My grandmother’s cure-all

cactus blooms

It has been one of those weeks where everything seems topsy turvy. You know those weeks?

When you are single parenting because your spouse is traveling.  My husband has been traveling frequently, and working long hours even when he is in Peru.  Some days, it all just seems too hard.

When the kids seem to be out to get you.  My children behaved so poorly at a playdate that I wanted the earth to shallow me.  Instead I was hissing “Apologize! Now.”  And “clean it up!” out of the corner of my mouth like some demented snake.

We are in the midst of potty training, and some days I think my only function is cleaning up messes.

In these moments it is easy to believe that this motherhood thing is not your thing. Maybe you are a complete fraud to think you have anything to offer other moms.

My grandmother sang this little song with us frequently, and loosely translated, the gist is this: “Count your blessings, count them one by one. Count them frequently. Count them one by one. Then you’ll know God never leaves you alone.”

This I know. There are tremendous riches and joy to be found everywhere. Even here in my home, where the crumbs seem to be cemented permanently to the corners and spiders abound (can we call them Halloween decorations?)

I know that potty training will click one day, probably when I have made peace with sending him to college in diapers.

As awful and cruel as children can be, sometimes, when they don’t know you’re watching, you spot them being so incredibly kind. “Come brother, I’ll help you,” I hear one whispering to the other in the early morning hours. They help each other get a favorite toy. “Where’s my brother?” they ask each other and then roll on the floor in fits of giggles.

For the month of November, I will count my blessings publicly, here on the I will write my gratitude list daily, and share it with you.

I promise you it can fix almost anything.

Won’t you join me? 30 days of Gratitude starts Saturday.

Find time for yourself

Running shoes
Can you fit 5 hours of self-care into your busy week?

This was the question in a recent posting on one of my Mom CEO groups. Before I started coaching, I probably would have scratched my head a bit.  These days, I am busier than ever, and know exactly where those twelve hours I spend on self-care reside. While there is certainly no glamorous weekly night out with the girls (or even a scheduled date night – we’re a work in progress around here), I find that I can recharge in small stolen moments scattered like sweet raisins throughout the plain bread of my days.

What does it look like?

  1. Showers: I started taking showers at night. Thanks to the two little roosters who live here, there is no consistent schedule to my mornings and I would often feel resentful that I could not take that leisurely shower.  Now, I take thirty minutes at night to take a nice long shower with the fancy shower gels I saved for special occasions before. I actually use lotion, do whatever other grooming tasks I need, wash my face, and use the good cream. Every day is an occasion, and why shouldn’t something mundane become something to be savored? Time? 30 minutes.
  2. After my shower, I get in bed and write in my gratitude journal, and read something uplifting. No news, no page turners that will keep me from turning out the lights. (15 to 30 minutes)
  3. On mornings when I can out-rooster my roosters, I read a devotional, make a cup of tea, and write morning pages (as recommended in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.) Sometimes my morning pages end up filled with to-dos for the day, for the boys, and for my business. That’s okay too – at least that stuff has been dumped out of my brain. (The first place I saw a brain dump recommended was Getting Things Done by David Allen. That book is life-changing.) (15-30 minutes)
  4. I walk my kids to school, and walk again to pick then up. It is 15 minutes each way, which means on week days I get an hour of walking daily. Ideally, that would not be my only exercise, but let’s face it, some days it is. If we believe that the best exercise is the exercise that you’ll do, this is a winner. (1 hour)
  5. One day a week, I have an appointment with myself to do something creative. An hour or two in front of my sewing machine or with a sketchbook is true re-creation for me. I walk away refreshed and energized, ready for the next project, even if it is mundane housekeeping. Making things for our home has another benefit – just seeing the bright oven mitts I sewed some Sunday afternoon brings back that instant lift.

This routine is certainly far from perfect. I would love to spend more time in creative play, especially with my camera. Right now, my playtime with my camera is 50% frustration and 50% joy. I would love to take up yoga.   I would love to have a weekly date with my husband. Since most people in Lima have a full time nanny, babysitters are almost impossible to find. Given how important my relationship with my husband is, marriage care is self care too.

There is always a way to find time for what is important. A girlfriend and I meet at the grocery store on a Saturday to do our weekly shopping together. We are both busy – I have the business and the kids, she has her three girls and college. We get to chat and do something that had to get done anyway. If we have time, we grab a coffee afterwards and hang out for a few more minutes. To me, this is self-care too. Finding your tribe and getting to love and support each other is hugely important.

These are hours I could spend working, right? For me, working past the point of exhaustion always yields diminishing returns. Sometimes, I have my best ideas in the shower, or in my morning pages, or while walking back from dropping my boys at school. Now, if I only had a better way to capture those plans…

How do you fit in self-care?

This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by



Book review: At Home with Madame Chic

at-home-with-madame-chic-9781476770338_lgIn my coaching training class last week (I’m working with the bliss-filled Kathy Stowell from Bliss Beyond Naptime) we talked about values, and how viewing even the mundane tasks in your days through the lens of your values can change your attitude. My example was dusting – it is a Sisyphean task, but absolutely necessary. When viewed through the lens of living my life beautifully, (one of my core values for many years) it goes from the mundane to a rite I perform for this sacred space where we live our days.

ASIDE: If you are moving to Peru, take note. Lima is a dusty place. You can either, a) resign yourself to dusting constantly, or b) hire a housekeeper.

Yesterday, the much-anticipated At Home with Madame Chic arrived on my kindle.

Jennifer Scott writes about the ways to live a chic life, making the mundane and every day beautiful. My first impression is that there is not that much new here. After all, Flylady Marley Cilley has been telling her followers that ”nothing says I love you like clean underwear” for years.

Chic, the goal here, is for anyone who makes the effort. In the first part of the book, Home, she explains that a home that runs smoothly will contribute to “that air of effortlessness”, an essential component of chic. I find this true. It hard to concentrate in chaos, and when I’m short with my boys, it is often the result of messes underfoot. Worrying about what to make for dinner certainly doesn’t contribute to a chic home or a relaxed family meal. Her recommendations in this section is again nothing new – declutter, plan menus, set the table for breakfast at night, keep your home company ready. The difference is the attitude – housekeeping is not drudgery to be gotten through as fast as possible, but part of creating and living a chic life. Curate your house as an art exhibit, she recommends.

The second section of the book, Daily Routines, is divided into morning, afternoon and evening. Each section contains beauty for the senses – a list of suitable candle scents and music albums.  Each section also talks about opportunities for entertaining – elevenses, brunch, afternoon tea, and dinner parties. There are a few nice recipes – from green smoothies to a blueberry cake.

The morning section touches on Jennifer Scott’s famous Ten Item Wardrobe. To implement this, I still think you are better off reading her first book, Lessons from Madame Chic (or watch her on TEDx), but she does talk about the attitude to dressing and how it contributes to the chic life. She adds a few make-up and hairstyle ideas here too.

This is ultimately a book about a living a chic life, and while it was a quick, enjoyable and inspiring read, there wasn’t much that was new to me. Then I got to the last section, and she relates how she drives past her childhood home, only to find it sadly neglected. At this point, she has this epiphany: “I knew in that moment that we had taken the soul of that house with us to our new home”

And this is where she won my heart.

I have taken the soul of home with me

When you are a foreign service family making a beautiful and “homey” home takes on a new urgency. You have to declutter because you are always bumping up against those weight limits. You have furniture that likely would not have been your first choice. Sometimes you have a lovely home. Sometimes you just have to make it work. You are still expected to host graciously.   More importantly, you have to create a safe, comfortable, and familiar home environment for your family.

For us, homes come and go, furnishings come and go (thank goodness!), and all we get to take with us is the beauty we created, the memories we made, and the soul of our home, which always comes along.  Jennifer Scott got that, and shared beautiful ways to make it happen.