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One mom’s 2019 self-care challenge


A road map out of ‘Pushing Through’ purgatory

Pushing through

Verb: To push through

When a person feels exhaustion/depletion, but follows through on a task out of love, obligation or responsibility; sometimes avoidable, but often not. “She was 10-cm dilated and the doctor refused her epidural, therefore, she pushed through.”

“I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.” Airplane

The flu hit our house the last five days. If you think sick-duty is but a memory when your children are leaning towards adulthood, think again.

My oldest called me in a frail voice last week, asking with her last ounce of strength to pick up some organic juice at Whole Foods, some organic lentil soup and some terrible, poo-looking concoction to strengthen her immune system. Bear in mind, this was 9 a.m. on a workday.

So, I showed up at her apartment with the organic medical supplies. She greeted me with tears in her eyes and asked, “Mom, I’m not going to die, right?”

Then, I, Florence Nightingale, went home to a sick 16-year-old and somehow managed in the last five days to:

  • Make eight trips to the grocery store for more organic juice, fruit, medicine, immune system concoctions, etc.
  • Reassure my youngest she was not going to die.
  • Coach her through the protocol for calling off sick.
  • Make homemade chicken noodle soup; one with chicken/one without for my vegetarian daughter.
  • Make smoothies when her throat hurt
  • Make homemade stew; one with beef/one without
  • Clean the guinea pig cage
  • Take full-time dog duties
  • Manage two big work projects
  • Laundry
  • Everything else

I even filled the damn bird feeders!

Here’s what I learned. There’s some value to “Pushing through;” more than just getting it done. I actually found myself using the adrenaline to get MORE done. I was already in “Get it done” mode, so, what the hell! And, it felt good.

After all my pontificating about the benefits of self-care, I found myself in a quandary. I actually avoided writing part three of this series, because? I was waist-deep in a bottomless pit of activity.

There were no massages, trips to Greece or even bubble baths. I was in the zone, in the, “Got to do it, I’m tired, it doesn’t matter, push through, shelve everything but the highest priorities aside: work, sick kid, groceries, pets”-not necessarily in that order.

How could I possibly write about self-care, when I was the poster child of caretaking?

Monday, 7:30 p.m. I’m still working. The dog still needs fed and a walk. She also needs a bag of food for the morning. The other two medications I bought my youngest didn’t help her sleep through the congestion. I had one more fire to put out for work. Guinea pig needed fresh spinach-and, believe me, you do NOT want to see Hedgepig when he’s hungry. My latest marketing campaign for a client was only half-complete. We were out of soup. Out of fruit. Out of juice. And, most importantly, out of my coffee for morning.

Guess what I did? After I fed the dog, but, before I took her out and went to the store, I MADE AN APPOINTMENT FOR A FACIAL AND MASSAGE.

How freakin awesome am I? Granted, it was after-hours and I haven’t heard back from them yet. Still, I contacted the spa. I did it.

Moral of the story? I’m not sure there is one. I’m a good parent. Like good parents everywhere, I followed through for the family I love. It seemed never ending, it was exhausting and it was a bit badass doing it alone. But, mainly, it was just life.

Adventures with Hedgepig: If he can make it there…


Three-part series: In its entirety

When boredom strikes

Hedgepig was a bored Asheville pig.

He was tired of the same ol’ organic hay and the same ol’ expensive dill and carrot cookie treats. He was tired of his fancy chew toys.

Hedgepig wanted excitement. He wanted to see the world. He wanted to be a free-range pig.

He’d read about pigs making news. Pigs on Broadway, astronaut pigs, celebrated chef pigs; these are the pigs he wanted to meet.

He’d spent his young life looking at the same four walls of his customized, modernized, sleek, haute couture, Guinea pig cage. He needed be out there with the pigs movin’ and shakin.’ He wanted to meet these pigs on Broadway and in space. You know, meet the pigs making a difference.

So, as much he loved his family, he opened his Barbie suitcase and filled it with organic dill and carrot cookie treats.

He bade farewell to his best friend, a chocolate lab, Midge, who honestly didn’t notice when Hedgepig began sobbing his “Goodbyes.”

With a dream in his heart

Outside in the drizzly North Carolina rain, Hedgepig wiped the tears from his eyes as he waited for his cab.

Would he see his best friend Midge ever again?

In truth, Midge found Hedgepig annoying.

That Hedgepig considered Midge his best friend would have shocked Midge. Midge wasn’t aware Hedgepig had left. She was napping soundly in her kennel.

Being noticed was a problem for Hedgepig given his small stature. It took about an hour before the cab driver spotted Hedgepig standing on the side of the road.

Luckily, Hedgepig’s umbrella was neon pink with orange flowers. Otherwise, the driver probably would have missed the five-and-three-quarter-inch-tall pig shivering in the rain.

The driver helped Hedgepig into the backseat of the cab. The pig dried himself as best he could.

“Where to Pig?” asked the cab driver harshly.

“The THEEE-a-Tahhhh,” answered Hedgepig, stretching the word like a rubberband.

“Excuse me?” said the cabbie.

“Driver, take me to the stage, my future awaits,” said Hedgepig, sounding more like a Shakespearean pig than a Blue Ridge pig.

“Do you mean the theater?” asked the cabbie.

“Yes, my fine man, take me to Broadway,” answered Hedgepig.

“Well, there are two theatres on Biltmore Avenue. I could take you to the Diana Wortham Center for the Performing Arts,” said the cab driver scratching his head.

Hedgepig, trying to shake the water from his ear, only heard ‘performing arts’ and assumed the driver was taking him to the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts in New York City.

“Yes, yes thank you,” said Hedgepig rather impatiently and rudely.

Having that settled, this free-range pig took an organic dill and carrot cookie from his Barbie suitcase. He snuggled into the crease of the cab’s backseat and nibbled. He drifted to sleep, thinking he had a long drive ahead. The warm and dry cab, along with his full tummy, plus the pattering of the rain, put Hedgepig into a deep sleep.

He was startled awake when the cab came to an abrupt stop.

“Here ya go,” said the cab driver. “The theatre is across the street.”

The cabbie lifted Hedgepig from the backseat and set his small, pink suitcase on the sidewalk.

Hedgepig was immediately overwhelmed by the noise of the city and the smells; the SMELLS. He smelled smells he’d never smelled before. It was wonderful.

The pig handed the cabbie two small cookies from his suitcase as payment.

“Is this all you got?” the driver asked with some annoyance.

“Isn’t that enough?” asked Hedgepig busily pulling his heavy suitcase closer.

The innocent, concentrated expression on the pig’s face as he tugged at the tiny, plastic luggage, left the cab driver without words. Hedgepig was quite possibly the cutest living creature in all the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“It’s enough,” said the cab driver. “You take care of yourself out here Pig. Downtown is a dangerous place for a little guy like you,” he added. With some hesitation, the cab driver drove away, leaving the small pig alone in the center of the city.

Making it big in the big city

Hedgepig looked around. Across the busy street he faced two large theatre marquees, brightly lit. Because he was pig with poor eyesight and without schooling, he misread “Wortham” to mean “Lincoln Center for Performing Arts” and “Fine Arts” to mean “Broadway.” Hedgepig believed himself to be in the heart of New York City’s theatre district.

He took a deep breath. He studied the traffic racing in front of him. He hadn’t anticipated everything being so large and noisy.

How does a very small pig, only five-and-three-quarter-inches tall, with a Barbie suitcase and pink umbrella cross a busy city street?

Hedgepig started to hyperventilate looking at the bustling downtown. He took another bite of an organic carrot and dill cookie for courage. Chewing calmed the Pig.

Wiping the crumbs from his whiskers and holding his breath, he zipped forward off the curb. ZIP! ZIP! Without realizing, he squeezed his eyes tightly shut, rendering himself totally blind, as opposed to partially blind. Then, when he felt the heat of a car’s exhaust, he zagged backwards. ZAG! ZAG! The wind from a speeding truck lifted his whiskers. For a moment, his tiny body elevated like a hovercraft. He spun 360 degrees.

Just when he thought all was lost, Hedgepig caught the faint aroma of fresh spinach. A delivery driver was unloading organic spinach nearby. Hedgepig, eyes still shut, gripping his Barbie suitcase like a life preserver, he followed the scent.

When he opened his eyes, he was on the opposite side of the street. Hedgepig nearly fainted. Dizzy, he slowly lifted his head to the brilliantly-lit marquee. The letters meant nothing to him, because he was a pig with poor eyesight and without schooling. He imagined, however, the marquee to read, “Liza and Hedgepig: One night only.”

Lines of schoolchildren were stepping off a school bus and walking into the theatre.

Seeing a door propped open to the entrance, Hedgepig scurried unnoticed among the confusion of the children and teachers heading to an afternoon matinee.

Dodging the movement of hundreds of feet, Hedgepig sought to remove himself from the fray. Somehow, he managed to reach the dressing rooms in the back of the theatre.

While the stage called to him, like it does any brilliant actor, the small pig was unnerved by the chaos of an impending performance.

He found a quiet corner and collected himself. Pulling another cookie from his Barbie suitcase, Hedgepig chewed rapidly. Chewing calmed the pig.

Shakespearean pig

After a few deep breaths, Hedgepig pulled himself together and walked into the nearest dressing room.

He quietly watched an actress apply makeup in a mirror. The actress jumped when she noticed Hedgepig from the corner of her eye.

“Who are YOU?” she asked.

“I’m Hedgepig,” answered Hedgepig.

“I’m a thespian,” he added nervously, in his smallest pig voice.

“What’s your scene pig?” Asked the actress, while adjusting her wig.

“I’ve prepared a scene from Hamlet” replied the pig. “Act Three: Scene: One,” he added, feeling a bit more important now.

“Do you have any make up, wigs, props?” She inquired, while looking him up-and-down… and sideways, because Hedgepig was rather wide.

“No,” answered Hedgepig, sheepishly, feeling less important now.

“Weeeelllll, luckeeeee for YOU,” said the actress, pronouncing each sound dramatically and loudly, “I once knew a pig who acted.”

“He was really quite talented,” she continued. “Sadly, he was performing a number in Cats, when another character pounced at him. He panicked, his instincts took hold, and he jumped into the orchestra pit to avoid what looked like 200-pound cat.  Landed on the kettle drum, didn’t know what hit him.”

She wiped a tear from her eye, gave herself a shake to regain her composure and reached into a drawer. She pulled out the tiniest blonde wig Hedgepig had ever seen.

“Here,” she said, shoving the wig into Hedgepig’s small hand. “And, you will need some eyeliner, lipstick and rouge,” she continued, while grabbing the Pig and placing him in front of her lighted mirror.

Now, Hedgepig only knew Shakespeare’s play, “Hamlet,” from a long-ago rerun of the Muppets. Specifically, he remembered the line, “Hamlet, that’s what my mom called me when I was just a little porker.”

He began to have second thoughts, butterflies in his tummy. “What if he couldn’t perform? What if he wasn’t meant to be an ACT-ORR after all?”

Before he had the time to reconsider, Hedgepig found himself on stage with the curtain rising. He looked out at the audience of eager, field-tripping children. In the moment, however, when the lights shined brightly into his little rodent eyes, he realized his destiny.

To eat, or not to eat your vegetables, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler to try the broccoli and suffer

The slings and arrows of spinach stuck to your chin,

Or to take arms against peas in butter

And thereby squishing them. Try some cherry pie with ice cream—instead,

No more vedge; and by and by fall asleep in bed

Based on Hamlet: Act Three: Scene One


When he finished, there was silence in the theatre and, then, an eruption of applause.

“Bravo! Bravo!” he heard as he took his first bow.

Guinea pigs have poor eyesight. They have excellent noses, but poor eyesight. While Hedgepig was convinced he’d given a Tony-award-winning performance, in reality, he had been delivering his soliloquy far to the left of the stage, facing a row of empty seats. In fact, no one in the audience noticed the small five-and-three-quarter-inch-tall pig, wearing a tiny blonde wig.

It really didn’t matter. Hedgepig left the stage feeling as if he had finally found his true calling. He grabbed his Barbie suitcase, now with only a single carrot and dill cookie left, and headed outside, still wearing the wig. He was lost in dreams of future stardom.

How should he sign autographs? Should he use wide swirls and a heart-shaped dot over the letter “I”?

Would he buy a second home in the Hamptons? Or, was this too pretentious? Maybe just a small place Upstate for the sake of appearances? He’d need an agent. How does a pig contact William-Morris? His agent could figure that out, but he’d need an agent to write the letter to find the agent. His head began to spin.

Lost in his dizzying plans for his famous future, Hedgepig didn’t hear the cries of “Hedgepig? Hedgepig! HEDGEPIG! Is that you? What are you doing downtown? Why are you wearing a wig? Is that a Barbie suitcase?”

Hedgepig’s family had come downtown for lunch. Without time for an explanation, Hedgepig was quickly scooped up, wig and all, then, smothered in kisses, cuddles and lots of pig love.

During the ride home, curled in the lap of one of his people, he heard a radio news report of an impending lunar eclipse. This, obviously, got Hedgepig thinking about space pigs and pigs on the moon.

Back at home, he fell asleep dreaming of small moon boots and floating in space, safely tucked in his customized, modernized, sleek, haute couture, Guinea pig cage.

Single moms: The answer to your question is, ‘Yes, they will be okay’


My kids are grown and they are thriving

Author’s note: This a deeply personal essay, but I felt it was an important experience for other single moms to hear.

“Single mom” is a label I never wanted. It’s especially a situation I never, ever wanted for my children.

I was raised in a home of divorce. My parents’ had a messy divorce, and we “kids” suffered a lot of loss.

The thought of my kids having to endure a similar pain, quite literally, made me sick to my stomach.

Life, though, rarely turns out as we plan, as you know.

I tend to dwell on the bad stuff and worry. When it comes to my kids, I wanted them to have the “perfect” childhood.

Because addiction is a factor in our family, my kids have had limited contact with the rest of our family for about seven years.

There have been moments in those seven years when I have agonized over what our children have experienced. How will they turn out? Will they be okay with, literally, just me?

It’s true my daughters have experienced a different life than I had wanted for them.

Well, here’s the twist; What if it’s been a good thing? What if my plan for them wasn’t the best plan for them?

Our daughters are two amazing young women.

I’m not advocating divorce. I am, however, seeing some huge silver linings I never expected.

My oldest is in her early twenties. She is one of the strongest women I know, both literally and figuratively.

She’s unconventional, ballsy, a tremendous athlete, adventurous, tenacious like a bulldog, super smart and able to embrace new ideas.

It’s was bumpy for awhile with this one. She was angry, for good reason, and I was the available target.

There are always things a parent regrets; it’s the nature of the beast. I can say, however, with absolute confidence, I’ve given her all tools in my toolbox, and she’s going to do amazing things.

She’s already doing amazing things. In the last year, she and her partner have visited the Rockies, Hawaii and Belize. I didn’t help with a dime.

I wish I’d been able to help, but my kids know as adults, they must be fully self-supporting. Those vacations weren’t taken on credit, they were taken with saved cash.

This brings us to my youngest. Working on her license, but already purchased a car with her own funds. Paid in cash with money earned from a dog-walking business.

She has an envelope started to buy a house someday.

My youngest daughter is kind, bright, creative, cool, amazing with dogs and kids, out-going, savvy and confident. She has an amazing fashion sense, or the “gift” as we call it.

Because of addiction, she has learned how to say, “No,” when she needs draw a line.

They aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. But, they are going to be okay. This was my worst fear seven years ago. The thought my kids would experience a life-altering pain making their adult lives more difficult.

What I’ve discovered is absolutely unexpected on my part. They experienced a life-altering pain, but they have come out better people. I believe their adult lives will actually be easier, rather than harder.

Both know the value of asking for help, getting help, finding support, saving money, setting professional boundaries and being able to financially support oneself. Most importantly, both our daughters have compassion. They know what it’s like to feel loss. They are kind.

As I move into this next phase of my life, I’m exhaling. The unknown is now known.

While I won’t be spending my later years how I imagined, I’m surprised to find I’m excited about what’s ahead.

I was given a challenging situation, and I did okay.

Like, I’ve always said, raising a kid is like raising a good dog; success requires a daily commitment and insane consistency.

It’s very cool to have stepped up-to-the plate. Now, I get to stand back and watch all that hard work amount to something.

Hang in there ladies. It’s never fair. It just isn’t. HOWEVER, things may actually turn out better than you originally planned.

Adventures with Hedgepig


Hedgepig was a bored Asheville pig.

He was tired of the same ol’ organic hay and the same ol’ expensive dill and carrot cookie treats. He was tired of his fancy chew toys.

Hedgepig wanted some excitement. He wanted to see the world. He wanted to be a free-range pig.

He’d read about pigs making news. Pigs on Broadway, astronaut pigs, celebrated chef pigs; these are the pigs he wanted to meet.

He’d spent his young life looking at the same four walls of his customized, modernized, sleek, haute couture, Guinea pig cage. He needed be out there with the pigs movin’ and shakin.’ He wanted to meet these pigs on Broadway and in space. You know, the pigs making a difference.

So, as much he loved his family, he opened his Barbie suitcase and filled it with organic dill and carrot cookie treats.

He bade farewell to his best friend, a chocolate lab, Midge, who honestly didn’t seem to notice when Hedgepig began sobbing his “Goodbyes.”

…What will Hedgepig do? Will he leave Asheville? Will he make it further than Plant? Stay tuned for more Adventures with Hedgepig…

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Part four: One mom’s 2019 selfcare challenge

One Mom's selfcare challenge for 2019

A road map out of ‘Pushing Through’ purgatory

Pushing through

Verb: To push through

When a person feels exhaustion/depletion, but follows through on a task out of love, obligation or responsibility; sometimes avoidable, but often not. “She was 10-cm dilated and the doctor refused her epidural, therefore, she pushed through.”

Asheville – In January, I began a series documenting my selfcare adventure for 2019. I noticed in 2018, how I was annoyingly repetitive about saying, “I need a massage,” without ever actually getting a massage. I annoyed myself for an entire year. And, I noticed how I spent money impulsively on extra stuff like ice cream or magazines, which, when added up, could easily equal the amount for a massage.

In the beginning of the series, I mentioned I was committed to building momentum slowly. I’ve never been good with abruptly changing my habits. Instead, I figured I’d acclimate myself to smaller selfcare actions, like massages and bubble baths, until I was comfortable with the bigger stuff… like a couple days at a spa.

Well, January is over, and I had the massage, plus a facial.

I didn’t cancel or make any excuses. And! I could have easily blown it off. The temperature was super cold in Western North Carolina the day of my massage and things were shutting down; Y’all know, because it’s the South. The spa called and moved my appointment earlier because of the weather. I had TWO business appointments scheduled for the same time. Did I cancel the massage? Nope. I moved stuff around like I’m a boss.

It’s probably been a year or more since I’ve enjoyed either a massage or facial.

Imagine you’ve been holding your breath for a year and, then, for two wonderful hours, you exhale.

I exhaled for 120 minutes and more.

Observations from someone terrible at selfcare:

  • I will feel guilty for just about everything. For the first 30 minutes I felt guilty. I felt guilty because the person giving me the facial probably needed one too. I assumed the woman giving the facial was as burned out as I felt.

I know. It’s insane. I did, however, ask her when she last had a facial. When she answered, “Every few months,” I relaxed some more. So, if you have some terrible thing happen, and you need to blame someone, send it my way. I probably already feel guilty about it.

  • Getting naked for a stranger, even with a blanket is weird, but do-able. I realized how part of my resistance to selfcare like massages/facials has to do with feeling vulnerable. You feel exposed, and I’ve never been good at this type of vulnerability. Weird, how I can write my deepest feelings for all to see. Ask me to strip and lay on a table covered in a blanket, I feel weird. Just weird.

The weirdness disappears when you have a talented masseuse/esthetician. I think the ratio of speed it disappears correlates with their talent. Mine disappeared quickly, given the amount of time I had gone without.

  • Beauty has a lot to do with how you feel. I felt “pretty” again after my facial. I looked in the mirror, and I felt pretty. No makeup and messy hair, still 50, but I felt pretty. I looked pretty. I felt rejuvenated.

My life is filled with a lot of tasks. I’m busy from the time I get up to when I head to bed. Marketing, writing, parenting, managing, dealing with life, etc., like all of us, and, the mirror I didn’t see the pinched look my face usually wears. Satisfying everyone’s needs, except my own.

  • Driving after a good massage probably isn’t a good idea. I should probably have someone drive me home after a massage. I was really relaxed. Like a minor operation, I needed a designated driver.
  • One selfcare action leads to another. The feeling lasted the rest of the day and into the day after. As I was still on the massage table, I started thinking about the tasks I had for the remainder of the day. I decided, in my relaxed state, to pick up dinner on the way home.
  • My creativity is relative to how I relaxed I feel. My creativity rose to the surface. I had two book ideas, and an article pitch come to me in those two hours. So, yes, I paid for those services, but I also could say those services paid for themselves. If I add action to the ideas, I could easily make the money and tip I spent.
  • Selfcare is necessary like toothpaste. I don’t feel guilty when I buy toothpaste. I don’t feel guilty when I get my car maintained. I’m more important than my car. I’m a single, self-employed mom. Without me, my family would be in trouble.
  • Developing a habit of nurturing yourself requires practice. This isn’t coming easily to me. I tend to punish myself for things that aren’t even my fault. So, I don’t want to make my selfcare adventure another area where I feel I come up short. For February, I want to continue by taking it slowly and being kind to myself. Treat myself the way I treat other people.

What’s next on my selfcare adventure?

I said from the beginning, I would slowly build my selfcare actions. I would test the theory that a rested, nurtured Heather will bring in more income than a stressed, pinched Heather.

For January, I conquered my goal.

It’s February and now what? Next, I want to schedule another massage or facial for this month. This is a becoming a habit, right? And, I want to get a manicure, hair cut and highlights at a downtown salon.

For the record, Sensibilities Day Spa in downtown Asheville is worth every penny.

Contact Information:

Heather Berry heatherberrycopywriter@gmail.com


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