Follow your Heart

Blogging serves as a creative outlet for me. A way for me to touch people’s lives with my words and time stamp important memories in my life. For those of you who have followed me faithfully since A Mama Bear & Her Cubs was first created in late July 2017 , you’ve likely noticed an ebb and flow in the frequency of my posts.

To create a quality blog, it takes great dedication, meaningful content, and powerful images. Because of my Type A personality and perfectionist tendencies, I toil over the words until they are perfect. Mind you this is typically happening at the end of a long work day or while my two boys take their midday break for a nap or quiet time. I am often my toughest critic and therefore do not always feel like my words are ready for publication. In my busiest of times, I don’t always find the inspiration needed to create quality pieces. These are the moments that lead to a dip in my blog content.

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I find my family life and the little things that I encounter on a daily basis to be the best resource for content. Despite the fact that I faithfully maintain a blog, I rarely make time to discover new blogs. Mostly because I worry that the content I happen upon on other blogs may detract from my own creative process. This year to help me channel my thoughts and keep content fresh, I started keeping a notebook on hand to jot down ideas and things that inspire me along the way. This springboard for ideas has allowed me to easily put pen to paper (or more accurately clinking keys on my keyboard to piece together a blog post).

A Mama Bear & Her Cubs has slowly built a following, mostly from likeminded Mama Bears in my collective circles of friends and family. Because of social media, some of my posts have been shared and reposted on other pages and have reached record breaking views for me. I am sure that I could work harder to build my readership and even consider partnering with advertisers like so many other bloggers do. I choose, however, to focus on this blog for my own personal well-being and for the well-being of other women who read and find inspiration in my words.

Unfortunately we live in a culture where so often women are breaking other women down. I have focused my content on positivity because quite frankly we need more of that in our world and a whole lot less mean girl drama.

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Today’s post is probably the most basic and least powerful I’ve written since the inception of A Mama Bear & Her Cubs. But as always, there is a purpose and intention in the content I choose. My hope is that in reading today’s blog post, you will recognize the importance of pursuing your own passions in life. Do more of what makes you happy whether that’s through cooking, yoga, crafting, trail running, salsa dancing, yodeling…

Carve out time for the things that matter most to you. Don’t let your dreams and life pursuits be stifled because of a full-time job, responsibilities as a wife and mother, or anything else that might stand in your way. Take time to share, learn, and grow every day because your best self will allow you to be your best for the ones you love and care for every day. Be bold and follow your heart!

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A Beautiful Thing Happens…

In life, we do not have the luxury of choosing our family. We share the same DNA and other genetic traits, but we may not always share the same interests and life pursuits. Friendship, on the other hand, offers a unique and beautiful opportunity that grows and thrives because we have the distinct privilege to pick our tribe.

Friendships blossom and grow through hours and hours of shared laughter, tears (both happy and sad), and countless glasses of wine and coffee commiserating about our  hopes and dreams- both for ourselves and for one another. If we’re lucky, these friendships withstand the test of time growing and evolving as we do from childhood, to early adulthood, into midlife, and beyond.

Growing up, I admired and aspired to have the kind of powerful friend circles my mother kept. Women who were strong, beautiful, and hardworking. They were fierce women who balanced full-time careers, raising children, and making time to celebrate in each other’s special moments. These women took me under their wing and encouraged me along the way to pursue my dreams in life.

Although time zones and state lines separated these best friends from one another. Their friendship continues to thrive and grow some forty plus years since it began. We (my brother and I, the Bailey sisters, Ayala brothers, and Walker brothers) have all grown up as though we were a family calling ourselves cousins despite the fact that we do not share a common blood line. Most of us are married and raising our own babies now. And while state lines and time zones may stand in the way of us seeing one other with more regularity, our friendships continue to endure. We text often sharing anecdotes about motherhood. Our mothers and “aunties” chime in with words of affirmation and remind us that they too endured seasons of hardship as young mothers.

I value this shared friendship that I am blessed to be an intricate part of- a shared friendship that unites two generations of women. I still find myself deeply admiring the incredible friendship that roots these women together. In principle, we are not family and yet we love, support, and care for one another in exactly the same manner families do.

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In reflecting on this sisterhood I share with my mother’s best friends and their daughters, I find myself acknowledging a very powerful theme. A beautiful thing happens when your mother’s circle of friends becomes yours too. The circle of trust widens, the bonds deepen, and the laughter, support, and friendships continue to grow!

A Binge Reading Bookworm

As a binge reading bookworm, most evenings I find myself cozied up in bed with one of my latest page turners leading me out of my own life and into the imaginary setting in some far off place. Just like with the television shows many of us gravitate towards, naturally the types of genres we reach for often follow a similar pattern. I often toe the line between two polar opposites- the psychological thriller and the easy-to-read and even-easier-to-love “chick lit”.

Since having Atticus two years ago, I’ve traded most hard and paperback novels for the Kindle versions. While I do miss the feeling of the thin pages between my fingers and the satisfaction of seeing the progress I’m making as I become more and more entrenched in the plot line, I accepted that as a mama bear of a toddler reading on a Kindle is definitely more kid-friendly. I don’t have to fret over, “uh oh” moments, where my sweet little accidentally rips a key page out of one of my favorite books or decides to turn my book into a new football; launching my book into perpetuity with the bookmark slipping out halfway to the goal line.

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When 2018 came to a close, my Kindle app allowed me to revisit my literary journey over the last year. With as much as I read, I figured that I read about 20 books last year since I tend to average about two novels a month. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to discover that I had actually devoured 29 noteworthy pieces of literature. A feat I smiled about and promised myself in the moment that I would at least read that many in 2019.

To date, I’ve completed two books to kick off the new year. The first was Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. If you have not read this book, IT IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ. I’m kind of yelling but mostly highlighting how incredibly important it is for you to rush out and get your hands on this book.

Girl, Wash Your Face is hands down the most positive and inspiring book I have read in a very long time. Reading this book will inspire, empower, and encourage you to seek out the absolute best version of yourself. You will laugh (out loud), you will likely be moved to tears (at least once), and you will put this book down feeling ready to change the world. If you aren’t an avid reader like me or truly don’t have the time for reading in this season of your life, then this is truly the only book you need to carve out time for in 2019.

Run over to Target, order it on Amazon, or download it on Kindle, now. It will truly change your life!

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Today on my lunch break, I finished Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. This one came highly recommended by my cousin, Veronica. For a full-time working mother, this book was pure fantasy for me. The excess, extravagance, and couture are so outside of my ether, but it was easy to get lost in a plot line with some very spicy family drama and extra saucy characters.

Kwan’s descriptions of the palatial homes, distinct Asian dishes, and the exotic excursions made me want to back an overnight bag and catch a red eye to Singapore to experience this colorful culture in person. This fun, light read will pull at your heart strings in surprising ways, and you will find yourself rooting for the female lead, Rachel Chu, from the beginning of the story all the way to the final pages of this book.

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Literature is a powerful medium that can truly transform our perspectives about the outside world. It can inspire us, empower us, transport us, and take us on a rollercoaster of emotions along the way. Taking time for ourselves to read is an important part of self-care. It’s also an incredibly important way to model the importance of reading for the little people in our lives. So for all of my other binge reading bookworms out there, keep on reading to your hearts content.

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Feel free to share some of your favorite reads in the comments section. There is no better way to find a good book than from a good friend.

 

If Life was a Black & White Photo…

Black and white photos tend to evoke a feeling of nostalgia. In the absence of color, our eyes hone in on an image that often tells a very distinct story. Imagine what it might be like if we looked at every life moment through this same lens.

If life were a black and white photo, a smile communicates happiness in its simplest and purest form. Upon closer inspection, the authenticity of their smiles are enhanced by the light in their eyes. In focusing on these two facial attributes, the observer easily finds themselves drawn into this circle of radiant joy.

Allow your eyes to consider the following images and see if you too find yourself encapsulated in happiness!

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If life were a black and white photo, an embrace or a hug epitomizes the sincerity and authenticity of loving thy neighbor. It is amazing how a single image can communicate love so simply and beautifully. Consider how much happier we would be if we allowed ourselves to relish in the company we keep; the unbreakable bonds that tie us together.

We need to allow ourselves time in our hectic schedules to pause enough to appreciate these tender moments with the ones we love. These sweet moments of embrace settle into the deepest parts of our hearts; allowing us to feel truly and deeply connected to the special people around us.

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If life were a black and white photo, it almost feels as though it could and would be simpler. Forging friendships as you walk hand in hand, sharing stories that spark imagination, and building an unbreakable bond as brothers. These are just a few of the the simplicities of life encapsulated in a black and white photo.

While it is easy to argue that life is far too complex and complicated to look at with such a simplistic eye, perhaps the real truth lies in how we truly allow ourselves to choose to see the world. True to the adage, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, we each have the power to determine how we look at the world we live in!

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New Year’s Revolutions

Today marks the midway point of January. Although we’re already fifteen days into 2019, it’s never to late to reflect on last year and look forward to what lies ahead. This year as Liam and I discussed the notion of resolutions going into the new year, in true Liam fashion he forgot the actual word and instead dubbed it a new year’s revolution. Now granted we haven’t started a war with the new year but perhaps we should consider that our resolutions if orchestrated properly can have a truly revolutionary impact on our lives.

Traditionally new year’s resolutions revolve around improved health, fitness, and integrating new habits in our lives that will make life simpler and less stressful. I compiled a list of few I have already integrated into my life or are striving towards accomplishing in the new year.

1. Smile More

Research shows that smiling boosts your immune system because your whole body relaxes when you offer up a grin. When you have two incredibly adorable baby bears like these, it’s kind of hard not to smile. Think about how impactful a smile can be to someone who might be having a rough day. Spread a little joy in one of its simplest and purest forms by passing along a smile to someone you see today.

2. Soak it In 

Find moments to pause and soak it all in. Think how quickly 2018 flew by and how we’re already halfway through January. Life is always full of busy moments and to do’s. Allow yourself the opportunity to stop and soak in the little moments. Before you know it, your newborn is a toddler, then a kindergartener, then a tween… time just continues to inch forward whether we want it to or not. So pause to savor those little moments before they are gone in an instant. If you’re too busy trying to accomplish the laundry list of chores piling up or scrolling through your social media feed though, you’ll miss these little glimpses of childlike innocence. Take time to be present and enjoy the company you are keeping.

3. Sip & Savor

So often we are guzzling our morning coffee or inhaling lunch as we multi-task at work. In this new year, make time to sip and savor the food you have in front of you. Indulge in the flavors and aromas that accompany a great meal or an incredible glass of wine. Build community and relish in the food and company at your table.

This year for New Year’s, Sean and I spent a quiet evening after the boys went to bed making pasta from scratch. The homemade noodles tossed in garlic lemon butter sauce paired perfectly with our wine and cheese plate. Taking a step back to appreciate the food and refreshments we put in our bodies and truly marinating in the flavors allows us to savor our food without overindulging.

4. Slow Down 

No one needs to meditate on this phrase more than me. It’s been something I’ve struggled with for years because I’m such a do’er. This, however, has been at the forefront of my intentions for how my 2019 needs to look and feel differently than last year and all of the years before that.

Slowing down starts with recognizing and valuing the importance of self-care. Make time for you every single day so that you have more positive parts of yourself to offer to others. For me, this comes in many forms: bubble baths, hot tea, getting lost in a good book, and soaking in all of the hugs and cuddles I can coax out of a too cool 1st grader and a topsy turvy toddler.

5. Celebrate Accomplishments

Setting goals and celebrating accomplishments is a critical part of achieving success. Striving to be our best comes from hard work, determination, and a desire to be our best. My favorite way to celebrate a podium finish is with high fives, French fries, and champagne. Taking time to celebrate these things allows us to recognize our strengths and appreciate our gifts.

For our little ones, it is also a critical way to build self-esteem and instill a sense of pride in our children. Celebrate your little victories and share these successes with those you are closest too. After all, their support likely contributed in some way to your success!

6. G.O.A.T. 

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2019 is ripe for the taking. Embrace this new year with childlike abandon. Offer gratitude for your blessings. Make time for the people you love and the pursuits that are most important to you. Smile through the good and the bad. Carve out time every day for a little rest and relaxation. Implementing healthy habits and slowing down to soak in the little things will set you up for the Greatest (Year) Of All Time. So go out there and be revolutionary!

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

Each year, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a season of gratitude. An opportunity for us to pause, reflect, and offer thanks for the blessings we have in our lives. It is a day of laborious food preparation, over indulgence, and ultimately a day of breaking bread with some of your nearest and dearest.

With a spread of turkey, dressing, a plethora of baked sides, and of course some indulgent sweets, this years Thanksgiving did not disappoint. As the merriment continues into the season of Christmas, I thought a post that highlighted gratitude and blessings was in order.

I’M THANKFUL…

For authentic friends who I know have my back through thick and thin. Days, weeks, and months might keep us apart but no matter how busy our lives are or how far apart we might be, we keep each other in our hearts. Sometimes it’s a quick text or phone call to carry us through the longer patches when we don’t see one another, but it’s in these simple exchanges that our friendships continues to flourish because true friendship outlasts distance, space, and time.

So to my truest and bluest (you know exactly who you are), thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love, sincerity, and support. I carry you in my heart always. (A special I love you to Stephanie Kahl, because I couldn’t find a recent picture of us.)

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Living each day with a grateful heart makes each day that much more of a gift. It is truly in the little things than we can appreciate and offer gratitude for the richness in our lives. I have so many things to offer thanks and gratitude for. Truly the most precious gifts though resonate for me with my family. I am incredibly grateful for an immediate and extended family who love me beyond measure. I owe a special amount of gratitude though to a few key individuals.

I am grateful for a a mother who truly offers me unconditional love and support. She is present and authentic and in so many amazing ways the kind of woman, mother, and friend I aspire to be each and every day. She emanates a natural beauty that few can pull off at any age. She makes me want to be a better person each and every day. Even when I fall short, I know I can count on her to pull me up with her wisdom and kindness. I cannot say enough positive things about the woman I hold in the highest regard. Mom, thank you today, tomorrow, and always for being such a beautiful example for me.

I offer gratitude to my husband who despite being my polar opposite inspires and challenges me to try to find balance in my life. He knows how hard I push myself and how high my expectations are as a wife and mother. When I least expect it, he surprises me with kind words and appreciation that take the weight of the world off of my shoulders.

My grateful heart bursts at the seams for my two sweet boys. Being your mother is the greatest gift a woman could ask for. You challenge me every day to be my best. I pray every day for the patience, kindness, and love to be the best mother I can be. I delight most in your beautiful smiles and love for one another. My heart is full loving you both day in and day out. I know I will mess up in my pursuit to be the best mom, but please know that through it all I love you with my whole heart and want nothing but the absolute best for each of you. Each and every day, my biggest hope for you is to be your best self. Be kind, love big, and do your best!

I’M BLESSED

Life truly is more meaningful when you count your blessings every single day. I have so much to be grateful for including my health, the love of family, a career I find incredibly rewarding, and the gift of running. My hope in writing this post first and foremost is to offer my sincerest appreciation to the many special people in my life who hold a dear place in my heart. If you aren’t included in one of my pictures, it means I just couldn’t find one to use or recognized that I was liable to make my old Mac crash with the importing and uploading of too many photos.

Life is a precious gift. Thank you for being on this journey through life with me. Thank you for your unwavering support, beautiful friendships, and heartfelt memories. As we all move into the season of Advent, let us remember to count our blessings and offer gratitude to the people who have impacted our lives in positive ways.

Red Lipstick & Side Ponytails

Life as a working mother is anything but calm and slow. From the minute my alarm goes off until both of my sweet boys are sleeping soundly in their beds, it is a rat race of to do’s that include the organizational, culinary, and patience skills of a Martha Stewart, Wolfgang Puck, and Mother Theresa.

My daily routine every morning includes brushing my teeth, dabbing a bit of make up on, donning a great outfit for work or workout clothes on the weekends. Most mornings my routine ends with my two tried and true go to’s: red lipstick and a side ponytail. For many this may seem like an odd blog post considering I haven’t posted in months but it’s intended to serve as the backdrop for an inspirational piece about recognizing the little things in life we can control and wearing them as a badge of beauty and strength.

Red lipstick makes a statement. It’s bold and strong. Two traits I think encompass all women working or not, mother or otherwise. While my role as a wife and mother, are two very important hats in my life. I also love and value my work as a counselor. I also wholeheartedly embrace my strength as a distance runner. So for me, red lipstick is the visual I see every time I look in the mirror and remind myself that, “I got this!”

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So on to the side ponytail. This is a simple hairstyle I rely on at least 50 percent of the time week in and week out. I change it up with a side twist or partial French braid to class it up, but it’s about as fuss free as it comes. Since Atticus was born, I can count on my hands the amount of times I’ve actually blow dried my hair. To be fair, it actually usually only gets a blowout if I’m at a salon getting my haircut. There are just other things in my life I’d rather spend time on and for that reason, the side ponytail has become my signature style.

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I realize red lipstick and a side ponytail don’t give me superpowers. I also readily accept that while they might be my go to, they certainly aren’t going to be for everyone else. That’s the beauty of being your own person. Accepting who you are, loving what you see in the mirror every day, and putting your best foot forward every one step at a time. For some of you it might be an amazing pair of high heels or a strand of your heirloom  pearls. Still for others it might be a fierce set of muscular arms or a radiant smile.

God made each of us unique for a reason. Be true to yourself and love yourself through it every step of the way. By that same token, compliment and appreciate the strengths of the amazing women in your life. Build them up rather than break them down. The world is hard enough as it is. Women need to do right by other women and it starts by simply respecting and valuing the unique gifts and talents our female friends, colleagues, and family members bring into our daily lives.