cup of coffee. But, that doesn’t have to be what you do. The key is to find what will motivate you to get yourself out of that deliciously cozy bed. Maybe it’s meditating, maybe it’s catching up on folding that laundry you just couldn’t will yourself to do the day before, maybe you want to write in a journal or catch up on a show, THIS TIME IS ENTIRELY YOURS!

The trick here, and something I struggle with, is knowing when to stop with the morning me-time and switch into “midweek morning routine crazy mommy.” It’s almost like getting out of bed: “Don’t make me leeeeaaavve!” It’s a journey not a destination, right? I’m working on it. So get up before your people tomorrow. You’re going to be tired regardless, so you might as well do something for yourself.

Self-care doesn’t require you to leave your house or have to cost you a dime. It just requires a little discipline and maybe some planning. And all the coffee.

You’ve got this mama.

Not sleeping like a baby? Confessions of a tired mom.

Not sleeping like a baby? Confessions of a tired mom.

I don’t know why I set my parenting expectations so high. In college I was in a sorority and our motto was, “Aim High” so maybe that’s stuck with me. But somehow, every morning, it comes as a huge surprise that I did not get an uninterrupted night of sleep. I have three children under five, one of which is a baby, of course I’m not sleeping. But, as it turns out, the baby is the least of my issues.

I could not have imagined the amount of problems that two preschool children can have in the span of a ten-hour’s night sleep. From bathroom debacles to fear of monsters, itchy clothing to “daymares,” the creativity of excuses and issues and reasons to be anything-but-sleeping is impressive. And obnoxious. Life with kids, amiright?

Me: “Get. Into. Bed.”
Son: “My bed is too cozy.”
Me: “It’s supposed to be cozy.”
Son: “My bed is too warm/cold/big/small.”
Me: “Sleep on the floor.”

Or my favorite…

Son: “I’m scared.”
Me: “Of what?”
Son: “That.” Points into his room at nothing in particular.
Me: “Of what?”
Son: “THAT.” Continues pointing. At nothing.
Me: Sighs. “Can you use your words to describe what it looks like?” I know where this is going.
Son: “Like, a THING.”
Me: “Is the thing invisible?” Ok I can work with ghosts.
Son: “No mommy, it’s over THERE.” Frustration is building. He walks over and points to a chair. Or a window. Or dresser. Or some other totally inanimate and not-scary object in his room.

Or I pretend to search the room for this “thing” and wave my arm around like a wand, ooing and ahhing. I’m not sure if this is an exorcism or if I’m supposed to be “catching” the unidentified thing or blasting it to outer space so I’m doing it all in the hopes that one of them will be sufficient to quell the kid’s fears enough to go the f*ck to sleep.

I manage to get them back into bed only to hear footsteps padding down the hall seven seconds after my head hits the pillow. Is it just me or can you actually feel the change in air pressure as a sleepless child moves through the house at an ungodly hour of the night? I definitely can. This is every damn night in my house with one or the other! The third one can’t walk yet, thank GOD.

Sometimes they manage to silently creep into my room during the night, awakening me with a swift heel kick to the face (because mine like to sleep “upside down” with their feet next to my head). I always struggle with this one because, technically they are quiet and sleeping so why would I mess with this perfection? It doesn’t matter if they are sleeping in my bed, hogging my covers and pillow? Right? There is QUIET and STILLNESS! LET. IT. BE. RENATA.

But if I actually want to sleep, I have to move them. This is the point in the night where I elbow the husband to make him move the culprit. That is usually a mistake because he always “accidentally” clips an ankle or bonks a head in the doorway as he’s carrying them out. This inevitably wakes the sleeping giant of a preschooler who starts RAGING because (1) they were just woken up with a wall whack to the head and (2) they are being relocated back to their previously mentioned not-cozy-way-too-cozy-bed. They are pissed.

So sometimes just leaving them in your bed is the best option. That, of course, leaves you with like a millimeter of bed. And forget about a blanket. I GAVE BIRTH TO YOU UNGRATEFUL WILD ANIMALS, I DESERVE MORE RESPECT! So, I do what any self-respecting mother does, heads to their room to get into their empty bed.

This is also generally not a good idea as I always wake up with a sore, stiff back covered by a flimsy dinosaur blanket that manage to only cover my midsection leaving me cold as shit. And, actually, now that I think about it, those mattresses are not very cozy. Thanks to my husband and his “all natural bed” preferences, the kids are basically sleeping on concrete slabs. Hmmm, I may have just discovered the solution to all of my problems here.

Other parents were not kidding when they said “get some sleep,” before I had kids. Newborn life is rough, sure, but who knew that it was going to be at least a decade before I saw a solid night of sleep again!? THAT’S what they were trying to warn me about.

I suppose until then I’ll be catching up with power naps in the Target parking lot while waiting for pick up. Mom so hard. Sleep tight comrades.