My Mantra for Self Care

serenity-and-massage

I haven’t written a blog for the last 2 weeks and I try not to pressure myself to come up with one. I have been swamped with back to back events that I have planned and designed. I’m also giving more attention in helping my son improve his study habits. Although he is not officially diagnosed with ADHD, we have been going to a support group how to help him with his weaknesses. And of course, the huge part of my schedule is being present for Austria’s daily therapy and setting up play dates to improve her social skills. To top it all, I’m in the middle of coming up with a business plan! Is it exhausting? Yes!

With the roles that I have, spinning 10 plates at the same time is stressful. When my children’s needs began to be more challenging, I realized I needed to have a plan how to take care of myself too to combat and manage my ‘go, go’ lifestyle. If you are a full time mom, it is very important to care for yourself. Do not feel guilty for taking a ‘me’ time. You deserve it.

The best thing you can give to your child everyday is being a happy mom.  I have been adopting ‘S.E.L.F.’ from Kathleen Hall to keep my sanity with my crazy schedule. This always works for me because it’s easy to remember and it is not complicated!

S-erenity

Even a few minutes of meditation or listening to music can lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones, says Hall. Sit silently in a comfortable place and take deep, cleansing breaths to the count of four. I do this in between my children’s activities. On your downtown, listen to calming music or nature sounds, which are scientifically proven to reduce stress. I also listen to New Age or inspirational songs while doing my chores. I live near the beach so whenever I have time, I go and just listen to the waves or watch the sun go down and be amazed of the horizon. S is also Spirituality for me. I do my best to read a short scripture, a Psalm or Proverbs for encouragement that I need daily!

E-xercise

Endorphins from exercise are known relaxants. As adhering to a gym schedule can be tough for working moms, Hall recommends investing in a treadmill and placing it near a TV, so workouts feel fun. If you are a fulltime mom, walking or running outside your home is preferable during your weekend schedule. Or make exercise a family affair by putting up a basketball hoop or badminton net in the backyard. Since I don’t have a yard, we just go to the nearest recreational park and play ball with my kids. I do my best to walk them to school if I’m not in a hurry!

L-ove

Sharing your stress and concerns helps the mind and body relax and renew. Hall recommends keeping at least three commiserating ‘besties’ on speed dial, or meeting up with a friend or co-worker at least once a week for a healthy meal or coffee. I have 5, not 3 women in my life that I call my ’lifeline’. When I have something that bothers me and weighs me down, I know they will pick up their phones for me anytime of the day. Most of all, the best person who can give you love is your husband. At the end of the day, do your best to connect before going to bed.

F-ood

Yes, it can be your friend. Food regulates mood, sleep and health and stress, if you eat right. Don’t skimp on breakfast, says Hall. A good, protein-rich one increases metabolism and decreases hunger later on. Stave off stress with moderate portions of mood-regulating foods like those containing serotonin- boosting vitamin B6 (bananas, sweet potatoes, turkey, salmon) and omega-3s (nuts, fish and or supplements).  Since I’m vegan, I use tofu to substitute my protein intake and I eat a lot of legumes and spinach. If you are a working mom and always on the go, try to at least drink a fresh squeezed a combination of fruit and vegetables daily.

 

My New Title: Plumber

In our family I have many many roles. I am not just a wife; I am a nurturer, doctor, nurse, teacher, cab driver, cook, house keeper, homework helper, clothing washer, cheerleader, coach and disciplinarian to my 2 young children. A new role just added to my list of titles -a plumber.

My 5 year old Austria was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and has many sensory issues. At one point, she was obsessed of playing with lotion, shampoo and any liquid type of make-up. She will squeeze a tube of toothpaste until the contents are gone or mixed with other stuff.

One day while she was taking a bath, she got hold of my expensive shampoo and poured the whole contents in the bath tub. Blame it to me. I forgot to place it back at the shampoo rack dispenser after I showered.

Countless times we have said “No!” and “We don’t do that!” Thank God through the help of her therapist, she was able to gradually eliminate that behavior. Oh well, it was a very short relief.

Once she was potty trained and became independent going to the toilet, our new nightmare began. Austria became fixated of getting rolls of tissue to wipe her private part after using the toilet. She dumps the tissue paper inside the toilet bowl that causes it to clog.

We used to call a plumber a lot and oh boy, it was draining our wallet! So we researched how to unclog a toilet bowl. We experimented with dish soap and hot water method, plunger method, wire coat method, plumbing snake method, vacuum method, enzymes method and baking soda and vinegar method. We became very good at it!. And if these methods don’t do its job, we just call the plumber again!

We did our best in monitoring her when she goes potty. We make sure that she uses just enough tissue paper. I have tons of chores at home and I really don’t get to watch her most of the time. Although we trained her to ‘ask mommy’, she still finds her way to go without letting me know.

There were several incidents she clogged the bowl and the water overflowed! Thank God it was just pee!!!! I had to dry the floor and sanitized it.

The clogging of the toilet bowl stopped for a while and I kinda knew she’ll move to another fixation of some sort.  As expected, this time she started playing with the tissue paper on the sink bowl! One afternoon as i was walking through the hallway, I wondered why the carpet is soaking wet. I opened the bathroom and to my horror, the whole bathroom was under water!!! Austria clogged the sink again! So I have to go through the whole ordeal of cleaning up and vacuuming the whole area. Most of the time, Moses is not around when it happens so I do the unclogging.

I used to easily get mad, irritated, and react when those events happen. We are getting tired and frustrated. This is not acceptable! We are doing an intensive unpleasant behavior intervention with the help of her therapist and we are seeing some progress.

Just to make sure that she does not do it again, we recently placed a hook to lock the door so she does not really have a choice but to ask mommy when she feels like going. It can be challenging at times but taking care of a special needs child is a blessing and a privilege at the same time.

Becoming A ‘Parent’ To My Parent

adult helping senior in hospital

My mother was 84 years old when she passed away in March of last year. Everyone in our family mourned of her loss but at the same time was relieved that she now can finally rest in peace from her long suffering illness. We have prayed to God to extend her life, but we have also surrendered to His sovereignty; God has been in control of my mother’s life.

My parents live in the Philippines and I live in the United States with Moses and our 2 young children. We did our best to visit them every other year because they were getting old and I wanted our children to build memories with their grandparents while they are still able to walk and talk.

My mother was a strong woman but her years of smoking took its toll. In 2007, she broke her left hip and underwent  a successful hip replacement. After months of extensive physical therapy, she regained her strength and was able to walk around town again.

The following year, she broke her other right hip and a new replacement was needed for her to be able to walk again. Because her health was deteriorating, the surgeon advised to postpone the operation until her body gets stronger. After several months, her health was declining instead of getting better. She couldn’t walk at all and just relied from the assistance of her caregiver.  .

When my mother started getting seriously ill and was visiting the hospital more often, my husband and I decided to see her for a longer time in 2009.  My dad, my 2 other siblings and a caregiver were caring for her 24/7 and I wanted to personally care for her as well.

In the Philippines, there are no nursing homes for the sick and elderly. It is the immediate family who cares for them and for some who can afford it, they hire  a helper or a caregiver to assist them especially if they have full time jobs.

I love my mother dearly and i will do what it takes to make her feel she is loved and cared for. My mother did her best raising me up and made sacrifices to be a great parent to me. It is now my opportunity to serve her and my turn to be a ‘parent’ to my parent.

When I saw her again, I could feel her hopelessness. I cried seeing her physical condition. She was very frail and weak. The following days of my stay, I got to fully care for her. I prepared her food, fed her, bathe her, massaged her whole body and tucked her to bed. I read to her scriptures of hope and encouragement.

I brought home a special food blender so it’s easier for her to swallow the food. I also purchased a toilet and bath chair that is designed for elderly people which we don’t usually have in the Philippines. Because she was lying down on her bed most of the time, she developed bed sores. I had to clean them and apply the ointment every 6 hours until the flesh dried up. I could feel my mothers physical pain. I retired every night with a heavy heart and I allowed myself to cry until i fell asleep.

During my stay, I rearranged some of the furniture in her bedroom to accommodate her wheelchair so she can have easier access to everything she needed. I had our kitchen and dining room remodeled as well. It was a huge undertaking for a very short period of time but i had to do what is best for her.

Although my mother was barely talking, I could sense she was asking for help. She wanted to walk again. I asked her if she is ready to have another hip replacement and she nodded without hesitation. We went to see her doctor to check whether she is physically able to have another major operation.

After a week of testing, her surgeon said she can be operated but it is going to be risky. If she will go under the knife again, she may lose a lot of blood and may not make it. I took a deep breath and communicated clearly to my mother about the risks, that she may possibly die on the operating table.

She whispered to me “I am ready to take the risk.” I realized she was making a ‘matter of life and death’ decision because I was committed to see her get better. For her, as long as i am physically beside her, it is going to be okay. She has a deep faith in God and i knew she was praying for a successful operation but I also understood she was also drawing her strength from me.

So the date was set and we prepared for the big day. My dad was not 100% on board with my mother’s decision not because he didn’t care, he was just extremely scared of the possibility that she may not make it. I had to be the one to sign a Waiver of Responsibility. The surgeon and the hospital are not liable in any case something happens to my mother during the surgery.

On the day of her operation, I told my sister I didn’t have the courage to be at the hospital. Instead, i checked-in to a hotel and prayed overnight. I pleaded to God to help my mom’s weak body handle the operation. We were all praying for a successful surgery. He granted our prayers and praised Him for his faithfulness.

I wanted to stay longer to assist in her recovery but Moses and my two young kids are waiting for me in America. On my flight back home, I had the time to recollect my memories with my parents when i was younger. I was grateful God gave me the chance to care for my mother even for a very short time. There was peace and joy in my heart.

When did they start looking so old? You keep thinking of them being the same two people they were when you were in high school, but they’re not. One day you just looked up and your parents were older or had become ill. That’s when it hits you that you might have to take care of them, like they once have taken care of you. Now is the time to start making plans and restructuring your life in order to be able to take care of your parents.

The first thing you need to do if possible is talk with your parents to see what plans they have made for their future. No one wants to get older or sick where they can’t take care of themselves, but sometimes in life that will happen. When you realize that has happen to your parents, it’s time to talk to them about their future.

Have they provided a way for themselves to be taken care of from illness or if they have become too old to take care of themselves? Will you be totally responsible for their well being in the future? Have a family discussion about their future plans, so everyone will know where they stand.

Once the decision has been made that you will take care of them from old age or illness, you should start preparing your life for that right then. Taking care of your parents is going to be a big adjustment for you and your family.

The aging parent/child relationship cannot and must not supersede the relationship between husband and wife as first priority, as this goes against the marriage vows spoken before God and witnesses to “leave and cleave unto each other”, thereby creating needless stress and strain on the marital relationship. It is extremely important to understand the difference between caring for needs versus wants, as taking care of elderly parents can often lead adult children to become enablers of their own parents without realizing it.

Some elderly parents can be very difficult to deal with, perhaps even controlling and manipulative, in a selfish attempt to dictate the lives and activities of family members. Some may even claim they are unable to care for basic needs when in reality they are fully capable physically and mentally, but choose to expect family members to cater to their every want and whim.

Having your parents move into your house will mean changes for everyone. Once you feel they will be at an age where someone else will have to take care of them, start preparing your household now. Start putting into place right now their living arrangements, especially if they’re going to be living with you. Everyone in your household need to start adapting to this living arrangement before they actually move-in.

You might have to make changes to your household from reconstruction of your property for more space, to adapting to having extra people in your house. If possible try to have separate living quarters built for your parents so they can still have some privacy, along with you. If your parents have to go to a nursing home start looking around now for a place.

You want them to be somewhere, where you and they both can feel comfortable and it’s convenient for you to get to them. Start looking early for the right place that will meet all of their requirements. If your parents are going to live with you because of an illness, start setting up your household for whatever they might need to be comfortable through-out their illness.

If they need special equipment or a nurse, start arranging that in plenty of time and not at the last minute before they have to move-in. Having an area set-up with the right equipment for all of their medical needs will make their stay more comfortable and healthy.

Changes like that to your household don’t need to happen overnight, you and your family need time to prepare mentally and physically for these changes. Planning ahead for this is the best way for everyone to deal with this change that will affect everyone’s life. When the realization finally does happen that your parents can’t take care of themselves anymore, this will be hard for the both of you.

Watching my parents turn older or becoming ill is one of the hardest things I have to go through. In my eyes I want to always see my parents, young, active and alert, unfortunately that won’t happen. As time go on our parents will get older or sick with something and need us more than ever. That’s the one thing all of us want to do is to provide for the people we love, when they can’t provide for themselves.

Taking care of your parents will make you feel good and if you have children, it will be a good example for them. Who knows, one day they just might have to take care of you.

To the woman and child who sat at Table 9

motherdaughter

To the woman and child who sat at Table 9,

I did not introduce myself to you. My name is Tony Posnanski. I have been a restaurant manager for 15 years now. My day consists of making sure my restaurant runs well. That could mean washing dishes, cooking and sometimes even serving tables. I have also dealt with every guest complaint you can imagine.

A few weeks back you came into my restaurant. I was very busy that night. I was running around helping the kitchen cook food. I was asked to talk to a table close to yours. I did and they said your child was being very loud. I heard some yelling while I was talking to that table. I heard a very loud beep from a young girl.

I started to walk to your table. You knew what I was going to ask. You saw the table I just spoke to pointing at you. I got to your table and you looked at me. You wanted the first word. You said…

“Do you know what it is like to have a child with autism?”

You were not rude when you asked the question. In fact, you were quite sincere. Your daughter could not have been more than 5 years old. She was beautiful and looked scared that I was at the table. She looked like she thought she was in trouble.

In 15 years I do not have a lot of memorable moments as a restaurant manager. I remember some guests who were mad that their burgers were not the way they wanted them. I remember a woman who called corporate on me because she said I gave her a regular Coke instead of a Diet Coke. I remember having to cut people off from drinking alcohol and I remember having to tell tables to have their child be quieter.

However, I do remember everything about the day my son was born. How I cried when I heard him cry. How I stood there and told him I would do anything for him and be the best father possible. I remember the day I married my wife. How I cried and promised to be the best husband possible. I remember the day my daughter was born. I did not cry that day. I was just so relieved because I lost a child two years earlier.

I know what I was supposed to say when I went to your table. I was supposed to politely tell you to please not have your daughter yell. I was supposed to offer to move you to another area. I was supposed to offend you by not offending you…

I did not do any of that.

Instead I just told you I hoped your meal was awesome. I high-fived your daughter and then I told you that your meal was on us tonight. It was only $16. It meant more to me than that. I do not think the other guests I spoke to were happy about it. At that moment it did not matter to me.

I do not know how you reacted. I had to leave to go cook because the kitchen was not doing very well that night. When the server asked me why I bought the food I just said you did not enjoy your steak. I did not tell anyone what you said to me. I was thankful you did say it to me, though.

You asked me a question that I did not answer. The truth is I do not know what it is like to have a child with autism. I know what it is like to be a father. I know what it is like to be a husband. I know what it is like to not tell your wife how much you love her enough. I know what it is like to want to spend more time with your children.

You asked me the question right away. You have been through this before in other restaurants. I did not want to be like other managers for one moment. I did not want to tell you what you always heard.

Honestly, I wrote this to you and your beautiful daughter because I wanted to thank you both.

You have given me a great restaurant memory. One that I needed for the last 15 years.

You also taught me a valuable lesson…

Sometimes doing the right thing does not make everyone happy — just the people who need it the most.

Sincerely,

Tony Posnanski

This post originally appeared on The Anti-Jared.

Our Journey to Financial Peace

My husband Moses and I are busy again, but it’s a fulfilling busyness though. We are coordinating our 4th class and the first one for the New Year from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. You might ask, what’s our credentials to facilitate a financial class? None. But let me tell you about our journey and why we ended up facilitating a financial class.

In 2009, our friends in Florida who own a clothing company hired me to design their new office. So they flew me to Orlando, FL for a 3 day work excursion and when I arrived, I was so impressed as to how they progressed in their lives. On top of owning a thriving business, a 5 bedroom house, the latest BMW and Mercedes Benz and travelling around the world, I couldn’t deny the fact that I was envious. Then something caught my eye on their coffee table called Dave Ramsey’s ‘The Total Money Makeover. My friends who are Bible believers shared that although they are set up financially, they really don’t know the Godly ways of handling their money. I was inspired. She gave me the book for me to read and encouraged me to register for the Financial Peace University class.

fpu logo

I came back to LA and to my shame I never opened the book for awhile. Fast forward to 2012, Moses and I were struggling with our finances that was affecting our marriage. We didn’t know what we were doing. We fell into the bracket of debt-filled, ‘hopeIess’ Christians trying to survive from paycheck to paycheck. I woke up one day and was having extreme anxiety, I couldn’t breathe. I was anxious of not having enough savings, college funds, funds for Austria’s autism special programs, a retirement fund and a decent life insurance just in case one of us pass away. That same year, Moses was in and out of the hospital due to gallstones and swollen gallbladder and medical bills were piling up.

Being bipolar didn’t help because my anxiety was magnified 10 times more and I became resentful of my life and my marriage. Obviously, my faith in the sovereignty of God was out the door. I reacted to my emotions and did more stupid things that made our situation worst and hurt our marriage more. Deep inside, I was crying out to God for help. I was familiar with this feeling of hopelessness that I experienced in my 20′s when I thought of committing suicide before I knew about God’s salvation. He was just waiting for me to be still and trust that he is looking out for our needs. God was waiting for that moment of humility from us. We needed to be humble in asking for help because his answers to all our financial miseries and insecurities are all in the bible.

After all this, I remembered the book my friend gave me about Dave Ramsey. I pulled it out from my bookshelf and read it. I searched more about ‘handling money God’s ways’ in his website which led me to discover the Financial peace classes. I told Moses we need to register for this class and shared with him the hope that I have for our struggling marriage.

I remember on our way to our first class, we had an argument. I felt like I was more enthusiastic than him and i was just dragging him to this class. I cried with frustration, my eyes were red and puffy coming to the class. I did however consider the fact that he didn’t have the proper knowledge to deal with our finances and was overwhelmed as to how to lead our family financially.

During the class, I was praying, hoping that this endeavor would provide direction and enlightenment for us. Again, God was gracious for answering my prayers. After watching the first video, we looked at each other with mixed emotions. We were stunned, convicted, encouraged, enlightened and empowered. We took a deep breath, held each other’s hand, we hugged and since then there was no turning back. We were committing ourselves to a path of handling money God’s way.

“One definition of maturity is learning to delay pleasure. Children do what feels good; adults devise a plan and follow it. “                                           –Dave Ramsey

The next 13 weeks was a true journey. We laughed, we cried, we argued and we became unified. It challenged us to take personal responsibility, it corrected our character of being undisciplined, it showed us practical ways as to how to save, invest, set up our kids’ college fund, build wealth and secure our retirement. We fully embraced all the biblical, practical and relevant pieces of advice in the class. We tackled our debts with full intensity and saved tremendously. We ended up in better shape than we ever thought possible. There was a bit of regret, we wished we have known this earlier in our single years before getting married. :) The decision to do “FPU” helped increase our faith that God is taking care of our needs. But the most rewarding part of the class is capturing God’s heart of giving.

We felt refreshed going through the life saving series of classes. We were truly grateful that God showed us His answers of having true financial peace. Because of this experience, we were compelled and excited to share this with our friends. It’s like having that feeling of redemption when God forgave us of our sins. We realized a lot of our friends and members in our church who were also drowning in debt, struggling with giving or not even giving at all to church. On top of that, a number of them have marriage problems because of finances. So we made a decision, that we will share this to our friends and that we will not be defined by other people and by societies definition of what we have or don’t have in lives.

So if you ask, do we have financial peace now? Yes. Not that we have a million in the bank, a fully paid house or a diversified portfolio, but we have peace because we have a direction, a blue print as to how to get there. And for some who are already there, I believe that no matter how much money you have, you will still need to learn how to handle God’s money and how to give it away. :)

      “A good man (and woman) leaves an inheritance to his children’s children..” Proverbs 13:22

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