Rules for Self-Love

Recently I saw a meme on Fake-Book that listed the Rules for Self-Love. It got me thinking: This might be a good series. I’ve been working on this aspect of my life significantly since June of this year. I had heard about self-love and cognitively understood what it was all about, but I didn’t have any for many years. In fact, for nearly a decade, I really didn’t like myself much at all.

In 2010, I rushed into a second marriage after my first marriage ended. I hadn’t even been divorced six months when I remarried, and it was evident early on that this was going to be difficult and I was terrified it wasn’t going to work out for us.

But I tried. I really did try. And it wasn’t that I didn’t love him. I did love him. It just wasn’t a good fit from the start. Our values, priorities, and collective interests were so far apart on the spectrum we couldn’t even make ‘opposites attract’ a true statement. After nine years, it ended. Badly, I might add.

Then I was faced with being a twice-divorcee, a single mother, and I was a person who had lost their way career-wise. I had gained weight, lost my sparkle, and frankly, was a terrible friend to just about everyone who was trying to help me. I think…as I began to study ‘self-love’…I really just didn’t even like myself, let alone love myself.

But all that changed in June of this year. I started planning a trip that I could take alone. I ended up taking nine day vacation on the beach with no one else’s energy around me to distract me from my mission: To come to terms with the elements of my life where I still had wounds and set my intention for what I want my life to look like in the future.

I desperately wanted to connect on a grander scale with my closest friends, son, and partner, and I wanted to live a richer life. I wanted to be brave and transparent and authentic.

Some of the experiences that unfolded shortly after my return were utterly unexpected and painful. Brene Brown writes about her ‘breakdown’/’spiritual awakening’ in her book The Gifts of Imperfection and, Kids, let me tell you that I can now relate completely to what she said.

When I got back from one of the best trips of my life, a few things happened:

  1. I entered into a period of the worst depression I had ever had in my entire life.
  2. I broke up with my partner, and it was painful for both of us
  3. My anxiety levels were through-the-roof high, and I couldn’t function
  4. I stopped believing in the ideas my religious background had fed me

It was terrifying to be actively involved in watching my life fall to pieces in a way that felt completely incongruent with what I was trying to accomplish. I was alone, scared, disconnected, mentally exhausted, and spiritually drained. I lost nine pounds in two weeks. I barely slept. I was a mess.

And then…

And then I wasn’t.

As I started thinking about what I needed instead of what others needed, I began to let go of some deep-seeded falsely-rooted beliefs I had held about myself, relationships, my Higher Power, and my life’s purpose. And…I started healing.

I’m going to use this meme to write about my journey, and as you walk with me, I hope it will be of comfort to you. I have said recently, “If you met me between the years 2016-2019…let me reintroduce myself”, and I mean that wholeheartedly.

I’ll start this weekend and share my journey. Until then, here’s a great song by Chris Stapleton. Enjoy.

As always…Take care. Hug more. I love you.


“Busy” is the new “Fine”

“Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.” ― Lin Yutang

The holiday season is upon us, whether we like it or not. No sooner does Dunkin’ release all things Pumpkin Spice, and millions of people start losing their ever-lovin’ mind by beginning the planning process for Thanksgiving and all the wintertime holidays. I’m confused by this, though. Isn’t this a season where we should be slowing down, thinking about what is really important in our lives, taking time off work and well…just relaxing?

But, nope. I predict – even amidst this COVID crap (which is what I’ve started calling it) I’m going to hear the words “I’m so busy” more than I have for the entire year from some of y’all. It is almost as though people wear “I’m So Busy” as a badge of honor. To me “I’m So Busy” is akin to bondage (and not the fun kind). In fact, Jeff Shinagbarger states that “busy” is the new “fine”. I love what he says: “If time is money, then I really am broke.”

So, how are you? Busy?

“It was in this video from Jeff Shinabarger that I first heard the phrase, “‘Busy’ has become the new ‘Fine’.” As in, when you ask somebody how they were doing, they used to answer, “Fine.” But nowadays, everybody answers, “Busy.” – Josh Becker

Since I’ve already mentioned COVID, I think I’m going to start here. COVID has done a lot for me, personally, in terms of growth. And when I say “COVID” I’m not talking about a disease…I’m describing a ‘season’. Yes – I miss going to the movies and I hate wearing my mask in public because it fucks with my lipstick (But…I wear it because I’m a good human and don’t want other people to get sick and vice versa. So there.) But, also, to its credit, COVID has also allowed me permission to change my priorities and to settle down a little.

I realize now that the first part of the season of COVID created a big hot mess. Trying to work from home while also making sure my son passed the first grade was stressful. And it screwed up my brain chemicals and my anxiety was at a red-level flag warning. But now…months in…I kinda like that I don’t have to be busy if I don’t want to. I might have had this permission all along, but I never gave it to myself. So…um…”Thanks, COVID”??? I realized one day in the middle of August that I just didn’t have to be so damn busy if I didn’t want to. It seems ridiculous in this moment to say that…but I just never really got the memo before that I had the ability to just say “no”.

So how do I stop this glorification of busy? Well, I’m about to tell you. And, please, I by all means do not have my shit together entirely, but I have learned some things and I hope they help you.

Here goes…

1) Get grounded. I don’t know what “get grounded” means to you – maybe its a short hike in the woods, a run beside the ocean’s coast, a picnic in the park. For me, I like to hop in my car and head east to the little town I grew up. Sometime I just drive country roads remembering a simpler time. Sometimes I pack a light lunch (that’s um, a bag of Fritos), I make sure my son’s tablet is charged and his headphones are in the car and we take a little break near “Bell Ford” – a creek in the middle of Amish country.

2) Unplug. I am becoming increasingly aware of how social media sites (and by this, I really mean Facebook) unnerve and unground me. If I want to start my day pissed off, I usually visit Facebook first thing in the morning (Kidding. I don’t normally decide to start my day in a bad mood. But…IF I DID…)The television blasts 30 second reminders of how awful my life is because I don’t own this or that. My email box is full of sales and specials from stores I have no need to visit. And lastly, my work email…ugh. Don’t even get me started about the “seemingly-urgent-truly-non-urgent” requests I get at all hours of the day and night.

3) Cook something. I don’t normally recommend cooking as a way of not being busy, but I’m not talking gourmet here. I don’t even like to cook – so there’s that. But…if I need a little creative grounding time, I head straight to my “This Banana Bread Kicks Ass” recipe. While I smell the bread baking, I sip some coffee…and close my eyes for a few minutes.

If you didn’t click the link to Jeff’s wonderful video in the first paragraph (hint, hint…) here are some great take aways:

Find peace in the quiet.
Remember what it means to ‘be’ instead of ‘do’.
Break the seemingly endless pattern of consumption.
Spend less time reacting to what is ‘urgent’ and more time returning to what is ‘important’.

I write to help you enjoy a more simple life. I’m not perfect, but I know how important it is to relax. I know how important it is to make your values a priority. I know how important it is to stop reacting to things that are not your issue. I hope you can find time this week to stop the glorification of busy. As always, I’m leaving you with a sweet little song and I ask you these questions:

How has COVID reprioritized your life? What are some things that have slipped from your “to do” list permanently? How has it changed you?


If you need more help on becoming more ‘unbusy’, check out Joshua’s list.

Name It, Claim It

The Fall season is settling in here in the Ozarks, with crisp mornings and weather that allows me to sleep with my windows slightly open. I love this time of year because it signals to my soul that another season is coming to an end.

The holidays are often a busy time for most people, but I have a small family and I’m not really all about the consumerism of the season. I buy my son a few items: Something he wants, something he needs, something to wear, and something to read. But, when it comes to adult gift-giving – I’m just kinda, like, “Meh”. It seems a little ridiculous to me that I would buy a $25 gift card for someone because it is expected, but then they turn around and give me a $25 gift card because, well, it is expected. And then we both go our separate ways.

Wouldn’t it mean more if we collectively took our $50 and, I don’t know, spent two hours at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, ordering a pitcher of Margarita’s and learning about each other over an endless basket of chips, a large bowl of queso and free salsa? I mean, I would like that…and I’m an introvert for goodness’ sake. Oh well. I’ve never been one for conformity. Why start now.

This little tangent really isn’t about holiday gift giving or free salsa, although it wasn’t a bad introduction, if I do say so myself. It really is about rethinking how we invest in people by giving the gift of truth to them by spending quality time with them.

Remember my post about connection? Connection starts with a common interest – I like Mexican food, you like Mexican food, let’s go have tacos. But real connection – real live down-in-the-dirt-see-the-ugly-cry connection – starts with vulnerability.

I’m not comfortable with vulnerability. I’m the classic “I’m fine” girl. In the past I probably would have ‘I’m fine”-d myself into having no friendships, no true connection, and, dare I say, into an early grave. I have ‘I’m fine’-d myself, especially with this guy, so many times when what I really wanted was to fold myself into his lap with a blanket over my head and just say “I have no idea what’s going on in my brain right now but I feel utterly terrified and alone. Please just hold me.” And you know what…he would have. He seriously would have done this for me. If only I’d let him.

This guy knows a lot of ugly things about my life, so opening up about the dark and twisty thoughts is becoming easier. But, it wasn’t always the case with us. It’s taken nearly thirty years for me to be honest with him about some things that have hurt me and thoughts of what scares me. But, alas, in order to do hard things, you need training wheels. And I’m about to hand you your set.

So – swinging back to gift giving and the previous paragraph – I want you to know I’m going to pull this all together and make my point soon.

Here goes: The greatest gift we can give the people who love us is our truth and vulnerability. If you, like me, are not super-great at this – may I make a few suggestions on how you can start small and move on to the bigger stuff? Here are the easy things to bump you out of “I’m fine-ville”:

  1. Find your home team. Everyone has a home team – the ones you call when you have a flat tire or something terrible happens. These are the people who just get their own glass of water in your house or know where you secretly stash your feminine hygiene items and help themselves. Start with them because they are rooting for you. They might not always agree with you, but they will listen. Start by telling them something that scares you about this crazy world we live in now.
  2. Take it to the mat. It’s no secret I’ve started taking a Gentle Yin Yoga class because I blogged about it for weeks. It’s been more ‘church’ and ‘therapy’ than ‘yoga’ to me but you don’t literally have to take it to the ‘mat’ to employ this step. What I mean by “take it to the mat” is start getting honest with yourself about your feelings. Set daily reminders to get into a quiet space so you can feel your shit. You can do that in a journal, you can do that on a blanket in your back yard, you can do that on a rock bed near a lake on a windy day. You can, if you try really hard, even do it in the car line while you wait to pick up your kids. Wherever you choose to take it to the mat, you will learn what I’ve learned: You can’t be vulnerable with others until you are vulnerable with yourself. You can only stuff that shit for so long before it screws up your brain chemicals. So, admit to yourself that you are scared. Admit that you are lonely, you are anxious, you were hurt by that comment or devastated by that divorce. Admit that you feel these things – and then tell your soul “thank you” for allowing you to be brave in that moment.
  3. Give yourself the gift of permission. In his book “Permission To Feel” author and researcher, Marc Brackett, writes that you have to name it to heal it. So many of us say “I feel like you don’t love me anymore” or “I feel like we are going in two different directions”. Here’s the thing: You can’t ‘feel like’ something. Those statements above in bold? Those statements reveal absolutely nothing about your feelings. Let me rephrase them for you and let’s see how much more impactful they are:

    “I feel like you don’t love me anymore” becomes “I feel lonely because we never talk about important things anymore. I feel unloved.”

    “I feel like we were going in two different directions” becomes “I feel left out. You aren’t sharing your thoughts with me and I feel alone in this relationship.”

    See what I did there? You ‘feel’ emotions. You can’t ‘feel like’ anything. Ugh. I know, right? The second is so much harder because you actually have to give a name to that emotion locked inside. But…I promise you that your relationships with your home team will become so much more intimate. I promise. I ain’t gonna lie though…it will be uncomfortable. It will require you to actually voice what you feel. But again…it is so much better. So. Much. Better.

    So. In summary, as we approach the season of giving…how about you make a deal with a few members of your home team and let them know you are going to be more forthright in naming your feelings. Warn them ahead of time, and buy some peanut butter whiskey* because it might get ugly-cry serious. But once you do it with them it becomes easier to do with….I don’t know 68 people who read this blog and don’t even really know me? Hmmm. There is that.

    I’m curious though: What scares you? Have you told anyone on your home team this? What delights your soul? Do they know this about you? You don’t have to spill the beans about your entire life’s story, but come on…you can tell them that a bottle of wine and a box of Milk Duds makes you feel loved. That ain’t too hard, is it? As always, I’m leaving you with a song by one of my favorite people on the planet, Bobby Jo Valentine. I know you aren’t listening to these because my blog stats tell me so 😉 but can you please take a moment to click this link and like his song? You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

    *Oh, and PS…the only PB whiskey you should buy is Skrewball because the rest of them taste like shit. You’re welcome.

Five Lessons From Loss

*Dear Readers: I’m actually in the middle of the woods around Pomme De Terre lake on a two day, self-care retreat so this was posted before I left. If you never hear from me again, I was eaten by a bear or cut up by a redneck. The good news is that I planned ahead for this.

This weekend marks the eleventh anniversary of my father’s passing. I’ve watched many people go in my life – my brother at the age of 27 was probably the most traumatic – but my Dad’s death was probably the point where I really steered off course.

Or did I?

As I’ve written before, I believe that no matter how many times I screw up, the Universe will find a way to auto-correct my life.

I’ve come to learn in my life that ‘grief’ isn’t just reserved for the dying. You can grieve relationships, friendships, job loss, a death of a dream…and it’s okay. Please give yourself permission to feel grief, no matter how judgemental our society is about this.

For years I viewed grief as the worst possible emotion one can ever feel. That’s because grief isn’t linear. It’s a circular jumbled mess that cannot be self regulated. To this day, a song can trigger me and I’m right back in the middle of Target, listening to a relative tell me by phone that a beloved cousin had lost his fight with cancer. I truly believe we all must travel a path marked by both joyful and unpleasant life experiences in order to grow but grief is such an insidious emotion because it laughs in the face of logic.

Right around the seven-year mark of Dad’s death, I realized that feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to bring him back and instead, I began to ponder how this experience had changed me. I write about that today, and how I’ve learned – through the death of a beloved cousin, two uncles, my brother and my father as well as two divorces and a few friendships lost – that grief is an emotion given to us to teach us to view life differently.

  • Grief teaches us that life is unpredictable. Some things can be put off…going to the grocery store, or taking a weekend trip. But life can happen when we least expect it so it is important to “get your affairs in order”. I’m not going to lie to you here: I’m obsessed about this. I recently finished my estate plan, and while I don’t have a lot, I know I’ve done what I can to prepare for my death and keep my loved ones safe. Essentially, ask yourself: What do I want my loved ones to do with me if I unexpectedly exit the world? This conversation, while morbid, really will give your family a sense of comfort. The fewer decisions they have to make when you aren’t there to assist will lessen the stress.
  • Grief teaches us to appreciate more. I could sit around all day feeling angry or sad that I don’t have a brother, or a father, or that I’ll be the one who has to make all the decisions when my mother passes away. Or…I can greet my son each morning with gratefulness, spend time with my friends, and share coffee with people I admire. I guarantee my brother isn’t sitting ‘up there’ complaining that I’m not moping around fifteen years later because he’s not here on Earth. To think he is, and that somehow not feeling super sad all day long means I miss him less, is nothing less than ridiculous.
  • Grief reinforces life is short. As cliché as it is…whether it is 24 hours or 24 years…it goes by quickly. I swear just yesterday I gave birth to my son. In reality…he just turned eight. It seems like a few years ago I thought I’d never recover after the death of my father. Today I realize that eleven years have passed. I’ve gotten divorced, remarried, given birth, gotten divorced again, developed a successful career, purchased a home, and watched my (ex) step-children grow from awkward teenagers into beautiful young adults who serve our country and raise children. Life continues after the death of a loved one. You can choose to continue with it and be grateful or you can choose to stop and wait to die yourself. Either way, you’ll get what you desire. (This, by no means, negates your grief. Just keep swimming.)
  • Grief emphasizes the importance of attentiveness and mindfulness. Do you realize that the American culture is the only one that uses the catch-phrase “killing time”? Grief teaches us that wasting time – or killing it – is a terrible use of a valuable resource. Be attentive and mindful at all times. You’ll be able to hear that another’s anger is really stress manifesting. You’ll notice the difference in cries from your child. Most importantly, you’ll realize that the Universe doesn’t waste time…who are we to get that privilege? Something miraculous is happening at every moment of everyday. If you aren’t too busy swimming in unnecessary consumption of time-sucking endeavors (reading my blog not included!), you might just realize that each day you are on the planet is a gift not to be squandered.
  • Grief reminds us to honor oneself. The first five or six years after my brother’s death, I was pretty self-destructive on/around the anniversary date. Whether I was drinking or working, I realized I was just postponing the grief and hoping it would just ‘go away’. As this weekend is the anniversary of my father’s passing, I’m in a cabin reading a book. I’m giving myself permission to cry, to write about it, or to simply take a walk and think of good times. Honestly, I’m just grateful to be alive. After all the stupid stuff I’ve done in my 49 years on this planet, trust me, that’s a miracle in and of itself. I actually recognized Grief settling in a few days ago because I really just want to been alone and sleep. So, I plan to honor that. I will rest. I will reflect. I will not apologize for wanting my time alone. Coffee on a porch with a small fire – Ahem, that I built – is how I plan to honor his life. I will sit here, bundled up in my flannel pajamas wrapped in a blanket, sipping my coffee while thanking Grief for teaching me to love more, plan more, and simply ‘be’ more.

I am going to be transparent and tell you that I don’t have any questions for you to ponder today. I want to be reverent and I understand this post may stir up emotions for you that require time to process. I will, though, leave you with this song and tell you that whatever you are feeling today: It’s okay. Feel it. That’s how you heal.

I love you. Take care. Hug more.

Permission to be Brave

Last week I got a text from a friend which read:

“I wanted to tell you that I’m proud of you. I know it may sound cheesy but I believe you are doing a great job with [your son] and took a brave step in choosing to use better coping skills.  Love ya!”

Normally I’d think this friend was just being mushy (she’s that kind of friend), but in light of our conversations I know she was giving me permissionPermission for what?, you might wonder. Permission to be braveChoosing better coping skillsraising my son in ways some don’t agree, and working a job that allows me to place work and life in alignment is not always easy to explain. Even those closest to me don’t understand why I do what I do the way I do it. I could be making more money with a title to boot…I’ve been pushed to do just that recently…but I don’t want to. I want to have time to learn and grow myself not some revenue line on someone else’s budget.

Lately my mind has been wondering off to past conversations, piecing little bits of insight together as if they were a puzzle. And, as with all puzzles – at least, in MY puzzle boxes – when I finally get to the end…there is always one piece missing. A while ago I wrote about how a friend asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Normally this question centers on ones job or a field of choice. Since I was already doing what I wanted to do with my career, I was a bit confused and even a little irritated by the question.

When I finally dug that question out of the back of my brain last week, I thought about it in a difference context. What do I want to be when I grow up? In other words: How would I want people to remember me when I’m six feet under the ground.

I want to be remembered as being someone who was brave. I want to be unstoppable. I want to be remembered as the kind of person who changed lives because I refused to throw my hands in the air and go along with the crowd. If you, too, want this for your life, I’ve got five tips to get started. They aren’t always going to be fun to employ. But, as I tell my step-daughter all the time: “It’s not brave if you’re not scared.”

1) Forget what others think. I know this is easier said than done. But if you are going to be the captain of your ship then you need to realize that both the captain of the Titanic and the Santa Maria were brave. The outcomes were completely different between the two, obviously, and well…you have to prepare that this may be the case for you, as well. Which leads to my next point.

2) Don’t be afraid to fail. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. Many people in our history learned numerous times how not to do something – they never considered themselves a failure (think Thomas Edison and the lightbulb.) I have started three businesses in my life. One was a huge success and the other two paid the bills…barely. I never considered myself a failure with the latter two. I simply learned better ways to do it next time I’m brave enough to jump into another business venture.

3) Buck the system. Many of my favorite and most admired mentors live without television, cars, and many homeschool or unschool their children. I used to think these souls were just weird. Now I think “They have so much that I want”. I’m making changes each day to get to where they’ve led me. The thing is, if I go down this route, then I (most likely) will be someone another thinks is just weird. And, I don’t really care. That’s how I know I’m braver than I used to be.

4) Always (always) trust your gut. Many don’t know how to do this. Many are afraid of their own higher self’s direction. Many ignore the signs and many live lesser lives because of it. In order to trust your gut, you must be willing to stop listening to those you love sometimes and start getting quiet enough to hear your own inner voice. This isn’t easy. In fact, I find in a world where people are full of opinions and ‘best intentions’ this is really one of the hardest steps of all.

5) Be willing to lose (or give up) everything to start over. I remember in 2004 my (then) husband prayed for change. He felt strongly that something drastic needed to happen in order for him to be happy. Within 24 months he lost his job, his home and later, his marriage to me. And yes, if you met him today, I’d say he is the happiest he has ever been with a less stressful job, a smaller home in the snow-country of New England, a new wife and two beautiful children. Sometimes you have to lose big in order to really win.

Leo Babauta calls this ‘burning the farm‘. I don’t necessarily believe that my fifth recommendation is always necessary in the journey of being unstoppable. I do, however, believe that the Universe always finds ways to auto-correct itself and if steps 1-4 aren’t enough to get you on a road of bravery, then recommendation number five might not be a choice. I find that being proactive keeps me from usually having to have fate step in and wreak havoc with life in order to strap me with a life lesson without my consent.

As usual, here’s your song and I’m leaving you with some questions:

Are you willing to be weird? How about brave? What are you doing to make sure you get the life you were destined to have? Drop a line in the comments to tell me how you have been brave…because if you have done it once, you can do it again!

I love you. Take care. Hug more.

Lowering The Bar

Saturdays are days I cherish. Thanks to COVID I don’t feel the inclination to accept every invitation and I can simply just relax. I’ve really done a good job since my nine day trip of penciling in my ‘me-time’. It’s important to recharge – and as an introvert, I need more time than most. Almost everything works better if you unplug it sometimes – and that includes yourself.

I began embracing the ‘simple life’ back in 2011. I’ve lost my way a time or two, but I have learned to just walk out of chaos or clean out a closet when things get crazy. Reclaiming and embracing a simplified, minimalist lifestyle have allowed me to declare Saturdays a day of rest.  Complete and utter rest.  I try very hard to plan absolutely nothing but relaxation activities on Saturdays and it has been so wonderful.

I always start my Saturdays with a few blog reviews, a post or two on Fake-Book and. most importantly, copious amounts of coffee. I sit, with the magical dark elixir of life in hand, as other bloggers and those with similar interests teach me about life while assisting me in developing my own path into simplicity. (I want to point out that ‘simplicity’ is less about minimalism and more about boundaries. I didn’t always know this. And I promise to swing back to this topic to sometime this month – but just not now.)  I’m a huge fan of Becoming MinimalistZen Habits, and Miss Minimalist. I encourage everyone to check these sites out because these people have been my teachers for almost a decade.

Today, by accident – which is usually the case – I stumbled across The Happiness Project which I had forgotten all about. I felt connected to the author when she said that ‘lowering your standards’ and ‘lowering the bar’ are not the same thing.  This concept, coupled with a conversation I had with a good friend yesterday, helped me formulate my thoughts for the day.

First, if you want to understand the difference, then please read Gretchen’s post, so I don’t have to repeat all she said. I agree with her 100% so my post today is about the simple application of such thoughts. Here are few areas to which I have decided to lower the bar in my own life…

1) Religion. It’s been awhile since I was on a dating site, but there’s always this awkward pause when filling out the form. Christian? Agnostic? Spiritual but not Religious. Geesh. There really should be a box for “Who the fuck knows anymore” because honestly, living in the bible belt amidst a sea of Red Ridiculousness is enough to make me say ”Fuck the whole damn thing.” So, I guess I just answered my own question: Spiritual but not Religious. I’m sure I’m inviting hostile comments here, but here’s my truth:  I feel closer to God, more connected to Spirit and more confident/better about myself since I stopped going to church.  I can’t explain it, I don’t understand it, and my grown-up mind is okay with it.. (My 30-year-old Self would have struggled with this.) I’m not saying everyone should abandon church…I’m just saying that for me lowering the bar in this area means fellowship with others I consider spiritual with totally commitment free Sunday mornings. Bonus.

2) Dinner (or any meal for that matter). Why haven’t I posted a profile on Match yet? Well, aside from making myself a promise to not get into any relationship for awhile, do you know how hard it is to get a date at ‘almost-50’ when you have to admit you don’t like to cook? *Rolls Eyes* You’d think in 2020 that grown-ass men could just be okay with this. Most are not. As Gretchen states “An imperfect meal that I serve is better than a perfect meal I never serve.”  I personally don’t even judge my ‘dinner’ of an apple with peanut butter or a bowl of Cheerios imperfect. Not making dinner frees up time to read. So, have you really ‘lowered the standards’ when you swapped out trading your time to engage in something you enjoy? Yeah. No.

3) Exercise. Okay, folks…’almost 50′ isn’t old, but I got to tell you that the 25 year old, 113 pound personal trainer I hired a month ago didn’t help me much.  In fact, I think she tried to kill me a few times.  I’m not a natural born couch potato, but I’m no athlete either.  Instead of high impact crazy exercise routines six times a week…I’m aiming for 40 minutes of enjoyable activity 4 times a week.  Enjoyable activity to me is yoga, hiking, biking, and paddling a boat. I’m also one of those weirdo girls who likes strength training…but I’m not going to bust my butt at CrossFit six days a week.  I’m just not gonna do it.

4) Relationships. Instead of being all things to all people, I’m going to just be myself – the messy, outspoken, kind, and generous conglomeration that is I.  I know that seems nuts that anyone would think they just couldn’t be themselves…but I had been conditioned to believe that being honest about my true self was somehow unattractive. So, I hid. BUT…in order to lower the bar I will just be myself and those who can’t handle it, well, then I’ll check them off the ‘people to call when life gets hard’ list and move them to the ‘Hey, the bands playing tonight…come on out’ list.  It’s not calloused…its just simple math.  I don’t have the time or energy to exert when it comes to making anyone else happy.  Oprah said this happens when a woman moves toward her 50’s.  I thought she just said that stuff to sell magazines.  Now I kind of  believe it.

5)  Entertaining. When you come to my house you may have to bring your own lawn chair.  You may have to eat your dinner while sitting on the sofa.  The silverware doesn’t match…and I only have 6 plates so you may have to eat off throwaway plates.  There are nights I drink wine from a mason jar and eat my Chinese food directly from the cute little red and white box-thingy. Get over it.  I have.

So, that’s been a review of life applicable lowering the bar situations in my life.  I’ll leave you with a song (can’t let you down, now can I?) and also with some questions:

What are three ‘things’ you are doing because you feel you have to do them? How come you feel that way? Can you try not doing them and see where that takes you? How have you let others influence your choices? And back to my personal favorite: Where are you saying ‘Yes’ when you really mean to say “No”?

I love you. Take care. Hug more.

Photo credit:

My Son, My Teacher

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life collecting letters after my name, and while I realize knowledge is power, as it turns out, the MBA I earned (on top of an already useless graduate degree) wasn’t the most educational experience of my life. In September of 2012 I become a late-in-life mother and while I’ve studied with some pretty successful people during my career, it has been my son who has taught me the most about how I approach work.

The concept of “work/life” balance is only meant for those who try to separate out the different 8 hour segments of their life. I don’t believe in work/life balance. I believe in work and how it incorporates directly into your life. In other words, if your work doesn’t mesh with your lifestyle or is incongruent with your value system – you should find another job. Yes. It really is that simple.

It is not a secret I hit a bit of a rocky patch recently. I accepted a new job, flew out to Arizona for training, and three weeks later the entire world was sent home. Trying to juggle new job responsibilities coupled with being a single mom, and worrying about how to get my kid to pass the first grade (turns out it isn’t that hard) was very stressful. Thanks to COVID, what was suppose to be a remote work-from-home-job became ‘being at home, while working, in the middle of a global crisis – oh and you’re a teacher now, too’. Utter fucking chaos. I promise you. I almost 5150’ed myself just to get a nap.

When my supervisor and I met recently about the upcoming year and goals, I had to be honest with him. I simply said “Is it enough to just log into my queue, do a phenomenal job, and clock out at the end of the day? I don’t have the energy to study for any PMP certifications, review and start on a management track or usurp you for your job.” He totally got me and said “Absolutely. I’ll put your goal as ‘Stay alive’. “ (Yay! for good bosses).

I do like having my son home with me, though, even if I have to force him to sit next to me and log into an app to do math. Just watching him at play has made me rethink my working style – but also, maybe it’s my age. I don’t know. I don’t care. One day, I watched him in action and realized he really does have some key managerial skills. And so, I share with you today the five things I have learned about work from watching my son.

1) Focus on one thing at a time. My son has the attention span of an ant. But, when he plays – he plays with one toy at a time. When he’s finished, he moves on to the next one. I watched him for a few hours and learned he doesn’t play with the same toy again until he’s gone through the entire group. In other words, he doesn’t bounce from one toy to the other and back again. He exhausts the ‘daily life’ of one toy before getting the next. Research continues supports the fact that multitasking is truly ineffective and produces bad results. To excel at work, stop multi-tasking and focus on one task at a time. I recently started doing this again (I fell off the wagon when I was a people-pleaser). It’s a hard habit to break, but if you remain diligent you’ll be happier and more productive.

2) If it isn’t fun, you won’t do it. My little guy never argues when he gets ‘tablet time’. He loves his tablet. What he does dislike is bedtime. He fights me every time I try to get him to settle down for bed. Suddenly he’s hungry. He needs a drink. He wants me to read him a book – even though he is eight and reads at a fourth grade level (Ahem…those are my genes). As it turns out, I have some things I love to do at work and other things I do not love to do. Job descriptions aside, we really should find ways to have our staff working 90% of the time on things they love to do. That way, everyday is like tablet time.

3) Do the thing you dislike most first thing in the morning. My kid hates to wear pants so I make him get up, go pee, and put pants on first thing. But, once finished, he settles in and the rest of the day is a breeze. For me, I rarely check email first thing in the morning (it is a distraction that takes hours from which I can never seem to recover). So, I check the ticket queue first, plan my day and then finally log into email about 10 a.m. to see if anything is on fire…and then I don’t look at it again until after lunch.

4) Taking a break makes you a happier person. Ahhh, what I wouldn’t do for a nap right now. You, too, huh? I need a proverbial ‘nap’ once in a while. This means, I step away from my desk and my phone. I silence the email ‘ding’ on my mobile devices, and I get into nature. I’ve started paying a sitter once a week on Thursday nights, whether I have anything planned or not. I typically do, though, because that’s my yoga night. As a side note, my son and I kick off every weekend on Friday at 5 pm by listening to this song on YouTube. We’ve done it every week since he was a baby. It really helps me break the “work connection” for the weekend. (Plus puts a pretty snazzy tune in your head for quite a while. You can thank me later.)

He's got it figured out
This is my baby…eight years ago. Man I miss those days.

5) You don’t have to be friends with everyone. My son is 8 and he’s on the Autism Spectrum. I sometimes get jealous because he has an excuse to be an asshole to people…that’s just the way some ASD folks are (think Sheldon Cooper). He just doesn’t seem to be that interested in other people unless they are of like minds. He finds his tribe. Being remote requires more effort, but I’ve sought out my own tribe and we have virtual happy hours sometimes and talk about the others. But, back to my son…I seriously believe he truly gets that some people are simply taking up space and he doesn’t go out of his way to engage people he doesn’t like. I love this idea! It has been extremely freeing for me. Even though I, too, am an introvert (an INTJ to be exact!) I still feel the need to entertain everyone and engage everyone and chat it up with everyone. No more. Observing him has allowed me to give myself permission To. Just. Be. Me. I’ll wait to see if anyone wants to entertain me for a change. And then politely turn down the invitation in lieu of a glass of wine and a book.

And, folks, fair warning: I’m taking some much needed time off BUT I’ve scheduled some posts in advance. My novel, Train Whistles, needs my attention – I need to rewrite the ending – so if my posts don’t feel like they are in the vein of my normal stuff, please keep reading.

I don’t have any questions for you to ponder today, but I will leave you with a song. I hope you have a great evening!

The Joy of Noise Canceling

My son received some noise-canceling headphones in the mail yesterday because he’s really agitated by loud noises and background sounds. These aren’t the type that allows you to listen to music while the noise around you is silenced. These are the type that simply cancels or softens the outside world. I tried them on for fun and they are glorious.

In the vein of being open and honest, I’m admitting: I’ve kinda been a 24-hour tizzy but I’m happy to report I’ve gotten up, dusted off, and moved on. To be transparent, I recently had a conversation with someone dear to me that didn’t end so well. And, in the past, I would have stewed over this for weeks – maybe even months. But I’ve shifted in the last ninety days to a place where fear doesn’t rule my universe – love does – and that love is mostly for myself. So, when I was awakened around 3 AM this morning – the Witching Hour – by a negative voice, I decided to employ what I’ve learned recently through yoga and prayer. In the past, I would have replayed that conversation over and over but I have learned that steeping in the negative waters of other people’s opinions is about as unhealthy as it gets. No. What I’ve learned is to affirm what is right about me and it started when I took a nine-day trip alone.

It occurred to me on that trip that a phrase as simple “Why are you like this?” could gaslight me into feeling bad about who I am. And, I realize now, that this phrase wasn’t said in a quizzical, ‘tell me more’ kind of way. It was cutting and judgmental. And it was meant to create self-doubt and control me. And I heard it over and over for two years. On my trip, I wrote in my journal: “What if I’ve been asking myself the wrong question. What if, instead of “Why am I like this? What the fuck is wrong with me?” I started asking myself “Why am I like this? What the heck is so amazing about me?” You might be surprised at how magnificent the difference in reframing that one sentence can make.

While I’m on the subject of silencing the voices in your head, you should also be aware that actually silencing the voices of other people can be the best thing for you, ever. Yes, I’m an INTJ and a Virgo. In unhealthy states, I can get into my own head and I can isolate. I battle generalized anxiety disorder (which on stressful days doesn’t feel very generalized at all). And some people LOVE me when I’m in that state because it gives their weaknesses and their insecurities a place to feed. Like…I don’t know…parasites. BUT, in a healthy state, I’m a fucking rockstar – so much so that Areosmith wishes they could be me. In other words, in a healthy state, I have been known to influence others to stay alive, to leave bad marriages, to go get that new job, to sell decrepit old buildings, and buy houses. If I can do that for other people…dare I say this…I can absolutely do this for myself. THAT is who I am at my core, not some quarter-century old version of the girl who is just finding her way.

So, today I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you: Like building your body’s physical endurance, silencing negative voices requires daily exercise and absolutely requires you to enlist a team of personal trainers. It’s only bad if you hate going to the gym. Going to the mattresses and silencing the negative self talk can be just as difficult as it is to do 200 push ups. But, folks, it is also good because with your own inner work and the support you can quickly emerge from negativity. In the last few days my team of trainers reminded me of several things about myself that, if left to my own devices, I might not have realized and stopped mid-push up. Here’s what I know about myself and I invite you to make your very own Rockstar-list of accomplishments/traits as we go along:

I set goals and I achieve them. It doesn’t take me nearly twenty years to achieve a simple goal, like earning a bachelor’s degree. In twenty years I earned a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, built several businesses and founded a non-profit organization that operated for four years in the black. And I did this while working – sometimes more than one job at a time, and in the last eight years, while also raising a child. In other words, I get shit done. Why? Because I’m smart and driven. And, yes, I may have made mistakes thirty years ago, but guess what: So. Did. Every. Human. On. The. Planet. That’s how we grow.

I seek out mentors of like-mind. When I want to learn how to do something or I want to gain more skills, I not only find the person who is doing it…I find the person who does it best in my circle. I could have learned to shoot a gun from any redneck in Webster County. I decided that my friend, Bill, who did three tours in Afghanistan and my friend, Mike, who was a detective are best able to teach me to shoot and help me choose a gun. I don’t want to kill a Opossum or scare away a cat. I want to take down the enemy. You don’t take down enemies if you roll in the dirt with the pigs. Additionally, if you want to be an expert in something I can’t stress this enough: Don’t take life advice from someone who can’t get their shit together themselves. Gaslighting happens in all forms and can come from people we least expected it to. So, the next time someone who doesn’t invest in themselves tries to give you career advice…walk away. The next time someone who can’t settle into a relationship because they are always looking for a way out of their own loneliness tries to tell you how much time it should take to grieve a lost relationship…walk away. The next time someone who proves time and time again that they cannot let the past lie wants to drag you back there…walk away.

I believe the Universe is always looking for ways to support me. There will always be people and situations that give way to keeping you in the past or broken. Always. If you are looking for someone to remind you of the ways you have fucked up…you won’t have to look very far. There are toxic people everywhere. Toxicity looks like this: “You’re broken and in need of rescuing. Let me help you” as they stand with their foot on the back of your neck. So, look for the helpers. Look for the people who say “You can rescue yourself from this…but I’ll carry that for a minute if you want to unload some of it.” Additionally, you have to believe that when your thoughts are aligned with what is best for your higher good, that things will fall away to make room for the good that is about to enter. I sat in the parking lot of my son’s school yesterday cursing “I fucking hate being a single parent. I’m ready for that one person who wants to commit to us and wants our life to be better.” And I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that person is going to show up. I made my list of standards and what I want in a relationship and I’m no longer settling for the broken souls who drag me down with them. And because I’m actively taking responsibility for my life and changing for the better, I know the Universe has my back.

I seek out sources for the truth. I have an internal shit detector that, when I’m thinking clearly, can smell a rancid person from a mile away. And my advice to you, if it feels bad…it is bad. Don’t shove that shit under the rug hoping it gets better. It doesn’t. And when you start digging for the truth, you will find it. And it will come from the least expected person. A person who is willing to say “I gotta tell you…as much as I {fill in the blank}, I have witnessed the same thing. You are not crazy.” Look for the helpers. Look for the truth. Seek and you will find it.

So – as I close today, I ask you this:

How are you silencing the voices in your head? How can you change the inner dialogue by asking not “Why are you like this?” but instead “What is so fucking awesome about you?” What are the things Aerosmith wishes they had in common with the rockstar that is you?

Oh…and here is your song today 🙂 You can thank me later.

Doorway To Forgiveness

In the middle of last week I signed up for an online writing class where, for five days in a row, the instructor sends a audio file with a guided meditation and some writing prompts. It sounded intriguing to me and it was free. Be brave, right?

So today when the email arrived I settled in for a cup of coffee and some breath work. With my notepad on my lap and my mind clear from a good night’s rest, I ‘took’ my first class. Afterwards I thought to myself: This is perfect since the Yamas have ended. I’ll have something to tell the others. (You, dear reader, are the others.) And it was exactly that: Perfect.

First, can I just start with the importance of breath work? I have battled anxiety for most of my adult life and have always kinda known about breath work, but seriously. With yoga, the meditations, and now this…I cannot stress enough the importance of coming back to the breath. There’s a calming nature that arrives three breaths in that I simply cannot explain right now. I am not known for being calm and for two decades I have skirted the edge of being good at coming back to the breath. I’m just now starting to feel the positive side effects of being present.

Anywho…the class started off with a reading of the poem by Mary Oliver about prayer. I think this is such a great place for me to start because I’ve recently gotten really into reading more poets, learning that poems don’t have to be sing-songy and rhymey. One of my favorite poets is Zachry K. Douglas and he’s a beautiful mess! I love this about him because I like messy people. I’ve even started writing some of my own poems, which are essentially just mini-conversations I have with myself or words I wish I could say to another – but to me, they are poems, and that’s really all that matters. On this day, the poem by Oliver also reminded me that prayers, like poems, do not have to be elaborate to be important.

Next came the writing prompts with six words: Doorway, Few, Elaborate, Stone, Iris, Voice. I sat for five minutes with these words, breathing, allowing myself a moment to shuffle through the word deck mentally, finally stopping and pulling out Doorway.

So here we are, you and I, this morning standing at the doorway of my heart. I’m aware there are several metaphorical rooms I can walk into this morning, but the doorway to the place where ‘forgiveness’ resides is where I want to take us. I’m very much aware that I’ve been holding on to past hurts and traumas, but I’m also going to give myself a huge fucking pat on the back for all the work I’ve done since June to overcome those by doing a lot of internal – and external – work to get back to who I am at my core.

I am going to skip all the nonessential details about who hurt me and when or what happened to build up the resentment and unforgiveness – because I don’t think any of those stories are really relevant, nor are they helpful. I want to take you into the room, now that it’s tidier, so I can share what I did to clean it up.

The first area in need of dusting was forgiving myself. I knew I had started forgiving others because as I went down the list of names there was less emotional attachment to who they are in my life and what they represent. I also want to be clear here: I personally don’t think that ‘forgiveness’ is all lovey-dovey “let’s celebrate holidays together now”. I think forgiveness can also be ‘Meh. Them.’ as you swipe left on the “People You Might Know” list of life. I’m at a place where I can do that and this is a long time coming, friends.

But you know who I just could not forgive? Yep. You guessed it. Me. So I stopped focusing on how I could forgive those other people and started focusing on forgiving myself. And, it’s working. It really is working, guys. So – I hope by sharing some of these you’ll be able to make some minor (or, dare I say, major) moves toward forgiving yourself.

  1. I took control of my finances. Now, I have a good job that pays me well and I have few needs. One would say my finances are a no-brainer: More income than expenses. But here’s the deal: In the past, I’ve cared more about others than I did about myself. So much so that I accepted lies and allowed myself to be manipulated into spending money I earned on things that were not in my best interest, but, rather in the interest of others. I paid child support for children that weren’t mine, I paid debts that weren’t mine, I didn’t save for my future. But, in 2019, I decided to get my shit together and stop talking about all the financial mistakes I had made in the past. Today, I can say proudly that I finalized my estate plan, raised my credit score 140 points (yes, this is fucking true!) and reached a financial goal I set in January three months ahead of schedule. This one area of focus empowered me more than I realized it would, but also, helped me to enter a state of self-forgiveness. In other words, I forgave myself for giving away my power – and my money – for nearly a decade to people who just didn’t deserve it.
  2. I scheduled a photo shoot. Now, I’m not a high-maintenance babe to begin with. Jeans – okay, leggings – and t-shirts are my go-to wardrobe 95% of the time. But, folks, with this pandemic, it had gotten bad. I stopped fixing my hair, couldn’t find my make-up bag for two weeks, and stopped caring in general about ‘preparing the surgical field‘. Before you go on an armchair-therapist-tangent about my mental health – I wasn’t depressed – I just didn’t fucking care. The photoshoot, though, empowered me because I saw who I could be from the view of the lens. And I’m not just talking about hair and make up here. The woman in those photographs looked healthy and happy. She looks a bit mysterious and confident. And the boudoir photos*? She. Is. Sexy. And…she is me. I am her (I am she?) Anyway. I may not put make up on to go to the store, but I do at least run a brush through my hair and put a swagger in my step more than I had been. This simple investment is linked to forgiving myself for allowing others to dictate how I should look in order to be beautiful in their eyes. I get all gussied up for me now. And that’s fun. (*the irony here is that the boudoir session was scheduled so I could give a Christmas present to the man I loved…and then we broke up. The moral though: I did it anyway, proving that I am important to me.)
  3. I write. I use my writing as therapy (so thank you for reading!) but also…I love to write. I’ve been writing stories since I was eight years old. But, I allowed outside voices to stop me and I put other people’s needs first so I never carved out time to write. A journalism teacher in high school silenced me for years because of her harsh criticism. Later in life, I didn’t protect my time and gave it to others so their needs were met, betraying myself my very own creativity. My talent and my desire to be a better writer is important to me. So, I started protecting my time and I forgave myself for putting the needs of other’s in front of my own in this case, as well. The ‘little’ blog posts take about 3 hours/per post. Additionally, because of my lovely daughter’s feedback (Not really my actual daughter, but my ex-husband’s daughter – who I love dearly) I decided last week to turn one of my short stories into a novel because the lifetime relationship in the story is messy…and beautiful…and romantic. (Who couldn’t use a little more romance, right? And, in this story – BONUS – I can control the outcome – which I can’t in real life.) The point: All this writing requires me to make time for what is important.

So, to bring it back around for us today as we close out: The doorway into my forgiveness room was restricted because of the internal clutter I had stacked against the frame. Clearing the messy derangement – the internal dialogues, the thoughts and opinions of others, the lack of faith and trust in myself – was just the starting point. Now that the doorway is clear, I think I can start to invite others in, always remembering that this doorway can also be an exit. I have the power to ask any one, any thing, any thought that no longer serves me or my higher good to leave. There are some people I’d like to invite back into the room, but I can’t control whether or not they accept the invitation. To be honest, I’m afraid to open the door because I’m afraid they won’t enter. So maybe the next metaphorical room I need to start cleaning is the one where my fear of rejection lives. Alas, another time another blog.

I’m leaving you this morning with a great song by Darius Rucker (Hey! Hootie!) and a few questions:

What doorways do you need to open? Which do you need to close? Can you carve out some time to invest in yourself instead of scrolling through people’s feeds on Facebook? Can you forgive someone who hurt you and realize that you don’t really get the chance ever again to make ‘new’ old friends? Can you forgive yourself?

Love you guys. Take care. Hug more.