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Monday, January 19, 2015

healthy, happy, you 2015 - strong mom - Beth Wallace

This is the last part of the January "healthy, happy, you 2015" series on the blog, and it's such a perfect way to end this getting healthy series. Being a strong mother isn't just about working out, eating healthier and getting fit. Being strong and healthy also involves your emotional health, mental health, spiritual health. It's so important to focus on those as well as your physical body. 

My dear friend Beth Wallace is one of those moms who I just adore. She's real. She shares with me her struggles, her ups and downs, the moments where she's not sure she is going to last through one more sleepless night. She also is fiercely devoted to her babies, the type of mom who I can picture singing to them every single night before bed despite being exhausted herself and who does those little mom touches that make things better in her kids' world. 

She was feeling down last year. Like she couldn't manage the busy-ness that comes with two kids. She needed something to show her just how lucky she was. She found a gratitude project and started taking pictures of things she is thankful for, particularly with her kids and family. It's changed her life. 

I personally have tried on my Instagram account @themommystories to feature things I'm grateful for as a mother about once a month. In November I posted one picture a day for 30 days and I have to agree with Beth, it does change things, your mindset, perspective, mood. It makes you happier, seeing things that you didn't notice before to be grateful for. 

Try it! I used the hashtag #thankfulmoms on my Instagram account. If you're on there and want to start this project, please join us and tag your photos. 

All images from Beth Wallace 

When did you start your daily gratitude journal? What were you feeling at the time that you started it, why did it sound like something you wanted to do or needed in your life?
I started my gratitude journal in late January 2013. I had a three year old and a six month old. I was feeling sleep-deprived, grumpy and not wanting to miss out on my daughter’s babyhood the way that I felt I did with my son. 

When my firstborn Holden was 5/6 months old, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I was crying a lot, feeling lonely, and so very, very sleep deprived. My doctor said that six months post-partum was actually the time she always worried about patients the most. That sleep deprivation finally makes you hit a wall of exhaustion. I just remember being so SAD during that summer, when I could have been relishing in him a bit more, taking trips to see friends, getting out, etc. I was staying home with him while on summer vacation from work.

I had my daughter 2.5 years later, and I was staying at home again. Laurel was (and still really isn’t) a great sleeper. One night while I was in bed, I stumbled upon this website: I don’t remember how I found her, but this woman changed my life. The line about appreciating her husband, falling in love with him again, etc. really snapped me and made me realize, I wanted to feel better. The winters are always the hardest for me. I love sunshine and warm weather! I decided this would be the best time to start. I am a photographer and have tried doing daily photo projects with my “good” camera, but I decided Instagram was my tool. My phone is easy, in my hands, and within reach. 

Every day I would choose something to give thanks. I would take a picture and journal about it. 

What was the first thing you were grateful for? Give us 5 other things over the last year that you have been grateful for.
The first thing I was grateful was this photo. I had just received this sweater in the mail from my mom. I promptly put it on Laurel, and she has worn it almost daily since. 

I don’t even know how to pick 5 things…but here they go: 

12.15.14: Laurel at Disney World: “This was Laurel’s high today.” 

11.27.14: Kids sleeping in the car. “A boy with his bunny and a girl with her piggies. A nice rest en route to Nan and Grandpa’s.” I often take pictures of my kids sleeping in the car. We’ve really said goodbye to Holden’s naps at home, so when I get these moments of silence, I’m often grateful! (I never take pics while driving!). 

11.24.14: “My cutest date. Holden and I had a lot of time just the two of us yesterday, including an awesome birthday party. We touched a hedgehog, bunnies and a python! 11.24.14 Happy 16 months to Laurel!”

10.18.14: The things my kids get to do while I'm at work... Grateful that this crazy week week has officially commenced. Woah. 

9.21.14 "Daddy, do you want me to rub your back?" Playing naptime at 930am. So grateful for all the really cute things Holden says. (And that smile on Daddy’s face). 

What types of things do you find you focus on in this daily gratitude journal? Is there a theme or common thread?
My most common threads are my children. I just started a new job, and I have found it hard to find moments that pull at my heart while I’m at work. I’m happier overall by working, but I’ve noticed the moments that really make me stop are with the kids. 

Is it hard to find things you are grateful for on a daily basis? Where do you find some inspiration?
As stated above, my children are almost always my inspiration. I’m so glad for that because that was the whole point of this project. I always could appreciate my partner though. He’s an amazing father and husband. 

Another amazing inspiration about this project is that I am seeing gratefulness and the beauty in a moment so much more. I often find myself wanting to grab my phone (or the “good” camera), but I just stop and soak it up more. I see a scene that I would like to photograph, but honestly, the phone can be so limiting. I know I would miss the moment by trying to push the limits on the phone and/or running for the big camera. Sometimes I remember the moment I loved and take another photo later (related or not) and jot down what moved me in that moment. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about the feeling and being more present. 

What is your advice to moms who like you are feeling they need to find something to focus on every day that uplifts, inspires, encourages them or just makes them smile?
Do it. I chose photography because it’s easy for me. If you like to write, then write. If you like to draw, then draw. If you like to do yoga, then do yoga and set an intention for the day or blessing for the night. Anything. 

Where, how, when, etc. do you do this gratitude journal? What helps you to make it a priority?
I try to do it daily. Sometimes I’ll be without Internet connection, and I’ll post a bunch later (or not at all). I am not perfect with it, but I do like it. It takes me a minute or two. 

To explain the process a bit more, I decided early on that I wanted it to be a private Instagram account. I don’t have many followers on my first Instagram account, but I decided this one would just be for me. Then slowly I started adding in friends (who have Instagram) and have built myself a sweet little circle of friends. I’m rarely someone who is exclusive, but I decided for me, I would be for this project. I didn’t want it to be construed as a “highlight”/fake reel of Facebook. I do get real once in a while, but often I am posting positive, shining lights on my children. I knew these friends would know that I wasn’t bragging about my life. I like having control over it and in some posts, I feel like I’m talking to these beautiful, supportive women in my life. I realized after a while that each and every one of them had supported me in some way in my photography journey. They include a wide time range of friends…one who was in the darkroom with me in college, my first models while I built my portfolio, and a dear friend getting married next summer. I can’t wait for July 2015! 

What do you think you are teaching your children by showing them the things you are grateful for? 
I think I am innately someone who sees the glass half-empty too much of the time. My husband often sees the glass half-full, and I want to be like that. I am never perfect, but I do feel that in this past year and a half, my attitude has changed. For example, over the last few weeks/month, I started a new job, we had a ton of sickness, traveled on two big trips, and essentially got NO sleep. One morning riding around at 4am to get my daughter to sleep and not wake up the whole house where we were guests, I was even counting my blessings then. Trust me, I was grumpy, sooo tired, and agitated, but after we both caught some snoozes parked in the van, I felt better. I was able to look at our two weeks of crazy travel as AWESOME days but hard nights. I felt good recognizing those hard nights, but I was much more present and happy around my nieces and nephews. 

I want my children to see the glass more full than empty. I believe that can be taught by example and by practice. 

What have you learned about life in this process of being grateful daily?
Well, I haven’t had any major hardships this year, such as tragic loss. I have seen friends suffer earth-shattering losses in the past few years, and it makes me want to stop more appreciate all of those around me. 

My husband’s boss is a part-time minister, and when I told him about this project, he said a wise fellow minister once told him: “Humility and gratitude are the keys to a spiritual life.” 

I often think of my dear friends who have lost parents in the past few years, and it always makes me stop, slap myself a little bit, and find something if I’m grumpy: A beam of light, a smile, a joke from my son, a tickle to my daughter, a phone call to a loved one. Sometimes my husband still has to jostle me a little bit, but overall, I’m happier than I have been in the past. 

What have you learned about yourself in this process?

I can be happy by my OWN accord. No one else is responsible for my happiness. There are many things I need to nurture my spirit, such as sleep, good food and exercise. By doing this project, I felt I had the energy to tackle some other goals to better myself. A few of them last year were less Target shopping, less soda, healthier eating, less Facebook. I feel more empowered. 

How does stopping every day to find something to be thankful for help your mental and emotional health as a mother in particular?
Mothering is so taxing. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s so rewarding too. I would look at other moms and wonder, “What is wrong with me? I have always LOVED babies and little kids. Why am I not enjoying them like these friends are?” Taking stock of what I love about them and our life has given me a much better perspective and less comparing. 

It helps me see the beauty in my son’s crazy moments. I’m reminded that he’s still a “baby.” I love all the stages of my daughter and have so much more patience. I recognize my limits a little bit more and know when I need to ask for help. 

What is your New Year's Resolution in regards to being healthy, happy and yourself in 2015?
I am inspired by the Abundant Mama project I did this year. One of the prompts was to pick a different person in your life to journal about in a gratefulness manner each day. I’m excited to do this. I mainly journaled about Holden, Laurel, Josh and my MIL who often babysits. I need and want to include more people in my daily gratitude. 

Other than that, I want to get back to exercising and eating better. I’d also like Laurel to sleep better again. We almost saw the light and then our travel gave us a bump in the road. I’m ready to bring that back! 

I also want to give myself grace, as my friend Caroline would say. We’re still in the midst of a big transition with me going back to work, and I’m learning and adjusting a lot. 

Anything else you want to add?

Thank you for highlighting me Angela. 

I hope other mommies who are a little bit exhausted, a little bit blah, or heck…just experiencing the world of mommy hood, find a way that helps them see a bit of a regular gratitude without it being a ton of work. Don’t set the bar high, and if it doesn’t work for you, find something that does. 

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