Getting Comfortable in a New Way – Part 1

Some of you might know that I’m like what I like to call a wannabe homesteader which also means I’m a lowkey prepper. If you aren’t familiar with homesteading, it’s basically working toward self-sufficiency in many areas of your life. It can be done to any degree in a country or an urban setting. While I don’t have a degree on the subject (do they even offer that? They should!) because of my informal studies, experiments, and successes over the last 10 years I figure I have at least a Masters in Grandma Studies. I put this together a few days ago and I hope you will find it helpful, comforting, and maybe a little inspiring in the face of what will ultimately be a terrible tragedy.

Attitude

Your attitude is important. I usually use the blog to talk about relationship skills and I’m not going to do that now except to say that this is huge excerise in relinquishing control. We cannot control this virus. We cannot control others. All we can do is protect ourselves and those around us as much as possible. I invite you to take some time to reflect on how the fear from this is pressing our buttons and making our urge to control stronger. This weekend has been absolutely lovely for me and my family and I give the Skills and my perchant for sustainability all the credit. Please let me know if you’d like coaching for this strange time. I always do phone calls 🙂

Some of my friends on Facebook aren’t taking this pandemic seriously and calling people who are preparing “stupid.” I don’t think I need to tell you how unattractive this is. You’re smart, you get it. 😉 This is serious. It’s smart to prepare. It will continue to get more and more difficult as each day passes. Get things done now while you still have the chance.

The impact of this worldwide pandemic is far reaching, and will leave none of us unaffected.  Our events are already being cancelled, our travel restricted, and our looming mortality is in full relief. If you are young healthy person, you probably aren’t too worried about contracting Coronavirus, but here are two reasons why you should be.

It’s not fun to be sick. I’ve read a few first-hand accounts of having this illness and it does not sound fun. Mild or not, it’s better not to be sick than it is to be sick. To what lengths are you willing to go to avoid getting sick? This will vary from person to person.  I encourage you to stretch yourself to think of all the ways you can minimize your exposure and your role in transmission.

More importantly, you have moral responsibility to not become a disease vector. We must protect our elders and our more vulnerable friends. Personally, I would have a very hard time living with myself if someone I inadvertently exposed to coronavirus died. I would feel responsible if I didn’t do everything in my power to prevent that from happening. This IS a matter of life and death. Please feel comforted that if you decide to stay home instead of going to an important meeting or whatever people want you to do, I am in your corner yelling, “IT’S NOT WORTH IT.” Your life and the lives of others is the best thing we have, it’s the only thing we have. It’s the way we raise the next generations, it’s all the joy you experience, it’s all the knowledge and love and support that you give to the world and that’s important. It’s more important that you preserve yourself and others than it is that you continue to do all of your external every day “duties.”

Of course there are many, many people, particularly in the United States that don’t have sick leave, that have to work with public, or that don’t have stable places to live without wages. If that’s you, first of all, thank you for continuing to do your job. I absolutely want to express that some people will have to continue working and the rest of us should be very thankful for the measures that they will have to take to keep themselves healthy. It is a risk that may not have an alternative. Please join me in prayer for our federal government to provide financial assistance to those who rely on every day of wages to survive, so that they may take time off and isolate.

It has been recommended by most experts and media outlet that we self-isolate as much as possible, which means limiting your outings to the essentials while we still have the freedom to do so. If we all participate in self-isolating, this will pass in a matter of weeks and will do minimal damage. We cannot afford to continue go on as “business as usual.” It’s is not safe and it’s morally wrong. Please limit your exposure and your potential transmission by preparing yourself and your home to accommodate your needs and wants for a few weeks of isolation.

Preparing now if you haven’t already

Wherever you live, consider the following options to make your isolation feel a whole lot nicer than it might seem.  Some of these things are survival strategies but most of them will just make your life more comfortable. Homesteading values comfort. It should not be an excessive burden to provide for yourself and your family. Given some knowledge and preparation you can live a comfortable life.

There are now shortages in some stores and in some areas. Do not panic. There is no reason to. Your grandparents and great grandparents survived on much less than you probably have in your home today. If they could do it, so can you. And guess what? You have access to all of humanities knowledge! So lay back and learn to do some things the old way. There are some really fun videos on YouTube that can help. Always feel free to ask in the comments or in a PM. I’d love to hear from you.

A global pandemic, while totally terrifying, is a great opportunity for us to practice sustainability in our homes.
Wherever you live, consider the following options to make your isolation feel a whole lot nicer than it might seem right now. Some of these things are survival strategies but most of them will just make your life more comfortable. Homesteading values comfort. It should not be an excessive burden to provide for yourself and your family. Given some knowledge, a thirst for joy and a healthy dose of preparation, you can live a comfortable life while you are staying at home.

There will be some things that you will probably need to obtain, either from Amazon or another delivery service or at a local store. If you do go to the store, please limit your outings and practice social distancing inside the store, and carry hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes with you. Please don’t take children in if you can avoid it. If you have to, carry babies and toddlers and teach older children not to touch surfaces by keeping their hands in their pockets and follow up with an incentive if they are successful.

Here are some areas of life to consider. Buy now if you can, things are only going to get more expensive and more scarce. Don’t wait to depend on relief efforts, be self sufficient if you can. If you can’t, ask and receive help. I’m happy to provide any more info and resources. Need help cooking something or sewing something? Just ask 🙂

Disinfectants and Cleaning Products

You probably already have what you need, a bottle of bleach, Clorox wipes, isopropyl alcohol, hand sanitizer, soap. You have soap right? Now is the time to use it. If you are truly isolating, then you don’t need to be disinfecting all the time because you are controlling your exposure already. However when you do go out or have people over, practice hand washing, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Be careful with the bleach and observe proper dilution to use, the internet can help you find out how to disinfect with bleach safely. Also obviously, please don’t drink isopropyl alcohol (we’re not that desperate yet, right?) Isopropyl is a fundamentally different alcohol than drinking alcohol and will harm you if you drink it. Ethanol, however, is fine to drink in small quantities, it’s the alcohol found in spirits, wine, and beer BUT it doesn’t hold the same disinfecting power as isopropyl because it’s diluted for human drinking comfort. Do some research on the disinfecting power of both of these options and how Coronavirus responds to each. The science is evolving daily as researchers learn more and more about this virus. Keep reading reputable sources. This brings me to a side note:

You also have a responsibility to pass on vital, accurate information, cite your sources, and only indulge in news that is credible. Facebook is not a news source. Reading a headline does not qualify as learning something. This is a great opportunity to become a critical thinker. If you are sharing information, share the source too. If you don’t have a source, just say, that’s something I’ve heard, I haven’t confirmed its validity. In other words, if you don’t know the details or the source, say, “That’s what I’ve heard, we should probably confirm that.” This intellectual practice will serve you well. You will learn things as you confirm facts and you will be doing your due diligence against the harmful miseducation that has plagued the internet since Facebook became a thing. Okay, back to prepping:

Stock up on laundry detergent, cleaning supplies for your home, yourself and your family. Grab an extra tube of toothpaste or be okay with using baking soda. You do have baking soda right? Definitely get some… or a lot. It will come in handy. Love a certain shampoo? Order an extra, or be okay with using Dr. Bronners (a soap with 18 uses! I don’t know what they all area but I read that on the bottle once.) Have laundry detergent or know how to make it. I haven’t learned yet because a Costco bottle of detergent lasts me at least 6 months. Long term I do plan on making my own, but these things take a bit of time. I invite you to look into DIY products using everyday items you already have in your home. My husband makes deodorant from witch hazel and essential oils. Works for him doesn’t work for me. I need stronger stuff. Experiment, have fun, do research, try new things!

Medications, First Aid, and Safety

There is a chance that our hospital and medical system may become overwhelmed when we start to see the influx of cases. Get your prescriptions filled now, stock up on commonly used over the counter medicines, and I feel like I have to say this: When I say stock up, I don’t mean buy the whole shelf. Alternatively, know what your usage is and purchase accordingly. If you use one bottle of ibuprofen a year, grab an extra bottle. If you never use it, skip it. Also, make sure you have birth control if that’s something you need. Whether its pills or condoms or both; get as much as you think you could use. Condoms are available online for much less money than a brick and mortar store. Pharmacies will often give you extra packs of pills if you ask in advance. There are mail order options as well.


Consider getting a nice first aid kit. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you have to go to a hospital because you can’t self-treat. We have a tendency to say “Go to the doctor, just to be safe.” And while that is a fine attitude to have most of the time, this is not a time for relying on that thinking. Do you have band-aids? Do you have medical disinfectants, tweezers, braces, bandages, etc.? Use your brain. Make good decisions. I believe in you. Avoid going to the doctor if you can. Practice good dental hygiene to avoid a trip to the dentist. Heck, practice good hygiene, in general, to stay healthy! Don’t take risks that might land you in the hospital. Be careful with yourself, people are depending on you.

Water

It is extremely unlikely that our water system will cease to function. Personally, I don’t have a stash of bottled water. I think bottled water is kind of gross on multiple levels. I live in an area with a lot of water access and I have a well that could be rehabilitated in my backyard. I could get water if I needed to. How will you do it? Do you know how to sanitize water? I have a couple of water filters for backpacking and fuel to boil. That feels good enough for me. A rain barrel would also be a good idea. I’d like to have one of those for extra security. What will make you feel secure?

Disposable Everyday Products

Here we are talking about things you buy to use and throw away. Toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, tissues, pads and tampons, diapers are the big ones. Every single one of those has a totally reasonable and comfortable alternative, all of which I’ve used with great success. They are not as convenient but they do work. Reusable diapers are expensive, but if you were considering using them, this is a great way to get started. There is a wealth of information on the internet about the different options available. Menstrual cups and washable pads are readily available now. I make my own pads out of scrap fabric. It’s not easy, but it can be done with time and patience. Kitchen towels and rags can easily replace paper towels. I went for about 9 years on one roll of paper towels without much trouble at all. If you are still using paper napkins at home, please just stop. Use cloth napkins. Get some at a thrift store, Target, make your own, whatever. Throw them in a laundry bag when they are used with your kitchen rags and launder. I know you are dying to know what I think about the toilet paper shortages so here it is:

Toilet paper is a non-essential item. This is an American problem. The rest of the world uses washing and reusable options. Personally, I have a handheld bidet hooked up to my toilet. Also called a “diaper sprayer,” it’s basically a kitchen sprayer but mounted on your toilet tank, it was about $30 on Amazon. It’s relatively easy to install if you follow the instructions. Is the water cold? Yes, very much so. Does it leave me feeling way cleaner than TP? Also yes. Once you get off all the gross, pat dry with a nice clean cloth. Fabric scraps will do for this. Put them in a bag and launder with hot water. You will feel clean, pampered, and way less gross. Honestly, the reason we still use TP in our home is that it weirds people out not to have it. Come on, America, we can do better.

So there you have it, a bunch of ways to replace disposable products with easy to use, readily available, and are cheap or free to use. If we are hunkering down for more than a few months, I would recommend trying some of these strategies. I don’t use cloth diapers with my youngest because it was too much work to add on top of my other duties and I gave my stash away. She’s two so I figure worse comes to worst and we can just spend some time potty training which we’ve been meaning to do anyway. If all of these seem like too much, that’s fine too! Just get a few extra packs of what you usually buy so you don’t have to run to the store during isolation.

Food

This is where most of my thinking has been focused. Now is not a good time to eat at restaurants. When you eat out, you are counting on the people working there observing very strict hygiene protocols, so strict it would be hard to meet them myself! So that’s why I’m urging you to make as much of your own food as possible. If you don’t know how to cook, this a great time to learn. You will have a lot of time to learn on YouTube. Do your researches, gather your tools, and start making things you like to eat.

It might be tempting to buy a 50 lb bag of beans and another bag of rice, but you must know how to cook these things to use them! And in an emergency, I know that you would definitely figure that out, because anyone alive today is descended from many smart humans that have overcome food shortages and famines many times. I just want you to be comfortable while we face the possibility of that potential.

I lived off of variations of rice and beans for lots of years so I’ve got my game down pat. I always use a slow cooker or instant pot for cooking beans. Beans must be soaked for hours before they are cooked. Pinto beans are great, black beans are great for nutrition, mayo coba is a favorite of mine that we prep like pintos and I really like chickpeas to make hummus or channa masala, they are a great bean to have in stock at your house. At this point, it might be a matter of just grabbing what’s left at stores and figuring out a good way to cook it. We get into a bean cycle where we start soaking the next batch while we are eating the one before. It’s a good system.

I always use the same pot to cook rice which ensures my success. One cup of white rice in the pot first, add 1.5x water, heat till boiling, put a lid on, lower heat as low as it will go and still be on, and leave for 20 min, don’t open the lid. There are different kinds of rice, brown vs white, long-grain vs short-grain. You can look into it and learn all about it if you want to. Most commonly people use short-grain white rice and if you buy a bulk bag, that’s probably what you will get.

Here are some things to add to your shopping list that will make eating rice and beans more enjoyable: cooking oil, onions, broth, canned tomatoes, hot sauce, soy sauce, lime juice or another acid (vinegar will do in a pinch.) Make sure you’re all stocked up on spices and other things you use in the kitchen often.

Learn how to make your own staples with cheap, non-perishable ingredients. If you have flour, sugar, salt, yeast, baking soda you can make a whole lot of different baked goods. Add butter and you have the ingredients to make pie crusts as well which would be a great way to eat canned fruit if the pickings get slim in a few months.

Winter squash can be stored on your counter for 2 to 3 months.

Oats and other bulk bin items make easy baked granola, however at the moment, bulk bins don’t seem to be the best idea. But it’s easy to make a snacking or cereal granola out of random things you might already have. I can post a recipe if you want.

Learn simple recipes of the foods you enjoy, making bread in a bread maker is very easy, casseroles and quiches are a great calorie dense way to feed a family and have leftovers. Eggs have a great shelf life and are very versatile. Eggrolls are a great way to eat cabbage and stuff like that. Making your own tortillas is extremely delicious and fun as well.

When I want to learn to make something new, I always use search terms that include the words easy, simple and/or best and I only make things with good reviews like “easy best white bread breadmaker” or “easy simple pie crust.” You get the picture. Dutch oven camping cooking also has a lovely community with simple, easy, foolproof recipes that use nonperishables. The recipes could be made in an ordinary casserole dish in a home oven or get yourself a dutch oven and start cooking outside. Hey, that actually sounds fun!

Additionally, you can stock your freezer full of things you like to eat. Everything from frozen pizza to eggs and cheese can stay in your freezer for a few months. Just search how to freeze things and figure it out! You can do it. All of humanity’s wisdom is at your fingertips!

Also, at the risk of sounding like your mother, eat your leftovers. Now is a great time to cut down on waste. Eat those leftovers before they become science experiments and you are on your way to waste not, want not.

Oh and stock up on pet food. Make sure you can feed all the mouths. Don’t take on another liability. Don’t take on new animals if you don’t have a plan for feeding them (says the lady with pregnant goats. T-minus 3 weeks to goat milk!)

Part 2 will be coming soon. Keep calm, prepare a little today and stay in touch.

Respect and the Stories We Tell

Laura, my relationship mentor, asked me what I thought made the biggest difference when I was transforming my marriage. I told her my biggest change was all the things I stopped doing. I still feel like that’s the case. Looking at the Six Intimacy Skills – two of them are centered around what you can go ahead and delete from your relationship and the other four are what you can focus on doing instead. So my effort to restore respect was about cleaning up my habits to show my husband that I admired him, supported him, respected his decisions and his opinions. After all, I wanted to build him up instead of tearing him down, like I had unintentionally been doing all along. Whoops! 

I just got off a wonderful coach call about the stories we tell ourselves about the people around us. At this stage in my life, I can really see how our perspectives can change not only how we feel about others, but also how they feel about themselves. Over the course of my relationship transformation, I’ve become much more conscious of my power as a wife as well as my responsibility to establish a norm of respect that flows in every direction of our relationship.

Claudio and I have been talking a lot about the historical relationships between husbands and wives. I am totally amazed by how so many details of how this institution looks has changed over thousands of years, but how there are so many constants that remain the same. A few weeks before we scheduled to be married, he told me that he was excited to be a husband. I was floored. What did that make me? A WIFE? Yuck. What does that even mean? I was interested in being a gender neutral, 50/50 partner. I was (and am) a progressive feminist and that meant I had absolutely no idea what being a wife actually meant. We had a fight that day that shook both of us and we both still remember it. Reflecting back, one of the greatest gifts that Laura has given me was opening the door to me understanding what was possible for me as a wife. I had imagined that wifedom included servitude, subservience, and turning straight into a doormat. I am happy to tell you that I was so incredibly wrong. Turns out my husband wants to serve ME (but that’s a lesson in receiving that I’ll save for another day.)

Before I could take my place as the queen of my own life, I had to restore respect in my marriage which meant doing all the things that I had done out of habit, but felt deeply justified in doing.

Things like:

  • Dismissing his ideas in favor of my own.
  • Trying to help him at every turn. 
  • Offering my dissenting opinion about every single thing.
  • Assigning him tasks.
  • Expressing my complaints when he didn’t complete said tasks.
  • Sometimes interpreting his help as a personal affront to my own capabilities and then other times interpreting his lack of help as being uncaring. 

I did these things because I thought that was how people acted. I thoroughly bought into the story that men are bad at most things; they are generally unsupportive and make us do all the work. They are usually immature, irresponsible, and useless. And my husband, because he wanted me to be happy, did his best to live up to my deplorable expectations. 

I desperately wanted him to be better, but I kept telling the story to myself and to him that he wasn’t helpful, he wasn’t supportive, and because of those things he didn’t love me. If he loved me, he would be different. I didn’t stop to ask myself, what would happen if I saw him as what I wanted him to be? Instead I bought into the story that every other wife and girlfriend I knew had told me about our fate as heterosexual women. 

Respect for men wasn’t popular in the circles I was running in. The thinking goes like this: Why should I do xyz for him? He doesn’t deserve it, he wouldn’t do that for me. How can I appreciate him for doing nothing? He needs to hear me complain! He should know better. Women are really good at agreeing on things as truth as if it came from the sky in a beam of light and then taking the corresponding steps deemed necessary and deserved. 

Have you ever been ostracised from a group of women? Take it from me, it’s rough to be on the receiving end of a woman’s scorn– been there. Women can do this because of our wonderful storytelling abilities and impeccable and unyielding follow through. The good news is that we can use our powers for good. We can build up our husbands, our children, our friends. We can be beautiful goddesses of fun and light that bring joy and happiness to the people that we love, we just have to change the story that we tell to ourselves, to others, and to the ones we love.

Once I found the skills I started asking new kinds of questions:

What if I started looking for his success in areas I wanted him to be stronger in? What if I started acknowledging it and thanking him? What if he needed me to just listen to him, support him, and love him? What if he just needed me in his corner and no one else? What if I alone had the power to lift him up and give him the confidence to be his best self and he could finally be the man he was meant to be?

I see him grow into his best self every single day now. I see him getting stronger, honing in on what he wants, making plans for us, building the life we want. He does that now– and in an act of radical self-control– I let him and I use my powers for good. 

I don’t question his judgment. I don’t interrupt him. I don’t help unless he asks for it. I listen to his ideas and I tell them how great I think they are. I never assign him tasks. Occasionally, I’ll ask for a favor, but I frame it in a respectful way and thank him for helping me out. I accept his help. I tell him he’s the best and I really believe it. I’m in his corner. And now, he’s in mine. He gives all those things back to me. He thanks me for everything that I do. He snuggles me and brings me gifts and works relentlessly on building a life for me and our children. How could such a useless guy do so much? Strange! Funny how that worked out.

So, what stories have you been telling?

What the heck is Self-Care anyway?

Self-care is a hot buzz word around these days. There’s no shortage of articles, videos, and inspirational memes that can tell you about what it is, how to do it, and why it’s so important. I remember it started being a popular topic around social media around 2014 when I had my first baby. I dismissed it all as something single people with stressful but well-paying careers did. Taking a day off to go to the spa or go for a mind-clearing bicycle ride. I was a sleep-deprived, breastfeeding, new mom and full-time teacher with a husband that worked nights. I had NO time for any of that kind of thing. I didn’t even have time for a nap and when someone made time for one, I was so stressed that I couldn’t shut my brain off and enjoy it. 

My marriage was quickly collapsing into shambles as we hardly spoke and my anger became all-consuming. Reading about bougie self-care strategies was the last thing I was going to waste my time doing. So when I picked up The Empowered Wife and started reading about self-care I kind of rolled my eyes and quickly leafed through it so I didn’t waste my time and moved on to the “good parts” of which there were many that had nothing to do with self-care. But Laura (my relationship mentor) made self-care the first Skill of six for a reason. I wouldn’t get to benefit from it until later when I got an email about a free master class webinar that she was putting on. The exercise invited us to try in that little class was to make a list of 10 to 20 activities that bring us joy in the moment. 

Oh wow, that was a tough one for me. I had lost my joy at least 4 years ago. I was so consumed with what I thought I had to be doing all the time that I had no idea what I even LIKED doing. So I did my best. My list was full of pipe-dreams like a weekend in a yurt, a trip to Tahiti, a visit with my best friend who lives across the country and a smattering of more realistic, smaller pleasures like going out for fancy drinks, spending time in my yard, going on hikes. Turns out those last three were right on the nose. 

Then Laura asked us to start practicing self-care by doing three things each day that bring us joy in the moment. Looks like my big vacation plans weren’t going to help me much for that assignment. So I focused on the little things. Later I heard the suggestion for us busy mom types: always have 10 things in mind that you can do in under 10 minutes and for free in your own home. That was a nice parameter to work with. Soon I had a list that seemed doable. 

The only self-care that I’d been decent at when having babies was showering. I had read over and over again that you should always take a shower when you are at home all day with your baby so I was pretty good at that. I noticed how it improved my mood and my overall mental health just a little. Besides daily showering, I really had no other routine that was for me. I started growing my morning routine a bit and tightening it up. I realized that I enjoyed uninterrupted showers, as well as some time to dry off by myself, put on some face lotion, and an essential oil roll on to make myself feel a little bit special. I added some time to fix my hair and maybe put on a little lipstick because although I’m not a big make-up person, I’ve always liked a little lip color. I looked in the mirror and could tell myself that I looked good, smelled good, and gosh darnit people like me. I was feeling better already.

My son loves engaging verbally pretty much every second of his life, so he often will have to use the bathroom when I’m in the shower. He would start to chat and I would lovingly say, “I love a quiet shower by myself. This a great time that I really like to spend by myself.” He got the picture. He still comes to visit in the morning, but it’s short and sweet and doesn’t drag out like it used to. 

So I managed to start building self-care into my routines. I developed a bedtime routine, which I use sometimes when my husband and I are on different sleep schedules. I’ll light a candle, do some silent gratitudes and affirmations, maybe some prayer, brush my hair, and put on some more essential oil. Simple stuff that only takes a few minutes, but allows me to focus and stay on track. I also have a mid-day routine that helps me get a nap in or some time to drink tea and read a book by the fire, maybe even write a blog post like I’m doing right now. This is almost favorite time of day, second only to the evening hours I spend with my husband after the kids are in dreamland. 

I also practice self-care by asking myself what I want to do in the moment instead of constantly accommodating everyone. My accommodation was costing me my joy, and having no joy was making me self-sacrificing worker bee that no one liked, especially not me. Now before I say yes to something, I think about what it will cost me. Will it put me in a bad mood? Will it take time away from my self-care? Will it drain me or fill me up? I restructured my whole life to have more time to spend on things that I put me in a good mood and fill me up. Turns out that it was possible for me the whole time, I just had to let go of my idea of what I should be doing and focus on what I want to be doing. 

Sometimes I need more self-care than others, I need to be constantly in touch with my internal emotional meter that tells me how I need to fill myself up and get back to the happy lady that I now enjoy being, otherwise my anxiety, anger, and depression get the best of me. I don’t always crave the same activities day to day. One day it might be connecting with a trusted friend, another day it might be spending a few minutes petting my goats and watching the sunset in my backyard. Turns out the self-care that works for me isn’t expensive or time-consuming or only for people I have nothing in common with. It’s much more about valuing myself and doing things I enjoy so I’m an enjoyable person. I have so much more to share but I’ve got to get back to reading the book I’ve been enjoying and probably take a nap on the couch. Self-care is a big priority for me, because being a wonderful mother and wife is a bigger priority for me, and without it– none of this is possible.
Believe me, I’ve tried it both ways.


What activities do you do that fill you up? Do you like to go for long drives? Love to take photos? Perhaps you have a favorite pet that you like to spend time with.

Share what you love and see what it does for you.

Receiving: A Holiday and Year Round Endeavor

Well, here I am. I had set my goal at making one blog post a month and I really made my way through December before I got here. It’s been a little crazy around here, not just holiday-wise but that too. My husband is a carpenter and he spent most of the month trying to protect his work from the rain which meant 10 to 12 hour days, 6 days a week. So you can imagine how I wasn’t dying to spend a couple hours by myself writing to you, but I made a goal and I still want to achieve it. So here we go, you’re welcome 😉

I’ve been thinking about receiving lately because of the upcoming and now passed holidays. Even though Christmas lights make me feel warm and fuzzy and I cry during Christmas carols *regularly* I do have to admit that Christmas is rife with potential for conflict and disappointment, especially for us women folk. We work our buns off making holiday magic, picking out the best gifts, wrapping them in the cutest paper, having them ready weeks sometimes months in advance. And all we want is a thoughtful gift from the guys we love. And year after year, we often don’t get it. I can smell the cesspool of resentment growing from here. I used to keep one in my house too. Yuck. There is a couple of ways I try to tackle this.

Keeping my expectations in check. What gift someone wants to give me is their business. I don’t give gifts to get gifts in return. I give gifts because I love the process of selection, packaging, delivering, it’s fun for me and that’s not the case for everyone. What someone gives me is exactly that. It’s not a reflection of anything, other than (usually) that they care about me enough to consider me as a recipient for a gift. I’m not entitled to any gift even from my husband on Christmas. Would I be sad if I didn’t get one? Yes, of course, and those would be my emotions that I’d have to figure out what to do with, but it doesn’t help to get preemptively entitled or disappointed. Having emotions in preparation for an upcoming disappointment has served to close openings for new beginnings for me in the past. I want to keep all my windows and doors open for new opportunities in the future, so it’s best for me to stay with the flow of things and enjoy moment by moment as much as possible which leads me to my next point.

Self-care. Always a good standby, especially during busy times! Having good self-care hygiene makes me smell better in all kinds of ways. I’m happier, friendlier, more patient, more loving, and WAY less concerned about what my husband will buy for me at a gas station on Christmas Eve. (Okay that’s not fair; he did go to actual stores on Christmas Eve.) This year I put off buying some little things that would be good stocking stuffers, and dropped some “I would loves….” about them, but I promised myself that if they didn’t come, then I’d go get them myself. And guess what. I did. Bam, object obtained. Happy Bonnie fully intact.

Receiving what I’m given graciously. So what if I’m not given what I wanted and am instead given something else that I don’t particularly fancy? Let me tell you a little story or ten. Early on in our relationship, my then-boyfriend-now-husband got me a gift for my birthday. We had virtually no money and sparse possessions and he got me a sparkling white, Northface vest. I had never worn a vest for warmth in my life; they made no sense to me. And WHITE? Ugh don’t you know anything about me! I’m a stain magnet; I thought to my terrible-receiver self. I think I managed to choke out a hesitant thank you and probably made a comment about how I’m afraid it will get dirty. And guess what? It did get dirty, because I lived in that thing. I absolutely loved it. I still absolutely love it. Now this was roughly 10 year, 2 kids, and 30 lbs ago, so I was joking with him that he got it for me in a size small, why didn’t he think of the future? I teased. He cunningly replied with, “I think that might have been a bit presumptuous and may not have gone over well.” He’s a smart man, and completely correct. It was pretty funny imagining what my past self would have done if he would have bought me a WHITE VEST in a size LARGE. I probably would have launched it into space.

Other great gifts my husband has given me that I wasn’t excited about but learned to absolutely love include but are not limited to: a garment steamer, a pink robe that looked like something the mom from the Brady Bunch would wear, several sweaters, my favorite hair crème, and a pair of wireless headphones. Notice that they are all thoughtful gifts and they show that he knows what I want or he thinks I would like even if I don’t initially agree. What a guy.

So those are some things that help me stay upbeat and in the moment around Christmas time. It’s a lovely time for ‘I would loves…” but as usual, they have to be delivered cleanly, without expectation. I know that my husband wants me to be happy and will totally support me buying what will make me happy in January when the sales are best anyway. All’s well that ends well. Let’s talk a little bit about the *skill* of receiving in a more year round context:

Ah receiving. It’s probably my favorite skill. It’s definitely the easiest for me. I LOVE receiving. When I first read the chapter on receiving in The Empowered Wife I’m pretty sure my eyes were huge and my mouth was gaping. I can’t believe all the stupid little stuff that I had been doing that had been hurting my relationship! My husband would offer me a glass of water… oh no thanks, I’ll get it myself. He’d say he’d take out the trash, but I’d beat him to it. He’d offer to stop at my favorite store and I’d tell him we should get home. Rejection, rejection, rejection. No wonder he wasn’t feeling super cuddly. I was hurting his feelings all the time and I didn’t even know it. So I changed. I changed all of it. I started accepting every offer I possibly could and if I couldn’t, I would consider the weight and responsibility of rejecting a gift.

When someone offers me a gift of any kind, including apologies and compliments, I try my best to just say: thank you.

I know it’s strange and unfamiliar, but it really does work wonders.

It’s not just for my relationship either. When someone opens the door for me, I walk through it, and I say thank you! Someone says they like my bag, thank you! My kid apologizes for being rude? EXTRA BIG THANK YOU. (I actually get those a lot and yes, it is amazing.)

Once I knew the secret (accepting and saying thank you, that’s literally all there is), it was mostly easy to follow through with. At first I did stumble a little bit with apologies. I was so used to saying “it’s ok” which effectively dismisses the apology instead of accepting it. Once I started to think of apologies as gifts, it was much easier. I practiced a lot with my kids. My oldest is five and he apologizes regularly, like I do and my husband does. (Turns out being in a respectful relationship kinda requires a big helping of apologies and humility, who would have thought.) When I first started receiving apologies from my little guy I would say, “Thank you for your apology” It sounded more natural and like a real mom thing to say. After a few months it started to feel better and I started to notice when my apologies were either dismissed (it’s ok or no biggie) or accepted (thank you) and gosh it felt WAY better to have them accepted. I was actually starting to get a little haughty about it when my apologies were ignored or dismissed, and I had to check my expectations there.

Sometimes I do have to reject a gift, like when my husband offers me a beer but I’m about to go for a drive, so now I’ll say a little something like, “Oh thank you for the offer, that’s so thoughtful, and I would like one, but I’m about to head out.” I try to keep these to an absolute minimum and focus on how I can fit whatever is given into my life. I make room for gifts and I get more and more of them.

I recently accidentally missed an opportunity to receive and I’m still kicking myself for being silly and narrow minded about it. I was running low on these little sticky pouches to put international shipping documents in and I knew they were free from FedEx, but I didn’t know which one was the right one based on the website descriptions. So later that day when I went to drop off a package I asked the guy working there if he knew which one was the right one. He pulled a big stack out from under the desk and told me I could have the whole stack. Intensely focused on my goal, I told him I only needed one because it had the item number on it and then I could figure out which to order. (UGH HOW SILLY IS THAT.) I walked right out of there, playing the situation over in my head and then it hit me, doh! I should have just grabbed the stack and said thank you. Instead, I rejected this guy’s offer (kind of a jerk move, do I owe him a really weird apology now?), made way more work for myself, AND get to wait a few extra weeks because they don’t ship out free supplies during the holidays. What was I thinking? Not about receiving, that’s for dang sure. Whatever. It’s fine. As you can see, I have very, very insignificant problems for the most part nowadays and I really, really like it that way. All I’ve got to do is just say those two little words that we practiced last month: Thank you! 

Practicing good receiving has opened up all kinds of doors for me and presented me with interesting and unique opportunities that I never would have experienced if I had continued to carry on being preoccupied with appearing modest or strong or self-sufficient. There’s a magic to it that I can’t quite name or put my finger on. The world just started to provide more abundance for me when I started receiving what I was given and appreciating it for what it is. And guess what? I am still strong and self-sufficient, maybe even more so that I feel so supported in so many aspects of my life.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are having a peaceful and restorative holiday season. And if by chance you aren’t, send me an email or a text. I would absolutely love some new clients for the new year (see what I did there? 😉 ) Anyway, Happy New Year!

Gratitude

I’d love to start writing a blog post at least once a month. Turns out I love writing, but rarely make time for it. I easily put all kinds of words down when I make time for it, but with two little ones running around and all my other hobbies and jobs; it’s tough to keep up my practice. I can’t even tell you how many journals I’ve started and have abandoned over the years, but I still look back on my writing and really quite enjoy reading it, even as cringe worthy as some of the spelling mistakes can be. Anyway, this post isn’t about writing about writing, I just wanted to give myself a self-fulfilling prophecy: I am a great writer, I love writing, and I can and will be committed to my writing practice. So there we go— moving right along.

It’s November, which means it’s a great time to be grateful. Looking past all the bizarre and problematic issues with the Thanksgiving story, I think we can all safely agree that feeling, showing, and communicating gratitude is a good thing. The thing I love about gratitude is that it can reframe my mind. It’s sort of my default state when everything else is aligned and all my ducks are in a row. If I’m full up on self-care, I’m not feeling the urge to control, my side of the street is clean, and then I can really soak in the waters of gratitude. I love it. Here are some of the basic things I’m grateful for on a daily basis.

Hot water

A shower is part of my rudimentary self-care. If I don’t get a shower, everything is more difficult. I also love taking a bath in my claw foot. Isn’t it incredible before the Victorian era, people didn’t usually have bathrooms inside their house? I’m so grateful to have a bathroom! That works!

Friends

I absolutely love my friends. I love checking in, I love hearing stories, I love having them over. When I feel like I’m nothing but a childcare and chore robot, they refresh me and remind me that I’m a human who can laugh. I’m pretty selective about my friends. I only have people in my life who are truthful, down-to-earth, drama free, not too concerned with status of any kind and don’t take themselves too seriously. And have a great sense of humor. It’s hard to find people like that, but I sure do love them. So if you are reading this, and we are friends, I want to say thanks, because you really do light up my life.

My kids

Duh. Obligatory and self-explanatory. I’m so thankful to have healthy, happy, growing, kids. Even though sometimes it feels like they are sucking brain cells directly out of my brain and into their own, I’m so grateful for them. They teach me stuff (mostly a stark outline of my own boundaries but other stuff too), they teach me patience; they humble me, and put me in tons of situations where I need to apologize, so they’ve taught me the beauty of apologizing freely. And gosh they are beautiful, in the way they talk to me, in the way they love each other. How I have to teach them to be strong as well as sweet, because they naturally come too sweet for this world. Ugh, now I’m crying. Keep it together, Bonnie! We aren’t even close to half way done!

My house

I love this funny old place. I love that I recently found a Facebook group for people who own old houses. I had no idea that was a club that I’m a part of. For those of you who don’t know, I live in a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1000 sq ft house built in 1937. It’s silly looking on the outside because the roof doesn’t match the trim, it’s insulated only slightly better than a cardboard box, it’s got spider webs everywhere, and it’s really too small for when the kids get bigger, but I love it. I love the view from the back of my property. I love that I can have my goats and someday it will be something. I love the woodstove that Claudio and I installed before we moved in. I love that we heat entirely with wood, even though it’s a ton of work. I love the town we live in. I love the school my kid goes to. And that’s all because of this little house. It even came with a very cool cat that lives here so that’s fun too. Sometimes I’m just grateful that I was able to buy a house, when I know so many people my age just can’t. My parents saved up money that we used for a big portion of our down payment and I’m grateful for that too. Being a homeowner was a dream I had for a lot of years and it’s easy to get bogged down in all the stuff that “needs to be done” (fencing, siding, grating, a whole house fan, more fencing, kitchen remodel, etc.) but for now, it keeps us safe, and warm, and is a fun little place to be. I really do love it and I love working on it with my husband.

Officiating

I love officiating weddings; they are so straightforward and simple and beautiful. I love how easy my job is compared to everything else that goes into a wedding. Most of all I love meeting a couple, learning their story, getting to know them, and putting it all together into a lovely ceremony all in celebration of their love. It’s so so so fun and so rewarding and just the loveliest thing. I love shaking hands and hugging their parents afterwards and then casually strolling away as the party just gets started. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to play that kind of role in a couple’s life.

Coaching

I love coaching. Again, it’s such an amazing honor to be welcomed into someone’s private thinking and help them navigate to a safer and more fun space. I love hearing all the hidden wins that my clients give me and how they thank me for seeing them when the client definitely couldn’t. I love how natural it feels and how it focuses me. I love how it reminds me to keep growing in my own relationship and challenges me to keep improving. It’s such an honor and I can’t wait to do more.

Naps

So good. They keep me patient and kind. I love them so much.

My husband

Second to last but definitely, positively, not least at all in any way shape or form. No one makes me giggle like that guy. He keeps me on my toes, he’s always joking with me. He’s such a great dad. He works super hard to make all my dreams come true. He is patient and supportive and always tries as hard as he can. He makes me feel like a million bucks (or better– does money have feelings? I love that phrase but it really doesn’t make much sense.) He’s the best snuggler. We have so much in common. I love everything we’ve built together. I love his funny messages and gifs he sends me. I love how hard he works at everything. I love that we can dance and sing together and he’s just my favorite person that I’ve ever met.

“The Skills”

This is one that I’m thankful for all the time. My life for the last year and a half has been EXPONENTIALLY better because of Laura Doyle’s methods on life. I went from being depressed, anxious, full of doubt, stressed out, being overworked, never feeling like I was enough, feeling like my husband hated me, (ugh it was a lot) to feeling pretty much the opposite all the time. I’m happy, I’m relaxed, I have fun on a daily basis, I have a strong and wonderful relationship with not just my husband, but my kids, my friends, my parents, my clients, etc. Even when life throws its worst at me, (looking at you October!) and sometimes I just need to cry it out, I still go back to being thankful that I can handle any situation with grace and dignity and if I don’t, I can apologize and the world will forgive me. I will be cradled by the gifts around me and I will find my faith that there are good things in store for me.

Well there you have it– things that I am grateful for and that I felt like writing about. I have lots of other things too like my other job, my parents, food, my bed, my chorus but I’ll save those for another time.

Writing that was just as enjoyable as I thought it would be….very, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. What things are you grateful for in your life? Put them in the comments below. I’d love to read about them. Maybe we can get caught in a gratitude spiral where we are just filled with love and warmth and appreciation for all the good things that are out there just for us. I love when that happens.

Surrendered to what?

The day that I screamed so hard I thought I’d never sing again, I prayed to whatever was up there to teach me how to be a better wife because I couldn’t go on like this. I was depressed, anxious, and furious pretty much all the time. I first thought that I could pretend my way to the life I wanted. I could be Stepford wife and never show my emotions and just look beautiful and be pleasant. I laughed and cried, at least half-crazed, as I poured myself back into the laundry. 

That night I started googling. How to be a Stepford wife, how to be a good wife. The top result on Amazon was The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle. It had thousands of excellent reviews, which is extremely uncommon for relationship books. I poured over the comments seeing that these women had transformed their lives. But I couldn’t get over the title. I googled it and found some article about a woman who let her husband decide how she got her hair cut. I was freaked. I couldn’t do that. How could I? But I was still desperate. I went back to Amazon and found The Empowered Wife by the same author. Thousands more positive reviews came up. The audiobook was $10 so I said why not? I started reading it and it resonated immediately. I had been doing all the wrong things. I’d been taking advice from everyone who had a failing relationship. I’d sunk thousands of dollars into counseling that just drove us to divorce filing. (We didn’t go through with it, thank heavens, but that’s another story.) I can’t believe all the stupid things that I was doing that were draining the intimacy from my relationship every. single. day. I started making changes immediately. I didn’t really understand all of it, but I was desperate for something different after nine years of fighting. I fought with my husband for NINE YEARS before I found this book. I was disrespecting him around every corner. I thought I was being helpful, but I was constantly undermining him. I was rejecting his gifts, I thought I was being low maintenance! Everything I was doing was setting up for a losing battle. Why were we even having battles anyway?! I’m happy to report that we don’t have them anymore. Phew. 

Anyway, reading the book was a huge success. I struggled a lot to implement the skills I had learned. I still had a lot of anger and a lot of old baggage hanging around. I also kept asking myself if this technique made me less of a feminist. If because I stopped arguing and stopped sharing my opinion when it wasn’t asked for, was I now a regressive woman back-peddling my way into the 1800s? It sounds super silly now because that’s one hundred percent not how this works, but I really did grapple with those feelings and thoughts. I finished the book. I started to read it again. I wondered if I would just be re-reading this same book for the rest of my life, which I guess was fine, but I really wanted more. I wanted to know more. I wanted to do more. I wanted to be able to talk with other women about it. I joined the mailing list and the Facebook group. 

One day I got an email about the coaching program and I wanted to do it. I expressed my desire to become a Laura Doyle Certified Relationship Coach to my husband and my dad and they were both supportive. I did it. I did the coaching program, graduated, and certified and that’s how I got here. When I was in the coaching program, there was a requirement to read all of Laura’s books, including The Surrendered Wife. I was anxious to read it, knowing that it couldn’t be so bad by this point. I had met Laura via Zoom and I trust her with everything I’ve got. I dove in. 

She graciously defines “surrendering” for all of us skeptics right away. It’s not surrendering in the sense of giving up the fight, (but it also kind of is…if you think about.) It’s about surrendering inappropriate control of others and things outside of your own personal responsibility. It’s putting your favorite song and having a dance party while you are stuck in traffic. It’s not having to be the boss all the time. It’s being comfortable with playing a supporting role when it’s appropriate. It’s about having faith that everything is going to work out and trying to control it is a futile move. It’s much more simple than being a controlling person. It’s much more liberating than anything I’ve ever felt. Feeling cradled by what we are given and knowing that we don’t have the power to change anything other than ourselves, it’s immensely freeing. I’m not surrendered to my husband. I’m surrendered to everything around me. 

Laura talks about the idea of staying on one’s paper. Remember when you were in grade school and you had your paper and everyone else had theirs? It would be pretty rude to worry about what was going on your neighbor’s paper, don’t you think? Well, that’s what I was doing! ALL THE TIME! I was all over Claudio’s paper. Was he mad at me? How could he do that? Why would he prioritize that? If only he would just do things my way! Jeez. How rude was that? Controlling and weird. Turns out I had some pretty serious lack of trust issues that I didn’t even know about. 

I chose my husband. I think he’s the most amazing man on the planet. I am so so so grateful he wanted to marry me. I started to let him lead on projects where he knew more than me. I only shared my opinion when he asked for it and when I didn’t have one I said, “whatever you think.” I stopped offering my often self-indulgent advice and he sought me out more and more. Soon we were laughing and cuddling on the couch again.

He wants to be my husband. Everything I was doing was preventing him from being the best husband he could be and it was throwing everything off balance. We went from the precipice of destroying our family and our mutual hopes and dreams to living them in less than a year thanks to those skills. The last time we fought was several months ago. I never want to do it again. I just gotta keep it together and keep going. It gets easier and easier every day. 

And guess what? I pick out my own haircuts. I’m definitely not a Stepford wife. I get what I want most of the time. I have more time to myself, more energy to do what I want, and I’m a way better mom.  

Follow me on Instagram @happilyeverbonnie for more of my story.

My Story

When I met Claudio, I knew he was the funniest, intellectual, good-hearted, interesting, caring man I’d ever know.  I was over the moon when I started to realize he felt the same way about me.  In those first months, complete strangers would stop and congratulate us on our over-the-top, completely obvious infatuation with each other. At a community dance party, we had the whole dance floor make a huge circle around us. We were legendary.

But both of us are headstrong with hot tempers. We saw a marriage counselor within a year of being wed. Some things got better and we started planning for our first child, but life got more stressful; we argued even more. I was never getting what I wanted. I thought his ideas were short-sighted and childish. I was doing all the housework, I was earning most of the money, I was carrying the baby, I was doing everything! And I was getting resentful. 

After our baby was born, things got way worse. I had postpartum depression and felt like my life had been ripped away. All the affection, fun, and intimacy was gone from our lives. The resentment was palpable and it went both ways.  I felt like he didn’t care about me, he didn’t want anything to do with me. Every part of me hurt for what I used to have. 

With no light at the end of the tunnel, I filed for divorce.  During our separation, I saw all that I was at risk of losing: a loving family unit, and a working homestead where we would grow our own food, raise animals, and have lazy days in the warmth of the sun or cozy nights by the fire– dreams that Claudio and I had once dreamed up, long ago, together. After a few weeks of being separated, I realized I hadn’t picked the wrong man to marry. Claudio was my person. I loved him so much, despite feeling so hurt and rejected by him. Furthermore, our our son needed him. He missed Papa, and I told him I did too.

While we were separated, we found out I was pregnant. The promise of another child was what I wanted but I was afraid of what our life would look like. Claudio asked me if I would delay our divorce plans until after the birth of our daughter; I remember him on his knees, quietly weeping and holding my belly. I was relieved and hopeful, but fearful it would be short-lived.

He moved back in, as did our old dynamic. Our daughter was born and I was fearful that he would leave me at any moment, but I did my best to get more sleep and to take better care of myself. Luckily our daughter was happy and slept easier. She was a blessing that lit up his heart and was easy to love for both of us. But I was still angry and would rage when he would say hurtful things to me in tense moments. 

I screamed a lot in my car. Then I finally prayed, which was unusual, me being an atheist. I was lost and wanted to be better, to do better. All of my dreams and the happiness of my children depended on it. I knew what it felt like to lose it all and I didn’t want to go back there. 

I found the Empowered Wife by Laura after a series of searches online, and it immediately resonated. This was the instruction manual I was looking for! I had been doing all the wrong things and buying into a whole lot of bad advice. My prayers were answered when I read that book. 

When I first used the phrase “whatever you think,” I think he nearly fell over. I shifted my perspective: instead of blaming him for everything, I saw myself as a victim of my own impossibly high standards. I made my own happiness a priority over daily minutiae that previously consumed my attention. I made a practice of receiving every gift he gives with grace. I had no idea that I was rejecting him every time I told him no to an offer or gift; he loves to give, and I was depriving him of the joy and satisfaction of that generosity. I stopped oversharing in the name of “helping” and “communicating,” which I was using as a cover for criticism and control. I let him lead and he started doing more. Our relationship is better than I ever thought possible, and it is a joy to support him in building a beautiful life for all of us. I still have hard days, but instead of being at their mercy, I turn to my friends and the things that bring me joy. I get coaching. I fix me. I’m not waiting for him to do it for me anymore. 

My dreams are alive in front of me: my children play in the field that we will soon turn into a garden, we have our long lazy days in the sun and warm cozy nights by the fire, we dance in the kitchen and sing old country duets in the car. We have dinner together most nights, where we talk about how wonderful it is to be together. We stay up late just to be in each other’s company.  We are rich in love and laughter and fun, and my heart overflows with gratitude.

I feel so much freer now. Relationships across all areas of my life make more sense. It’s clear to me what my responsibility is and when I need to step back. I had no idea a life of joy and love could be so easy, and I feel called to share these tools with other women so they too can enjoy such happiness and freedom.