your ecosystem of self-care

We recently got my 6-year old daughter, Ella, a new pet.  She wanted a hamster originally, but courtesy of my hamster-phobia I somehow convinced her to start with roly polies in mason jars as her first caretaking experience.  And when the joys of those things (did you know they eat their own shit and are related to crustaceans?) wore off, I kept her pet craving satisfied by getting a bag of 1,500 lady bugs from the local garden store and let her create rows of mason jar habitats in our backyard.

And we all know the end to that story.  Bugs die.  Quickly.  They can only handle so much handling, after all.  And, well, you know there's the whole life cycle issue.  And they don't usually survive lavender baths and hot dog dinners.  Lesson learned.

Of course, once the roly poly lady bug habitats turned into an insect ghost town, I could sense her pet craving start to build again. "Can we just get a hamster, Mom?"  I probably heard that question so much over the span of two weeks that I almost gave in.  Almost.  She knew she was wearing me out, even asking again after I said, "Don't ask me again or else we'll never have another pet ever again for the rest of your life."  And on days that I felt myself softening my phobia and refusal, I'd bring to memory the note I had seen written on the whiteboard in her kindergarten class a few years back, a class that was *lucky* enough to have a hamster:  "Do not touch Do-nut.  Do not kill Do-nut." 

Yes, his name was Do-nut.  Not to be mistaken with Donut.  And, yes, a few days later this note had clearly been ignored, as we were alerted of Do-nut's tragic passing. 

Anyway, to make a long story very short, we ended up taking the next step towards pet ownership with a reptile. I originally agreed to a green anole lizard, one because I wanted to tell people I had a green anole and watch their face; and two because they were only $7.99 a piece.  Bonus.  But, after a rather excited PetSmart employee had me convinced that the green anoles would slip through our fingers (hahahaha) and get squished too easily, I somehow for some bizarre unknown what-was-I-thinking reason ended up agreeing to a bearded dragon.  Who grows up to two feet in length.  And lives for 15 years. And needs basking lamps, UV lamps, specific temperatures and humidity, etc etc etc.  

I know, like I said - a bizarre unknown what-was-I-thinking reason. 

And, to add to the fun, just before checking out at the register, we learn that we are missing a key element to his survival.  Crickets.  Like, to eat.  Live.  Every day.  Oh, and the crickets need their own tank and their own food too.  Why?  Well, the crickets have to be well-fed so that when the dragon eats them, he actually gets nutrition.

And that is how we ended up with an entire ecosystem in Ella's room later that night.  This is also how I found myself having to dust the live crickets with a perfect formula of calcium plus D3 powder and a special multimineral supplement.  And this is also how I ended up having to google "bearded dragon impaction home remedies" one night after feeding the darn thing one too many mealworms.  And this is also how I ended up rubbing his belly while he was in a warm bath while feeding him baby food squash from a teeny tiny dropper the very next day. 

And, yes, I'm not crazy.  I did consider giving him back.  I did have the realization that perhaps I had signed on for too much.  But, Ella was transfixed.  She was elated.  She had found a new sense of purpose and esteem in that darn tank.  She even named the little guy Happy.

So. 

Yeah.

Well, a few weeks later, considering myself a beardie expert, I was shocked and horrified when I heard Ella scream from her room one day after school, "MOM!  Happy's foot is missing!!!!"

WTF.

Yeah.

His foot was missing.  After hours more spent on Google in the wee hours of the morning, I learn that when beardies are shedding (which they do all the time because they grow all the time), sometimes - if they are not well hydrated from not enough baths - the shedding skin will get stuck around extremities and act as a tourniquet on the associated appendage.  Thus, the poor little beardie then, in desperation, tries to relieve the aching limb by - get ready - eating it off. 

Happy ate his foot off.

So, the moral of the story for you today?  Quite obvious, right?  Don't get a bearded dragon, they belong in the desert.  No, actually the moral is this:

First off, I realized how self-care truly is an ecosystem.  It's not just us and us alone in the pursuit of wellness.  It is dependent of a vast array of people and services, all of which need to be well-fed and cared for in order to care for us.  And, so, I ask you:  What is your ecosystem of self-care?  Who/what are your crickets?   How are those "crickets" being fed so you can be fed?  (I mean this is the least literal way, of course.  I hope you're not eating your tribe of people/services.  No judgment though)

BUT.  And here's the kicker.  Is your ecosystem one that you can manage?  Have you bitten off more than you can chew?  Have you signed up for too much, at the risk of causing someone along the line harm, including yourself?  Is your system so complicated that you might be left at the end of the day contemplating how to gnaw your own numb foot off?  (again, not literal, I hope).  Are you not shedding the skin you need to be shedding at the expense of your own happiness?

Truth?  I bit off more than I could chew with our new pet.  And, I think it was a reflection of most of my life, to be brutally honest.  I needed to get a handle of my own ecosystem and take responsibility for the role I play not just in my life, but in those I care for and those that care for me.  I have started to see that saying YES to something is a sacred agreement to someone else's ecosystem of self-care and so I better be able to meet that YES with full action.  It also means that I need more help.  I need to ask for it and I need to create a wider net for myself and all the things I have on hand for the development of this brand's intention and service.  My ecosystem needs some fine tuning.  And  I'm paying attention, thanks to our now stub-footed bearded dragon.

Take some time today to consider your ecosystem and how you can fine tune it.  Take responsibility for those things you have agreed to that you cannot meet with a sacred YES.  And start seeking out help that you can rely on and that is well-fed itself.  Don't let Happy eat its foot off.

Oh, and take more baths.  And shed skin completely.

Today's post is dedicated to a new part of Momma Strong's ecosystem and, thus, my own:  theCityMoms, not your average moms group. In fact they’re poised to become the social events community for moms.

Here's what the brains and hearts behind the movement, Missy Kondritz and Jeanine Bobenmoyer, had to say:  theCityMoms is dialed in to what it means to be a modern mom - fashionable yet frugal, playful yet protective, and engaged yet exploratory.  And we recognize the need for a supportive and fun community in Indianapolis for ALL moms, moms-to-be and their families.  One that listens to its members, provides exciting events you'll want to write home about and focuses more on supporting your role in parenthood than your social calendar.

Find them on Meetup and like us on Facebook to get started!