Be Brave

IMG_0833Happy new year! Yes, I know technically I’m fourteen days late with this sentiment. To be fair though, my birthday is February 9, so I’ve always considered that to be the first day of my new year.  So in my reality, I am four weeks early!

This year as I’ve done in the past few years, instead of setting a lame resolution that’s destined to fall flat, I am focusing on a mantra: Be Brave. I didn’t choose this mantra because I am necessarially afraid, but to remind myself to think bigger, to be bolder and to let go of control.

Letting go of control, might not seem related to being brave, but for me it really is. I like to feel in control of my life whether or not I truly am is another story. I want to know what’s coming around the corner. I’ll read the last page of the book first. I’ll peek at my horoscope just to see if there is some glimpse of what the future might hold for me. Waiting is hard. Not having control of a particular outcome is hard. Asking for help or relying on someone else for something is hard.

I want to know. As a Christian, I’ve been taught that God has a plan for me. He knows me by name and knows what I will choose before I do myself. If I relinquish control and my will over to Him, I will be rewarded. I want to believe that. I want to let go, yet my will to know holds me back.  If there is already a plan and God knows what I am going to do before I do, what’s the point then? Why can’t He cut to the choice and just tell me what that plan is? Do I really have free-will or am I destined to be someone determined before I was even born?

Life is so random. I had no control over being born and to who my parents and family are. Happenstance placed me in midwest Ohio to the family that loved me and raised me.  I’ve been out-of-control from the moment I was conceived. Yet the choices I’ve made have taken me down different paths. Each decision I made takes me in a new direction. The words I am writing in this post are different than they would be if I had written the yesterday when I first pondered writing this post or tomorrow had I procrastinated writing yet another day.

To me being brave means to finally release control and letting the suspense build. I can’t control the outcome, so I might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.  I will know what life has in store for me soon enough. Time marches on. I can either fight it or go with it. I’m choosing to go with it.

Every day is a new beginning.

Be brave. Be brave. Be brave.

What Do I Know?

img_4197As I pulled into the driveway this evening after finishing up a long work week, my youngest came running into the garage to greet me.  She stopped short, looked at me and asked, “Why are you so sad, Mommy?”

It seems lately she’s asked me that question a lot. I am quick to reassure her. “I’m not sad, sweetie. I’m just tired.”  That is not a lie. I am tired. Some days I think I was born tired. My mini-me follows me into the dining room and continues to ask me, “What’s wrong?”  Again I reiterate that “nothing’s wrong.”  Yet, she continues her interrogation, “Please tell me!” she pleads. I’m starting to feel exasperated with her and try my best to convince her that “I’m fine.”  I’m not sure if she bought it or not though, but she finally let it go – for now.

I look in the mirror and study my reflection. I guess I do look a bit sad. I think I might just have resting, “sad face” and I force myself to smile. If you’ve followed my blog, you know I am filled with gratitude. So much so I should be shining with happiness, but my little one is right. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I have been feeling a little down lately.  I’ve turned to comfort foods and sitting on my porch with a nice glass of wine. I go out with my brilliant friends and I laugh. Yet still somehow deep down, I still feel an aura of sadness and negative energy seems to follow me around. I’m not quite sure how to shake it off. Do I  push myself outside my comfort zone and socialize more or turn into myself and go into hibernation mode to recharge?  I haven’t decided yet.

I think it comes back to the overall feeling of discourse that we as a county are amidst. Where ever you turn there is another story of despair, conflict and meanness. I know without a doubt that absorbing myself in that world does bring me down. I like to read and know what’s going on in the world around me. I thrive on on knowledge and looking at topics from different points of view. I whole-heartedly believe that there is more than one right answer. What I find most distressful is the lack of respect we seem to have for each other. With the popularity of social media platforms, it is easier to call people names and write them off as “stupid,” than it is to really listen to what each other thinks. We’ve let the “agree to disagree” mindset die and tend to quickly cast others with differing ideas as nefarious or stupid. If I elimated name-calling, arrogance and condensation from Twitter, my feed would be very short.  It is so easy to get sucked on to that band wagon — no matter what “side” you are on. Why can’t “both/and” replace the “either/or” mentality? People would be much happier.

A few weeks ago I went to a Joe Crookston concert in a neighboring town. He commented on how music can connect and bring us together no matter our differences.  He began to playing the beginning notes of a song that  he said everyone would recognize no matter how old or young, Democrats and Republicans and anyone inbetween. He then began to sing “Amazing Grace.” Sure enough everyone in the audience knew the words and joined in. His words resonated with me. It wasn’t more than a week or two later that Ed Sheeran’s song “What Do I Know” came on the radio as I was driving my kids from one activity to the next.

The chorus of his song goes like this:

“We could change this whole world with a piano
Add a bass, some guitar, grab a beat and away we go
I’m just a boy with a one-man show
No university, no degree, but lord knows
Everybody’s talking ’bout exponential growth
And the stock market crashing and their portfolios
While I’ll be sitting here with a song that I wrote
Sing, love could change the world in a moment
But what do I know?
Love can change the world in a moment
But what do I know?
Love can change the world in a moment.”

Music tends to move me and this song really nailed what I’ve been feeling lately. Music is a common language that connects and makes that world a better place. A song or a melody or the first bars of a song can take your back in time and lift your spirit.

Maybe I am a sucker for the happy endings and the positive beat, but it feels a hell of a lot better when my daughter asks me “what are you smiling about?” This weekend I’m going to X out of the negative. I’m going to binge watch the Hallmark Channell, sit on my porch with the sun in my face, and ask Alexa to play upbeat music in the living room:)

How do you pull yourself out of the doldrums? I can always use more smiles.

Gratitude = Happiness

Chowing on nachos with a good friend of mine, she reminded me that when life gets you down to focus on what makes you happy.  (Thanks Stace).  She pointed out that I have a good job and can pay my bills,  my children are healthy,  I have a supportive family and friends as well as a warm house to come home to.  She’s absolutely right. I know she’s right. I just need that friendly reminder when that pity-party band starts playing in my head – LOL.

Focusing on random aches and pains, complaining about the dysfunction in our world,  stressing over the minor obstacles in my life and pining after what I don’t have, absolutlely brings me down.  Yes, I do need to set goals and make little changes and take action to acheive my dreams, but I need to do so in a positive way.  I need to make time for myself and let myself be me. So I’ve come back to gratitude.  Remembering what I am grateful for and reminding myself that I am enough and I have enough, genuinely leads to happy feelings and drives my blues away.

Beyond those obvious “BIG” things I am truly grateful for (my children, family, friends, health, home  and job), I played back the last few days in my life and found little things that I am grateful for…in no particular order:

  • Giving my cockapoo a shampoo and blow out at the self-serve dog bath with my teenager. He smells great and looks positively fluffy.
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  • Writing with a brand new gel pen. There’s next to nothing more satisfying than writing that first stroke with a new pen:)
  • Stocking up at the olive bar. (Need I say more?)
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  • Listening to the Coffee House channel.  Even though I am musically inept, listening to music while reading a good book lifts me up every time.
  • Eating a yummy waffle sandwich (Again, need I say more?)
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  • Watching an old movie in the dark. Just like a good book, a good movie is good for the soul (happy endings only, please).
  • Playing with a new fun photo editing app.
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  • Dropping my daughter off at her first job (brought back memories for another post).
  • Being reminded by my friends to keep on keeping on.
  • Writing this blog post and hopefully resonanting with other grateful people.

What random things are you grateful for? Please comment below.

Confessions of a FB Quiz Addict

20171003_222155000_iosYes, it’s true. I find it hard to scroll past one of those dumb quizzes that inevitable appear in my FaceBook feed without clicking on them. Because really, who wouldn’t want to know what the most popular words they use in their posts are or who has a secret crush on them?

I for one want to know what the color test tells me about my most dominant character trait is (kindness in case you are wondering) and I found out I’m an introvert by ordering a pizza (not that I didn’t know that already!)  Probably most compelling though are those quizzes that deem me a genius – you know the ones that proport to say that 90% of people don’t know the meaning of these 22 words or the like.  A smile of satisfaction crosses my lips when I find myself in the 10% that know them all. My fingers itch to press “Share” so my FB friends know how smart I really am (or not if you factor in the amount of time I waste taking these quizzes instead of sleeping) and they too can partake in the fun of quiz-taking. 90% of the time, my friends are also in that illustrious 10% of smarties. So, either I am surrounded by extra-intelligent friends or someother nefarious forces are in play. I tend to side with all my friends being on the genius level.

I am so lucky to live in such modern times that I get instant results for these pop-culture quizzes.  Back in the dark ages of my teenage years, I actually had to wait for my monthly issue of Seventeen to appear in my mailbox before I could indulge in such fun. I had to flip through those glossy pages to find the quiz that told me if that special guy was into me or not.  I had to carefully write down my answers on paper none-the-less and then assign a 1, 2, 3 or 4 to my corresponding A,  B, C or D answers. Finally, I had to exercise those math skills to get my total and find the answer to my burning questions.  Am I an optimist? a realist? a pessimist? Oh those insights gave me even more fodder to overthink the little things.

After completing the quiz of the month, I inevitably flipped to the last page to check out my horoscope for the month.  What did the stars have to say about my future?  Is an Aquarius woman compatiable with a Scorpio man? LOL. I confess though, I still click on those articles that appear in my feed. What do the psychics say about my career today? When will I meet my soul-mate? I admit I sometimes wish I had a crystal ball and could see which path I should take or avoid. I’ve even had a personal psychic reading just for the fun of it. Alas, even though she seemed to know things about my that I don’t know how she could her predictions have not come to fruition.

Last but not least, I had to skim over the “Top Ten” lists. Those are the best. You know the top 10 things a man is looking for in a woman or the top 10 things you should stop doing on a date or the top 10 things an older woman should never wear. I love how advice can be summed up in ten easy points.  Its no surprise that I also find myself clicking on these gems when insomnia grips me and I click on my Huffington Post app. You would not believe how many self-improvements can be made in 5 to 10 steps!

I’d like to say I’ll never waste my time again taking a quiz, reading my horoscope or checking out the latest top-10 advice column, but I know I will. I mean what else have a got to do at 2:00 AM when the dog is running around the yard and won’t come back in and I’m engulfed with a hot flash. I’m certainly not going to be able to fall back asleep. I apologize in advance if my sharing these distractions suck you in as well.

Anyone else give into the guilty pleasures of these time-wasters?

 

The Small Stuff

Scrolling through my Facebook feed the past few weeks and months, I understand completely why  people sign off social media never to return. Today I’m feeling nostolgic for the fun vacation pics, cute pet photos and those first day of school smiles. Lately it seems it’s filled more with stories of devastating natural disasters, political diatribes and name-calling.

I know these conversations are important to have.  The world is full of strife and unfairness. People are mean. People are judgemental and cruel. People want to be right and which means others have to be wrong (but does it really?). Injustice is real.  I’m not immune to that. Pretending these issues don’t exist or abstaining from the conversation does not make them go away.  Life is not a sun-shiney highlight reel.  Yet, people are also compassionate and empathetic. People are generous and kind. People can compromise and right wrongs.  All of this is true.

I am blessed and lucky to live in a country where these converstations can happen. We are free to disrespect and disagree with each other as much as we want. Our military protects our freedom to do just that.  Freedom is what makes America, America. The Bill of Rights guarantees these freedoms.  However, tonight I am tired of reading about people bitching about how others are exercising their freedoms in away that disrespects their freedoms. It’s a Catch 22. It seems we want to exercise freedom and label ourselves the land of the free so long as everyone expresses that freedom the way we want them to.

So tonight I am exercising my freedom to take a break from the heaviness and bleakness  from the contradictions and hypocracies and focus on the small stuff that made me smile today instead.

  1. A foggy sunrise as I took the trash to the curb.
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  2. I hot cup of coffee from the corner gas station (where all the clerks know my name).
  3. A text, an email, a tag, a like and a walk around the block with good friends (far and near).
  4. Creating chalk drawings on the driveway with my girls.20170925_230836663_ios.jpg
  5. Watching my daughter’s face light up as she put together her new clarinet and showed me how she can play a few notes.
  6. Noodle soup. Mmmm.
  7. Throwing popcorn in the air and laughing as my dogs take turns catching it in their mouths.
  8. Piles of folded clean laundry (that I didn’t have to fold!)
  9. Whimiscal clouds scattered across the sky as I drug the empty trash can back to the garage.
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I once read the key to happiness is focusing on what you are thankful for and those simple gifts that make you smile.  Serendipty those little surprises in life are right in front of your eyes if only you open them wide enough to see them. That’s what this blog is all about.

I think I might be on to something.

 

 

Small Steps

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Someday…

I once worked with a woman that moved across the country all by herself to live in a town where she knew no one. My cousin travelled Europe for a year all by himself.  I envy them both.

I remember in college going to a basketball game by myself once.  All my friends (yes I actually had friends and still do) were busy, but being a diehard fan I was determined I wouldn’t let that fact keep me from going. I distinctly remember sitting in the stands with thousands of cheering people around me and feeling more alone than ever. I thought how ironic (I think that is the right word but Alannis would know better) it was to feel so alone when I was surrounded by so many people.

It’s a feeling I’ve since tried to avoid.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy travelling or eating out – it’s the alone part I don’t like. I like to have someone to go with me. I’m one of those that takes two friends to the bathroom with me. When I’m travelling on my own for business, I typically eat room service or take out. For me the idea of walking into a restaraunt and sitting alone to enjoy a meal terrifies me.  I’m breaking into a cold sweat just thinking about it!

I’m not sure what it is about it that makes me so uneasy. When I think about it, staying home to avoid being seen alone doesn’t make much sense. If I’m at home alone does it mean I’m not really alone? (Is that akin to if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?) Sure I enjoy watching Netflix in my PJs, but I also like taking photos at the metropark, listening to live music and being served a delicious meal. I’ve missed out on so much in the past by limiting myself to only going places when I had someone to go with me.

In the past couple of years, I’ve spent more and more time sitting in the stands or in the audience alone, watching my kids play sports and perform. I wouldn’t miss those moments for anything. Not once has anyone stared at me or called me a loser for not having someone to sit with me.  And even if they were, I have my trusty smart phone to protect me and distract me. I know I shouldn’t use it as a crutch to hide my shyness. If I put the phone down and looked more approachable or open maybe I’d meet Mr. Right (see my previous post) at one of these functions. LOL

So…is the solution to make more friends or step out and enjoy my own company? Maybe a little of both I’m thinking. Today, though, I’m proud to write that I took one step toward embracing my “singleness.”  I went to a movie at the theater by myself, bought a popcorn and a diet pop, sat back and enjoyed watching Ryan Reynolds on the big screen for two hours. The world didn’t come to end. I laughed and had a good time.  I know it is a small step, but for me it still felt pretty good. Next week maybe I’ll wine and dine myself. We’ll see…unless maybe you’d like to go with me?

What do you do when you can’t find a pal to go out with? Skip it or head out anyway?

 

Does Happily Ever After Even Exist?

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Just call me the “Crazy Dog Lady” in training…

Ahhh the fairytale romance……

“And they lived happily ever after.”
The End.

These magical words have always made me feel warm inside. True love conquers all.  The happy ending. Oh, how I love the happy ending. As a consumer of chick flicks and trashy romance novels galore (and author of the same – but not too trashy), I’ve always been drawn to the fantasy of that”perfect” love and the happily ever after. I subscribe to the notion of why pay to watch a sad ending or invest my time in reading a novel that ends in despair. There is enough of that in real life. I want to escape into a feel-good world. The idea that somewhere in the universe that perfect love exists gives me hope. However, the realist (cynic) in me knows real life is much harder than that. Relationships take work. People change. Humans are imperfect. Life is NOT a romance novel.  Fiction is NOT fact. I get that. I really do. So, that’s why I’m embarrassed to write that deep down I secretly hope it could be real. Now that I find myself a single woman, I dream the love story could be mine. It’s exciting to think somewhere out there my soulmate is looking for me and swoon, we’d fall in love and it wouldn’t be hard.  If only….

Navigating the dating world, let alone actually finding someone compatible, and nurturing that relationship beyond the initial butterflies is not easy. As a single mother with a full-time job in a middle-aged body, I know this beyond a doubt – more than ever before. I’ve tried online dating, but that is a part-time job in and of itself. Crafting the perfect profile that’s intriguing, but still true to me, finding the photos that make me look young and fun, writing  flirty messages and going on disappointing first dates. I can see that he viewed my profile, but he never responded to my message. What’s wrong with me? He’s online, but takes 10 minutes to give me a two-word response.  Swipe left or right? This feels so shallow.  Should I initiate a text or wait for him to text me? Should I offer to pay or let him? It goes on and on ad nauseum.

Dating should be fun right? Instead I find it makes me feel worse than being on my own. Online dating especially makes me feel “less than” when I know I am “more than” enough. I’m naturally a glass-half full person that finds the silver lining in a situation. I’m trusting and try to see the best in people. But online dating has left me feeling jaded and disenchanted. Do I really need to know my profile is “not popular?” or that the guy I messaged didn’t find me attractive enough to respond to me? Did I say the wrong thing? Was I too aggressive or too passive?

On the flip side, it doesn’t make me feel good to ignore messages or tell a perfectly nice man that I like him, but don’t want to date him?  I feel cheap messaging multiple men at the same time, not to mention going on dates with more than one person. I break into a cold sweat just thinking about it. And that’s just a cup of coffee… Then there’s sex.  On the first date? After three dates? When I’m in love? Isn’t there some in between? My intellect says it’s okay for two consenting adults to connect physically, but my overthinking mind and fragile heart holds me back.  I want to be that laid back woman, but in the end I’m that uptight girl.

I vacillate between wanting to find that special someone, a companion to share my life with and giving up on that fantasy all together. I don’t want to rush into a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship. My friends tell me God will put the right man in my path, when the time is right, when I least expect it. Could he wear a sign around his neck, so I know it’s him? I don’t want to be like the person on top of a roof as the flood waters rise, turning away the boat and the helicopter that God sends to the rescue and end up dying in the flood wondering why God didn’t save me.  If God sends a boat my way, I want to jump in. On the other hand, maybe I’m destined to be a crazy dog lady (I hate cats so I can’t be a crazy cat lady).  In the end, I am confident that I am happier in my “aloneness” than I ever was or could be in the wrong relationship.

But still that “what if….” whispers in my ear. Take a risk. Be vulnerable. Life’s a journey…

780 words later I’m no closer to an answer.

Can anyone else relate?