You Grew Up, Now What?

Butterflies. Or, gas bubbles. That is how everyone explains it. That first faint awareness of feeling your baby moving inside of you. That wonderfully delicate and precious life you co-created, is not becoming an active organism inside your very own body. It is random; almost undetectable and fleeting, at first. Once you realize what the feeling is, you spend hours on end in stillness just waiting to the chance to feel it once again. Eventually, the fluttering gives way to more forceful kicks and then it is like an army of circus elephants have taken refuge inside your womb. Regardless of the shortness of breath, the swollen ankles, and the all too often tear drawing kicks to the rib cage, you savor every single movement that beautiful infant makes. You have just entered a new and exciting, and sometimes terrifying, chapter of your life- you are now, a mother.

Your life is now forever changed, and you will never be the same. No day in your life will ever be the same, either. You feel a sense of elation. I mean, after all, babies are precious; they are adorable, and sweet, and fun. Right? Well, they are, that is, when they are not cranky, or crying for hours on end and there is nothing you can do to make them happy. They tend to get sick, too. Suddenly, horror sets in alongside elation in a perfect marriage of hot and cold emotions. You come to realize that you are now responsible for keeping this precious and innocent human life safe. It is your job to care for them when they are sick, when they get hurt- which you will try with your most valiant efforts, yet fail time and time again to prevent, and when they wake in the middle of the night from the nightmare that torment their peaceful sleep. You think about the future, it is your job to raise them to be decent and responsible adults, and when if they turn out to be less than positive and productive members of society, you feel as though you have failed at your job.

First days of school are times when we believe as moms that are the hardest. From irrational fear that your child will spill his lunch tray as the class makes the, what seems to you, far too long trek from the cafeteria back to their classroom, where they must carry their trays to eat lunch in class, rather than getting to sit in the lunchroom. You worry all day while he is at school about him spilling his lunch and then having to wear wet cloths, and will they provide him another tray? But what if his classmates laugh at him for dropping his tray? It turns out, that his first year in school was much harder for you than it was for him. While he was busy making new friends and learning new games, you were beating yourself up with fear of not being there to watch over him for every minute of the day. He was, after all, your child. Your responsibility.

After that delicate first year of school, they seem to get a little easier with time and practice. You eventually get excited for those memorable first days of a new school year and forever capture them in pictures taken of them in their new outfit with new shoes and those new backpacks. It is, as they say, a Kodak moment. However, it feels as though the school years fly by all to quickly and then one day you are staring down the fact that this new first day of school, is far different than any before it. You are now sending that precious child off to high school. And suddenly, the fears of spilling lunch trays in the hall or scraping knees on the playground or wearing we shoes all day because he cannot resist splashing in mud puddles or if he sits close enough to read the board give way to much greater fears. Now, you are faced with a whole new set of fears- what if someone tempts them with smoking, or drugs? What if he falls in with the wrong crowd and becomes defiant in class? And, what about, girls?

Ah, the teenage years. The time when you realize that up to this point, you only thought you knew what fear was. There are few fears for a mother greater than the first time she watches her child pull out of the driveway for their very first driving experience on their own. It had been somewhat fun, albeit terrifying at times, riding around with them as they learn to drive. But now the learner period is over, and they think they are ready to take the car out all by themselves. Legally, now they can do that. But you are full of fear and a sense of what ifs that you will try anything to convince them they need more time with you in the car with them. It seldom works. Incredibly, following what seems like a never ending few years, you look up one day and come to the stark realization that you have survived. You no longer have the typical drama entailing such things as who will be their good influences, who will be their bad influences, and just how much trouble can they get into. Alas, your child is now an adult.

For a solid twenty or so years your entire being has been centered around your identity a mom. The fact is, being a mom has been your sole identity. And, then one day those children grow up and become adults, and they go out and they begin lives of their own. They now possess the ability to pull from the ideas in their own minds and develop a desire to pursue their own dreams. They morph into their own identities as adults, and you do not get a choice as to where they can or cannot become adults or when that change happens. When it happens, we are not always ready for this change, and we can find ourselves in a place where we simply do not know how to not be a mom. Initially, the first reaction to this new and even more terrifying chapter in life is a gut reaction. We panic because we want to cling on to them as children because being their mom has been our entire identity for the better part of half our lives. You are terrified because you do not know  how to not be a mom and you do not know how to be anything else, so it is terrifying and it entails a deep sense of loss because it sis not as much about control and turning over control to allow them to live their own lives as it is that you can feel as though you are losing your own identity. When your identity is attached to being a mom, you do not know how to let that go easily, because you can feel that you are losing the core of who you are – you identity; your purpose in life.

While is our job, as parents, to nurture them and to protect them and to try and teach them morals and manners, it is only our jobs, for a time. One day, they will grow up, and we are expected to allow them to go out into the world and make their own dreams their own reality. They grow up, then what? That is when we trust that we did the best that we could, even though we made our share of mistakes along the way. And, we trust that we have given the world amazing people. It will be hard to remember what life was like before we were moms. Life without wiping more runny noses than our own or grocery shopping without having Capri Suns and Lunchables in our carts. Now we find ourselves in a place where we trade the Capri Suns for bottles of wine and the Lunchables for frozen bags of vegetables to steam. The house is quieter now and we get to watch programs without ducks or mice or crime fighting turtles, or catchy hero names like T-Bone and Razor. Although I am not thoroughly convinced Hallmark and Lifetime are better substitutes for cartoons. Just my humble opinion. Family game night has given way to date night and movie night for two. Road trips are now much easier, and to some degree, a little less exciting. Sometimes, we reach back into the recesses of our minds and pull out tiny fragments of ourselves before we became mothers. There was a time, when we were ourselves teenagers, when we had dreams and ideas and aspirations. Perhaps, this is the time to go back to college to finish that degree or buy that shiny sports car with only two doors. Maybe, you move down to Florida and spend a year on the Gulf of Mexico trying to rediscover yourself and what you want out of life. Perhaps, what you discover is that what you want is to be close enough to enjoy a relationship with your grandkids, and decide to move back home, after enjoying that year-long vacation on the coast. Regardless of whatever choices you make, they are now yours to make. Find a hobby, or join a new social group, or binge watch Criminal Minds on Netflix. Either way, we cannot hold on to them forever, but we do still have ourselves after they grow up. Always cherish every minute as a mom, it really is a life long commitment. However, never lose sight of your own identity and the person you were before, because, while there may be some of those crazy dreams and ideas that it may be too late for, such as being a drummer in a rock and roll band, there is still a chance to write that book.

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“Girl, wash your face” an Honest Review

Often times we are reminded of how much influence we allow society as a whole to have on us. I was recently reminded of that myself when I read “Girl, wash your face,” by the witty and charming Rachel Hollis. The book takes an in-depth look at how we can buy into the lies that society spoon feeds us and how we can, in turn, begin to feed those same lies to ourselves. She tackles many commonplace misconceptions about oneself, such as, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not a good mom,” “I’ll start tomorrow,” “I am defined by my weight,” and a whole smorgasbord of self-defeating inaccuracies that can limit ourselves to step out of our proverbial comfort zones and realize our true potential.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading her book, but in all sincerest honesty, Rachel made me acknowledge some hard truths about myself. While, most of my later adult life, I have been a self-proclaimed “independent woman” who had my shit together, the reality is that I have been independent because life had thrust me into circumstances, not of my own choosing, that warranted my self-independence, however begrudgingly. No matter how much we think we have ourselves together, there will always be those things that society sells that we are buying up like they are bargain deals at a going out of business sale at our favorite boutique. I for one, have come to accept that I have bought into so many of the lies that society, family, and even friends have been dishing out to me. Many of those lies, I have held on to and hid behind as though there was a sense of comfort in attaching myself to them, like a tub of death by chocolate ice cream after a stormy break up.
There is something about the way that Rachel engages her readers with her own life experiences and stories that lends an air of realism to her, and allows the reader to relate to her words and gain a sense of trust in her, as though she gets us, because she has gone through so many of the same things. While Rachel’s stories may not be exactly the same stories, verbatim, as the ones that I or anyone else who reads the book owns, Rachel allows her one personal accounts with the lies that society places upon us to in some way, come across as a comforting chat with a dear friend, or sound advice from a trusted therapist.
She speaks volumes of truth in her book in how she implores her reader to peel back the layers upon layers of untruth and tragic bullshit that society has heaped upon us for years and years, and realize the true and real value that we all possess. I would highly recommend anyone to read “Girl, wash your face.” But I would really encourage anyone reading the book to take the time to really dig deep in to the pages, and the words that Rachel is expressing to each and every one of her readers. Take her stories and let them seep in deeply into your mind and your soul. The advice she provides at the end of each chapter, noted as: “Things that helped me” are there as stepping stones, not meant to be disregarded or taken lightly. She has, as the reader will learn, overcome overwhelming odds to become the dynamo that she is today. And, people do not get that far in life without learning a few lessons along the way. When such people offer to share those learned lessons in an effort to prevent others from giving into the lies or to aid them in seeing past the lies dished out daily by the world around us, we listen. We learn. We adapt. We wash our faces, and we show the world just who we are!

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A Look Back at the Future

Often, we find ourselves looking out into the horizon and for the life of us, we have no idea how to get there, or how we even got to where we are at this point in life. The new year is always a time of reflection for many people; a time to reflect on the year that has come to an end, and what it brought us, and a time to reflect on the year ahead of us, and the promise of opportunity that it lays out before us.
All too often, when people look back over the year that has come to an end, they are filled with regret. Regret over a broken relationship, perhaps they did not make that job change they had been contemplating for some time, or maybe, just regret over doing absolutely nothing throughout the year that brought about a sense of fulfilment to their soul. A true sense of peace and happiness from within generally originates from personal growth, and most people rarely step out of their all too familiar comfort zone to reach the level of uncomfortable that is required of growth.
Sometimes, looking at the year ahead can be a damn scary thing for many people. Maybe their job has changed; maybe their family dynamic has changed because some family members have moved out or moved away; perhaps, they are the ones that have moved to start a new life in a new town, or even a new state, and they see themselves, for the first time, surrounded by total strangers instead of family and friends. Fear can be a very overshadowing emotion that can obscure the view of the future.
Some people are fortunate in that they do not look to the past year, nor the upcoming year with any regret or fear or dread. They view the changes that have taken place in their lives during the past year and the changes that they will face in the new year as opportunities to learn, not just about new places or the world, but learn about themselves. When we have been surrounded by family and friends for our entire lives, we develop a level of comfort in that, and in knowing that while family and friends will not always see eye to eye with them, they will always love them and be there no matter what. People fear less failing when they know they have loving and supportive people there to help pick them back up afterwards.
To face a new year that is already latent with big life changes, provides one with a chance to see how strong they can truly be. If failure comes, there is no loving family or supportive friends to comfort you. Likewise, if great successes arise from the changes that have transpired, those same family and friends will not be there to provide hearty congratulations or help celebrate the joyous occasions.
Regardless, as the very cheesy and cliché saying goes, the new near brings with it three hundred and sixty-five new opportunities; three hundred and sixty-five blank pages on which you have the chance to author your own story, make it a good one. As a matter of fact, I believe that is the best way to look at the upcoming year. There will be good days and there will be bad days; days that come easy and days that will present a variety of challenges to get through. But days that have no concrete story line to follow as of yet, and days that can be faced with determination and anticipation. After all, we learn the most and obtain the greatest amount of grown through the bad days and the challenging days. Those days will only make the good days sweeter.
So, as you stand on the threshold of a new year, take the regret of the past year, and put it away, we cannot do anything to change what has already been done. Rather, look forward, knowing that all days will not be easy or fun, but you have the opportunity and the power within you to make them as good as you can make them for yourself. Every year, the flowers die out from the harsh conditions of the winter, yet, every spring, through thawed ground, they inch their way back to life, and put on a glorious showing for the springtime. See yourself as a flower in the spring at the beginning of the year. Inch your way back to life and put on a glorious show!
Yes, good days will come and go. But after all, “it can’t rain all the time.” (Eric Draven- The Crow)

My Favorite Things

As Fall approaches here in beautiful north Georgia, it is a time to reflect on the things that we enjoy most. So, I have compiled a list of five items that are just a few of my favorite things.
1- Books- Oh how I love to read a good book. Sadly, as times have changed, I have given in to the bittersweet progress of digital books. However, nothing is more satisfying than to hold an actual paper laden book in hand. The feel of the paper in hand, and the smell, especially when the book is an old classic, it just has the delectable book smell. I have been recently reading more self-growth books than anything, and one of my particular favorites is “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins.

2- Music- whether I am driving in my car, or going for a nice little walk, or even working out my frustrations in the gym, music is life. I honestly have said over and over, if I could choose which sense I had to lose between sight and sound, I would opt for sight, because I do not think I could live in a world without music. I listen to a wide range of music, depending on my mood and thoughts at the time. Mostly, though, I listen to the genre of music affectionately referred to as “Emo” music. To me, there is just something so relatable in their raw emotion felt through the song that gives me more of a connection to their music than any other type.

3- Planners- I just love planners. Currently, I am obsessing over The Happy Planner. I like that it is so customizable, and I can set it up to suit whatever needs I may have at the time. I have used many different types of planners in the past, but the key is to find a planner that works for you. After all, the objective is not in the brand of planner, but rather the functionality and whether or not you will use it. I like the feeling of being organized and making lists. My therapist once said that with my adult ADD, I need structure in my life, because chaos and clutter are huge triggers. Thus, began my continual need for planner peace. For an example of The Happy Planner:

4- The Beach- In reality, who doesn’t love the beach? Well, I suppose there are some people out there who do not. None of which I care to know. The beach is calming, and there is just something about sanding on the verge of such an expanse of sky and ocean that really puts you into perspective. You realize what a small portion of this great world is when you are standing on the heels of something so grand. I can imagine many incredible things in the world can give you that sense of humbleness as well. Such as, the California Redwoods, the Grand Canyon, or Old Faithful. However, I have never seen any of those. Therefore, my wonderment is based solely on my personal experience at the beach.

5- Fall- Ah, Fall. It is the epitome of everything that is great about living in the south. Thinking of fall drums up all kinds of nostalgic imagery of things such as farmer’s markets, pumpkin farms, bonfires, and hayrides, and of course, pumpkin flavored everything! Then, there is football. You see, we take our football very seriously in the south. To properly engage in the watching of football, it is required to attend a local (generally your home town) high school football game on Friday night, then you would spend the better part of Saturday watching college football games, and then, finally, Sunday is for the NFL. It is literally a three-day event. Ironically, even though we are mere days away from the first day of fall on the calendar, it is still nearing in the nineties here in North Georgia. But, I know, just the same, I will miss fall this year, as I will be moving to South Florida in one week. I will most definitely miss the frosty chill in the air, and most of all, the changing of the leaves as the north Georgia landscape becomes awash with vibrant hues of red and orange and yellow.

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If I Could Go Back In Time, What Would I Tell My Younger Self?

If I could go back in time, I would probably tell myself to slow down. Life goes by far too fast, and I have allowed myself to rush through far too many things. As a child, I had a bit of a rocky start in life. I had a father, who was, some would say strict, based on the bruises and marks often left on my body, others would say, abusive. Regardless, I was a very withdrawn and insecure person from a very early place in life. After a “situation” that left my legs covered in bruises, I ran away from home at the ripe old age of seventeen. I moved in with my cousin’s friend, who was much older than me, and I found out quite quickly, that I was no where near ready for adulthood. But as they say, you can’t go back home, thus, I began my life of rash decisions followed by an almost emergent series of adjusting my life and myself to make those decisions fit as though they were what was meant to be for my life. There have been many times when I suffered as a consequence, there have been times that it was my children who suffered as a consequence. As a parent, you never intentionally do things that will end up being hurtful to your children, you try to make choices that you believe, at the time, will be in their best interest. But often times, those choices do not play out so.
I find myself now, facing the latter part of my life, and often get down because I feel as though I do not have anything to show for my life, thus far. I do not have my own home, I do not have my own car, and I still have far too much student loan debt. Following a nasty divorce, I wound up having to go through bankruptcy, and am at this point in my life, still trying to rebuild good credit. I do not even have a comfy nest egg saved away for retirement, even though that will be quite a few years away. Many times, I find it far too easy to get down on myself pretty hard about the things that I have failed to accomplish at this point in my life, mainly due to rash choices I have made since I was younger. But, I think, sometimes it is far too easy to play the victim and toss around tickets to the pity party like confetti. I can say with most certainty that most of those snap decisions I have made have came from the influence or as a direct reaction to the actions of someone else. Therefore, there is an entire laundry list of people for whom I can blame for the little that I have accomplished in my life. But, throwing blame rarely ever improves one’s circumstances. I rather choose to put my energy into what I have gained from life. I have two wonderful and amazing children who happen to be incredible adults and have accomplished so much in their own perspective lives. I have an incredible daughter in law, who is such a wonderful addition to our family, that I could not imagine life without her. I have two of the most perfect granddaughters that have ever graced the earth. They are my whole world. I have found the love of a good and decent man. I challenges me and lifts me both, at times when I need to be challenged or lifted up. I may not have a home, but I have found that not owning a home allows me a degree of freedom and mobility. My husband and I travel, often, and now have decided to tempt fate, and move to Florida. One of my biggest dreams in life has been to live on the Gulf of Mexico, and he has made it his mission to make my dream a reality.
So, at the end of the day, I believe the one thing I would say to myself, had I the opportunity to go back is to slow down. Life has a way of getting away from you and it is important to stop from time to time, and truly smell the roses. Perhaps many of the choices I have made in my life have been hasty and have not all been the most sensible of the most beneficial ones to me. However, each and every choice I have made has brought me to the place I am in life right now. While I may have some regrets about some of the decisions I have made, overall, I am in a really good place now, and I cannot possibly imagine the path of my life taking me in any other direction than where I am now. But, I only wish I could go back and have just a little more time to enjoy and appreciate the value of certain aspects of my life, things that I will never have an opportunity to get back. Such as, getting to enjoy the simplicity and freedom of childhood, or getting to enjoy the idea that the teenage years are so much a part of what shapes us as adults. It would be nice to get the time back to appreciate my youth and have the knowing that teenage years are only temporary and nothing that happens in high school actually lasts forever. I would truly love the opportunity to go back in time and hold my children just a little longer and play with them just a little more when they were young. I truly believe one of the harshest regrets of getting older, is the reality of just how fast our children grow up.
So, I am going to move to the Gulf of Mexico and enjoy the beauty and simplicity in watching a sunset across the ocean. I am going to enjoy slow, uninterrupted time with my granddaughters. And, I am going to take time to sit with my husband and take in all the love and laughter we share, and I will spend the latter part of my life, having no regrets, because I plan to make every decision a thoughtful and purposeful step in my journey.

Fit, Fabulous, and Forty…Something!

Just put one foot in front of the other…There comes a time in every woman’s life, where she finds herself at a crossroads. A place of making a decision between forgetting her worth and letting herself go or saving herself from herself and showing the world. Just. Who. She. Is. Over the course of the past few months, I have found myself in such a place.
For far too many years, I have let myself go. I have battled depression, anxiety, failed relationships, trying to go to back to college full time while working a full-time job. We have all been there, that place where life has us pulled in so many directions, and nothing seems to be going right. I’ve eaten out of pity, I’ve eaten through the tears, I’ve gotten frustrated and angry with myself for trying to eat away my pain, and then eaten more because I was depressed because I had done so. It is a vicious cycle, and it is all to easy to fall in to.
The important thing is to learn to not beat yourself up for those moments of weakness, they say. Yet, when we give in and do such damaging things to our bodies and, ultimately, our already fragile self-esteems, it is all but impossible not to shame ourselves for such behaviors. Especially, when we know better. Yet, here I am, about a hundred pounds overweight.
Over the past couple of years, however, my life has changed in a very drastic way. I met someone, much younger, but very special to me. Despite my sense of practicality and the well-meant advice of many friends and family, I took a chance on dating him. I thought I would just see where it would go, and if it was not meant to be, I would just let it play out, knowing for a brief moment, I went after life with reckless abandon and enjoyed every moment I had been given. Ironically, to date, things have not played out. They are amazing, in fact. We have gotten married and are planning to move to Florida soon and start a new life, living it up in the Gulf of Mexico.
During the beginning of our relationship, things were great for my fitness goals of getting back into shape and dropping all of that depressed weight I had been carrying around. We went hiking often, we joined a gym together, and we were at the lake often. We were very active and wide open. It was fantastic, we were both getting in very good shape, over all. Then he was moved to second shift on his job. I still tried to work out and walk when I was home by myself at nights. That lasted a little while and was going great. Until he convinced me to go back to school while he was gone at night, I would have plenty of time to work on my assignments. He was right. I did not take into account, however, that after a twelve to fourteen-hour day at my job, I would be coming home at night and spending another three to four hours trying to get my assignments completed. And, just like that, working out went right out the window. He has since gone back to day shift, and we had decided to get back into hiking. Only, we found out really fast, that it has been far too long since we were that active with our marathon hiking weekends, and we were almost dead after a couple of less than five-mile hikes. Aside from that amazing husband of mine, I have two very incredible granddaughters. One is only about to turn a year old soon, and the other is almost four. I enjoy being with them so much, but they are very mobile and quite active now. After a few hours with them, I find myself needing a three-hour nap. And that has become more motivation for getting back active.
I have often heard it said that age is just a number. I have seen people in their seventies who are in prime shape and phenomenal active condition, and I have seen people in their thirties who can barely walk up a flight of stairs. So, I suppose it is true that it is never too late to start. I have decided to challenge myself to a hundred days of working out. Today was day one, and I got up before four a.m. to go to the gym. I did not do a very good job of getting anything laid out and ready last night and spent almost a half hour looking for everything to get ready. Therefore, I only had about an hour of time available for the gym before I had to get home and start getting ready for my day. But hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? And they say, the journey of a thousand miles, begins with one step. An hour of something is better than a day of nothing. I feel good after accomplishing that. It is hard to want to get up before four a.m. and it is even harder to jump out of bed and jet off to the gym. I know many people do this on a daily basis, and I truly admire them!
More than just getting fit, this journey I have committed to, is about living a fabulous life. I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful family, and a great future to look forward to in a quaint little beach town. Why not grab life by the horns and make the most of it all? They say now that forty is the new twenty, so why not rock those forties, and be fabulous? That is what I am aiming for. This one-hundred-day journey will take me far beyond just working to reach my fitness goals, but also losing the metaphoric weight of past regrets and failures. Depression and anxiety are real life problems that we all go through from time to time, but there is no hard and fast rule that say they have to define you, or control what you are capable. It is time to show the world. Just. Who. I. Am. Day one of one hundred, out.

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