Why Your Mental Health Before and After Baby Is So Important

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Women who are pregnant for the first time will likely spend most of their pregnancy learning how to care for their baby. But what about learning how to care for themselves?

There are three words I wish someone had talked to me about while I was pregnant: maternal mental health. Those three words could’ve made an incredible difference in my life when I became a mom.

I wish someone had said, “Your maternal mental health might suffer pre- and post-pregnancy. This is common, and it’s treatable.” No one told me what signs to look for, risk factors, or where to go for professional help.

I was less than prepared when postpartum depression hit me smack in the face the day after I brought my baby home from the hospital. The lack of education I received during pregnancy led me on a scavenger hunt to get the help I needed to get well. 

Had I known what postpartum depression actually was, how many women it affects, and how to treat it, I would’ve felt less shame. I would’ve started treatment sooner. And I could’ve been more present with my son during that first year. 

Here’s what else I wish I knew about mental health before and after my pregnancy.

Check out the article I wrote for Healthline HERE to read about what I wish I knew about maternal mental health before I had my baby. 

Beyond Manicures & Massages: What Self-Care REALLY Means For Moms

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Self-care. It’s a term that’s become part of the mommy zeitgeist to the point where we can’t open our Instagram feeds without being bombarded by memes touting, “Caring for yourself is mandatory” or “Put your oxygen mask on first.” Between us mamas, it’s getting kind of annoying. The first issue is, the current conversation about what self-care means is shallow.

It goes something like this: “Go get a manicure or a quick massage and you’ll come back refreshed and ready to handle motherhood again.” That’s what we’re told. Here’s what we hear: Self-care is as easy as painting my nails and will make me a better mom.

Wait, so, a new coat of nail polish is a mommy miracle that will make us happier about our child having a tantrum in Target? Not buying it.

Issue #2: Making superficial self-care the de-facto norm assumes all moms have access to both the childcare and the cash to spend on it.

They don’t. And now we’ve not only made them feel like they’re bad moms because they don’t do it but we’ve shamed them because they can’t afford it. Not nice.

Third, doing something as superficial as getting her nails done will in no way make a mother suffering from issues like postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression feel better.

It just won’t. Because that kind of self-care doesn’t address or help these moms’ deep emotional needs. In fact, asking some of these mothers to leave their children (or just leave the house in general) in the care of another person, particularly the moms suffering from PPA, can have the opposite effect of self-care; it can actually make their lives worse, not better. No bueno.

Crappy situation all around, right? Pretty much.

Can we make the concept of self-care for moms more personalized and attainable?

We’re not entirely sure but we have some ideas.

For starters, we can stop assuming all moms can use grooming, spa services or gym time as a self-care method. Don’t get us wrong, it’s nice. Doing some cardio or having our feet rubbed feels great and might boost our dopamine levels for a bit. But it isn’t going to solve our bigger issues of maintaining our composure during whining, sibling fighting and making six different meals because none of them are satisfactory to our little food critics. In short, it’s a temporary high.

We need to make self-care more about caring for our souls and less about caring for our appearance.

That means promoting things like venting, empathy and surrounding ourselves with supportive friends, things that will fill up our emotional tanks. We need to position self-care as an internal thing, not just an external thing. And the best news is, we’re primed to do this! Moms were literally MADE for this kind of self-care.

Turns out women are genetically wired to crave community, and we function best when surrounded by those who “get us.” We need a mom tribe to thrive. Encouraging moms to seek other like-minded mamas, either virtually or locally, gives them soul-satisfying, long lasting self-care.

And bonus. It's free!

Lastly, we have to do a better job helping moms identify dangerous mental health issues and provide them with the resources to get better. Self-care for these mamas means getting help, both medically and psychologically, so they can adequately care for their children and not kill themselves. Literally. We know. We’ve actually been there.

Look, we’re not trying to be too critical of today’s self-care narrative. We’re just saying it could use some tweaking.

At its core, self-care is a mommy time out for our insides as much as for our outsides.

We happen to think the former is more effective than the latter. The bottom line is moms today have it rough. And sometimes sloughing off our callouses during a pedicure helps. But for most of us, it’s not really enough.

You feel us? Good. Because we gotta go FaceTime our BFF about our kid smearing poop on his wall. She’ll totally get it.

Written by Brooke Christian and Jen Schwartz for Today's Parenting Team.

#MyDream - MOTHERHOOD | UNDERSTOOD for Mogul, Inc.

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My dream is that with motherhood comes only empathy and connection, not judgment and shame. My dream is that all moms feel empowered to ask for help, receive it and realize that doing so doesn't make them failures. My dream is that all moms realize that taking care of themselves and their needs isn't selfish, but necessary. My dream is that all moms feel safe enough to be honest about their lives, even the scary parts. My dream is that all moms have access to affordable care for mental health issues such as postpartum depression and anxiety. My dream is that no mom ever feels alone as she struggles. My dream is that all moms recognize motherhood is not one-size-fits-all and no two journeys are the same. My dream is that all moms support each other's choices and embrace each other's differenes. My dream is that all moms lift one another up because they understand that we are all in this together.

Mindfulness is Fucking Awesome - Guest Post by Jennifer Bronsnick

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August 6, 2017 2:47pm EST Florham Park, NJ I am sitting on a reclining chair in my backyard, my black toy poodle Zoe at my feet.  The temperature is a perfect 78 degrees. The sun peaks out from behind the clouds every so often so that I can feel the warmth amidst a light breeze on my skin. Cars drive by with a wooosh and I hear the siren of an ambulance from the next town over. Not too loud that it bothers me, but just loud enough to make me wonder if the person they were headed to is okay. It rained last night and I can smell moist grass mixed with a bit of mildew from the outdoor furniture. I sit and sip my chai tea feeling the warmth from the spices move down my throat creating a nice sensation in my body. Breathing in sync with the swaying trees as the winds moves through the plush green leaves. Feeling grateful for a few more weeks of summer to enjoy.

2:50pm - Enter my 5 year old daughter Savanna wearing a tutu and tap shoes. “Mom! Watch my show!”

Was I annoyed? Maybe I wasn’t thrilled, but I wasn’t angry. I was just moving into a new moment; a moment with my daughter. This happens 1000’s of times each day. We have good moments, bad moments and everything in between. The beauty of mindfulness is that it can give us peace in our minds and hearts because it teaches us not to only strive for good experiences (sipping my tea alone), but to be open to ALL experience (getting interrupted during my quiet time), without labeling them. It’s this labeling that ultimately causes us to suffer. Without the label, an experience just is. It’s an opportunity to know what being alive is all about.

Those THREE minutes of intentional mindfulness were three minutes without thinking and planning.  Without analyzing, judging, striving OR suffering.  Three minutes of being present, noticing, and BEING.  Three minutes that recharged my soul and sparked my creativity.  Those three minutes set the tone for the rest of my day and enabled me to operate from a full cup.

Mindfulness is f*cking awesome. It is also just one piece of our self-care plan.  It only took me 3 minutes to fill my cup because I make self-care and time for myself a priority every day. I get regular pedicures, move my body in a way that brings me joy, connect with friends, have date nights and make time to write, create and binge -watch Netflix.

Mindfulness is accessible to everyone. It is free. It is simple to learn.  It just takes practice and an intention. It’s the best way to put an end to the stress of being a mom and any other challenging situation in your life. Mindfulness lets you off the hook because as long as you are breathing there is another moment for you to apologize, to make it right, or do it over. EVERY activity can be done mindfully.

Mindfulness is not being emotionless and it’s NOT about being peaceful all the time, It’s NOT about escaping your life and it’s NOT a quick fix for your life’s challenges.  Like getting your body in shape, getting your mind in shape takes time and practice.

You might be thinking, “Who has time for this?” Well if you just read the first part of this blog, then YOU do. Just by reading about my mindful experience you were mindful too. You could feel the breeze, the sun, smell the grass and then the interruption. You did it. It wasn’t hard and it didn’t take much time.  It also lowered your cortisol and allowed you to tap into your resourcefulness and healing abilities.

Can you imagine what your life could be like if you made mindful self-care a daily practice?  On World Mindfulness Day, this is my invitation for you. Take 3 minutes every day for the next 2 weeks to be FULLY present in your life.  Tune into each of your senses-Sight, Taste, Touch, Smell and Sound. Notice your breath and bring gratitude for this healing tool that operates without conscious effort. Bring compassion to your experiences and welcome everything that arrives. You can do it.

BIO: Jennifer Bronsnick, MSW, LCSW is passionate about supporting moms to be resilient. As a mother of three daughters under 8 and a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety Jennifer knows exactly how challenging motherhood can be. She also knows that there is hope for all of us and with accurate information, support and inspiration that mothers and families can thrive. Jennifer’s years of clinical experience as a social worker and her own personal journey gives her the unique ability to guide other moms on their path to health and wellness. You can also learn more about Jennifer, the services she offers and purchase her books on maternal self-care at www.themindfulfamily.com.

When It Comes To Playing Parenthood As A Team Sport, Why Do Dads Do It Better?

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I’m probably going to get some slack for writing this article, but I want to discuss a parenting phenomenon I’ve observed too often lately. Why is it so much easier for dads to hire help and make their lives easier when watching their children? Why don’t they appear to feel guilty about this? And why do we, as moms judge and criticize them for it? I know lots of moms, that when they make plans with friends for an afternoon or evening, their husbands often call a nanny, babysitter, or family member to come over and help with the kids. And when mom hears this, she responds with anger and frustration, complaining that she doesn’t understand why her husband can’t handle taking care of all the children alone, something she does every single day of the week.

I want to first differentiate between the men who are literally never alone with their children and refuse to be, forcing their wives to never be able to take a trip, attend a special event, or a night off with the girls unless they arrange for their own child care. I’m not talking about these men. That topic deserves its own post. I’m referring to the average hands-on, involved dad who likes an extra set of hand with his kids when mom isn’t home. Why shouldn’t these dads ask for help if they believe it will make their afternoon or evening easier?

Why don’t we ask for help more often (if we can afford it) to make our mornings, afternoons or evenings easier? And when we do, why are we always explaining it to everyone else? We spend so much time justifying our need to have a part-time nanny or ask the babysitter to work extra hours when our partners travel or work long hours rather than just accepting that we don’t need to do everything by ourselves and it’s perfectly okay to have a team to help make the experience of parenting solo less exhausting and overwhelming.

Some moms might want their husbands to experience exactly what they go through every day with their children—the feedings, the diaper-changing, the wiping, the cleaning up of snot and spit up, the neediness, the nagging, the questions, the laundry, the cleaning, the negotiating, the constant entertaining, the nap refusals, the cooking, the being a tiny human’s “snack bitch.” They want them to feel what it’s like to sometimes want to lock yourself in a closet and pretend you can’t hear anyone calling out for you. I get it. There are many times when my husband returns from a business trip and I want him to know about and greatly appreciate everything I have done for and with his child while he was away, but is it right that I want him to feel the miserable parts in addition to the good ones?

Shouldn’t we want our spouse’s lives to be easier if it’s possible? Aren’t we entitled to make our own lives easier if possible? I have a feeling our spouses want to make our lives easier when they can. And don’t we often benefit when they call for help? I bet there is a better chance all that laundry is getting done, folded and put away if the nanny comes over. Perhaps when you get home your children’s lunches will be made for school the next day because the babysitter did it. The house might look a little cleaner and a bit more organized because your mother-in-law was there while you were out. Is any of that really so bad? Does it really deserve that eye-roll you gave when you left?

Moms, are you telling me honestly, that if offered and it can be afforded from time to time, that you wouldn’t say yes to an extra hand to help with the kids in favor of just doing it all by yourself? I know you can do it by yourself. You’re a woman and a mom. You’re amazing. Of course you can, but why should you have to? What do you think you have to prove? Does it bring you joy? Or would you rather be able to achieve a balance on some days that allows you to take care of your own needs, which might include letting someone else tend to the kids and household chores for once.

It really does take a village. Having someone come over to help us and give us a break doesn’t make us terrible mothers or mean we don’t love and want to spend time with our children. It just means that we are tired and are taking some well-deserved time-off, even if it’s only for a few hours. We have nothing to feel guilty about. I can almost guarantee that your partner is not rolling his eyes or complaining to his friends about this.

So why do we, as women struggle so much with this? Why do we think we have to do it all and without any assistance? Why do we care what others think about the team we employ to help us take care of our children? A good friend of mine who works as an executive and life coach once told me that she believes the main thing holding women back in business is permission. It’s almost as if they are waiting for someone else to give them permission to do something. Men don’t generally have that issue. They just go out make it happen, ask for what they need and keep moving forward without too much concern. If they bump into a roadblock, they figure out how to get around whatever has gotten in their way.

The same could possibly be applied to motherhood in many ways, especially with this concept of having a team of some sort that makes our lives just a little more manageable. It’s as if we need permission to have heIp. We need someone else to tell us it’s okay before we ask. And when we get overwhelmed and need it, we would rather do everything by ourselves than figure out how to navigate around our roadblocks like these men in business do, often the same men we are married to who don’t hesitate when making that call to the sitter.

I am a stay at home mom who is fortunate enough and beyond grateful to have a part-time nanny. My husband travels a lot for business and neither of our mothers live close by (I’m still justifying the fact that I have help even as I write this article). When my son was younger and my husband was away for days at a time, I would often ask our nanny to stay later to help me with the bath and bedtime routine. I still ask her to stay later sometimes when he travels for more than a few days at a time, especially when it’s over a weekend.

While I still sometimes find myself explaining and justifying to other people why I have part-time help when I don’t work, I stopped feeling guilty about my choices a long time ago. I don’t need to ask permission. I’m comfortable admitting that parenting is hard and I don’t always want to do it by myself. It doesn’t make me a less capable mother because I hire help or a horrible one because I want to make my life easier. I don’t resent my husband when he wants make his life easier as well. And we both want to make the other’s life easier when possible.

Moms, let’s stop criticizing our husbands for asking for what they want and start imitating their behavior. Let’s put an end to measuring our worth as mothers by how much we do and giving into the belief that we have to do it all by ourselves. If anyone deserves to have the nanny or babysitter come over for a few hours when you’re home alone with all the kids, have endless piles of laundry to sort through, lunches to be made, and dinners to be prepared, it’s you. You absolutely don’t need it, but you have my permission to call and ask for help!

Happy Valentines Day! #ThisIsLove Is All Of This

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Love is my close mom friend putting me in bed, rubbing lotion on my feet, and staying until I fall asleep after the exhaustion of postpartum depression and anxiety have set in for the day. Love is my mom who always answered the phone each morning so I could walk laps around my neighborhood, sobbing to her that I would never get better.

Love is my husband coming to therapy with me so he could better understand what was I was going through and how to support me.

Love is my husband sending me flowers just to tell me he is proud of the fight I am putting up.

Love is my sister crying on the phone to me because she is worried and just wants ME to be okay.

Love is my sister holding my hand in person and from afar because she knows what it’s like to feel how I feel.

Love is my best friends talking and emailing behind my back because they want me to get healthy and happy.

Love is my best friend celebrating when she realizes the old Jen is back.

Love is speaking out, asking for help, and accepting treatment so I can be the best possible mom to my son.

Love is overwhelming when I think of how much I have of it for him.

Love is when he kisses my lips, tells me he loves me, that I’m pretty, his best friend, and melts me into mush.

Love is what fills my heart every night I watch him sleeping.

Love is your friends who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth, call you out on your bullshit, even when it’s hard, even if I want to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Love is the same friends who accept you as you are and never judge or shame.

Love is my dad telling me have big balls because I’m not afraid to ask for what I want and need.

Love is being able to save a friend’s life by just being there to listen and tell her she’s not alone.

Love is my husband knowing what I’m going to do before I even do it.

Love is sometimes not having to say anything at all.

Love is a weekend girls trip to reminisce, catch up, and take some time off from adulting.

Love is the connection I feel to the incredible tribe of Campowerment women.

Love is my husband sharing me often with these fabulous women.

Love is my husband taking our son to Chuck E. Cheese so I can sleep late (and because I hate Chuck E. Cheese).

Love is when he lets me have the last sushi roll and piece of chocolate cake.

Love is wandering the streets of New York City and Paris.

Love is the Soul Cycle class that ends with me crying.

Love is Peter Lugers steak dinner for 2 with hash browns and creamed spinach.

Love is a 2 AM pizza delivery because…I drank too much.

Love is an endless bowl of pasta.

Love is a warm chocolate chip cookie with coffee ice cream on top.

Love is treating myself with respect, compassion, and kindness.

Love Is learning to put my happiness first and how to live in authenticity.

Love is learning how to pay it forward.

Love is being a trench buddy for other moms.

Love is all those moments from the entire movie of your life you wish you could bottle, hold on to, and remember forever—the friends who always show up, never judge, always support, and never out your skeletons. The family members that love you unconditionally and the men who lift us up and make us better women, and our children who show us the world all over again from a unique perspective of wonder and lots of silliness.

This post originally appeared on Mogul.

F**k Disney World...Campowerment is the Happiest Place on Earth!

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(UPDATED: On this day where we give thanks, I'm posting an oldie but a favorite to show the immense level of gratitude I have for everything Campowerment-the movement, the founders, the experts, the rangers, the women, the lessons learned, the playtime had-just everything I am so fortunate to be part of. This third camp was different for me (and all camps are different because I am different at every camp), as I took a lot of time to just look around, observe, and take it all in rather than do every single activity offered. And yes as I turned 35 on the first day of camp, I was celebrated in a big way, but what I found to be most rewarding was to watch other incredibly beautiful and strong women experience their own transformations on that hilltop in Malibu. I want to bottle that feeling and take it with me wherever I go, since I can't live at camp 365 days a year! Oh and being named color war captain and winning didn't hurt either! So again, F**ck Disney World...Campowerment is the Happiest Place on Earth!)  I'm moving to camp. You heard me...camp! A magical place where women of all ages and from all different walks of life come together to be each other's cheerleaders. A place where women support women no matter what. A place where no one gives a shit about what you do for a living, what clothes you wear, how much you weigh, how much money you make, how many children you have, if you are married, single, divorced, etc. Trust me...makeup doesn't matter at camp. Sometimes showers don't even matter at camp.

A place where there is no bullshit, no noise (except the cheers of your fellow campers while you take on the Leap of Faith at the ropes course as in the above photos--yes that's me being all brave and badass), and you can be who you are. You can do you and just be. Doesn't camp sound amazing? That's because it is. Where else can you go and find yourself and your tribe made up of all women? And we women need each other. I always say to my close female friends that I don't understand mom-shaming or women-shaming for that matter. Life is hard enough. Women need to support women and whatever choices they make. Well, they do at camp!

I've convinced you too, haven't I? You know this is not easy to find in the real world, not while we are all busy running around working, wifing, and raising tiny humans. But this should be the real world. I bet you want to move to camp now too, don't you?! And if you have no idea what you're looking for or who you are or want to be, when you go to Campowerment, you will figure it out.

Since I'm all about the truth here, let me be honest about this post. It's taken me a while to finish it. I returned home from camp over two weeks ago and I'm still basking in all the love and that post-camp glow, but I can't seem to make this post perfect, or at least sound the way I want it to. I think it's because it's so hard to articulate the impact Campowerment and its founders, experts, and all the women who attended had on me. The best possible way to understand is to sign up and experience it all for yourself. So here is where I tell you how I learned about the happiest place on Earth that is Campowerment and attempt to explain it in more serious detail:

Last July, a mom friend sent me a Facebook message about something her aunt created called Campowerment. I was intrigued. What was this mysterious place that combined camp, something I love, and empowerment, something I desperately needed more of in my life? So I immediately typed in "Campowerment" to Google and OMG...Campowerment is sleepaway camp for adult woman! Seriously? This really exists? Where has this been all my life? Why didn't I know about this? Where and when can I sign up? I didn't even need to read past the website's home page. I was in. I was going. This was happening!

I told my husband about camp and his practical, conservative self answered, "Okay, we can discuss it." I replied, "No, you misunderstand me. I'm going. I already signed up. The credit card has been charged." Later, when I returned home from camp, he would admit Campowerment was worth every penny. I didn't say I told you so. I didn't have to!

I have to take a minute here to thank Tammi Leader for creating Campowerment so women could have the chance to put their needs and themselves first, something that is all too rare. I know she would respond to this by saying she just built the door--that we all walked through it and did the work. But Tammi, you need to receive this credit...because you, camp, and your family have inspired me and given me a much needed new outlook on my life! It was you and your words that reassured me I would be okay returning home as I hugged you and sobbed that I was terrified to leave the bubble of camp, where I could so authentically be myself. And you were right. I can be that person at home too. I am that woman, even now as I write this.

I said before that the women at camp come from all different backgrounds--survivors of cancer, divorce, break-ups, depression, great loss. Single women, married women, women who lost themselves along the way, women like me in search of their passion and identity. Women who just need a break from life to reconnect with themselves. These women are warriors and meeting them and learning their stories has been life-changing. I'm honored to call these women my friends and be part of their tribe. I won't say anymore here because I really can't. I am never one to be at a loss for words, but words are not enough to describe the mark these women have left on me. For that, I can only say thank you and continue to be your champion as you have been mine.

Do you want to know what I know after going to camp? Here is just a glimpse of the wisdom shared by some of Campowerment's tremendously talented experts--experts who create the space for you to really get in touch with yourself, ask the tough questions, really examine your life and choices, say the things you are most afraid of, embrace and love who you are, give you a new perspective on your relationships, and provide you with tools so you can leave as your best self. If you want to learn more about these amazing empowerers of women, go here.

Look in the mirror everyday and repeat the following affirmation: I am an irresistible force of nature. Because you are exactly that, an irresistible force of nature.

Live in gratitude, not in guilt.

When you're present in the moment, there are no thoughts, only the experience. If it's a thought, it's already in the past.

Women are the CEO's of their romantic relationships. We really are the authors of the whole thing. If you know what you need, fucking say it! We are not allowed to sit back, watch, and think our men are the assholes. That makes us the assholes. Ask for what you want!

Don't hand your dream to someone else to fulfill. It's yours!

Women need to receive so they can create.

Campowerment changed me...or maybe it just encouraged me to be me. The open, honest woman, wife, and mom who doesn't believe in pretending or sugar-coating. A fierce rockstar of a woman who puts it out there and never apologizes. When so many women praise you for your spunk, honesty, and voice, you know you are doing something right. You walk away knowing you have started to live your truth. Nothing is more empowering.

I left camp with a new perspective on myself, my relationships, and my life. I found a deeper appreciation for all that I have and all that I still want to accomplish. I gained more self-confidence and the support of over 75 women who have now become my tribe and my friends--women who celebrate my voice, my purpose, and my writing.

Yes there will be breakdowns and breakthroughs at camp, but it's not all serious all the time. We have crazy fun too! I'm talking color war, happy hours, sunrise dance parties, lip synch battles, workouts where you bang shit with drumsticks, sex toy parties, and more.

Run, don't walk to this special place and give yourself the gift of camp. Every woman needs a breather, time for herself to recharge, re-ignite, and just be. Whatever it is you might need or are looking for--even if you don't know what that is yet--you will find it at camp. You can thank me later. And if you have a spouse and/or children, they will thank me too!

And maybe one day life will be like camp. I know that is Tammi's vision. Until then, I'm moving there. I just need to let my husband and son know. I'm sure we can arrange visitation!

Written for Suburban Misfit Mom: Today I Went Back to Therapy

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Today I went back to therapy and it felt fucking amazing. The last time I sat on that comfy red couch in my therapist’s office was over three years ago, when we decided I could take a break because I finally found myself on the other side of postpartum depression hell. I had survived. I had gotten better. I had become better than I was before. I had become Mason’s mommy and I was finally happy about that. I thought I would be okay going forward and I have been. But life is messy and complicated and hard and sometimes you just need someone to talk to about it. And I’ve recently come to realize that I need someone to talk to about it. Someone who isn’t your friend. Someone who isn’t your husband. Someone who isn’t your sister. Someone who isn’t your own mother. Someone who you can talk to without any filter. Someone you can talk to about all those people. Someone who you can say to all the things you aren’t supposed to say. Things about motherhood, marriage, and family. Because as you get older, life and relationships get even more messy, complicated, and hard.

I had been thinking about going back for a while. It’s extremely difficult to navigate through the chaos of being the mom of a toddler and the responsibilities of being a wife, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, and sister-in-law while also trying to maintain my own independence, identity, and happiness. I’m not sure there are enough hours in the day for all of that. And lately, I’m struggling to balance it all and I feel a bit lost. It was actually my mother who noticed this and suggested I call my therapist and start seeing her again. Don’t you hate how your own mother is always right?

It’s no secret I’m not in love with where I live, but I’d like to figure out how to be. My best friend just moved back to the west coast and I’m devastated and also jealous she lives five minutes from a Soul Cycle. My best friends from growing up and college already live that close to Soul Cycles. And for some reason it’s really hard to find a good iced decaf coffee or latte in this town. I know that sounds ridiculous, but who doesn’t carry decaf espresso? I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I miss New York.

All Soul Cycle and coffee envy aside, the demands of motherhood are enough to drain anyone’s spirit. On some days, my three-year old can be an angel with the most incredible sense of humor and curiosity, the light of my life, my little helper, and I feel like I’m nailing this parenthood thing. And other days he is smearing shit on his walls, refusing to sleep, throwing his toys at me, and laying face down on the floor, kicking and screaming because he doesn’t want pasta for dinner, after I just cooked the pasta he asked me to make for him 15 minutes ago. Those are the trying moments. The moments that make me want to scream when my husband comes home and say, “Here you go, he’s all yours.” And then I lock myself in our bedroom with a glass of wine. But it’s not like my husband didn’t just work a long, stressful day.

And that’s where the demands of motherhood and marriage crash into each other and it can be overwhelming for both parties at times. I feel overwhelmed at times. I’m raising a toddler to hopefully be decent human being while keeping an eight-year marriage strong, traveling way too much for family obligations and Jewish holidays, trying to carve out some time for myself to write, relax, exercise, socialize, and maintain some sense of independence and calm. It can feel so routine and takes work and some days it takes more out of me then I have to give. I’m exhausted. So why not talk to someone about it and figure out how to make it work for me?

My therapist never judges. She doesn’t make me feel inadequate or like a failure. She only accepts me. That couch is a safety net that catches me when I sit in her office ranting for an hour about whatever it is that is on my mind in that moment. And on this first day, it was just a mouthful of everything I have going on in my life and how I’m just so exhausted and need a break. We didn’t necessarily solve everything in that hour, but just being able to talk, without holding anything back, made me feel so much lighter. I know going forward, that I will look forward to that hour in my week to decompress and re-charge. It will help me find balance.

I know by writing this that I will worry some of my close friends and family members—especially the ones who I haven’t told about going back to therapy. Some people know. Others don’t.  Going back to therapy doesn’t make me weak. It makes me strong. It makes me brave. It means life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs and maybe I just happened to hit one of the downs right now. I want to be proactive and talk about it. Figure out how to move through it and get back to the up part. I have a hard time believing that every mom is happy 100 percent of every day. I’m not. I can be happy for most of the day, but the whole day, everyday? If you are, please share your secret with the rest of us.

I’m not ashamed to admit any of this. This is me and I completely own who I am, imperfections, flaws, and all. And just because I’m in a funk and need to talk to someone, doesn’t mean that there still aren’t lots of good parts. There is taking my son to Central Park for the first time, screaming the words to Hamilton and Newsies with him because he loves musicals just as much as his mommy, family dinners, showers, weddings, babies, and family road trips to the zoo and aquarium. My son has more grandparents than most and more aunts and uncles than I can count. There is so much love to go around.

I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, but I’m also grateful for the life I have and the people in it, including my supportive husband, beautiful, healthy son, and wonderful family and friends. Even the trips we take that leave me feeling depleted as if I need a vacation after my vacation. I just need a breather right now and I’m taking it in the form of weekly therapy sessions.

I also write this article to help and empower other women who might need or want to talk to someone, but haven’t followed through for whatever reason. Again, life is messy, complicated, and hard, and sometimes we all just need a neutral, judgment-free person to talk to about it and help us push through. And therapy is like Vegas or college spring break. What happens on that couch stays on that couch.

This post was originally published at The Suburban Misfit Mom on September 7, 2016.

Q&A with Tammi Leader Fuller, Founder & CEO of Campowerment

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Meet Tammi Leader Fuller, Founder and CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of Campowerment, and the woman, who, I swear, changed my life in just 72 hours. She would argue that she just built the (Campowerment) door and I walked through it, but even when I walked out the door back to my everyday reality, she still had and continues to have my back. I just got back from my second Campowerment retreat and I am going back for more in November. What can I say...I'm addicted. Trust me when I say you will be too! Read on as Tammi talks Campowerment, starting over, and why every woman needs this magical weekend in their lives. Pre-Campowerment Tammi A guilt-ridden, stressed out single mom, wondering when and why I signed up for this insane web of a life I had spun for myself.

The Beginnings of Campowerment I am who I am today because of summer camp, my happy place. In my twenties, after I outgrew childhood camp, I became a Club Med counselor (a G.O.) for grown ups, probably because I am obsessed with the concept of playtime and the joy it brings to life. I think I became a TV Producer because I was a spirited camp girl (truth: I majored in Journalism cuz there was no school on Fridays!), and meeting interesting people and telling their stories was a very cool way to make a living.

In 2005, Harper Collins published a book I co-wrote with five other overworked professional women about how having it all is not having it all, at all. We called ourselves The Miami Bombshells because of all the bombshells we dropped when we first came together as strangers over wine and chocolate, struggling to juggle all that life was throwing at us. When we launched our book on national TV (what a party that was, as all our friends gathered outside in the rain, holding giant signs of our book cover!), it resonated because we were strangers with no past, coming together, without judgement or any history, to support and elevate each other. Together, we came to understand that we’re all the same, carrying those proverbial rocks in our backpacks. We learned, together, that burdens just aren’t as heavy when friends help you lift. After appearing on some TV shows, our website crashed from all the requests from women who wanted to connect with their own tribes of women, just as we did. 

And Camp Was Born That’s how our first, very primitive camp was born. 17 Camp Bombshells later, The Today Show called it one of America’s best girlfriend getaways, but after a few years, we shut it down because BOTH my sisters and one of my Bombshell sisters got breast cancer. Everyone got better (knock wood) and then, the Producers of Menopause the Musical wrote a fabulously relate-able original play based on our book, that we were sure was going to Broadway (LOL). It closed in 2009 after 6 weeks at a regional theater in Miami, and it was time to go back to TV so my kids could eat. I took a big job in L.A. to help create a TV show about changing your life, and began to notice how many fabulous experts I had collected in all my years in TV. Doctors, therapists, trailblazers, authors, and thought leaders with the power to help people shift and let go of all that was holding them back. And that’s when I knew, deep in my soul, it was time to marry this camp idea with the empowering of women who had impressed and inspired me over my 34-year career. 

Pulling It Off In 2012, I went to the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert to figure out how I was gonna pull that off and voila! In my head, Campowerment was born. I wasn’t sure how I was gonna pull it off, but I just did what I knew how to do, treated it as a live TV production, and was blown away by the response. I didn’t realize how badly women need a place to unplug, out in nature, and now,17 camps and more than 3000 happy campers later, we’re off and running, helping women reignite their lives in a hilariously fun, empowering kinda way. At camp. Go figure.

The C.E.O. (Chief Empowerment Officer) It means I run the company as its CEO-but the other side of my job is to help empower others to recognize their own gifts, figure out what they’re supposed to be doing with this life and to leap without a net into the future they’re dreaming about right now. When that clicks for people, magic happens.

A Family Business No better people to work with than those with my blood running through them. Building this from scratch was way more fun with my mom and daughters by my side, and every single day, we’re learning something new about ourselves and each other, and what women really want and need. We all bring a different kind of talent to the table, but the best thing we can do some days is try and stay out of each other’s lanes. We have 52 years between us from top to bottom but I am amazed by how easily we communicate and relate to each other. Because we’re in this for the right reasons, to pay it forward, I think that’s why it’s working.

Why Camp Why not?  When I went looking for a camp to go to with my girlfriends, it didn’t exist. That’s all I had to hear…

Why Women Why not? We are the ones who are struggling to juggle all that life throws at us today. It’s all coming at us so fast, and our needs seem to always get pushed to the bottom of our to do lists. In the TV world, I had a lot of women in my ear complaining about not being all that happy with the choices they’ve made that landed them there. And so many of them seemed to be searching for their life purpose. So it was only natural to start with women only. We do run co-ed corporate and group custom programs, and we do have a lot of men asking when they get to go to camp. Men often write us in despair, asking for tools to help them deal with newly empowered partners! Patience, we tell them. It’s on the drawing board.

The Typical Camper They are 21 to 80 years old, and they come from all over the globe. We don’t know what they do for a living because they’re not allowed to share that for the first 24 hours. After the first day, no one really cares anyway. You’ve got to be a pretty cool chick to come to Campowerment and take a complete leap of faith, because we don’t leak the schedule to anyone until just before the bugle blows. This is a challenge for those alpha women who are used to being in control all the time, but they quickly learn that it’s only by making themselves uncomfortable that growth happens. And so they have no choice but to trust us and let go. And that’s when their journey begins.

What Women Come Looking For Sometimes they come looking for the lighthearted little girl they used to know. Sometimes they come just to laugh, play, bond and disconnect to reconnect with themselves and a sisterhood of women in the same boat, paddling upstream. Sometimes they come to get over or learn how to release something that’s been holding them back. Sometimes they come to bring in a new perspective that had not been available to them before. We like to say you don’t get what you want at Campowerment, you get what you need, though I think it’s fair to say that most of us have no idea what that is when we get to camp!

What They Leave With Their rightfully earned spot in a very cool tribe of fabulous women. Their mojo. Their confidence. A deep connection to themselves. A plan. And some forever friends.

Choosing the Experts Every expert has been hand-picked by me. She has to be someone who I’ve learned from—with some kind of a pedigree—someone whose insight blew me away and helped me change something in my life that wasn’t working. We have nearly 100 experts in our arsenal, and a huge waiting list of other gifted professionals who want in. I’m always meeting with new experts, changing up the program. No two camps are ever the same.

When People Think You’re Crazy Camp is not for everyone. We sleep in cabins together and that can get a little uncomfortable. But that’s when growth happens. It makes me sad to hear women say they won’t come because they don’t want to “rough it” or dig up what they’ve so perfectly covered up in their own lives. Knowledge is power, and our program doesn’t tear people down. It builds them up and gives them tools to help them make their lives better, not worse. When people say they are not camp people, I show them our video. If they still don’t get it, I drop it. They’re just not our people.

On Women Making Excuses Bottom line? Women don’t believe they deserve this. They don’t want to spend the money on themselves (funny, by the second day, so many tell us we’re not charging enough for the experience) or they think their families or their jobs or their partners won’t be able to manage without them for 3.5 days. The week before camp, we always have a record number of requests from campers who want to cancel for whatever reason they can come up with. That’s why we had to put our strict cancellation policy in place. If we allowed it, most women would likely surrender to the needs of others before putting their own first.

A Wonderful Mom and a Successful Entrepreneur Thank you!  I am finally drinking my own Kool Aid and think I may have finally figured out this work-life balance thing. By making time for me every single day, in between the demands of family and work, I am a better mom and boss. I have a crazy ridiculous amount of energy, which I think you need if you’re gonna blow up your life to follow your dream in your mid-fifties. But make no mistake here. I’m living the dream and count my blessings every single day. For real.  Even as my college friends are retiring and I’m working way too many hours a day, every day, to help women like me get happy again.

On The Future of Campowerment If I told you I’d have to pulverize you!

We All Need a Campowerment Weekend Campowerment is the only place I have ever been to, where everyone is FOR each other. It’s mind boggling actually. There is not a woman on this planet who wouldn’t benefit from a weekend like this. Every one of us knows someone who needs this. Please, please, please pay it forward and share our video on your social media platforms. The more women we can get to come play with us and re-ignite their lives, the happier we will all be.

VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAWxH14rw6Y

 

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BIO: Tammi Leader Fuller is an Emmy-Award winning TV Producer who walked out of the Control Room and into the woods, to help people disconnect to reconnect, find their purpose, and their Tribe.  Tammi’s the CEO of Campowerment: sleepaway camp for grown ups, and the power behind a movement that’s equipping women to transform their own lives through the power of play, blended with insight from America’s top Experts. Tammi spent three decades covering network news for NBC News and the Today Show, CBS News, EXTRA, PBS and America’s Most Wanted. In 2005, Tammi partnered with five accomplished South Florida business women — known together as the “Miami Bombshells” — to co-author “Dish and Tell” (Harper Collins), a book of anecdotes to help women understand they are not alone in their struggle to juggle all life throws their way. Tammi’s now running Campowerment with her 80 year old College Writing professor mom and her 28 year old Marketing Exec daughter by her side, giving women of all ages an intergenerational platform to grow and learn and share some of life’s universal lessons, through hilarious laughter and coaching and a roadmap to help them elevate their lives.Three years, 16 weekend retreats and 3000 happy campers later, Campowerment’s getting shout outs from Oprah, MORE, Forbes and Parade Magazines, the TODAY Show, The Hollywood Reporter, LA Times, Miami Herald, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, as the place where adults go to learn how to live better, and figure out what they’re supposed to be doing with their lives.

Campowerment - Round Two - Also Known As: GET YOUR ASS TO CAMP!

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I wasn’t going to write about my weekend at Campowerment this time around. Not because I didn’t have another magical, transformative weekend with the most unbelievable women, but because I want you to hear about the Campowerment movement and why every woman needs some camp in her life, from the founder herself. On Friday I will be posting a Q&A with the rockstar behind camp, Tammi Leader Fuller. You do not want to miss it! But I have to write about something that happened to me on the last day of camp, just minutes before I got in the van and headed to Newark airport to return home to my real life. We rarely ever know what kind of impact we make on another person and it’s not something we tend to think about. Of course we think about how others touched our lives, but what if you could take a moment to hear from others about the effect you had on them? At the end of camp, you are given this opportunity, but I won’t spoil the details of how, in case you decide to go experience it for yourself. And you should definitely go experience it for yourself.

During my moment, another camper, a woman who I swear is my soul sister and someone I have known my whole life (I’ve literally now known her for less than a week) told me that I make her want to be a mom, something she really hasn’t felt strongly about ever. Cue tears and all the feels. Let me repeat that. I make her want to be a mom. This woman right here—this mommy—your medicated mommy wants to make someone else be a mom. I consider myself to be a pretty confident woman (thank you Campowerment-the first time around), but me? Make someone else want to be a mom? Really? Why?

And do you know why I make her want to be a mom? Because my honesty and attitude and fearlessness gives her the courage to be herself. Because I’m too busy being me, the mom that I am, postpartum depression survivor, medicated and all, to get caught up in the crazy bullshit that has become today's culture of motherhood. I found myself in all kinds of ways this past weekend. I rediscovered my purpose. I made lifelong friends. I listened and learned from so many beautiful, strong women. I danced my ass off, sang karaoke, showed off my killer hula hoop skills, and found my inner teenager. But at the end of camp, in less than one minute, my new best friend left this writer at a loss for words and turned the impact I had on her right back around on me. The only way I know how to pay this forward and show my eternal gratitude for finding and joining this tribe of women is to now share it with all of you and hope that you will give yourself this amazing gift of camp.

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So let me ask you:

Do you miss that playful girl you used to be?

Is she in there somewhere but you don’t know how to find her?

Can you even remember the last time you saw her?

Did you get lost somewhere along the way via the path of marriage, motherhood, career, and responsibilities?

Do you need to let go?

Do you want to experience what it’s like to live in a judgement and drama-free zone? You know, the way the world should be?

Do you want to feel what it's like to live in a place where women only build each other up?

Do you want to be accepted for who you really are, not what you do? 

Do you want to feed your soul, enrich your life, and learn some new cool shit?

Do you need to rediscover your purpose?

Do you have no idea what your purpose is?

Do you put everyone’s needs before your own?

Are you dying to put yourself first, but worried what others will think?

Do you want to be your authentic self and not give a fuck if others don’t get you?

Do you want to learn how to give even less fucks about that?

Do you want to find your inner strength and beauty (because I promise you it’s in there!)?

Do you want to realize that making it all about you is the only way to make it in this life?

Do you just need a little more of the positive and a little less of the negative?

Are you looking for your people? For connection?

Do you just need to have more fun? 

Are you happy and fulfilled in your life but you want to be even happier and more fulfilled?

If you answered yes to even just one of these questions, you need to get your ass to Campowerment. Get empowered. Be inspired. Come play. Do something for yourself. IT’S MORE THAN OKAY TO DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF. Yes, this is me telling you to put yourself first in shouty caps! It doesn’t make you selfish. It makes you brave. It makes you strong. It makes you vulnerable and beautiful. For all the people who say otherwise, fuck them! And when you return home from your first Campowerment weekend, you will be able to say exactly that.

"Empowerment Activist" Andrea Quinn takes over my blog this week! (Today's topic: Why Saying No Makes Women Happier)

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Six Reasons Why Saying No Makes Women Happier When was the last time you said “yes” to doing something you knew you really didn’t want to do, but feel you should or must? If we’re being honest, it happens a lot more than we’d like to admit.

We don’t say no because we either want to “make sure” it’s all done correctly, or we don’t want to miss out on something or we’ll disappoint someone we care about.

But, it goes deeper than that. I believe women have such a difficult time saying no because they don’t know how to see their own value. We think there’s no other option and if we say no there will be repercussions such as shame, guilt, lack of validation and letting people down.

By not saying no, we have become a society of often depressed, angry, resentful and exhausted women who don’t understand why the Yeses haven’t yet shown up in our lives. Well, I can tell you that if you want a Yes life you must learn to say no.

Here are a few reasons to start saying No today:

  1. No allows us to feel relieved from obligation.
  2. No empowers us to be in charge of our own lives (and not everyone else’s).
  3. No fills us with honesty by being true to what we really want to do.
  4. No lifts the heavy burden of feeling like we have to do something for someone that we don’t feel called to do.
  5. No provides us more personal time to do things like recharging our batteries, working on a creative endeavor, reading a good book.
  6. No extends your life! The amount of stress a woman carries by not saying no can actually cause illness and shorten your life.

And lastly, a balance between true yeses and no’s creates a balanced life, because when you say no to one thing you’re actually saying yes to something else more aligned with yourself.

So, if you want to feel a sense of relief, empowerment, authenticity, balance, more personal time and have a longer, happier life, then take the first step today.

Just say No!

JennKLPhotography-4171_edit_CROPBIO: Andrea Quinn is a Certified Life Coach, Motivational Speaker and Author based in Los Angeles.  She is known as an “Empowerment Activist” for women and has a reputation as a powerful advisor to many in the entertainment industry. Her unique and natural gift of sharing her wisdom offers an original perspective that isn’t based on ego or hype, but in real world experience and she delivers!

She has developed a curriculum called the ”Quinn Essentials”, which is a program used by many individuals as well as companies to expand their businesses, inspire communication within groups and empower people to live their best lives. Andrea facilitates women’s groups in Los Angeles where she teaches her tools to hundreds of women and is successful at guiding them to “Accomplish” their dreams.

Andrea is finishing her first book” The Quinn Essentials – 9 tools to Accomplish ANYTHING for Women.” She is also expanding her women’s groups in 2017 to San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas, Austin, and New York. Motivational speaking is also a passion for her and she is invited to speak regularly at many corporate events and has a once a month empowerment lecture series in Hollywood for men and women. While she has a presence in many of the Studios, Networks and Agencies in Hollywood she has also advised on Wall Street, the Silicon Valley, the Pentagon, and most recently in London’s powerful Music Industry. Seeing people (especially women) succeed by “Accomplishing” their dreams is her biggest dream come true.

Finding Your Bliss Buddy with Anne Sussman

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I'm back with more from Anne Sussman, our resident mindfulness and meditation expert. Read on to learn about her inspiring project, Bliss Buddies, how you can be apart of it and why volunteering and giving back is so vital to her everyday life. The Project: Bliss Buddies

The “Bliss Buddy” project is something I created. In the roller coaster that is life, we all will experience sadness, sickness, and death of a loved one. No one gets away unscathed. How is it that we can find the joy in the midst of all that? There is so much to be grateful for in life--from the moment we are born we breath. Beginning there, to just be grateful for your breath, for your life, is the way to start. Before my feet hit the floor each morning I say “Thank you, thank you, thank you”. Gratitude begins and ends my day. It is true that where you put your attention, grows. It’s like watering a plant--your attention is love. When you put your attention on small moments of joy in your life, you will be amazed at how they begin to grow. Being on the lookout gives you the opportunity to see what you are looking for. This is about the steps it takes to start living that way and having more of that joy in your life.

The Acronym: N.E.W.S.

Notice- Noticing the small moments of joy is the first step to cultivating this practice. Make a choice everyday to be on the look out. Once you begin turning your attention to these small moments, you will find them almost everywhere.

Experience- What am I seeing? What am I feeling? What am I hearing, tasting, and smelling right now? Experiencing fully through all your senses, just as the moment of joy is happening, is the best way to begin. Being tuned in, present, and engaging all your senses is a great way to imprint that joyful moment into your brain and turn it into a strong memory. Being fully present is how we experience the most joy we can out of life. If you’re thinking about the past or the future, it’s impossible to live in the moment. It is only when you are dialed in to right now that you can fully experience that feeling of being in the zone.  That’s when the "Aha" moments of life become available to you. When you stay in the present more, you have more of the "Aha" moments. 

Write it down-Writing it down--keeping a journal or just a quick note helps to solidify the experience. There is a visual record of what the moment was--a way to remember it when you move on in your fast-paced life. Taking that time to just jot it somewhere helps to keep it ever present.

Share- Share it! This is the essence of the Bliss Buddy Project--taking the time to share it. Find a partner, a Bliss Buddy. Make a commitment to do this with someone for two weeks in a row. Exchange emails every day and in the subject line write, “Bliss”. Then just send a quick note - “Bliss moment today was when I walked outside, the sun shone down on my face”. That’s all there is to it! Making a commitment to doing this keeps you accountable to noticing what those moments are through out your day.

Why Bliss Buddies

I learned to meditate seven years ago. In class, my teacher talked about how she partnered up with someone to talk to them about how to notice the joyful things in life. I wanted to expand on that and decided Campowerment would be the perfect place to introduce and implement the project. I created the NEWS acronym when I brought the idea to camp. I always end my circles with an explanation of the project and charge each camper to find their own Bliss Buddy to participate with. 

Get Your Own Bliss Buddy

To be a part of this, just find a partner. It can be a friend, a sibling, even a co-worker. Anyone can be your Bliss Buddy, as long as you both commit to noticing what you are grateful for each and everyday. Then it's just a quick report by email. It can be as simple as “Starbucks got my name right!” If times are tough for you and you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, how about your light switches in your house illuminating your home every time you touch them. Or a guarantee of hot or cold running water from your faucets! We take so much for granted. Beginning to see how blessed we are helps to put the difficulties we are going through in perspective. Maybe in the midst of the worst day we have ever had we can be grateful for putting our head on a soft pillow and knowing we made it through.

Anne's Bliss Buddy

At the end of one of my circles, a camper approached me telling me she wanted to participate but didn't have a buddy. I volunteered to be her bliss buddy. We emailed every day for one month and decided we wanted to continue so we emailed once a week for the next two months. We still wanted to continue but not be tied to a schedule, just when we felt compelled to. Our relationship grew into something more--we started out as a Bliss Buddies and became more of pen pals and close friends. We still email often--she sends postcards from all of her travels. We talk about our bliss, but also the difficult things life throws at us and how to get through them. We have really been there for each other. We reconnected in person when she returned to camp a year and a half later. 

What's funny is that I was asked to write something about her and I was asked about what she does for a living. I realized that after emailing for two years, I had no idea. It just never came up. We just never defined each other in that way.  Now I know she lives in Texas and is pretty high up at the company she works for, but I still have no idea what she really does. We've communicated about our lives and really built on that. We never filled in the blanks of any of that other stuff because it didn't matter. It didn't seem important. 

Meditation and the Craziness That Is Motherhood

Meditation and Mindfulness are the perfect antidote to the stress and craziness that is motherhood. Meditation is a vitamin, not an aspirin! It is something you need to incorporate each and everyday not just when you are stressed out. We know from research that after 8 weeks of regular meditation twice a day for a minimum of 20 minutes, your brain begins to change to become more responsive and less reactive. Your ability to stay present and in the moment is a way to ease the anxiety that is created by worrying about the future of “What if?” or the depression that comes from dwelling in the past.

Slowing down and enjoying the little moments, bringing an open heart to the process of parenting, and really being there for all of the messiness that is life is incredibly rich. Life is short. We don’t know when our time on this planet is up. Kids grow up so fast and the moments that you remember most are the ones that you are truly present for. Try this: Float back to a vivid, happy memory. You probably are able to see, feel, hear, possibly even smell or taste what was happening for you. That memory is so evocative, so strong because you were absolutely there, experiencing it fully, through all your senses.

On Turning 50

When I turned 50 I started asking the big questions in life. Is this all there is? Why am I here? What am I here to do? To learn? How do I even know there is a God? I went to a workshop with the brilliant Rumi Scholar, author, and founder of the Institute for Sacred Activism, Andrew Harvey. He shared the three prong approach to having your own experience with the Source, the Divine, a combination of sacred study (real religious texts), sacred activism (compassion in action), and meditation. It was the perfect life recipe to answer those mystical questions I found myself asking and to have a "knowingness" of God. It  really resonated with me. I signed up for Torah classes, began volunteering at the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges, and started taking meditation classes. 

Giving Back

I  had already been volunteering at the food pantry for seven years when I founded Mindfulness Meeting Place.  I wanted to continue to do more, so  I decided to donate 10% of everything I earned to the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges. I also ask whoever comes to class to bring a can of food with them. Did you know that you can’t buy feminine hygiene products and diapers with food stamps? You can’t buy prepared food with food stamps either. It's important to remind people that where they live, people are suffering and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. It’s heartbreaking. These men, women, and children are very hungry.

That Aha Moment

For a while, I had to turn off the news. I got really depressed because I couldn’t help all these victims of world tragedies. But I realized I can take care of and help the people right down the street from me. When I started working at the pantry, 50 people would show up on a Wednesday morning. Now that number has grown to 200. The need is getting greater and greater.  The more you meditate the more you learn we are all interconnected--we are all energy. It’s part of me now. I can’t not help. It’s the way I am. If I could teach everyone for free I would, but I need to earn a living. So when I decided to open this business, I also decided that I would give back. 

You Can Help Too

For more information about or to make a donation to the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges, go here

BIO: Anne Sussman is the founder of Mindfulness Meeting Place. Anne received her certification as a Mindfulness and Meditation Instructor at the McLean Meditation Institute. Anne began meditation in 2009 at a weekly class, hoping to find relief from pervasive anxiety. She believes strongly in the power of meditation, as it is the tool that changed her life from the inside out Anne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has twenty years of experience teaching Conflict Resolution skills to teachers, parents and students, as well as parenting classes to young moms at an early childhood center. Her training in Mindfulness Meditation techniques is a perfect complement to her strength as a born educator. Anne's goal is to help you live better, as she does. Read more about Anne and connect with her on Facebook.

Listen up Mommies! Mindfulness & Meditation with Anne Sussman

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I met Anne a few months ago at camp. She's an expert in mindful meditation and all-around blissful bad-ass. If you need to be more present, quiet that busy mind of yours, stop sweating the small stuff, and gain a deeper appreciation of all that you have in this life (and I think all of us moms need more of those things in our lives), she's your woman. When not rocking the circles at camp, Anne runs the Mindfulness Meeting Place where she helps individuals bring meditation into their everyday lives, just as she has. And thanks to technology, you can work with her from anywhere! Read on to learn how you too can mindfully meditate, find your bliss, and live a life of gratitude. Meet Anne!

On Becoming a Mindfulness and Meditation Instructor and Expert

I teach a trademarked program called SEED: “ Simple Easy Every Day”. I received my certification as a Meditation and Mindfulness Instructor through the McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, Arizona, founded by Sarah McLean, a Hay House author, and internationally known teacher. Meditation is a skill that anyone can learn. I am someone, just like you and your readers, who struggles to live in our fast-paced, often stress-filled world, and I have seen the remarkable benefits that meditating consistently brings.  My goal is to help you live better, as I do. I teach beginners and those looking to deepen their own practice.

Why Meditation

I had been suffering from pervasive anxiety for most of my life and I began meditating in 2009 at a weekly class to try to help relieve it. I found my Wednesday afternoon hour my favorite of the week. I noticed that I was calmer and happier on Wednesdays. I then started to incorporate the practice into my daily life. I now meditate twice a day, every day. I have attended extended day silent retreats as well. I live virtually anxiety free. Just like brushing my teeth, it is something I never leave the house without doing!

The Mindfulness Meeting Place

I founded Mindfulness Meeting Place to begin to bring this valuable practice out into the world. I thought the name of my company would work either as a virtual space to meet or as a brick and mortar space to teach in. I thought that the name conveyed a sense of community as well--a place to come for those interested in living mindfully. I hope to have that physical space one day in the not so distant future.

The Benefits of Meditation 

For many years there has been anecdotal evidence about the benefits of a daily meditation practice. It seemed to help but there wasn't anyway to be sure. Within the last 10-15 years, and the ability to see into the brain with new technology such as MRI’s, there is scientific proof that the practice of regular meditation has physical, psychological and emotional benefits that are measurable. Just open the paper or listen to the news lately. Study after study, by major institutions, are touting the effects of this ancient practice. It is undeniable that this is a tool that can offer greater health and well-being to those who become committed to it.

Getting Profound: “Live in Gratitude, Not in Guilt.” 

I am honored to teach Meditation and Mindfulness at Campowerment, a four day women’s empowerment retreat that is like summer camp for grown-ups! One of the many options to work with me there is attending a circle I offer called “Noticing your Bliss”. This is an opportunity to explore the idea of living a life from the perspective of Gratitude. I believe that Gratitude is the foundation for Joy and that it is a choice we have to approach life from that place. When you make a choice to be on the look out for, and notice the small moments that are joyful in each day, you can begin to live in “Gratitude, and not Guilt” . Guilt is in the past, what we wish we coulda, woulda, shoulda done. Feeling guilty or remorseful leads to being stuck. Being present, fully experiencing each moment through your senses, whether amazing or challenging, welcoming each and every experience with an open heart, and knowing there is an opportunity to learn and grow, is the way not to miss your life. It's about living mindfully, and staying in the present--being grateful for all you are blessed with. This practice creates a more joyful life.

More Ways to Work with Anne

If you live near Anne in New Jersey, you can work with her in person. And if you don't? Thank modern technology and Skype because you can work with her from anywhere. She's now offering three different packages to help you delve into the world of meditation and find your inner bliss.  For a taste, try the Awaken Package. Want more? Maybe the Shift package is a better fit. If you're like me and struggle with moderation and like to dive in to everything head first, then you want the Transform package. Find out which path is right for you.

Come back Monday morning to for part two of Anne's interview where we discuss her amazing new project, Bliss Buddies as well as the power of volunteering and giving back.

BIO: Anne Sussman is the founder of Mindfulness Meeting Place. Anne received her certification as a Mindfulness and Meditation Instructor at the McLean Meditation Institute. Anne began meditation in 2009 at a weekly class, hoping to find relief from pervasive anxiety. She believes strongly in the power of meditation, as it is the tool that changed her life from the inside out. Anne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has twenty years of experience teaching Conflict Resolution skills to teachers, parents and students, as well as parenting classes to young moms at an early childhood center. Her training in Mindfulness Meditation techniques is a perfect complement to her strength as a born educator. Anne's goal is to help you live better, as she does. Read more about Anne and connect with her on Facebook.

If Campowerment Were the Oscars...I Would Like to Thank My Husband

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When I first launched my blog back in January, I made an agreement with my husband.  He knew I was writing but he wouldn’t try to find my blog or read any posts until I told him I was ready. I had always planned to talk to him about everything right before I decided to go public. He fully supported this. He wasn’t concerned. He didn’t ask questions. My close friends and sister? Not so much. If you know me, you know that there is no bullshit. No sugar-coating. Just open, honest truth. I’m not afraid to share, tell you how I feel, and I own my shit and who I am.  I always planned to bring this to my blog. As I started writing my truth about motherhood, marriage, and sex, in came the frantic text messages and phone calls from various friends and family members.

Does my husband know what I’m writing about? Does he know how I feel about our sex life? Do I talk to him about what I write for the world to read? Jen, are you okay? Jen, are you going to do something impulsive like have an affair or run away? Jen, should we be concerned? Jen, do we need to come down to the South for an intervention?

This is what I love about my friends and sister . They are real. They call me out on my stuff and they make me talk to them even if I don’t want to hear what they have to say because they are probably right. I’ve said it before—real friends talk shit to your face and say the good stuff behind your back.

And to answer those questions, no, my husband didn’t know what I was writing about, not at first. I am okay—great in fact, which I attribute to having this space to write my truth and express who I am with no apologies.  And I’m not going to have an affair or run away. I love my husband and our life even if I’m not in love with where we live.

But the fact still remained, I needed to come clean to my husband about the name of my blog, the meaning behind it, and that there were and would be posts that discussed private aspects of our relationship and lives.  And after almost two months of writing, I did talk to him and it was a relief.

The fact is, writing about all of this helps me, which in turn helps our relationship because I can make sense of my feelings in writing before I articulate them in conversation. Most times I talk to him about what these posts. Sometimes I don’t. He is allowed to read the blog anytime he wants to. It’s his choice and a decision we are both comfortable with.

And I’m pretty sure it helps others—because I know I’m not the only wife who sometimes wants to throat punch her husband after he does something stupid.  I'm not the only wife who has a different definition of foreplay than her husband. And I’m definitely not the only mom who has a love-hate relationship with being a mom or misses her life before children.  I just have the balls to say it. And I'm saying it because I want you to know you are perfectly normal and not alone.

Marriage is hard work. It’s not always perfect and needs to be nurtured and cared for. There will be dry spells, some days you’ll want rip your husband’s pants off and other days you’ll want to punch him in the face. If you tell me you are madly in love with your spouse all day every day and life is always perfect, well then I’m just going to say it---you are lying and full of shit. The same goes for motherhood. And it's okay!

I know my husband get this. He supports me and believes in my writing and I love him for it. I’m sure the lack of privacy makes him slightly uncomfortable, but I know he is looking the other way on it for me—because he sees what writing has done for my mind, body, and spirit. Writing is helping me forge my identity, which I have been so desperately in search of. And most importantly, he supports my desire to honestly put myself and my shit out there to help others who might not have the courage to, even if it’s at the expense of a little bit of privacy.

I did not start this blog to bash my husband. Will he annoy me and piss me off sometimes? Of course. Will I write about it? Hell yeah! But while I might complain about the dumb shit he does as a man, he is still an incredible husband and father.  It’s important for me to make that distinction here. We might need to spice up our sex life, but I know my husband would lay the world at my feet if he could.

I love and appreciate my husband, the man who had no issues with me leaving him for five days to go back to sleepaway camp. The man who wanted to discuss me signing up for camp, but didn’t get angry or upset when I informed him there would be no discussion—the credit card was charged and flights were booked! The man who already knew without me telling him that I would be going back to Campowerment this September and probably every time after that.

The man who when I texted from camp to tell him that I won color war and my apache relay activity was bug juice flip cup, he responded by saying, “I expect no less.”  The man who put me up in a luxury hotel after camp so I could reflect and decompress and unpack all my emotions before returning to reality as a mom and wife. The man who I know will do whatever he can to help me be me, the person I revealed myself to be this past weekend at camp. The man who loves our son, cared for him and held down the fort while I was away. The man I can’t wait to share with all I learned, and did, and became while I away at camp.

So husband, I can’t say thank you enough—for your love and support and belief in me. And for letting me do what I need to do to be my best self—as they called me at camp—a  ROCKSTAR!

And just as an added bonus, there will be a large box of goodies from Freda’s Campowerment Passion Party waiting for you when you get home from your business trip. As for what’s inside? I will leave that to all of your imaginations. And if you’re really lucky, maybe there will be a toy review on the blog in the near future. I’ll need some liquid courage before I post that one!

Make sure you check back in the next couple of days for my upcoming post about the magic that is Campowerment and why you should run, not walk to this incredible, life-changing place.