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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving and the holiday season is a wonderful time for reflection, but we shouldn't make this the only time we are thankful for what we have! I challenge you, as I'm challenging myself, to set time aside every day and be thankful for something. 

Do you have a private journal? If not, perhaps you should think about starting one. Journaling can be a safe and therapeutic way to relax. It's also a wonderful tool to use when you need words of encouragement. Use your journal to read about a time when things were different in order to lift your spirits or be thankful for your life in the present.

Challenge: Write down the things you're thankful for each year, and compare them to the year prior. What's different? What changed? Here's my list. I'm starting this year, too.

In 2014, I am thankful for...
 
My Family. Being a mom can be difficult, but the reward is amazing. I'm also grateful to have a supportive husband and best friend. My parents, brothers, and niece are a huge part of my life, and I'm happy to be living closer to them this year.  

My job. Since beginning my work as a Christian Educator, I have the opportunity to make it part of my daily life experience to reflect. I'm also utilizing my degree, talents, and I'm growing as a professional. My love for teaching and confidence while leading is growing. It's awesome.

Being a Birth Doula and having an awesome support system of other doulas. As a birth doula, I meet and support women during one of the most important, challenging, life-altering, and spiritual experiences a woman can have. I am proud to be training with an organization that provides doulas, numerous other resources, and birth professionals for all women who want and need support.
 
My church. My family and I started attending our church shortly after I started a temporary position working there. We decided to become members, and I later moved into my current role. I can't say enough good things about our decision to join the United Church of Christ. One of my highlights from this past year is when my daughter and I were baptized together.


Good luck with your reflections!
May your holiday season be filled with joy and happiness.



Friday, August 22, 2014

Catching Up with Chipmunks and Vomit

Postpartum Journal: Month 12

Fall is quickly approaching, and in less than two weeks my daughter will be 12 months! Time is going by quickly, but so much has happened since her birth that I feel like there has never been a time where she wasn’t part of my life. My mind, body, and spirit balance is finally coming into place, and I’m feeling more like myself every day. Moderate exercise a few times per week, eating organic veggies daily, breastfeeding, connecting with other parents, and feeding my spiritual needs are all tools that are helping me be focused, happy, and present.

So much has happened since my last blog post! One of the biggest things that has happened in my life, aside from my baptism with Audrey--which was really awesome--is that I have started a new role in addition to being a doula. I am now the Christian Educator for a church in the United Church of Christ. I coordinate the Sunday School and other youth programs within the church, and I’m having a blast planning meaningful experiences for the little ones. Between my family, doula work, and fulfilling career I feel complete; yet sometimes I also feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

And that’s okay.

That’s okay because I know that I’m doing the best that I can. I understand that with great responsibility comes great stress and sometimes consequences. I believe that I am on a mission to make a difference in the world by making a difference within the small communities I am dedicated to. My community is a part of this world, and change has to start somewhere before it spreads.

  • I’m feeding the spiritual needs of children by introducing them to Jesus’ teachings.
  • I’m sharing my views of compassion and forgiveness with the next generation.
  • I’m advocating for better birthing practices for women.
  • I’m coordinating positive experiences for teens that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
  • I’m raising a kid. (Me! A kid! Agh!)

Life Isn’t Perfect, Nor Will It Ever Be

Just for fun, I would like to share two events from last week that happened with an hour apart from each other. I’ll share the second story first. While making my morning batch of coffee, I heard my cat, Duchess, running around the kitchen. I turned around, and I wasn’t sure of what I saw at first. She was holding something large in her her mouth, and it was dragging on the floor. 

This was a funny sight! Proudly, my little Duchess threw the thing at me, and it landed right next to my feet. She pranced around, purring, showing me her trophy. It was a chipmunk, and it was very much dead. My indoor cat caught a chipmunk! It was crazy. I went to grab some tongs to pick it up, but she threw it against the door, and blood somehow streaked on to the kitchen floor. I couldn't be mad, though. I was used to cleaning up Duchess’ messes by that time.

Earlier that morning I was reading on the couch, and I heard Duchess making a weird sound. I looked at her just in time to watch her projectile vomit all over the entertainment center and on to our white carpet. Awesome. I ran into the other room to grab some carpet cleaner and towels, leaving Audrey to continue playing with her dollhouse. From the other room I heard my daughter coughing. Afraid she was choking on something, I ran into the living room, and what I saw is a sight I will never forget. My petite blonde daughter was covered it cat vomit. She had two fists full of vomit, and--you guessed it--there was cat vomit all around her mouth.

Enough said.

As gross as that was, I had to find humor in the situation. If we’re unable to find the humor in daily setbacks, then we won’t survive. Life will never be picture-perfect, and that’s okay. This is as close to perfect as it gets. Parenthood isn't easy, but the reward is great.

(Takes another sip of coffee. Picks off a cheerio from her lap. Takes a Tylenol.)

Until next time,

Samantha

Friday, June 13, 2014

Postpartum Journal: Month 9

The postpartum journey has been tough. I won’t lie. At first I thought it would be easy to maintain the balance in my life I (almost) had, and it would be easier because I was conscious of it. I was wrong! With moving, changing jobs, and redefining who I am as a person all within a couple weeks, I became exhausted, and I still am. This past month I decided that things need to change. I need to become organized again, and I have to make a plan of action for finding the balance in life.


Phase One: Talk About It
I talked to my brother and friends, my husband, and a professional about the things I have been dealing with in the past few months. I know that what I’m experiencing is normal, but I won’t settle for the get over it, everyone woman who has had a child has dealt with it idea that is toxic for the women in our society.


Phase Two: Get Out
When I was first cleared to exercise, I was eager to get started at the gym again. I went to fitness classes 1-2 times per week, and although it wasn’t my normal pace, I was pleased with it. I floundered in January. I couldn’t pick myself up. I couldn’t stand to leave the house, and I would literally cry when I had to pack up the baby and hit the -45 degree road to work or dance practice.

I decided I wasn’t going to let this winter’s frigid temperatures, or the tricks of my hormones, deter me from exercising. A few weeks ago I started attending yoga, and this week I went to my first dance class in a few years. It was a confidence booster!


Phase Three: Organization
I have always been a messy person, but I’m working on it. I want to be cleaner and more organized in my private life. However, until my full-time job is party planning, interior decorating, and housekeeping, I will never be Martha Stuart.

With that being said, being conscious of where I place items or putting laundry away right away is something that I could achieve as long as I put my mind to it. I can have a clean home and lead a busy life if I have support and a plan.


Phase Four: Assertiveness
I have also always been a reserved person, and I care deeply about the feelings of other people. I am told to “be a bitch” about once per month. Do you know what? I’m not like that. That is not me. Yes, I could be more assertive at times with stating what I want, but I am unapologetically Me. My goal is to tell people what I want right away, and I don’t even have to be a bitch to do that. (Well, usually.)


Here are some tips for Postpartum Women

  • You’re not weak.
  • You can start to feel symptoms of postpartum “blues” or depression many months into your baby’s life.
  • Be assertive and tell people that you need them to watch your kiddo(s) to do your own thing while you sew, go for a walk, take a class, watch a movie, read a book, et cetera.
  • You’re awesome if you’re a stay-at-home mom.
  • You’re awesome if you’re a part-time working mom.
  • You’re awesome if you’re a full-time working mom.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Body Worlds & The Power of Doing Things

I believe in the power of staying active and doing things. Yesterday my husband, daughter, and I went to the Body Worlds exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. The exhibit was far less creepy that I expected. It was educational and surprisingly uplifting. The walls contained positive and humorous passages that promoted healthy living. There was so much information; I could have spent the entire day going through each area reading about and studying the awesomeness that is our bodies. 


Here's the postcard I bought. 
In my opinion, the exhibit was respectful as well. I know there is controversy surrounding Body Worlds, but for me this exhibit promoted health, happiness, education, and the truth of mortality. As I walked through the room I challenged myself to be conscious of all the people who volunteered to be there. I wondered what a conversation with these now-famous people would be like. Had the skateboarder guy ever tried skateboarding before? What were their names? What were their professions? What made them decide to donate their bodies to science? 


Audrey loved the butterflies, although her sleepy eyes might not let you see that!

After we went through the exhibit, we toured the museum. Audrey loved the Butterfly Exhibit, and at one point she started babbling at a mounted gorilla. She lifted up her hand toward the gorilla as she was speaking. This made me think about our connection with animals. (Do you think she thought the gorilla was a human? What does her friendliness say about our relationship to primates?) Interesting!


After an exhausting couple of hours, we left for home and other errands. Our visit was short, sweet, humbling, and provoked a lot of questions.

One of the things I remembered reading at the exhibit was how important it is for people to maintain a healthy level of activity. I'm not only talking about exercise. There was a picture of an elderly woman driving a car, and the caption talked about how she stayed physically active and was an active member of her church. It's important to keep the mind and the body busy! Our bodies are like vehicles; we're meant to move. If a vehicle sits for too long, it rusts, and the parts wear down. Our bodies are no different in that regard. We're meant to move. 


We went to the library last week! Total Cost: $0.00

Yes, activities can cost money, and not everyone has the same luxuries or available resources, but not everything has to cost money. (Furthermore, if I do spend money, I would rather spend on experiences versus material objects.) A few weeks ago we went to the Milwaukee County Zoo, the Birth Without Fear conference, and a couple special church services. Next week we're going to the library for family night, and we're taking along my niece, Leland. Take a look around at what your community offers for free and for minimal cost. Go for a walk. Journal. Find time in your schedule to try something new. Staying active keeps us alive.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Our Experiences at the BWF Chicago Conference

I woke up at 4:45 in the morning. My clothes were set out, and my eyes were practically swollen shut from being so tired. I threw on my clothes, brushed my hair, did my makeup, and grabbed my daughter Audrey (who was still in her pajamas.) We left by 5:15 in the morning to meet Tabitha, a carpooling buddy I met on Facebook. We traveled together to Chicago for the Birth Without Fear Conference.

Somehow, by the grace of God, we missed all the rush hour traffic. We arrived roughly an hour before conference registration started, so we decided to get breakfast at Denny's since neither of us had time to eat. Audrey and Tabitha's son Lincoln had a fun time hanging out while the two of us ate our breakfasts and got to know each other a little bit better. We learned that we're both interested in birth work and share similar spiritual and parenting interests. Needless to say, conversation was never lacking!

After breakfast, we started looking for parking. It took us longer than it should have to find the appropriate place to park, but we got the hang of it once we learned to start following the groups of women wearing babies and/or pushing strollers. I brought a stroller, but after unpacking it I realized that the tire was flat. (Bummer!) It wasn't a big issue because I had my sling with me, but the stroller would have been nice to hold our luggage. After getting situated at the car, we arrived at the conference just in time to find a seat, grab water, change the babies, and sit down to relax.

I was so excited that Ashlee and her business partner from The 4th Trimester Bodies Project had a booth. Ashlee kicked off the day by telling her own birth story and the inspiration for her empowering business. I bought a bag to show some support. (They both complimented me on my flowy skirt, so I couldn't help myself.) If you haven't heard about it, you should look them up. They've been getting a lot of flack from Facebook and it's draws quite a bit of media attention.

After Ashlee spoke, there was another woman who took the stage. We had a conversation about Aunt Flo where we learned about some products to use for your menstrual cycle aside from pads and tampons that are loaded with toxins. It was informative and entertaining. As a whole, this conference was great, but I would have loved to have more speakers talk about a variety of things like menstrual health, essential oils, natural family planning, making cloth diapers, et cetera. However, this conference was a meet-up, so the emphasis was more on meeting people face-to-face and making awesome conversation.

There were a lot of giveaways. I left the conference with an entire bag full of stuff I didn't have before, and I didn't even choose the package with the baby carrier. After January (who is the leader of Birth Without Fear) mentioned something about how people should come up to her and talk, I decided to introduce myself and let her know how her blog helped me to prepare for a great hospital birthing experience. She was funny, bubbly, and flattering. The first thing she did was tell me how beautiful I looked. Compliments are always wonderful to hear, so I was sure to pass the compliment on to some other ladies throughout the conference.


Later in the day we had a harmony circle where we sat at tables and discussed some pretty personal stories. Even though the whole day was essentially about me and my body, this part of the day was interesting to me as a doula. I was able to hear about so many different birth stories and struggles other women went through. There were tears, laughter, and tea to help us get through the emotions we were feeling. I liked hearing the stories of other women because I was able to analyze their situations and challenge myself to find solutions to their problems. (Of course, this whole process was in my head. When they would tell their stories I would listen, but I would also do some troubleshooting. I couldn't help it!) 


The conference concluded with January sharing her 5 birth stories. Each one was so different; it was an excellent way to show how unpredictable and awesome birth can be. Tabitha and I packed up and headed home, but before we went home we stopped to get some Starbucks. Our energy levels were quickly depleting, and I knew that if we had any chance of survival we would need fuel.

One Veni blah, blah. Thanks.
Audrey had an awesome time hanging out with all the other babies and toddlers. The kiddos at this conference behaved so well! Maybe it was due to all the people babywearing, the gorgeous day, fabulous parenting, or maybe it was something they gave nursing moms in the Earth Mama Angel Baby tea that passed through our breastmilk into our nurslings...

The day was fun. It was a great experience for Audrey and me, and I was able to meet a new friend! I look forward to attending more conferences in the future and bringing my daughter along with me.






Saturday, March 1, 2014

Embracing My Spirit Animal: The Tiger




My Spirit Animal: Tiger

Spirit Animal

Characteristics: Willpower, personal strength and courage, aggression or anger, unpredictability


Spirit Animal Profile: In the kingdom of spirit animals, the tiger puts a special emphasis on raw feelings and emotions. The tiger spirit animal symbolizes primal instincts, unpredictability, and ability to trust yourself. By affinity with this spirit animal, you may enjoy dealing with life matters spontaneously, trusting your intuition and acting fast when needed.

When I first read this, I laughed to myself. I’m not wild and unpredictable. But then, I took a step back and realized that I was thinking about myself being rebellious and uncontrollable, and in some ways, actually, that’s true. I like to go against the grain--I just do so quietly, and I don’t cause many ripples when doing so. I don’t have to be an angry person for the tiger to be my spirit animal. It actually makes a lot of sense.


What spoke to me most in this description of spirit animal is the idea that I deal with life matters by “...trusting [my] intuition and acting fast when needed.” This is very true. I believe that intuition is a sense that humans often overlook, especially in Western culture. Although science is necessary and useful, the idea of I’ll believe it when I see it doesn’t always apply to me in daily life. Knowledge is power, certainly; but to only act on what you know can lead to a life where you’re constantly searching for facts and proof and only believe what you can see, touch, or smell. You might be okay with that, but I’m not, and that’s why I trust my instincts in addition to what I know in important situations. If I don’t trust my instincts when I’m making a decision, I can assure you, the job/activity/situation has never worked out. 

Special Thanks to Wild Woman Sisterhood

I choose to educate myself on matters, but I also have chosen to let go. Essentially, I trust myself, and I trust the process of life. I flourish on unpredictability--the idea that I won’t know how something is going to turn out. It drives my husband crazy, but I like the calm after the storm. It makes me enjoy silence and relaxation, whenever I have that.


Although I embrace the wild part of me, I know that it can sometimes be a burden on other people as well as myself. As I vaguely just mentioned, I don’t have a lot of silence and relaxation in my life. Stillness is something that I believe to be important, but I don’t value my personal time as much as I should. I’m addicted to being busy. I want to make a difference in the world, so I work my tail off endlessly to do so, but I often forget about myself.


How can I change that? I recently went through a time of major reflection, and serendipity has played its part. I’m looking forward to having a quieter, family-centered life, while embracing my tiger spirit, and using my energy for the good of others, and myself.  


I follow a Facebook page, Wild Woman Sisterhood, and I came across this. Enjoy.


I AM A WILD WOMAN
by Amy D. Penny


I listen to my heart and I follow my intuition. I am wise. I am strong. I am happy to just be me.


The Wild Woman can be found within any woman, but despite the occasional sighting of the Wild Woman she is lost behind social masks and expectations.


When the Wild Woman is lost, an innate part of the woman is lost.


The Wild Woman celebrates the woman within in all her uniqueness and beauty. The Wild Woman is above reproach. She is a natural healer. She is sensual without apology. She is compassionate and supportive. She lifts others up. She is confident yet humble. She is connected to nature. She is creative. She is strong without being hard or brash. She dances and sings because she just can’t stop herself from enjoying life.


She is simply herself. She honours who she truly is. She stands in her own power and she speaks her own truth. She sets values to live by and she is accountable for her actions and her words...


What’s your spirit animal? Find out what it is, and is discover whether or not you agree with it. What things are true? What are false? How? Why? What do you like about yourself? What would you like to change, and how will you do it? Find your spirit animal HERE.


What’s also humorous is that I found this picture. I’m now not only a tiger on the inside, but I have stripes. #proudmama