31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 31: How’d You Do?

It’s been 31 Days! How did you do?  I’d love to hear from you! What was your favorite day … what should I think about adding?

Teresa-21Thanks for joining me on this 31-day adventure! If you made it all the way to the end, post a note in the comments. If you comment before September 1, 2017, I’ll send you a free copy of my Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta … a little inspiration to destress during the days leading up to Christmas!

God bless you,


31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 20: Practice Patience

shadowOne of the fun surprises of middle age, I’ve discovered, is the body’s newfound ability to wake up in the middle of the night, mind whirring like a video on fast-forward, alert and ready to … well, in most cases, ready to pee. But then alert and ready to start the day. At 4:00. Dang.

Months ago, I thought the nighttime insomnia was because of all the stress in my life, caused by the ordeal my family was going through (plus the on-the-job stress I was feeling at the time). Now, I realize it’s just part of the journey, so I’ve learned … to practice patience, and take advantage of it. So I’m typing instead of staring up at the ceiling, silently cursing the Sandman. Practicing patience. (Nice segue, Heidi.)

This morning I woke up with a line from the “shepherd’s psalm” (Psalm 23) spinning through my head: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”

Have you ever noticed that the psalmist didn’t RUN through that valley? Not even a quick-step. He walked. So often when we find ourselves in crisis, the temptation is to get through it as quickly as possible, which (truth be told) can greatly add to the stress.

Some experiences are more of a marathon than a sprint. When we find ourselves having to transom some dark valley, pushing ourselves to get through it quickly is likely to backfire, whether that particular valley is cancer, divorce, or … yes, even grief. But if we take the time to look around and to tend gently to the needs of those we love (including ourselves), it will take less out of us in the long run. No matter how much we need to practice patience with other people, the most important person to be patient with … is ourselves.

Have you had to “walk” a valley recently? How did you “practice patience” with yourself and those closest to you?


31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 9: Decide to Laugh

Today we turn to “The Bloggess” for a much-needed dose of relationship humor. (Warning: Contains some PG-13 language.)

Who knew that the fifteenth anniversary gift was “Big Metal Chicken”?

big metal chicken

Here’s one for all you good Catholic moms out there.

OK, now put down your computer and head out for the day just looking for something to make you laugh!

Perhaps an “America’s Funniest Outfit” contest?

Sarah 2005

What’s the funniest thing you’ve read online recently? Share the link below.


31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 8: Choose Contentment

sarah 2006One of the best things about being a blogger is being able to go back several years and read with a degree of amused detachment what my life was like … oh, about seven years ago.

School starts up again next week, and not a moment too soon. Take today, for instance. I spent the morning with Sarah, scrubbing toothpaste off the carpet and walls (don’t ask). Shortly after lunch, I was loading the dishwasher when a commotion started in the bathroom. Someone had decided to see how far a glass of water would spread on the bathroom floor. To make the game a little more fun, they added a liberal dash of red food coloring to the cup. Then they frantically emptied the dryer (whites, of course) to cover up the mess.

Long story short, everything we own is now pink.

Clearly, the kids needed a little physical activity, so we went outside for a quick dip in the pool. Sarah began to shiver, so when they were both safely out of the pool I ran to get a large towel … and stepped on an inch-long piece of glass. Someone had dropped my candy thermometer, and decided not to tell me about it. I lifted the offended foot to assess the damage … and promptly injured the other foot on another shard.

That did it. After bleeding all over the house on my way to find a suitable bandage, I picked up the phone and called my darling husband, the one person in the world I can always count on for kindness and concern. His response to my request that he come home ASAP? “Gee, honey. Urgent care is a bit expensive … do you think you can hold out until tomorrow, and see your regular doctor for the tetanus shot?”

Yes, folks, I’m ready to turn in my “Mom” badge.

Okay, Heidi. Breathe. That’s what I want to tell the old me. Just wait … you will have bigger messes to clean up, and if you lose your sense of humor now, you won’t have it when you really need it. Now, go bandage up your foot and make another dino jungle on “Painter” with your artistically inclined five-year-old. You’ll be glad you did.

In one of my all-time favorite books, Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone Days, the author observes, “Some luck lies not in getting what you thought you wanted, but in wanting what you have. Which, if you are smart enough, you will discover it is what you would have wanted all along, if you had only known.”

Contentment is the half-sibling of her cheery sister thankfulness. On the bleakest days, when “thankful” is too much to muster, “contentment” can be more manageable — in any circumstances. Hands open, rather than clenched.

Try this little exercise the next time you feel you’re losing equilibrium — such as when your little darling dumps the red sock in the whites. Gently place your hands on his face, cupping his cheeks in your hands (again, gently), and say quietly, “It won’t always be like this. What are you trying to teach me here, God? I choose in this moment to look for you.”

31 Days to De-Stessed Living, Day 7: Be Thankful

vegetable lasagneWhen was the last time you were thankful for the body God gave you? Now that I’m staring fifty squarely in the path ahead, I can see the wisdom of teen fiction author Melody Carlson, who laments:

Instead of thanking God for my two strong legs that are able to run and jump and climb, I whined about my ‘thunder thighs’ and ‘thick’ ankles. Instead of rejoicing that I have two capable arms that can lift and carry and balance my body, I complained about the flab that hung beneath them.

I have been totally and unbelievably ungrateful for everything. Like a completely spoiled brat, I took my healthy body for granted. I criticized it and despised it. With crystal clarity, I know that I do not deserve the good health that God has mysteriously blessed me with. Not only have I been unappreciative of my body and its amazing working parts, I tortured it by over-exercising, and I put my entire health at serious risk by starving myself.

What on earth was wrong with me? As I watch these kids with their less-than-perfect bodies, I feel so thoroughly ashamed of myself. I mean, how could I have been so stupid and shallow and self-centered?

Melody Carlson in Faded Denim: Color Me Trapped

Okay, so if the truth were known, I tend toward the opposite end of the “starve myself and over-exercise” spectrum. Stress eating and vegging in front of the television at night, when I’m feeling depleted from the day (with a Supersized glass of wine for good measure) is one of my guiltiest pleasures. (Especially when I watch the physically-fit au pair head to the basement for a session with the treadmill.)

So starting today, I choose thankfulness. Thank you, God, for my strong body and active mind. Thank you even for the flab and puckers, the treadmarks of the soul that remind me of the goodness you have poured into my life every single day. Amen.

Photo: “Veggie Lasagna,” which I make for our vegetarian au pair. This year I’ve eaten more vegetables, thanks to her, than in the previous fifty years of my life. Sadly, this does not impress the love handles, who stay firmly entrenched.

31 Days to De-Stressed Living: Day 5 – Celebrate Your Friendships

Image Almost every December on the third Sunday of Advent, I take out this special cake plate and make my family’s favorite chocolate pound cake. It’s time for Rose Sunday Tea (find the recipe here). Friends gather to sip tea laced with brandy, eat cake, and catch up with one another’s lives . . . and for a few hours, all the Christmas craziness melts away, leaving us de-stressed and ready to face life again.

Like most working moms, I find it tough to fit in everything I need to do to get ready for Christmas, and even this year I had to postpone this ritual a few weeks when a snowstorm extended a business trip unexpectedly. But the Downton Abbey premiere presents the perfect opportunity for a “do-over,” and my former Ascension colleagues have assured me that they are on their way. So today, I am baking.

As much as I love my husband (and children) — and I do — I’ve learned that I have more to offer them when I don’t lean on him too heavily. It simply isn’t fair to expect one person in your life to meet your every need. That’s what girlfriends are for. They have experienced the same milestones and many of the same challenges, and can usually add some much-needed perspective, as well as a few laughs.

Of course, having moved so many times over the years, many of the women I’ve come to love and admire most don’t live close enough to come for tea, so necessity becomes the mother of invention. I drive a few extra hours on business trips, send comfort boxes, and wine-and-Skype when I really need a fix.

What do you do, to get the time you need with your “girls”?

31 Days to De-stressed Living: Days 1-4

I’ve hNaBloPoMo_011614_465x287_pressure_1eard that it takes 30 days to make a habit. Thirty days of doing the same thing, every day (or, if you’re trying to kick a habit, thirty days of not doing something).

It’s like Lent, but shorter.

My blogging theme for January, thanks to BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo, will be “Stress” (whenever I’m not writing about books or road trips). No sweat — I’m an expert on stress. But then, who wants to read someone rant about all the stressors in her life for an extended period of time?

monster momNobody, that’s who. And so …

January will be about 30 ways to BEAT the stressors in your life. A kind of 30 day challenge. (Feel free to chime in.)

And so, it being January 4th and all, without further ado I give you FOUR of my favorite ways to combat stress. Ready?

January 1: Restoring order. Having been on the road for 10 days, I could feel the stress coming out my ears. So, I started unpacking. Sent the boys into the basement to work on laundry. Daughter up the stairs to put away toiletries. Me, I tackled the kitchen, where I could sneak a truffle and pour myself a glass of wine. Then I went to bed with a migraine. (Okay, these home remedies don’t always work.) But the next day, I felt MUCH better!

January 2: Don’t pressure others, either. One of my children has reached the “moody” stage that is part-and-parcel of adolescent angst. The other day I discovered that sometimes, if I don’t bug them relentlessly about why they are moody, the kind of self-adjust. Good to know.

January 3: Cook something special. When we married, I promised my husband that if he watched only two football games a year, I would make sure he celebrated in style. This year I made crab-stuffed mushrooms, fried calamari, and sausage squares (sausage and peppers stuffed in little wonton wrappers). Then key lime pie. Beer for him, something fruity for me. Yum.

January 4: Arrange to see a friend. Tomorrow I’m going to celebrate “Rose Sunday” a little late. In honor of the “Downton Abbey” premiere, I’m having tea with a few friends from Ascension Press (my former workplace). Just the thought of a little girl time … It’s positively relaxing!

What do YOU do to de-stress?