Finally, Without Fear

I am scared.
I am nervous.
I am hopeful.

And, I am depressed.

I have been depressed since July. Many people have asked me why I stopped writing so much, why I became some quiet on Facebook, why I didn’t reply to emails. Am I pregnant? Nope, but yes, I am dealing with my first bout of depression ever. I have casually written that I will tell everyone what is going on soon, when the time is right. And then whenever I thought that the time was right to share this deep, uncomfortable truth, I became really nervous. Nervous that sharing about my personal life was perhaps too much, too much for you all to know, too much for me to bare sharing.

And then, if I actually overcame the nerves and focused on the fact that I am desperate to write about my struggle, I became scared. Scared that people will judge me, scared that people will judge my family; scared that people will treat me and look at me differently; scared that people will think less of me, that I am weak and should “just get happy,” and scared that people will think I am too much of a downer and therefore not worth hanging around because I am uninspiring and a real party pooper.

And then on a good day, like today, for a brief moment I stop feeling nervous or scared and I just feel like the “me” that isn’t struggling with depression. I feel passionate about sharing my story and my struggles because I want other people who feel like I do, to not feel so alone. I want to share my story so that the stigma around depression can lessen and people like myself don’t feel scared or nervous to talk about his/her struggles, but instead feel welcomed and encouraged so they can get the help they need, or just feel loved and not so scared and alone.

And then, like today, I become hopeful. Hopeful that maybe, just maybe, that sharing my story will help just one person get help. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know this, writing thus far has already helped me. I feel lighter and a little happier. I have kept this struggle secret since July and it has been eating me up because I feel like I am keeping a really, awful deep dark secret from people I care about and I can’t stand it. Yes, I feel like The Orange Rhino Community is my extended family, seriously. And not telling you about my struggle daily feels like I am not being fully honest and I don’t like that. So here is my story (the short version.)

This has been one of the hardest years of my life, there is no doubt. I have experienced struggles like I couldn’t imagine. From numerous trips to the Emergency Room for one son’s seizures with concerns that he might have epilepsy to my marriage boulder to my foot injury that just won’t go away, and to everything in between (there is a lot in between!), it has been a long, long trying year and the hits just keep on coming, and coming, and coming. Some of the factors grew this July and my stress hit a whole new level. I felt sadness and pain like I have never felt before.

I didn’t want to get out of bed and I couldn’t wait to go to bed at night and yet, as soon as the kids were asleep I just sat on the couch cuddled up flipping through the same websites for hours because I couldn’t find the motivation to actually go to bed. I didn’t want to do things I love like playing with my kids, blogging, participating in The Orange Rhino Community, getting ice cream or sitting outside to enjoy a beer in the summer night. If I ever had a quiet moment alone during the day and a slow song came on I cried my eyes out. I ate everything in sight just to feel better (it didn’t work). I started drinking every night to feel better (that didn’t work either.)

Nothing really worked to make me feel better. Nothing has really worked to make me feel better. Right now I still feel the same sadness and pain, although perhaps deeper. In fact, it was deep enough and worrisome enough to me, because it has lasted so long and is growing, that I decided it was time to do something I have thought about, but vehemently fought since July. It was time to let go of my fear of being judged and do what my family needed me to do.

It was time to get help.
It was time to go to a therapist.
It was time to go on anti-depressants.

This was an incredibly hard decision to make. I wanted to believe I was strong enough to get through this tough patch on my own. I mean, I have hit tough patches before in my life, whoa nelly have I ever! I have felt sad from some of my traumas, but never so badly that just getting out of bed felt like an unbearable chore. I have never been so unmotivated in my life and not cared about not achieving anything as I do now. I have never wanted to run away as much as I do now. I have never felt truly depressed. Until now.

Six weeks ago someone asked me if I was depressed and I said, “no, of course not. Things are just tough.” And then my stomach curled and my feet twitched because I knew I was lying. I knew I was depressed; it was obvious to me because the intensity of my emotions was on a whole new level, but I was scared to admit it. I was scared to share just how bad I felt because I didn’t want to believe the depth of my pain; I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. I didn’t want to be taken away from my kids.

But now, now I can say without fear, that I am depressed. And I don’t just feel this new sense of not being scared to share this hard truth that will undoubtedly bring judgment just because the anti-depressants are helping, but rather I feel the need to share it after several emails I have received. Turns out, I am not the only one in pain. Numerous people have emailed me lately and shared that they are struggling and think they might be depressed and might need an anti-depressant but that they don’t want to go that route because they fear what people will say and … because they fear what they will say about themselves.

Because they fear what they will say about themselves.

Oh, oh do I get this. From the onset of my struggles, I haven’t wanted to go on anti-depressants because I feared it meant that I was weak for not being able to mange on my own. I feared it meant that I was screwed up and a bad role model for my kids. I feared it meant that I was different than everyone else. I feared that it meant I had just given up and stopped trying and sought the easy way out.

And, I feared it meant that I was pathetic…because that is what I have heard people say about those who go on anti-depressants; that those who need anti-depressants and can’t get just “get-happy” and “choose to be happy” are pathetic. I feared it meant that I was choosing to be depressed…because that is what I have heard people say about people on anti-depressants. Let me tell you, I am most certainly trying my hardest to not be depressed; it is just really, really hard under my current circumstances. There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by where I think, “UGH. Come on. I just want to feel better now and forget the pain! Please, help me to feel better!”

So, I write this post now to stand up for all of us who are struggling with depression, whether it be chronically or situational.

I write this post now to say you are NOT alone. We are not alone.

I write this post now to say you, me, we are not weak, pathetic, or screwed up because we need and seek help and choose anti-depressants. No, you, me, we are none of those things.

We might be scared, sad, embarrassed, confused and hurting, but we are also more. We are courageous to admit we need help. We are strong to actually get it.

I write this now with fire in my heart and with conviction to end all convictions, and I hope that I remember this in five minutes when I press “post” and in five hours when I take my new little pill and inevitably think, “shit, I needed a pill because I am in so much pain, why couldn’t I just do it on my own.” And I hope that I remember my conviction that I am courageous and strong when I feel overwhelmed by pain and sadness because I don’t want to go any deeper into this hole.

And, I hope above all else that I keep on fighting to get past this period of depression in my life. I hope that despite what people say about taking an anti-depressant and despite what I feel about taking one, that I do keep on taking my new little pill because the truth is, I need it right now. Right now I need a little extra help. And that is okay. There is no shame in needing help. None. Especially if the little help makes me a little happier which means my kids are a little happier too, for at the end of the day, this is why I am doing all this hard work, so that I can be the best person for me and my family.

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week. I intended to share this post then but got scared. Please share this post so that others out there like me can start to live without fear and can get the support they need. 

Parenting on Empty

The other day as my boys and I drove up north to visit my family, we saw a car on the side of the road getting serviced by a tow-truck.

“Why is that car stopped mommy?” Asked my increasingly inquisitive four-year-old.

“He probably has no gas. That’s what happens when you have no gas you know. You stop working.” Said my increasingly know-it-all five-year-old.

“Oh.” Replied my increasingly trusting of anything his big brother says.

And that was that. The conversation ended and they resumed complaining to each other that we weren’t there yet.

And I resumed complaining to myself that we weren’t there yet because I too was tired, because I too am tired.

I am tired of feeling like that car on the side of the road: broken down and out of gas, stranded on the side of the road with a destination in mind and no power to get there. I am tired of running on empty; which is exactly what I have been doing for the last four or five weeks, maybe even longer.

I am go-go-going in all aspects of my life: physically, emotionally, socially, maternally, and personally and it is nothing short of absolutely exhausting and absolutely alarming. Alarming because I see what running on empty looks like. I am missing doctors’ appointments. I am walking like a zombie. I am planning birthday parties way later than usual.  I am not doing things that I enjoy doing because I am “too tired,” I am not writing as much because I am “too tired.”

I am giving half-hearted “uh, yes, I see, that is great” replies to my sons as they proudly show me things and this breaks my heart. I am struggling to keep promises made to my sons that really matter to me, like focusing on yelling less and loving more. 

And while generally speaking I love to go-go-go, and in fact I thrive on it and have never had a problem running my life as such, for the first time in my life, my body is saying to me STOP. SLOW DOWN. Actually, it is begging. I have never physically craved a vacation as much as I have in the last two weeks. And while I have “a lot” that I want to do but don’t need to, “a lot” that I should do but don’t want to do, and “a lot” that I need to do and well, just need to do, my body is telling me I can’t.

My body has physically slowed down. At night it screams, don’t “do” just sit on the couch. In the morning it screams, “don’t do” just cuddle in the bed with the boys and be lazy. In the day it screams, “don’t do” just go outside and soak in the sun and the fresh summer air.

Don’t do, just be.
Don’t do, just breathe.
Don’t do, just don’t do.
Take a break.

Yes, my mouth has stopped yelling at my kids, and now my body is yelling at me. Yelling at me to stop and slow down. And I need to listen, because running on empty, parenting on empty, well, it doesn’t work! It not only does me no good, but it also certainly does my children, my family, and my friends no good.  Running on empty means I am shorter, snappier, moodier, grumpier, everything “-er” except calmer, friendlier, and happier. Running on empty means I am that much closer to yelling than I have been in months and that is a part of me that I do not want to welcome back.

Running on empty means, well it just means I am not feeling entirely fulfilled in anything I do because I do not have enough energy to fully embrace each moment as much as I wish.

Running on empty means that I need to pull over and fill ‘er up. I realized this about two weeks ago. The problem? When I asked myself, “okay, self, you need to fill up the tank,” (and yes, I literally used those words with myself and referred to myself as if I were a car) I found myself replying, “but how? How do I fill up the tank?”

You see I have run on almost empty before and I knew then how to get more into the tank when I felt my energy siphoning out. I would find a way to get a night out laughing with close friends or family and how to squeeze in a few workouts. And you see, when I have run on half a tank and felt I needed a boost, I would just have an extra coffee or two and go to bed early and voila, tank much more full.

But empty? I have never run as empty as I am now (maybe I have never cared so much about the impact of running on empty as I do now?). When I pushed myself to figure out how to “fill ‘er up” a few weeks ago, and struggled to find an answer, I actually felt emptier. Was there nothing that would get me back on the road? Had I gone-gone-gone too long and finally truly broken down from exhaustion (eh hem, just as everyone warned me I would?!) How would I possibly stop and “fill ‘er up” because that would mean not doing something that I should be doing and that doesn’t feel right, I need to be productive. And then it hit me.

I literally needed to get on the road and drive.

I needed to get on the road and breathe in fresh air. I needed to go to my Sanctuary, my place that fills my soul with calm and beauty, peace and joy. I needed to go to the rocky coast and sit on the rocks and hear the waves crash and crash and crash. I needed to go to the woods and smell the pine trees and stare at the pitch-black sky with only stars and no city lights. I needed to get away and “be productive” by just connecting with my boys, enjoying my boys, loving my time with my boys uninterrupted because that is always what gives me the most energy.

So that is what I am doing. And I already feel rejuvenated just being home and just being with my boys and with no blaring to-do lists (okay, just ignoring the blaring to-do list.)

Figuring out how to “fill ‘er” up wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t the only thing that was hard. It is hard to step away and actually make it happen. But I know that I need the break, that I need to take care of me. I know that it is essential, you know, just like an oil change, so that I can keep running smoothly and take my children places. Oh I want to take my kids places, and I don’t just literally mean to school and therapy appointments, but also I mean to happy places, like happy memories and happy feelings. I can only do this if I take care of me. Repeat: I can only do this if I can take care of me.

I cannot do this if I parent on empty. I will not parent on empty. I will not live on empty. I will fill up as frequently as I need to.

If you enjoyed this piece, check out my new new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” It is a 30 day guide to yelling less but also a parenting memoir with each day sharing an honest, heartfelt  story from my Orange Rhino Challenge Journey. Also included are simple steps to follow for your own journey to yell less and daily alternatives to yelling to try. It hits shelves this October but you can be one of the first to receive it by pre-ordering it here

Wishes For My Babies

I remember so very clearly the beautiful October day my husband and I left Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina with our first son. The sky was bright blue with pure white wispy clouds. Some of the trees had just started changing color and those red, yellow and orange leaves shone gorgeously under the sun. My husband and I love the fall, and love days just like that one. It could not have been a more perfect day to bring our first child outside, into the world for the first time.

We clicked his car seat in and I hopped in next to him. The thought of him riding in the back seat alone for the entire six-minute drive home was just too much to bear! As my husband starting pulling out of the hospital parking lot I noticed that he was driving even more slow and cautious than usual to the point where I had to say, “Babe, can you drive a little faster?!”

“I just don’t want to get into an accident.” he replied. “We have a child now. We need to be safer.”

He was right. Our world had just changed. We were no longer responsible for ourselves, but also for this beautiful little being sleeping in the backseat in his adorable sailboat outfit. We continued on at the snails pace, cars honking at us and pacing us. They obviously had no idea that we had brand new precious cargo…or that we were brand new parents who suddenly interpreted the words “drive safely” on an entirely new level.

We got home safe and sound and officially began our journey as parents.

Getting ready to have some dreams and wishes of my own!

Our son finally settled into his bouncy seat immediately next to us at the dinner table (of course), we settled into our own seats and began pondering all that had just occurred the last four days. My husband paused from shoving food in (we had already learned to shove food in, not knowing then #1 would cry and need attention), and looked up at me,

“Isn’t there a manual that comes with babies? Like how to do all this stuff and what each cry means?” I smiled and replied with,

“I know, right? I mean I can’t believe that the hospital just let us walk out of with this fragile person, trusting that we would know what to do, that we would care for it well, that we would love it enough. I mean wow, are they nuts?!”

We both laughed and then #1 woke up and those ten minutes of peace and reflection passed. It was a good thing we had stuffed the food in!

As I look back at the arrival of my first son and that first night home and all the things we didn’t know what to do, I don’t wish that someone had told me before hand how to do them. I don’t wish someone had given me more explicit directions about burping, feeding, sleeping habits, soothing, bathing. Nope. I knew in due time that experience would teach me those things. But what I do wish is that someone told me to take the time BEFORE he was born to write down my wishes and dreams for him. I wish that someone had told me to write down which values I want to teach him, both through example and through experience.

Oh I wish that I had written about both of these topics because often at the end of the day I find myself wondering, am I doing a good job parenting? Am I being the parent I want to be? And when I start to think these thoughts, I find that I don’t have the answer.

Maybe it’s because of my analytical nature (or maybe it’s just because there is no real answer), but for me, how can I know the answer to such questions if I don’t know what I am measuring against? If I don’t know what kind of parent I am aiming to be? I mean sure I know in the back of my mind what I want to be teaching and how I want to be loving but I also know that with all the chaos that life brings that I don’t keep these thoughts at the front of my mind. And I know that I want to. Desperately. Because they matter more than “did I teach my son to tie his shoelaces today?”

And I know that making a visual cue, perhaps a typed up list of my wishes for my children, my dreams of what I hope to teach them, would help me remember the kind of parent I aspire to be. I could look at it and say, “Okay. I didn’t do the dishes today, but I did work to make a wish of mine for my children come true so I am doing okay at this parenting gig.” Oh how I have wanted to get around to making that visual. I just, you know, have never gotten around to doing it. Sigh.

But then this past weekend happened. I was at a baby shower for a dear friend who is having her first child this fall. The activity was to fill out the form “Wishes for Baby.” I knew the activity was intended for my friend, but I felt like it was really intended for me. I felt like it was the push to get me to do what I have wanted to do for almost seven years but have been pushing off. I filled out the form for her and then took a blank one for me.

The way I see it, it is never too late to have a wish, to share a wish, or to make it happen.

For my sons, who I love so very much, these are my “Wishes for Baby” that I have always had, just never shared. While you are no longer babies per say, you will always be my babies and I will always have these wishes for you, and more. I hope that I can do my part to make them happen!

I hope you learn to: Dance in the rain, literally and metaphorically. There will be storms in your life. When you can, embrace the storm. Know that it will pass and will leave you stronger and with a new perspective. So put on the rain boots and go outside and let the rain pound down on you. You’ll feel refreshed and alive.

I hope you love: With all your heart. It might get broken and that’s okay. It will just help you appreciate what real love is when it comes along.

I hope you aren’t afraid to: Believe in your dreams and passionately pursue them. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that your dreams are foolish and unachievable. Ever.

I hope you get: To experience success, but also, failure. Success will give you confidence, but failure will keep you humble and will teach you how to persevere.

I hope you laugh at: Yourself whenever you can even if you have made a mistake, and never at someone else (unless of course a joke was made.) Laughter makes life lighter and more enjoyable.

I hope you grow: Kindness in your heart and plant it everywhere you go. Random acts of kindness are the most wonderful gifts, a gift that is always needed, always treasured and always impactful in ways you cannot imagine.

I hope you respect: Yourself and all the decisions you make. You will sleep much better at night knowing that you spent the day honorably, wisely, and kindly.

I hope you become: A man who follows his heart for happiness, a man who treats women (and men) with respect, a man who stands up for others, and a man who is not afraid to be true to himself and who he is.

I hope you never forget: Just how very, very much you are loved, appreciated, needed and supported. I hope you never forget how grateful we are that you are in our lives. I hope you never forget how proud we are of you. And I hope you never forget all of the above wishes we have for you.

* * * * *

I share one of my favorite promises to my boys (and favorite stories that always makes me tear up!) in my new parenting memoir/guide, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids-and How You Can Too!” Full of 100 Alternatives to yelling, Simple, Daily Steps to follow, and honest stories to inspire, my book shares my journey to yell less while gently guiding you on your own. It hits shelves in October but you can pre-order it now by clicking here (you’ll hit my Publishers site which lists all the online retailers!)

“I Can Do This.”

Well, I did it.

Yesterday I woke up and thought, “today, today is the day I am going to conquer my current trigger (my weight)” and I did. Just like that. Snap of the fingers, ya know? Super duper easy. Or easy peasy as my seven year old would say.

Ha! As if!

The day started at 4:30 as littlest man is getting his two-year molars and the poor thing was howling like a wolf and completely inconsolable. My go-to coping method for exhaustion? Eating and eating and eating some more. I guess I think that if I keep my arm and mouth moving it will literally keep me awake?!  But yesterday for some reason I didn’t give into my desire to eat and eat when I was tired but not hungry.

Come round 2:00 pm I wanted to crash my head into my kitchen counter. You see next to eating and eating my go-to method for exhaustion is drinking lots of Diet Coke, like lots of it. The problem with this plan? It most definitely makes me want to eat more and more and it most definitely makes me crave the “bad stuff.” But yesterday for some reason I didn’t give into my desire to have more than one.

Then 7:00 hit like a ton of bricks. All four kiddos were tucked snug in their beds and it was time to work out. It was time to actually do what I told myself I would do tonight no matter what. It was time to remember that working out is important to me, that it does make me feel good physically and emotionally, that I do have time for it. But oh, oh I wanted to just plop on the couch, grab a glass of wine and do nothing. But yesterday for some reason I didn’t give into my desire to not exercise.

Nope, the only desire I gave into all day was my desire to achieve my personal goal. Again, it was super duper easy, easy peasy. Ha! As if!

Even though I plopped into bed last night giddy and proud and pumping with adrenaline that I finally “did it,” that I finally got back on track and found the energy and determination I needed to focus on eating healthier and being healthier, I plopped into bed UBER exhausted, perhaps more exhausted than I started the day. And not just because I had just exercised and been awake since 4:30, but also because I had mentally spent all day talking to myself. Looking back at yesterday, It wasn’t just “some reason” that I didn’t give into my desires that would steer me off track; it was this reason. It was these conversations with myself.

“Orange Rhino, you don’t want to eat the kids pancakes, you aren’t hungry.” I said to myself. Myself replied, “Right. You are right. I don’t want to. I can do this.”

“Orange Rhino, I know you think you need another Diet Coke but you don’t, you need some water and a walk or a dance party.” I said to myself. Myself replied, “Right. Water will make me feel way better. I can do this. I can do this.”

The most dominant and recurring conversation though, the one that felt like I was in ground-hog day? That would be this one.

“Orange Rhino, stop it right now. Right now. Stop telling yourself that working out for 20 minutes instead of 30 doesn’t count. Stop looking at your achievements from today as small and pathetic; instead look at your achievements as a step in the right direction, a step better than yesterday, a step better than nothing.” I said to myself. Myself replied, “Right. I know, I know. Baby steps are big steps. Stay focused on the good. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”

Or wait, would it be this conversation?

“Orange Rhino, stop it right now. Right now. Stop worrying about how you are going to get through the day. Stop worrying about how you will lose all the weight you want. Focus on now. Go one moment at a time. All the moments add up and will lead you to your goal.” I said to myself. Myself replied, “Right. I know. I can do this. I can do this.”

Oh yes, I spent much of yesterday reminding myself to stay in the moment and celebrate what I was doing right instead of thinking of all that I was doing wrong. And oh yes, was it exhausting but worth it! All the constant chatter with myself helped me to stay on track, to get through each tough moment. Each successful moment gave me confidence and my confidence just grew and grew over the day and carried me well into today, just as I knew it would, or rather, as I hoped it would. So tonight as I sit here writing, I am celebrating two days of feeling back on track, feeling good about myself and I credit it mostly to talking to myself.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I have had a lot of experiences in my life where I lacked enough confidence to get over a hurdle. As a result, I just stayed in limbo, wallowing in self-pity really that I couldn’t just “snap out of it” and find the courage to jump the hurdle. Whether it be as small as having the guts to finally accept my first kiss (I was shy, okay a prude), trying a new food as a young adult at a business meeting (I don’t like new tastes, at all), sharing a contradictory opinion (I greatly fear offending people), going down a really high slide with my boys at an amusement park (I fear heights, big time) or as big as not yelling at my kids (this one is self-explanatory) I have so greatly struggled to often times just do it. I have let fear and lack of confidence stop me. But every time I finally “just did it” by telling myself “I can do this.”

Okay, that is a partial lie. I did it by telling myself “I can do this, I just a small win to believe in myself, I just need to go one small step at a time.” Just go for a peck on the lips. Just take a small bite. Just share part of your opinion. Just get to the top of the slide. Just go one moment not yelling. And then two, then three hours, then six hours, then a day.

Yes, telling myself “I can do this one moment at a time” has always helped me finally find the courage, energy and determination to get on track towards meeting a goal or overcoming a challenge. While it might not be easy-peasy to remember to say this to myself, it certainly makes it a heck of a lot easier to accomplish something than telling myself I can’t.

Yelling Less Loving More

(P.S. The other thing that helped me have two really good days? You all. Just sharing my struggle helped it be more real, it helped me realize how important it is to me. And you all sharing your support gave me the strength to wake up and get going. Thank you. Now it is my turn to return the favor. You can do this “yelling less, loving more” thing. You can! I know you can. Just go one moment at a time…..)

{sometimes} My Weight Makes Me Want to Yell

My weight is up right now and boy does it have me down. Now, my weight being up is not a new thing to me; I have struggled with my weight and body image issues for at least fifteen years. (Okay, that was kind. I think since I was fifteen is more like it.) Anyway, what is a new thing to me is that I am lacking the determination, the will power and the ability to get to where I want to be to feel better about myself. As a result, I am feeling many of the same ugly, heavy feelings I used to feel when I yelled.

At the end of the day, I feel guilty that I indulged in an ice cream sundae…again. I feel disappointed in myself that even though I told myself “today is the day I will gain control” that I didn’t stop myself when the bag of chips called my name. I feel like a failure whenever I look in the mirror and my face and arms are noticeably puffier. I feel out of control, as in completely out of control and unable to stop myself once I start. And I feel embarrassed, frustrated, and hopeless that I will ever get back on track.

And I don’t like it.

While many people would say “hey, don’t worry about your weight, you like fine and it is what is on the inside that matters” and I would say back “I know, I know” the reality is that right now, neither statement matters to me. What matters to me is that my weight isn’t making me happy, or confident or comfortable in my own skin. In fact, all these negative feelings are making me miserable and well they are making it a lot harder to actually accomplish what I want to accomplish! I know that I need to stop beating myself up in order to move forward. I know that I need to not just give up on the entire day, my entire goal, after one bad snack. I know that one “weak” moment doesn’t mean that I am a failure; it just means that I need to let that moment go and seize the next opportunity to be a little stronger. And I know that telling myself “eh, I don’t really care” is complete bull. I do care, it is just easier to say I don’t care because then when I feel frustrated with my weight I can say to myself “oh, you don’t care, it’s okay.”

But again, that is complete bologna; it is just an excuse to hide behind. I care immensely.

I care immensely that right now I am binge eating because I am feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, tired and emotionally spent. I care immensely not just because I am physically and emotionally unhappy with my weight, but also because I know it isn’t healthy, physically or emotionally. I care immensely because even though in the moment I “really want and need to eat,” in fact I know that what I really want is to stop this behavior. And I care immensely because my weight and my eating habits are huge, gargantuan triggers for yelling and even though I am not yelling right now, I am finding it very hard to stay calm.

You see, when I feel confident and happy with myself, it is so much easier to parent with love and patience.

When I feel like I do now, unconfident and crappy about myself, oh is it hard to parent with love and patience…oh is it hard to be an Orange Rhino and yell less and love more. Why? Because all I want to do is yell, yell, yell!  Do I want to yell at the kids? No. What I really want to do is yell at myself! I want to yell,

“Why can’t you find self-control and not eat all that junk? You know how. You’ve done it before. Like 5 times before. Just put the fork down. Get with the program.”

And “Why can’t you find just 15 minutes to exercise when you know it is important to you and that it makes you feel better in so many regards?”

And “Why are you making yourself miserable? You know you would rather eat healthy and feel healthy than eat crappy and feel crappy.”

Oh yes, I want to yell big time. But just like yelling at my kids does no good, yelling at myself doesn’t either. What would do me good would be to do many of the same things I did to support myself in my quest to stop yelling at my boys. Telling myself I can do it, telling myself that I can lose weight, that I do know how, that I will get there, now that would do me good. Going one moment at a time, celebrating any small success, that would do me good. Practicing and practicing and practicing “self-control” and forgiving myself when I slip up, that would do me good. Loving myself even when I feel fat, and gross, and like a total utter failure, now that would do me a lot of good!

And while all of the above would do me a lot of good, the one thing that I know would really do me a heck of a lot of good would be to start tracking what I eat. This is ultimately what always works for me because it helps me to see where I struggle (can we say night time indulgences after the kids are finally asleep?) and therefore where I need to focus my efforts. I have been trying to track for weeks now. But I can’t stay committed to it. And I know why – because it is hard and it takes focus, energy and honesty. Yes, honesty. Writing down everything I eat means admitting that I am binging on food to feel better and that is hard to admit.

Kind of like how writing down all the times I wanted to yell was hard because it meant admitting that I yelled way too much and that I needed to change. It is one thing to think, “I yell too much.” It is another to actually see just how much I yell on paper. Ouch! Oh tracking my yells and my triggers was a brutally honest but wonderfully helpful tool. In fact, I decided to do it in the first place because get this, I had tracked my food intake before when I lost fifty pounds and I knew that keeping a diary of sorts works wonders.

And it does.

As does waking up each morning and trying again despite what happened the day before. As does being awake for each moment, each opportunity and trying again despite what supposed “failure” thirty minutes ago.  Yes, I have been struggling for weeks now with my weight and it really has me down. But I will not let it keep me down; I will not keep putting myself down for failed efforts, because that just makes it harder and harder to move forward, and easier and easier to say, “Screw it, I quit, I give up.”

Instead I will embrace wholeheartedly what I heard a stranger say today: “Never. Stop. Trying.“

Never. Stop. Trying.

I can do this. I want to do this. I will do this.

P.S. For the record, I continue to be amazed by how much The Orange Rhino Challenge is the gift that keeps on giving; how what I learned on my quest to stop yelling has been so applicable and helpful to other challenges in my life.  

To learn more about The Orange Rhino Challenge, check out  my book “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!”

What Does That Have to Do With Yelling?

Since May, I have wanted to write about my five year old’s birthday and how proud I am of his growth this year; how proud I am of him for wanting a cooking party even though he thought boys might make fun of him; how proud I am of him for his social progress making him ready for Kindergarten. But I decided that had nothing to do with yelling so I haven’t written about it.

Since June, I have wanted to write about how exciting it is that my almost seven year old can really, truly read; how incredible it is that he figures out new, long, complicated words; how frustrating it is that I can no longer spell or write out secret notes to my husband! But I decided that had nothing to do with yelling, so I haven’t written about it.

Since early July, I have wanted to write about my struggles with my weight and how I need to get back on Weight Watchers, how I need to get exercising again, how I need to drink less, eh hem, alcohol at night. But I decided that had nothing to do with yelling so I haven’t written about it.

Since last week, I have wanted to write about how I took my four year old to camp and was most certain he wouldn’t last an hour; how I was most certain his major social anxiety would eat him alive; how my anxiety over his potential anxiety was eating me alive before he even went; how he went and loved every minute of it and asked to go another week. But I decided that had nothing to do with yelling, so I haven’t written about it.

And since this past weekend, I have wanted to write about my ambivalence that my “baby” was turning two; my sadness that this was my first 2nd birthday party without a newborn in the house; my realization that this was my last “baby” party. But I decided that had nothing to do with yelling so I haven’t written about it.

Oh, I have wanted to write about this or that, that or this. I have wanted to write about positive things and not so positive things but for some reason or another, I decided that the subject was “off topic” and “not relevant to yelling” and therefore not worth writing about.

It donned on me two nights ago though, as I sat staring at my computer typing and deleting, typing and deleting, that it is ALL relevant to yelling. The good, the bad, it is all more than relevant.

My happiness over my 5-year-old’s personal growth this year? It has filled tough days with huge smiles. It has taken what would have been disastrous at home battles into small tantrums. It has made my  “am I failing as a mother” concern and the “does he need more help” concern and the “do we need to hold him back a year concern” all disappear, lifting a huge source of stress of my shoulders. Oh my son’s incredible progress has made me lighter, happier and therefore less likely to yell at not just him, but also everyone.

My son learning to read? It has had the same effect at my 5-year-old son “growing up” a bit. It has filled me with wonder, pride, happiness and awe all which put me in a good mood and make it way easier to not yell. At the end of the day when I am just ready to bark at my 7 year old “just get in bed now, I’m tired!” before I can even do so, he pulls out a book and says “it’s time to read” and my bark disappears. I then can’t wait for the next 10 minutes of listening to him sound out en-cy-clo-ped-ia and other long words in his chapter books. Yelling becomes the farthest thing from my mind.

My struggles with my weight? It means I start each day feeling frustrated and guilty and angry with myself. It means before the kids even come in to say hello I have already put on a pair of shorts that are too snug for my liking…right along with a bad attitude and shortness that is also not to my liking. I know my weight shouldn’t impact my outward attitude and behavior, but it does. When I feel “fat” I feel physically and emotionally disgusted most moments of the day. I feel impatient with myself (why can’t you just start eating healthier already?!) and that impatience and frustration just seeps out into my interactions with my kids. Oh how, my weight struggles are indeed a trigger for yelling (and yes, oh how I know they “shouldn’t” be.)

And my four-year-old going to camp successfully, like really, really successfully? It meant for two weeks I started each day busting with excitement and anticipation of what he would have to tell me four hours later. It meant that in the middle of the day I got a huge burst of joy when he came bouncing out of camp with the biggest, sh*t eating grin ever and talking a mile a minute, all about is day and how “rific” it was. Oh the joy brought me so up that those days it was easy to not yell (and not just because he was at camp for so long but because I was on a “mommy-happiness-high” all afternoon!)

My sadness over being done having children? It leaves me down a little when I see a sweet baby and I get a pang of sadness. That sadness sticks for a bit and takes me to a place where I am not present with my four beautiful boys making me snappier if they talk to me at that precise moment. Does the sadness last more than a minute or two? No. But if I am interrupted during that brief time of sadness, I do find that I am apt to snap (or want to yell, WHAT?!!!!)

Yes, the more worried I am, the more frustrated I am, the sadder I am, the more apt I am to yell. It is that simple.

And yes, the happier I am, the more joyful I am, the more relaxed I am, and the less I am apt to yell. It is that simple.

I have learned that at the end of the day, all emotions, good or bad, are related to my ability to yell less and love more. As I write that, it seems so obvious and straightforward, it’s kind of like, duh! But in reality, while it is simple on paper, it isn’t in reality. It isn’t simple and straightforward (or possible) to always do the things that make me feel happy and relaxed, just like it isn’t simple and straightforward (or possible) to always avoid the things that make me feel worried and sad.

But what is simple and straightforward is the awareness that trying to fill up on what makes me happy (laughing with my kids, running in the rain, reminiscing with my husband, taking pictures, writing on my blog, talking with girlfriends, walking on the beach) and trying to process and acknowledge what makes me sad are BOTH very important. Letting all my emotions matter is important. Writing about all my emotions is important. It might not always be easy to fill up on happiness and handle the things that aren’t so happy, but it is important to just keep on trying to do both so that I can yell less and love more. It is that simple.

And on that note, I am back to watching a very cheesy Hallmark movie. It is totally filling me up with happiness galore!

Learning to Let Go

So, I kind of hold onto any tangible thing associated with a good memory that I can…and I kind of always have! In fact I think I can trace it back to age 10. Around then, I received a corkboard from my parents and I immediately started covering it with every single memento possible.

Just one section of a very full bulletin board! I think those plastic roses are from a corsage my mom made me for my Tea Party themed 7th Birthday Party!

Just one section of a very full bulletin board! I think those plastic roses are from a corsage my mom made me for my Tea Party themed 7th Birthday Party!

Glittery “kiss” sticker from a boy named David that I received in 4th grade? Check. Pin up of Christian Slater? Check. Picture of me holding my first driving ticket? Check. Love letter from my first boyfriend in high school? Check, oh check! Oh yes, any small thing I could save I saved to help me savor my favorite memories, to help me savor what made me happy, what made me smile, what made me laugh, to help me savor all that was wonderful in my life.

Some might have called this a fleeting childhood hobby. But it wasn’t. As I headed off to college without my board, I started saving mementos in shoeboxes. As I graduated college, I continued saving mementos in shoeboxes but this time the boxes weren’t titled by year, they were simply title “Love Letters from my boyfriend” which soon became “Special Memories with ‘my man.’” Then of course I married my man and a shoebox wouldn’t hold all the memories from our wedding weekend so I took my parents trunk they had when they first married and filled it. I filled it with our “welcome to the hotel bag,” my bachelorette veil, my rehearsal dinner bouquet, my wedding day slippers, my “Bride-to-be” sweatshirt, our wedding favor and the newspaper from that day. Oh yes, I filled it with everything I could stuff in there because I didn’t want to let go; because I wanted to savor it all as long as I could and I feared I would somehow forget a detail.

I hadn't open this trunk until I took this picture. As promised, it brought my immense happiness.

I hadn’t open this trunk until I took this picture. As promised, it brought my immense happiness.

I locked the trunk back in 2004 and I haven’t opened it since. I haven’t needed to. Just knowing it is there brings me safety, brings me happiness and memories and besides, I have been busy filling four new mini-trunks with mementos from my boys’ lives. From first ultrasound pictures to hospital bracelets, birth announcements to birthday cards, birthday invitations to pre-school graduation invitations, first drawings to first writing samples, I have filled my son’s memory boxes with anything I thought they might want to see when older. Who am I kidding; I have filled their boxes because anytime I have something to add to them and I need to open them, I am filled with such incredible happiness and pride and gratitude and love that I can’t imagine NOT saving such things. Oh I just want to savor it all over and over again because despite the tough moments I share with my boys, there are many more incredible moments. So much so that a mini-trunk doesn’t do it all justice, but it is something. It is something to hold on to.

Just like my bulletin board doesn’t do justice to all the wonderful memories of my childhood…but it’s something. Fortunately for me, my parents never tossed it when I officially moved out. Instead they wrapped it up when they sold our house and it is now is in my attic, on top of my box of Barbie dolls and Cabbage Patch Kids and my box of “Little House on the Prairie Books” that I saved “in case” I had a girl. I pass my board, my visual timeline of my crushes and my interests, my childhood turned what I thought was adulthood (at the age of 18!,) every time I have to get to a box of hand me down clothes, a box of college photo albums, a box of childhood toys I want to share with my boys, or a box of achievements from my working days. And just like my wedding trunk and my son’s memory boxes, whenever I see my board, I think “oh I am so glad I held onto it.” I never once think, “Oh I should just toss it and let go of the memories.”

Why? Why don’t I doubt holding onto such things that I have had so long? Why do I ignore my husband when he tells me it is time to perhaps let go of some of the boxes in the attic (eh hem the box of wedding magazines and books from my era of I am going to be a wedding planner)? Because holding onto these mementos brings me happiness, immense happiness and brings me up and who wants to let go of a good thing?! The mementos that didn’t bring me up: breakup letters from my high school boyfriend, clothes from when I was overweight, letters of rejection from college and job offers, those I readily let go of because they bring me down. I know holding on to them will just make me upset if I have to see them again.

Which begs the question, then why oh why do I struggle to let go of mental memories that bring me down and not up? Just because these mental memories don’t have a tangible item to be tossed, does that mean they don’t deserve to be tossed or can’t be? Of course they deserve it…of course they should be because holding on to them doesn’t do me much good!

In fact, I have learned that holding onto “bad” memories does me no good. Good memories? Oh lots of good, hold on and savor away Orange Rhino. Bad memories, toss them away Orange Rhino, toss them away and let go! I know many people have said that holding on to “bad” memories does no good; I know this is not an original statement and yet, I didn’t really embrace it until I started The Orange Rhino Challenge.

When I began looking at why I yell and I started tracking my triggers I learned VERY quickly that my inability to let go of “bad memories,” bad experiences, bad conversations, bad weigh-ins on the scale, bad interaction with my kids, and most notably bad yells was at the top of the list. Oh I so quickly realized that my inability to let go so often pushed me to yell.

My inability to let go kept me pre-occupied. My inability to let go kept me thinking about my “bad” situation instead of focusing on the present moment and making it count. My inability to let go made me snappier and less present and wasted a lot of my time. My inability to let go consumed me way more than I ever wished. So I started practicing letting go of things that bothered me. I started saying over and over and over again “Let it go. You can’t change what happened. Don’t focus on the negative. Move on.” And I over and over and over again forced myself to engage in a happy action when I found myself not letting go; I looked at baby pictures with my boys or I started a dance party. And I over and over and over again made myself stop talking about the “bad” memory. I stopped indulging my mind in the conversation and stopped calling friends to relive the frustrating moment. Did I make an initial call? Sure. But I practiced letting go and not dwelling by over talking.

Was it easy to learn to let go? Um, NO.

It wasn’t even close to easy. It still isn’t easy, but it is easier.

The other morning I woke up to see all the people that had read my “I Yelled At My Boys” post and I immediately felt disappointment and sadness again that I had indeed yelled. My heart filled with crappy feelings and anger at myself over my “bad memory.” It didn’t think of all the good memories stored in my brain to bring me happiness, gratitude and determination when I was down – the comments from all of you, the flowers from my family and friends on my 365th day, the random emails and gifts from all of you. Nope, I immediately went to bad memory lane.

So, I read my post again and inhaled it. “Orange Rhino. You wrote about letting go. You know you have learned to. You know letting go has been one of your favorite lessons learned. LET GO. LET GO of the disappointment. LET GO of the sadness.” And then I inhaled all the supportive comments from everyone and I locked them away in my memory bank to never be let go of, to be held on to as tightly I have held on to the fake rose I got in 3rd grade that made me feel loved and special and brought me so much joy that day.

And I let go.

Oh, I have learned to let go and I have gained so much in return. 

I Yelled At My Boys.

520 days of loving more, yelling less

I have a confession.

On Friday July 12, 2013, after 520 days of The Orange Rhino Challenge, my public promise to not yell at my boys, I yelled. Big Time.

Yes, I, The Orange Rhino, yelled at my four boys.

There was no question if it was maybe just a snap or an emergency yell. Oh no, it was a full on, blood curling, yelling tirade complete with four children bawling and one mommy who just couldn’t stop herself.  And it was topped off with my feeling guilty, disappointed, and sad beyond belief.  And oh, oh how the look in the eight teary eyes staring at me proved that my boys shared my sadness and also felt anger, confusion, and fear.

“Mommy! You’re so mean. You’re back to day Zero on your Challenge!” screamed my almost seven year old.

“Too loud!!!!!” cried by almost four year old, the one closest to my rant, as he covered his ears and shook with fear.

“Ma Ma. Ma Ma,” sobbed my two year old who up until that moment, had never ever heard me yell.

“Why are you ye…lll…ing at us Mommy? We ddd…idn’t do an..y…thing! We got in the car like you asked!” my five year old tried to say between sobs.

He was right. Oh was he right. My boys had done absolutely, positively, nothing wrong. My yell was completely unnecessary, completely hurtful, and completely my own doing. I took my own sadness, fear and anger out on them, period. Blech.

You see my marriage boulder, which had truly started getting smaller, grew back a teensy weensy little bit that Friday morning and for some reason, I couldn’t handle it. As a result, everything bothered me.

The boys talking in normal voices? Too loud.
The boys asking me for some water? Too demanding.
The boys rough housing and laughing? Too much what, too much being kids?
The boys not getting ready for the pool when I asked? Too much what, not listening when I mumbled my request under my breath so quietly no one could hear it?

I felt my anger bubbling up and my sweaty hands, racing heart, shorter and sharper voice told me that I was flirting with losing it; that I was in desperate need of getting in control. So I tried. I tried so very hard to get in control of my personal stress by pulling out some of my Orange Rhino tricks. I talked to myself “hey Orange Rhino, you are not mad at the kids, you are frustrated with your situation right now.” I got a glass of cold water and physically tried to cool down and slow my breathing down. I talked to myself some more: “You can do this, you will get through this, just hang on, you don’t want to yell.” And I talked to my kids. “Boys, mommy is having a tough morning. I am feeling a little grouchy. Can you stop running around and help me get ready for the pool fast so we can go have fun and relax?”

It worked. For like 5 minutes.

For 5 minutes I found calm amidst the crazy, I found warmth amidst my anger, I found determination amidst my desire to just quit and scream. The boys stood in line for lotion, grabbed their towels, put their shoes on and got in the car. Yes! I went in the house to get my bag and came back to find kids not buckled in as requested.

And I lost it. In my loudest voice ever (or maybe it felt so loud because it had been 520 days since I heard it?) I screamed,


Seriously? I mean really just writing that, I feel ridiculous and ashamed. After everything they had JUST done to be helpful and wonderful I lost it because they didn’t do one of five things I had asked them? Was that necessary? Or even nice? No! But then again, I didn’t yell because they didn’t put their seatbelts on,

I yelled because of my own pain that was screaming to get out.

I yelled because, well, because I am human and sometimes despite best intentions, hard work, and a heart full of more love than ever, mistakes happen.

People slip up. I slipped up. I knew I would one day. I knew that even though I call myself an “Orange Rhino” I am still human. The only thing I didn’t know was, how would I react when I finally yelled? Would I react in a pre-Orange Rhino manner and let shame, guilt, and disappointment send me into a vicious cycle of self-disgust and negative thinking, making a one-time yell turn into a problem again? Or would I react in a new way, a way reflective of 520 days of personal growth?

Well, the most wonderful surprise happened as soon as my boy’s two minutes of crying and rightfully deserved yelling at me ended and heard my truly heartfelt apology. I didn’t turn into my old, pre-Orange Rhino self! Instead, so much of what I have learned and embraced the last 520 days came to life.

After I yelled, I immediately forgave myself and forced myself to think of what I had accomplished, not what I had “ruined.” This is an accomplishment in itself, a huge one! I have learned during this Challenge that in order to yell less I need to let go of negative thoughts, I need to be kinder to myself, and I need to focus on the positive as much as I can. After I yelled, my brain, clearly re-wired from 520 days of practice, actually focused on how I went 520 Days without yelling! That’s 1 year and 155 days. Or a little under a year and a half. Or a heck of a lot more than I ever, ever imagined. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I never would have forgiven myself or even stopped and written a positive post like this one. Nope. I would have dwelled about how I let everyone down and been negative until the cows came home.

After I yelled, I promptly took responsibility for my actions, reminded myself that sometimes “it’s me, not them,” and owned up to my mistake. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I would have just assumed that the kids were “at fault” and then justified my yelling with “well, my kids didn’t listen.” I never would have wondered and accepted that perhaps I was part of the problem.

After I yelled, I found perspective and realized that “hey I might not have been able to keep myself at the grumpy stage, but at least I was aware of my grumpiness and tried to control it.” Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I wouldn’t have even realized my physical yelling symptoms or that grumpiness was a sign that a yell was coming and that I needed to stop and quickly find a way to calm down.

After I yelled, I very quickly said, “okay Orange Rhino, what do you need to do to take care of yourself? You clearly aren’t taking care of you and managing your stress and um, you need to!” Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I wouldn’t have acknowledged for a second that taking care of me is important and I never in a thousand years would have known how to take care of me or tried to even make it happen!

And after I yelled, despite how painful it was in that particular moment to see in my sons’ eyes the fear and sadness resulting from my behavior, I actually felt a bit grateful. Yes, I felt grateful that I yelled because my response to this situation not only showed me just how much I have grown and changed for the better during this Challenge, but also how much I have learned.

I have learned that learning to yell less has taught me more than just that. It has taught me how to bring forgiveness, perspective, positive thinking, accountability, and so much more to all the relationships in my life and all the situations in my life making me a happier person all around.

I have learned that that mistakes are okay, that not being perfect is okay, and that trying my hardest and still charging forward to yell less even when I have had a “bad” moment, is way more than okay, it’s courageous and crucial. Because learning to yell less isn’t just a 365 day Challenge for me, it’s a lifestyle change and I am certain over the next however many years my boys are my sons, I will slip up and yell again, and I will need to charge forward, again.

I have learned that at the heart of The Orange Rhino Challenge is not just clocking days that are yell free but collecting more loving moments. Any moment that I don’t yell is a win and all the loving moments add up – that is what matters.

Yelling Less Loving More

And most importantly, I have learned again just how much yelling scares my kids, how awful it makes me feel, and no matter how hard it might be at times, I want more than ever to continue to be an Orange Rhino because it is changing me and my relationships in a heck of a lot more ways I ever imagined.

* * * * *

P.S. I was fine posting this until now. Now I am nervous that I will have disappointed you all. Please don’t let that be the case.

If you liked this post, you might also like these posts:
“Bottled Up Emotions Do Me No Good”
“(Sometimes) Marriage Makes Me Want to Yell”
“Choosing Perfectly Imperfect Moments”
“I Didn’t Rock Motherhood Today”

You might also like my new book due out in October, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” Part parenting guide, part memoir, I include a 30-day guide with key revelations, actions, and tips to help you on your own journey. You can pre-order it now to make sure you are one of the first to receive it by clicking here. 

Tonight I Toot My Rhino Horn

This is not an ordinary blog post, but here goes anyways!

I need to “Toot My Rhino Horn” tonight big time. I was going to write about it as a comment on our Facebook Community tonight when I called for others to “Toot His/Her Rhino Horn” but then I quickly realized it wouldn’t be a comment, but more like a long story so hey, why not just blog.

So here I am. Blogging and Tooting at the same time. This is a complete, top of my mind, no editing, no thinking post. So please prepare yourself for totally nonsensical (is that a word?) thoughts and writing!

As you all know, last week I posted about leading another “30 Days to Yelling Less Project” starting tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow. I was so proud of myself for figuring out an easy way to get people to sign up. The last two rounds I manually entered about 800 names into my gmail contacts. I kid you not. I am not what you say technologically gifted! I really wanted to run another 30 day Challenge but with the current set-up in my life, manually entering names just wasn’t an option. I hemmed and hawed about not running another Challenge but finally decided I would just take a leap of faith and use the email service many of my blogging friends used.

So I figured out how to set up a form to get subscribers. Score.

And then I figured out how to embed said form into a blog post. Double Score.

And then I shared it with all of you and got 6,000 people. Holy Smokes! Triple Score and then some.

Last night I decided to log in and do a practice for today. Um, negative one thousand score.

In all my research, I didn’t confirm what would happen if I had more than 2,000 people sign up. I mean, I had NO idea this idea would get such a response! I am floored and excited and scared and nervous all at the same time! Any who, so it turns out that because I am over 2,000 people, my account needs super duper verification in order to be used.

I learned this last night.

At 8:00 p.m.

I wanted to send out an email tonight. At 8:00 p.m.

But I can’t. Because my account is on hold.

The customer service reps are “barely” on during the weekends. So I am stuck patiently waiting until Monday at 9:00am to resolve this issue. I am stuck with the thought that I will let 6,000 people down by not being able to send an email tomorrow morning.

Now let me tell you a little something about myself. I don’t like letting 1 person down, let alone 100, let alone 600 or 6,000! Pre-Orange Rhino Challenge days, if this exact last 24 hours went down I would have been all worked up, in a hissy and probably snapped and yelled at my kids unnecessarily. Yes, I would have taken my frustration out on them.

But guess what? The thought never crossed my mind today! Why? I have learned in the last year plus that some things you can’t control and when that is the case, I need to let go or let out a yell. Letting go is a harder choice, but is always better. So today, I let go of the frustration. I let go of the disappointment in myself that I didn’t plan better. I let go of the high expectations of myself and I said, “It will be what it will be, do not let it ruin your day and especially don’t let it eat you alive.”

Because honestly, before this Challenge, it truly, madly, deeply would have. I would have dwelled and dwelled and been cranky all day. I wouldn’t have enjoyed a great workout. I wouldn’t have enjoyed building a pool out of Legos with my son. I wouldn’t have enjoyed actually going to a pool with my sons. I wouldn’t have laughed as much as I did at my life tonight when the house felt like a circus and my husband and I were the spectators, not the ringmasters!

Oh my gosh, not dwelling was SO FREEING and I truly believe I have made a lot of progress on “this skill” because of learning to not yell; because of forcing myself to realize what triggers me and to fix it. It feels so good to let go of frustration and not unleash it on my kiddos! Is a little bit of me still annoyed and disappointed and worried y’all will be mad? Of course. Because I care, immensely. Please don’t take my excitement that I let go the wrong way J and please know that I am sending an email every few hours to get things working. Oh, and please know that I will figure this all out and we will get rocking on our journey to yell less and love more.

But until then, I toot my Rhino horn for letting go! TOOT!

“Terrifyingly Satisfying”

476 days of loving more

We took our boys to an amusement park this past weekend. Family adventures always bring mixed emotions for me. On one hand, I feel excitement about getting out of the house together and doing something fun. On the other hand, oftentimes the larger hand, I feel nervousness about being out of the house together and having to keep an eye on everyone!  Watching four kids six and a half and under in a crowded, public place is out right exhausting and hard. My neck doesn’t stop turning looking for four identical shirts and my head doesn’t stop counting 1-2-3-4-check. Certain family adventures definitely scare me: the park, the pool, the mall. After I have conquered any of those adventures I feel such pride, such satisfaction, such “oh-my-gosh-we-did-it-yeah-for-us-now-lets-take-a-nap!”

Luckily this past Sunday’s adventure my parents came along so the kid to adult ratio was 1:1 making it a less scary experience and way more satisfying. I actually got to fully enjoy watching my children scream with glee on their first “roller coaster” ride’ I actually got to fully enjoy hearing them laugh as they jumped in the bounce house; and I actually got to fully enjoy seeing them smile as they “won” “Wac-A-Mole.” They loved every ride, every game, and every food treat they got spoiled with that day. Of course darling #4 was less than pleased that he had to be an observer for the most part, but he found joy in snuggling with his Papa Smurf he “won” at Skeeball.

The highlight of the day totally caught me off guard. There was this one ride where you lie on your stomach and get strapped in. You then spin around and around, up and down. Looking at it I just wanted to throw up. #1 and #2 just got over their fear of rides this very Sunday so the thought of them wanting to try this shocked me. The fact that daddy and grandpa were willing to do it with them shocked me even more!!!

They all strapped in and I prepared for the worst – to be cleaning up vomit and changing outfits. Thankfully, that was so not the case. Everyone, well except for grandpa, smiled and laughed the entire time. They had a blast. When the ride ended the boys went over to help grandpa out. He took one look at them and said: “Boys, that was terrifying!”

“No it wasn’t! It was sooo much fun! Let’s do it again!” Screamed #1.

“Grandpa it was great! Scardy pants!” Yelled #2.

And then #1 ran over to me laughing “Mommy, mommy, that was great but grandpa was, um, um, Grandpa what were you?”


“Right, terrified. Grandpa was terrified. But I wasn’t. I was so brave. Cool, huh, mom?” #1 said. He was so proud of himself. So was I.  So was I.

Later in the car #1 wanted to tell the story again…how Grandpa was terrified, but that he wasn’t.

“Remember mommy, I was brave and what was Grandpa???” and then a big pause. “Right, he was satisfied.”

“You mean terrified,” I gently replied.

We had this same exchange four or five more times that day. #1 kept saying Grandpa was “satisfied” and I kept saying that he meant “terrified.”

After the last exchange, a smile crept over my face. This Freudian slip of my son’s, saying satisfied instead of terrified, was the new highlight of my day. It made me think of all the times I have been terrified, only to end up feeling immensely satisfied because I faced my “fear/discomfort” and managed it.

I was terrified to get up on a stage and be a live auctioneer for the first time… and now I am more than satisfied with how much I raised for the American Cancer Society.

I was terrified to move from New England to North Carolina where we had no family or friends…and now I look back and am more than satisfied that I learned to adjust to an entirely new place.

I was terrified to learn that we were pregnant with #3 when #2 was just seven months old…and now I am more than satisfied that they are so close in age.

And of course, I was TERRIFIED to start The Orange Rhino Challenge. Terrified. Terrified that I would fail. Terrified at how hard it would be. Terrified that I wouldn’t be able to keep up writing. Terrified at what people would think about my “yelling truth.” Terrified that even though I was starting now, that I was already too late to change the so called damage I had done to the relationship with my boys.

Terrified. Plain terrified.

But I did it. I took on a fear; I took on an uncomfortable situation, and now I feel more than satisfied. I feel proud, joyful, and grateful. You see, I am generally a risk adverse person. I avoid situations that I think I won’t like, but really want to engage in. I avoid situations where I think I won’t succeed. I avoid situations where I might succeed, or even like, but just don’t want to take the small risk that I could be wrong.  And I avoid situations that scare me.

Yes, some situations I avoid are legitimate. Poisonous snakes for one. Dark alleys for two. But avoiding situations because I fear I will fail, or won’t be liked, or won’t do well enough, is that really legitimate? Does that bring me satisfaction or regret? Is that really how I want to live my life? (Yes, those are rhetorical questions….)

There are so many situations I have avoided to date because of fear; so many situations that I look back on and say, “shoot, I wish I had just found the guts and gave it a try, or I wish I found the guts to not quit.” This challenge is one of the big times in my life that I have faced major discomfort and at the same time major desire to face said discomfort and actually not walked away. What if I had walked away? What if I had avoided my yelling problem because of my fear of failing, because of all my fears associated with starting?

Then I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be calling myself an Orange Rhino.

Gosh am I glad I didn’t walk away from fear this time. Gosh I am so glad that I can say, “I am glad that I tried.”

Yes, my journey to yell less has been terrifying at times. Why I am sharing so much with the world? How do I handle this unknown parenting situation without losing it? I have succeeded, but how do I ensure I keep all the positive change going? And yes, there have been and will continue to be terrifying moments. But more so, much more so, it has been a satisfying experience to say the least. In fact, the extent to which it has changed my life, the extent at which it has changed me, the extent to which it has been gratifying, well, that extent in itself is so large that it is terrifyingly satisfying.