Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Shine: Doing What Makes You Sparkle

I am so ready to sparkle, y'all!

And by that I don't mean I'm ready to put on my shiniest party dress and dance all night, although that might help me accomplish my true aim.

No, what I mean when I say that is that I'm ready to really and truly be me and do the things I love and to do even the things I don't love in such a way that I can feel good about the effort I made. I want to live in such a way that other people feel better when they're around me. I want to be enthusiastic and joyful. I want to sparkle. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a man at my high school reunion. He said that he had "always admired my zest for life." That's what I want people to see: an enthusiastic embrace and gratefulness for all that life gives me and a constant desire for more. More. Of. All. Of. It.

I have felt as if I were in limbo for the last month and a half. Hell. Let's be honest. I've felt like I was in limbo since January when my husband high-tailed it for Chattanooga and his new job and got started living what is supposed to be our new life. Meanwhile, I was back in Atlanta elbow-deep in the drudgery of packing, purging, and selling our home while keeping the kids and the dog and the cat alive, getting the young humans through the school year, then figuring out what the hell we were going to do for the two months between closings. And did I mention the emotions? Oh – not mine – but my 13-year old's. Sweet Mother of Mercy! This child has been beside himself. For the first month, all I heard was a litany of how much he hates Chattanooga, how his new school is the WORST(!), his life is ruined, and IT'S ALL MOM'S FAULT!!!

After a month of travels that have included the beach, Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans,  back to Atlanta (hometown with our homies), and now, Birmingham, Alabama, I think he's too tired to fight. Or I'd like to think that. The Angry Teenager does rear his head every now and then, but mostly he's back to being my sweet kid who, like me and his younger brother, just wants to be home. You know, home? That place where the heart is and all that jazz. That place you get to stay in for more than a week at a time? We're almost there. This is the home stretch. One week and two days until we close and can move in.

So, naturally, after keeping it together all summer during what I thought would be the hard part, it's time for me to lose my ish. I've been obsessively reading Marie Kondo's book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. I've been obsessively comparing prices and styles of area rugs and sofas. Reading Consumer Reports articles about washers and dryers and vacuum cleaners and floor sweepers. Scouring Bed, Bath, and Beyond and HomeGoods for the perfect bedding for my bed, our guest room, and the kids' rooms. New mattresses for two beds. A new bed for one kid. All of it has consumed every free moment for the last two weeks, I think. And to what end?

I mean, part of it is legitimate. I purged a lot. Hence my son needing a new bed and a new mattress. I took Kondo's advice about getting rid of the things that don't bring you joy and I'm willing to replace the items that need replacing with things that make my heart sing. And I am truly committed to running a cleaner, calmer, more organized household in our new home.

But some of this obsessively comparing products or styles or colors until I am locked in some sort of analysis paralysis is just me being mental and avoiding the things I'm really worried about. I feel like there is little of importance that is truly within my control right now. I am consumed by "what ifs." What if after living apart for seven months, my husband realizes he hates me? What if he hates our new house? What if my kids aren't accepted in their new school? What if I don't find a writing job?What if no one likes me and I can't make new friends? What if none of this works out? What if...

Somehow, my lizard brain seems to believe that if I can just find the perfect rug, perfect sofa, perfect EVERYTHING that screams "She's made it!" or maybe it's more like, "Wow! Check out this super-together, creative chick," I will win the hearts and minds of Chattanoogans at large and God-so-help-me, I'll never be lonely again – or some other Scarlett O'Hara bullshit.

So, yeah...That. I'm browsing design sites and analyzing every review of every product I'm considering as if my life depended on it so I can more or less hide from my real fears – loneliness and rejection. Don't judge.

Now that I've recognized what's going on, I'm trying to focus on solving the real problems. I've been running and am trying to commit to a regular schedule. Yesterday I made a list of ways I can meet people in Chattanooga and by posting that on Instagram, I actually did connect with someone there. Baby steps. But moving, ever forward with my eye on all the shiny things that will help me sparkle.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Like a Rolling Stone: Untethered and Embracing It (or Trying to)

It has been nearly two full weeks since we closed on the sale of our home in Atlanta.

It feels like a lifetime ago.

Since that day, my boys, dog Josie, and I have been untethered and blowing in the wind. My friends and husband joke that we are homeless. Technically, that may be true. But I can't say it because it scares me. The new home to which we are moving in Chattanooga won't be finished until July. So, for a few weeks we are drifters. Hubs is busy working at his (not-so new anymore) job in an awesome company he seems to love and making connections in our new city. We haven't lived under the same roof for six months. I'm happy for him but so totally jealous at the same time.

I feel stuck in limbo and let's be honest: parenting solo, especially a newly minted teenager, is tough and tiring. As is packing and doing all the stuff involved with moving. Not that being the primary earner isn't tough and mentally exhausting. It's just another side of the coin. And frankly, I could use a little time alone.

I feel like, in addition to the job I was getting paid to do up until I quit a week before the moving truck arrived, I was full-time parenting alone; packing, cleaning, and dealing with all the emotions associated with leaving the home where we built our family; and the end of the school year. Let's just say I may have lost my cool a few times.

Now, between homes, the kids and (the dog) and I are trying to enjoy this freedom by traveling. As I type, I am sitting on a porch swing in a pretty little spot called Magnolia Springs, Alabama which is near Gulf Shores, a beach town. It's exciting and fun but also kind of scary and exhausting.

At least to me it's scary, and I'm sure it is to our kids on some level. They need structure and stability and how can you have that when you don't even have the same four walls around you at any time? There's no guide book for living out of your car for six to eight weeks. And while I could have found temporary housing for that period, it was expensive and this seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have an adventure.

I forgot that adventure is not my middle name.

So, two weeks in and I'm feeling a little uncertain. Calling on my angels for protection and guidance and looking forward to getting settled. We'll be back in Atlanta next week to attend VBS at our church and I'm hoping that calms me so I can calm them. For now, I just want to focus on having some fun and helping my boys to do the same. Yesterday we hit the beach, got rained on while we played in the waves which was a unique experience, ate seafood (or I did - they stuck to cheeseburgers), played minigolf, and ate bad ice cream.

We're about to head back to the beach and see what other fun our day holds. I am hoping for some laughter, beautiful new memories, and the lesson that whatever life throws at you can be taken in stride and with a smile on your face.

Here's to getting out of that comfort zone and growing.

What tips do you have for facing new challenges or for traveling with teens and tweens? Would love to hear your thoughts on all this! Please leave a comment.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Step You Can't Take Back

Last Wednesday, my kids, husband, and I said goodbye to the home we lived in for nearly 16 years. It was not easy.

Aside from the grueling physical and material aspects of moving – countless trips up and down stairs and ladders to the attic and basement, lifting boxes, making endless lists and calling dozens of businesses related to the move, and, of course the costs – the emotional side weighed heavy on my heart. So much happened in this house.... Two sons were born and grew into sweetly funny and loving young boys, one nearly a man at thirteen. A baby girl was lost before the idea of her could fully bloom. New friends came into our lives, some staying for the long haul, and others moving on before I was ready for them to go. I treasure those who stayed and still feel grateful for having known those who outgrew me (or was it the other way around?).

We loved and lost pets and brought new ones into the family because there is just so much love to share. Romance peaked and waned and peaked again as long loves do, but always, always, always, there was a lasting love and a story to be written together.

I have focused much on the joys experienced in our Georgia home. Because that's what we do...right?

But I once called our home cursed and brought out the Holy Water and sage to try and cast out the sorrow I felt hanging about us during an especially challenging time. It wasn't the only time I felt that way living in that house.

Still, we look at the totality of our experiences and if nothing else, my faith and ability to love (deeply and unconditionally) grew by leaps and bounds in this home. It is where I learned what it really means to be a wife and where I became a mother. I evolved from timid and insecure to confident and experienced. I encountered the teachings of Abraham-Hicks which reinforced my Catholic beliefs about God's love for us and I learned that we choose joy and that doing so isn't always easy, but it's definitely worth the effort. I also learned how to take care of my physical and mental health with diet, exercise, and supplements. And I learned to choose me.

Now as I stand at the edge of my future, I realize that I'm really not leaving anything behind. Just a building, where a new family will grow and live their lives. I take the rest with me, but really only the good. Because ultimately, the negative experiences I had led me to the changes I needed to make to become the woman, the wife, the friend, the mother, that I want to be, that I am, that I am still becoming.  And in leading me to where I needed to be the chaff was transformed into gold.

I know our life in Chattanooga will be amazing because I believe in amazing. In the meantime, my kids and I will be spending the next six or seven weeks as vagabonds until our new home is complete. I hope to share some of our experiences. You can watch as I totally step out of my security-craving comfort zone and grow.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, or here. And, in the meantime, I'd love to hear your stories about getting out of your comfort zone, or what happened when you took a step you couldn't take back. Please share your story in the comments. Namaste.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Write Like No One is Watching

I have debated deleting and killing this blog so many times it's not funny. But I could never quite let go. I loved writing it and there is rarely a day that goes by when I don't think "I really should start writing my blog again." Of course, those thoughts come with a dose of self-conscious discomfort, fear and questions about why I'm doing it.

Am I trying to capture life in words to hold onto it? Simply processing my emotions? Trying to use my words about my experience to help someone else going through the same thing? Dreaming of the influence and fortune of superbloggers like Glennon Doyle? Sure. All of that.

It all comes with my constant nagging fear of being mocked and judged, a holdover from childhood that no amount of positive feedback has eroded. Still, I can't ignore the drumbeat pestering in my heart urging me to write again. This morning, I reached out to fellow blogger and author Sarah Fader from OldSchool/NewSchoolMom for some advice on how to get going again. Sarah's advice? "Write like no one is watching."

Wow. I know...simple, been said before...But seriously, this was exactly what I needed to hear right now.... Now, as I stand on the precipice again, frightened and excited by what comes next, both in life and on this blog, I know it is definitely time to start writing again.

Welcome back, me.