Happy Travels!

This week I’ll be writing to you from Vail, Colorado, where we’re headed with the kids for their vacation week. At the moment I’m writing to you from 22,000 feet somewhere in the air over Massachusetts en route to NYC where we change planes for Colorado.

Earlier this morning it became perfectly clear where last week’s posts on anxiety originated. Traveling stresses me out. My husband would say that “stressed out” is an understatement. Why is it that as women we have to have every article of clothing laundered, every dish washed and every bill paid before we can possibly leave for more than a few days? Don’t you hate that?

I was actually doing ok leading up to the trip, until this morning when i kinda lost my shit. I was online, checking in for our flights, only to discover that we didn’t have seat assignments for the return trip and there weren’t any seats available together without paying an up charge for first class.  That was all it took.  I walked into the kitchen sobbing, attempting to explain to Lee why I was so upset, why it was imperative that we as a family sit together on the plane!

This week I’ll be writing to you from Vail, Colorado, where we’re headed with the kids for their vacation week.  At the moment I’m writing to you from 22,000 feet somewhere in the air over Massachusetts en route to NYC where we change planes for Colorado.

Earlier this morning it became perfectly clear where last week’s posts on anxiety originated. Traveling stresses me out. My husband would say that “stressed out” is an understatement. Why is it that as women we have to have every article of clothing laundered, every dish washed and every bill paid before we can possibly leave for more than a few days?  Don’t you hate that?

IMG_4609-764x1024I was actually doing ok leading up to the trip, until this morning when i kinda lost my shit. I was online, checking in for our flights, only to discover that we didn’t have seat assignments for the return trip and there weren’t any seats available together without paying an up charge for first class. That was all it took. I walked into the kitchen sobbing, attempting to explain to Lee why I was so upset, why it was imperative that we as a family sit together on the plane!

Everyday Therapy

I thought about this the other day, after I’d already posted the blog on managing anxiety, and wished I’d included it on the list.  As a kid, I used to frequently visit my Aunt Mimi and one of my favorite things to do with her was head to her friend’s garden nursery for what Aunt Mimi called “flower therapy.”

We wandered the aisles of the greenhouses, my eyes soaking in the colors and light and textures, my nose breathing in the scents, my fingers stroking the variety of green leaves.  And I consciously felt my heart beat more slowly, and a tingle move through my hands, and an awakening happen in my soul.

It wasn’t a conscious choice when I started doing it with my kids.  The greenhouses just happen to be on the way home from school.  “Wanna stop for some flower therapy,” I asked one afternoon and they’ve been asking me ever since.  (It helps that the greenhouse passes out free popcorn and cookies!)

From there, we went to the yarn shop where our eyes feasted on the rolled-up skeins of wool, too many colors to even imagine, all stacked in their wooden crates.  And the local fruit stand, where the array of color, when we stop to notice, is on full display right before our eyes.

That seems to be it.  The noticing.  Because what I have come to notice, is when I slow down enough to allow myself the time to see, the world around us is full of color and scent and texture and light, all just waiting for us to soak it in.

Thank you Aunt Mimi for giving me the eyes with which to see.

Do you have a favorite “therapy” 

When Anxiety Comes to Town

Anxiety.

We’re old friends.

Fear is an old friend, too, but for me, anxiety and fear are different.  They’re close cousins, for sure, but distinguishable in many ways.  Fear arrives crashing throughout my front door, up in my face, in this alarmist, everything is big and scary sort of way.  Whereas Anxiety tends to sneak in through the basement door, lurking unseen, waiting for that opportune moment to climb on my back, so subtly and quietly.  It can be days before I even realize he’s there.  And once I do realize he’s there, I often don’t know why.  But “The Why” is an important part of managing my anxiety and over the years I’ve developed a set of strategies to help me recognize it, discover its source, and let it go.

The first step seems so basic and so obvious, but without it, the rest can’t happen.

1.)  Recognize and acknowledge that I’m anxious.  I can’t deal with my anxiety, if I don’t know I’m anxious.  Like I said, my anxiety is sneaky and often arrives without any sort of announcement, so I have to be pretty savvy to know he’s there.  It usually begins with an inability to focus and the overwhelming feeling of not being able to get anything done.  It’s an – I’m out of sorts and I don’t know why – kind of thing.  And when I pause and allow myself a moment to recognize the familiar signs, then I can begin to connect the dots and start to do something about it.

2.)  Say it out loud. (I used this same technique with Anxiety’s cousin Fear, which you can read about here.)  “I’m anxious,” I say and wait for the exhale that inevitably follows.  Then I Say it again.  “I’m anxious.”  And exhale.  And repeat as necessary.

3.) And I drink water. Lots of it.  And remember that my body is an energy circuit and energy flows best and freely through water.

4.) And I recall what I’ve eaten, or not. Hmmm, it’s 11am and I’ve had 2 cups of coffee and a half a gluten-free peanut butter cookie. Time to feed myself, preferably some protein.

5.)  I look back on the night before. How many glasses of wine did I drink? Is that the same pit in my stomach I felt the last time I poured one glass too many?

6.)  Nap. Speaking of last night, what time did I go to bed?  A 20-minute lie down would do me wonders.

7.) Close my laptop. How long have I been sitting in front of this computer?

8.) Walk. Get out into the woods, my sanctuary.

9.)  Write. This step is key.  I know that once I begin writing, once that pencil touches the paper and the words begin to flow, I no longer have to carry all of the unease around.  I never know from one time to the next what form this will take, it may be a list, a bunch of jumbled words on a page or formed paragraphs. No matter.  What matters is that the page holds the worries and they’re no longer inside of me mucking up the works.  Writing leads me to “The Why” behind my anxiety.

10.) Put on MusicWindham Hill and The Be Good Tanyas stations on Pandora are two of my favorites.

11.)  Wrap a scarf around my neck. Or put on an extra sweater.  Warmth makes me feel safe and secure.

12.)  Rescue Remedy.  This flower essence was first introduced to me right before we brought Andie home from the hospital. It comes in liquid form, cream, spray, and even a new, delightful gum.  A few drops under my tongue, a dab of cream behind my ears and wrists (meridian points) or a chiclet-like piece in my mouth and we’re talking instant calm.

13.) Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth CD grounds me and brings me right back to my center. Reading the book was an amazing experience, but listening to Tolle himself read the book, which I’ve done over and over, is phenomenal.

14.)  Reiki.  My teacher always says, Hands on, Reiki’s on. So I sit quietly and put my own hands on my cheeks, shoulders, and abdomen and feel my life-force energy return.

15.)  I consult my calendar and note when was the last time I had an appointment for Self-Care. Massage, Reiki, a game of tennis, a walk with a friend? If anxiety’s back in town, I’m usually due.

16.)  Get organized. This is a new addition to my list of strategies and came as a bit of a surprise. While I was writing about anxiety and at the same time enlisting all my known techniques, I discovered that a lack of order is quite anxiety inducing.  It wasn’t until I began my whole organizational quest that I came to recognize the importance of order in my life and found that a pile of unopened mail, unpaid bills, or a misplaced document  can invoke lots of stress in my life.

And once I’ve gone through all those strategies and my breath has hopefully returned, I remind myself of my favorite Eckhart Tolle quote,

“And this too shall pass.”

And this too shall pass.  It always does, doesn’t it?

What about you? How do you mange your anxiety?

(On a side note, since discovering a gluten allergy two years and cutting all wheat products out of my life, the level and frequency of my anxiety has decreased significantly. I’ve received many emails and questions about Gluten-Free Living and hope to post a blog on the subject soon.)

It Really Is a Magical Journey

“Joseph Campbell asserts that once the hero commits to his quest, whether consciously or unconsciously, then magical helpers arrive to point the way.” Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey

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Some books I read. Sitting up in bed, lying on the love seat in the kitchen, leaning back in a chair in the ski lodge following the story, page after page.  But every once in a while, a book comes along that I pore over with pencil in hand, not just reading but studying, like an educational life course, marking line after line as if there will be an exam at the end.

Magical Journey is just that sort of book.  I’ve sent copies to my mom, to my sister, to my aunt, to my yoga teacher and to several friends.  I wish I could send a copy to every one of you.

Katrina writes about loss and grief and the tears that trickle down her cheeks onto her yoga mat.  And she writes about love.  When you strip everything else away, Magical Journey is about love.  It’s her story, but it’s my story, and yours, too, just in a different town, in a different kitchen, with a different family, in different circumstances.

Katrina is such an exquisite writer that I’ve been reluctant to write this post, afraid that my words could never do hers justice.  So rather than try, I’ll let Katrina’s words speak for themselves by including a few of my favorite passages. But first, I want tell you why Katrina and her books are so important to me. Because long before we met in person, Katrina had been one of those magical helpers on my journey.

You see, it was two days after Andie’s birth that I found Katrina’s first book, Mitten Strings for God in the hospital gift shop.  That book became an ever present guidepost and reminder of the gift of motherhood, teaching me to remember childhood is precious and fast and that raising my children with presence is the greatest gift I can bestow upon them and myself.

And then Katrina wrote The Gift of an Ordinary Day, chronicling her journey with her adolescent children, preparing me for what was to come (and has) in my life.

And now, Magical Journey.  It’s about her journey into mid-life, a place I have yet to reach, but a place I don’t yet need to be to feel and comprehend and devour this story.  Because Katrina has pulled the curtain so far back on her inner-emotions and feelings, at times I felt almost embarrassed to be reading such intimate details about her life.  There is so much more I could say, so much more I want to say, but instead, I will say just say this, Read this book.  It is truly a must for anyone seeking a fuller, more profound existence in life.

Katrina has generously offered a signed copy of Magical Journey for one of you and I’m giving a copy of Mitten Strings for God away to another lucky reader.  Leave a comment below and as always I’ll let Random.org do the choosing.

In the meantime, as promised, here are a few of my favorite, underlined passages from Magical Journey.

From the chapter titled Stillness, Katrina writes, “To be human and alive, it seems, is to strive and to struggle, to learn and to grow even as we endure our losses and question our ability to transcend them.  It’s easy to think we should be somewhere or someone else – smarter and wiser, or further along on the path, closer to having an answer.  Instead we muddle along, heads down, certain everyone else must know something we haven’t figured out yet.”  Oooh, I love that so much! Totally reminded of my word of the year, Enough.

And also from the chapter Stillness, “My first inclination always, when the tears start, is to jump up and get on with things…But making the choice to just hang in there with my own rather pathetic self for a while demands a different kind of perseverance altogether, a kind of strength that lays bare all of my weakness.  And so I try, day after day, not to scorn this raw, sorrowful soul, not to dry my eyes and bolt, but to settle into the darkness instead, heart open, experiencing the humiliating truth of my own silent, barren place.”  What an incredibly important lesson.

And another inspiring lesson, this one from the chapter called Going, “I learned that sometimes the best thing we can do for our children is to acknowledge our own need for help, to make room for their vulnerability by sharing our own.”

And finally, probably, my favorite line of the entire book from the chapter appropriately called Love, “Maybe all I really need to do – all anyone needs to do – is trust in what we love and continue to do that.”

It’s all about the love.  It always is, isn’t it?

If you want to order Katrina’s book, click here and if you’d like to read more of her gorgeous writing in her weekly blog posts, head on over to her website www.katrinakenison.com.

Remember to leave a comment if you want a chance to win a copy of Magical Journey or Mitten Strings and a huge congrats to Renee, the winner of the Winter Jamms Hat Giveaway!

Happy Valentine’s Day Y’all!

Valentine’s Day Dessert

My dear friend and Reiki Master, Libby Barnett put together a lavish birthday basket for my husband Lee, full of all things healthy including our favorite protein bars, organic jelly beans, almonds, coconut water and pomegranates! It ended up being a gift to us all and the pomegranates inspired our new favorite dessert – Pomegranate seeds over vanilla ice cream!

Simple and delicious and the vibrant red makes it a perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day!

Andie and I disagreed about how to cut open the pomegranates. She was a fan of the method recommended on this site www.thekitchn.com while I chose the immersion in water method recommended on this site www.simplyrecipes.com.  We’d love to know if you have a favorite way!

Perhaps the photographic evidence will help you decide which method you’d prefer!

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Andie’s method.

My method.

My method.

Despite our disagreement about approach, we both agree that the result is delicious! I hope you get a chance to try it!

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Let us know if you do!

Any favorite Valentine’s Day recipes to share from your end? Tucker would be extremely grateful for something involving less fruit and more sugar and flour!

A Hand to Hold

Publishing a book is by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  Well, outside of parenting.  But interestingly, it turns out that book publishing and birthing a baby have a lot in common.  In fact, much of my publishing process seemed to mirror what it was like having a baby in the NICU (beside the looming threat of death). So much uncertainty, lots of stomach-churning ups and downs, good news and bad news scenarios, days full of sadness and others full of hope.

And one other strikingly similar aspect of book publishing and life with a baby in the NICU, is the unexpected emergence of Angels.

The chapter in my book about Andy the cop, the angel who appeared on that snowy Boston morning and found me that parking space so I could spend a few precious moments with my daughter, seems to be a reader favorite.  And there are so many other angels who influenced our story, just as there are angels that appeared along my book publishing path.

One of the greatest and most influential angels was an organization called Hand to Hold.

Right around the time my first publishing offer fell through, I received an email from a woman named Babs who’d happened upon my website through an internet search.  Babs referred me to Kelli Kelley, the founder of Hand to Hold, who read my book and declared “We have got to get this book into every NICU in the country!”  And with the backing of a national preemie organization, I was soon on my way to securing a literary agent and a new publisher.

Needless to say, I’m incredibly devoted to Hand to Hold, but not just because of their influence in my book’s publication.  Hand to Hold’s Mission is about helping preemie parents heal, so their babies can do the same.  They focus on providing peer-to-peer support by matching “graduated” preemie parents to act as mentors to those just beginning their experience.  I often wonder how different my own experience might have been if Hand to Hold had existed twelve years ago.

Which is why I am so thrilled to announce my participation in Hand to Hold’s fundraising campaign called For the Love of Babies.  As a participant in their Snoball Challenge, I will donate all my proceeds from Preemie book sales through the months of February and March.

But I need your help to make this a success!

How can you help?

1.) Share the news on your Facebook page and Twitter feed. Copy the link to this page and paste it right into your newsfeed.  http://www.kaseymathews.com/a-hand-to-hold/

2.) Post a review of Preemie on Amazon.

3.) Email a few friends and tell them why you think they would enjoy reading Preemie.

4.) Choose Preemie as your book group selection. I’ve shown up for several groups that were within driving distance and Skyped with those that were not.  The wine and discussion were wonderful in all instances!

5.) Consider giving Preemie as a gift.  More and more, I’m receiving letters from those who’ve had no personal experience with premature birth, yet find the universal life lessons found in the book both healing and transformative.  I can mail you a signed book plate if you’d like the book personalized.

6.) Donate a copy to your NICU.  Again, I’ll happily send a signed book plate.

7.) Finally, Donate directly to Hand to Hold’s campaign!

And please, If you have questions, thoughts or suggestions, leave them in the comment section below or email me directly at prematurejourney@gmail.com.  I look forward to hearing from you and thank you so much your support.

With blessings and gratitude,

Kasey

Boots, Hats and a Giveaway

As I rifled through my closet, determined to whittle down to the items I truly adore, I discovered (confirmed!) that my love of boots…

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These are rubber rain boots!

and hats…
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runs deep!

Most of my cowboy (or cowgirl, as my daughter, Andie insists) boots come from thrift stores.  They’re already broken in, supple and forgiving, waiting for my feet to make them a new home.  One of the new pairs, the green floral, were a Christmas gift from my husband.  I’d been lusting after them for months, but they were wildly expensive and I’d never in a million years buy them for myself.

(This is the note he included with the boots that had me blushing on Christmas morn.)

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And then there are my hats.  All summer I wear straw cowboy (cowgirl) hats and my head is rarely without a cap on once the first chill arrives in the fall air.  I bought a cupcake hat the other day and did a cupcake hat dance in the ski lodge.  Andie threatened to immediately run away if I didn’t stop, but of course, once we arrived home, my cupcake hat was on her head!

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I asked a friend in the ski lodge if she liked my hat and she said, “Yeah, if you’re 10!”

This is my second to newest hat and the one everyone keeps asking “Where did you get that hat?”

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You can’t tell from the photo, but the hat is really sparkly and lined with cozy fleece!

Up until now, I’ve given a vague answer about a friend whose friend makes them and brought some to a ski race.  But after some digging, I’ve exchanged emails with the friend of the friend and when she learned I was going to mention her Jamms Hats in a post on my blog, she offered to give one away.

Winner gets to choose the style and there are many from which to choose!

Hats

Andie has two!

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So what do you think?  Are you feeling the hat love?  If so, leave a comment here and I’ll let you know on Feburary 14th (feeling more love!) if you’re the lucky winner chosen by Random.org.  And if you’re not, you should just buy one anyway and then everyone will be asking you, “Where did you get that hat?”  Once again, here’s the link to Jen’s site just in case you’re like me and can’t wait – Jamms Hats.

What about you – What are some of the things you love? 

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Courtesy of “Go Dog Go!” by Dr. Suess.

Anything is Possible

I saw this for the first time last night.  Somehow, I was not one of the 7,663,875 viewers who had already seen it.  Lee and the kids hadn’t seen it either so I made them sit right down and watch it.  I was so moved and so deeply inspired that I had to share it with all of you in case you hadn’t seen it either!

If you’ve read my book, you know that the principal theme is the belief that Anything is Possible.  And here is this man, a living and breathing example of the powers of intention and possibility.

But then again, in our own way, aren’t we all?

Happy Day!

* A huge shout out and thank you to my teacher, Nancy Galiardi for all those years ago, when I was so lost after Andie’s birth, you held my hand and showed me the extraordinary healing powers of yoga. I’ll be forever grateful!