The Bitter-Sweetness of Launching My Daughter

Anyone who has been following my writing/life over the past several years knows that I have written a lot about my first born and the difficulties I had in letting her go, especially when she left for college. Well, thankfully after nearly putting Kleenex out of business, I found my groove, and two years later sent her younger brother off to college as well (nope, not easier the second time). Fast forward another lighting-fast two years, and she graduated from college and embarked upon her new "grown up" life, which in her case involved moving to the Big Apple. More Kleenex, please?

Since Sophie and I are both writers, we oftentimes mark our own big life transitions with a piece of writing in the form of a journal entry, a blog post or an article written with the intention of submitting it for publication.

And here’s where the mother-daughter-writer-connection thing gets interesting.

On the evening of July 10th, Sophie sends me an email telling me that she has written a piece about her moving to New York and she wants to submit it for publication. I stare at the email in disbelief as just that morning, I had submitted a post to Grown and Flown about…you guessed it…Sophie leaving for New York.

Okay, now I understand that it is not that ironic that we both chose to write about the the fact that she moved to New York after graduation. But if you have a chance to read both pieces, you will see that even though her decision to move to New York and her actual move was a process that happened over many months, in both of our posts, we each chose to zero in on the the exact same moment within this process.

I won’t give anymore away but as my husband explains: you will be looking at both sides of the coin.

Click here to read my piece on Sophie flying the coop.

Click here to read Sophie's piece on flying the coop.

As always, would love to hear your thoughts!

Finding Meaning in May Madness

Finding Meaning in May Madness

Five years ago I wrote a blog post discussing what I call “May Madness,” which I am fairly certain most parents with school-age kids can relate to right now. Here is how I defined this “magical” month when the school year winds down and spring catapults us toward summer...

Why I Am Grateful For Slime

 Slime by Jo

Slime by Jo

Let’s check over here,” I motion to my 12-year-old daughter to follow me to the cosmetics isle. This is our fourth trip to Target in the last few weeks for the sole purpose of buying supplies for the new obsession gripping tweens all over the country—SLIME.

The current desired ingredient is a new one. “Baby powder is supposed to make the slime softer and less sticky,” my daughter, now an expert slime chemist, explains to me.  She also assures me that she will be able to pay back the money we’ve spent on supplies with the money she collects from her fellow classmates (most of whom are also in the slime manufacturing and sales business) in exchange for her magnificently mastered mixture of shaving cream, glue, contact solution, and now baby powder.

Shampoo, body wash, lotions…I am not seeing the baby powder anywhere. My agitation rises as I curse myself for being sweet talked into this inconvenient trek to Target on a night when my son needs help with an assignment, my husband is at a work dinner, and I have to teach my teen writing class in an hour.  I calm myself with the notion that at least this obsession, unlike other bygones like silly bands, does involve a creative process when mixing, measuring, and experimenting to form the germ-collecting balls of goo.

“Hi!” I find myself almost yelling to the young, exhausted-looking woman standing behind the nearby pharmacy counter.  “Can you please tell me where the baby powder is?”

Before I even let the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me-lady look on her face throw me into a shame pit, I grabbed my daughter’s hand and led her briskly out of the pharmacy area murmuring, “Oh my gosh, never mind.”

We both erupted in giggles as we headed over to the “baby” isle for the elusive “baby” powder.

My internal Target compass paused as we pass the girls section, our usual go-to area. “The baby section is over by electronics, I am pretty sure,” I muttered, still smiling at the irony.

And then it hit me.

The baby aisle had completely fallen off of my radar.

I could not recall the last time I had even gone near the avenue of pacifiers, diaper genies, bottles and diapers. As I walked toward baby land with my baby, disguised as a 12-year-old, I realized that I no longer knew the layout of this section that for decades I was able to navigate with my eyes closed. I didn’t even recognize some of the items on the shelf.

How could this be? This was MY territory! And now, I had forgotten it even existed!

“Mom, here, I found it,” my daughter’s sweet voice lulled me out of my trance. “Let’s go! You’ve got to get to your class,” she reminded me.

I stood motionless, my eyes scanning the baby items stacked neatly on the shelves. “I miss this, “ I said. She tracked my gaze to the shelf full of diapers.

“You miss changing my diapers,” she said coyly with a playful smile on her face.

“No I miss my babies,” I told her with sincerity, ignoring her sarcasm. I miss holding you in my arms, your baby smell, and hugging you and kissing you as much as I want to.”

“Well, I don’t,” she quipped again, her smile growing even bigger. “Ugh!” I groaned and grabbed my belly in reaction to her verbal gut-punch.

Walking to the check out lane, I leaned in to the nostalgia where I saw the baby faces of my four children--their beaming smiles as well as their looks of terror and disappointment. I could hear their shrieks of laughter and their blood curdling cries. I remembered my feelings of joy, agony, exhaustion, uncertainly, and fear that consumed me as a young mom trying to figure out what I was doing. And I remember yearning for the days when I would no longer need anything from the baby isle.

“Beep,” the self-checkout scanner hit the barcode on the bottom of the baby powder cuing me back to the present. My daughter placed the powder in the white plastic bag and started toward the exit.

“Jo, hold up,” I said as I quickly caught up to her and enveloped her in a hug. “You’ve grown up so fast, girl,” I said in earnest. “I love you so much.”

As I prepared for her to immediately shake me off, per usual, instead I felt her body sinking into my hug. “I love you too, mom,” she said softly. “And thanks for taking me to get the baby powder,” she added.

Scurrying through the Minnesota cold toward our car, I felt grateful that our slime mission led me back to the baby isle and for all the memories that I found there. I realized that just like slime, the passage of time often slips through our hands when we are not looking. And without notice, we open our eyes and find ourselves in the next isle at Target.

Driving home, I take in that my youngest child is on the cusp of becoming a teenager but in this moment, she thinks of nothing other than how much baby powder she will add to her slime mixture.

And I am grateful.

Grateful for all of the memories of my children's baby years, and grateful for the fact that there is nowhere I would rather be than right here right now.

Slime and all.

 

 

 

Staying Calm this Holiday Season With Gratitude, Connection, and Nostalgia

Staying Calm this Holiday Season With Gratitude, Connection, and Nostalgia

Yes, I am feeling it. The intensity of the holiday season is in the air and it is nearly impossible to escape the droplets of frenetic energy that invisibly dissolve into our pores this time of year.

For me, I notice that my thinking gets more scattered, I have a hard time writing, and a slight heaviness sets in as early darkness shortens our days, and it is so damn cold outside.

But the blessings…oh the blessings. So many of them.  It is the deep gratitude I feel for these blessings that help me embrace the intense beauty and fragility of life and the increasing awareness of the passage of time. This week, I enter a new decade of life...

Will You Please "Like" & "Follow" Me? My Love/Hate Relationship With Social Media

Will You Please "Like" & "Follow" Me? My Love/Hate Relationship With Social Media

Truth: I feel really uncomfortable asking for your social media support because I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it myself. I go from feeling like it is the most incredible thing in the world and wonder how I ever lived without it, to being quite certain that it is the biggest, most obscene popularity contest that ever existed. 

Old Habits Are Hard to Break! Why We Sabotage our Self-Care

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Upon my return from visiting my daughter two weeks ago, I came down with a case of “the crud,” which started with the swallowing razor blades feeling in my throat, then moved into my head with a pounding, ferocious headache, then moved into a seemingly never-ending flow of that grossness that clogged my sinuses and rattled in my chest.

Okay, I will stop there and promise you that the purpose of this post is not to complain about my nasty sinus infection. Not at all. In fact, I have absolutely nothing to complain about right now as I sit poolside looking at the Sea of Cortez with six girlfriends for a special birthday celebration. I am all good.

But in looking back on these the past two weeks, one of which my husband was working in London and India, I noticed a few revealing aspects about myself that clearly illustrate how self-care is a value that is developed early on, and the patterns of behavior that we form around these values are very tough to break.

Here's what these "old" patterns looked like for me: During the time I was battling a nasty cold and my husband I did the following: I said no to offers of help when I actually needed to say yes. I said yes to meetings and other commitments that could have waited. I did things for my children that they could have done for themselves. I stayed up late at night to work instead of going to sleep early. I told people I felt fine when I didn’t. And all these actions most likely doubled the amount of time I was sick.

Why did I do this? Why do we push through our self-care needs when we know better? Because I did not want to stop, or even slow down. I didn’t want to listen to my body’s signals that it needed a rest; that maybe the stress of Soph’s accident, and the sleepless nights I spent worrying about her, and the impromptu trip to see her had weakened my immune system.

I didn’t want to admit to anyone or myself that I couldn’t do it all; that I was "weak.". I didn’t want to let anyone down.

Except that I did. I let myself down. And spent two weeks feeling crappy, which led to this: I snapped at my kids, and my husband when he arrived back home. My mind was foggy, which caused me to move at a much slower pace. I was late to my son’s doctor’s appointment that had been scheduled for three months. I banged on the steering wheel and maybe dropped a few f-bombs after being caught  in rush hour traffic for 45 minutes because I didn't leave on time and upon finally arriving at the clinic, we were told that the doctor could not see us for another hour, which was the exact time I had to pick up my daughter’s soccer carpool. I looked at the nurse flabbergasted and started to cry, my son watching me in dismay, still recovering from my meltdown in the car, as the nurse tried to apologize. What she didn’t realize is that my tears were not because I was upset with her.

I was upset with myself that my not taking care of myself was causing a negative ripple effect on those I love.

And it does. And yet, we still tell ourselves that we “don’t have time” to time to heal from or even deal with illnesses—physical or mental. We don’t have time to deal with dysfunction in our relationships our partners, our kids, our friends, or ourselves.  We don't have time to exercise or to eat well, or to get enough sleep. There is too much to be done. We gotta keep plowing through. We gotta be "strong" and just keep it together.

But the real work of self-care is to challenge those thoughts, which most of us battle periodically throughout our lives. Those internal (and sometimes external) messages that pull us away from our innate need to care for ourselves are not based in kindness or love.  In fact, those messages actually steals pieces of our joy, health, happiness, self-worth, and self-esteem. They need to be overpowered with the following messages:

We are born to be happy and to feel good. Everyone has a right to want that and to strive for that. When we do honor ourselves and are honest about how we really feel and what we really need, we give ourselves a fighting chance! We increase our level of happiness and the quality of our lives, our relationships, and our overall well-being and the well-being of those around us.

Which brings me to the present moment where I am incredibly grateful to be feeling good again, and for the fact that for the next three days, I get to focus on friends, fun, and decompressing. And while I am well aware that this kind of get-away does wonders for my physical and emotional well-being, we all need to be mindful of how we take care of ourselves amidst the stress and pressures of our every day lives.

So, I will make you a deal: I promise to send you some relaxing Mexican vibes this weekend if you promise that you will do something for yourself that you know you need but you just "don't have time for."

Deal? I would love to hear what you decide to do to honor yourself!  

Self-Care Doesn't Get Old—A Letter of Gratitude

Self-Care Doesn't Get Old—A Letter of Gratitude

Dear Julie,

I just finished reading your book The Self-Care Solution generously given to me by your mother-in-law.

You shared with the world the challenges you experienced not just as a mom but as a person trying to be the best you can be in an imperfect world.

Your suggestions for “self care” are reminders of how we can all be better advocates for ourselves and those we love.

Needing Mom—Then and Now

Needing Mom—Then and Now

To be a mom is to continually manage the fierce mama bear feelings that make us want to sprint to our child’s rescue, kiss away their tears, and band-aid away their pain. How do we know when to act on this instinct? And when to push our internal pause button in order to and give them the space they need to pick themselves back up when they fall and as they get older, lean into other support systems they’ve developed.

We don’t always know. But our hearts will guide us if we really listen.

What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid? Here's What I Did

What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid? Here's What I Did

Part of my journey in writing and publishing The Self-Care Solution has been to continually push myself through my comfort zone and move fear out of my way. Speaking to a group of people at the Twin Cities Jewish Book Series was scary for me, and yet I took a deep breath and did it.

Reframing Self-Care with a Full House, Full Mind, and Full Heart

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“It must be so amaaaazing having all four of your kids under one roof again,” is the question of the month since my oldest son arrived home from his freshman year in college, and oldest daughter breezed in from her five-month college junior “study” (or is it "touring"?) abroad program.

“Oh yesssss,” I concur. “It is just the BEST!”

And I am telling the truth. Mostly.

It goes without saying that I love my family unit.  I love the feeling of completeness I feel when the six of us are together. Seeing my four kids interact with one another can be downright heart-melting (and yes, the teasing can be mortifying). But I love how the six of us fit together—each family member with his or her own distinct personality set within the building blocks of our ever-evolving family unit.

While I try to bask in the euphoria of family wholeness, it is only a matter of time before the challenges I encountered while mothering all four kids in my home for ten years inevitably find a way to bubble to the surface again, and I can see very clearly that there is indeed a time when adult children need to fly the coop.

Not only are there more dishes in the sink, crumbs on the kitchen counter, clothes in the washer and dryer, wet towels on bedroom floors, shoes sprawled all over the mudroom, various items of clothing and shoes missing from my closet (usually my favorite ones that I was planning to wear as I realize they have "disappeared"), cars rolling in and out of our driveway at any given hour, teenagers and 20-somethings eating every morsel of available food in the fridge, freezer, and pantry, texts sent to me at any time of the day or night including the hours between midnight and 5 a.m.) begrudgingly alerting me of my college kids’ whereabouts (“Mom, you don’t know where I am when I am at college! Why do you need me to tell you now? Don’t you trust me?”) Oh, and did I mention the arguing and the YELLING? Well, there is much more of those too!

So, in the flurry trying to manage my family of six, my writing and teaching work, and launching a new book, I am reminded of what prompted me to write The Self-Care Solution in the first place.

Self-care is so damn hard!

Part of my self-care journey over the past few years was to let go of my two older kids in a healthy way, which was far from easy for me, and to reestablish my life with the younger two at home. It took a lot of time, soul searching, and hard work for me to do this. But by using the physical, emotional, and relational self-care tools outlined in the book, I stayed true to myself, set appropriate boundaries, and advocated for my need to work and create, I did it. And lo and behold, I was finally able to accomplish what I had set out to do decades earlier—finish my book on self-care and  continue to practice what I preach. 

But what I have realized over these past several hectic weeks is that our self-care work as moms is never done, and we will be challenged over and over again to hang onto our sense of self while mothering our children.

Having all four kids home triggered some old stuff for me. Negative patterns of thinking and acting popped up. I found myself worrying about and micro-managing my kids far more than necessary—trying in vain to find some control amidst the inevitable chaos and discomfort of this transitional time. I have found myself frustrated that I am not writing enough, or practicing yoga or meditating the way I need to be.

And then I remember. These are my continual self-care work-ons, and it is indeed a marathon not a sprint. I remind myself we all have our own work-ons and triggers that threaten to throw us moms off center. But there are three things that remain constant for all of us:

1.    Someone will always need us.

2.    No one is going to hand over the time and space

we need to take care of ourselves.

3.    We need to be intentional about caring for ourselves

or we are not able to take care of our family the way we want to.

 

So, in trying to embrace this short period of time when all my kids are back in the nest (my oldest leaves for an out-of-state internship on Friday), instead of thinking about all the ways I am "failing" at self-care, I realized that I am forgetting one huge component of self-care—self-compassion.

My self-care may look and feel a little different right now, and that is okay. I need to embrace what is good—the wonderful walk I took with my cousin Joy this Memorial weekend; dancing during the fun (albeit excruciating) Kayla work-outs that my oldest daughter led me through; watching my two daughters, 10 years apart, giggle like best friends; the warm hugs I receive regulary from both of my sons, and the gratitude I felt in spending time with my husband, friends, and family over the long weekend. 

Sometimes self-care can be simply a matter of reframing. Letting go of what we think self-care “should” be, releasing ourselves from expectations and the frustrations of what is not, and opening ourselves up to the joy and the beauty of what is.

During this busy time of transitioning from spring to summer, when school is ending, graduations are occurring, college kids are coming home, soccer, lacrosse, and baseball are in full swing, and the to-do lists threaten to overpower us every day, can you carve out five minutes a day, even in your car, to find compassion for yourself, to say something nice to yourself, to tell yourself you are doing the best you can, and that you are indeed good enough? Can you breathe deeply, taking it all in, and then letting it all go?

Yes you can.

This is the real work of self-care.

 

Celebrate the Self-Care Solution and Reboot Your Commitment to Self-Care this Mother’s Day!

  Julie Preparing For Mother's Day Circa 1970

Julie Preparing For Mother's Day Circa 1970

As most of you know, The Self-Care Solution is finally here! I am overjoyed to be able to share this book with you and want to let you know that without your ongoing support and encouragement of me and this project, this book would not exist. All of your large or seemingly small votes of confidence; your willingness to take my surveys or answer my never-ending questions about motherhood gave me the boosts and the wonderful insights I needed to turn this dream into a reality! So, THANK YOU! With my whole heart! 

Now that my dream of publishing The Self-Care Solution has been realized, I have another big goal (of course)! I would like to get The Self-Care Solution into the hands and hearts of as many moms as possible! The motivation for this goal stems from my belief that and that even the smallest of steps toward internal and external self-care, that are outlined in the book, can ignite the self-love and self-acceptance that every mom needs to raise strong, compassionate, and grateful children who show kindness and acceptance toward themselves and all others. In other words: healthy moms, healthy society (thank you Erin Newkirk!). And this is no small task!

"You [mom] are the foundation of the family and a pillar of strength for your children, even when you don’t feel that strong. And you have a big job to do. As Judith Viorst (author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) asserts, women are the managers of the family, which includes being the manager of their children and, oftentimes, of the relationship with their partners. The only way moms can uphold their managerial positions with strength and compassion is to continue to cultivate those traits within themselves, and doing so requires an ongoing, never-give-up commitment to self-care." The Self-Care Solution  

I am thrilled that The Self-Care Solution and its messages are being covered by some wonderful local and national media (thank you for your help, Wendy Khabie!). But there is still more work to do!  I invite you to continue on this journey with me to empower as many moms as possible to find their self-care!

"Motherhood in this day and age is already crammed full of to-do’s; how can women realistically incorporate self-care into their lives? Most of them don’t even know where to begin. Julie Burton shows us where to start, and how to maintain an ongoing self-care practice in this much-needed, motivational book. Julie’s balance of honesty, vulnerability, and practical advice found in The Self-Care Solution will profoundly impact the way mothers care for themselves as they care for their families."—Stephanie Sprenger & Jessica Smock, founders of The HerStories Project, editors of Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience.

NOW LET'S CELEBRATE!

If you live in the Twin Cities, grab a friend, your mom, sister, or co-worker and stop by one (or a few…there will be treats) of the launch events listed below! You can pick up a few Mother’s Day gifts, support local stores and bookstores, and connect with other women (and hopefully a few men) in the community! And even if you have already bought the book (thank you so much!), come anyway! I would love to see you!

PLEASE NOTE: A percentage of book sales from the following events will be donated to a charity or charities that support mothers, women, and families. In the comment section below, please feel free to suggest a charity that is close to your heart, or that you feel does a great job supporting mothers and families and I will add that charity to my list. Know that in purchasing The Self-Care Solution at one of these events, you will empower yourself along with moms in need.

THE SELF-CARE SOLUTION TWIN CITIES BOOK LAUNCH SCHEDULE: 

Sunday, May 1st

3 pmEat My Words Bookstore, 1228 2nd St. NE, Mpls., MN 55413 (book reading and signing)

Tuesday, May 3rd

11 am-2 pmBean and Ro, 4617 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, MN 55416 (Mother's Day Shopping and Mimosas)

7 pmCommon Good Books, 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105 (Reading and Book Signing)

 Wednesday May 4th 

5:30- 8:30 pmSunu Wellness, 12455 Ridgedale Dr., Suite 203, Minnetonka, MN 55305 (Mother's Day Shopping, Pampering, and Book Signing) 

 Thursday, May 5th

10 am - 6 pm:  Ala Mode Boutique and Nail Spa , 3928 W. 50th St., Edina, MN  55424 (Mani-pedi specials, Mother’s Day shopping and book signing) Call 952-300-2642 to book your appointment now and take advantage of their special Mother’s Day package pricing)

 Friday, May 6th

11 am- 1 pmBarnes and Noble, Galleria, 3225 W 69th. Edina, MN 55435 (Book signing)

 

OTHER WAYS TO SUPPORT THE SELF-CARE SOLUTION FROM OUTSIDE THE TWIN CITIES OR FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME:

1.   Write a review on Amazon!! Pretty please! According to my publisher, “Your Amazon reviews carry weight…50 is the magic number of reviews that triggers Amazon to start paying more attention to your book.” Writing an Amazon review is a super easy process that Amazon guides you through, and no need to over-think what you write. One or two sentences about what you liked about the book is fantastic! If you have already purchased and read even a part of the book (thank you!), you can review it here. Thank you!!! (Note: if for whatever reason/s you don’t like the book, in lieu of posting a negative review on Amazon, I would simply ask that if you would like to share your thoughts, please email me at juliebburton@gmail.com. Thank you!)

 2.   Promote on social media: Received the book in the mail or see a write-up of it in an on-line or print pub? Snap a pic and Insta it! Going to an event? Post it on FB: “Heading to Common Good Books tonight to hear my friend Julie read from her book The Self-Care Solution! Join me?”

 3.   Talk about the book with your friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and relatives. Know that I am happy to come speak to moms’ groups, book clubs, or any events that have a self-care tie-in. Just shoot me an email and we can chat about it. 

 4.   Like my author facebook page, follow me on twitter, instagram or pintrest.

Delving into the intricacies, challenges, and rewards of self-care in my own life and in the lives of the hundreds of women I interviewed for this book has been an incredible, eye opening experience. I am grateful that I am able to share my story with all of you on the pages of The Self-Care Solution

The Self-Care Solution Heads to the Printer!

 Off to the Printer it Goes...

Off to the Printer it Goes...

March 7th, 2016, 1:23 p.m. Minnetonka, MN — I typed the following word and emailed it to my publisher:

“APPROVED”.  

The Self-Care Solution is now officially off to the printer for its first official print-run.

This “print run” will print the books that will travel to bookstores all over the country and hopefully to your mailbox (if you pre-ordered the book already, thank you, or plan to purchase copy online or at one of my upcoming events, thank you).

After hearing the swoosh of the sent email, which marked the release of this book out from under my careful control, I took a deep breath, and exhaled a mixture of liberation, jubilation, and something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Tears flowed freely as I emailed my mom and David, who had coached me to the finish line, “Push send, Julie. You can do this.” And I alerted my publicist and friend Wendy with the following email:

“I feel like I want to do back flips and throw up at the same time.”

Her response quickly turned my tears to laughter and relief, “Now that would be a good trick. All is good.”

As I sat at my writing desk where I had spent countless hours pounding at my keyboard, begging my brain to conjure up the necessary words to articulate my thoughts, I settled into this transitional moment. The vivid memories of what it took for me to get to this point—the insane (sometimes almost literally) amounts of intention, discipline, devotion, trust, frustration, courage, vulnerability, and dedication. And while I wanted to allow myself to feel victorious (the back flip part), I felt a nagging pull that wrestled with my feelings of joy, “don’t get yourself too excited lady, you have no idea what’s around the corner” (the throwing up part).

When I was immersed in the process of writing, re-writing, editing, and re-editing, the book was under my care and my control. No one could judge it or judge me. Like a baby, I nurtured, coddled, protected, and guarded my book. Only a trusted few read it. But like raising a child, the time had come to let it go. And over these past few weeks (during which time my son developed influenza and a stomach ulcer and spent four days in the ICU, and another week at home…he is fine, thank g-d, but it was definitely a trying time for him; for all of us) this pivotal moment came closer and closer... and March 7th was the day that I needed to release this fifth child of sorts out from under my wing.

Yes, I felt confident that the book was ready to stand on its own in the world without me hovering over it; not unlike the time when I knew my two older kids were ready to head off to college on their own. In releasing my college-bound kids, I knew there would be bumps and bruises along the way (for them and for me). And in releasing this book, I also knew that there would be highs and lows; good reviews and not so good ones (of my book and of me).

But even with this confidence and awareness, it took only a quick glance over my shoulder to find my trusted frienemy named “fear” hanging out, eager to have a conversation with me. “Really?? Are you sure you are ready? Because, guess what? It's rough out there and you might not be as ready as you think you are!”  (Read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic for more on the role of fear in the creative process.)

“Well,” I told my frienemy,“ready or not, the cord has been cut and this book is making its way out into the world! So please step aside for now.”

And yes, I hit send. And yes, I am hard at work scheduling book publicity, launch events, readings, conferences, and self-care workshops. But my frienemy is still hanging out nearby, willing and able to cozy up to me whenever I give it a chance. I can completely relate to Louisa Treger, author of The Lodger, as she explains the difficulties she encountered when her book was released:

“I felt incredibly exposed, as though I’d taken my clothes off in front of the world. It is perhaps the central paradox of being an author that you must have a thin skin in order to write well, yet the hide of a rhinoceros to put yourself out there. I am still working on the rhinoceros part!”

So, my dear friends and readers, please know that this thin-skinned author is continually working to strengthen her hide… especially between now and the May 3rd release! And quite frankly, I would love your support! You can like my new Facebook author page, subscribe to my blog (click link below), or connect with me on Twitter. You can recommend my book to your friends and relatives. And my Minnesota peeps, I would be thrilled to see you at any of my book events, which will be listed on this site soon (and most of them will include wine!).

And if and when you do decide to take in this beloved fifth child of mine, I truly hope you will make room for its messages in your life. I hope that by practicing your self-care, you will infuse your life with more happiness, health, and meaning so that you can share this energy with those you love!

“The only way that a mother can truly be present, engaged, connected, and nurturing with her child is if she is present, engaged, connected, and nurturing with herself. And the only way she can be connected with herself is if she does what she needs to do to care for herself in an honest and meaningful manner. This is the true essence of self-care for mothers.” --The Self-Care Solution

 Thank you all for your support and encouragement along the way! You have helped bring The Self-Care Solution to life! G-d speed!

 

 

 

 

 

The Rope Burns of Motherhood and Self-Care

The Rope Burns of Motherhood and Self-Care

Self-care...

Embracing the courage and vulnerability it takes to love your child so much that it hurts.

Embracing the joy and the pain encapsulated in "the rope"—both the holding on and the letting go.

The Evolution of The Self-Care Solution

The Self-Care Solution cover Two decades, three separate attempts, 10 zillion “I can’t”s, five zillion, “I/you never will” (a few of those coming from my beloved, well-intentioned children), and many of them coming from the naysayer, the self-doubter, the disbeliever who hangs out in my mind. The one who nearly every single time I sit down to write pulls up a chair next to me and asks me cynically, “who are you to…?” and “who really cares about what you have to say?” (Quick interruption: I hope that you do! And if you do, I want to let you know that pre-orders from Amazon often determine the fate of a book’s sales. You can pre-order The Self-Care Solution—A Modern Mother’s Essential Guide to Health and Well-Being today)!

“Well…umm…I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a deep thinker, a reader, a questioner, a truth seeker, and a writer…and I had to write this book. I have a story to tell. A message to deliver—a message of hope and inspiration to other moms,” I would respond, some days more confidently than others.

I could not, would not let that big bad voice win.

Because this time was different. This time I implemented all of the necessary self-care tactics needed to take me to the finish line. I sat alone in my office for thousands of hours, sometimes feeling lonely, sad, anxious, and thinking of all that I was missing on the outside, wondering if it was all worth it, especially when my writing was stale and the big bad voice would not shut up. There were days when I ignored friends, family members, the laundry, the grocery store, and sometimes even my children and husband because I needed that kind of focus—the block-everything-else-out kind of focus. I dug deep, practiced yoga, meditated, saw a therapist, was painfully honest with myself, faced my demons and my insecurities, and reminded myself of my gifts and strengths. I listened to voices of hundreds of other mothers who were willing to share their truths with me, and pored through hundreds of pages of research on physical, mental, emotional, and relational self-care.

And most importantly, after nearly five years of this behind the scenes work, I filtered through all the information, insights and advice I gathered from other moms, various experts, research, and my own personal experiences, and documented the most essential elements of self-care for moms in The Self-Care Solution.

“Aren’t you scared,” the voice would ask me. “Terrified,” I say, my voice shaking. “I reveal myself in ways that I never have. I feel uncomfortably exposed. I am petrified of being judged.”

The voice still doesn’t understand, “If it feels so scary, then why are you doing it? You don’t have to, you know.”

“Oh, but I do,” I say.

"Because it’s time. To trust. To believe. To let go. To release the thoughts, the feelings, and the words, and let them soar.

This is my self-care."

And it is my deepest hope that through your reading of The Self-Care Solution, you will find yours.

Go ahead and preorder your copy (and a few extras to give to your favorite mom friends and family members) from Amazon today! They will arrive in time for Mother’s Day 2016!

Wanna Write? Join Me at the New Twin Cities Writing Studio!

As a long-time writer, I have grown accustomed to spending many, many hours alone at my desk, thinking, analyzing, and thinking some more as my fingers click the keys of my lap top, trying, trying, trying to transfer my thoughts and ideas onto that glowing screen in front of me. Sometimes this process flows beautifully...and sometimes it doesn't. Thankfully, I have connTwin Cities Writing Studioected with some incredible writers all over the country who I can turn to when I am stuck, need honest feedback or need someone to hold me accountable. What I have found, however, is that there is an incredible energy that happens when I am able to connect in person with others who have a passion for writing. Over the past few years, Nina Badzin has become, not only my go-to local "writing buddy" but a dear friend, and through our mutual love for writing and our ability to be sounding boards for one another, we decided that we wanted to share our passion for writing with the Twin Cities community.

We would love for you to come write with us!

When I teach a yoga class, I often tell my students before we even move into our first down dog, "You have done the hardest part of the class. You got here. You got to your mat. Congratulations. Now let's practice." Writing is much the same. Just showing up on the page is more than half the battle. No matter if you've been writing since you were five or have always wanted to explore writing but didn't quite know how, joining The Twin Cities Writing Studio will provide structure, motivation and fun designed to help you ignite/enrich your writing practice.

Nina and I can't wait to write with you!

Details below:

TWIN CITIES WRITING STUDIO—express, explore, create

Whether you’re an established writer looking to connect with other Twin Cities writers, or you feel inspired to put pen to paper for the first time, we welcome you!

WHAT WE ARE: TCWS is a safe, confidential, and supportive community led by Julie Burton and Nina Badzin, experienced writers, bloggers, and teachers. Group members will have the opportunity to freewrite, share writing, receive constructive feedback from group members and group facilitators.

WHAT YOU GET:

  • Establish, maintain, or improve your writing practice.
  • Find inspiration and motivation from others.
  • Finish writing pieces that you have been working on for years, begin something new, generate ideas that will keep you writing long after the fall session ends.
  • Workshop any piece of writing from speeches to essays to persuasive emails.
  • Learn about blogging, magazine article writing, book writing, and publishing.

WHEN: 10-week session on Thursdays 12:30-2:30, September 10th-Oct 8th (BREAK Oct 15th) Resumes 10.22 - 11.19

WHERE: Hopkins Center for the Arts, Room 204, 1111 Mainstreet in downtown Hopkins, (ample free parking)

COST: $300, registration details are below (payment options available)

WHAT TO BRING: Notebook and writing utensil and/or laptop.

HOW TO REGISTER: Send an email to Nina at ninabadzin@gmail.com. She will write back to secure your spot in the group (limited to 10 participants), and give you details on payment.

Questions? Email ninabadzin@gmail.com

Spring Meltdowns and New Beginnings

son graduating Since late February when I had the honor of being a guest on Jordana Green’s radio show to tell my story as part of National Eating Disorders Week, I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus. The spring months have always been tricky for me, especially in the last several years. And while this spring has been filled with all sorts of wonderful transitions, they are transitions nonetheless; and change is not my strong suit. There are my internal changes that include, but are not limited to, a certain chemical combustion occurring within my body that cranks up my temperature to a mere 90,000 degrees (especially at 3 a.m.) and turns the thoughts in my brain onto a high-speed, continuous spin cycle, for which I cannot seem to find the "off" switch. And there are the external changes that include, but are not limited to surviving yet another senior spring break trip (can I be grandmothered out of the next two?), my oldest son deciding to head to across the country to California for college, my baby turning 11 (just days after a shower door fell on her and broke her wrist...I know, alert the authorities), my husband turning 50 (and yes, of course he recently joined a band), and my oldest daughter finishing her sophomore year of college and returning home for the summer.

soph and jo

Turning 50

So while the internal changes make it a little more challenging to roll with and enjoy all of the exciting external changes, I am doing my best (thank goodness for yoga). And although I am not blogging as regularly as I would like to be, I am still writing. A lot.  Submitting 5,000 words a week to my amazing editor at She Writes Press  so that my book on self-care for moms can head to the publisher and then finally into moms' hands.

self-care book

And there are few other fun items to report: At the end of April, I had an incredible experience of being among dozens of Minnesota writers, comedians and musicians who performed at Rebecca Bell Sorensen and Laurie Lindeen’s Morningside After Dark Series.morningside

The spring theme was “Melt With You” and the piece I read, “The Season of Melting and Letting Go” is published in The Mid (with a slightly different title) is about how the spring season parallels my process of letting my son, a high school senior, go. Lastly, I was hired to write a Mother’s Day article for AskMen.Com about how men can win the approval of their wife's or girlfriend’s mother. While I initially found it exciting to have a 20-something male editor email me and say that he thinks I would be a good person to write this and ask if I would be interested, when I began to write the piece, I felt something different…I felt old. But it also opened up my mind to how exciting the next phase of motherhood will (hopefully) be. Welcoming significant others and eventual spouses into the family —Even more “kids” to love!

But for now, and for the next several weeks of "May Madness," I will try to remember to breathe amidst the flurry of finals, baseball and soccer games, grad parties and another school year coming to a close. And on June 4th, when my oldest son walks down the aisle to accept his high school diploma, I will be cheering him on (most likely through tears) as he transitions from the first chapter of his life to his next. And I look forward to seeing what this next chapter brings...

"In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you." -Buddah

National Eating Disorders Week--Sharing My Story of Hope on the Radio

cbs radiojordana green show 2 Last night, I did something that scared me. As part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, my lovely and talented friend Jordana Green asked me to join her on her show to tell “my story” of my battle with anorexia nervosa that plagued me during my late teens. I had one goal in mind: Tell my story of survival to offer hope to those struggling with the disease and to those who have family members or loved ones who are struggling. I had discussed the details of my story with Jordana over lunch the week prior but chatting with her privately was much different than talking about it on live radio. But what I discovered as Jordana interviewed me on her show (with my incredible friend of 35 years, Laura, at my side for moral support) was that while I have battled with feelings of shame about my disease and have only shared the details of it with trusted friends, there was a sense of freedom and empowerment in sharing it with others.

jordana green show

Brene’ Brown truly has it right when she says,

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

We all have our stories. Many of which we hide away from others, and even from ourselves. But if you have a story that you think could give someone a glimmer of hope, I would encourage you to allow yourself to be vulnerable, open your heart and let yourself be seen and heard. For me, although it has been 30 years since I found myself strangled by the powerful grip of an eating disorder, which could have taken my life, sharing this dark and troubling piece of my history combined with the message that recovery is always an option was a way for me to offer comfort, hope and light to others.

As discussed in the interview, I recently joined The Emily Program as a Friends and Family Support Group facilitator. Volunteering once a month to co-lead a support group for those family and friends of those suffering from an eating disorder has given me another opportunity to give back and provide support for those in need. If you or someone you love is struggling, please know that help is readily available at the The Emily Program. Do not hesitate to take action. You can also feel free to comment or send me a private email if you have any reflections that you would like to share about this issue that effects nearly one out of every five women.

Reiterating the message I gave on the radio when Jordana asked me what advice I have for anyone struggling with an eating disorder, please remember:

Never give up. On yourself or on someone you love.

Choose life.

To listen to the podcast, go here (podcast date: 2/25/15, 10 pm).

Laura, Jordana and Me

Not Yet 50, but Way Past 40-Something. What is 48 to Me?

Julie 48There is a new trend in the blogging world. Blog posts and even books that mark moments or periods of time like, “This is Childhood,” “This is Adolescence,” and “This is (My) 39.” They make time stand still by describing the real, raw aspects of the designated age or stage. As I inch closer to 50, I find myself stepping back and looking at my life, potentially about half-way over, or half way lived, or have way begun, depending on your vantage point. I have grappled with my feelings about getting older and realize that while I get ready to add a 48th candle to my birthday cake, I feel the need to do what all writers do: analyze and reflect. Forty-eight means something different to everyone, but this is what 48 is to me: It is NOSTALGIA. The nostalgia of the days when I could pick up my son, now a man/child, and hold him in my arms and tell him that I can make it all better; the days when all four of my children lived in my house with me. It is the nostalgia of my childhood memories, before husband, before children—the prehistoric days when all of the neighborhood kids played kick the can until dark and my parents didn’t know where I was; when phones were attached to walls, and there were no ipods, ipads, internet, social media, or botox; and there were vinyl records, 8-track and cassette tapes, the Grateful Dead, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Charlie’s Angels, and Starsky and Hutch, and my sister and me fighting for the best TV viewing spot on our green couch.

It is COVER-UP. Watching women around me tighten, plump, nip and tuck and wondering if I should too. It is spending too many dollars on “age-defying” products that are marketed to ME because I am the age that society wants to defy. It is knowing that in trying to cover up the wrinkles and the sagging, I am desperately trying to hang onto something that is slipping away, and no matter how much healthy food, water and vitamins I ingest, how much exercise I do, what clothes I wear or how I color and style my hair, the “something” that is inevitably leaving me is called—YOUTH! And there is no stopping its exit.

It is SEARCHING. Searching for the meaning of life. For the meaning of my life. Searching for my roots, for spirituality, for Judaism. It is studying with an Orthodox rabbi and joining a Reform synagogue. It is grappling with my identity, as a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a Jew, a writer, a reader, a yogi, a volunteer, a teacher and a student.

It is DISORIENTING. With four kids at very different life stages: college, high school, junior high and grade school. Disorienting with the reality that I on a given day, I can be managing a play date for one daughter and listening to details about a sorority date party from the other. Disorienting to have just celebrated one son's Bar Mitzvah and to soon be celebrating my other son's high school graduation. Disorienting to think that my oldest daughter will graduate college within a month of my youngest daughter's Bat Mitzvah, and that I could potentially be a grandma at my youngest child’s high school graduation. Disorienting to be planning for my 30-year high school reunion when I can so easily access vivid details (many of them embarrassing) of those powerful high school years, as if they happened yesterday.

It is UNCERTAINTY. Uncertainty about whether I made the right choice to leave my career and stay home with my kids (I am pretty sure I did). Uncertainty about whether I should go back to work. Uncertainty about who would even hire me now. Uncertainty about decisions, big and small, that I made and make for my kids and myself every day. Uncertainty about why bad things happen to good people, why I have lost friends and family members too soon. Uncertainty about the future; about being empty nester; about getting old, as in really old; uncertainty about death and how I will go down—will my mind go first or will my body fail me, or will I die in a plane crash (um, yes, one of my biggest fears in life...)?

It is PERIMENOPAUSE. It is crazy! It is crying and swearing and not remembering why I walked into the living room or where I was driving to, or why I was even mad at my husband this morning. It is exhausted…for no good reason. It is worry and obsessing, and worrying and obsessing some more. It is Prozac and Lexapro and the allure of taking the “happy pill” to calm the crazies, but opting instead for a weekly writing group, meditation, yoga and an available-when-needed therapist.

It is WORK. My work: writing, teaching yoga, and serving the community, which makes very little money but keeps me somewhat sane. My husband’s work that he does too much of to be able to support all of the kids and me so I that I can make sure that everyone in the family has clean underwear, decent meals, and some structure and fun in their lives, which happens most of the time, but definitely not all of the time.

It is LETTING GO. Letting go of what I think I should have been—an author of six successful books, a renowned public relations guru (my occupation before kids), a psychologist (my "I should have been/wish I would have been" career), and trying, trying, trying to accept who I am. It is letting my kids go, off to junior high, high school, off to drive a car, off to college. Letting go of the idea that I can control the outcome of their lives, and maybe even the outcome of my own life.

It is TRANSITION. Transition from being not yet old but not young either; from being a young parent with my oldest child to an older parent with my youngest. Transition of caring for aging parents. Transition of my own aging process, which blurs my thinking, my vision and my hearing, and yet, has prompted me to become more patient, more intentional, more compassionate and more present, with myself and with others. Transition of walking mindfully through my life, instead of running through or from it.

It is GRATITUDE. Gratitude for my blessed life and the amazing people in it. Gratitude that I stuck it out and continue to stick it out with my husband, in spite of many extremely trying times. Gratitude for my health, and for the health of those I love and care about. Gratitude that after years of sleepless nights, changing diapers, taming tantrums, tween angst and teenage drama, and the pain, panic and exhilaration of sending one off to college, I can now offer my voice of experience for newer moms.

It is ACCEPTANCE. Acceptance of childhood scars, anxiety, depression, addiction, fear and loneliness; being able to stare down my demons and tell them to go to hell, and accepting that sometimes they listen and sometimes they don’t; and looking honestly at dysfunction—mine, my family’s, and my friends’, and finding compassion in all of it. Acceptance of my imperfect self that struggles with time management, organization and taking direction from others, but is driven and caring, and loves to give, and loves to love. Acceptance of dreams fulfilled, unfulfilled, and dreams that remain.  Acceptance that life is really, really amazing and fun, and really, really hard and painful.

It is FREEDOM. Freedom to invest more energy in people, work and causes that ground, comfort and inspire me. Freedom to exit relationships that drain me. Freedom to be me, to practice self-care and self-compassion, to trust myself and others, to confidently use my voice, written and spoken, to tell my truth, to be vulnerable, and to encourage others to do the same.

It is THE MOMENT. Slowing down enough to understand that it is this moment that really matters, and believing that we are all exactly where we are supposed to be right now. It is taking time on my yoga mat or in meditation to quiet down the mind chatter and focus on the power of now. It is watching my kids, truly watching them, and listening to them, and seeing them for who they really are, with their struggles, with their attitudes, and with their independent, creative minds and their loving hearts. It is no longer rushing to get to the next phase of their lives or mine, but wanting time to stand still. Really. Just to be able to press pause. For a moment. So I can take it all in and cherish it.

It is LOVE. Love for my husband of 23 years, love for each one of my very unique, and very lovable kids, who have taught me more about life and love in the past 20 years of being a mother than I ever imagined possible. Love for my parents and mother-in-law who have shown me what it means to age gracefully, and that love, giving and receiving, is the most important thing in this life; and for my extended family and friends, both old and new, who continue to enrich my life each day, as each day becomes more and more precious.

It is knowing that every single day is a gift.

This is my 48.

Lingering More, Panicking Less—My True Test for the Next Three Weeks

to do listTis the season, for me anyway. I find fall to be, by far, the most transformative season: back to school, bracing for the MN winter, celebrating the high holidays, loaded with symbols of starting anew, letting go, forgiving, and looking forward. This fall feels even bigger. It feels huge. It feels loaded with stuff to be grateful for, to celebrate, stuff that involves new beginnings and exciting transitions in my kids’ lives and my life. But when I wake up with a racing heart and mind, and I start and stop writing multiple blog posts because none of them make sense, and I find myself scanning the Target parking lot for my car that I have zero recollection of parking, let alone driving there, I know that I am not embracing this transformative time, but racing through it. I am anywhere but here. Just ask my mom. She will tell you how I forgot that she was coming to pick up my daughter at school last week during conferences so she ended up wandering the halls of the school looking for my daughter for 45 minutes before running into my son, who directed her to my daughter. But I didn’t have a clue this was happening because, during that time, I was darting from classroom to classroom, like a harried teenager, hearing the voices of my kids’ teachers saying lovely things about my children, and I was feel’n pretty good and I may have had a moment of, “Okay, great, I must be doing something right.” Until, of course, I walked out of the math teacher’s room and spotted my mom, her eyes looking slightly puzzled and slightly pissed. “Nope. Never mind. I am not doing much of anything right.”

I am in the moment and a million miles away. Preparing for A’s Bar Mitzvah in three weeks and helping J with his college applications, due in three weeks; gearing up for my first ever self-care workshop that I am co-leading in two weeks and preparing yet another (please let this be the last), revision of my book outline that is, just guess, due to a publisher in 10 days. I am coming off of the high holidays, during which we attended not one, not two but three synagogues—a reformed, a conservative and an orthodox (I will save those details for another blog post); and S came home from college for Yom Kippur, which somewhat resembled a wonderful, exciting, but sometimes jolting, electric storm lighting up our house.

I’m in the moment and into panic in a matter of seconds. I question whether I will be able to pull off these next three weeks, manage the check list, and get it all done: the Bar Mitzvah details, all 20 zillion of them  (thankfully divided between my sister and me, but I still don’t know what I am wearing); the writing, for which I require big blocks of time when my mind is calm and clear; providing college application assistance, yet another intended blog post topic, and for which I need more time and more patience, AND my son’s time and patience (which doesn’t all line up very often); the workshop preparation, which I need to tap into my experience of writing about researching and practicing self-care, while I am stretched to practice what I preach right now.

So I breathe my way back to the moment. And tell myself that yes, this will all happen. I will get through it. But I don’t want to just get through it! I want to feel it all, embrace the joy in each one of these milestones. So I drag myself to yoga, ground down, and set an intention to be present. And that works beautifully until that evening when I see my husband packing his suitcase for a three-day work trip. He sees my eyes widen, and then narrow. I expect him to say something calming, reassuring. But instead, he quickly reminds me that he will be traveling for two or three days of each of the next three weeks. Oh yeah, I had forgotten. My heart rate escalates and my mind kicks into high gear and spirals me into piling my entire to-do list into an already overcrowded area of my brain: Shit! The laundry, the dishes, the cooking, the no milk in the fridge and I think we only have one more roll of toilet paper in this house, and the engine light is on in my car, and there are unopened bills hanging out on the kitchen counter, and Jo has a soccer tournament in Rochester and three birthday parties this weekend, and A’s big science project is due, and the details of J’s college visits in two weeks still need to be finalized, and the senior parent ad for the yearbook is due, and my volunteer positions need attention, and there are a growing number of emails and texts that I have yet to read, let alone respond to...So sorry, my friends, I am trying.

And then I will myself to breathe again. And the spiraling stops as I remind myself that amidst all this mundane, almost whiney sounding to-do list, of which some or most will get done (or it won't), there lies the joyful stuff that trumps it all. And I work my way back to gratitude and the present moment. My husband and I laugh about how we may put our 10-year-old on a Greyhound and send her to Rochester for her soccer tournament, and that we may end up writing A’s Bar Mitzvah speech on the way to the synagogue that morning.

I will myself to trust that these next three weeks, with all their splendor and glory, and all of their mundane, will happen. And I will be there/be here. Present. Aware. Engaged. Grateful. I will do this by trying to allow myself to retreat from the lists and the panic, and to move toward lingering in the joy for as long as I can—especially the one that celebrates my baby boy becoming a Jewish adult. Yes, I will most definitely be lingering in that one.

THE RISE AND FALL OF MY SKIP STEP

gymnast Maybe it is because my daughter just turned 20; maybe it is because my second child is a senior in high school and we are knee deep in college applications and college visits trying to figure out where he will head off to next fall (gulp); maybe it is because I am a month away from my youngest son's Bar Mitzvah (gulp again); maybe it is because my husband turns 50 in March (wow); or maybe it is because my youngest daughter is in her final year of lower school and just today got rid of her Barbie Dream House and all of her Barbies (gasp!). But whether it is one or all of these biggies, I know that I have found myself feeling rather nostalgic lately. I wrote about what the aging process feels like for me, and how I am learning to let go of pieces of my youth and embrace the here and now. The waves of nostalgia often catch me off guard, and I feel like I want to reach out and touch the memories; to connect with them in a pinch myself kind of way to validate that the experiences were real, and that they still live somewhere within me. Without warning, this need to go back hit me during a recent writing group when the instructor gave us the prompt, "What is something quirky about you? Something that others may not know."

And my mind looked back and then forward, and my pen on paper took me here:

It started early on, way back then. When I was young, exuberant and carefree. When life felt light and easy. When every step was the beginning of a new adventure, a launching point of sorts. And so it started. The micro-hop—my skip step—that I added to the beginning of my gait. It felt organic, like the way I was supposed to move. And it was how I moved, in my early days as a gymnast when I would jump with excitement each and every time I was ready to launch into my favorite floor exercise sequence—round-off, back handspring, back tuck. Ahhh, how I loved how these movements flowed together like the most perfect wave tumbling toward the shore. I felt this rhythmic flow in my body even when I was nowhere near a gymnasium.

When it was time for me to walk to class, to recess, to practice or even to the bathroom, in spite of some jarring I received from my friends when they noticed my quirk, I always felt the need to add the skip step as I began to propel myself forward. The skip step automatically triggered my mind and muscles to access the incredible feelings of taking flight, which surged through my body and filled me with a timeless, spaceless sense of giddiness, levity and harmony.

But as the years progressed, and I grew into an awkward, agitated teen, I traded in my leotards for Grateful Dead t-shirts. Subsequently, as my life had lost a bit of its bounce and I wobbled on the bridge between youthood and adulthood, my skip step slowly disappeared. But it was a process, a skip step here, a skip step there would provide an occasional shot in the arm to keep me connected with those feelings of being so fully alive and free. Over time, and without recognition of the loss, my skip step all but vanished.

Three decades and four children later and I am in my front yard on a beautiful, sunny Minnesota spring day, watching my 10-year-old niece, a competitive gymnast, turn cartwheels and walk on her hands across the grass. “Hey, Auntie Julie, do you want to see what I just learned,” she asks eagerly, as her whole body visibly filling with the exhilaration that I recognized instantly. “Of course I do, ZZ (my affectionate adaptation of Lindsay)! Show me whatcha got,” I respond trying to contain my excitement.

My heart skips a beat as I watch with anticipation as she begins to launch. My mouth drops open as I see it—the skip step—my skip step—followed by her swift round off and perfectly executed back handspring. My heart is no longer in my body as it has most certainly jumped out.

Without thinking, I stand up. My mind becomes fierce, my body fueled by muscle memory. Nostalgia overruns any kind of logic, any kind of rationale. Before I know it, one barefoot is in front of the other, and there it is, my skip step…and I am running and I am free and I burst open into a powerful round-off and I am flying above the clouds. I am 10 and I love my skip step and my youth and my mobility and my levity. Upon my decent from the air, I power both feet downward to hit the prickly grass at precisely the same time, exactly as I was taught to do by my perpetually mean coach who acerbically screamed at me if one foot came down a millisecond before the other.

At the very moment I celebrated this very small but very large “look-at-me-now-coach” victory, I heard it. The rubber band-snapping, pop gun sounding snap that reverberated through my entire body and rung in my ears. The endorphins that served as a numbing agent swiftly began to lose their power, and the raw, unfiltered raging, burning sensation was unleashed. The pain—the ferocious, radiating, sizzling in my calf caused me to tumble to the ground writhing, moaning, crying, and biting my lip not to swear.

I looked up to see my niece’s terror stricken hazel eyes staring down at me. I tried with every ounce of my being to give her an “I am going to be okay” look, but a blank stare was the best I could muster.

What she couldn’t know, nor did I want her to know, was that behind my blank stare blared two very loud voices at war inside my head, simultaneously exalting and cursing every single skip step I ever took.