May’s Treat Yo’self/Soul Care Retreat

Long exhale

This is what I noticed as I backed out of my driveway. Without even being conscious of it- my body knew of the relief it would receive as well as my soul.

This month I will be staying again at my mother in law’s apartment while she is away with her sister. I love it. It is free. It is so close. It is familiar. All things that make my soul happy. Don’t get me wrong – I am not against spending money, traveling or new adventures but sometimes when the soul and body are weary- familiar, nearby and free is very restorative.

On the way to her place I drop into my favorite thrift store, the Durham Rescue Mission store. I love the deals but even more- I love that my money goes to helping people. My money is not just going to giant corperations that may be fueled by greed and exploitation of the poor.

I wanted to find a couple dresses that I feel lovely in. I also needed a few pairs of shorts for my youngest who often forgets he has to pee. 😉

Mission accomplised!!

$30 total for 2 dresses, 1 jammie dress, and 3 pairs of athetic shorts (one being Nike). I don’t care we wear name brands but I always find these deals even greater knowing these brands are often triple the cost new or more.

Next I stop into another store to find a swimsuit dress thingee since the one I ordered online shrunk to shirt size and I’d prefer to have my bum covered when we are getting pizza and ice cream at the end of a fun day at the beach. I did look at the thrift store but no luck so needed to buy new.

3.5 hours fly by. I normally do not shop this long on these days away. But it felt like an hour and it was very restorative to not be in a rush or having a place I had to get to next. Shopping without my busy 6 yr old is very relaxing.

There truly is no oughts or shoulds for these solitude retreats. Retreats will look different for each person. For my husband it looks like standing in a river fly fishing or in a boat fishing in a shady alcove. Anytime in a thrift store is the opposite for rest for him. Once I convinced him to just look to see if he could find something. He picked up a shirt he liked and the pocket was full of nasty chewed tobacco. I have not got him back since but I have always ooed and awed to him all the sweet deals I get. And I course I remind him though I just spent $30- I am really actually saving him so much money. I remind him that other women can easily spend $30 on one shirt or half of a flip flop. 😉 Or then I think about that one place in the mall that starts with an “A”. Once I walked in there and I about passed out at the absurdity of their prices. I am flabbergasted that any chooses to spend their hard earned money on cuckoo crazy priced things. I imagine someone somewhere thinks my $5.49 on a used dress is fancy pants. So I guess it’s relative. I just want to try to be a good steward of our money. I once bought a shirt for 4 bucks that was normally $60 at these posh mall shops. I won’t judge ya but just saying you could get practically a new wardrobe for $60 buckaroos. I remember when I first discovered the insane deals I could get thrifting and I was like how does everyone not know about these magical, sweet deals?!?! But I guess someone has to shop new so I can get their donations. 😉

Geez!! I just jumped out of my seat when I heard the dryer beeper noise go off. These silent retreats are great except when the dryer noise gives you a heartattack. Typing that word makes me giggle. Just yesterday my husband told me that I will never have a heart attack. A little context- so lately I have been having chest pains due to anxiety. But when it happens it makes me more anxious thus the cycle keeps going. I am often catastrophic in my fears and I need my rational husband to bring me back to reality. (A few years ago my therapist helped me see that I likely have a huge fear button due to the unpredictable, at times traumatic childhood I had- a little context there). So being startled just now made me laugh as I remembered my husband’s encouragement that I am strong and healthy.

These monthly retreats are such a key support in my mental and emotional health. I would also say my physcial health as well. Driving away from the store I noticed how relaxed my posture was. I could feel my actions slowing down. I think one of the sweetest gifts of this discipline/self-care rhythm – I have no expectations on me.

I do not need to be anywhere.

I have no appointments to rush off to.

I don’t have any children’s appointments to rush off to.

I have no dog appointments to rush off to.

I have no carpool line to get into.

I have no meal to prepare.

I have no homework to force my 6 year old to do.

I have no homeschool lessons to plan.

I have no puppy to take potty.

I have no chihuahua (who thinks he is a cat) to rescue from the playful puppy.

I have no bathtub ring to scrub away.

I have no texts from a toxic family member to deal with. (Because I pretty much unplug on these 24 hours away).

I have no preferred time I’m striving to get our youngest in bed by.

I have no 6:30 am wake up to get our munchkin ready for school.

These times away allow me the freedom to better pay attention to what I need. I try to do this when at home with my family but sometimes as a caretaker/mama/wife I can neglect what I need. I really needed this space away to rest. Even though I am doing many things that help with stress like daily exercise, trying to limit sugar (but I can use food as an escape when stressed), relaxation yoga, meditation/contemplative prayer, journaling, being in nature etc- my body is still experiencing stress expressed in chest pains. I certainly don’t do all these each day but I am trying. I know these things calm me down. There is just alot on my plate and mind right now. In a week we have a huge court date, preparing house to put on the market since we are moving across the country back to CA, likely carrying the grief knowing that my kids are grieving leaving their friends, wanting to savor and experience these last 40+ days in NC, a tooth that bothers me if I chew on that side, drama with some of my family, puppy is recovering from a scary parvo case, and I am sure there is more if I think.

Last night I felt like if I laid down at 6:00pm I could have totally slept through the night. But I decided to eat dinner then go get an Oreo shake from chickfil-A. That was not what my body needed. Something I struggle with is listening to my body’s “no”. Words for this are overeating, gluttony etc. When something is delicious I will want to finish it even if my body is telling me that my stomach is at max capacity. I am a work in progress. So I decided to take an evening stroll at the park to help ease the discomfort that I created. Next time it would be better if I packed a few pieces of chocolate for my cravings instead of getting something.

I came back and relaxed in a hot bath then read some and climbed in bed at 10:00pm. I slept almost 12 hours!! These retreats allow my body to get the rest that is needed.

Took a shower. This is a luxury because often at home someone is yelling through the locked door that they can’t find something and I am the gatekeeper/golden key holder to finding all things in our home. 😉 I have discovered if I lock my bedroom door then the bathroom door then I hear nothing and it is like I am alone in my shower.

I had a breakfast that my body was truly happy with it -greek yogurt and almonds. This breakfast also is in line to balance my bloodsugar which is important to me since I have a 60% higher chance of developing diabetes since I had gestational diabetes with my last 2 pregnancies. So I am trying 6 days a week to eat this way and then allowing additional carbs on Sabbath.

I decided to go for a walk. I am now realizing that exercise is not just good for my body. I think that is why for most of my life I did not stick to any rountines because I was focused on the wrong things. Healthy weight is important but I now see that exercise is just as vital for my emotional and spiritual well being. Lately I have been way more stressed and I see exercise as one of the paramount tools to help me maintain peace in my heart and soul. I just finished reading Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness and I loved it. The author, a Japanese scientist, shared how being in nature helps the body and mind. So getting outside to exercise has soooo many benefits that I would love to try to walk 3 miles each morning. Before I thought I don’t have an hour to focus on my body but now seeing this hour as not only an investment in my body but also my soul and mind- there’s no better way to spend an hour.

After my walk I saw a political campaign sign that said, “Land of the Free not freebies” with a socialism symbol. I thought I am pretty sure this is a wealthy person marketing towards other rich people to vote for them. It made me wonder has this man ever received these so called “freebies.” Personally I have received government financial assistance and I would never call it freebies. I saw them as gifts. I don’t see it as an abuse of a system. I am filled with gratitude that my government has plans in place to help the less fortunate.

I remember when we were pregnant with our 3rd child we needed finanical help to deliver him. We would have gone into $10,000 of debt to just deliver him. So I went down to the local Social Services building with my 2 other kids in tow and 2 other kids I was babysitting. I very clearly remember the humble pie that was served that day. I used to be the one who drove people to these buildings to get help. I was often the ride for my dad who couldn’t work because he was dying from hepatitus C and a ride for a friend and former student who had her first baby in high school. I remember when I was their ride thinking – “I hope these people know I am just their ride and not the one needing help.” That day when I sat in a crowded waiting room for hours while being very pregnant with 4 kids in tow, I felt the shame of those former foolish, prideful thoughts.

My oldest is heading off to college and her whole life she has received government assistance via medicad. All of my 3 biological kids have received this free medical insurance and our 4th child also receives it since he was a foster child.

So I don’t see myself as a parasite on society receiving these “freebies”. I see myself as a very grateful mama whose kids were cared for by government assistance. Some might say I should have gone out and got a job since my husband’s salary still qualified us as low-income. But I followed my heart/convictions that my job was exactly at home with my kids raising them up to be loving citizens. My job was to be a mama and safe place for our foster son. I do not judge parents who choose to work or need to work. I believe people are generally good. I believe people want what is best for their families. And it is ok if that best requires government assistance. There is no shame in that. I think until one has been in that desperate place of not knowing how they will provide medical insurance for their child- they truly have no right to judge until they have had a generous helping of humble pie. Medical insurance for our family would have cost at least $1000 a month and that was not money we had to spare considering there were many months that we had to buy groceries with a credit card.

That was quite the tangent from monthly retreat stuff but I am believing someone will need these words one day. My words probably won’t change anyone’s political views but I hope these words can encourage a mama who wrestles with shame or guilt about receiving food stamps or medicad. Mama, you live in the land of the free and praise God that there is help for us. Hold your head up high and trust that you are right where you need to be.

I love these times away and the freedom to write. I hope and pray that one day many would be encouraged, strengthened and empowered to live their glorious life that God has given them.

I ended my retreat doing lectio divina because I believe God always has words for us. 🙂 Heading to grab a mocha then home shortly after that.

Cost of this retreat:

  • Lodging: free
  • dinner/used leftovers of vegetable soba for lunch: $10
  • Oreo shake: $4
  • mocha: $5

Total cost: $19

soul maintenance retreat: priceless


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