Self Care tip from a Lifelong Tree hugger – Happy Arbor Day

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. — Rachel Carson

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Greetings fellow wanderers!

Happy national Arbor Day this Friday (though it was celebrated in Washington state a couple of weeks ago).

As someone who feels most at home in the forest and among trees, and has ever since I can remember, I wanted to share a Top Tip for Self Care that relates to trees. Get out and wander among the trees this week. I promise you’ll feel better and you’ll be contributing to your physical, emotional and spiritual self care.

Most of us know that trees are life giving. They take in carbon dioxide and transform it into oxygen. They provide shade, housing, heat, medications…but did you also know that just being around trees, especially a lot of trees is healing in other ways, including lowering stress and anxiety levels?

There was a study done by researchers at the University of Illinois studied a large housing development comprising 28 tower blocks and found that those residents who lived with trees nearby socialized with their neighbors more, felt safer and suffered 52 per cent fewer crimes. They felt emotionally and physically healthier than those in ‘treeless’ blocks.

Some doctors are even prescribing walks in the forest and volunteering for conservation organizations for their patients suffering from chronic stress and anxiety instead of medication.

By surrounding ourselves with trees, our breathing becomes deeper…our senses are satiated.  We feel more at peace and grounded. In 2004, Japan’s National Land Afforestation Promotion Organisation conducted an experiment and discovered that a forest stroll had beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate and the immune system. They also found that people who just looked at a forest view for 20 minutes had a 13 per cent lower concentration of the stress hormone cortisol.

Walking and spending time among the trees promotes lower stress and anxiety levels and a better overall sense of well-being. I hope you take some time among the trees this week. I know I will.

Happy Wanderings this week!

-Chanelle

hike with Shirley

What would it take for you to stay?

A Transformative question leading to that “Aha” moment and response.

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“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” ― Joseph Campbell
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Greetings, Fellow Wanderers!
Isn’t it amazing how our perspectives change as our life circumstances change?
I had been looking for work in my small community, with little luck, until just recently. Because I had such disappointing results, I expanded my search statewide, with my husband’s support, and was having much better luck finding opportunities that matched my career experience and what I thought we needed. As I progressed through the selection process of two jobs in particular, it became very clear to me that while I loved the job prospects AND they were right in line with my career trajectory, it was going to separate me from my husband and family and that wasn’t sitting well at all.
The stress (financial challenges, stress that comes with looking for work and the idea that we would be separated) had also been catching up…I had been sick for weeks, not sleeping, dark circles, etc. When I met with a friend and colleague for coffee (who had also given me a fabulous reference), I shared everything with her – the job, the reason for looking elsewhere and my desire to stay along with the reasons why. After listening, she asked a question that up until that point I hadn’t really asked myself.
“What would it take for you to stay?”
Stay?
Though I am not sure why, I have found it difficult to settle throughout my life. Perhaps because we moved so much when I was young (I think I have lived at around 45 different addresses and we weren’t even a military family). I have lived in three states on multiple occasions and abroad in Ireland. Even since returning from Ireland, I have wandered…from Western Washington to California, back to Oregon, to Florida (though I didn’t stay there) back to Oregon and then to Eastern Washington.
It’s not just places I couldn’t settle in.
I used to joke that I have had almost every type of legal job in the world (fast food, high-end restaurant server, bartender, retail clothing sales, jewelry sales, image consultant, car sales, administrative office manager, legal secretary, housekeeper, teacher, children’s support therapist, non-profit organization director). A number of years ago, after I had been in one position with a company for about two years, my mom asked me if I was looking for another job. When I told her that I wasn’t, she seemed surprised. I asked the reason behind her query and she simply said she had never known me to stay in one job for more than two years…At that point, she was right. I hadn’t. I ended up staying with that firm for four years and left only when I was in my senior year of college taking both day and night classes to finish my degree.
Her question started me thinking though.
What was it about me that was so different from nearly everyone else I knew? Why was I compelled to change jobs every couple of years, move to different states and countries and always keep a bag packed? A sense of adventure? A love of learning? An understanding that the world is a truly amazing place full of incredible people worth getting to know? Fear of one day regretting NOT experiencing life to its fullest?
I think the answer is yes.
As most of you know, in 1999, I moved to Ireland where I lived very happily and contentedly for several years. For the first time in my life (outside of my years at Camp Killoqua), I felt as if I had found my home. Although I wanted to stay, I couldn’t.
I moved back to the US in 2007 because I felt like I was needed here and I wanted to spend a little time with my aging relatives before they passed on. Unfortunately, like many returning emigrants all over the world, when I came back to the US, I was lost. I didn’t feel I could be ‘me’ and I couldn’t settle. Within 8 months, I had a plane ticket and job back in Ireland with my old agency. However, the day before I left, I knew I couldn’t go back…not to live…not at that time. Whether I wanted to admit it or not and whether I felt fully comfortable or not, I was supposed to be back in Everett, Washington with my mom and near the rest of my family.
It was the right decision.
Within just a few short years, my great-aunt passed away, two years later, my beloved grandma died and then the following year my mom was diagnosed with dementia after several years of declining health.
And now…life circumstances are a little different. Wandering for the sake of it is no longer an option. Since 2012, my mom’s condition has progressed dramatically. Just living a few hours drive from her occasionally poses challenges. Then, in 2015, I married an amazing man and became part of his family too. I can’t and don’t want to just go traipsing around everywhere without them. Our son is doing well in school, academically, socially and emotionally. He is one of the most resilient, well-adjusted teenagers I have ever known. What parent wants to mess with that if they don’t have to?  However, in order to stay where we are, we need a certain level of consistent income. Instead of asking questions like, “what do we want to do?” or “where do we want to be?” The question became, “what do we need?” Do we need me to work in my field bringing in the same level of income that I have in the past? Do we just need me to bring in a full-time income at a level that is liveable here? OR…something else altogether?
That brings me to the quote by Joseph Campbell. It’s not that I was thinking of my self-preservation or that my consciousness has undergone a heroic transformation. It’s just that once I started looking at our circumstances from the perspective of a parent, caregiver  and member of a family first, the answer to the question was clear.
My friend’s question was a gift from God. It was the blessing I needed at just the right moment. All I needed to receive it was to stop, take my ego out of the equation and allow myself to be vulnerable. I had to let go of the outcome, and be open to any possibility. The real challenge seemed to be removing my ego and being vulnerable…now there’s a surprise. 🙂
What did I need to stay?  A full-time job in Okanogan that allows me to care for my family AND contribute to my local community. Once I said it out loud, I knew it was true. It was my “AHA moment.” That is what we need as a family. THAT is what we got…last Thursday…I am delighted, honored and so full of thanks to say that I will be working with a local law firm as their receptionist and legal secretary beginning tomorrow. I am SO excited and so grateful.
Does this mean there will be no more wanders. No. I know I am not finished traveling the world, but my perspectives have changed. I have found that I value the stability I have in my life now, so traveling, when we do it, will look different.
Hmmm…could it be that I am finally on the way to becoming more “intentional?”
We’ll see. In the meantime, thank you for sharing this amazing journey, friends!
Happy Wanderings.
-Chanelle

Confessions of a Chronic Caregiver

Caregivers give care to others so that those others may live and thrive; but many of us find it difficult to accept care in return or allow ourselves the time and grace to give it to ourselves even though we know how necessary self-care is.

You are a caregiver. You care for your spouse, your children, your grandchildren and your parents. You may be a professional caregiver, caring for someone else’s family members because they are not in a position to do so. Sometimes this role was assumed by choice and sometimes, it feels more like a heavy responsibility placed upon you, especially when you look at how much they depend on you.

You give of yourself everyday freely, sacrificing your wants, your needs and your desires (sometimes as simple as a shower or a walk by yourself for half an hour) to care for those who are counting on you. Isolation sets in too. You miss your friends – every one is so busy  caring for their own families or for those few that aren’t, they’re just not sure what to talk about when they see you. It’s hard to get out and be social because you have responsibilities…you’re needed where you are. Sometimes they seem to notice and appreciate all you do, but most of the time they don’t or can’t.

Then there’s the Caregiver guilt. You feel guilty for people to notice how much you do sometimes, for wanting that time to yourself or lashing out when the stress becomes overwhelming. You feel guilty if your loved one or client gets sick or is somehow hurt physically or emotionally when you weren’t there or weren’t watching closely enough. You feel guilty for all the things that you could have or should have said or done to protect them and in general just throughout your lifetime. Sometimes the guilt is HUGE.

You feel like no one understands. Please know that I do. I too feel the stress, the pain, the worry and the guilt. I also know the joy, the love and the dreams.

My name is Chanelle and I too am a Caregiver.

I have been since I was young. My first care giving responsibilities were for my brother who is just 14 months my junior. I began babysitting other people’s children when I was just 9 years old. Experiences throughout my childhood left me feeling it was my duty to care for my mom and my brother from that time as well.

There have been few times in my life where I felt a bit of escape from that duty and yes, I did use the word ‘escape’ just there. Care giving never felt like a choice when I was young; it felt like a mantle placed upon me so there were times when I felt a need to escape. Each summer I had the opportunity to go to Summer Camp (thanks to the gift of Camp Fire and my grandmother). Camp K gave me the opportunity to be a child, to be safe and have fun. As an adult, I escaped for 8 years to Ireland where I lived and worked and learned that this mantle of Care giving wasn’t something I could really escape from, but needed to gather strength from.

While in Ireland, I advocated for children and their families and learned from my Irish friends how to better care for those we are charged and blessed to care for…including ourselves. I returned home to the US in 2007 not realizing the dramatic changes in store over the next short while.

A child of dementia

In 2012, at the age of 62, my mom was diagnosed with severe dementia. While it felt like it came out of nowhere, when we look back there were signs from before I returned to the US from Ireland. Her increased stress, fear, agitation and inability to do things she had always been able to do should have clued us in. Sadly, not even her doctor was able or willing to see it. Once we knew what was happening, we very quickly got things in place so that my brother and I could help her. I once again found myself in an official care-giving role. That’s when the fear and guilt really set in. I should have seen this coming; I was there. Perhaps I could have recognized the symptoms earlier and we could have done something to stop this disease. I have felt the guilt that comes after being angry with my mom because she had an episode of incontinence in the store…it wasn’t her fault and it really wasn’t mine, but I felt guilty anyway. I have now learned that there is a process for going anywhere and a supply bag comes with me anywhere we go.

A wife and a lucky step-mom.

In 2015, I married a wonderful man with two older children (one age 16 at home and one 24 finishing college). My husband lives with Type 1 Diabetes. For those who don’t know, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, which my husband acquired as a result of trauma from a surgery. His pancreas no longer works so it can only be managed by Insulin and he wears a pump that provides a continuous drip of insulin. There are days where his health is good. There are other days, when regardless of the level of insulin in his body, his health isn’t so greIn the three years we have been together, we have had three hospital visits and I have learned a HUGE amount about Type 1 Diabetes and learn more all the time. These are the times when I become his caregiver as well.

I am self-employed, volunteer in my community, work hard to care for my family and loved ones and am a passionate advocate for self care for everyone, but especially Caregivers. For if we do not care for ourselves, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially, how can we possibly care for those who need us? I haven’t yet mastered it, but I work on it every day. I pray, try to ear well, host a Facebook Group focused on self-care and am organizing a self-care retreat this spring. Still there are days when I feel overwhelmed and cry. It’s a work in progress…I am a work-in-progress.

Back to YOU.

I share this with you so you know that you’re not alone. I am here to support you in your journey of self-care while you care for others; to remind you that YOU are as important as everyone and everything else in your life. It is vital that you breathe, smile and find time and space in your world to take care of yourself or you’ll soon find yourself unable to give the care you so generously share with everyone now. If you need me, I am here. Please feel free to reach out.

Mom's birthday 2014

Lovingkindness: a self-care message from a friend

Greetings fellow wanderers! Happy 2017.

As many of you know, I have been focusing much of my energies on practicing and encouraging others to practice self care. I even have a special FB group dedicated to just that purpose. I also have been taking part in trainings offered by others who are more experienced at self-care than I am and learning as much as I can…so that I can better care for myself, my family and better support my friends and clients. One of the amazing people I have taken some online training from is Christy Tending, a healer, activist, writer & self-care mentor. Below is the email that I received this morning and I was so inspired, I felt I needed to share it in its entirety with everyone. I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you as much as it did me.    -Chanelle

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Dear Friend,

Lovingkindness, or metta, the a form of Buddhist meditation in which one (silently) sends wishes of wellbeing to oneself and others, can change the world.

Bold statement, I know. But I truly see this form of meditation as an inherently activist practice.  Why?

In this practice, we are confronted with interconnection and our place in what poet Mary Oliver calls, “The family of things.” When we understand inherent interconnection, we understand that our liberation is bound up in others’ liberation.

We are not alone. We are part of an interdependent family.

I cannot be free until you are free.

When we understand that truth, we are compelled to act toward the liberation of all. In short, we can no longer see others as separate from ourselves.

This is where the spiritual and the political dance together.

When I practice lovingkindness, I feel a deep affinity for the person for whom I am practicing. When I wish for others to be well, safe, and at ease, I have some skin in the game. When I extend well-wishes to some, it feels natural to extend those same well-wishes to everyone.

Everyone is someone’s most precious person.

Me. You. My sweetie. The guy who sells me my kombucha. The marginally housed people in our neighborhoods. Even the people with whom we have conflict. And, much as we wish it were otherwise, their liberation is bound up in ours, too.

As the old IWW (International Workers of the World) saying goes, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

So we send all beings the same lovingkindness.

Because there is no separation.

And if there is no separation, then how do you stop at well-wishes?

When we understand lovingkindness for what it is, something that acknowledges universal belonging and deserving, it’s hard to end with good vibes. (Hint: I’m not here just for good vibes, and I doubt you are, either.)

So we get braver.

We smile at strangers on the street. We greet our neighbors. We adopt animals. We deliver meals. We fund projects that protect the most vulnerable among us. We speak out against oppression. We rise up against oppression.

Lovingkindness practice doesn’t have to end at the edge of our meditation cushions.

If we let it, it might change the whole world.

With care,
Christy

There is nothing like a FB live challenge to put yourself out there and see what you may or may not want to see…

Greetings, Fellow Wanderers!

Thank you to everyone who kindly took time out of their days to watch my FB Live challenge videos this past week and to share your thoughts and feedback. This was a HUGE learning opportunity for me. I don’t normally share a lot of personal information. It isn’t so much because I want to keep anything secret, I just felt that to help others it was better to listen than to talk. This process taught me that I DO have something of value to share and that my difficulty is more in the fear of being seen. Your support and encouragement has been overwhelming and I am truly truly grateful.

In case you missed any of the videos and want to catch up, I have linked them all here for your convenience.

For those just getting to know me – Spotlight Speaker’s Challenge Day 1 video

Let Go! – Spotlight Speaker’s Challenge Day 2 video

I was tracking with you until you said we had to leave our houses – Spotlight Speaker’s Challenge Day 3 video

Spotlight on Success!!! – Spotlight Speaker’s Challenge Day 4 video

Whew! We Made It. – Spotlight Speaker’s Challenge Day 5 video

Well…now its out there (like the opening of the proverbial Pandora’s box). I guess we’ll find out together where we go from here.

Have a wonderful week, fellow Wanderers. Thanks for continuing on this journey with me.

Chanelle

Adultitis – fighting it is easier than you think

Are you between the ages of 21 and 121? Do you ever find yourself experiencing high stress, mild depression, fear of change or an inability to smile? If so, you may be experiencing Adultitis, a fairly common condition marked by the above symptoms. The term actually means “swelling of the adult.” Ugh…it even sounds terrible.

Don’t worry…it’s not fatal. In fact, Adultitis is completely curable – one must just let go of stress, become spontaneous and rediscover your childhood ability to dream. I know …you’re thinking, “Yeah, right, Chanelle! You obviously don’t live in the real world where most of us have kids to raise and worry about, bills to pay, jobs to go to..”  Trust me, we all have stress – even me, little miss “Pollyanna.” Lately, I have found my usual optimism and ability to ‘find something to be glad about’ waning. Then one day, about two weeks ago, I found a flyer in the mail from my insurance company. It’s called “American Dreams” and it focused on letting go of stress and finding the freedom to dream. It was just what I needed to read right then…How did they know?! I realized that I have been suffering from a pretty serious case of Adultitis and I didn’t even know it! Those familiar with my way of doing things know that I am not one to take things like this lightly. I decided to take action right away and little by little, I have been getting better, so I am making it my mission to help others cure their “swelling of the adult.”

If you’re thinking, “I don’t know, Chanelle, adultitis sounds pretty serious,” have no fear; help is available. According to Jason and Kim Kotecki, founders of EscapeAdulthood and lifelong leaders in the fight against Adultitis, there are many ways to break out of your every day routine that aren’t likely to send you packing to the funny farm, although you may find yourself feeling a need/desire to go back to summer camp. Wait! What?! That’s just me? Well, no matter. I always feel a need to go back to my summer camp, but that is another blog post. According to the Kotecki’s, there are may ways to fight Adultitis. In their Escape Plan, there are 40 challenges..here are four (you thought I was going to say three, didn’t you? – just changing things up a bit – doing the unexpected):

  1. Learn something new – “Different World” – Spend at least 15 minutes immersing yourself in something you know nothing about. (it doesn’t matter whether it is basket weaving, how to fix your car or hangliding – just 15 minutes and see what you learn).
  2. Write a letter – “Dear Hero” – Write a letter to a childhood hero (real or fictional). (If you really want to go all out, why not use a crayon to write with? Don’t worry about staying in the lines, either.)
  3. Something silly – “Spin Cycle” – Take a routine you do everyday and put a childlike spin on it…you know, brush your teeth and eat your cereal with your non-dominant hand.
  4. Get out of your element – “Prison Break” – Go somewhere you have never been before…(anywhere, just somewhere new).

If those (or any of the other 36 challenges) don’t help you heal your case of Adultitis, why not find yourself a mentor? Just make sure they are someone under the age of 8…find yourself a kid coach.  If you don’t know anyone that young (grandchildren, niece, nephews, your own kids), you can go on line to American Family Insurance’s dream fearlessly site and they’ll hook you up.  I did.

I’m not saying we should walk away from our adult responsibilities, but I do believe we can and must fight this terrible illness that can take away our ability to smile or appreciate the simple joys in life. Now that you’ve learned about Adultitis (challenge #1), I encourage you to writer a letter to your childhood superhero (challenge #2) with your left hand (challenge #3) and then go out and explore somewhere you’ve never been – possibly Veranda Beach in Oroville, WA (challenge #4), or at least your own neighborhood with fresh eyes. Who knows what you might see.

Please feel free to comment on how you’re fighting Adultitis. I’d love to hear how you’re feeling afterward. Have a wonderful day, fellow wanderers!

What’s in it for me?

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Greetings Fellow Wanderers!

In our fast paced, ego-centric, technology focused world, people sometimes forget the power of real touch and human interaction. There are also those who feel the world, and those in it, owe them something. We see it every day in the news and especially in our political campaigning.  Rather than get caught up in such sadness, I would challenge each of us to remember something that most of us were taught by our grandparents…it is better to give than to receive. SO…I am taking advantage of this very ego-centric, technological tool to reach out and share something with you that touched my heart this morning. 🙂

There’s a little, but well known (not so secret) secret that once you begin giving to others from your heart (without expectation of receiving something back), you’ll begin receiving far more in return. It happens automatically. Funny, huh?

WAIT?! If we want to receive, we should give, but not expect to receive? YEP! Have you ever smiled at someone and they automatically smiled back? I have found this to be true wherever I have traveled; whether it was down the street or around the world. Once, while standing in the grocery store in Albany, Oregon, USA, I was waiting with the shopping cart near the dairy cabinets and an elderly lady came up to me and told me I had a beautiful smile. She told me that I made her feel special because I smiled at her and it made her day. This was more than 20 years ago and her words still make my heart sing.

So…what do we give? The answer is simple…whatever you have, without reservation or expectation and right now…There are opportunities to give each and every day. We just have to take advantage of them.

Give kind words. Give a smile. Give appreciation and love. Give compliments. You can give courtesy to other drivers on the road. You can give a smile to the car parking attendant. You can give a warm greeting to the checker at the grocery store or the person who makes your coffee. You can give by allowing a stranger to go ahead of you into an elevator, and you can give by asking which floor they are going to and pressing the button for them. If someone drops something you can give a helping hand and pick it up for them. You can give warm hugs to those you love. And you can give appreciation and encouragement to everyone.

What’s in it for you? Love, appreciation, a smile, compliments, support, a true feel good factor and connection with other, real human beings. It’s simple but true. Anything you give from the heart comes back to you in even more abundance.

Happy travels fellow wanderers…