Simplify

A while back I wrote myself a note.

I do this often.  If you were to look inside my purse… car… pocket… desk drawer… you’d find several pieces of scrap paper or sticky notes.  Sometimes with reminders, sometimes to-do’s, sometimes blog ideas, sometimes I just frantically jot down something that a person has said or lines from an audio book or podcast that really resonated with me.

But this note was different.  It was a question to myself.  It asked “Is it possible to live a simple life while being a busy and working mom?”

I scribbled it down one day while at work and stuck it to the back of my phone so I knew I’d revisit it later.  I had asked myself this question because I truly didn’t know the answer. At that time, I felt like I was failing at being a good mother and wife.  Overall, I felt like I was failing at life.  I should mention, this question came about during one of my “stress spells”- a time where I had spread myself too thin and the stress began to get the best of me.  During these “stress spells” I usually begin sliding down a slippery slope.  Stress becomes anxiety.  The anxiety becomes fear.  And the fear becomes deep sadness.  Eventually I find my way out, only to write myself similar notes later on.

But that’s a whole different deal.

Back to the question… I didn’t have an answer for myself, so what did I do?  I consulted Google.  Of course there was no simple answer but the searching made me sit with the question and actually begin to work it over in my head.  I started to make a list of things that are important to me and ways to give them the attention they deserve, while really looking at things that are not worthy of so much of my energy, in order to start living a simpler and happier life.

Like I said I would- eventually I found my way out of the stress spell but my list stuck with me and I found myself actually taking {tiny} steps to live a simpler life.  Then came a little health scare (things are OK) and it was the swift kick in the ass I needed to really focus on simplifying and reevaluating what’s really important to me.  It all really came down to my hub, my core, my heart center- John and the kids. Hopefully, living a simple lifestyle will allow me to be a happier and more patient mother, a nicer wife, and a more present person with less stress and distractions.  I want to spend quality time with quality people and I want to be satisfied with what I have rather than focusing on what I don’t have.

In order to help guide myself and stay on track, I have created an ongoing and quite large Google Doc with actual steps to achieve the simple life I strive for. Now, I know that you’re probably thinking that making lists and Google Docs doesn’t sound like simplifying, in fact it sounds like more work.  But it actually is a form of simplifying for me.   And I really LOVE lists.

Below is my list to myself, in no particular order:

Be Careful With Commitments

It’s ok to say no sometimes.  Do not overbook, ie; appointments, play dates, subbing classes, outings with friends, etc.  Create boundaries around my time while maintaining kindness.  If I really don’t want to do something and I do it, I will end up resenting that person and that is not fair to either of us.  I want to be able to give all of me instead of part and in order to do that, I need to be able to set boundaries and respect them.  

Quality Family Time

Put the phone down and enjoy these moments.  Enjoy more adventures and create more memories, do not accumulate more things. Focus on doing instead of spending. Wake up an hour earlier each day and in that extra quiet time, take care of any chores that might lead me to tell my kids, “one minute, let me finish this real fast…” if they were awake.

Choose to be Happy

Maintain an attitude of gratitude.  Let go of what no longer serves me and understand that this may be ever changing. Let go of toxic relationships and energy vampires- you know who they are. 

Do Not Compare Myself to Others

Less social media- PERIOD.  They only show you what they want you to see.

Purge

Purge and donate more often- aim for once a month.  Remember that I cannot take things with me whenever the day comes to travel to the great beyond and I don’t want to burden my grandkids with crap that grandma kept in the garage that no one has a clue as to why she kept it.

Family Calendar 

Create and abide by the Family Calendar- add To-Dos here, grocery items that are needed, important reminders, dinner menu for the week.  (“sync” with my personal planner and online calendar) 

Bedtimes

Start a mellow bedtime routine for the kiddos 1 hr before they get tucked in.  After they are in bed, prep for the next day to make the mornings easier- lunches, backpacks, etc.  Keep my To-Do list in one place, write items down before bed so I can try to clear my mind.  No phone use before bed- Read a book instead.

**Set my alarm 1 hour earlier to avoid rushing in the morning and enjoy the ‘me time’.   

Work Space

Shred papers that create clutter, file ones that absolutely need to be kept.  Take pictures of documents if I just need the info for a later time and then toss the physical paper.  Clean my desk and use it for writing and not for my piled up books that I am going to read (ha!), the clothes that are too clean for the hamper but too dirty to be put away again (you know you have those too), and all of the bobby pins that I can never seem to find in the mornings. 

*** While I am at it, keep the kitchen counter free of crap and piled mail that I’ll just eventually toss.  This is be the saving grace for my marriage.

Unsubscribe!

Go through emails that I trash before ever opening and unsubscribe from them.  While I’m at it, unfollow peeps on social media that cause me to think negatively of myself or others, or make me feel inadequate, or like I need to create a life that does not actually serve me or my family. 

Reactions

Take AT LEAST one deep breath before responding to something that irked me.  (DO NOT roll my eyes during this breath) This will give me a chance to clear mind before I say something I might regret.  It’s better to respond kindly and clearly than to yell and freak out- this way I don’t have to fix things later. 

Self Care

Remember that self care is ok and so very necessary.  “You can’t pour from an empty cup” – This can be scheduling a massage, going to yoga, taking a bath when the kids are asleep to avoid toys being hurled at my head while trying to relax. I am worth the time.  Utilize the hour when I wake up early to meditate, move my body, write, savor my tea/coffee- anything that fills my cup and sets the tone for a good day. 

Laundry

Do a load if I have the time to avoid spending an entire day on laundry (and to avoid running out of underwear).  Put the folded clothes away immediately because looking at that shit is stressful enough. 

Food

Eat slowly. Drink slowly.  Savor the flavors. PUT THE PHONE DOWN. Meal plan for the week with quick, yet nutritious meals and enough leftovers for lunches.  Pack lunches the night before for work.  Eat out less.

Finances

Create a budget and actually stick with it. Avoid impulse Target and online purchases by holding the item in my hand (or ‘add it to my cart’ when online shopping) and seriously contemplate if this is something I need to survive or will it make me a better and happier person.  Ask myself- Will I just end up donating it in a few months? Will it be one more thing I have to pick up when I clean the house?  

Let go

Let go of trying to please everyone. Focus on my hub- John and the kids. Remember that I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, cup of coffee, glass of wine, shot of whiskey…. and that’s ok. Remember that that’s ok.

Fun Fact:

I tried digging through my purse to see if I could find the note that was the catalyst for this post.  It has since disappeared into the black hole, just as so much has before it.  Though I did find- two dinosaurs, only the spring and the ink portion of a broken pen, the plane ticket from when I flew up north for the birth of my niece Aubree, some microblading ointment (did mention that I got my eyebrows microbladed and it’s awesome?!?), expired DayQuil tablets, a $10 bill (score!), crumbled up Post Its (of course), rocks (lots of them), 95 cents (tiny score?), and flattened pennies from- the Santa Ana Zoo, Cafe Du Monde, Gettysburg, Dodger Stadium, Hunting Beach, the San Diego Zoo, Monterey, and Disneyland.

So, no note but my purse is now clean.

My Friend Jamie

I met Jamie via the Kick Ass Cancer Mamas Facebook group.  Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
At 5:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day in 2007, as a 27-year-old, I should have been getting ready for a romantic dinner with my husband—where we would celebrate my 14-week pregnancy. Instead, I was in a doctor’s office, learning that I had invasive ductal carcinoma. I hadn’t been too worried a few days earlier, when I first felt the lump while taking a bath. I told my husband that this was a glaring omission on the part of the editors of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Instead of dinner, I was listening to an oncologist explain that I had to start chemotherapy right away. Trying not to panic, I immediately asked how I could possibly get chemo while I was pregnant. I’d given up coffee, and now my doctor wanted to pump me full of poisonous chemicals? It seemed crazy. But after seeking out second and third opinions and doing my own fact-finding, we agreed to go forward. At 27 years old and 14 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form, so waiting until I gave birth was not a viable option. Even though I had carefully researched my decision, once the therapy began I was paralyzed by fear that my baby was being harmed by the harsh medication. To bring peace of mind, my healthcare team came up with an innovative solution: weekly ultrasounds of my baby. During a time when I was losing my hair, my toenails, and my fingernails, it was a way for me to see he was okay in there. As long as he was still alive, I told myself everything would work out. I was six months into my ten month chemo regimen when our son, Blake, was born perfectly healthy. I imagine every cancer survivor is changed by the experience—but most of them don’t get the gift of a child at the end.
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
I am a mom, a coffee-junkie, a wife, a wanderlust, a friend, a neighbor, a lawyer, Hamilton-obsessed, a professor, a baseball fan, a runner, policy-optimist, and full of hope.
Thoughts on the pink… 
I am so grateful and proud of the work of these small but mighty non-profits, helping people living with and beyond cancer: National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship at http://www.canceradvocacy.org , The Pink Fund at http://www.pinkfund.org , Triage Cancer at http://www.triagecancer.org , Get In Touch at http://www.getintouchfoundation.org .
If you could send a message to yourself from 10 years ago… how would that go?
This is non-responsive to this question but . . . When I was first diagnosed, I would pray to God and ask him for kindergarten. I wanted to be there for Blake’s first day of kindergarten. Today, Blake is 11 years old and in the 5th grade. God is good, science rocks, and I am one lucky lady. The hardest part of joining the sisterhood, especially the sisterhood of young women with cancer, has been the tremendous loss and grief. My life is richer beyond measure for knowing these women and being blessed to call them my sister-friends, but my heart and soul aches for the loss.
What are you passionate about? Is this different than what you were passionate about before dx?
Access to healthcare. Families facing a cancer diagnosis, or any other chronic medical condition, shouldn’t have to wonder whether they can pay their rent or health insurance deductible this month. I am grateful for the work that organizations like the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), Triage Cancer, and the Pink Fund are doing to reduce the financial toxicity facing too many patients today.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
I absolutely had a C mantra I said to Blake while I was pregnant in treatment. It is not original … I stole it from my favorite movie, Why I Wore Lipstick To My Mastectomy: We are the sky and nothing can touch us … We are the sky and we will remain unchanged.
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
Hope lives . . . my hope is an 11 year old boy who has stolen my heart. 
*** Jamie kept a personal blog during treatment which may be helpful to other young mothers finding themselves on this journey-  www.pregnantwithcancer.blogspot.com.

My Friend Jessica

I met Jessica through the Kick Ass Cancer Mamas Facebook group.  Here is her story…

Tell us your story / stats:

I was 14 weeks pregnant with my first child. We were thrilled! We had been trying for years and I was finally pregnant! I was watching TV one Sunday evening when I felt a tingling sensation in my left breast. I touched it and there it was… a lump. I immediately consulted Dr. Google and the results I found were cancer. I freaked out and started crying and by the end of the week I was diagnosed with stage 2B inter ductal carcinoma breast cancer. I was 34 years old and have no family history of the disease. I was upset, but I put those scary feelings aside and I knew I had to be strong for my baby. I waited so long to meet him and I wasn’t going to let anything bring me down, not even cancer. The next day after my cancer diagnosis I went to Babies R Us to start my baby registry because I wanted to focus on the future and the happy things happening in my life. My treatment included six rounds of chemotherapy while my son was still in the womb, I gave birth, had a lumpectomy two days later, followed by twelve weeks of Taxol, and finished with 36 rounds of radiation. Today, I am on Tamoxaphen, Lupron, and I’m “cancer free.”
Where are you at in life now? Mentally, physically, emotionally…
I struggle with depression, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed. I see a therapist on a regular basis and take Effexor for my depression/anxiety. Sometimes it takes everything in me to get out of bed every morning. I cope by moving my body, being creative, and learning new things. I love to read and listening to podcasts.
What are you passionate about? Is this different than what you were passionate about before dx?
I love being creative! I am passionate about photography, music, journaling, makeup, fashion, and home decor. When I was younger I was creative, but I decided to pursue business when I was in college because I didn’t want to be a “starving artist.” Creativity fills my bucket! I thrive on creativity and it’s something I didn’t make time for before cancer, but today I make it a priority.
Do you have any short term or long term goals that you are actively working towards?
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! I’m having fun exploring different career options. I love helping people and a dream of mine is to start a non-profit for cancer mama retreats.
What’s the latest happenings in your life now? 
I’m working on rebranding my blog to incorporate other topics besides cancer. Cancer will always be a part of my life, but I’m so much more than my diagnosis! Follow my instagram @joyfulaftercancer if you are interested in home interiors, makeup, motherhood, mental wellness, and breast cancer awareness!