April Planner

April PlannerEvery new year, or new school year, I end up on the hunt for the perfect planner.  Much of my search is a misguided attempt to create the perfect schedule that will allow me to complete every task and goal (so long as everything runs perfectly, and I can run on coffee instead of sleep).  While that endeavor is doomed to fail, I have learned a few things over the last few years about what helps me be the most successful and productive in my realistic plans.

I need to be pretty constantly reminded what my biggest goals are so that I can work on them a little bit – even if it’s only five minutes – every day.  I need to encourage myself with positive thinking, and I need to remind myself that every day will present a challenge.  I also need to hold myself accountable for some basic daily ritual tasks, and I need to evaluate how I’m living each day.

I’ve learned that consistent journaling and evaluation helps me spot depression symptoms and potential relapse issues before they get too big to deal with.

So, I spent about a month each in several planners and decided to just make my own that had the things I wanted to track and the questions I needed to journal through each day.  I stripped out my personal details to make a blank I could pass on to my neighbor, so I thought I’d share it here if there are any other writer-artist-depressed-dieting types out there.  It’s a fairly niche market, but you can also take what’s there and change the categories to suit yourself.

The file is a pdf, so you can print it if you want to use it, and it’s here for you to click on and open – no strings attached.  I’m only doing a month at a time, so if you use it and like it or have suggestions, please pass those on.  You can comment here or drop me an e-mail at mabbatblog@gmail.com.  Also, I’m working on setting up a mailing list this weekend, so if you like the free planner and Bible studies, please sign up.  I’ll share more details on that post.

April 2019 Planner – BLANK

April 1 – Baruch

If my first child had been born on his due date, he would be ten years old today.  He would have dark hair and light eyes – blue like Steven’s, or hazel like mine.  He would be ten – full of boyish charm and sweat and dirt and ten – almost a teenager, almost a middle schooler (my favorite awkward age to teach), almost…  What kind of big brother would he have been?  I’m sure he would have been tall like my husband, with the same magical, mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

It seems wrong not to acknowledge his loss today, but I am at a loss to appropriately mark his passing.  There was no body to bury, no headstone to lay flowers on, no record of his life at all except for in my medical history, as the first of many “recurrent spontaneous abortions.”  My body is the only place he lived.  And died.  Am I a walking graveyard?  Somedays it feels that way.

Today, my body is weary of marking the passage of these lost children; my soul dark and void and chaotic in the face of their memory.

I named him Baruch, Hebrew for “blessing,” because I intended to wrestle like Jacob until God blessed me in spite of this horrific loss.  I wrestled through loss after loss after loss, and I have been blessed, though in none of the ways I intended in the early days after Baruch’s death.

I wonder what God’s name for my child is.  I wonder what his name for me is.  Is it a name I’ve grown into, the way a tiny child saddled with an enormous name or a chain of forefathers will?  Is it a name earned by what I’ve endured?  A name reflective of the magnitude of grace and love that allowed me to endure?  Some days I’m ready to trade in my earth-name for my God-given heaven-name.  I long to know as I am known, to see God’s face, to see the faces I’ve lost.

But I still have work to do here – to love as I am loved, to know God and to make him known, to carry the memories of children I never met, to endure and thrive and encourage as many people as I can to run with me across the finish line.  That is how I will mark the passing of my Baruch.  My blessing.

Reframe

“My art is largely made up of my pain; re-framed, redesigned and re-purposed. It’s a mutually beneficial experience for both the creator and the beholder. Transformative healing is a beautiful process.”
Jaeda DeWalt

1-Reframe PhotoOver and over the last few weeks, the tiny human and I have both been dealing with frustrations and quick tempers.  This morning, one of the dogs stole her cookie, and she completely fell apart.  I grabbed the box of cookies and tried to get her to keep moving to the car.  But she couldn’t yet.  She was slumped on the top porch step and bawling.  I couldn’t sit down to hug and cuddle because I was holding all of the things, and we had to get her to school and me to work.

I try to give her space to feel her feelings and then talk about them so she can learn how to accept the emotions but deal with them in truth rather than let them stand as truth.  I also recognize that there is a time and a place for everything, so we both need resiliency to be able to handle some emotional moments quickly in order to deal with the task at hand.  In this morning’s example, I had already provided a replacement cookie. (Breakfast of champions – some days we eat a healthy morning meal, some days we skip it, and some days a cookie is acceptable if it gets us out the door.  You may be a responsible adult with all your crap together, but this is reality in my life: some days you have it together, and some days you can’t find it with GPS and a homing beacon.)  I had already expressed empathy and solidarity that dogs should not steal cookies, but she was still crushed.

I responded as any mature adult would and continued down the stairs to put everything in the car, preparing to forcibly lift the tiny human and put her in the car if it came to that, muttering under my breath the whole way and questioning why God would let this happen on a morning that had otherwise been smooth sailing.  This day had tight parameters on time and things that needed to get accomplished, and I was watching it explode before it even got moving.

My counseling work of late has been about framing problems and things I want to improve in statements that are positive.  “I am stressed about work” becomes “Take a deep breath, focus, and work on the task at hand.”  I am always telling the tiny human when she gets angry and frustrated by failing to do something in her first try to slow down, take a few breaths, and try again; you have to try at least three times before you can quit.

This morning, as I finished loading the car, she stood up and started down the stairs, still crying, but moving.  I told her that it’s fine to be mad at the dog, but she’d miss out on the replacement cookie – worse, she’d choke on it – if she kept up the dramatic crying (it was no longer real despair, and I call her out on fake crying).  I told her we needed to rethink the problem with the dog stealing her food so we could solve the problem, and we could talk about it after school.

“But we can’t solve the problem – she already stole my cookie and ate it!”  The tiny human was still stuck.  How many times have I refused to reevaluate an issue because the situation has already spun out of control or because I don’t want to accept the facts on the ground not matching up with my expectations.

“You’re right.  We can’t fix that, but we can replace the lost cookie and then make a plan to keep the dog from stealing your food again.  We can solve the problem by making sure it doesn’t happen again.”  And then God pointed at that spot in my brain that gets stuck on past failures and said, “You see it, right?”

I’m trying to teach my child resiliency that I don’t always have a grasp on.  I’m doing the work, and I’m getting better at it, too, but I’d be a hypocrite of the worst order to tell you “this is how it’s done” after I stomped and muttered and railed at God over the tiny human’s railing at a lost cookie unless I admit that I am a work in progress.

Some days depression brain wins, some days I’m healthy and firing on all cylinders, and most days I’m somewhere in between, arguing with both truth and depression brain.  I have the most success when I reframe my thoughts.  The brilliant pattern in only using positive statements is they leave no room for the negative thought.

You are actively replacing the potential guilt/shame spiral with an affirmative.  You push out the negative by filling the space in your head with a positive action plan.

This is not the same thing as avoidance; you don’t avoid the emotional response to your circumstances.  You acknowledge the feelings, and then you apply truth and use the emotion as a cue to implement your reframing tool.  It takes repetition and practice (and SOOOOO much prayer) to make this tool a habit.  But it can become a habit and a powerful weapon in our arsenals to defeat depression brain when we keep practicing.

Another beautiful thing about reframing is that it perfectly exemplifies God’s grace.  Of course we have failed (and will continue to fail as long as we are human), but grace is forgiveness and the opportunity to try again.  Grace is room to grow.

Reframe those doubts and the thoughts of despair.  What does God really say to us about them?  Don’t settle for what the serpent would whisper in your ear and find some truth in the Bible.  Reframe the lies with his perfect love.  Reframe the pain into something beautiful.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

 

Wheel You Be Mine?

I'm Hooked on You

Maybe you guys are all on top of things, so our classroom Valentine’s Day cards are all ready to go.  If, like me, you barely have your crap together most days, here is my Valentine for you.  Several years ago I doodled around with some truck puns and sketches, but I never did anything with them.  This year is special because I dug them out and got them done thanks to Adobe and an accidental late night work session.

We had purchased gummy bear Valentines for the tiny human’s class, but then I realized that several of our friends keep kosher and can’t have the gelatin.  Enter Plan B.  I printed these off so my tiny human can fill in the names and then color them any way she wants to for her friends.  They’re not fancy drawings, but they are great for coloring with small hands or big crayons.

So, if you need an idea, and you like trucks, have at it.  There’s a pdf file in the hyperlink below that has 14 designs in a single printable file.

ALL Truck Valentine Cards

You Earn Your Body

“Your earn your body.” – At Least a Hundred Motivational Posters/Memes

Superman working out
*This is not me – just to be clear. This guy is awesome, and this photo and more can be found on pexels.com

It’s no secret I’m overweight and out of shape.  I’m working on exercising more and just trying to change habits to healthier versions of what they are now.  It’s also no secret that it’s hard to get a ball rolling uphill, and that’s what I’m facing on the exercise front mentally right now.  So, I’ve been putting pictures of healthy, exercising people on my planner’s monthly vision board as a visual cue.

As I searched for images, I kept running across variations on a quote to the effect of, “You earn your body,” and I thought, “Oh, yes, this is true!”  I have earned every inch of my current dress size by my habits, and to earn a stronger body, I will have to change my daily routines.  “I will earn my new healthy body,” I thought excitedly.

And then I stopped, and a new thought occurred to me: “I have earned this body.”

But this time it wasn’t a negative thought.  I realized that this body is the result of surviving when I thought nothing could be worse than the bottomless loss I was living through.

This body nourished a tiny human and continues to care for my family the best that it can.  This body is teaching me when I need to slow down, when I can run, and when I am stuck in anxiety and overwhelm – as long as I listen to it.

This body has lived through unhealthy coping mechanisms, but it’s still here, still standing, still smiling.  I’ll take that.

 

Eat a Live Frog

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”  Mark Twain

photo by johannes plenio from pexels
Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

I am trying so hard to get motivated, but it’s a struggle.  I know it’s at least a little related to depression because it is improving; it’s still just so hard.  I would prefer to be one with the couch even though I know it’s the least healthy choice I can make.  Instead, I have been trying to just keep moving as much as possible, and I have attempted to follow Mr. Twain’s sage advice.

Frogs for breakfast are delicious.

Actually, no part of that is delicious.  Or fun.  But it’s adulting in the face of an overwhelming desire not to, which is a win against depression brain.  I’ve been trying to “eat a frog” or tackle the thing I want to do least in any given day first so that I get it over and done with.  I’m not succeeding every day, but I have managed to complete multiple tasks that had previously been sitting for several months.

I’m back at the keyboard more regularly, so hopefully that will mean regularity on the blog.  I’d like to promise you that I’m back for good on a regular schedule, but I won’t.  I can’t.  I don’t know when something will take me out at the knees and knock me silent again.  I tend to drop everything but survival mode when I’m overwhelmed, and, even though it was lovely, that’s where I was over the holidays.

I do have some plans mapped out for Mabbat, and I know God keeps telling me to write.  My goal for the year is to be faithful to be more disciplined at my writing so that God can use that work for his glory.  In fact, “disciplined” was the word I chose for the year, so I guess “Eat a frog,” will be my mantra.

What do you do when you need motivation?  What’s the best advice you have to offer from your personal experience for someone struggling like me to get moving?