Summer Bucket List Challenge!

Sincerely, what greater memories do you have from your childhood than those of summer fun?? Sure, Christmas is great, birthdays are a blast, but SUMMER?? It can’t be beat. Otter pops, starry nights, the smell of campfire, sleeping in, staying up late. . . oh. I could go on for days.

This is why it’s so vitally important to me to make summer GREAT for my family. I’m completely committed to making this summer a time of family togetherness, bonding, love, healing and rejuvenation. This is MY time. The rest of the year, my boys spend 6 hours, every.single.day, away at school. They go to an excellent school, mind you, with exceptional teachers and friends, but they are outside of my  . . . um . . . bubble of motherly adoration, love and protection?? for SIX hours a day! I see summer as my time to love on them like ca-razy, to remind them just how special, amazing and downright AWESOME SAUCE they really are. (Not that this kind of loving-on-ing is reserved exclusively for summertime, obviously not, but this is my chance to make the love and praise and sense of absolute belonging totally INCESSANT. And I plan to!)

The Norton family has joined The Happy Family Movement’s Summer Bucket List Challenge and this is our list!

I’ll be posting an Instagram image every time we complete one of the items on our list (NatalieNorton on Instagram or follow on the web here). If at the end of the summer, July 31st for us (I know, right?!), you notice that we’ve missed something on our list, email me at aloha@natalienortonblog.com, and the first 5 people to call us out will get a $25 iTunes gift card from yours truly. How’s that for committed?!

Want to participate in The Summer Bucket List Challenge with the Norton’s, the Solar’s and other awesome families across the globe? It’s easy, enter here (the Solars are giving away all kinds of exciting prizes all summer long)!

Once you’ve entered, join me in posting all your shenanigans on Instagram, be sure to tag your instagram photos #summerbucketlist and at the end of the summer, I may just decide to feature my favorite image(s) here on the blog. . . I may even decide to give one lucky family an exciting little gift. :) Lots of ambiguity here, no? I guess it’s all dependent on just how exciting all y’all decide to be! Prizes, should there be any, will be awarded for fun and creativity. . . it’s not about crazy pants activities, expense or being elaborate. I’m all about simplicity, real life and HAPPINESS!

Enough talk! It’s time to fight against TV, video games, the internet and even friends (we all know we compete with our kid’s friends for their attention ALL.SUMMER.LONG). I hope you feel as empowered as I do to  get out there and make this summer your best yet!

At The Breathe Intensive (and on my personal blog and in just about every speaking engagement I’ve ever done . . . ) I talk about the importance of making space for ourselves in our own lives.

There’s a thought!

At Breathe in particular, to illustrate this concept, I use an analogy of a wheel. Each piece that makes up the anatomy of the wheel, represents a different area of your life. You, my friend, are represented by the hub, and the hub is responsible for holding everything else together. So, for the sake of this analogy, the hub is the most important part of the wheel.

This parallel is set up to indicate that YOU are the most important element within the totality of your life. Yes, you heard me right. YOU MATTER. (And I’m talking here to men and women alike.) Not to say that you matter more than everyone you love, more than everyone who depends on you! Rather, you matter BECAUSE those people mean so very much to you!

I’m a photographer. I own highly sophisticated gear to help me capture the very best images I possibly can. Do you think I throw that gear around? Let it get dirty, lost, stolen or damaged? Not a chance. I need that gear to work, and work WELL, for years to come, so I treat it accordingly. You understand where I’m headed. :) In order for you to be at your very best for everyone who depends on you, you’ve got to make the time to care for and nourish the most important “occupational tool” in your life: YOURSELF.

I hear too many people express feelings of being victimized by their children, husbands, wives, jobs, lives. I hear too many people expressing feelings of having “lost themselves somewhere along the way.” Wouldn’t you rather be a joyful, active participant in your life?! Don’t you think that if you approached your life from THAT state of mind that you’d be better equip to truly bless the lives of those you love most?!

You can’t draw water from an empty well.

So first things first, if you want to ensure you’re giving the very best you have to give to the people in your life who matter most, you have to start with yourself. Again, YOU matter. (AND SO DOES GENUINE SACRIFICE, but we’ll get to that later this week.)

5 reasons you’ve got to make space for yourself in your own life:

1. Balance and joy result from feeling WHOLE.

The understanding of just how important you are is VITALLY IMPORTANT to your overall success, sense of balance in life and ultimate joy! And I will maintain that until my dying breath (and beyond).

When you’re actively engaged in activities that fill you up: reading, exercise, proper nutrition, good sleep, social connection, hobbies etc, you’re happier. Period. When you’re happier, you’re more capable of managing all crazy the variables of your life effectively: with more patience, perspective and ease.

2.  Caring for yourself increases your sense of personal worth, thus facilitating a closer relationship with God.

Even your relationship with God is ultimately dependent on your individual willingness to seek Him and make Him a part of your life. One way people fill their metaphorical wells is to spend time in prayer, meditation and religious study. As you do this, your relationship with God will increase.

As I’ve begun doing more and more mentoring of the “life coaching” variety, I’ve been astounded by how many people don’t feel connected to or loved by God. For the vast majority of them, these feelings come as a result of feelings of “worthlessness.” As these individuals care for themselves, work to nourish themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, they regain their sense of self. They gain an understanding of their worth. The natural byproduct of this understanding, is a greater ability to reach out to and connect with God. As a whole, they report that feelings of unworthiness before God diminish, and they are more readily able to connect with their Father in Heaven on a genuine level.

3.  Frankly, you’ll rock harder when you feel good about yourself!

As you take time for yourself, your energy, sense of overall satisfaction and your genuine feelings of fulfillment and enthusiasm for life increase.

These things make you BETTER at EVERYTHING you do! This passion for life that comes from feeling full, RESTED and nourished, makes you more confident and thus more COMPLETELY accessible (emotionally) to the people and things in your life that matter more than anything!

4.  Caring for yourself sets a good example for your children.

If you let life walk all over you, without caring for yourself in healthy ways, if you don’t have the ability to set up healthy boundaries in your life, you’re setting a poor example for your children.

Kids need to learn how to stand up for themselves. They need to learn how to say “I matter.” They need to learn how to say “no” to things that aren’t aligned with their values so that they can have space in their lives to say “yes” to the things that REALLY bring them joy. Kids need to learn how to take care of their bodies and their spirits. Our actions here are a million times louder than our words (times 10).

5. Feeling centered helps us be more effective in our lives.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey explains this concept as taking time to sharpen the saw. He uses an analogy of a man who is sawing a tree with a blunt saw. He’s encouraged to stop and sharpen his tool, but he replies “I can’t stop! I’m too busy sawing!” Now, you and I can see how counterproductive this is. It’s clear that if the man would take the time to stop and sharpen his tool, the tree would come down more efficiently! But he can’t see that. He’s too busy sawing to realize what’s going on! This is US in our own lives. We get so busy meeting everyone else’s needs and managing the crises and unending chaos, that we can’t step away long enough to relize that JUST MAYBE, if we took some time to get centered, some time to refuel (whatever that means for each of us individually), we might be able to manage all of these variables more effectively (and in a way that would bless everyone involved).

Don’t get so caught up in the busyness of life, that you can’t step back and truly evaluate your productivity.

The other day, while visiting my mom in Utah, I spent some time lying in the sun, looking at Mt Timpanogos. My mom was with me, and she pointed out a bald eagle flying hiiiiiiigh up in the clouds. As I sat there, watching that beautiful eagle, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Wow, God loves YOU, too, Mr Eagle. He loves you enough to give you sunshine and food and a nest to sleep in. If God loves YOU that much, how much more must He love ME, His child?” I suddenly felt His love wash over me. . . warmer by far than the delicious sunshine beating on my face.

Guess what, He loves you in that same way! Each of us matters to Him. He wants us to be healthy, happy and fulfilled. He wants us to be as successful as we can possibly be at all the roles he’s given us to manage in our lives: and thus, he will give us help when we ask Him.

It’s my genuine prayer that you don’t feel so bogged down by the business of your life that you can’t make the time to step back and fill your well, sharpen your saw. God will help you find the time, if you ask him. After all, you matter . . . . To God, the very most of all.

My journey toward authenticity began the day my son died the day I died. (I can tell you from the bottom of my soul, they are one and the same.)

And there I was.

There I was. . .

(Deep exhale here.)

Nothing remained, aside from the physical form of the woman I had once been. Inside of that? Nothing was the same. When you come to THAT moment (that we all pray to God you never will) you have exactly two choices.

1.  You die.
2.  Or you don’t.

Physical death, yes, I suppose would be a third alternative (a thought that EVERY mother who’s walked where I’ve walked has entertained, even if only in an especially weak and fleeting moment), but I’m not speaking of physical death. I’m speaking of emotional death. Spiritual callus. The armor of the soul. Survival. Safety. The opportunity to disengage from the excruciating pain. The promise of relief from the acute, unrelenting torture. Option number 1, you die. See?

Option number 2, you don’t. BUT HOW DON’T YOU? HOW?! HOW?!!!! AND YES I’M SHOUTING NOW. I’M SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF MY BROKEN HEART. HOW DON’T YOU JUST CLIMB INTO THE CUPBOARD UNDER THE STAIRS AND BURY YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND? (Yes, my cupboard under the stairs is at the beach. Apparently. And yes, I’m done yelling at you.)

How?

You submit.

And that’s how.

You submit.

You own your nothingness before God and yet your “everythingness” within him. For we are, each of us, nothing and everything all in the same harrowing yet joy-filled breath.

The moments after Gavin died horrified me. Horror. Times infinity. To the power of a million. For all the obvious reasons yes, but for one you rarely think about in specific. Eventually, friends, you have to walk away. You have to hand your dead child over to a stranger, and you have to walk away. I’ve never felt so small. I’ve never felt so afraid. I couldn’t do it. I moaned. I cried. I held him as tightly as I could. I probably screamed out loud, though I don’t remember for certain. If I didn’t, I should have. I’d certainly earned the right.

I’ve never been so acutely focused (before or since). I was completely keyed in to the moment I was in, the feelings I was experiencing, the fear that engulfed me. And amid all that terror, amid all that submission, amid all that awareness of my nothingness before God, I found something.

Myself.

No longer was I a woman who was born in 1981, had lived a while, and was having this experience in a hospital room in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in 2010. I was Natalie.

I felt connected to myself in a whole new way. Connected to my divinity as a child of God, a literal spirit daughter of The Creator of Heaven and Earth and all things that in them are. I was Natalie, and Natalie, this me, SHE had the strength required to walk away. SHE had the faith required to move through this moment (and every one that would follow). SHE had the perspective I lacked. SHE had the courage I desired. SHE knew God in a way that I had never dreamed possible.

I held her hand, I kissed his face, and I walked away.

Over time, I’ve come to know her better. Learning she existed was half the battle, now getting to know her learning to become her will win me the war.

Authenticity. It’s a practice, not an art. A journey, not a destination.

But it’s worth the work. It’s worth the commitment.

And it’s definitely worth the jump.

N

This is the first post of a series. Practical, actionable steps toward the Journey to YOU to follow.

Will you regret it when you’re 80?

My husband, Richie, is a thousand times smarter than I am. When I’m up against a big decision and go to him seeking advice, he always turns things right back around on my own sense of intuition. He maintains that NO ONE knows what’s best for me better than I do. (PS. The same is true of each of you).  “Natalie, will you regret it when you’re 80?” he asks (with a wickedly obnoxious little grin).

Allow me to explain.

I recently found myself on a chartered boat in the middle of the Carribbean Sea. Knowing I might never be in this place again, knowing that this opportunity was likely once in a lifetime for me, knowing that were I NOT to jump, I WOULD look back and regret it when I was 80, I stood up, and I dove in.

Are you on the edge of the boat? Is opportunity knocking but you can’t seem to bring yourself to jump? Afraid the water’s cold? Afraid of what might be lurking beneath the surface? Afraid you might drown?!

I get it.

Jump anyway. Or. . .  be prepared to regret it when you’re 80.

I love the opportunity to look into people’s lives and provide heartfelt feedback and loving direction. I don’t have all the answers—not even close—but as I respond to your questions, I get the tremendous blessing of watching you soar, not to mention the treasured gift of self reflection and the beautiful byproduct of personal development. Because of this, I’m genuinely falling in love with Formspring. Here’s an example from today’s feed that illustrates this fear to JUMP. (Nope, you’re not alone. Not by a long shot.)

Question:

Ok, so WHY am I scared of success? Why am I nervous to be as awesome as I know I can be??? Why do people sabatoge amazing opportunities?? I have the potential to be great. Things are all lined up for awesomeness… I’m just afraid to take that step.

My response:

Not knowing your specific goals or challenges, I think it’s best for me to simply answer from my realm of experience.

I personally get really afraid of success because I know the amount of work it’s going to require. I crave simplicity, I crave clarity, I crave a calm, uneventful life. . . and I KNOW that the kind of success that is available to me (and to each of us) requires a lot of STINKING.HARD.WORK. Stretching, growing, risking: all things that success requires, come along with a fair amount of chaos, unpredictability, and confusion. It’s hard for me emotionally to knowingly opt in to all that is required for big change— big success.

I also fear failure. I really fear getting lazy and not being willing to consistently put in the hard work required to make big things happen in my life. It is possible to do and become ANYTHING. Even as a mother, I can have balance and success between my work and family life, but it takes A LOT of commitment, A LOT of consistency, and A.LOT.OF.EFFORT. The reality of everything can be vastly overwhelming to me (often to the point of damming me up completely).

A good way I’ve found to combat these feelings is to say to myself: “Will I regret it when I’m 80?” This material is 100% Richie’s. He’s so much smarter than I am. If I look at my goals and I say, “When I’m 80, looking back on my life, will I regret not putting in the hard work to achieve a, b or c?” If the answer is “yes” then I put on my hard hat and I get to work, no matter the cost. If the answer is “no,” then I reevaluate my goals.

The reality is, you have EVERYTHING you need to be successful. You have every resource, every ounce of strength, every minute of time you need. Each of us has EVERYTHING we need—right in this very moment. I really do believe that. We just have to have the complete confidence that we are on the right path. Once you’re sure, take courage, put on your hard hat, and have faith in yourself. You’re SO much greater, SO much more capable than you know!

Now, let me ask YOU:

Will YOU regret it when you’re 80?

Will you regret not following through on that nagging hunch? Will you regret not getting in touch with your authentic self? Will you regret not risking it all to go for that amazing dream? Will you regret spending your life in a job that doesn’t play to your unique strengths (a job you hate)? Will you regret not fighting hard for the success of the most important relationships in your life? Will you regret not giving your all to be genuinely HAPPY?

Will you regret not embracing your fears and jumping anyway?

JUMP! Your life is waiting.

Note: There have been additions to this post since it’s original publication (11:21, 2011, 6:55am HI time). They are noted in green. xo!

Yes, my hair is ridiculously long. Today alone I was referred to as Rapunzel, Cousin It and Amazon Woman. Time for a cut. But . . .this post is about waves (I’ll talk curls in another post).

I feel like there could be an entire series of books written on the science of a good wave; if there were, this would be chapter 1.

Step 1:

Wash only the crown of the head. If you can find a sulfate free (non foaming) shampoo, all the better! Rinse.

Step 2:

Heavily condition hair (excluding the roots*). I’ve found that sulfate free conditioner works the best, but the general rule of thumb for my hair is the thicker the conditioner, the better. Use your fingers to brush the conditioner through your hair and to get out any tangles. DO NOT BRUSH YOUR HAIR WITH A COMB OR A BRUSH. EVER. It separates the curls and adds to the frizz!

*It’s important that you completely avoid the roots as you will not be rinsing the conditioner completely.

Step 3:

Cool water rinse + second condition.

The heavier the flow of water, the less tendency it will have to separate the waves.

option 1- Take a cup (or bucket), fill with cool water, and dump on your head to rinse. Do not rinse completely. Allow some conditioner to remain.
option 2-  Lie down in the bath tub and rinse using cool water and the full flow of the tap. Do not rinse completely. Allow some conditioner to remain.

Re condition the hair. Either with a very small amount of your regular conditioner, OR with a good, thick leave in. Avoid the roots, do not rinse. If you don’t have much curl/wave, you could omit the second application of conditioner. You don’t want to weigh your hair down too much. Another option if you’ve only got a little bit of wave would be to add your gel of choice (not water based) before or in place of the second application of conditioner. Play around with it a little to see what works best for you! I promise you’ll be able to figure it out. I have not met a single person who has tried some variation of these steps and has not been successful.

Step 4:

Do not touch your hair with a towel. Terry cloth is the frizz inducing anti-curl. I’ve read in a few different places (and once saw on Ellen) about people using paper towels to dry their curls in order to reduce frizz. I LOVE Mother Earth and do my best to care for her, but I’m not crazy green. However, even to me, drying your hair with paper towels seems incredibly wasteful.

I introduce to you, the pillow case towel. Best (and cheapest) discovery ever for curly/wavy headed girls.

Simply open the pillowcase and gently** allow all your hair to fall down inside.

**As a general rule of thumb, the less you handle your hair, the better. Again, do not brush your hair other than to finger out some tangles while you condition. After you get out of the shower, try to touch your hair as little as possible. In Curly Girl, the curly headed girl’s Bible (more on that later), the author says that in order to avoid frizz, you need to treat your hair like a nice wool sweater. Great analogy.

Step 5:

Squeeze the pillowcase around your hair. Do not twist or wring.

Gently gather the pillowcase to the top of your head and secure loosely with an elastic band. Allow hair to dry, then gently remove pillowcase. Bam. Frizz free waves*! You’re welcome!

*You’ll find that your waves get better and better the longer you stick to this program. You may not see amazing success right away, but as you stick with it, your curls will continue to improve. Scouts honor.

Additional Tips:

I often sleep with this bad boy on my head, but I’m a stomach sleeper and don’t toss and turn much, so it stays easily in place. You could also simply leave it in long enough to absorb the excess water, then gently remove and allow your hair to air dry.  If you’re looking for added volume, at least leave the pillowcase on top of your head long enough to allow the roots to dry completely.

My hair is VERY long and VERY thick. It never, ever dries completely in the pillow case. Yesterday, I actually wrapped a thick beach towel OVER the pillowcase to absorb some of the excess water. If you are forced to air dry, which let’s face it, most of you will be because a pillow case is tissue thin, just avoid wind or too much handling of the hair as it dries.

The ONLY thing about this system that is a little bit hard to get used to, is that your hair will feel a little bit different because of the added product. I’ve NEVER used product much, so it was a little yucky for me at first. I’ve totally gotten used to it.

Looking for frizz free curls? Stay tuned for more posts in this curly headed series. xo! N