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"Mom, are you happy?”, my 15-year-old daughter asked me a few nights ago. This caught me by surprise.

“Why do you ask?” was my passively defensive response.

“I dunno…..(long pause) You’ve been binging shows and just sitting on the couch.”

And there it was. The reality of my last few weeks. Was I happy? She knew something about me wasn’t right. Since my Dad died in July my day to day has become quite dull and flat. As much as I want to feel inspired and creative, I just don’t.

Prior to June 19th, the day my Dad went into the hospital, I was buzzing about getting ready to launch my new YouTube content and finish filming a project. I had so many ideas and had a great writing routine going. I mostly sat in gratitude and was able to find joy in so many little things throughout my day. The end of June and the entire month of July I spent focused on my Dad and his health. I am so fortunate that my schedule allowed me to take that time to be completely present for his last days on this earth. After his funeral at the beginning of August, kids started school and life resumed. And now I feel stuck. Stuck trying to return to my previous state of mind.

I haven’t had the desire to follow my usual morning routine. Aside from walking my dogs, I don’t write in my journal anymore. I don’t mediate anymore. I don’t listen to inspirational talks or read inspirational books anymore. Life has become flat and until my daughter pointed this out, I was ok with that.

The day after my father’s funeral my kids returned to school. Two days after that I returned to filming. My schedule became infused with appointments and meetings and I thought I was successfully working through my grief. Except the hustle and bustle didn’t end my grief, it just postponed it. I was hyper focused on getting back to “normal” and thus started neglecting my spirit.

I wrote a FB post last week when my husband returned to work. As I sat in our quiet house, I was overwhelmed by the number of changes related to loss that were behind and ahead of us. The first loss was that of my father. He would have been 86 on August 26. That day was hard. Then we returned Sushi, my niece Biankah’s adorable 7 lbs. Yorkipoo that we had been taking care of for the past few months. Sushi kept me smiling and distracted with her doggy antics. I deeply felt this loss as well.

Our oldest son will be moving into the dorms at UC Santa Cruz in a couple of weeks. We had what I call our bonus year with him during his freshman year of college due to the pandemic. I am thrilled for him and his upcoming adventure, but I’m sad that he is leaving. Everyone is telling me he’ll be back, and of course he will. This is just another change to cope with. Our family of 5 will now be only 4 for dinner.

We’re also packing up my Mom’s house as she has decided to sell. She’s lived there for 52 years. I took my first steps in that house. I climbed the tree in the backyard more times than I can count with my brother and cousin pretending to be Princess Leia. So many memories, both good and bad, born in that house. And this change brings with it two more. My mom will be moving in with us. This is my silver lining because I truly have the best Mom in the world. But the sale of her house means that we will also need to sell our house of 16 years to find a better home that will fit us more comfortably. Saying goodbye to this place that I love will be very hard.

So much change in such a short period of time. My heart is having a hard time keeping up. I’ve responded to the stress of all these changes by lying low and binging Netflix and Hulu. And once I really started thinking about this I realized, I’m ok. It could be worse. I’m getting my work done and getting the kids to school on time. I'm allowing myself time to rest and not forcing myself to be what I can’t be at this moment. I refuse to feel bad about my current state because this too is part of my evolution. Even in this dullness there are lessons I am learning. Everything, absolutely everything that happens to us also happens for us. My first step towards joy is simply being aware of where I stand now and respectfully and lovingly acknowledging why I’m here. I’ve decided to treat myself as my own best friend and instead of judging myself harshly for feeling stuck, I’ve decided to love myself through it until I find my way back to joy. A good friend reminded me that if I had broken my arm, I would not be expected to use that arm for 6 weeks. I am still healing.

As I return to writing and to Fiery Living, a giant source of joy for me, I understand that this experience is why I created this blog to begin with. I wanted to liberate myself from judgment and expectations. I wanted to talk about connecting to our inner selves, our creative selves, our inspired selves. In surrendering to this moment and all the feelings that come with it, I am free.

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Updated: May 6, 2021

What do you do when you first wake up in the morning? Do you have a consistent morning ritual like Oprah and Richard Branson?

According to NBC News if you want to have an, “optimal day of productivity and positivity” you need to participate in grounding activities such as meditation for at least 10 to 30 minutes every morning. It seems easy enough to do and who doesn’t want to have a productive and positive day? But the reality of making yourself stick to a morning routine, especially when you are a caretaker, can often lead to added stress and feelings of inadequacy. An active, connected lifestyle requires varying your morning routine depending on what needs to be accomplished that day. Shaking up your morning routine will give you the balance needed to sustain a calm, joyful, and productive day.

I launched Fiery Living during the pandemic because I had a lot of time on my hands. I am now fully vaccinated and back to producing films which means my blogging hours have been diminished. In April I decided to expand my toolkit by adding a morning routine designed to release stress and increase joy throughout the day. Following a morning ritual has only been moderately successful for me. Here’s what I’ve learned about myself and about routines.

The Difference Between “Ritual” and “Routine”

When I dove into the media vortex to find articles about morning routines to help establish mine, I found myself extremely attracted to headlines that included the phrase “morning ritual”. Ritual – this is what I was looking for because successful people all have morning rituals. It was reported that Oprah starts every day with meditation and then exercise. President Obama starts with exercise and then immerses himself in reading. Richard Branson swims around his private island and then meditates. Yes, I decided that I would have a morning ritual that I would do every single morning just like Oprah. Guess what happened? It didn’t work for me EVERY day.

I first decided my morning ritual would consist of meditation followed by a light walk with my dogs for exercise, and then journaling and inspirational reading for positive vibes. I forced myself to do this successfully for one week. And then one morning everyone in the house including the dogs needed something from me as soon as I woke up. I spent my first 30 minutes trying to find a missing comp book and then scrambled to get everyone fed, make lunches, and drive them to school. Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to wake up at 4 am so that I can successfully follow my morning ritual without interruption. But, this tired mama can’t afford to lose sleep especially when she’s been up working very late the night before. And let’s be clear, no one likes Didn’t Sleep Enough Mama, especially not me!

The next day I attempted to return to my morning ritual, but I felt a little defeated that I had broken my streak. No problem. I decided to start over. A few days later another “emergency” derailed my morning. Again, feeling defeated I tried again. Finally, after the third strike I realized that a ritual was just not my thing. I shifted my perspective from “ritual” to “routines” plural and now I’m finally experiencing higher positivity and productivity a month into this new mindset without feeling like I failed at being consistent. I have found that it is best to give yourself 30 minutes before your first commitment in the morning, but there are times that I take the kids to school first and then do my morning routine. I now go with the flow of my morning. If I wasn't able to get up early as planned, I don't stress I just roll with it and fit it in later.

I’m Not Oprah

I double arm embraced my new, varied approach to morning routines when I took the time to reflect on the lives of the successful people featured in the articles I read. Oprah, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Tim Cook all have crazy MONEY and probably an army of staff to help. I am guessing, I could be wrong, that Oprah has a housekeeper and possibly a chef. In my world I am the housekeeper and the cook. Now I’m not using this as an excuse, but we must check our own reality first to truly see what is possible and what makes sense for us. I can’t beat myself up for not being able to meditate every single day like Oprah because my life is completely different than hers. And this is the key to creating your own, personalized, varied morning routine: Acknowledging what you really need given your specific lifestyle.

The Top Morning Activities Used by Successful People – Ranked

Here are the top things to do in the morning to set up your day for success ranked in order of how widely they are used. This information was acquired by compiling information from articles, media feeds by NBC, CBS, The Today Show, and research conducted by several universities including one conducted by researcher Steve Kay of USC.

1. Wake Up Early

2. Exercise

3. Meditate

4. Make a To Do List

5. Eat A Healthy, Fiber-Filled Breakfast

6. Yoga

7. Journal

8. Read

9. Make your bed

10. Have Breakfast with Family

11. Indulge in a Hobby

My 3 Morning Routines

I ultimately created three morning routines that I use depending on what my goals are for the day. Alternating between these has proven the best for my lifestyle, and I am completely open to shaking things up once I find that one or more of these is no longer working for me. This approach is what I call balanced flexibility. I am following a morning routine which does make me feel grounded and happy while allowing myself wiggle room to change it up as needed thereby avoiding feelings of defeat and inadequacy.

When I Need to Be Creative and Write

1. Positive Affirmations for the Day – As soon as I open my eyes, I take a few minutes to just lie still, and begin by affirming the following to myself: Today is going to be a great day. I am happy and successful. I will tune into my feelings and follow happiness. I will have fun and laugh. I will show love to my family and friends. I love my life.

2. Coffee – For me drinking my first cup of coffee is a spiritual experience. Joking aside, I make a cup of coffee (or tea) and sit outside and watch and listen to the birds in my backyard. I have a pair of mourning doves that I lovingly call Pepe and Fleur that usually visit during this time.

3. Journaling – When I have a lot of writing to do journaling gets the juices flowing. When I journal in the morning, I use a stream of consciousness style and just let whatever comes to my mind out on paper. This seems to release anything that may be causing me stress or anxiety and allows me to open myself and be vulnerable for my writing.

4. Breakfast – Then I make breakfast for the kids and I have a quick check in with them before they get going with school.

When I Need to Release Feelings/Emotions

1. Positive Affirmations for the Day

2. Exercise – Some days there are just too many thoughts going through my head and too many tasks to accomplish. On days when I am feeling any sort of stress or feelings of overwhelm, I walk at least 1 mile with my dogs or if I really need to release, I run 3 miles. I do both while listening to uplifting music. Just being outside and moving allows me to feel better and helps me put things into perspective. I am then able to move from a deficit mentality to one of confidence and hope.

3. Coffee

4. Breakfast

When I Need Motivation and Inspiration

1. Positive Affirmations for the Day

2. Coffee

3. Meditation – Oprah is right on the money when it comes to meditating. Meditation does change your life in extremely positive ways. This is one area where people have very different ideas of what it means to meditate and how to meditate. Some think meditation is woo woo and don’t understand that meditation can be as simple as focusing on gratitude. I do participate in different types of meditation practices, but in the morning I prefer what I call gratitude meditation. I sit by myself in a quiet place and I think about all the things that I am grateful for. I do this for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Read – On days when I am needing inspiration, I do spend at least 15 minutes reading. Currently I am going through the Tao Te Ching verses. Once I finish reading all 81 verses (I’m on 26 now) I will start another inspirational book. I always have something inspirational on hand to read.

5. Breakfast

I try and keep it simple and stick to a time frame like 30 minutes every morning. I decide which morning routine I'm going to follow when I go to bed. I think about how I’m feeling, how my day went, and decide what routine will work best the next day. On weekends I try to sleep in at least one day and I usually follow my motivation/inspiration routine and really take my time with it since I don’t have to rush anyone to school or get to work.

The Takeaway

Trying to mimic someone else’s morning routine is a good start, but can lead to feelings of frustration and failure when things don’t go as planned. Just like with everything else in life, the goal is to be good enough not perfect. Ultimately, I have found that morning routines do set me up for a better, more productive day, and I encourage you to play with some of the ideas I have outlined above. Have fun and make it your own. You are the only one that truly knows exactly what you need. Shake things up, try new routines, and experience the increased success that will flow to you when you gift yourself balanced flexibility in your morning routine.

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  • Jeanette Miura

Today we are reminded that our precious Mother Earth needs our help to sustain. We must walk rooted in compassion and care for all living organisms. We must give thanks for all that we take and replenish and restore in order to maintain balance. We must love enough so that our children's children may walk this planet in abundant health. Happy Earth Day!

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