Only Love Today

It’s been quiet here on the blog, as perhaps you’ve noticed. I’ve had a hard time writing since January’s presidential inauguration. While the Women’s March the following day was a balm, and a tremendously positive experience, my world felt unhinged with the onset of the new administration.

Writing, which has always been my anchor, suddenly felt frivolous. How could I focus on my memoir in the midst of my newfound activism? I also found it hard to read anything longer than an article or a Facebook post. By the time I turned off my phone at the end of the day, my brain was oversaturated, my heart overwhelmed.

Luckily, I received a book on January 23rd, and it’s been the only one I’ve been able to read.

only love arc

Only Love Today
Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less, and Choose Love
by Rachel Macy Stafford

I’ve been hooked on Rachel for years, ever since I stumbled on her blog, Hands Free Mama, which, by the way, you don’t need to be a mom to love, and then reviewed her second book, Hands Free Life.

I was honored to be selected as part of her launch team* for Only Love Today, her beautiful new book, which is organized by season and written in both short poignant essays and prose poems.

After enjoying the lovely introduction, I started Part One: Spring. But something felt off. I quickly realized it had nothing to do with Rachel’s wise words or keenly wrought sentiments – I was simply in the wrong season. I flipped ahead to Winter and fell headlong into passages like this one:

only love hope

 

Most mornings I’d try to steal a few pages before the kids stampeded into the kitchen, or at night after they were in bed. A few minutes, a few pages, is sometimes all I had time for, but often, it was all I needed.

In the midst of a particularly challenging news cycle, when I felt swallowed up by despair, wondering if anything I was doing could possibly make a difference, these words appeared, rising up off the page and pressing into me with a tenderness I could almost feel:

“Maybe the bravest thing you could do right now is just decide this will not defeat you.”

Yes. Oh, yes.

Then a week later, I read this passage while calmly sipping my morning coffee, not knowing that later in the day, these words would serve as a lifeline:

only love fighter

The thing I always receive from Rachel, whether online or in her books, is love. Sounds kind of cheesy, right? But I mean it in all sincerity. Because Rachel is sincere. She genuinely wants to help people, and she does, through her writing and her actions.

She lives out her mantra, only love today, or at least she tries to. What makes Rachel and her books so approachable is that she does not profess to be perfect. She hasn’t figured it all out. Every day, every hour, is a choice. To choose love – not just for others, but for ourselves.

Sometimes I forget this. I put on my Only Love Today bracelet, and think, today I’m going to be better. I’m going to be more patient, more kind. I won’t yell at my kids.

only love bracelet

And then, I lose it. Maybe not even an hour later. My go-to reaction is disgust and self-loathing. I might even take off the bracelet, as if I’m not worthy of wearing it.

only love purple minion

This is what I feel like on bad days.

Then I remember – I’m the one who actually needs it.

The more love I offer to myself, the more generous I can be with others.

*Give-away update! The winner has been selected and informed. Thank you all for your comments here and on Facebook. I wish I had more copies to give away, but it’s worth checking out for yourself if you are so inspired. I hear Target is selling it in droves! xo

only love and pix

Cat not included.

*I was given complimentary copies of the ARC and hardcover as part of the Only Love Today launch team, but the opinions here are entirely my own. 

 

Asking for Help

This isn’t something I do. Well, not on a regular basis. I’m one of those, no, I got it, kind of people. Pride, foolishness, who knows. I could go deep and examine myself, but I’ll leave that for my future therapist (if I ever go back to one, ha). Let’s just say, for whatever reason it’s never come easily for me.

When my daughter was a baby, a colicky, screaming banshee, I needed help. In retrospect I see that quite clearly. Not with her – because, believe me, she was a handful – but for myself. The realization that I was in too deep came several years later and I wrote an essay about it, which will be published in the forthcoming anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness.

Recently, I found myself in a similar place. A rough patch in my parenting journey. Yes, it’s summer and my patience is wearing thin, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s more than that. My colicky little baby girl is now an artistic, sensitive, curious seven-year-old, and still as stubborn and challenging as she was as an infant. I used to call her my extreme baby, and, well now, she’s my extreme grown child.

The other day I was at my wit’s end. I lost my marbles, to put it mildly, and fell into a familiar cycle of self-loathing and despair. Except this time, I asked for help.

Not out loud, but in a note on my phone, which has become a makeshift journal of sorts.

And then, the very next day, this arrived:

hands free life

I am a huge fan of Rachel Macy Stafford and the beautiful writing on her blog, Hands Free Mama. She writes so eloquently about parenting. All of it, the messiness, the shame, and the infinite possibility. Her advice always hits a nerve for me. I even bought her bracelet this winter because I hoped seeing the reminder on my wrist, Only Love Today, would help ground me.

bracelets

Recently, I happened across a Huffington Post article on Facebook that I hadn’t read before called, Manager in My Home, which is about her moment of transformation from manager to nurturer. After reading it, and recognizing my tendency to try to control and rush through the days, I realized that I have yet to put her wisdom into practice.

When Rachel reached out to me on Facebook a couple months ago and asked if I’d consider reviewing her new book, Hands Free Life, I was stunned and moved. YES. Sign me up, I said. The truth is, I haven’t read her first book, Hands Free Mama, though it has been on my to-read list for almost a year.

I think part of me was hesitant to buy another self-help style book. I’ve been through quite a few in the parenting genre. Another part of me was afraid. What if her advice didn’t work? What if I was too far gone?

But after digging a little deeper, I think the real truth is this: what if I had to actually work to make change happen? 

It’s one thing to buy a bracelet and admire another’s work, but quite another to change your life.

Well, I’m ready now. I’ve already ordered a copy of Hands Free Mama (which you can get a free ebook of if you preorder her new book), and I’m a third of the way through Hands Free Life.

I’m soaking it up like a sponge. I’m already starting to make changes in my parenting style, in my life. Let me be perfectly clear – I’m a long, long way from shaking off all my bad habits, but I’m finally willing to try.

I’ll be sharing tidbits of knowledge from the book along the way, and also writing a review closer to the September 8th release. Please note that I’m not getting paid in any way to promote this book, though I did receive a free copy. I don’t usually review books at all here, but this book literally arrived at my doorstep at just the right moment in my life.

Are you familiar with Hands Free Mama? If not, let me know what you think if you end up checking out her blog. I also loved her latest moving post about making appreciation jars for her family on the eve of her surgery. I’m definitely going to make them for my kids, maybe even before summer ends…

Speaking of which, I hope you’re enjoying your summer! The school year is right around the corner, which fills me with excitement or dread, depending on the hour. Knowing myself, I will be in full nostalgia mode, despite all the challenges of this summer. Because that’s the way I roll.

Starting Again

I’m honored to be over at Literary Mama today as a guest blogger for their “After Page One” column.

lmlogo-500

“After Page One” is a section devoted to short but sweet essays intended to motivate, inspire, and encourage fellow writing mamas. I wrote about how I managed to scratch my way out of the deep writing hole I found myself in after having my first child.

Below is a brief excerpt:

“Starting Again”

In the months leading up to my daughter’s birth, I wrote my first novel. That makes it sound so easy, doesn’t it? But it was as much of a labor as the one I was about to have. My belly bulged as I walked down the sidewalk clutching my freshly printed manuscript to my chest. I had three weeks until my due date. Plenty of time to read it. Or so I thought. Two nights later I went into labor and by morning I was a new mother.

Click here to read the rest… Thank you!