Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How My Word of the Year Helped Me Ignite My Life

Every year I choose a word to set an intention for that year. I don’t often set resolutions, but when I first heard about the idea of a word for the year, I grasped the idea and ran with it. Some of my previous words include shine, focus, joy, and badass.

This year my word was IGNITE. I chose this word because I wanted to get this new chapter of my life (as a newly single mom) started. I wanted to spark my fire, and I believe I succeeded.

During the course of this year, I have set out to meet new people, find new hobbies, and rekindle my enthusiasm for old hobbies. I wanted to find the elements that were fully me with no external input -- the activities, ideas, and habits that were true for me.

Meetup was a huge help in finding activities and people to do them with. Through Meetup, I joined a monthly book club, which is something that I really missed from my previous locale. I love this group of people and, regardless of whether I liked the book, I always look forward to great conversation with these new friends.

When I decided I wanted to hike and felt safer going with other people than alone, I searched Meetup and found the Women’s Hike and Write. This group really couldn’t have been more perfect for me. We go on moderate hikes, then pause to journal, then continue back. I never would have imagined someone else would like to bring a journal with them while hiking, let alone the number of women who have actually participated. Plus, the organizer of this group and I have become close friends.

I met with another temporary book club throughout the summer as we read Think and Grow Rich together and discussed a few chapters each week. We reunited this fall over dinner, and it was so fun to see what everyone was continuing to think about the book. There is talk about perhaps reading another book together in 2017.

I continue to check Meetup for new groups and events to join. I tried a meditation group (and would have returned if my schedule allowed), and I am now keeping my eye on photography groups, writing groups, and a social group for introverts.

Outside of Meetup groups, I have made a point to strike up conversations with parents of other children, with neighbors I see outside when I walk my neighborhood, and with the people I encounter as I run errands. Sometimes the conversations go somewhere, sometimes they dead-end. I don’t consider myself to be great at talking to people I don’t know well, but I am proud that I am trying more often. Some of the local shop owners and employees recognize me when I walk in. It feels so good to be welcomed by them.

I took advantage of programs at my local library, like a one-night watercolor class.

I hosted my first party at my home. And people came. Lots of them. As I looked around at all of their friendly faces introducing themselves to each other, it occurred to me that every person there is someone I met in the past year since moving to this home and town. I thought I was just hosting a party; I didn’t realize that it would become a milestone marking how far I have come in one year.

I went kayaking.

I went to a Yanni concert.

I attended children’s birthday parties where I was the only separated/divorced mom.

I joined in meditations, Reiki circles, and discussion groups hosted by my dear friend and Reiki master.

I drove almost two hours to see Glennon Doyle Melton speak.

I read more than 80 books in one year. I didn’t even know that was possible. It helped that I began receiving books for free to review -- another new venture.

I became a regular visitor of Longwood Gardens with my camera and journal (and sometimes a book) in tow.

I completed my Hospice volunteer training at the beginning of the year and have spent the rest of the year visiting patients and assembling packets the nurses need for patient care.

I learned how to set my hair in victory curls. I don’t think I learned all the right words for that, so perhaps that statement doesn’t make any sense at all. Being that a fancy hair day for me means that I blow-dried it rather than letting it air dry, this was quite a feat. And, dangit, I walked into that 1940s-themed party looking the part.

This year marked the first time I flew with my son by ourselves. We survived (obviously). He now looks forward to air travel and is quite good at it.

This year also marked my first solo vacation -- a quick weekend to New York City for Book Riot Live.

I submitted articles to two publications. Neither have been accepted, but I wrote them and submitted them, and I’m proud of that.

I heard one of my poems read in front of an audience for the first time. The audience responded with “that’s right” and “yes” and “mm-hmm.” The second time, they cheered.

I started a new full-time job after 6 years of freelancing.

I got a dog.

I hired my amazing friend, Amy Pinard, to photograph this new version of our family.

With my son’s help, I chased rainbows. They appear in my home on sunny mornings, and we have made a ritual of seeking them each morning and sometimes making our own if there aren’t any. (See them by following me on Instagram @livewonderstruck.)

I joined a gym, and I continue to go three times per week. I swam laps for the first time since I was about 10 years old. I bumped the treadmill up to a running pace for two minutes. (As I have never been a runner, this is a huge step for me.)

I survived divorce. Again. (That’s twice.) I am slowly learning to accept that number. It carries a stigma, and it makes me feel like a miserable failure, like I have made poor choices. Then I think, Oh no. I’m Ross. (Ross from Friends, that is. He was worried about life after three divorces.)

I learned how to peacefully coparent with my ex-husband. I even (sort of) befriended his new girlfriend.

I cried. A lot. But I smiled more than I cried. This has been a hard year, yet overall a good one.

This new chapter has been full. I could have squeaked by. I could have hidden under the covers. Instead, I chose to step out of all of my comfort zones and see what might happen.

My life as I write this looks very different than it did one year ago. Keeping the word “ignite,” and more specifically, the phrase “ignite my life” top of mind throughout the year, I experienced many things I otherwise may not have. I showed up, whether or not I felt ready. I tried. That has made all the difference.

As I sat on the train in November for my first solo vacation and pulled out the book I brought to read, I had to laugh. The book was called Burning Woman. I do believe I am on fire now.

Looking ahead to 2017, I have my new word ready. I have been trying it on for size, and it feels right. That word is SACRED.

As I continue to live a life that is fully me, fully mine, I want to make intentional, delicious choices that will serve my highest and greatest good. Choices that will serve my family, that will nourish my body, that will allow me to send goodness and happiness out into the world. Choices that will enrich our (my and my son’s) experiences. Sacred choices.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Be Still: a poem

Stop.
Really. Just stop.
You don’t have to run all the time.
You don’t have to always be doing.
You don’t have to go, go, go.
You don’t have to scroll through your Facebook feed.
Again.
It is OK to do nothing.
Be still.
Really. Just be still.
For it is in the still that knowing comes.
It is in the still that healing happens.
It is in the still.
And still, we run.

Friday, September 16, 2016

My Future is Up to Me (and yours is up to you)

I had a realization one morning. I was going about my usual morning routine to get ready for work, thinking about my home, my bills, and the now of life, which led to thinking about my retirement and wondering how I will save enough to support myself through the future. (My thoughts tend to snowball.) After all, as a divorced mom, the future is up to me.

There are not two incomes to support the now and the future. There is one. Mine. And it must do both: the now and the future. Is it enough? Which tends to lead to the more difficult question: Am I enough?

Let that sink in. Am I – on my own – enough? This is a question a lot of us ask ourselves, I'm sure.

The answer now comes out of necessity. Yes, I am enough. I have to be enough. Because that is what I have to work with.

I could ignore it, pretend the future will be just fine without me having to think about it, but we all know that isn’t the case. I need to actively plan for it, actively take care of myself and my son.

This is how I came to the realization. I am the sole proprietor of my future.

Whoa.

Now, let that sink in. I am the sole proprietor of my future. What my future will look like is largely up to me. Will I allow it to creep up while I look the other way? Or will I plan, act, save, and greet it warmly like a welcome house guest?

I choose the latter.

When faced with divorce, there are a million questions and concerns and inner battles that come to surface. This – realizing that my future is up to me and me alone – that was a biggie. That is the one that drives me now.

I am the sole proprietor of my future. What will I do with it?

And I don’t mean to alarm you, but you are the sole proprietor of your future, too. What will you do about it?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Faith and Existence

Faith is a difficult thing. We are taught in school that theories need proof. We need to be able to support our arguments with hard facts and scientific data. And finding information is easier than ever, thanks to the internet -- unlike the days of my school reports, which required a library visit and rifling through a card catalog in hopes of finding something related to my topic.

Yet, we are still asked to have faith. To trust abundance. To surrender. To believe in a divine plan or miracles or the law of attraction or God.

This universe is a magical and scientific place. Sometimes it’s hard to trust what we cannot see for ourselves.

My friend Kristin wrote a post that resonated so deeply with me. It’s called I’m an ego driven skeptic and she begins, “My name is Kristin and I basically doubt everything.”

It’s definitely worth reading, so hop on over there. These are the words that I read over and over:
“I don’t usually believe in myself and I know I exist. I don’t have faith in myself, and I can see myself in the mirror. So why would I believe in something that I have to have faith in and I can’t see?”

Juicy, right?

I don’t usually believe in myself and I know I exist. I exist. You do, too. You can see yourself right now by looking down, just as I can see myself. We exist. That is easily provable. But do you believe in yourself? Do you believe you are worthy? Do you have faith in yourself?

Those questions are much harder.

Now go back to the second part of that quote. If you don’t have faith in yourself, and you can see yourself in the mirror, how do you believe in something you can’t see?

So much harder.

And yet, does operating from faith make the experience of life invalid or not worthwhile? Definitely not.

Faith is worthwhile even if it is hard.

Faith, when carefully placed, enriches our ego-driven, body-based experiences. It makes for a well-rounded life alongside science. Both are valuable.

Read Kristin's full post here: I’m an ego driven skeptic

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I Am Not Colorblind

I grew up in a place that I am realizing is somewhat of an anomaly. I grew up in schools where kids were white, black, Middle Eastern, Korean, Chinese, Hispanic, biracial. My friends, neighbors, and classmates practiced a variety of religions, or no religion at all. I had babysitters who were white, who were black, who were deaf.

Normal to me was that there was no normal. Everyone was different, everyone had a story, and it was worth learning as many stories as I could.

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.

My mother sang that to me when I was little, and I knew that it was true because I could see so many colors and lifestyles around me.

As an adult, and especially now that I’ve moved around and seen other communities, I’ve realized my childhood was perhaps a bit different than what many people experience.

The gut-wrenching news stories we keep hearing prove we have a long way to go toward peace and justice. The racism and religious animosity that I “knew” were things of the past as a child, I know now are still issues.

With emotions running high, it’s sometimes scary to speak up because words with good intentions behind them can be met with disdain.

One of those well-intentioned words that I keep seeing is “colorblind.” As in “I am colorblind; I see everyone the same.” I understand what you mean.

But when I see that word, I question it. Because we are not all the same.

If I am colorblind, I am missing a very key piece of who you are. The color of your skin is part of what makes you you. It is part of what makes you beautiful. It is part of your story.

I absolutely believe we should all be afforded the same opportunities. I want to be clear about that. However, I can’t ignore that maybe you haven’t been afforded those opportunities. And that is unjust.

Your experience — whether or not you are white, like me — is different from mine, because we have different bodies, different histories, different racial compositions, different parents, different personalities.

I am not colorblind. I don’t ever want to be colorblind. I see in color. Full, rich, vibrant color. That’s what makes this life interesting.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Act Loving to Feel Loving

Sometimes I read things that are so… tough and important and consciousness-raising. I don’t necessarily have anything to add. The author’s words are enough on their own.

This post from Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery is one of those posts: Life is Hard But They are Brave.

Please go read it. But, if you don’t have time right now, at least read this…
“My friend stopped by five hours after I started this love project and she said: lord. You are so loving to do this for them. And I said No, no, no. I don’t do these crazy things because I’m loving. I’m loving because I do these crazy things. Love is not a feeling. Love is the result of hours and days and years of using your hands and heart and mind to show up in a million different ways for other people. We don’t wait to act until we feel loving — we act so that we will feel loving. You don’t wait for love – you create it.”

…and this…
“The quote is from a mother who wrote four hearts and then the words: I ache. The hearts on this poster symbolize babies who were taken before they were named. And I looked at her four hearts and her: I ache and I thought: There is nothing I can do about your ache. You will ache forever. But there is something I can do about the I. I can make it a we. We will ache with you. Your sisters and brothers will ache with you.”

We are on this earth together. We are in this life together. Act loving and you will feel loving.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

LGBTQ Issues in Health Care

I am a copy editor with a medical news publisher. In a short time, I have learned a lot of new terms and style preferences, and a little bit more about medical developments.

Why am I telling you this? One of the articles I worked on really got me thinking. Although it was written for a physician and medical professional audience, it’s worth all of us non-medical folk reading.

‘Negative experiences,’ lack of research impede cancer care in LGBTQ community opened my eyes to issues that had never before occurred to me.

For example, did you know that some medical conditions can go unnoticed or untreated if a person doesn’t disclose their sexual preference or their gender identity? If a physician operates under assumptions about the patient (say, assuming the married patient is wed to someone of the opposite sex), he or she may not ask certain questions or recommend particular tests, thinking they don’t apply, when, in fact, they might be important.

Some patients may not disclose they are part of the LGBTQ community for fear of discrimination, substandard care, or other reasons. This might be of particular concern to patients being treated at religiously-affiliated hospitals. It’s unfair to add the burden of these fears to what may already be a stressful situation.

In addition, patients with same-sex partners may not feel comfortable having their partner attend doctor’s appointments or visit them in the hospital. This means the patient loses the biggest part of their support network. How lonely that must be.

Let’s raise awareness for the ways we should promote kindness, support, and open dialogue.

Read the full article here: ‘Negative experiences,’ lack of research impede cancer care in LGBTQ community

Thursday, June 23, 2016

This is the Part Where I Start Breaking the (Blogging) Rules

When I first started blogging, I did so on a whim. I’d heard of Blogger and knew I could start a blog for free, so I did. I simply wanted to learn about it, and I learn best by trying.

Of course, once I had a blog, I figured I should actually post stuff. (That’s kind of the point, after all.) So I did. I posted about things I’d found interesting from around the Internet, in books, or in magazines. I shared a few experiences, particularly related to the online world. It was just plain fun.

Somewhere along the line, blogging became something else. All of the bloggers out there were adding advertisers and sponsored posts. People started touting the need to monetize a blog (why have one if it’s not making money or building clientele, they’d say). Blogs, like many things, became a business.

Suddenly, there were rules. Every blog should have a niche—a recognizable theme. Not just that, post titles need to be attention-getting. And you should post on a regular schedule—5 posts… no, 3… 1 is probably enough if it’s substantial (they always change their minds). And every post should have a picture. And the picture should be pin(terest)-able. Posts should lead to conversions, to get people to give you their email address. But in order to get their email address, you have to give them something—like an ebook or a piece of your soul.

It’s exhausting, honestly.

I tried some of that. I tried having a theme. I tried always having pictures. I (halfheartedly) tried to offer services.

But you know what? I just don’t care.

I mean, I care about you, friendly reader. I want you to be happy and not stressed out when you come to my blog. I also want to be happy and not stressed out when I come to my blog. If you learn something here or see something that makes you smile or calms your nerves, that is wonderful. I am happy with that. I don’t like the feeling I get when I go to blogs and feel like they are always selling their next product or course or workshop and the price doubles at midnight tonight.

Ick.

I have never wanted to be that, and I don’t want to do that to you. I don’t care about “the rules.” This is not my job. I have a job--with a cubicle and everything. And you know what? I like my job. This is my playground. This is where I can toy around with stringing words together or share ideas I find interesting (in case anyone else finds them interesting, too).

I’m not going to worry about an overall theme, compelling and relevant pictures on every post, or sensational titles.

Occasionally, maybe I’ll offer some sort of product or service, if I think you might find it helpful. Or maybe I won’t.

Right now, what I need, is for this blog to be just a blog. To be a place where I can put up some thoughts without worrying about all the extra stuff I “should” be doing. So, I’m taking it back to basics. I’m going back to the days where I used to write about whatever struck my fancy. I have no schedule. I have no plan. I make no promises about how often you’ll see something new.

I’m going back to blogging for the joy of blogging.

I hope you enjoy what transpires. (However, if you don’t, it isn’t about you anyway. Nothing personal. I do this for me.)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Stripped

A new chapter of my life is unfolding. It has been for quite a while now. It began with an uncoupling and a new home in a new town. With that came the desire for new friendships, and the question of where a woman in her late 30s finds other women to befriend.

The all-consuming question has been this: Who am I now? Now that I have no one to worry about but myself and my son. How do I spend my time? How do I keep us physically, emotionally, and financially secure? What does this life look like?

As I peel back layers and pare down possessions, I consider carefully what is me? What is me in this moment? What is part of the enduring me?

This is a time of exploration, and I the reluctant explorer.

I have lost some things: a live-in partner, a former book club, security, and predictability.

Then there is the new. I have become a Hospice volunteer. I have become a Reiki Master/Teacher. I have joined a local book club. I have started a new full-time job—my first in 6 years. I have been embraced by a church with abundant energy, where I am a minority. So much love and goodness.

The changes are sweeping—broad strokes that clear and clear until I am bare. From this bareness, this stripped-down-ness, my life continues on its new path.

So, if you’ve wondered why my words have been few, it is because I am still clearing. Still stripping to find the core of me. The truth that is me and no one else.

With that, I am also stripping this website. I am taking it down to its most basic form: a simple blog. I am removing offerings and “fluff.” I make no promises for frequency of posts. I simply know that, right now, I need to continue peeling back the layers.

Sweep. Peel. Strip. Clear.

Breathe.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Give a Girl a Journal

JRS-Red-Heart-Star-300x300Journaling has been a part of my life since I was a child. It's one of my happy places. So when Jamie from Jamie Ridler Studios asked me if I might make a video to talk about journaling for her new project, I agreed.

What is Jamie's new project? Genius, if you ask me. She calls it Give a Girl a Journal and it does exactly what it sounds like. Knowing how transformative a journal practice is, she wants to make sure every girl has the opportunity to have one.

To get involved, go to www.giveagirlajournal.com. You can nominate a girl to receive a journal or you can donate $20 to have a journaling care package sent to the next girl on the list.

This is such a fun concept that is also so meaningful for the girls on the receiving end.

So, what does journaling mean to me? Find out in my video...

https://youtu.be/vzk3e_bWipg

 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Not Bad Parents, 5 Years and Counting

Jonas's 5th birthday

When you have a baby, everyone tells you to enjoy every little moment because it goes by so fast. (EVERYONE. Strangers in the grocery store will tell you.) Glennon’s response is more realistic. But people mean well when they tell you this.

Sometimes it does go by fast, and sometimes it passes more slowly, for better or worse. Gretchen also has it right when she says, "The days are long, but the years are short."

And it’s true. Today my boy turns 5. That’s huge. (Anybody remember when Rudy turned 5? “Yay, five!”)

He’s big enough now to have opinions, so a few weeks ago his dad and I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday. Every year we have kept it simple with a meal of his favorite foods, shared with family. When we asked the question last year, he said he wanted spaghetti at home. When pressed with, “What else?” he replied “Watermelon. And cucumbers.” Easy.

This year when we asked, he spoke happily about his Paw Patrol cake from last year and said that he would like a Spiderman cake this year. Followed by “The Flash next birthday and Batman the one after that.” He’s a planner.

So we arranged a brunch at a diner with family and planned on a Spiderman cake. All was well and good until Friday (as in three days ago) when he went to the dentist.

Bear with me. It comes back around. It always comes back around.

The dentist let him pick a prize at the end of his visit and he chose a pencil. When we got home, he asked if I would sharpen his pencil, so I did. Then he said he wanted to write a note, so I gave him paper.

“I’m going to write my best friend Cole to invite him to my Spiderman party.”

I panicked while he etched:

S P I D E R

C O L E M A

N P A R T Y

Because, you know, he wrote Cole’s name first then had to fit the rest around it.

Then he asked for an envelope.

Then a stamp.

So I addressed the envelope, because what else was I going to do?

And dang if he didn’t run right out to the mailbox, slide his letter in, and put the flag up.

He’s too smart, that one.

I immediately called Cole's mom (who we now live more than an hour away from) and explained that she would be receiving mail for Cole from Jonas that said something about a party but didn't give any details because there are no details because there is no party. Then I said I'd call her back.

I called Jonas's dad and said, “We have a situation!” I filled him in and he agreed it was important we remedy our lack of party.

I got online with Chuck E Cheese and made arrangements for less than 48 hours later, then called Cole's mom back to say there now was a party and could she pretty please drive 40 minutes to meet us in the middle. She happily did even though they had already given Jonas a birthday present the previous week--because she's a really good friend.

Jeff ordered a cake and picked up party favors, a balloon, and Spiderman plates.

All the while we kept anxiously reassuring each other, “See? We’re not bad parents!”

That’s pretty much par in our parenting course. For 5 years now, we have done our best to not be bad parents. To raise this playful, curious, gentle, and wickedly smart soul.

The days are long, but the years are short, and 5 are gone already.

Happy birthday, little one. We’ll get started now on next year’s The Flash party.