Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself – My Vision For Women

I’ve been blogging in this space forever now (May marks SEVEN years) and from time to time I have to ask myself what I hope to accomplish here. Above all else, this space is where I became a full-fledged woman. These archives are testament to my growth and accomplishments, in spite of the obstacles and pain life threw at me.

But beyond this blog as a personal document, I want it to mean something for all of you as well. I’ve gone through cycles where I feel like the blog isn’t doing enough, isn’t publishing enough, isn’t producing enough to really make a difference. But my inbox and the comments section and our Facebook community and Twitter followers all tell me differently.

I don’t have it all together, but I know that I’m comfortable saying that out loud.

What I want to do here is to help other women grow. Society is rigged against us at times. And it started when we were young and we were always taught to cross your legs, don’t take up space, keep your nose in the books. And it continues into adulthood and so many of us find ourselves clueless about who we are, what makes us happy and how to open our mouths to get there.

I’m learning how to get there. And I hope I can help you get there too. My goal with this site is to help women tap into their power and become full versions of themselves. Here, there is limitless potential and heightened support as the YML Community helps you reach your goals.

Here we’ll talk about sex, about love, about being a great mom. We’ll share how we manage stress, how we look fly on a budget, and how we make sure we always carve out time for ourselves. We’ll discuss our fears, share our triumphs and remind ourselves that we are built to live full lives.

Let this space be YOUR space, be your place to breathe and feel safe and grow and get to happy. I’m so happy you’re here.

Six Non-Negotiables For Self-Care #HappyYouHappyMe

1) Getting Enough Sleep

I put this at the top because it’s almost criminal how many of us don’t get our recommended amount of sleep. I was floored when I first had kids about how much they slept. My son in particular would sleep about 20 hours a day when he was a baby. He’d eat, smile that satisfied #breastmilkwasted, and then go right back to sleep. My pediatrician hammered home the point that kids need a lot of sleep because they’re growing so rapidly.

But I think we need to extend that logic to ourselves as well. As women, we handle so much. There is a lot on our shoulders at any given time. But when we’re busy and working all hours of the day and night, when does our body get a chance to relax? It’s no wonder we never feel rejuvenated. We’re still working!

Non-negotiable: Getting at least six hours of sleep a night. For many women, six hours is laughable. If you got more sleep, who would pack the lunches, send the late-night emails, etc.? But what we’re not understanding is that sleep is crucial to how we process information, react to situations and more. A well-rested woman is more likely to move through her day with (relative) ease. Let’s set a bedtime and stick to it.

2) Getting Plenty of Vitamins From the Food You Eat

I’m trying to do better with this. Eating healthy foods can be difficult depending on your budget and neighborhood. (It’s one of the reasons I love Aldi’s supermarket so much.) But striving for a better diet can not only have an impact on your physical health, but also your mental health. You ever notice how after you eat a (utterly delicious) cheeseburger and fries, you feel a little sluggish? A little tired? Now, I’m not suggesting that you quit eating meat (quite the opposite – meat is delicious LOL).

But I am suggesting that you pay more attention into how you fuel your body. And yes, food is fuel. Put crap in and you get crap out.

Non-negotiable: At least once a day, aim for a colorful plate. Lots of fruits and veggies are good for your skin, your heart, your everything-else. Take the time to nourish your body.

3) Having At Least 30 Minutes A Day To Unwind

How many times have you worked a full day and then just collapsed into bed? That was my daily routine for years. But it wasn’t working. It was me squeezing every last bit out of my day. But I don’t want to get to “0” every day. I don’t want to end the day on an empty tank.

Non-negotiable: It’s hard, yes, to carve out time for yourself, but it’s crucial. Spend time (EVERY DAY) on something for you. Read a book, catch up on your favorite show, do some yoga – whatever. But make sure you give to yourself (again, EVERY DAY) for a happier you.

4) Spending Time With Friends

Who doesn’t enjoy time with their friends? It’s the whole reason y’all click. Spending time with those you hold dear in your heart allows you to grow deeper in love with yourself. Yup, it’s true. After you kick it with your friends, you feel a bit more confident, a bit more in touch with the things that make you you.

Non-negotiable: Do something monthly with your friends, even if it’s just a Skype chat or they come over to your house for drinks.

5) Getting Weekly Exercise

It’s easy to be lazy. I know it. You know it. But getting in some type of exercise weekly — whether it’s walking or running around the block, taking a class at the YMCA or doing some exercise at home — is important to your physical and mental health. I went to the gym last week and I noticed that my 30 minute workout is 30 minutes of pure me-time. I’m not thinking about how much money is in my account, how my business is doing, or any other stress that’s in my life. I’m concentrating on my music (the Timbaland Pandora station is LIFE) and my breathing.

Non-negotiable: Bust a sweat at least once a week. Let it be doing what YOU want to do. Don’t feel pressure to join a gym if you don’t have the money or you hate exercise equipment. If all you do is throw on some Beyonce and twerk on the floor, that’s perfect.

6) Comfort In Expressing Fears, Desires, Goals

If you think about some of the  messages women receive in life — to be pretty, not too loud, don’t take up too much space — it’s no wonder so many of us are walking around stifling our voices. We need to get comfortable being direct and asking for what we want. End a relationship that’s not working for you. Be direct when asking for help. Be bold when mapping out a life for yourself.

Non-negotiable: Be true to yourself. In all things.

What makes your list of non-negotiable list for self-care?

 

Bonefish Grill Review: New Menu Warms Up Your Winter Taste Buds

Disclosure: I was given a $50 gift card to review a dinner at Bonefish Grill. All opinions are my own.

One of the New Year’s Resolutions my husband and I made as a couple was that we needed to be more intentional about our relationship. Spending time together (sans kids!) needed to be more of a priority. Too often we get busy with our individual lives that we’re not cultivating a joint life. That needed to change.

And as most New Year’s Resolutions go, we’re off to a great start. For our first date night of 2015, we went to Bonefish Grill to try its new Winter Tales menu. Bonefish Grill is one of my favorite restaurants and where we tend to go when we want something that feels a little more “grown up” but not too expensive for our budget. (See my previous review of the Bonefish Grill menu here.)

Another one of my New Year’s Resolutions to stop being a greedy monster when we go out to eat, so I decided to get a cup of the lobster bisque and try the new lobster stuffed shrimp (served as an appetizer portion, which wasn’t labeled as such on the menu). Both were delicious.

Bonefish Grill review

My husband always manages to get the dish that I thought about trying but changed my mind at the last minute and now it’s at the table and it looks good and I try to eat half of his. This time he ordered the crab crusted orange roughy with mashed potatoes and broccoli.

Bonefish Grill review

“How is it?” I asked, mouth full of bisque because I’m still greedy no matter what I order.

“It’s good,” he said matter of factly. Y’all don’t know him like I do, but that’s high praise. Most food is “alright” or “okay.” Only a few dishes are ever described as “good.”

What I love so much about Bonefish Grill is how fresh everything tastes. This was our third visit and I’m always impressed by the food. It’s a guaranteed great date night.

The Winter Tales menu is available through the end of the month, so find a Bonefish Grill near you to check it out. I highly recommend it. Tell them Tara sent you. (Well, actually, don’t. They don’t know me. LOL)

Find a nearby Bonefish Grill here.

 

So Now I Have A Therapist…

I decided that I needed to do something about the fact that, as I would try to explain to my husband, that my brain feels “broken.” I can’t focus, and it’s getting harder for me to manage my day-to-day anxiety and depression.

These are facts.

So I did what I’ve been scared to do for four years: pick up the phone and make an appointment with a therapist, someone who can help me make sense of my life and work with me so I can develop coping skills and solutions to the issues that plague me.

For so long, I questioned whether I even needed to go to therapy. Wasn’t I happy? I have what most people would consider a great life. But I had to admit to myself that I need space to do some soul work. To come to terms with “stuff” from my past that has been weighing me down and preventing me from living the life I truly desire as a confident young woman and mother.

This space, of admitting to yourself that everything is not okay, is scary. It’s easy for me to second-guess myself and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of calling and canceling the appointment just out of fear.

But I want to be free. I want to reach my full potential and I know I can’t do that if I’m still shackled with fear, anger, depression and regret. It is my hope that allowing myself space to be vulnerable, to share what’s really going on, will allow me to flourish.

I considered keeping this to myself because hey, what if it doesn’t work and I end up crazier than ever? LOL. But I know from my last post on depression that many of you are in my shoes. You’ve been plastering a smile on your face and swallowing your pain and living life with “stuff’ bottled up inside you.

So I wrote this to let you know that it’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to want to speak to a professional, it’s okay to admit that your issues are overwhelming you. It’s also okay to proactively take steps to ensure you are emotionally healthy. You are worth the investment.

 

 

[A New Me] What Do I Want My Life To Look Like?

 

2015 marks the end of my twenties and man, what a decade.

I fell in love, got two degrees, birthed two beautiful children, released a book, became self-employed, and bought a house. What a journey.

But I’m noticing a trend in my life over the past ten years. For so long, it always felt like life was happening to me. I was always reacting to things, or recovering from things, but I wasn’t truly living.

I want this year to be different, to be the first year in my adult life where I set personal goals (not professional ones, because I’m already really good at doing that). I want to sit down and think about what makes me happy, what new activities can I try, what new places can I visit, what new experiences can I give my kids?

This is all so new. So often I put off my needs because I thought that’s what responsible parents did. “I’ll only be 40 when my youngest turns 18,” I’d say to myself. “Plenty of time to devote to myself then.”

But 40 is not guaranteed. Life is not promised and there’s no way of knowing that my sacrifice (putting myself last for the sake of my children) will pay off in the next 12 years. Plus, I want to set a great example for my children – this is how you design a well-lived life. How can I do that if I’m waiting until they leave the house to really live?

I also have to accept the fact that yes, living a fuller, more intentional life can be expensive. But that’s what paychecks (and budgeting) are for, so I can do the things that bring me joy in a way that makes sense for me and my family. I want my life to have more meaning outside of what I do for work, but I’m realizing that it doesn’t just happen. You have to actively pursue it.

We weren’t meant for blah. But too often blah is what we settle for.

This year, I’m not doing resolutions or a checklist I want to have finished by 2016. Instead, my word for the year is “pleasure.” What makes me feel good? I feel good when I travel, I feel good when I create, I feel good when there’s delicious food on my plate. I feel good when I’m serving others, when I’m teaching my children something new, when I’m cuddling with my husband after a long day. These are the experiences I’m seeking this year—in abundance.

What are some of your goals for 2015? Does this year feel different to you?

Help Plan The 2015 Young Moms Retreat!

I hear from so many mothers every day and we’re all saying the same thing: “I NEED A BREAK!”

But do we really take the time we need? Nope. We just go about our lives and wait until that day comes when we can give ourselves a breather. Well, I’m taking away your excuses today.

I’m planning…..**drumroll please** a young moms retreat in 2015! I’m envisioning a two-day retreat in which we get pampered, de-stress, and let our cares slip away in a beautiful, inviting setting.

This all sounds great but I’ve got to get you on board. So I crafted this survey so you can give me your input on everything: your preferred location, your budget, your must-have list for the retreat space — everything! Once I get everyone’s input, I’ll begin narrowing down locations and getting things in motion for what I hope will be one of the best weekends you’ve EVER had.

And remember – if you don’t submit your input, I won’t be able to plan with your particular needs in mind. So if you could use a break in 2015 and don’t want to be left out, fill out the form and stay tuned for more details!

The Definitive Self-Care Quiz: 30 Questions To Determine Whether You Know How To Take Care Of You

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be talking about emotional wellness. The first thing we need to do is help you grade yourself. How do you know where you need to improve if you don’t know where you stand? I’ve devised this self-care quiz based on common factors of self-care, and offer it as a non-scientific exploration of how well you’re treating yourself. Dive in:

Definitive Self-Care Quiz

True or False:

1) If someone graded you on how well you take care of yourself, they’d give you a B- or above.

2) The last time you went out with your friends was less than three months ago.

3) You usually get more than 6 hours of sleep per night.

4) It is easy for you to eat 5 servings of vegetables every day without even thinking about it.

5) When you are stressed, you know it’s not healthy to bottle it inside.

6) Your kids know when you are “in a mood” and know to leave you alone.

7) You generally enjoy parenting most days.

8) Your fingernails are not jagged or peeling or otherwise unsightly.

9) You find you often have enough energy to make it to the end of the day without getting cranky.

10) The mattress you sleep on is less than 8 years old.

11) You’ve been to the doctor within the past year for a general checkup.

12) You’ve been to the dentist within the past year for a cleaning.

13) You’ve been to the gynecologist within the past three years.

14) Your wardrobe is full of clothes you actually like to wear and think you look cute in.

15) You’re happy about your love life.

16) You feel challenged by the situations in your life, but not defeated.

17) You regularly make time for friends and family.

18) You generally exercise 2-3 times per week.

19) When people compliment you (on your appearance, accomplishments, etc), you accept it graciously.

20) You go to bed around the same time every day and wake up around the same time every day.

21) You laugh at least once most days.

22) You get fresh air daily and enjoy getting out of the house.

23) You have hobbies that keep you feeling energized and happy.

24) When you feel upset about something, you generally feel okay with letting people know.

25) When you have a tough day, you have healthy ways to cope with your stress.

26) You have time in your day to just….breathe, whether it’s an hour or just 15 minutes.

27) You avoid negative people and situations as much as you can.

28) When you go too long without a break, you make sure to pencil in time to focus on yourself.

29) When it comes to needing space away from your children, you have someone you can call to babysit (either for free or you can afford their rates).

30) When you are stressed or anxious about something, you are able to think of one or two people you could turn to for support.

Tally ‘em up! Here’s your scorecard:

Give yourself 1 point for every “True” answer.

Results:

Less than 10 points: Most likely, you are the woman that everyone leans on when they need help, or you are the one who keeps all the parts moving in your family. You’re busy and so focused on getting things done that you are not in tune with your own needs. Neglecting yourself, for any amount of time, is a quick road to burnout. Something has to change soon or you will crash. This is a wake up call. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Go directly to your bedroom and do not come out until you develop a plan to get to at least 15 points.

Between 10 to 20 points: You are most likely feeling “good” more days than not. You can handle your business, have a girls night out every now and then and generally feel happy with where you are in life. But there is always room for improvement. A happy woman can rule the world. A woman feeling so-so? Eh, not so much. Decide where you’d like to focus your energy over the next few weeks. Is it your wardrobe? Your career? Your relationships? Focus in on one area that could use a little more attention and develop your plan to help you get to the next level of happy.

20 points or more: Well, look at you, handling your business and taking care of yourself with some inspiring regularity. I’m impressed. There is not much to say here except keep up the good work. If you haven’t already, look at your schedule and pencil in some of those things you already do to feel good. Make sure your “me-time” is set in stone. And spread the love. Maybe you could invite a friend to the gym with you. If you know a woman who struggles to keep herself at the top of her priority list, be her inspiration. Nudge her along the path of self-love and see if you don’t witness her transformation.

Over the next few years (and rolling right in to 2015), we will be focusing on my favorite subject: YOU. More specifically, how to be happier. You deserve this, I know, and I want this year to be your best year yet. And I’m sure we can do it. Let’s walk this road together.

 

 

 

A Working Mom’s Snow Day Panic

work-at-home-mom-small

by Trudi Lebron

It’s early in the morning and I hear my phone ringing. I reach over, prepared to press the snooze button when I realize that it’s not the alarm, it’s a phone call…. At 5:23 a.m.

I recognize the 1-800 number instantly as the RoboCall number from my son’s school. They are calling to tell me that school is closed!

Panic set’s in.

How am I going to go to work? Despite the fact that I work in a school, my district only has a 2-hour delay. I will be expected in work. I don’t have any non-working family in the area, no non-working friends who can watch my son, and my fiancé is out of town. On top of that, I didn’t go to work yesterday because I took a personal day in order to tend to some appointments.

My options are to call out completely or to call in to let my supervisor know that I need to work from home. I am not confident in either of these options and immediately start picturing being called into the office to be spoken to about my supervisors concern regarding my availability. I decided to take the work-from-home option—an option that I am grateful to have—but all day I am afraid to miss a phone call or email. I worry that I haven’t accomplished enough, and that when I report on my to-do list for the day my supervisor will not be satisfied.

So here is the question:

Do all moms, single or not, feel bad about needing to take time off of work, or needing to work from home? Is this feeling job insecurity common among my fellow working mothers? How does this impact the way we feel about our jobs? Also, as a woman who is building a business, what can I do to make sure that my future employees don’t experience this fear?

Parenting Through Depression

Yesterday I took a mental health day because I needed it.

November was a very stressful month (my daughter’s asthma flared up quite a bit, we had the car accident, the Darren Wilson non-indictment, etc.). I am an highly sensitive, emotional person and it takes a lot of energy to keep myself upright and smiling most days. But yesterday I woke up and realized that I’m quite tired of plastering a smile on my face and pretending that everything is fine when in fact it isn’t.

I tried to pinpoint when exactly I began having these depressive episodes and realized that I can trace them with certainty back to my first pregnancy with my daughter. I have struggled with depression off and on for the past eight years and it is frustrating to think you finally have a hold on something and then BOOM! It knocks you on your ass.

What is most frustrating is how I try to hide my “sad days” from my children. When I’m parenting through depression, I summon all the energy I have to smile at them and ask how their day was and help them with homework and shower them with extra “I love you’s” and “I’m proud of you’s” to make up for the fact that Mommy isn’t really “present.” I’m existing in the same space as them, but I’m not really present.

As Alex said in her post on battling depression, it’s not something you want to broadcast and that comes with its own bit of shame:

I hid my depression and later my anxiety attacks from everyone. No one knew that I was leading a double life. I couldn’t let the truth escape because I didn’t want to show how vulnerable and scared I was. I didn’t want people to think I was a basket case. I wanted people to believe that I was fine, that everything was just great. That that smile I wore during the day carried on at home. I had to conceal the truth.

Most people (including my family and close friends) don’t know I’ve struggled (and continue to struggle) because to them, I’m active and thriving and I answer their phone calls and texts when they reach out to me. I have a successful business, I’m a pretty busy writer, and so everything must be fine, right?

Often it’s not fine, but I don’t share that. Everyone has their own burdens and problems and I’m sure mine wouldn’t even make the top 10 in most people’s lives. So I keep it to myself.

But I now realize that I have to care about myself just as much as I care about my children. I want to be strong for them, but also for myself. Being kind and giving myself the space to figure things out is not just smart, it’s crucial.

So when I took that mental health day, I meant it. I meditated, I watched animated movies, I fed my body healthy food. I danced to music that made me happy and I wrote down all my fears and anxieties to help me better understand what I’m up against.

I feel much better. Not 100% healed, but that’s what time is for. Now it’s just up to me to continue to pursue activities that make the “sad days” less frequent (therapy, exercise, etc.).

Thank you for giving me a safe place. *hugs*

#RaisingBrilliance: Teaching Your Children Empathy Can Make Them Better Students

A few weeks ago, as I was helping my kids get ready for bed, my son asked me a simple, silly question: “Mommy, can blind people talk?”

“Yes,” I said slowly. “Why do you ask?”

“I mean…can they ask questions?”

I realized then that my son assumed if people couldn’t see, they wouldn’t know if other people were standing nearby to be able to talk to them.

So I turned to Mommy’s best friend aka YouTube and pulled up a few videos about blind people so my son (and later, my daughter, when she came into the room) could see what life is like for the visually impaired. I found a ton of videos from Tommy Edison, a man who has been blind since birth. His videos are hilarious and they answer almost every question you could have about blindness, including some I didn’t think to ask (like, what do blind people dream about?).

His videos are great at showing the connection between sighted people and visually impaired people. His main point is that we are all the same! Blind people like to watch movies, they go to baseball games, they go out the dinner with friends, they like to cook!

We must have sat there and watched close to an hour of videos. During each video I’d pause it and ask my kids if they had ever considered what life would be like if they had to ____ with no vision. Take this video for instance:

My children take for granted that whole “look both ways” directive and didn’t stop to think of a blind man walking by himself. I could see the recognition wash over both of them as they realized that many people navigate the world differently than they do. It’s not about pity, but rather, looking at situations from another person’s perspective. I want my children to be able to not just see differences between themselves and others, but understand how those differences are worth celebrating and make us all better for having them.

So tell me – how do you teach your children empathy?