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I met my husband on my 24th birthday. I threw him a 30th birthday party the following month just after we started dating. Eight months later, I learned the truth when I looked at his license and the math didn’t add up. The guy I had fallen for wasn’t really 30, he was 32 (!!!) and worried a 24-year old might not have given him a chance. My husband hates this story, and will probably be annoyed for it being told (again) (online) but it’s a story that belongs to both of us now. The reason I’m sharing it is because I’m having some deja vu with my 30-day blog affair. Today marks the big 3-0 (versus 31)! Last night I was feeling like I failed my own 30-day challenge after not blogging on day 28. Maybe that’s why there were 31 days this month: an opportunity to still hit 30 even with one miss. (Or maybe I just don’t count to 30 so well?) In any case, we celebrate birthdays in our house with a big old ? on the cake instead of numbered candles.

Now that this journey is complete; I want to share some thoughts if you are considering blogging more consistently or taking part in any 30-day challenge:

1. Blogger’s block can feel real, but it is somewhat of a myth. I frequently don’t know what I’ll write about when I sit down to write. I worry what I’m sharing might have no significance. However, it’s really resistance rearing its ugly head (read The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
if you are looking to tackle creative resistance rather than living in procrastination). There is always something to say. I would put pressure on my blog posts to be the most meaningful thing I’d have to say all week – month – longer (which is an easy way to fall out of love with blogging). It puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on a blog post. Imagine thinking you could never speak unless your words were always perfectly articulated and quotable. I would probably be mute. How scary would that be to utter a sound? As a speech pathologist this analogy hits home. It’s okay that a post might not be eloquent or what you want etched on your tombstone. Just writing and posting on a daily basis will change your relationship with blogging.

2. I chose 30-days of blogging because I wanted to have a relationship with my blog again. It felt like a long lost friend after going over a month without posting. I knew I wanted to hold onto it, but my writing felt awkward and forced. There was too much time between posts to just throw out a casual thought or bedtime haiku without it feeling disjointed. After my first week blogging, I found a rhythm. After the second week, it no longer felt like a long-lost friend, but a close confidant. Ideally, I would like to post 1-2 times a week now, but I’m not sure if that will feel too distant initially. I may experiment for a little bit, just like Goldilocks (I use fairy tale analogies frequently with a preschooler at home): too hard, too soft, just right. My blog became home again. It was no longer an afterthought, instead it was front and center. When I knew I had some heavily scheduled days, I wrote an extra post preparing myself for the near future. An editorial calendar for the blog started to sound ideal versus restricting. We shall see.

3. I began to see some themes taking place over the course of this month. Some of the things I blogged about frequently were: breathing room and undoing. This topic just won’t leave me, so more to come…

4. The best part about committing to any journey for 30-days is you take your word seriously. Your intentions become real. You feel on-fire moving through your day. More to come on this as I have a special interview with a friend who coaches others through mental and physical 30 day challenges. She gave me a pep-talk in the beginning of my 30-day blog affair with the advice to just take on this one thing (rather than trying to do 10 things and once). Keep it simple. And to just do it!

5. Any writer will tell you they love acknowledgement for their writing. Comments and followers are great. The more the merrier! I will not pretend to say this doesn’t matter. But writing consistently had me care less about what others thought, obsessing over stats, etc. and just get to work.  This was good for my writing soul. Anyone who wants more blog followers, just write more regularly!

6. I don’t consider myself to be a poet. I surprised myself this month with my Bedtime Haiku post when I didn’t have the energy to write much or for too long. (I loved it, and may bring this in more often. Stay tuned…) I could do this every day for a month (so don’t tempt me, you know that could happen!)

So tonight I’m signing off with Blogging Haiku:

Choose Your Own Journey

Is a blogging home for me

A full heart tonight5734_1193154504068_8116_n

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I am re-purposing today. I wrote the passage below 4 months ago: (9/25/13), just before leaving New Jersey and my job. I write to remember where I am and make sense of it all. It helps me recognize where I am in the present moment, reminding me of where I want to go. Writing is my GPS for intentional living.

Last night I remembered why I like being a speech-language pathologist watching some local therapists run a Hanen program. This was my love over the past 9 years, but I let my programs go after motherhood. I couldn’t find the time with babies of my own, balancing full-time work, adjusting to a less-full time schedule, moving, and figuring out how many hats I could wear (writer, mama, coach, speech-language pathologist) without looking like this:

caps for sale

Could I still wear them all? Did I need to give any up to excel at the others? Was wearing all of my hats causing me to move at a slower pace with this balancing act?

I spoke with my virtual writing group this morning. We spoke of white space and empty vessels. I  require breathing room in order to clear my plate before starting a new dish.

Where do I find joy? How am I recreating myself post motherhood (with two children now in tow?). 

Here is a snippet of my journey 4-months ago in the midst of my biggest transition yet…

I am leaving in three weeks. 

My 26-year-old self returned to New Jersey as a new speech-language-pathologist coming into the profession idealistically bright-eyed, determined to change the world of communication disorders. I am returning to California a 36-year-old mother of two, only wanting to leave the world a more compassionate place.

I am in transition again. I am transitioning from speech therapy to coaching. I am honoring the journey of the last decade.

I am grateful for the Hanen program, making me a better therapist. I stepped into coaching and teaching. I was so scared and so called.

Then there is Mom’s chemo. I am leaving, and my mom is a few weeks into chemo. When I returned a decade before, she did not have ovarian cancer. I had not had a mastectomy, or known I had the BRCA gene. Ignorance was bliss. We are the same, and changed in an instant. Life is fleeting. There are no guarantees. Precious time is slipping away.

I feel called to work with groups. I want others to know we are not alone. We have a story to tell, and we have companions on this journey. We are held. We hold. We are all interconnected.

I wanted to hold my families who wondered if their children would ever talk. My energy held them for so long: after the long evaluations when I’d see suspect Autism, after realizing a child might be deaf, I held their fears close. I wanted to hold all of these families until it became too much, and I felt myself going numb. I felt myself shutting down. There was no room to hold anything anymore. I was ready to throw my hands up in the air and let it all go.

I adored my Hanen families. I loved them for showing up. They had babysitters. They were committed. They were my reason for staying.

They inspired me to teach other professionals, they believed this work had value. I felt aligned with my vision. I felt the call to teach. I stepped into the role even when I felt too small and overwhelmed by life. I taught big workshops then went to the doctor the next day for another biopsy for a suspicious malignancy. My love of this work kept me from losing my mind on the journey. I gave a workshop to a group of 100 teachers when I was 37 weeks pregnant with Evan, scared I might give birth, wondering if the teachers were taking bets on when I would pop. I left for my maternity leave feeling complete.

The system has changed. Billing, logistics, more paperwork, liability, proposed budget cuts. I want to escape it all. I feel constricted yearning for expansion.

Since becoming a mom, I don’t want to be a super-SLP. I just want to be a place of compassion. “You are doing all right. This his hard. I hear you sister. I am not the expert on potty training – my son has taken over a year, and you have no idea how much I bribed him. It is hair-pulling work.”

I bring forth my gifts by writing to understand them. I want to show others I struggle. I am far from perfect, or even good enough on my best days. But I am enough. I don’t need to over-do to prove it to myself and win the busy-game. I am taking a time out. I don’t want to be too busy anymore. I’m not too busy.

I am leaving because it is time.

My family calls me. A next chapter calls me. I am freaking out (scared) and taking a huge leap of faith (called).

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Pema Chodron speaks to my soul. In her book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change she helps me make sense of my life the past 18 months. The book begins: “As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid  ground – something predictable and safe to stand on – seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.”

I believe we are born in the transitions.

I believe the essence of Choose Your Own Journey is that we are always changing, through intentional choices.

Change is the only constant in life.  

I’m thankful for the chaos feeling my adaptability muscles grow (which have been on over-drive the past year).

I didn't even KNOW the amount of change coming when I picked it~I didn’t even KNOW the amount of change coming when I picked this card

Aftermath of Hurricane SandyAftermath of Hurricane Sandy

leaving a job, and what's next on the path...

And what’s next on the journey: http://www.ellenightingale.com
(still in progress, but slowly putting out my shingle)

And here I stand now, with many new things on the horizon. I often go along my journey quietly, stepping up once I’m feeling stronger, learning to trust myself with each baby step along the path.

Some close friends and family have known I’ve been part of a coach-training program the last 6-months. Coaching as a career has spoken to me for years, but it took me this long to embrace it as part of my path as a creative entrepreneur. It’s where I’m melding my gifts of writing, creating, and putting together some really authentic soul-seeking programs (workshops, retreats, and online courses) in the coming months.

What does a coach DO?  (question from my family members)

Coaching becomes a road map during the winds of change. It is a compass when there is temptation to pull off the side of the road and curl up in the covers of the first cheap motel, even though you are called to a beautiful life by the sea. But which sea? And how do you get there when there isn’t a clear map just a vague idea of a body of water? It is difficult to see through the fog of our own thoughts. There is a tendency to want to stay in that motel and “play it safe” even if it is not really where we want to ultimately land. A coach holds onto your vision, reminding you about where you are going and helping you navigate the journey when you can’t see outside the box of possibilities.

I had a huge A-HA moment this weekend when I met with my coaching tribe for a retreat in Sedona. We came together and listened to the stories of who we are, where we are going, what gifts we brought to the table, and who we are called to serve (all of us had a unique imprint too). As I listened to each coach’s story, I experienced my own link between writing and coaching which now makes perfect sense. My gift to the world is how I naturally give meaning to and connect stories, editing and re-writing, and finding the “meat” (or important truth) for each individual. Listening to other’s stories and giving feedback is my superpower. I just never made that connection before.

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Beautiful AOFM Coaching Tribe

I have decided to initially offer an exclusive deal to my blog readers who have been supportive since my journey began online in 2009. You are the ones who have kept me going, telling me what I wrote made a difference. THAT is what propelled me to choose my own journey when I would occasionally waver with doubt. I am grateful for every email, comment, or words of acknowledgement. I often still write thinking it’s just my mom who reads these posts, and am surprised when readers share what I wrote affected them.

Because I love my readers so much, and if what I write resonates with you – I have decided to put my first offering here:

I have 12 coaching spots available in the next 4 months which are an exclusive special (50% off my 2014 rates – which will never be this low again) for blog readers.

If you are interested in coming along on this journey, or want to know more – just reach out and let me know. Supporting you with YOUR own journey is truly my life’s work and calling.

“Curiosity about life in all its aspects is still the secret of all creative people.” – Leo Burnet

I’d love to hear what magic you want to create in 2014~

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I had thought about this post long before it happened.  Have you ever done that? Do you tweet/Facebook posts in your head coming up with one-liners about how you would feel on your last day of work? What would you say? Would it be a quick “Peace out peeps!” or something more heartfelt? Maybe it would be nothing at all, which is what my day was like – (not necessarily by plan, but more by sheer emotional exhaustion after a week of sleepless nights and many tears).

Here’s what I imagined in the weeks before: I saw a courageous blog post sharing what was next. It would have a sheroic feel with “atta-girl!” comments and congratulations beneath it. I imagined feeling as free as I was after giving my resignation the month before, happy and weightless to choose my own journey riding off into the California sunset. With all of my envisioning, maybe I never believed the day would arrive.

A week ago was my last day of work. I was sad, or maybe emotionally crippled would be more accurate.

I expected to shimmy out of my role which I played for the last decade of my life as a speech language pathologist.  Instead I shed a few boxes of toys and materials for my co-workers or as part of our Early Intervention library, but my heart was heavy, and I was terrified by this new unknown.

I spent my last morning handling lingering situations. There was paperwork to be handed in (as always), and a few phone calls to be returned about meetings which never happened. There were hugs to be given, and goodbyes to be said. And that was it. I left feeling complete with the career I’ve had, but incomplete with the finality of it all.

I resigned with mixed emotions. Everything was telling me it was time for a change. I am ready for something new, for something of my own – but am I ready to take it on as well as being a full-time stay-at home mom?  I’ve been seeking room to breathe – is this really the way?

I was leaving wonderful childcare. I was leaving a career many stay-at-home mom friends & clients told me I was so lucky to have. I had flexibility! I worked with children! I played all day! However, what these moms didn’t know was while I was sitting on the floors of their homes with their children – I often thought about what I was compromising with my own, who didn’t have me sitting on our floors and playing — ever!

My daughter, now 6 months old is becoming a little person. She has her own opinions, but I’ve been too busy to notice them until I watched her for an uninterrupted hour at playgroup the other day. I studied her on her tummy for an extraordinary length of time (see my PT friends!) She is a social butterfly looking around the circle of adult faces until she gets a reaction from each person. If she doesn’t get a smile initially, she will growl, or raspberry at you until you acknowledge her – and then move on. There has been a special personality evolving right under my nose, but I’ve been too busy to notice.

tummy time

I don’t know if everyone understood why I was leaving. It was something I had difficulty articulating into rational/linear reasons. I have a huge supportive family. I have a mom who is currently receiving chemo. I’m connected to a wonderful community with life-long friends. But inside I was internally exhausted and unable to appreciate any of it. I woke at 5 am, rushed to get the kids to childcare and to be at my first appointment on time so the rest of the day didn’t fall apart. Working in itself was not difficult, but I was losing myself in the busy-ness of my days. I’m a really good therapist, and even on days when I felt depleted – I still gave my best to everyone else. To everyone else but me.

And to everyone else but my husband. I hated our routine of seeing each other for a few minutes when he got home at 8 pm to barely kiss good night before I fell asleep with one of the kids, bone tired.

To everyone else except my kids. I felt the guilt of my busy-ness one morning when my son asked if he could have a “mommy day.”  I looked at my schedule. It was too busy. There was a cross country move to prepare for. I wanted to catch up on writing content for my online program. My mom was starting chemo the next day and I wanted to spend time with her while I could.

I took the mommy day. We went to the park at 8:30 am. I let him play for hours with his toys and didn’t interrupt him to be on my agenda for once.

And here I am a week after leaving a job. A week after being so paralyzed with the exhaustion and tears. “Are we making a mistake?” I sobbed to my husband curled in the fetal position telling him he would never understand what it was like to leave a part of yourself, even if it was a part that was no longer working. He was looking to what was next while I was mourning all of the things I never fully appreciated while they were there – my job included.

In my resignation letter, I thanked my boss for the opportunities. I thanked her for encouraging me to go for it and think outside of the box when I wanted to start creating workshops for families, staff, and ultimately the state pushing me outside of my comfort zone. I felt grateful to have worked with talented colleagues over the last 11 years who became my closest friends. I had many “work wives” and without them I wouldn’t be the therapist, mom, or woman I am today.

So there is my leaving a job post. There were no flying flags or monumental scenes which could have been mistaken for a scene from Office Space. There were lots of hugs, and tears (on my end). And some fear as I face the uncertainty of a blank page ahead, recognizing it’s not a blank page but what’s written next which is where the journey continues.

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Humble Badass.
(BTW: I’m totally stealing this from an inspiring friend in transition).
What exactly is a humble badass you ask? She is one who moves through transitions gracefully like Jane of the Jungle swinging from vine to vine. She is grounded and steadfast, clear with her vision even when life shakes her up a bit. Aaaahhhhh (sigh) or aaaahh!!!! (SCREAM!) – she grows.

I am bringing my humble badass to motherhood. Becoming a mama of two is easier and harder in the same breath.  I am more seasoned and more frazzled. I cry in frustration but quickly surrender to the chaos. When two children are crying, a crying mother doesn’t pacify the moment.  Birthing was the easy part. Mothering is more challenging. I wonder where time goes. Sunrises melt into sunsets with the hours between a blur. I feel the tug of war between kairos and chronos time wondering why I can’t get more done, recognizing inevitable growth anyway.

Baby Charlie came Easter Sunday.  In the days before she came, I resisted her arrival. I was scared and felt unprepared. Her bedding wasn’t washed. The car seats were not re-adjusted and installed. Despite nesting like a madwoman, I was emotionally not ready. I feared the pains and passage of laboring. I was scared of her coming in the middle of the night, or en route to the hospital after meeting a midwife who birthed her second child herself.  During the full moon days before, I prayed for her to stay inside bargaining for another day. I promised to be ready by Easter.

I’m thankful labor started in the morning. I woke up and showered feeling mild contractions. I was calm and prepared. My bags were packed and the car seats were now installed. Her bassinet was ready, mirroring the Easter basket beside it. The soon-to-be-big brother ran next door to my in-laws where he relished in the last hours of being an only-child-prince at the party, especially with his cool aunts and uncles in town. 

Saying goodbye to Ev as we left for the hospital Easter morning

Humble Badass moment: saying goodbye to Ev while in labor on way to hospital

I did not shout or cry while laboring. Breathing and moaning through the contractions were easier than resisting them. I listened to a birth meditation CD on the drive to the hospital, inhaling deeply and visualizing the release of all pain. I arrived in active labor 45 minutes later, 4-5 cm dilated and progressing quickly.

I remained undecided about pain management until the pressure escalated. Half of me wanted to experience a natural birth, while the other part wanted the contractions to subside.  My pain-free side won. I wish I had been stronger like the earthy midwife, but there were gifts for my humble badass-self in a painless labor too.

I created the birth mandala I had been obsessing over for weeks in just hours before Charlie arrived, moving from left brain control to right brain intuition in the process.

what a painless labor looks like...

Humble Badass: cool as my ice pop creating a birth mandala before giving birth

Humble Badass: not yelling at my doula/husband for watching the Final 4 while in labor because I was feeling A-OK.

Humble Badass: totally okay with my doula/husband watching the Final 4 while I labored because I felt no pain
Humble Badass: Asking for a crystal foot rub when I could no longer feel my feet

Humble Badass: Calmly requesting a crystal foot rub when I could no longer feel my feet

c birth 7

Aside from my blue-eyed baby girl(!!), the completion of this birth mandala was a precious gift and memory from labor. It was my focal point during the five minutes of pushing. Charlie came in 3 contractions. After the second, my OBGYN told me I might be the first woman he witnessed to have a painless labor if I pushed with all my might.  Like a humble badass, I obliged. It was totally surreal how quickly she wanted to come into this world.

Utterly Humble Badass: her arrival

And two months later, Charlie’s favorite place to be is still this close to me. Initially frustrated when she did not take to the swing or stroller for some time to myself, I began to read her own needs. I allowed others to hold her realizing I’m not an octopus, borrowed a friend’s Moby wrap for kangaroo care, and gained a new appreciation for the phrase: it takes a village. I am so grateful for the moms who have come into my life the past few months. You have been my sanity and support and are totally humble badasses even on the days you may wish for a do-over.  That’s the dose of humility in our badass ways.  Choosing and creating this journey called motherhood one moment at a time…

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We are leaving California and returning to New Jersey. I want to say we are returning home; but home is no longer a place or a physical structure for us, rather it’s our family, friends, communities, routines, and work. We have been blessed. We are fortunate having already been on a road to unemcumbered (hermit crab) living. We did not lose any of our pared-down belongings either in suitcases or a storage unit. My family’s beach house is in good shape despite the devastation to our beautiful community of Breezy Point.

Home

In the days before leaving the beach, I wanted to soak up every last day of fall. I went to the beach with Evan to play in the sand on our mornings together. I walked by myself that last weekend thinking of how I would have spent fall there if I realized it slipping through my fingers like sand.

Taking a moment to capture it all

we scared the birds

we made sand angels

I walked to the rocks, where the ocean and bay meet

he pulled me in the wagon, although it made the trip even longer

I took lots of pictures

we found horseshoe crabs

we found and planted Magic Wands: (one for me, him, and Daddy)

And of course he wanted more…

Home has a whole new meaning. It’s now my place of belonging beyond the walls and roof to trusting we are all safe wherever this next journey leads us~

Home

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I loved that this was our first home. It was a fluke I found it. A family I worked with saw the rental sign telling me to drive by. I had never been down this road before, and I stalked it for days until we met. I loved that you wanted us to live here, feeling like we won some sort of best renters contest. We were getting married the following month and had a sweet dog Journey who would be happy here. You wanted us to be happy here. All I wanted was to be happy here.

I loved that you allowed us to make your home our own: pulling up orange shag carpeting, polishing the hardwood floors patiently waiting to be unveiled. I loved removing wallpaper: especially peeling a whole sheet at once with the squirt of a spray bottle. This was cathartic for my pre-wedding nerves, focusing on painted rooms and beds for out-of-town guests, rather than the cumbersome details better left to someone else.

I loved watching the transformation of the library become my dressing room then a writing room then a writing/meditation room once friends created an altar after a home-cleansing. The coolest transformation was to a deer inspired nursery. Mike picked the decor because of frequent deer visitors in our back yard. He planned telling our son a personalized fairy tale of them coming to his window waiting for him to be born, with Journey reporting nightly the time had not come. Journey began sleeping in the nursery days before my son arrived, and I wondered if the fairy tale was coming true.

I loved entertaining like real adults in a space I was proud of. We loved the basement pub. While the rest of the house was cute, the pub was killer. It was filled with many celebrations: surprise birthday parties, World Cup tournaments, Scrabble games, impromptu karaoke/dance nights, poker rounds, and Mike’s favorite activity – relaxing and listening to his ever-growing collection of records.

The topic of our sunken tub always comes up with new visitors gathering in the bathroom to eye it in disbelief. I am shocked no one has fallen into the tub (knock on wood) in the 6 years we have been here. I spent many nights soaking in it, learning to relax and meditate, practicing extra self-care in the days leading up to my mastectomy. That sunken tub made “bathing” a favorite hobby.

I loved the patio in spring, summer, and fall nights, and BBQs with friends. On nights we hung on the patio together, Mike and I watched the stars, dreaming of our future in a home like this.

I loved the front porch. It was my sanctuary with sun streaming in the windows’ Southern exposure keeping it toasty regardless of the season. I loved journaling and reading there on rare rainy summer afternoons, where there was nowhere else I would rather be.

I loved the azalea bushes that bloom every year in early May. I loved the roses that are still blossoming even though I went too hedge-happy one year. Mike will probably say he loves the yard, and mowing is his favorite chore, with manly pride coming from a fresh-cut lawn.

Our friends who visit call it a happy place. “It has a tea and crumpets feel – like an English cottage,” one told me. I love that my cottage-style vision took form over the last 6 years.

I could go on and on about what else I loved: the neighbors, daily walks around the figure-eight loop of our block, and proximity to Quick Check during Hurricane Irene. I will miss it here. I wonder if I will continue to drive by with curiosity – or take an alternate route to avoid missing it. I am not sure how I will be after finally saying good-bye. Six years have never flown so fast, but I’m grateful time here was part of my journey.

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