Day 10 – Spring into Action

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Watching my little man play, I realise it’s natural for us to be incredibly active. Ben seems to have boundless energy. He wakes up full of beans, eager to discover as much of the world as he can each day.

Our lives as adults, in contrast, have generally become very inactive. Most of us drive to work in our cars, sit at a desk in front of a PC practically all day, and then drive back home and sit in front of the TV or some other digital distraction (cellphone, tablet, laptop…?) for the better part of the evening.

I read somewhere recently that scientists are now saying that our sedentary lives may be even more dangerous to our health than our poor diets. They usually go hand in hand of course, so I’m sure it’s difficult to tell.

Certainly, I’ve seen this theory in practice. I knew a wonderful old lady who admitted to having the most terrible diet, consisting mostly of white bread, snacks and coca cola. She also was a chain smoker. She believed her saving grace was that she was a dance teacher. She did indeed live to a ripe old age. She wasn’t well for the last 10 years of her life, mind you, but she always maintained that she was alive because of the dancing and her positive mindset.

Now I’m certainly not advocating that we follow her lead on the smoking and poor diet – please don’t get me wrong. What I am saying, is that, including some form of exercise, ideally something you love doing, into your daily routine, can literally, save your life. Or should we say, extend your life. Okay, if you don’t buy either of those… how about… Give you a whole new lease on life?

Without a doubt, and science has proven this for yonks, doing physical exercise regularly, particularly the kind that gets your heart rate up, simply heaps health benefits onto you.

As you get fitter, you’ll notice your energy levels increasing, your weight decreasing, your skin glowing, your muscles toning. You’ll be happier, more excited about life, you may even find your sex life improving.

What’s happening inside the body is even more interesting (if you’re into health). As you move, your lymphatic system and cardiovascular system get the much needed boost they need to pump lymph and blood around the body faster. This means that your immune system improves and, most importantly, your heart, that very special muscle that keeps you alive each day, strengthens. Your lungs, just as important for basic survival, also get a workout as you workout.

Yeah, yeah, we all know this stuff. We’ve heard it all before, I hear you say. But who has the time?

We have to work. Take care of our children. We have to shop, cook, clean house, relax, sleep. And there go our 24 hours a day.

Really?

Well, some do, some don’t. The thing is, we all have the same 24 hours a day, and we each choose how to allocate that time. I know, I know, there are some periods in our life where we feel we are not choosing. There are times in our life, particularly when our children are very young, that we feel we just don’t have the power of choice anymore, our hours appear to be robbed from us.

But here’s what I’ve found. If you really, truly, in your heart of hearts, down to the very soles of your feet, realise how important it is for you to get daily exercise, you’ll do it. It’ll become like breathing. It’ll become second nature.

Here’s a few tips on how you can make MOVEMENT part of your every day life.

Play with your children.

Walk wherever you can.

Or run if walking’s too slow for you.

Walk up stairs instead of taking the lift or escalator as often as you can.

Get a bicycle and cycle with your spouse, friends or children. Or some roller blades. Or a skate board if you’re really daring.

If you’re the competitive type, find a team and play a sport.

If you’re the outdoorsy type, go hiking, or swimming, or canoeing or something.

If you’re adventurous, why not try surfing or kite-surfing.

If you can afford it, try Yoga. Or Pilates. Or join a gym.

If you have Wii, get Wii Fit.

Get a rebounder and jump while you watch TV.

Play music while you do housework. Make it fun.

Try a few dance lessons (particularly great if your partner is game to try this with you -relationship building while you have fun).

Or just put on your favourite tracks and dance in your lounge.

If you have space in your home, try table tennis. It’s more of a workout than you think.

Gardening could be just the thing if you like beauty around you.

Most importantly, if you want it to stick, find an activity that you find fun. The best are those where you don’t even notice you’re exercising. There are all kinds of activities out there, and I’ve no doubt we can all find one that suits us perfectly. As Nike advised: Just do it.

I read a quote many years back that stuck with me – I think it was anyonymous:
They spent their health to get their wealth
and then with might and main, they turned about
and spent their wealth to get their health again.

Let’s not fall into this trap.

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Day 9 – Take your Own Medicine

I was reminded of this saying today. I was feeling irritable and then disappointed after some plans went awry.

It’s a beautiful, warm, sunny day. One of those gorgeous days that seem to herald the Spring yet feel like full-on Summer. Got to love the Mother city!

It’s 11 o’clock and I’ve been chilling at home moogling at Ben all morning, when I realise I must seize the day.

The idea was to go for a walk with Ben along Sea Point promenade to do the day justice. On the way there I called a good friend who lives and works in Sea Point to see if she had time for a quick cuppa. She did. Yay!

This turned out to be where my irritation came in though. A lady at the table next to us, a complete stranger, kept chipping into our very brief conversation to tell me what she felt Ben needed. He shouldn’t have that in his mouth,he might hurt himself. He wants to get out of the pram. He looks like a hungry boy, give him something to eat. Is he teething?

We politely complied with most of her suggestions, but we got out of there as soon as possible. I think my friend could see my irritation building. As we left she said I’m sure she means well. And I agree, I’m sure she did. But isn’t it interesting how unsolicited advice comes across as criticism? I left the coffee shop feeling like the world sees me as a bad parent, yet also seething. I wanted to tell her to mind her own business.

I then took my frustration out on an unsuspecting teller at the carpark booth, who charged me a measly R5 for going 1 minute over the 30 minutes free parking. I guess the poor guy was just doing his job. Sorry I got in a huff oke.

So Ben and I head down to the Promenade for our walk. It starts off well, my blood pressure settles back to normal as I wheel Ben along in the pram. He’s chattering away happily in baby gobbledygook, which is always a good sign.

It starts to get sweltering, as its now already midday, and I’m concerned that Ben’s catching too much sun, so I turn around – noticing he’ll be shaded on the way back. Unfortunately, Ben proceeds to burst into tears. Crying turns into wailing and of course this only stops when I pick him up. So, I carry my 10.4kg boy back to the car in the heat of the day, while awkwardly pushing the pram. I’m sure most Moms can relate.

Ben is finally happy once we are in the car and on our way home again. That is, until he drops his sippy cup and the toys he was playing with, and I hand him the only thing I had handy – a bottle of water. Normally, this would amuse him for a good while but it lands up being another move I regret. Ben puts the bottle in his mouth and the lid gets wedged in between his teeth, causing jaw pain. I have to yank it out. Poor Ben now screams for the last 5kms home.

Once I’m back in the safe zone of our bedroom, nursing Ben, with the rhythmical calming sounds of the waves crashing on the shore of the beach a few metres away, I wonder why I left home at all this morning. Ben and I were happy before we left and we are happy again now. And the disappointment of our failed expedition descends. I start to berate myself for making bad decisions.

This is when I decide to take my own medicine, to heed my own advice. I know how to shift emotions quickly and easily. I tap them out with EFT, and voila! My mind is as at rest again… much like Ben’s as you can see below. When he wakes up his tears will be forgotten. As will my disappointment and frustration. I choose happiness. I choose peace.

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Day 8 – Words that Heal

As an auditory person, I’ve always been in love with words. Some words grab me by just having a nice or funny ring to them, like the word, imbibe, or, squishy. Two very different words I know – laugh if you must. It’s just that to me these words kind of roll off the tongue in an interesting way. Other words I enjoy, for both their meaning and their sound, like magical, treasure, or precious.

Now that my son is just starting to learn to speak, words have taken on a whole new fascination. And I’ve noticed our boy is fascinated by words and sounds too (and colours and sights and movement and games, and well, pretty much everything, especially anything NEW, anything he hasn’t experienced before).

Ben started out with the usual sounds, Bababa, Mamama and Dadada, but interestingly the first words he said which I’m sure he knew the meaning of were Kitty Cat (which when he says it comes out as Tjikkie Tjet). I know he knows what the words mean because he only says them when he sees the cat walk into the room, whereas Mama and Dada he uses indiscriminately… and it’s quite possible he means FOOD when he says Mum-mum.

As young Ben learns the art of language, I’m reminded of a few words that hold a special place in my heart… starting with Peace be with you.

One of my favourite things that we do in our Communion services at Church is to pass the peace. I wonder if I could start a new movement where this beautiful ritual of passing on the peace accompanied by the words Peace be with you, became our new way of shaking hands to say hello. Much like the equally beautiful word, Namastē, (loosely meaning I see the Divine in you) which has become popular recently as a greeting or as parting words to someone.

Countless books have been written and CD’s have been made of mantras and affirmations. Dr. Wayne Dyer, John Kehoe and Louise Hay have some absolutely brilliant books on the subject.

Two mantras and affirmations I’ve found to work very well in my own life have been:

Give up the idea something is wrong (not sure where I got it)

I like myself (Brian Tracy)

Then there are those who believe that questions hold the most power. Like Byron Katie for example, with her Judge Your Neighbour worksheet followed by the enquiry.

Is it true?

Can you absolutely be sure that it’s true?

How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?

Who would you be without that thought?

(Whose business are you in? God’s? Theirs? Or Yours?)

Can you find a reason to let go of the thought?

Can you find a (peaceful) reason to hold onto the thought?

I have found Katie’s work to be transformational. It can truly set you free from your stressful thoughts. For more, go to: http://www.thework.com/

Another form of healing work that revolves around words, is EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. As you say what’s bothering you, you tap on various pressure points on your face and body. Emotions shift from sad to disappointed to angry to happy quicker than with any other technique I’ve come across. As you tap, you can also bring in affirmations such as: I choose to… for example, forgive the person who hurt me and move on, or I open up to the possibility that I could change, or this situation may improve.

Sometimes it’s lyrics in songs that have inspired me. Favourites are:

I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony

Lord Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace (Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi)

Let it be (The Beatles)

And what words can be more powerful and more inspiring when they are said with meaning, than the Ho’oponopono Greeting or Prayer: Thank You, I’m Sorry, Please Forgive Me, I Love You.

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Day 7 – Pay attention

As women, we take tremendous pride in our ability to multi-task. We are do-ers, born with an innate willingness to please. Good thing because sometimes our roles as wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, home-maker and business woman can demand every minute of our time and every ounce of our energy.

As a result there are are times in our life when it all can get a bit out of control and we become overwhelmed. I found being a new Mom certainly counted amongst these times. (And I’ve been fortunate enough to not have to add the role of business woman during this precious time – thanks to my wonderful hubby).

It is during such times in our life that we can find ourselves taking multi-tasking to the extreme, and this can cause stress, distress and, heaven forbid, sometimes, disaster.

To avoid these three unwanted’s, I recommend taking things down a notch or three – focus on just one task at a time. Complete it. Then move on to the next task. And focus on just that one task. And so on. Well, that’s the theory anyway…

I discovered some brilliantly accurate “Momfinitions” a while back and two of them have stuck with me: Stumbletasker and Moogler…

Stumbletasker [STUM- bull-task-ER] noun: This is a person, usually moms, who set out to do one task, but then stumble upon another. This is similar to a multi-tasker, but with much less intent and organization.

An example would be when one sets out to go fold the clothes in the dryer but on the way notices spilled juice on the floor. The stumbletasker would then forget the the original intent of the walk toward the dryer, abandon that task and instead head to the sink to get a rag for the juice. However, once said stumbletasker reached the sink, she then would notice the dishes in the sink and proceed to put them in the dishwasher and once said sink was emptied she would notice it needs to be scrubbed and then scrub it. At this point, she may decide it is time for a shower and the head in that direction. However, she then will stumble upon some clothes her children have left in the middle of the hallway. She will then walk to the laundry room and notice the juice again and so on. There is no way of knowing if the clothes in the dryer will ever get folded either that day or the next.

Sentence- It was unknown whether or not Penelope, an avid stumbletasker, would be able to get the dishes out of the dishwasher today.

This Momfinition was created by Brigetta – For more of her Momfinitions, Go to: http://transparentmama.blogspot.com/2009/07/momfinitions.html?m=1

Moogler is a new Momfinition created on 30 May 2014 by a very creative friend of mine, and Waldorf School Teacher, Vienie McShane.

Moogler: A mom that oogles over her baby when he’s sleeping, despite the fact that a baby sleeping is ‘free’time for mom and moments ago she was wishing he would just sleep so she could stumbletask but just can’t resist admiring this sleeping babe with huge love and appreciation for this bundle of JOY.

We use these terms often now in our Mom’s group (20+ Mom’s with babes all born a few weeks or months apart – we meet up once a week and whatsapp each other daily), particularly their verb conversions – Moogle and Stumbletask.

We have a good laugh at ourselves, because most days we find ourselves both moogling and stumbletasking. It seems both are necessary for a Mom’s survival in baby’s first year of life.

My suggestion for a happier, calmer, more peaceful life is to make it a daily habit to squeeze in some time to moogle. At our children, our spouses, our pets, our gardens, the mountains, the sea…. hey… whatever floats your boat.

Moogle at the people or things you value the most as often as you can and notice your stress levels subside…

Moogling…

Ben 2 weeks (1) 17 Oct 2013)

Vs Stumbletasking…

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Day 6 – Express Gratitude

One of the sure fire cures for those days when I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps, is to count my blessings.  I write out a list of all the many things I’m grateful for in my life and it always cheers me up.

Sometimes I send up a prayer of thanks when I’m done with my list.

But I think there’s another step that can add even more power than keeping this just between me and my Creator, who, I believe already knows what is written on my heart:  Sharing these grateful thoughts with my loved one’s. And, in particular, thanking those marvellous beings who have bestowed these blessings on me.

We all know that for a marriage to thrive it’s important to show appreciation to our spouses. Yet how often do we tell our husband or wife exactly what we are grateful for?  When last did we write them a love note, or greet them at the door with a broad smile and a kiss? Imagine if we got in the habit of greeting our partners with the enthusiasm of a dog greeting  it’s owner? Just try it once, for fun, and see if it sticks.

If you are fortunate enough to have your parents still living, when last did you buy your Mom a bunch of  flowers, just because… or your Dad his favourite chocolate? Parents particularly appreciate hand-written notes. When last did you tell your parents how much you love them and how much they mean to you?

And your siblings?

And your friends?

It doesn’t have to cost money or be gushy. Why not simply surprise them with a short sweet thank you sms or email?

Now I know where most of us are best at this is with our children, especially when they are very young.   It’s somehow easier to lavish love and affection on someone who is too young to have hurt us, or been cheeky to us, or done something naughty or careless.

Somehow, over time, our view of our loved ones becomes clouded by memories of things they’ve said or done, or neglected to say or do. And so we forget to notice just how special and beautiful each person really is to us.

Don’t be that girl, or guy.

Count your blessings and then express your gratitude to the people in your life who matter to you.  This one act, repeated daily, can save a marriage, dispel loneliness, or repair a broken heart.

Don’t hesitate. Do it now.

This is one of my favourite fridge magnets…

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Day 5 – Love Learning

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Claire, a friend of mine and fellow Mom is a Clinical Psychologist and has just collaborated with some other professionals on a very clever new app. If you have a baby age 0-36 months, you can try it out free for a month, go to:

http://www.mylearningbabyguide.com/

When I signed up for Benjamin’s free trial month this morning and went through his activities for the week, it got me thinking. It reminded me that my parents taught me both a love of learning, and the importance of learning something new every day.

Babies are incredible to watch. They are born with a yearning to learn. Their tenacity is phenomenal. They don’t seem to mind how many times they fall and bash their heads or arms or legs. They are fearless.

Imagine what we could learn if we had no fear of hurting ourselves? What if we really understood that getting it wrong, repeatedly, is the necessary path to getting it right? Even if getting it wrong means bumping our head… or bruising our ego – something babies fortunately have not cultivated in their first year when so much needs to be learnt.

Recently I attended an Infant First Aid class arranged by the same friend, Claire. I noticed that the more I learnt about dealing with potential injuries and life threatening situations, the more fearful I became. The idea of course, was complete the class with enough know-how to be calm and confident in a medical crisis.

Yet I’ve found that sometimes, armed with so much information about what can go wrong, as adults we tend to be nervous, worried and overly cautious. We over-think things. And if we stew too long and too hard on the negative, I believe it’s possible we could draw unwanted situations into our lives.

I noticed that young children, on the other hand, are a lot more light hearted about all learning. Babies are blissfully unaware of all the dangers and potential outcomes lurking around every corner.

To them, it’s all just a wonderfully exciting game.

Learning comes naturally to them because they just love to mimic us.

For instance, this was Ben’s take on the infant first aid course… and here I thought he was just playing while we were learning!

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So let’s take a page out of a wee one’s book… let’s see learning as fun and immerse ourselves in it – enjoy making attempt after attempt until we get it right.

Day 4 – Choose Happiness

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I’m not at my happiest today. There is a sadness welling up inside because today would have been the 45th birthday of one of my closest, dearest, brightest friends. Marnie passed away last year on Mothers Day after a long battle with breast cancer which spread to the bone and the brain.

I was blessed to enjoy her last Christmas with her. Marnie and her son, Ayron, came to stay for the December holidays. We went to the most beautiful Christmas services together. We held hands and sobbed during the carol singing. Though we chose not to discuss it, in those moments we both knew Marnie would not celebrate another Christmas. It was a bitter sweet time.

Marnie was one of those larger than life characters. Someone who literally lit up the room when she danced into it. Usually laughing or chattering. Loudly. She was vivacious, fun, incredibly capable and clever. Marnie wore bright colours and loved dressing up to the nines. She was gorgeously full of life and love. Game to try anything. She had so much energy and drive. We all adored her because she was so passionate about everything. Bubbly. Enthusiastic. Positive. Yet pragmatic and practical. Charismatic. Magnetic. She had a heart of gold.

Marnie did tremendous work in the community. She ran a company called Voluntours. Volunteers, mostly from USA, UK and Europe, would pay to come to South Africa to do some kind of community service. Marnie’s favourite project was Mapoch Ndebele Village. She knew each of the villagers and their children by name, half adopting some of them. There was almost always someone staying in Marnie’s home. Her friends were her extended family.

I count myself very lucky to have been one of that extended family. And so, today, as I celebrate her life and friendship and sisterhood once again, I am reminded to live as she did. To choose happiness. In this moment, right now. While I have my health. And my beautiful family and friends.

Life is short. And filled with blessings, beauty, joy and marvels.

If Marnie came as a Teacher, this was surely one of her greatest lessons: Choose Happiness… and bless others with your overflowing joy. Shine.

Day 3 – Quiet time

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At 40 I finally gave birth to my first child. I had so many plans to journal the experience. I was so sure I would write about my pregnancy. I didn’t. Not even when I resigned from my job a month before my due date.

I was even more certain I’d start writing once our son was born. Surely I wouldn’t want to miss out on detailing each exciting development, my hopes, my fears, my delights, my frustrations… well, our boy is 10 months old in 2 days and I’m only just starting to write about him – my whole world – now.

Until now, this magical new phase of my life’s journey, has gone unchronicled. I had absolutely no idea how all encompassing a task motherhood would be.

And yet, during this precious time I started doing something else that I’ve long wanted to include as part of my daily ritual: I began to include quiet time – time to pray or meditate or visualise or simply sit in silent reverie, being, bonding with my baby, my family, my surroundings, my Creator or myself.

As a new Mom this deeply special quiet time happens naturally each time my baby settles in for a long feed. Life slows to a murmur as a peace, enveloped in love, descends on us both. In these moments of magnificent stillness I feel at one with my child, with all mothers, with all humanity.

Time stands still… until my body starts to ache or tingle somewhere from whichever awkward posture I find myself in, or I have to make my great escape to “do” again.

Oftentimes, I’ve found myself wondering how I will manage the faster pace of life once these “allowed” “break times”, these “mini holidays” in my day, come to an end. Perhaps that explains why I’m still breast feeding young Benjamin. My life feels so balanced right now, with busy hours during Ben’s alert time interspersed with moments of calm and tranquillity.

How will we keep up this closeness we share once Ben weans? And will I feel as calm and balanced as I have done these past months? I suspect the trick will be to incorporate this new-found habit of taking time to be quiet into my daily life.

The question is… how? Just putting it out there…

So this is the next small improvement I believe could lead to staggering long-term results: carve out time in each day to be still, to take quiet time.

Day 2 – Food as medicine

I’ve always done my best to live by this quote by Hippocrates. I believe that the state of our health is directly related to our lifestyle choices – diet, exercise, the environment we live in etc.

And the first daily change that we all can make is so simple and yet so stupendously impactful, that I think it is largely overlooked.  Simply drink water… instead of carbonated soft drinks or sodas, fruit juice, milk, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, beer, wine and so on.

Almost every health expert agrees that consuming 8 glasses a day of water is a must. Cheap and easy to do, right?  Yet do we do it?

Why not give it a try for a month? Substitute a glass of water for 8 of the drinks you have each day and notice any changes in how you look and feel.

For best results you’ll be looking to either cut down or cut out the “naughty” drinks you drink most often.  For example, if you currently knock back 2 litres of Coke or Pepsi a day, I’d seriously consider buying 2 litres of water instead.

Now if the mere thought of drinking water puts you off because you can’t stand the taste… or lack of it… you can use a few little tricks to get the water down. If you’re a big coffee or tea drinker, boil your water and drink it hot. Add a slice of lemon for a twist. Even lemon and honey now and again if you really need your sweet fix.  If it’s wine you prefer drinking, try drinking water with a slice of lemon in a beautiful wine glass. Get the idea?

You may find it hard to believe me now, but you may be surprised at how quickly water becomes your favourite drink.

Quote-Food-Be-Thy-Medicine-Hippocrates

Small Daily Improvements

I came across this quote by happy accident last week and it got me inspired. Have done a quick search and I can’t seem to find who it is attributed to, though it appears it could be Robin Sharma. This wouldn’t surprise me as the quote somehow reminded me of his brilliant book “The Greatness Guide”.  Since reading the book, I’ve wanted to write something in a similar style.

I got to thinking what small daily improvements I could possibly make that would make the greatest difference in my life long-term. And the first that comes to mind for me is to start writing. I’ve read plenty of advice given by writers and the one thing almost every celebrated writer suggests… start writing. Every day. Even if it’s only for 20 minutes. Even if it’s only a page. Writers write. Full stop.

So that’s the first daily improvement I’m implementing. And hey, that means I just got started. Yay!

Now I’m a wannabe writer so it makes sense that to hone my skill I’d need to write. But what is it that you want to be “when you grow up”? Whatever it is the key is to start practicing your art daily.

Writers write. Runners run. Swimmers swim. Singers sing. Golfers golf. Which reminds me of a great saying by Gary Player, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

For starters though, let’s try just try consistent daily practice and see where that leads. Who’s game?