Posted on February 10, 2015 in Fulfillment by Sandra Bienkowski
If I could go back in time and have a little sit down with the 20-something me, I’d tell her:
You have the power to change EVERYTHING in your life.
Think Wizard of Oz where Glinda, the Good Witch tells Dorothy: You’ve always had the power, my dear. You’ve had it all along.
Let’s just say it took me too long to learn that I could unpack my problems one by one. A tattered self-image from childhood left me feeling like an outsider. I felt like a kid looking through a window at other people who had success, loving relationships, and fit bodies. I longed to have what other people had, but I didn’t know how to get on the other side of the window.
I didn’t realize two important things:
1. I was worth it.
2. I could change everything myself.
Today I am right where I want to be. Loving relationship with my husband, two children I cherish, a healthy body, and work that feels on purpose. I view the missteps in my twenties and thirties as deposits into my wisdom now, but my wish is for other people to learn from my mistakes. When you learn things earlier or faster, you have more time to fully enjoy your life and thrive.
When I wrote The One Question that Can Change Everything for MindBodyGreen I had my 20-something self in mind. This is what 40-something me would tell her. When we are brave enough to shine a bright light on our problems and rid ourselves of any denial, we can unpack our problems and vastly improve our lives.
I hope you enjoy reading it:
The One Question that Can Change Everything
You Can Change Everything
Posted on February 3, 2015 in Happiness by Sandra Bienkowski
About half of your happiness is genetically determined, but the other half is in your hands. Want to be happier? Live Happy can help! We put together the Ultimate Happiness Hot List with 54 things to help you become happier today.
Need more happiness to savor with your morning coffee? Check out Live Happy’s Wake Up Happy Tips from the experts!
Do you love to pin or peruse Pinterest? Follow Live Happy! If you want a big delivery of happy to arrive in your mailbox, subscribe here to the magazine.
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ― Dalai Lama
It’s up to you! Do your happy homework!
Posted on December 18, 2014 in Relationships by Sandra Bienkowski
My husband and I have one rule we follow that makes our marriage more blissful. We leave one thing unsaid each day. This simple act can prevent minor irritations from escalating. This one rule can be a peacekeeper.
I’m not exactly a leave anything unsaid person, so it takes work. I have to catch myself and silence my mouth. While I am not exactly a wilting flower, my husband has a strong personality. He also has a compulsion for neatness, so when he dumps my coffee out to put my mug in the dishwasher before I’m even finished with it, I really want to say something.
But I don’t. Quietly, I think: This is what I will leave unsaid today. Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?
And life clicks along happily.
This one simple act of leaving something unsaid has taught me a few things:
We can leave one thing unsaid with everyone in our lives to keep the peace—from coworkers to our relatives. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we teach people how to treat us so I’m not advising anyone to become a doormat. Just don’t go there when you really don’t need to go there. Let some things go.
We don’t have to give voice to an irritated mood or moment. I used to think I was being authentic when I expressed every emotion I had. It didn’t occur to me that I could have an emotion and choose not to react. It’s empowering to know we can rise above temporary emotions. You get to choose how you react and that often determines your mood and day.
Leaving one thing unsaid lets you quickly filter things through what’s really important. Wouldn’t you rather feel in sync with your spouse than squabble about a cup of coffee?
Not everything has to be a conversation. This is a tough one for over-analyzer me, but not everything has to be expressed, dissected or discussed.
Sometimes I get really crazy and leave more than one thing unsaid a day. I am sure my husband does too.
Posted on December 9, 2014 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
Truth be told, I am a little tired of the words mindfulness and gluten. What do those words have in common? They are both overused. Forgive my grumpiness, but when you wake up with twin toddlers (or any child, a job, a business or all of those) how are you supposed to start your day with mindfulness practices? Isn’t it time we start telling the truth about our mornings? We don’t wake up in a yoga position, burning a lavender aromatherapy candle, while peacefully reciting an empowering mantra or setting our intention for the day. Let’s get real. My husband and I divide and conquer this list when we wake up:
Greet the girls with lots of cheerful good mornings and love
Double diaper duty
Let the dog out
Feed the dog
Feed our old cat and give him his medicine
Make the girls breakfast
Feed the girls breakfast
Get the newspaper
Open the shutters
Clean the cat litter
Watch the news and read the paper in interrupted snippets
Make breakfast smoothies
Start a load of laundry
And this is all before 8:30 a.m. Now, would I like to have 30 minutes of total solitude before my day begins? God, yes. But when I wake up, life happens.
Yes, I am a productivity junkie. I’m obsessed with crossing things off my To Do list. I like the feeling of making clients (and me) happy by successfully tackling and wrestling a jam-packed day of professional and personal To Dos to the ground. I get a lot of self-worth from how much I accomplish.
And then one Saturday I felt uneasy playing with my toddlers. I asked myself what was wrong. My husband was doing yard work. We were inside playing chase and having tickle time … but I felt my To Do list calling.
Looming work projects.
A couple of Thank You notes to write.
A meal plan for the week.
A workout I wanted to do.
Some phone calls I needed to make.
I felt uneasy because I was playing with my kids and not plowing through my To Do list. How crazy is that? And that’s when it hit me—the real lesson of mindfulness.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be meditating, doing yoga, sipping Chai tea or watching Super Soul Sunday. Those are all cool things, but the best way to practice mindfulness is to be present for what matters most to you—like your children. Sometimes that means learning how to be okay with not getting things done. Mindfulness means letting go of all of those “should dos” (and any guilt that comes with them) and using the open space to welcome in the fulfillment of the present moment.
Mindfulness is a way of living that reminds us not to live for the future and not to ignore the present. What I realized on that Saturday is this: the most valuable way we spend our time probably doesn’t even make our To Do list.
Posted on December 4, 2014 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
The most difficult thing is when you know exactly how to help someone you love, but it’s as if that person can’t hear you. Not really.
She wants my advice. She listens to my words. She even agrees with the things I say.
And then nothing changes.
She is in pain. I know she is strong enough to get unstuck, but she has to find her voice again. Depression feeds inaction.
I feel like she’s on the other side of a thick wall of glass that I keep throwing my body against. How do I break through?
And then I stumbled upon this quote: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” -Alice Walker
I can’t make her change or fix her life. I can remind her that she has power and give her hope. I can tell her over and over that she has the power to change (everything), until the day she can hear me.
Posted on November 12, 2014 in Entrepreneurs by Sandra Bienkowski
I dislike the whole dread the work week, look forward to the weekend mentality. Why would you dread five days and look forward to two? I’m not great in math, but that adds up to more dread than happy anticipation from my calculations. If your weekends are way more fabulous than your work week, it’s a clue that what you do Monday through Friday probably needs to change. If you are happy because today is almost Friday, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:
How can you make your work week more like the weekend?
Are there things you enjoy doing on the weekend that you also could do during the week?
Does your job align with your purpose?
Is your job just a job?
Are you passionate about how you contribute to the world?
What would you rather be doing Monday through Friday?
If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing with your time?
What needs to happen for you to look forward to the work week?
If I had a magic wand, I would …
You don’t have to keep living your life the same way just because it’s the only way you know. You can decide to live differently. And if you are already beating up on your enemy named Monday, read my article on 6 Steps to a Happy Monday.
Cheers! I’m so psyched it’s the work week!
“No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams
Dead Poets Society is one of my favorite movies. I love all of its messages …
Seize the day.
Constantly look at things in a different way.
Find your own voice.
It’s not easy to find your own voice–especially on a stage. Now keeping journals? That’s easy. My thoughts flood out on paper and it’s how I think and process. (Ever since I got married I journal a lot less because my husband is now my journal–poor soul.) Keeping a journal is such freedom. Blank pages. Space to write and think. And no one judges what you have to say or how well you write it. Writing for a big audience is an entirely different story. People aren’t always kind in the comments section, and as much as I can pull up my big girl panties, I can’t always let go of what people think. Even though it can be difficult to write the truth and serve it up for public consumption, I feel compelled.
I know our stories can change the world.
Lately, I’ve received a lot of kind emails from strangers about my stories. Strangers thanking me for writing openly about finding my birth mom or overcoming my battle with my weight. Recently a woman said my story about seeking counseling in my twenties to overcome depression led her to seek professional help so can have a chance at a happy life. I felt so grateful to read that email. To know we can even help one person is the greatest gift. Helping just one person makes the vulnerability of writing and sharing our stories so worth it …
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brene Brown
Here are some of my latest stories . . .
Make your life extraordinary.
Yes, you might just find me in the morning picking up Cheerios off the floor and smashed banana pieces off my clothes. I turn my back for two seconds and my 17-month girls have found a way to dump water out of their sippy cups or make each other giggle by throwing food on the floor. Life is fun chaos … for sure.
With twins, my hubby, working from home, exercise, sleep (what’s that?) and all the usual life-maintenance stuff, I finally squeezed in a moment to share a bit of news with you! I recently started writing for MindBodyGreen. If you haven’t heard of MBG (say what?) it’s an awesome personal growth and wellness site! Check out my three latest articles below!
And thanks in advance for reading/commenting/sharing!
Gotta go now, I think I hear a baby waking up from an afternoon nap.
The 4 Best Lessons I Learned From Seeing A Therapist in My 20s
When I saw a psychologist for depression in my 20s, he told me I could win the hurt Olympics. My butt landed in that recliner chair across from him every Wednesday for an hour so I could stop the cycle of hurt. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: The 4 Best Lessons I Learned From Seeing A Therapist In My 20s
5 Signs You Are With the Wrong Person
Before I met my prince of a husband, I dated this guy I can’t even think about for two seconds without cringing. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: 5 Signs You’re With The Wrong Person
9 Tips to Save Your Marriage From Being Totally Boring
I heard once that people spend more time planning their wedding than their marriage. It stuck with me because it defies logic. Why spend more time planning a single day than the decades of marriage to follow? READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: 9 Tips To Save Your Marriage From Being Totally Boring
Thanks for reading! Talk to you on the next send! – Sandra
Posted on February 13, 2014 in love, Relationships by Sandra Bienkowski
When did it become so popular to dislike Valentine’s Day? Judging from my Facebook newsfeed, Valentine’s Day needs some Likes. Some vent about “the forced holiday.” Others are bugged by the commercialism. I gather some people don’t like Valentine’s Day because it’s shines a light on the status of their relationship, and they aren’t so happy with the status. Of course, it might help if retailers didn’t put up the red, white and pink gifts at the same time the Christmas stuff comes down.
On a more heart-shaped note, I like Valentine’s Day. I view this holiday as a reminder to love, love. Plus, it’s a good excuse to drink champagne!
So in the spirit of the day, I want to share some love with you.
I don’t need Valentine’s to remember to love or appreciate my husband. He makes it easy to love him, and I am thankful for him daily. But there are three things I credit for the awesome quality of our relationship—three things I think all couples could benefit from.
1. Read the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Put simply, when you know your partner’s love language, you can speak it. What I find so fascinating is that we often express our own love language to our significant other instead of their love language. Mine is Quality Time. I gotta have my Reed time to feel the love. His love language is Acts of Service. Reed’s impulse might be to do lots of little things for me all the time—like refilling my water bottle or making my coffee in the morning. But that’s his love language, not mine. While I appreciate those little things, I feel most loved when he ventures out of his man cave (his office) to spend time with me (quality time!). He feels most loved when I do the little things … like make his lunch or organize our activities. So check out the book and find out your love language and the language of your significant other. (By the way, the five love languages are Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts and Words of Affirmation.)
2. Find out your DISC model of personality and your partner’s type too. Everyone has a primary type and a secondary type. You can take the test online. The types are explained below, but here’s the gist. My hubby is a D/C and I am an I/D. We share the “D” dominant side of our personalities, so we are both task-oriented and we love to get things done. We diverge (big time) on the other aspects of our personalities. He is detailed and precise. I am a creative type and focused on fun. Ever since we took this test and talked about it, we understand each other so much more. No longer do I wonder why he asks me so many detailed questions or why he’s compelled to be so orderly about things. He now gets why I start three different conversations at once and why it looks like a tornado hit when I’m in the kitchen. Taking the test is a great reminder that you can’t expect your partner to be like, think like or act like you do … and that’s okay!
Here’s a short explanation of the DISC model below …
The Dominant “D” type – An outgoing, task-oriented individual will be focused on getting things done, accomplishing tasks, getting to the bottom line as quickly as possible and MAKING IT HAPPEN! (The key insight in developing a relationship with this type person is RESPECT and RESULTS.)
The Inspiring “I” type – An outgoing, people-oriented individual loves to interact, socialize and have fun. This person is focused on what others may think of him or her. (The key insight in developing a relationship with this type person is ADMIRATION and RECOGNITION.)
The Supportive “S” type – A reserved, people-oriented individual will enjoy relationships, helping or supporting other people and working together as a team. (The key insight in developing a relationship with this person is FRIENDLINESS and SINCERE APPRECIATION.)
The Cautious “C” type – A reserved, task-oriented individual will seek value, consistency and quality information. This person focuses on being correct and accurate. (The key insight in developing a relationship with this individual is TRUST and INTEGRITY.)
3. Take the best relationship advice I’ve ever heard: Leave one thing unsaid every day. I love this little tip and I use it often. Does it drive me bonkers that my super-detailed husband reorganizes the dishwasher after I’ve loaded it? Yup. Do I really need to say anything about it? Nope. Trust me, he uses this tip with me too. Does it drive him crazy that I’m always looking for where I left my iPhone and glasses? Yup! Does he need to say anything about it? Nope! Not saying anything leaves little things little. It keeps the peace. It’s mature. It’s making decisions with your head and not temporary emotions. Leaving something unsaid every day makes you feel empowered because you are choosing the quality of your relationship over a fleeting annoyance or minor grievance.
Oh, and if you missed it, take a few minutes and read this blog about why I love my husband to pieces.
Cheers to LOVE!
Our twin girls just turned one. I am not sure if we should jump for joy or collapse on the couch. We’ve become masters of “your turn” middle of the night baby handoffs. Tired is no longer a temporary condition, but something you live with like your right arm. I am not a whiner, but I wish I counted how many times I’ve picked up and redirected two babies speed crawling opposite directions toward outlets, cat food, and the fireplace. My lower back knows. And, BTW, two new tiny people live in our house. OMG. No pressure! We are only responsible for how they turn out.
Anywho, it was a magical year of twin baby firsts, emotional firsts for me, and some pretty hilarious moments. Here’s a look back …
My water broke at 6 a.m. January 11, 2013 and I said, “Uh, Reed, we have a problem.” He jumped out of bed thinking something happened to our old cat.
My baby shower was the next day. Oops.
I felt compelled to shower and put make up on after my water broke.
As we dashed around grabbing things for the hospital, I told Reed to grab the car seats. At 33 weeks to the day, he knew we wouldn’t need the car seats anytime soon. He also knew he didn’t want to have that conversation with his wife in labor.
Pre-epidural felt like some kind of hell. Post-epidural felt like a day at a very cold spa.
January 11, 2013, late Friday afternoon, we welcomed Sydney at 4:43 p.m. and Riley at 5:07 p.m. Each weighed four pounds.
Two days later, discharge day from the hospital for me, I returned home no longer pregnant and with empty arms. It felt like the worst kind of emptiness.
A NICU nurse said, “Think of it like this … you have a team of the most expensive babysitters.”
Sara, my sister, made the transition home easier by using her key to fill our house with baby shower gifts, cards, balloons, homemade veggie soup and bread, and champagne on ice.
Knowing the benefits of breast milk I started pumping because the girls were too premature to breastfeed. The breast pump is a ridiculous-looking contraption (like something Lady Gaga would wear) that’s been attached to me six to seven times a day, around the clock, for a year. As one mom put it, “Now I know what it feels like to be a human food truck.”
My mom planned to live with us for three months to help out with the girls. The pre-scheduled day of her flight? The day the girls were born! Thank you universe.
The first three weeks I learned terms and things I didn’t want to know … baby bilirubin levels, apnea episodes, feeding tubes, wires, beeping monitors, caffeine in IV and isolettes.
Every morning and evening, weaving our way through a large NICU, we saw couples huddled around teensy babies. Some were praying and hoping their babies make it. Doctors told us it was just about “feeding and growing” for Sydney and Riley. We never forgot to be grateful.
My appetite was so ravenous from being a human milk factory that I was disappointed when we no longer lived at the hospital with the daily access to a buffet of food–from pizza to sushi.
As preemies, the girls had to pass a car seat test in order to be discharged home. It was scary to see how tiny they were in their car seats.
On February 2, 2013 the girls came home, both on apnea monitors.
We all took turns doing middle of the night feedings, Reed, my mom, me. We all were so sleep deprived my mom put on her glasses in the middle of the night only to discover they were her sunglasses.
Another time, Reed told my mom to wake him up in ten minutes when the bottles were warm so he could help. Reed woke up three hours later and asked my mom if the bottles were ready.
We are forever grateful to my mom for those first not-so-easy months. Who volunteers to wake up at all hours of the night to help with crying babies on a three-month leave of absence from work? My mom!
With my hormones pinging off the walls post-birth, and with little sleep, I had a few moments wondering if I ruined our fun lives.
Smiley Riley dances on her own, has radar for where her daddy is in the house and loves snuggles and cuddles. She is the messiest eater, putting baby food in her hair.
Sydney is so chill, except when she is shrieking because Riley took one of her toys. She loves to figure toys out and is so ticklish. She is so gentle petting the cat.
Everyone always told me you don’t know what it feels like to love like a mom until you are a mom. I finally get it. As they sleep, I stare into their cribs and feel immeasurable love. Author Elizabeth Stone said it best: Deciding to have a baby is “to forever have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
I love Reed’s face as the he holds or plays with the girls.
I love it when the girls make each other giggle.
Waking up in the morning to two girls who smile ear-to-ear and dance side-to-side in their cribs has to be one of the best ways to start the day ever.
Having the most kind and loving friend/nanny/neighbor to watch the girls at our home while we work is something we are thankful for daily.
Having the girls taught me so much:
Wake up every day happy.
It’s not about me.
Get ready for unsolicited input.
Read baby books before you give birth. You won’t have time after.
Take time to play.
Hugs are the best.
Love is limitless.
A nap can solve a lot.
Never again will you take silence for granted.
Strangers are friendlier when babies are present.
Trust your instincts.
I love sleep.
Never will you be more motivated to be your best self and live your best life so you can be the best example for your children.
Nothing matters as much as family.
And lastly, it isn’t double the trouble, it’s double the blessings.