The Mama Bear: The Lessons in the Calm and the Claws

I will be the first to tell you, I’m not perfect. I make mistakes, but I do my best to do right by my kids. I have strengths, and I have weaknesses. My brain is not going to work in exactly the same way as ANY other mother’s and/or caretaker’s brain. Some people will agree with some of my parenting tactics, methods, decisions, and techniques—but no one will agree with them all. Sometimes MAMA BEAR comes out.

Parenting is not an easy task. It is not for the weak-hearted. It will test every thought, belief, and perspective that a person has. There are so many decisions to make from the second a baby is born…and EVERYONE has an opinion on the RIGHT way to do things. Mama Bear 101: There is no ONE RIGHT WAY! There are so many perspectives, but that is what they ALL are—perspectives of what is true for the person speaking. We don’t have to buy into ANYTHING that doesn’t feel right. Bring on Mama Bear!

I’m an understanding person. I get that people are going to parent different than I do. I have my own unique perspective and it is what works for MY family. When I want help, I’m not afraid to ask for it. I reach out to doctors, schools, therapists, healers, pastors, professionals, and people I trust. That being said, I trust other people are doing the same. They might not have the same support system I do. They might not have the same perspectives on what it means to be a good parent. I’m definitely not going to attack other parents who I know are trying their best to do the right thing even if it’s not how I would do it. My job is to protect and serve my kids the best I can. This is me in the MAMA BEAR calm.

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So, when my parenting is attacked—I might have a reaction. If I’m centered and present (Mama Bear calm), I won’t take the event personally. I know it is just another person with another perspective different than mine. I might learn from their opinion, or I may just see it as a way that I don’t want to be. Either way, I won’t have an emotional reaction. Mama Bear is calm, strong, and can walk away tall knowing people can have different opinions.

Now, if I’m not centered or have been going back and forth about the right thing to do and finally made a choice that I felt was right and someone attacks—Well, the claws can get exposed and my defenses go up ready to fight back. In those moments, I act first and think later. Oh, and boy do I think later! I’m reacting to fear with fear. When Mama Bear emerges with her claws exposed: my stomach is tight, limbs tingling, and nerves standing on edge. This doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel safe, and I don’t trust the situation at all.

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Has any other mom felt this way?

As centered and peaceful as I can be in the rest of my life, parenting is my greatest teacher in love and fear. Watching my reactions to other parents and opinions and judging myself and others based on parenting style and techniques shows me so much about who I am. My Mama Bear claws show me where I still have fear and distrust. My Mama Bear calm show me when I trust and respect my choices, my perspectives and myself as a parent.

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I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and my growth as person by becoming an active parent in my kids lives. I’m grateful for people’s different perspectives because they show me where I am in mine. I’m grateful to have my eyes and heart open to look into areas I question and be open to change perspectives that no longer work for me. I’m so grateful to my inner MAMA BEAR, because I learn so much from her claws and her calm.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff ©2018

From A Loving Place

The Calling of the Soul

Sedona Calling

Years ago I lived in Phoenix, Arizona for a little less than a year. Within that year, I went to Sedona, AZ three times. Sedona is known for its beautiful scenery, vortexes, spiritual pull, red rocks, and so much more. At least, those are the qualities that pulled me in. Sedona is a place that remains close to my heart even around twenty years later. The pictures I took on those three visits have been up in every place I’ve lived in. The pull for more Sedona has never gone away.

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Somewhere around 2003, I made a five-gallon bucket change jar covered in pictures from Sedona. My goal was to fill that jar and go back. Over the years the jar got heavier and heavier. I felt Sedona calling my soul back over and over. A hope and belief that I would get back there filled me. I didn’t know how or when, but it was a calling of the soul.

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Around ten years ago, I met a woman who became my soul sister. We have stayed on similar spiritual journeys, and we have helped and supported each other’s spiritual development through the years. From very early on in our friendship, we started talking about going to Sedona together. I wanted her to feel the energy and the spiritual and cleansing pull there. If any of my friends could understand my pull to Sedona, it would be her. No matter who came and left from my life, I knew she was the one. She would understand the pull for me and not try to lessen or taint it. She would get it!

Letting Go

Time ticked on and the Sedona trip felt farther and farther away. Now, a single mom I would remember the clarity I felt when I would go there. I wanted to feel that again. I needed to feel that again. A couple of years ago, I gave up. My beliefs on being a single mom and not ever being able to get away to go across the country took over. I figured it would have to wait until my kids were grown. I decided on finding places to go within my reach. I couldn’t even begin to imagine getting the time alone.

I got creative and started to see the draw of taking my kids on some natural adventures. I saw the benefits in my kids experiencing the wonder of the mountains, waterfalls, caves, and nature in areas north of West coast of Florida. I planned a six-week road trip (which you can read about here). I emptied my 5-gallon bucket and there was enough in there to cover all our hotel costs, since they didn’t want to camp alone in the woods with me (LOL).

We stayed on the road, with family, friends, and finally camping in the mountains with another friend and her daughter. The trip was amazing and it led to a trip the following year with a lot more mountains, waterfalls, and camping. My soul has been refreshed, but my soul’s call to Sedona was still there.

The Call Awakens

Last June, I saw a glimmer of hope that I might be able to find a way for a Sedona trip to happen. Things didn’t work out, and I just let it go. Right before Christmas, I get a call. My friend’s husband asked if I would be available to do a retreat with my friend over the summer. I so wished I could say yes. It wasn’t Sedona, but I would at least get to go on a spiritual adventure with my friend. Being a single mom, I definitely couldn’t commit to being available in the summer.

He decided to get her a trip to Sedona for a yoga and hiking retreat in March. I was so happy for her, but wait he says she can bring a friend. This is not a spiritual man. He is a very good husband who honors her spirituality by doing things like this for her. He had no idea we had been talking about this trip for a decade. When she asked me about going, I talked over the dates with my mom to watch the kids. My mom, stepdad, kids, and I all live very busy lives, so the timing would have to be just right in order to make this work. We literally looked at the schedule together and it was THE ONLY WEEK that would have worked!!

Was this really happening? My mom once came with me to Sedona, so she knew the power it had over me. She told me I had to go. The trip was in the making. As time went on, I started getting into nature more and practicing yoga regularly. I was feeling good, but there was a nagging sense of unhappiness in me that just wouldn’t go away.

I wanted to go to Sedona to feel the calling again that got me moving in a very positive direction in my life. I knew it would help me pinpoint this pit in my stomach that made me feel on edge during every parenting moment. I needed that space where my 100% focus wasn’t on being a mom and doing all the daily to-do’s that kept me distracted enough not to have to investigate this pit inside me. It’s not like I have a bad life at all. I have an amazing life. A life filled with so much to be grateful for. This is why the pit was really bothering me. I needed to figure this out. I kept trying different things, and I couldn’t get to it. Somehow I knew Sedona would be the answer.

Getting to Sedona

The middle seat, am I really going to start this amazingly wonderful journey in the middle seat? My friend is flying stand-by and I am assigned a middle seat. We get to the gate and they instantly announce that it is a full flight. Full flights don’t tend to be a good sign for stand-by fliers. We really want to believe she is going to make it on this flight, but whatever happens we are going to trust it is what is meant to be. She’s called up to the counter, and they issue her a boarding pass. We are ecstatic! Even better, she gets an isle seat in the last row.

We sit back down and decide to wait until the end to board. When we get in not only does she have an isle seat but the isle seat across from her is open too. The flight attendant lets me change my seat. The best part, both middle seats are open. On a full flight with only four middle seats open, I enjoyed reading and shifting comfortably on our direct flight to Phoenix. As I flipped through the pages of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle, I could see how far I had come since 2009. The first of the three times I had read it through. The Last time I read the book was in 2011, it was right after I left my marriage. Perfect read to start this spiritual quest.

Driving to Sedona, I am in absolute AWE. It has been so long since I lived there, I forgot about the magic feeling that comes when seeing the brown bland colors turn to these amazing red rocks. I’m transcended; I feel no time. Every moment is one spectacular view after another. The AWE just doesn’t stop. We have a nice relaxing night enjoying our view; I’m here. My soul feels at peace.

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Yoga and Hiking Retreat

I really didn’t go in having too many expectations for this part of our journey. I knew it would be an adventure no matter how it turned out. What I didn’t realize is that I would meet an amazing group of 22 women and one man who would become such a special part of the journey we were on. I felt instantly part of the group even though this was the first time we had ever met. They were a beautiful group of people from Wisconsin. Now, how my friend’s husband found this retreat over the countless others, I have NO idea. This was my tribe.

On this part of the journey, I got to experience how transformative yoga can actually be. Through every breath and every stretch, I became more alive and open to experience the fullness of my being. My body could handle the tough climbs up the mountains with very little consequence. All the areas where toxins like to build up in my body got to loosened. Pressures of past hurts and toxic walls lightened in every movement between the hiking, breathing, and stretching my mind and body from the core. I could feel the calling of the soul. I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.image2

The conversations I had during this time were real and full of substance and discovery. I could be present for other people as much as I was for myself. I could hear their souls calling to be in Sedona too. I was fortunate enough to hear some of the amazing stories that brought them into the moment at hand. Connecting with strangers has never felt so fulfilling. I can’t not speak for any of them and because this is about my journey, I won’t mention direct encounters, but I will say each of these women had a special place in my journey from making me laugh to making me cry. The man on the journey showed me what I could do every time I didn’t need his assistance climbing into some more difficult spaces. I experienced all of me.IMG_2217.jpg

As the retreat went on, I was able to go deeper into meditations and my mindless chatter seized. I didn’t even know that was possible. Now, I finally got the importance of all the steps together. Yoga, nature, meditation, and physically challenging myself helped me release and be free.

On Our Own Amongst the Vortexes

In Sedona there is a lot of talk of energy vortexes. From my understanding, they are like little tornadoes of energy concentrated into a particular area. Twisted trees are one of the known markers for this phenomenon. In spiritual circles, people find this concentration of energy to be very powerful. May even cause miracles.

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When I was in my twenties, I went to some of the larger known vortexes in Sedona. I remember being in awe and feeling at peace. Looking back from a memory standpoint, I received a great deal of clarity while I was there and it sent me on quite the adventure in the years to come where I got to experience life in a very full way through my career. In my dream of going back with so much more experience, spirituality, and knowledge, I had high expectations of what I would feel. After going to a few and being present with the moment, I realized it wasn’t what I felt in the moment that transformed my life but what I came out the experience with. Once I figured that out, I opened my soul up even more. I gave up my expectations and could just use the time in the vortexes to pray and meditate.

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Moving on from the yoga retreat we ventured into the past. We attempted to visit places I went to on my journey before. We kept hitting roadblocks, and when I say roadblocks, I mean literal roadblocks. A clear sign that this journey was not about going back to the past but experiencing the present. We pushed on to find an amazing valley and an area known for their vortex. Amongst other things, it had a creek that ran through it, along with a beach called Buddha Beach. How could we go wrong?

Even though there was no mountain to climb, the path was not easy and there were no clear markings of the right way to go to get to the area across the creek that looked like a great place to lie down and meditate. We even took off our shoes and crossed the very cold water to accomplish our goal. Let me remind you, we are Florida girls. Cold water plus Florida girls is quite the laughable experience. We worked our way to a nice quite spot and set up our mats. Just like that, I was gone. I sunk into a meditation that took me into a place of oneness with nature. I didn’t feel any of the pulls from my body. I was an extension of the rock I was lying on.

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The next two nights we stayed in an RV. The property was known to have vortexes and it also had a labyrinth. We decided that the labyrinth was a great place to bring out our childlike selves. Being silly was needed after so much intensity. In a very clear moment, a message came through me. “Don’t let your beliefs on what you can do limit your life.” I saw how this could definitely be true, but I had no idea the revelations that I was about to have. In the next couple of days, ideas for books and blogs started filling me with such excitement that my friend (who is also my agent) and I got goose bumps. My creativity was open and running free. I wasn’t feeling any lagging negativity or walls. I slept in that RV better than I have in a long time.IMG_2302

The Final Climb: Bell Rock

I didn’t have any real expectations of our last journey. We were both really laid back about going. I figured my friend would let me know how much she was able to do and enjoy whatever the adventure brought us. The rock felt so far away from the beginning of the trail. As we started our journey, we walked and talked enjoying each moment. Before we knew it, we were at the rock.

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In a very short time, we decided to begin to climb up. There was no marked trail, so I would scout the area to see what way would be the easiest and less stressful on my friend’s and my bodies. Slowly, we kept getting higher and higher hugging the mountains side to find which spots looked the most doable. As we got higher, we would check in with each other and decide where to go from there. At one point, she knew she was done. We weren’t far from the top. There was just one more spot I really wanted to get to.

It wasn’t a hard climb and it wasn’t far from where we were. Just a steep rocky path up and I was there. She rested in her snug space next to the massive rock and I climbed quickly up to the spot I knew I had to be. I made it! I spun around in complete awe. I could see the top of the rock from where I was, but I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. I spent a few minutes there soaking it all in. Seeing Sedona from that angle was breathtaking. This was the first climb without the group. The first time I didn’t depend on someone else’s direction. This used to be the way I lived life when I was traveling the country doing seminars, but somewhere along the way of becoming a wife, mother, then single parent, I lost my confidence. I forgot my own determination and fearlessness to be me. In this moment, she was standing with me as one. I found her on the top of that rock embracing the life within me. I was amazed at how quickly the transformation happened. I was reminded, one moment in time can change your life forever!

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The trip to Sedona brought out a part of me I buried. I excitedly moved down to meet my friend with lightness under my feet, and we worked our way down. After going down a couple of dicey places, we looked over to see a marked trail. As we followed the marked trail down the rock, I realized I succeeded in finding my own way. It didn’t have to be the path that the majority of people took. It was the path I created and it took me exactly where I wanted to go. I didn’t have to follow anybody else’s journey up. I can do and succeed at whatever I put my passion into. We finished our hike then road back to Phoenix feeling a sense of peace and accomplishment. I got exactly what I needed from Sedona.

The Ranch

IMG_2381The last stop during my Arizona experience was a ranch out in Scottsdale, AZ. Even though I had lived in Phoenix and worked in Scottsdale, I didn’t have any clue this area existed. We weaved our way back through dirt roads passing horses, ponies, donkeys,  and cows along the way. Once we got to the ranch we enjoyed seeing the birds and rabbits because we hadn’t seen too many while in Sedona.

On the ranch, we got a chance to reflect a little more on the Sedona experience while enjoying a different kind of AWE. When we had originally arrived in Phoenix the mountains didn’t touch me like the Red Rocks, Appalachians, Blue Ridge, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Somehow the time in Sedona changed how I saw these mountains now. When we got to the ranch I felt the complete AWE of them. Just like I did while experiencing the rest. They were more beautiful than I had even remembered from just a week earlier. After one night at the ranch, it was time for me to go home.

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Getting Home

Getting home was quite the adjustment; back to life as a single mom. I felt so at peace in Sedona. The experience was like a time warp. Every moment was a moment to be embraced and cherished. Time, as a whole didn’t exist. In a very short time back at home, I felt this unhappiness and negative pull eating at me. How could this happen? I wanted to come back with the tools to be at peace even as a single mom. After a couple of days of feeling the chaos of parenting and pet-care, I picked back up A New Earth. Chapter three is all about the ego.

OH shit!!! The message I got in Sedona is tied directly to this moment. I really did get exactly what I needed in Sedona. The clarity in this moment became crystal clear. What was holding me back and draining me of all my spiritual energy was my attachment to my ROLE as a single mom. To clarify, when most of us hear “single mom” a bunch of thoughts, beliefs, ideas, conceptions, judgments, and feeling come into our heads. I never wanted to be a single mom, so along with all the preconceived labels and beliefs there was also resentment for having to be a mother and father; disciplinary and nurturer. I felt defeated every time something didn’t work out to give them the life I wanted for them. The chaos and messiness made it easy for me to blame being a single parent. This was the one ROLE I didn’t yet let myself be released from. Tolle says,

When you are completely identified with a role, you confuse a pattern of behavior with who you are, and you take yourself very seriously.

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Talk about pressure! I had no idea how lost I got in the role. I forgot how to just be me around my kids. I was always working and doing for them that I spent little time just being there; 100% there. I let my beliefs of being a single mom create a void inside me. The guilt of having the void made me work harder and not smarter.

The awareness I’ve gotten since then is way too much to put in this piece, so I expect you will be reading about that at a later time. All I know is in the awareness of that moment, my life has took a turn for the better at home. I’m enjoying the process more and not letting the stressful moments contribute to my “story” of being a single mom. I’m raising two amazing children the best I can. That is what matters. The rest is just a story that creates stress and unhappiness. Eckhart Tolle wrote,

To end the misery that has afflicted the human condition for thousands of years, you have to start with yourself and take responsibility for your inner state at any given moment. That means now. Ask yourself, ‘Is there negativity in me at his moment?’ Then become alert, attentive to your thoughts as well as your emotions.

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The calling of the soul led me to realize the only thing standing in my way is me. My attachments to beliefs that don’t serve me are what keep me from being my best. The awareness of this sets me free to live the best life possible.

Thank you to all the people and miracles that contributed to this enlightening trip.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff © 2018

 

Struggle: A Mom’s Tale

As a follower of love and an inspired child of God, I can reach some wonderful places inside myself. I can be a light for friends and strangers. I can show love in ways that many people just don’t understand. Being able to do all this doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I struggle. Most of all right now my struggle comes from being the best mom I can be to two kids entering into puberty and trying to find solutions and tools to combat their emotional and mental struggles that range from a hard past to a hormonal present. Having a degree in Human Development may seem helpful, but when it’s your own kids, their and your own trauma, the degree doesn’t quite work in my favor. Sometimes it seems harder because I know too much about all different mental/emotional issues and I get completely overwhelmed in questioning everything.

As a mom, I don’t want my children to hurt. Yet, they are hurting so much. I didn’t cause the pain, but I’m left here trying to figure out how to help them overcome their past, deal with a broken school system, and finding joy in their lives. I thought things would be different for them since I’m well versed in overcoming, but a child going through puberty doesn’t want to hear how their whole life can change if they just could choose to look at things differently. I thought since I taught them from an early age that their thoughts, reactions, feelings, and actions are their personal power that they wouldn’t go through blaming everybody else for the way they are feeling, boy was I wrong.

I’ve tried strategies from courses I’ve taken in using positive discipline, counting, and play therapy, none of them seem to have made any great impact on what is happening on a daily basis. I have personality quirks that don’t always align with the self-discipline some of these parenting practicing take. I’m also a single mom who does all the parenting herself. I don’t linger too long there, or I can sometimes get resentful. On most days, I’m grateful.

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Being a single mom with kids who have been through trauma has it’s own unique challenges. This doesn’t mean married couples don’t have similar challenges, but not having a partner who takes equal responsibility for a child comes with the added bonus of abandonment issues. This can happen even if both parents are active, but not together. I learned that in couple’s therapy years ago. I had and sometimes still struggle with an over attachment to time and schedules. I used to actually miss out on a lot of quality time with people due to being so attached to time, I was constantly looking at my watch and recalculating when I had to leave, what I was doing next, and how I was going to get from point A to point B. The therapist told me my obsession with time was about having something I could control. Now with my children, I try to take into account if a situation makes my kids feel unwanted, rejected, unimportant, or abandoned. I can go through tons of scenarios in my head because of my education of how each thing can affect them. Oh it is just so much fun (Laughing hard)!

I’ve met so many amazing moms and dads along my path. I’ve seen how healthy family dynamics create beautiful atmospheres for kids. I’ve also seen no matter how great a family is, no family is perfect. This is what keeps me from feeling like a failure when things don’t go how I thought they would. We are all here doing the best we can do with the information and situations we have. Parenting can be a struggle, especially the more aware we are.

One thing I try HARD not to do is judge other people’s parenting. My belief is that we are all having the exact experiences we need to fulfill our purpose. I’ve seen kids who have grown up hard become amazing advocates and voices for change. I’ve seen people who grow up privileged help and/or hurt others. No matter how a person grows up it will create lessons and blessing for the people who cross their paths. I need to focus on my part. What can I do? How can I contribute? What seeds are important for me to pass on?

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This piece is just a reminder that no matter what path we are on as a parent, we all will have times of struggle. It’s not healthy to beat others or ourselves up for not being perfect, because no one is. Our children have to have things go wrong. That is how they get tools for life. As a parent, we simply can do the best we can to protect, love, and honor their journey. I know one of my struggles is remembering it is their journey. We are here to give them all kinds of seeds and see what they do with them. We can watch them create their own garden. They may have to do some heavy weeding and even lose some of their best flowers and trees, but they will learn.

I want to teach my kids that the lessons are a necessary part of life. The trick is to learn from them and don’t become a victim of fear and pain. My hope is that they keep taking chances, making mistakes, and trying new ways to find the path that is right for the life they individually want. There is no time limit, just keep moving in the direction of a positive and rewarding life. I want them to learn not to attach to the fears that hold people back.

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I recently needed the reminder, so I thought I would put my thoughts down on paper reminding me to give myself a break, keep moving in a positive direction, don’t judge what others are doing, and I’m a good mom. I love my kids.  I’m doing the best I can, struggles and imperfections included.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff ©2018

 

 

Hurricane Irma: A Single Mom’s Unplanned Road Trip

Growing up in Southwest Florida, I’ve experienced quite a few hurricanes. I lived in Naples during Andrew, the one that did so much damage and the reports keep comparing Irma to, saying this one is much worse. In my early twenties, I lived in Oak Island, North Carolina. I stuck around for a hurricane coming right over us, my poor family had to watch and wait in panic. As a mom, I decided category three or higher; we leave.

When Hurricane Irma turned into a Category 5, I watched her very carefully. The long term projection showed where I live now on the West Coast of Florida might see the ugliest side of her; the north east corner. My exit strategy started forming, but I gave her a little time. As she came closer, the projected path started to turn east. This is when my mind started really spinning. I couldn’t stop thinking about Hurricane Charley. The models showed a landfall more north, then it took a sudden turn and many people were unprepared for a direct hit. Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead, but Naples had plenty of damage. Another hurricane came through as direct hit on the SW side then passed through and did a lot more damage in Ft. Lauderdale then where we were. Do I stay or do I go? I left when Katrina passed over our waters and watched intently because my ex-boyfriend and his family lived on the coast of Mississippi. I remember desperately searching the Internet to find out they were all safe. His dad and stepmom were those people who were always prepared. They had a hurricane room that looked like a convenience store. In the end, it didn’t matter. Katrina stripped her to the foundation. They didn’t live that close to the water. It was at least a five to ten minute drive from what I remember. Should I stay or should I go? I knew I needed to get calm and make a decision. Florida is not like many other states. If you live anywhere in the southern half, you need to make a decision fairly early. It takes me five hours or more to get to the border of Florida. When I was in Naples it took around six and half on a good day. Now add evacuation traffic; NIGHTMARE!

On Tuesday, I really was confused whether to stay or go, but staying was causing me so much anxiety. Not because of the storm itself as much as the aftermath. Flooding, food, and transportation were stuck in my brain. Now, I’m very fortunate to have a friend who lives close to Atlanta, Georgia that the kids and I stay at every summer. I knew I had a place to go outside of Florida. Some people would say, “It’s probably going to hit there too.” Yes, it is, but from where I am. I can go in any direction to escape Irma’s path. I don’t have that option in Florida. In Florida, she will come in as a category 4 or 5, but in this area, at most a category 1. That’s a BIG difference! I spent Tuesday and Wednesday studying traffic on an app for my phone. I watched accident after accident pop up on my screen. I checked on traffic through out the night on Tuesday to see if I leave in the middle of the night, could I avoid a lot of the evacuation traffic. Luckily, the answer was yes. Gas was out all over the state, so the fear of not being able to get any came into my head. I needed to get my head on straight. Stop getting into the fear and make the best decision for my family.

I struggle with decision-making when there is a lot of chaos going on. I spoke with a friend, the more we talked, I realized my gut wasn’t telling me to stay, despite many people telling me I would be fine where I was. I needed to get quiet and pray. I sat in my closet (safe from interruption), got still, and asked a direct question, “Should I leave?” I got my answer, a very loud and solid YES! A calm came over me and I knew I made the right decision. I figured there were three options:

  1. Irma would come into the Gulf of Mexico and hit us with her worse side.
  2. She would go up the middle and get all of Florida.
  3. She would go out to the Atlantic and hit somewhere further up the coast.

Being, I really didn’t like options one or two, I asked myself would I regret leaving, the answer a resounding NO. I put my thoughts in a less stressful place because I needed a clear head while I was driving. I decided I was going to go on a road trip to see friends. Wednesday, I packed the kids, our cat, and myself up and I was good to go. I went to sleep early and set my alarm for 1AM. We were on the road by 1:30AM.

The first few hours were easy. I even could set my cruise control. I saw traffic coming up so I pulled off at a full rest area. I slipped into one of the few spots. I’m so glad I did because all the rest areas after that were packed well beyond capacity with cars and trucks lining the highway. Many travellers were taking sleep breaks because they had been traveling so long. Tears filled my eyes as I thought about all the people leaving their family, friends, and homes. As a category 5 hurricane our lives as we know it may change very quickly.

Going through Georgia took the longest because it was daytime and the majority of travellers were on the road. So many unnecessary accidents along the way because people wouldn’t give each other space to slow down. I stayed next to the shoulder and had to use it to avoid an accident two cars ahead of me.

I have lived in Florida for a good chunk of my life. I lived in Naples multiple times starting when I was in fifth grade. My children were born there. I worked there. Most of all, many of my closest lifetime friends are there along with my boyfriend and his family. I knew many of them were staying and most of them were hoping the track was going to keep shifting east.

Now, as of 5:00AM Saturday morning this massive storm is going to hit at the least as a category 4 and a possible 5. Now, my home that I share with my mom and stepdad is also going to get a major hit as a 3 or 4, along with St. Petersburg area where I went to Eckerd College and met so many amazing people. This means a huge portion of my children’s and my family and friends are now going to be on the worst side of this massive storm. As grateful as I am that I got the gut instinct to leave, and that I could keep my calm on the road because I had a familiar place to go with my kids, my nerves are still on high alert.

I am doing my best to stay present, but I’m not going to lie, my head is in so many places and with so many of the people I love. I don’t know when the next time I will be able see any of them is. I don’t know how the roads will be or how long it will be before I can get home to my family and get my kids back to their normal routines. If it will even be an option.

We didn’t take much with us besides clothes, important paperwork, our electronic devices, and a handful of sentimental items. When I was looking around at what to pack, I thought this is all just stuff. If it all goes, it won’t matter. What will matter is what happens to all the people I love.

I’m happy I don’t have to make that last minute decision wondering if it’s too late to leave and will there be enough gas to get out, but my heart, mind, and soul are there with the people I love. I will be praying and hoping that I hear from them all once the storm passes. Be safe my friends. I love you.

I have been blessed with SO MANY AMAZING people in my life. I know I’m not alone. There are no right ways to feel right now. We all experience watching an event like this from our own personal angle. Our strengths and weaknesses may be exposed, but through these traumatic experiences we grow as a global community. I am not alone. My friends and family are not alone. I just watched so many people come together to help with Hurricane Harvey. I’m watching the best of humanity come out to help with the earthquake that just happened in Mexico and the fires in Oregon, Montana, and California. Even if the media hasn’t covered some of them, good people still will show up in whatever way they can; even if it is prayer. Every piece of positive energy matters and that is what needs to be focused on. Please stay compassionate and non-judgmental towards the people in it. They are all doing the best they can with what they have. It is much easier looking at a situation from outside the box. I’m guilty of doing it and I’m reminding myself as much as I’m telling you. We don’t know what the best answer is for anyone else’s situation, and we don’t have all the cards. So please, keep the energy positive and loving.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff ©2017

P.S. If you are new to the blog, pictures on this blog are from my personal adventures and taken by me. This featured Image is in Venice, FL. I really hope the pier is still there when I get home.

I apologize to any grammar police. This piece is very raw. I couldn’t focus on proper grammar. 

Raising Children in A World of Addiction

 

Facing addiction from the outside is hard enough, but when children are involved it is a whole different ball game. In the past few years there has been a significant increase in grandparents taking the role of caretakers due to kids getting taken away from addicted parent(s) or one parent having to take on all the responsibilities as the other parent falls deep into the darkness of addiction. Families are breaking apart and struggling through the pain of watching their beloved family members completely disappear. I’ve experienced what it is like to lose people to this cunning and baffling disease, which is so incredibly powerful.

As outsiders looking in, we can say and think things like, “Just stop doing it!” It seems obvious, right? We can say, “Just limit yourself to two drinks.” We can go on and on with logical reasons for them to stop doing these harmful behaviors. When the person has kids, “Do it for your kids” and “Do it for your family.” We all wish those were the magic words to get them back on track. Sometimes, we go as far as trying to get the children to step-up and help straighten their parent(s) out. Imagine that weight on a child’s shoulders. What if their parent doesn’t clean up, is it now their fault? The problem is, a lot of kids take the responsibility very seriously and yes they blame themselves for their parent(s) addictions.

I used to use relationships as my addiction. People would ask the same kinds of questions. Most of us have something we use that is not so healthy. We can look at ourselves in order to help us feel compassion for others who are in a situation that they are not ready to change. I wasn’t able to break my toxic patterns in relationships until I was ready. Nothing anybody did, no matter how much sense it made could make me change. When I was ready, I stopped making excuses and changed. It wasn’t easy and I still slip into old harmful thought patterns. That connection really helps me to see addiction from a loving place. If it is that hard for me to change without using a chemical addictive substance, how hard is it for people who have been using prescription pills, alcohol, heroine, etc.? Those all have chemicals that change the way the brain functions.

My heart goes out to all families in this situation. I will tell you, it is full of lessons and we will rise up and we will make mistakes, because we all want what is best for our families. Admitting the truth about addiction is a very hard pill to swallow. Here are just a few things I have learned along the way:

Leave Children Out of Rescue Missions

An addict will only get help with their addiction when they are ready. There will be no excuses!!! They can’t be forced into it. When they are not ready, they will throw blame around like it is going out of style. If we are rescuers, we think we have the power to make it better. We think if we just tell them this, or do that, they will stop. No matter how hard any of us try, we will fail if we take on this responsibility. Children will take this defeat personally, so the best advice is to not get them involved in any attempts to make their parent different then they are. This is a challenge, because if we are fixers kids will see the behavior and try to mimic it. They will attempt to rescue and will be defeated, but the difference is if they are young, they only see what is concrete. This is so hard to watch children struggle through watching a parent disappearing. The effects are endless and they different issues can show up in their interactions with other family members, school, friends, and authority to name a few. BE AWARE and BE VIGILANT!

Children Need to Know: This is Not Their Fault

We have to remember to look at the situation through children’s eyes. They feel rejected and abandoned by the first male and/or female who are supposed to love them and that they are supposed to trust. If we didn’t have this experience, it is REALLY hard to imagine what that would feel like. The addict can’t accept love from others because they don’t love themselves. They are filled with so much unhealed shame that they try to cover it up with their addiction of choice. The negative energy that consumes them inside is projected out to the world. They focus their energy on all the negative things. When good things come in, they sabotage them, because deep down they feel unworthy of the happiness. They will create chaos to feed their addiction. It is a toxic cycle that can be passed down from generation to generation. In order to break it, we have to see it in how a child sees and treats him/herself.

Teaching children the importance of seeing their best qualities and forgiving themselves when they make mistakes will help them brake the harmful patterns of shame that can be passed down. We can help them to understand that nobody is perfect because we are all here to learn. Some of us will have harder lessons than others, but the good thing is, the harder the lesson we learn, the more opportunity we will have to help others through our experiences.

Make sure they are reminded that they are not to blame for their parent(s) actions and no amount of love they feel and show can change a person who is caught up in the cycle. A person must love her/himself in order to show love to others. If they don’t what they think is love becomes warped and manipulated. They will actually use it as a tool to hurt themselves and others unintentionally, because really they are just projecting the ugliness they feel inside.

Prayer can help release children from taking on the burden of fixing their parent (s). Just remember to let them know that prayer will help them when they are ready, because we all have free will. We are capable of resisting negativity or positivity. We have to do the footwork.

Prayer: Please help (fill in name) to feel the love of all the people who love him/her. Please help (fill in name) see their good heart and find the self-love and self-worth to release them from the grips of addiction. Please guide (fill in name) to find their way out of the darkness to be able to feel, accept, receive, and give love. Amen.

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Keep the Focus on the Positive

The addict is an addict. We can’t fix that situation, so it does nothing for us to blame and resent them. It definitely doesn’t help to try to blame ourselves either. I know how hard this one sounds, but our resentment will rub off on the relationship we have with the children involved and it will not make for a healthy situation. If you have been honored to take a child out of a toxic situation and give them a loving one, keep it loving. Resentment is a toxic energy and it will play out in these children’s lives throughout their adulthood. We need to help them focus on what they do have instead of festering about what they don’t. When we focus on the positive, we attract better lives.

A gratitude jar is a great way to help kids find things daily to be grateful for. One day, they may realize how amazing their life is because of how strong the situation made them. We can’t control the addict, but we can control how we treat the people we love. By not blaming and shaming ourselves or others, we bring a positive light to a dark situation. This can make all the difference of how it will play out later down the line. For now, we are simply giving children the seeds of hope. If they keep watering them, they will grow strong.

Let Children Talk About How They Feel

Be open to let children talk, but be careful about how you respond. Listening and letting them know that you hear them is so important. Ask questions, and try to limit statements. Honor how they feel. DON’T tell them they shouldn’t feel a certain way. These are their feelings, try a response like, “Sorry you feel that way.” Let them know you understand, and if you’re sad about the situation tell them. Stick to the feeling. Don’t get caught up in a conversation that is way over a child’s head.

Sometimes things happen that we just don’t understand and it doesn’t make sense to us. This is a part of life and a lesson we all face all through adulthood. Think of it this way: When we are helping children through painful situations we are planting seeds for tools they can use for the rest of their lives. We all want to be heard. When a child feels rejected and abandoned they can feel defenseless in the world. If they learn that it is safe to express feelings and find healthy ways to cope with them, we are helping to break toxic shame cycles that come from suppressing feelings.

Repeat the emotion they are saying they feel or try to get them to name it. “I hear that you are feeling very hurt. Is that right?” By using this active listening tool we make it clear that we REALLY hear what they are saying.

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Get Support

We can’t change the addict, but we can change the effect the addict has on us. Do the research. The only way to have a positive outcome in this situation is to work through it. Denial of the truth is your worst enemy. Get help! Give children a safe place to get their anger and fear out physically. If the child likes sports, find a way to get them involved. Coaches and teams have a positive impact on kids. Find extra-curricular activities that support the children’s well-being. Acting/ drama is a great tool for children to learn how to express themselves physically and emotionally. There are plenty of forms of physical exercise that can help: trampolines, punching bags, bike riding, yoga, etc. Find the right one for the child. Some kids love reading, research books that deal with this kind of issue.

Search out programs for yourself to help you navigate your way through the situation in as healthy a way as possible. There are 12-step programs for family member of addicts. These programs aren’t focused on changing the addict. Their focus is on the health and well-being of the person attending the group. The groups are centered on what we can control, and that is us and how we deal with the situation.

DON’T Force the Addict to Participate in Children’s Lives

This can be one of the hardest things. We want to fix the situation for everyone and we know that a child having her/his parent is so important. The temptation to try to fix it and make it right will be tempting and most good people will try to do this multiple times before they realize it’s devastating effects. We can love the addict all we want, but they will only get better when they are ready. Forcing them to be and do something they are not ready to do will hurt all parties involved. For the addict, it will add to the vicious shame, hate, guilt cycle and often times sends them further down the addiction path.

For the child, they will be rejected over and over never giving their wound time to heal. If we are not addicts it is hard to understand the power of addiction, and it is not personal to any other person than the addict. No matter who they blame, addiction is a path that person went down by making a lot of poor choices to run from their lives. It is their problem, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have negative effects on the whole family. If we try to force an addict to be there before they are ready, the broken promises will keep coming and the hurt will keep growing and festering.

Teaching a child the power of prayer for the parent to get the help they need or to feel love are great prayers. Just don’t keep opening the door for them to get hurt over and over. When and if the addict is ready, they will get the help they need and will work on fixing any broken relationships they feel are important. Trust that if they are not showing up for their kids, there is a good reason and it is in the best interest of the children. It just might be that the kids are Divinely protected. If you have a spiritual practice, trust in the Divine power of the Universe and that everything will work out exactly as it is supposed to for the highest good of all those involved.

Now, the effect of addiction to family members can range all over the map. We can feel like victims, martyrs, saviors, along with having extreme episodes of depression and anxiety. I’m not blaming the addict for this, but we find a coping mechanisms that fits our thought and behavior patterns. The good news is even if the addict stays active, we don’t have to keep getting effected by their choices. This takes work, because we have to break our own unhealthy habits. How do you know if you are healthy or not? It’s all in the reaction. Do you feel like it is your job to change the addict? NOT HEALTHY! Do you think you can change the addict? NOT HEALTHY! Do you feel like a victim to the addict? NOT HEALTHY. These are not easy things to look at on our own: therapy, spiritual practices, 12-step programs, books, seminars, etc. There are many necessary combinations between them and they are all paths to recovery. We are not alone, especially now. We have access to any kind of help we need, we just have to be willing to dig deep enough.

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I’m not talking out of a place of unknowing. If you know about me and what I write about, you know AL-ANON (a 12-step program to help families of alcoholics) is apart of how I broke many of my unhealthy thought and behavior patterns. I have been through therapy; have a B.A. in Human Development, which was focused on psychology; and I took multiple courses dealing with addiction and solutions for people effected by it. I have also read countless books on self-help, spirituality, shame, and all variations that lead me to better thought and behavior patterns. My focus is on solutions. I have made plenty of mistakes in my attempts at bettering challenging situations, but I keep trying. I’m still learning daily.

My final piece of advice is be kind to yourself. Sometimes awareness can be painful. We may still freeze and feel lost at times. We may spend days crying and lose our cool out of frustration. Just because we understand things logically doesn’t mean the heart won’t feel the pain and the grief that comes from watching someone we love get lost in the throws of addiction. Keep praying, keep moving, and keep taking care of yourself. Don’t get lost in taking care of others. As they say in Al-Anon, we must put the oxygen masks on ourselves first in order to effectively help others.

 

With Love and Gratitude,

 

Rachael Wolff

www.facebook.com/FromALovingPlace

www.twitter.com/Wolffspirit9

www.FromALovingPlace.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Single Mom’s Dream Road Trip


I have always loved adventures. I am the kind of person who gets very antsy if I sit in one place too long. I have moved all over the country and travelled many roads. Luckily, throughout my 20’s my job allowed me to maintain my adventure lifestyle and call it work.

When I became a mom, the road trips became shorter. When I got divorced I wondered if I was going to be able to go on any at all. I made it happen. I visited friends in other towns, cities and states, but no more than 10 hours.

For a while now, I have wanted to travel along the Appalachian Mountains and explore nature’s wonders. I even put it on my dream board, but I never had clue when and/or how I would ever do it.

A few months ago, I decided this was the year. I was missing my family and friends who lived North of me and I started planning a trip to see them and take my dream vacation all in one trip. The kids and I started looking at the Atlas and getting ideas. The dreams got bigger. We started looking up cool things to do along the route. Then the magic started happening.

Everything started coming together. Career opportunities appeared which made it possible for me to write as I travelled. I found out how to get by on very little. Then, money started showing up from unexpected place. My dream was unfolding before my eyes.

We started our adventures in the woods of Georgia four days ago. The majestic beauty of woods, water, and wildlife was overwhelming.


Our next stop, Clingman’s Dome on the Tennessee/North Carolina border. We climbed rocks and took the steep trek up the mountain to the observation tower. My daughter saying, “I can’t do it.” My son and I encouraging her she could and she did. We changed the language from I can’t to I can and it made all the difference. We overlooked miles upon miles from the highest point in Tennessee; AMAZING! 


Today, we started out in the Bristol Caverns in Bristol, TN. Awe, pure awe, every step of the way. The experience was magical and one that the kids and I will always remember.


After lunch we worked our way up to Marion, Virginia and explored Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and hiked over to an amazing waterfall.


So far, our adventures have been better than any dream I could ever imagined. My kids are getting along better than they have in months. We have laughed, talked, and explored together as a family. The scenery along the trip has made it easy to enjoy every minute. Today, we decided where we wanted to stay together and found a hotel for $39.95 using one of those discount books found at rest areas. Well worth it to not over plan and let the adventures unfold.

The next leg of our trip is visiting our AMAZING extended family. We can’t wait for more incredible adventures to unfold.

Whether you are a single mom, married, or just by yourself, don’t be afraid to dream and plan adventures. Don’t wait on a partner to show up, just do it. Life is too short to wait on someone else to make your dreams come true. 

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff

Leaving Autopilot and Becoming Present

image2I used to live everyday in autopilot. I was caught up in the same routine, thinking the same things, doing the same things. The insanity of the situation was I expected different results. I hated the life I was living. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. What is scary about autopilot is that we miss A LOT!! I’m not just talking about things in our own lives, the lives of the people around us. We simply don’t see anything outside of our routines.

When we have children, autopilot becomes dangerous. Too many things can happen; sometimes children can give us little subtle hints that there is a problem. If we are somewhere else in our heads; we miss them. Here are a couple of scenarios:

Scenario 1

A young boy comes to his mother and she is texting. He is tells her about how something he saw made him feel uncomfortable. She is not with him; she is involved in the conversation on the phone. Her autopilot response turns on, and gives her son a reply. The conversation is soon forgotten because she was never there. That child develops trust issues and feels completely alone. The boy becomes a man with addiction issues and eventually dies a slow death from drug abuse. He never learned to reconcile his past. He was not able to have healthy relationships with women, men or children. He lived life in a toxic cycle of shame, guilt, and abandonment.

Scenario 2

A young boy comes to his mother and makes a comment that is just slightly off, easily overlooked. By being present, the mother sees there is something very off with that statement. She starts investigating it and finds out the 4-year old boy was sexually abused. The authorities get involved and it is stopped instantly. What the mother didn’t know, what happened to her son is usually just the beginning, that the majority of parents do not catch it this soon. Since the mother had great communication with her son, he felt safe and told her and the police what happened. The assailant was convicted and never exposed to the boy again. The boy grew up communicating with his mother and knowing she was there. When life’s struggles came up, he was able to find tools to work through it. He grew up healthy and having good relationships with women, men, and children. He didn’t feel like he had to use drugs to escape or cover shame, guilt, and hurts from the past.

These scenarios may seem extreme, but they are more common than most people know. The worst part is, scenario 1 is more common than scenario 2. There are little details missed in conversations with friends, co-workers, lovers, and family. We may gain a greater understanding about the people we love if we can give them our full attention. When we are in autopilot our relationships can deteriorate, people get hurt, and we miss out on life. We, without knowing it, contribute to toxic cycles.

Multi-tasking is a way we continue to not be present. Sometimes we have to do too much at once, and that is life, but it is important that we focus on the relationships in front of us. We need to be present. I know I can still get caught up in trying to do too much at once. My children and I had a hard conversation at the dinner table awhile back and I had to take responsibility for my part of the dysfunction in the household. I was on my phone too much while I was supposed to be focused on them and they were feeling it. We had an electronics free week and it was the best thing that has happened to my family. I limited my conversations to the hours they were not with me, and we all started getting along so much better, playing games together, and finding healthy ways to spend our time together. Now that we have our electronics back and we have come out of the crisis that was happening, I am watching old patterns to start to stir up again. The difference, this time I am aware. I can see that there is a problem, and I can figure out a solution because I have accepted my responsibility for the fallback into the old cycle.

One of my old patterns was to go to self-blame and hence self-abuse. I used to take any mistake or misstep and turn it into me being a horrible parent. I would expect perfection out of me, but know it was not possible for anyone else. I had compassion for others, but none for myself. I would have taken the electronics things and reacted in such a way that chaos would plague me and I would feel weighed down with the guilt of not being the parent that my kids deserved. I would feel forced back into autopilot in order to live with myself. Ugh… NOT GOOD! This was such a toxic way to live. Being aware is key. If you know that you have missed a lot from being in autopilot, don’t beat yourself up. Just make an effort to do better now. We do the best we can at any given moment. Yesterday is done, the best thing we can do is learn from our past, and use it to become better. There is no reason to be hostage of something that cannot be changed.

When we are struggling with our jobs, commutes, responsibilities, and relationships with others, it is easy to fall into autopilot to cope with the world around us. We may not be able to get out of it all the time, but every effort we make to live our life being present will improve the quality of our relationships and lives.

Before jumping in, it is important to realize, we are all different. You may like one thing on the list, but something else doesn’t work for you. I have tried a lot of different methods over the years. These are seeds, if they work for you, GREAT! If not, don’t stop looking. I have attempted using techniques that worked great for others, but didn’t sit right with me. What is important is that you tweak things to fit you. Here are some of the methods I use to get more present and turn off the autopilot mode:

Take 3 Conscious Breaths

Three conscious breaths was the first tool I began using on a daily basis that started showing me results. I learned that if I do this throughout the day, I have better days and I am present more than I am not. I started by doing it in the bathroom, then in the car, and finally whenever I noticed my mind was everywhere else but where I was. Do I remember to do it all the time? No. Can I still go into autopilot? Yes, the difference, awareness. Awareness makes it possible to change. By taking three long, deep breaths and concentrating just on that, my mind has time to recalibrate. I have put the effort into slowly untangling the jumbled thoughts and focusing on what is right in front of me. Most of the time it gives me the clarity to see that my mind is focused on the unpredictable future or a past that I cannot do anything about. I create the space to question, how is what I am doing right now contributing to a better life? If it is not, I can see solutions to change it.

Switch-up the Morning Routine

This one can be fun, when things get really bad I put signs in my drawers. One sign says, “Start with a different foot.” I have this in my underwear or sock drawer. The sign consciously reminds me to do things a little differently. I have also put a sign in the bathroom that says, “Switch the order.” I may choose to put deodorant on before brushing my teeth or take a shower and wash my face before shampooing my hair. I don’t know about anyone else, but it is so easy for me to fall into the autopilot routine when I am getting ready. My mind can be in a million different places if I am not careful.

Make Lists

When we make a list, we are getting it out of our heads and putting it down in a practical order. We don’t have to be clogging our brains. When we write out and take one task at a time we can give what we are doing 100% of our attention. I don’t always use lists, but I notice a difference when I do. I know some people who do them everyday and it is what works for them.

Focus On What is Happening Now

One of the ways I let the present moment pass me by was by checking the time constantly. I stopped wearing a watch and started setting alarms on my phone when I needed to be ready to do the next thing on my list. This made it possible for me to be where I was and get out of the vicious cycle of being a slave to time. By simply not focusing on time, I have more.

Get in Touch with Nature

If I can spot nature’s beauty, I am present. If I am in autopilot, I can walk for an hour and miss everything happening around me. When I take the time to look for beautiful scenes in nature, I feel the awe of the moment, and autopilot is cut-off! If I am driving, I make sure to look at nature in a safe way. I will see the clouds, trees, birds, and all the little critters scurrying about. I’m sure many squirrels’ lives have been saved from me being aware of my surroundings.

Set Aside Quality Time

I have certain times where I commit to giving my loved ones 100% of my attention. I learned a long time ago that a meal is a great time to commit to giving my undivided attention. Another time can be at bed-time. I have a routine with each of my children. They are almost two years apart, so I have different bed times. I spend a dedicated half-hour with each of them before bed. If they need advice, cuddles, and/or one-on-one attention, they get it here. I have stopped bringing my phone, so that I don’t get distracted. For couples, date night is very important. Having time away from normal routine is crucial to a healthy relationship. Date night does not need to be out; be creative. Pick a time and a room or outside location to meet where the time is set aside just for each other. Dance in the bedroom, swing on the porch swing, read to each other, and laugh as much as you can.

Put the Electronics Away

When we are having a conversation with someone, we need to be present. Phones, computers, tablets, TVs, and video games are not important when another human being needs our connection. Put it down. We cannot be in two places at the same time. This one has been a challenge for me. My autopilot in doing mode likes to kick in. I notice I need to make a real effort to get out of my electronic world. I don’t believe that we need to give it up completely, but when people are communicating with us it is important to be there. When we are supposed to be having quality time together, we need to give our families, children, partners, and any person we are in contact with the respect and love they deserve. Even the people at the checkout counter deserve your attention. How would it feel to be looked over by most of the people who passed through your life? It can make a big difference to the person you take the time to give a smile to.

Just recently, I was at the store and the woman behind the counter was in autopilot. She was so used to being overlooked that when I gave her attention she was actually startled. After the initial shock, she proceeded to give me tips and ideas. We had a great exchange. By the end, she was smiling and gave a big warm greeting to the next customer. We both left the exchange feeling good. We are all humans; we all want to be acknowledged. We can’t get so caught up in autopilot that we forget we are interacting with other people just like us.

I hope that your autopilot can be turned off for a little longer today and that you get to experience the joy of being in the moment. Give the people around you a little more today from a loving place.

Read my latest article for http://www.yourpositiveoasis.com  “5 Ways We Sabotage Our Happiness” (click on the red and it will take you directly to it.)

image1With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff

Continue reading “Leaving Autopilot and Becoming Present”

I’m Not Stupid After All: School Testing and Self-Worth

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The divergent thinker has considered the problem from all angles and made connections between the question and each of the potential answers. He has now spent four times as long on the question as the person who is tuned to think convergently, and his likelihood of choosing the “right” answer is still no better than chance. Instead of eliminating some of the answers to improve his chances of making the correct choice, his divergent thought processes have brought all answers into the realm of possibility.

-Shelley Carson, PhD, Your Creative Brain p. 128

I have always loved learning, but all through high school felt stupid. The feeling came from taking multiple choice tests. I don’t remember when my anxiety around these tests began. I didn’t realize how bad the experience was on my self-worth until I was an adult.

I had to study more than many of my peers. I took notes on everything in order to get it. I had to practically memorize the material to get an 100% on a test. I realized, if I could focus on the material in the book, I could get an A on the test. When other people were doing dance and sports, I had to spend that extra time taking notes on what I was reading.  I used to pray for essay tests, because I knew I could get an A without a problem. I used to run out of room because of the amount of details I could provide. I didn’t understand why I had such a problem with multiple choice. Come SAT time, I was a complete mess. When I didn’t have specific material to study my anxiety would take me to a shameful place. My self-talk was brutal. My hair twisting and pulling increased to a level where I’m surprised I have hair today. What was it about these tests? Why couldn’t I figure out the right answers?

When I was an adult, I realized  I also had a fear of filling out forms. I was so scared of answering a question in the wrong way. I wanted to be honest and accurate, but I found myself wondering do they mean this, or do they mean that. In order to be a pre-school teacher, I had to take courses filled with multiple choice tests. I remember being told that many people don’t pass them the first time. I can’t tell you what that level of pressure did to me. Luckily, by the time I got to the test I was grounded in my spiritual path and I prayed that I would be able to pull the knowledge from my head as needed, and thankfully I did. Yet, I still went through the constant questioning in my head during almost every question. I just kept trying to remember the words that the books used. I still felt stupid. Why weren’t the answers black and white? I knew the material well enough that the tests should have been a breeze.

So, why did I feel so stupid when it came to multiple choice? I wasn’t going to understand that until I was around 37 years old and back in school. Eckerd College is known for their strong writing program. The Program For Experienced Learners (the program I attended) held us to the same high standards as the residential students. I loved it there. The classes were small, professors were available, lots of writing, and very few multiple choice tests.

The answer finally came in a course called, The Creative Process, taught by an amazing professor. I knew I would love the course just by the title. Once I met my professor, I knew I was in for a big ride in self awareness. The reading materials for the course were eye opening, but one in particular would help to heal years of pain and anguish over my fears and anxiety around multiple choice tests and filling out applications.

Your Creative Brain (This is a link to the website): Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life by Shelley Carson, PhD.was the book that would give me understanding about brainsets and where I was most comfortable. The book explains all the different brainsets, then has a little test to show the reader where her/his personal comfort level is. The best part is in the next chapters she gives the reader exercises to strengthen the different brainsets. Based on the test, I was most comfortable in the connect and absorb brainsets. This made perfect sense to me. This has been my strength in my personal and professional relationships. It was what made me successful in sales and marketing. It is the power behind my creativity. It is the reason, I am driven by the connections I make with humans, nature, and animals through love.

How could this gift cause such anguish in school? 

“Convergent thinking is the type of thinking you do when you access the contents stored in your brain (including knowledge and memories) to come up with the one correct answer to a well-defined problem.”

-Carson, Your Creative Brain p. 125

OH! Multiple choice tests are based on convergent thinking. Now, everything is starting to make sense. I don’t fit into the mold of this type of education, wait a second… My son is completely immersed into the testing world, and he is having the same struggles and feelings that I did. He is an A/B student who is feeling frustrated, stupid and lost in the school system. I’m so glad, I have been educated enough to help stop the negative cycle that I have lived with since I was a child in school.

I have broken many of the negative cycles that came from the generations before me. It can take a long time to heal old wounds. I still feel my stuff come up when my son is discussing school, and it is a challenge to try to figure out what is the best thing to do for him. I need to approach him and the educational system from a loving place, but sometimes the how is hard to find.

I have watched many groups try and fail to change the educational system. I have read the research that is being used to fight the system. I have listened to countless parents and teachers who know that all this testing is not good for these young developing brains. The tests keep coming. Little changes keep happening, but I feel like we are still left with a lot of misunderstanding. Some teachers don’t know how to spot convergent and divergent thinkers and that makes a huge difference in how a child will absorb material. We are still focusing on the broken system. The negative energy is feeding the beast. What if we collectively could put our focus on what we did want to see in schools, instead of what we don’t? I still struggle with this one. I know the answer comes from a loving place, I just don’t know what it is.

My son was lucky enough to have an amazing third grade teacher. She made the time to really look at him as an individual and figure out how he needed to look at the material in order to be able to see the correct answers. She helped me to see that it was possible for a divergent thinker to work with these tests. There are so many  kids, parents, and teachers who don’t know what is going on in these students’ brains. How do we get this information out there in a way that it is not done through angry messages of what we don’t want to see anymore? How do we not shame people for not knowing any better? How do we inspire change through loving actions? 

Finding out about the different brainsets and how they contributed towards different areas of my life has been priceless. It has helped me gain understanding about myself and others. I finally know, I am NOT stupid. I actually have a beautiful gift of a divergent mind, and its because of this gift that I am here now. I figured out that the things I negatively labeled myself with are actually the very parts of me that I love the most.

A Better Life Begins With Gratitude

 “What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.”

-Oprah Winfrey

I’m always amazed how fast positive changes start to occur when I focus on gratitude. Years ago, I started a gratitude journal. During my darkest days I would be grateful for having the ability to walk, see, hear, and smell. I would be grateful for having a roof over my head and clothes to wear. In the beginning, it was hard coming up with new things every day. What was important is that I kept doing it, and I kept it aligned with positive energy. This meant no negative statements, such as I’m grateful I wasn’t…, I’m grateful he didn’t…, all these statements attract the negative. The focus is on the lack of something. This exercise is about what IS there. That is where the magic exists.

I quickly realized that the list got easier to write. I would seek out things to be grateful for. This is how I found my appreciation for nature again. When I was a kid, I loved being outside and exploring my surroundings. When I lost my way, I stopped going on adventures.

I forgot about the beauty of a sunset and a sunrise. I forgot how it felt to be out in the woods in awe of my surroundings. All the pictures you will see on my blog are ones I have taken. Those are my personal moments that I’m sharing with you. Seeing those pictures reminds me to stay grateful to the beauty that is a part of me inside and out.

Before the end of my marriage, I started a gratitude list and made sure to put my husband on it every day. On days that I was really angry, I would dedicate a whole page to him. I did this because I didn’t want to be led by anger/fear. When I did leave, I did it in peace. I knew from a loving place, it was the right thing. I have never looked back or regretted my decision. I’m grateful to him for helping me dig deep to discover the person I am meant to be.

I took a course at Eckerd College called, The Creative Process. We had an assignment called a “Mudball: Thirty-Five Days of Creativity”. For 35 days we had to commit to a creative activity. I chose to draw a picture, add a quote, and write 5 things I’m grateful for. The good times kept rolling in. My mind was clearer, my heart was fuller, and I was happy and content with my single life.

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Since the time of the assignment, I have had many blessings come my way. I may not be rich financially, but I am truly abundant in everything that matters. I have attracted so many wonderful things to my life all by focusing my energy on what I already have. I even found a relationship that was worthy of me giving up my single life.

Starting January 1, 2016, my kids and I started a gratitude jar. Every night we write about things we were grateful for that day. They write three things each, and I write 5-10. This blog was one of the positive outcomes that came from me focusing on my gratitude. I find that being in gratitude gives me more energy to focus my love and creativity in all the right places.

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Christie Marie Sheldon’s Love or Above really helped me to understand the importance of staying in the energy of love and gratitude. Her CD series did wonders for me.

See what From A Loving Place is up to on Facebook.

Get your daily dose of gratitude on Twitter @Wolffspirit9

Read how you can be apart of it all A Month of Gratitude.

I hope you will join me by investing in your best energy. Let’s spread the attitude of gratitude.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff

 

10 Positive Lessons I Learned From my Parents

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“When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don’t belong.”

-Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh p. 41

1. Life is not always a family-friendly T.V. show. I grew up in a time where all families on T.V. looked perfect. They handled problems with ease, there was no yelling, dads were around/available, and no mom ever wanted to pull every single hair out of her head. My house did NOT look like that. Chaos was our way of life. That is not to say there wasn’t good times. When my parents were still together, we had a lot of family adventures that made a positive impact on my life. As a mother, I have taken that tradition with me. Our family adventures have gotten us through some very dark times. We go on nature adventures at least every other week, if not more. I learned that no family is perfect and T.V. is edited for our entertainment.

2. Staying in a toxic relationship is NOT better for my children. When I was about 11, I remember getting in the middle of one of my parents arguments. My dad was talking to my mom like she was stupid. I couldn’t take it! I jumped in to defend my mother. My father belittled my mother often. My mom rarely stood up for herself. I have always been an outspoken person, so I did not understand why she didn’t defend herself. When I was around 12, things started to change. My mom began to find herself and her voice. The dynamic in our house changed drastically! My dad and her relationship couldn’t survive the new shift and they both moved on. What I realized much later is that a toxic relationship takes two people. It can’t be toxic if one person is healthy and the other is not. There wouldn’t be a relationship, if that was the case. That goes for all relationships, not just romantic ones.

After my parents were divorced, they both did A LOT of work on themselves. My dad found a woman who was a great fit for him. His relationship with her looked nothing like the one with my mom. He never talked to her in a disrespectful tone. She would have left him in a heartbeat. He presented himself in a whole different light. His tenderness came out and he was fun and playful. I loved going over to visit for family dinners. They were more like parties. My sister and his partner’s two daughters would have friends over and it was always a pleasure. My dad stayed in that relationship until his death, so for 21 years he had the partner that was a great fit for him and it made a huge difference.

My mom took much longer to find the man she would end up building a life with. She wasn’t bitter about it. She was happy on her own. She worked hard on herself and it was because of her that I learned that anything was possible.  I never had to be stuck where I was. When my stepdad came along, I was able to see her growth on a whole different level.

I unconsciously chose to repeat the pattern of being in a toxic relationship when I decided to get married. We set up unhealthy roles for each other and it could get very ugly. Instead of building each other up and being the strength when the other went down, we both would go down together. Logically, I knew better. I had the experience of watching two very healthy, but different relationships. Unfortunately, I hadn’t healed the little girl inside yet. I needed to live out the lesson. I stopped focusing on trying to fix him and I started working on myself. I got stronger, I  figured out and I figured out what was important to me. The dynamic changed and he was not interested in the changes. He flat out didn’t like them. I realized that I was showing our children the same pattern. I was teaching my son how to treat women and my daughter how to be treated by a man. Staying wouldn’t have been good for any of us. My kids get to see the examples of healthy relationships all around them now. They were much younger than I was when my parents divorced. I hope it makes a difference in their choices of relationships. If it doesn’t, I know it is because there is something they need to learn for themselves.

3. Lead by EXAMPLE! This step is not as simple as it may seem. I came from the, “Do as I say, not as I do” generation. My mom wanted my sister and I to be filled with the self-esteem that she never had. Unfortunately, in my early years I didn’t have an example of how a healthy self-esteem looked. I struggled with low self-esteem and self-worth most of my life. I did have an example of how to fake it, I mastered. I dabbled in the example of drinking to cover up my feelings, that did not work! I hated the way that I felt the next day. Hearing stories about what I did was not what I called fun either. I sampled the yelling and belittling your spouse example, I felt horrible and it went against everything I wanted in a relationship.

After I worked on myself enough to see how I contributed to my unhealthy relationships, I was able to follow a better example. I followed the example of both my parents’ current relationships. Now, I have a peaceful and enjoyable relationship that encourages me to always be the best me I can be. Living life this way has opened my eyes in so many ways.

My kids learn from my example EVERY day, for better or worse. Once I became aware of that fact, I can see it all over the place. When my daughter is in a grocery store, she can spot a person who needs a smile, help, or sometimes even a hug. When my son sees another child sad, he is the first one to be there for them, whether he is their friend or not. When I’m driving and an obnoxious driver puts my and their lives at risk… let’s just say, I need to work on that one a little bit. I also get impatient when I am in the middle of a project and my mind is in a million different places. I can see my kids take it out on each other when I’m struggling with my patience. Sometimes, I have silent temper tantrums and my daughter acts them out loud. The good, bad, and the ugly. I found my kids’ behaviors are a great mirror for me to look at my own.

4. The ONLY person I can change is myself. After years of watching my parents trying to change each other, then years of watching them change themselves, I saw the possibilities for a better life. I can be stubborn, so it took me a few times in the same classrooms to figure this one out. I used to love taking on people projects with the intention of changing them for the better. I’m so sorry to any of my friends or past relationships for this one. I get it now!! I do not know what the best answer is for someone else life. That is their job. If I’m asked for advice, I share from my experience, but I make it clear that a person needs to do what is best for them and only he/she has the final say on that one. We are all here learning, no one is perfect and we all have different lessons to live out in order to get us to where we are going. I wouldn’t want to wish some of my lessons on anyone, but I’m grateful for each of them.

My mom taught me that I can change myself at any moment and that it takes work. In order to change, I have to get rid of habits that don’t serve the life that I want to have. The more in-tune I am with myself, the better my life gets.

As a parent, I love being able to pass this on. It helps me so much when my kids are going through their life lessons with friends, family, and at school. Including, being apart of the new culture of education.  I do not except “I hate…”, “I can’t…”, or “It’s not me…”. I re-focus them on what they can change and how to come up with different ways to look at the situation to help them feel better about it. Does this method always work? No, I do the best I can. My goal is to plant the seed. When they are ready, it will be there.

5. Nobody can MAKE me feel anything! My mom learned this when I was 13! Do you know what that meant for how my teenage years looked? I couldn’t blame my mother for any of my feelings. That sucked! LOL. I had no idea at the time learning this would be the core of my empowerment. My feelings and actions are my own. I can choose to come at something from a loving place or a fearful place at any moment. I can even change my mind half way through, but it is my choice and my power! No one can take that away from me.

We practice this in my household daily. It can get downright comical especially when it’s me who gives another person the power over my feelings. I remember the first time my son said to me, “but Mom, I can’t make you feel anything.” He was right, as mad as I might be my anger is my choice. When I react from that place of hurt, it’s not productive for anyone. If I react from a place of love, positive change will follow.

6. Pedestals are DANGEROUS! Like most, my parents were the first people I put on pedestals. Putting them up there made them superhuman in my mind. When I got let down, they both fell. Through my life, I put all kinds of people up on those superhuman pedestals and one by one they all fell leaving me feeling lost. I’ve also watched other people put me on a pedestal and watched myself  fall so hard that I felt like death would be a better option than the disappointment that I caused somebody else. Nobody is perfect and deserves to be over another human being. We are all here to learn so it means we will all fall and get back up again a million times. I’m not better than anyone else for going through what I’ve been through, and I’m also not less than anyone else either.

I love looking at people I admire and strive to practice some of the skills they have mastered, but where they are strong in one area they may have weakness in others, just like the rest of us. I don’t expect any of the people I learn from to be perfect. I know I will get what I’m meant to get from them and then I will be off to the next lesson. I just like my internal garden to be full of seeds, that way when I need them to grow, I start doing the work to make those flowers bloom.

7. What’s right for me will not be what is right for someone else. When my parents found new partners their relationships were very different. My dad and his partner lived together for 21 years and never got married. I lovingly call her “My Other Mother”. They had a wonderful relationship and did things very differently from the way my mom and dad did. They worked and lived together. They were best friends in every way. They never spoke a harsh word to each other. They understood how to give each other their own space in a loving and productive way.

My mom and stepdad had a very fast courtship and were married within a year. They have been married for 19 years and they have a loving, romantic, and communicative relationship. Since I live with them, I get to see more than most. I have great respect for the way they communicate with each other and share their love.

These two relationships couldn’t be more different in certain ways, but they both have strong values and morals that make them work in successfully. Between these two examples, I have come to realize that it is important for me to make the choices that are best for me.  I also have learned that just because I don’t want a relationship with yelling and screaming, that doesn’t mean that it’s for me to judge relationships that like their passionate debates or fights.  Some of my friends love the making up process and that is their journey.

This doesn’t just pertain to relationships with people, it also covers career choices, educational paths, parenting methods, and overall living the life that I want to live.  The most important thing is that I’m clear about what I want and that I’m not putting my energy into the things that I don’t.

8. I AM a whole person all by myself! I learned this from my mom during her single years. She was single for about a decade after my parents got divorced. She got to the point where she had no problem being alone. If that was the life she was destined to have, she was happy with that. She wasn’t defined by anyone’s love for her. She was enjoying her journey as a single woman. She met my stepdad through a friend and their relationship bloomed quickly. Even as long as they have been together, she still has her own life too. Her self care is important to her, and he respects her space. He also has his own life and enjoys his time outside of their relationship.

My relationship looked nothing like that when I was married, and I resented it. We didn’t have a mutual respect for each other and when we did go out separately, we were both questioning what the other was doing. It was very sad. I had no idea that codependency was a large part of my problem. I was so focused on wanting him to have the best life, I stopped looking at my own. Then, I resented him for it. I was just as much responsible for setting up that dynamic as he was. When I realized my part of the responsibility, I made the necessary changes to take care of myself. After I left him, I was very happily single for about a year.

I have never had a problem being alone. I’m an extrovert with plenty of friends and family to keep me entertained for years to come. I was taking good care of myself when I started dating again, but I still had a ways to go before I was ready for a healthy relationship. I came to the point that I was 100% happy on my own, my life was not lacking in ANY way. My current relationship is the healthiest relationship I have ever been in, because I am the healthiest I have ever been. I still have plenty of room for growth opportunities, but it is so much better when there is a matching level of respect. I know that I am whole without him and that he is whole without me. We enjoy each other and everyday is an adventure.

9. Blaming others is a waste of my energy. I am who I am because of the lessons I’ve learned. There is no room for blame. My mom and dad did the best they could. I still was dealt some lessons that were painstakingly hard. I am here, I survived. Now, I have more to give because I didn’t let any of the them keep me down. I experienced what I needed to in order to be the person I am now.

Taking personal responsibility is key. I had to learn to question my part. I still struggle and I still face challenges. There is also a very fine line with taking personal responsibility and self-abusing. I used to hit myself with so many “bad me” bats that it could make a person’s head spin. It took me a long time to realize that blaming myself was just as much a waste of my energy as  blaming someone else.

I choose to follow examples of people who didn’t waste their time with blame.  We have so many powerful  figures in our history such as Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, Mother Theresa, and so many more living and dead.

10. It is not my business what other people think of me! My mom’s favorite things to say when referring to this is, “Oh well” or “whatever”. I love it now, I hated it as a teenager. She was a great example for me to NOT focus on doing things for someone else’s benefit. When I was a sales trainer, she had to talk me through many rough times when I was starting out. Eventually, I learned that some people will love me, hate me, or be indifferent to me. I will touch the lives I am meant to, in whatever way I’m meant to do it.

I have learned as much from the people who I let trigger  my anger and rage as I do from the people who I let trigger my love and compassion. Some people will love my voice and others will downright detest it. That’s ok, I will continue to live the life I do from a loving place.

Final note: Since this is a blog, I know I just grazed the surface on the lessons I learned. If you want to hear more about a particular topic, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to expand my thoughts in another blog.