Happy Places

I have a few things I want to write about, so please forgive the jumping around.

I’ve written “I love you” in every Mother’s Day card I’ve ever given. But this was the first year that I really felt it. I knew that I really meant it.

We’ve had a rocky past, but for some reason things really turned a corner on our last trip to Hawaii. I’ve always been more of a daddy’s girl, but it’s like a switch flipped when he found out that he needed a knee replacement. I don’t understand why, but I could relate so much more to my mom. Maybe it was the commiseration. Maybe it was just that it was the first time that I really considered that my dad might be…old. Or maybe I just made a decision (conscious or not) to give her a fighting chance. But for whatever reason, she is now the one I want to tell everything to. It’s taken a while to adjust to the new dynamic, but I really wanted her to understand how much more I mean it this year.

I’ve always been vocally jealous of my friends’ close relationships with their moms. Now I feel like I finally have one too!

Secondly, I was faced with a very triggering situation this weekend and it was the first time I’d really tested this new-found faith of mine. There is one recurring situation that I’ve never quite figured out how to handle. It usually makes me obsessive, which leads to a lot of guilt and shame and sends me into a slow downward spiral until I completely melt down.

I was determined not to let that happen this time. Which meant I needed to nip it in the bud.

I did my best to keep my mind occupied and focused on other things (Thank you, Royal Wedding!). But do you know what I realized? Positive thinking really is like the domino effect. I forced myself to find the positive in every situation and eventually I didn’t even have to think about it. I had to start deliberately, but then it just started to flow. And as it flowed, it carried my thoughts away from the tricky situation.

Now, a day later, I can still think about it, but it doesn’t consume my thoughts. I can turn it off and walk away. I can walk toward happier and more productive thoughts.

I’m having a hard time feeling anything but bliss right now. It’s been a long, but rewarding day. My mom was determined to figure out all of our floral areas around the yard and get everything planted and, somehow, we actually did it!

My biggest goal became turning the porch into a cozy little happy place for me (without any crazy DIY projects!). I think I definitely nailed it.

This has always been my favorite place to curl up with a book. It’s been one of the most inspiring places to write. It’s the perfect setting for a leisurely conversation with a friend. It’s where I feel most connected to nature and where my dreams don’t seem so crazy. I love a good ocean view (Aloha!), but there’s really no beating this. It’s my little corner of the world.

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Balance

Things have been really different lately. I’ve been feeling a lot more balanced and at peace than I ever have. I can trace it back to a few different things.

First of all, Minnesota finally decided that it’s time for spring! I don’t know if you heard, but we had a little blizzard at the beginning of April. And then we had another sizable blizzard a week later. We literally couldn’t leave the house all weekend and we had 15 inches of snow piled up on our deck. The snow slowly melted away and then all of a sudden we were hit with 80 degree days! It was a bit of a shock to the system, but very, very welcomed! We finally have patio and lawn furniture set up, new climbing toys for the kids hung in the woods, LEAVES AND FLOWERS(!), meals on the deck, walks outside without coats and boots(!), and, most importantly, afternoons spent reading in the sun on the porch!

Second of all, I’ve been trying to disconnect from my phone a little bit. I get into really unhealthy patterns with it and I want to be able to walk away without having a panic attack. So I started “forgetting” it in the house during my walks, leaving it in my purse a little longer at work, leaving it upstairs when I go downstairs to work out and watch TV and, for the most part, leave it in one specific place when the kiddos are around. I think I’m on about week 3 of this new routine, and I’ve already lost interest in most social media and apps that I used to check almost hourly. I allow myself one binge in the morning, when I spend about 40 minutes on my phone before I even get out of bed. (Well, technically I get out of bed first, because I keep my phone across the room while I sleep, but I get snuggled in again after I grab it!) And that’s even starting to dwindle.

I cannot recommend this enough. I have been so much more engaged with my surroundings and have actually gotten busier because I’ve found other ways to spend my time. And let’s be honest, I don’t get a lot of texts to begin with and the ones I get can wait an hour for a response. (I also get alerts on my Fitbit, so I’m really not missing anything.)

Another affect of my phone “detox” is that I’m actually in a much better place with my friends (Ironic?). I was starting to feel really clingy with one friend in particular and disconnected from the others. The guilt and shame were eating at me and turning me into a person I hate. That has all balanced out since I’ve taken a step back.

One of the hobbies I’ve had more time for because of my new phone habits is reading. I’ve had at least 10 samples of books sitting on my kindle since last summer. I’ve read 2 books in the past 2 weeks. I used to binge shows on Netflix while the kids were sleeping and I was waiting for their parents to get home on work days. But recently I’ve developed a new routine: quick workout, super quick phone check, read. Let me tell ‘ya, the time flies by!

But I think the biggest reason for my transformation is that I’ve finally gotten in touch with my spiritual side. The seed was already planted, what with my growing up in a Catholic family, attending Catholic school for 12 years and accompanying my parents to church pretty much every Sunday of my life. But do you want to know what prompted me to take that leap of faith? (Pun intended!)

A dating website.

In a moment of weakness (and, honestly, boredom), I joined a dating site for single Christians.

That’s right. That one.

And it just made me feel like a fraud. There I was reading about how important faith was in all of these guys’ lives and what their favorite verses were and I couldn’t relate. I studied it all for 12 years, but I didn’t feel like it was an important part of my life.

And I felt like it was time to make time for it.

I ordered some books on Amazon and dove right in. There are two books in particular that are really resonating with me. I can relate to so much of what they say and they put it in easy-to-understand terms. One of the big reasons I resisted throughout my teen years and college was because I hated the preachy Christians. These books are NOT that.(Highly recommend this and this.) I read them every day when I just need a few minutes to myself to regroup and shift my focus. I have another one that I read right before I get out of bed in the morning. Now I look forward to those moments. I crave them. They make me feel understood in the most satisfying way I’ve ever known.

I’m still figuring out how to verbalize what it all means to me, but it has affected me very deeply.

I can’t remember which book said it, but it was brought up that everyone needs to find their own faith. Even if they were brought up in a faith-based family. Each person needs to find out what faith means to them. And just like everything else in life, sometimes it comes when you least expect it. I certainly wasn’t expecting inspiration to hit when I joined that dating site. (Although maybe it already had–why did I feel the need to join that site in particular?)

Everything just feels better.

I feel like a new me!

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Monday Morning Thoughts

How do you store all of your digital pictures? Seriously, I’m asking.

The thought was brought up by a snide remark from my mom regarding the number of pictures I keep. I’ve always known that she’s approved of me taking pictures, but is simultaneously disgusted by the amount that I don’t delete. “I would only need 50 pictures a year, max!” (An unfortunate result of being raised by a hoarder is that she goes too far the other way.)

I currently have them stored on 2 different computers (in different formats–edited and non-edited), an external hard drive, a time machine, Google Photos, Amazon Photos and Flickr. Not to mention in their original versions on memory cards and my phone’s SD card. Oh, yeah, and I have a collection of physical photo books using only the best pictures (which are also stored online).

That sounds like a lot, but somehow I feel like I’m not covered. I’m trying to get more comfortable with the ‘delete’ button. I really only delete the pictures that are blurry or were mistakes. My mom’s comments bother me because I know, to a degree, she’s right.

I recently deleted an entire album of about 1,500 pictures from my phone because I needed to free up space for app updates (sound familiar?). While I hadn’t actually looked at them since I got this new phone (they were transferred over from my last phone), it was still a painful experience. I triple checked that I had them backed up on the computer and Flickr before deleting, but still. Painful.

I want to be able to clear up space on my phone and the computers without it being an emotional thing every time. But I also want to be confident that I have a solid plan that can handle my excessive photo taking hobby.

Now that I’m writing all of this out and seeing it on “paper,” I’m realizing that this isn’t about the actual process of storing and backing up the pictures (And that I actually have them stored in a lot more places than I thought). It’s about being confident enough that the snide remarks don’t affect me.

There seems to be a common thread here…

How’s that for Monday morning?

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December?

Whoops.

I think I accidentally fast forwarded to December.

Allow me to explain: it’s the first snow of the season up here in Gray Duck country. End of explanation. It all spiraled from there.

Last night, in anticipation of the snow (and just the general transition to frigid temperatures), we (I) decided it was time to move the porch furniture inside for the season. That involved shifting a lot of furniture throughout the whole house. But I was determined to get it done because once everything was in its winter position, I could set up the newest addition to our Christmas decorations out on the porch: a giant (fake, obviously) Christmas tree!

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(Our last surviving pumpkin is sitting proudly next to the tree!)

This morning I woke up to snow flurries. The ground was still green, but the snow continued to pick up. It just started to taper now about 6 hours later. We now have a few inches of snow piled up on our deck!

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I wasn’t expecting to be so excited about it! Usually the first snow of the season is kind of depressing. Here we go again. But not this time! This time I was listening to Christmas music while getting ready, thinking about Christmas movies, Christmas cookies, Christmas cards, end of the year calendars, presents for the kidlets. And then I remembered it’s not even Halloween yet.

I don’t even care! I just went for a walk through the gorgeousness, again listening to Christmas music (what up, Mr. Bublé?!), and actually teared up at how incredible it all was.

My parents have been telling me that they’ve noticed something changing in me lately. They’ve seen how thankful I am for everything and how much I appreciate my life. That really struck me today. It’s been a perfect day so far, but it hasn’t been out of the ordinary at all. We usually have the kids on Fridays, but we got today off so I’ve been taking advantage of the free day.

I’ve been able to find something to be grateful for in every situation. And when I’m in that place, I feel it. Deeply.

Isn’t that what I said December (and Christmas) was all about?

But, wait. It’s still October! Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, and then Merry Christmas!

Screw it!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Extraordinaries

The past 30 or so hours have felt different than what I’ve accepted as normal lately. It’s not that everything has gone perfectly and lived up to every unrealistic expectation I might have. In fact, I think most things have deviated from the “plan.”

But I’ve noticed every single little beauty and blessing.

That tends to happen to me a lot at this time of year. Everything is so gorgeous with the leaves changing color and dropping, so cozy with the cooling temperatures and return of the blankets, so delicious with more apple flavored treats than I ever imagined and so exciting with the growing number of birthdays and the anticipation of the holidays.

This year has been extra special for me, not only with the addition of my nephew, but with the quality of my time spent with family and friends (with a few exceptions).

It got to the point yesterday where I actually thought, “How did I get so lucky to have such an extraordinary life when so many people live such ordinary lives?” But I know that my life looks pretty ordinary to a lot of people, too. I guess that’s the secret, though. You have to recognize all of the extraordinaries in your life, no matter how big or small. They add up fast!

My dad and I were walking around soaking in all of the fall colors last night and our conversation turned toward an old, ailing tree that I’ve always called The Tree of Life. It sits alone on top of the highest hill on our property and our most beloved pets are buried beneath it. We were trying to figure out what we want to replace it with when it inevitably dies. I kept suggesting a tree that would either flower in the spring or change colors in the fall. While my dad agreed, he pointed out that those trees don’t grow very fast.

As we wandered, we pointed out all of the trees that could work. At some point my dad suggested an Oak. Oaks are pretty much his favorite trees. He went through a period where he saved every little Oak seedling because there weren’t many trees around. Now he has forests of towering Oaks. Because of the number of Oaks we already had, I immediately dismissed that idea. But as we made our way around the property for the second time, I noticed that there weren’t nearly as many Oaks on the back half as there were on the front half.

And then I thought: If I’m going to continue to call the tree on the hill–whatever it may be–The Tree of Life, what better tree is there to represent our family? Oaks are big, strong, sturdy, stable trees. That’s how I think of my dad, the leader of our family, the one who created such an amazing life for his family. We already have so many memories planted on that hill, why not go all the way?

That’s kind of when it hit me. That’s the moment that all of those little extraordinaries provided me with that overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I don’t know how to carry this with me throughout the rest of the year, but I’m so incredibly grateful for the little glimpses this season has provided.

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Mind Games

I don’t know what’s going on in my head…I’m so uninterested in everything. Life has been crazy busy lately and I hate it. I mean, I like it in the moment because every minute has a purpose, but when it all stops, like today, all the emotions just overwhelm me.

Right now I’m feeling all of the little snubs and judgments from my mom, all of the nights I didn’t want to fall asleep, all of the innocent but hurtful comments and questions from one of the kids I nanny, all of the unanswered texts, all of the situations where I feel I embarrassed myself, the disappointment that my mom is actually retired, the heartbreak of saying goodbye to our llama and the fear that this is it for me.

I went through a period this spring where I really felt like I was supported by the adults in my life. Everyone I told about nannying would praise me for being resilient enough to handle that all the time. But now I’m feeling the opposite. I seem to be encountering more people now who expect a lot more of me. And I just can’t handle the emotion that comes with that. Because, I think, on some level I know they’re right. It’s like when people say it’s easier to believe the negative opinions of you than the positive.

I want to love what I’m doing and I know that this is what I want to be doing, but I just can’t seem to ignore everyone else’s opinions. I feel like they need me to move on and challenge myself, but I feel like I’m already challenging myself by sticking with this. It’s really hard to basically want to just be a 50s housewife in an era of female empowerment. I respect all of the women who truly do want to go out into the workforce and make a difference and “have it all.” But I’m not one of them. And I just wish that people would respect that.

My mom was truly a trailblazer. She was one of a handful of women in her class at dental school in the early to mid 70s. That’s a lot to live up to. Because of her persistence and determination, I feel like the people who have known her the longest expect similar from me. I don’t want to disappoint anyone, but I also need to do what I want to do.

I know, I know. As long as I am truly happy with my life, they will be too.

But my mind likes to play games.

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P.S. I hope to post a bathroom update soon! It’s looking incredible!

Summer of Change

There are lot of changes happening this summer.

My parents are currently at my mom’s retirement dinner with her coworkers. She has one more day of work left, next Tuesday, followed by a few weeks of moving everything out and then she’s done. It’s very exciting for her, but a little scary for my dad and I. We have no idea how she’s going to fill her time–she’s starting to show signs of maybe being ready to slow down a bit, but she’s always been a very busy and involved person. We’ve learned how to keep the house running without her around and, honestly, really like it that way.

We are also in the midst of a bathroom renovation that rapidly grew to include siding, trim, carpet and other odd jobs around the house. My dad and I spent a good portion of Mother’s Day moving everything from my room and bathroom down to the guest bedroom and bathroom. (We let my mom do whatever she wanted; she chose gardening.) We didn’t realize how bad the bathroom looked until it was all emptied out!

Since I moved downstairs, we’ve discovered more and more things to improve in that bathroom. We’re replacing just about everything that doesn’t require more than a drill or a wrench to remove.

 

My bathroom is getting a little more work done…

I was really dreading the first day of demo. I thought I would really miss my space, but now that it’s all torn apart I’m just really excited for the finished product, which should be stunning! They’re putting up drywall next week, so things will really start taking shape!

On the less exciting end of the spectrum, my parents think they’ve found a new home for our last llama, Rosie. The process really sped up after a visit from one of my uncles. He tends to make things happen and straight up asked my dad why we still had Rosie. He hadn’t even been in the house five minutes when he called up a llama farm in eastern Wisconsin. That didn’t pan out, but he was applying some pressure and my dad finally decided to look into it seriously. They found a petting zoo about 90 minutes south of here that’s interested.

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I’m having trouble adjusting to the thought of not having any llamas. I was only two when my parents got the first two, which means that we’ve had them for 20 years. And Rosie was the only one who was born here. She’s never known anything different and now they’re going to send her to a petting zoo? She still seems to be pretty happy here, even if she doesn’t have any other llamas to socialize with. And I can’t imagine not having llamas around for my niece and nephew. My dad can understand that. Which is why he’s agreed to having chicks, ducks or pheasants every spring. Birds fly away before winter! So we now have four chicks.

So, yeah. Lots of changes. This will be an interesting summer.

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