All Our Love

I’m a year older today.

Yes, today was my birthday.

In a lot of ways I really do feel older. A lot of the situations I’m facing now are decidedly adult. I never fully understood the phrase hard choices until recently.

But I also don’t feel any different than I did 5 years ago.

The day felt much, much different, though, than last year.

Last year the day basically came and went. I wasn’t working, and my parents did go along with my wishes, but that’s all they did. Actually, it’s not fair to my dad to say they. He really tried to make the day special for me. My mom just went along. I never heard a “Happy Birthday!” from her, never got a card signed “Love, Mom and Dad.” My niece and nephew were also with us all day, so that’s a different dynamic all on its own. We did the birthday stuff, but it didn’t feel special.

This morning, on the other hand, I was greeted with smiling faces, “Happy Birthdays” and hugs. After completing my civic duty, I headed to my other kids’ house. I had to work today and we really didn’t do anything special, but I was greeted with more smiles and “Happy Birthdays,” and gifted some cupcakes and a sweet homemade card from the kids. Their parents wrote a nice thank you note on the back. That would’ve been enough, right? Around lunchtime the kids’ grandma stopped by with a card and gift. I mean.

After the youngest went down for her morning nap, I noticed a voicemail from my brother. They all sang to me and my niece, obviously a little bit confused, kept insisting that she wanted to talk to me.

I really wasn’t expecting anything at home. My parents were gone for the evening–having dinner with some of my mom’s siblings. I was looking forward to coming home to an empty house, maybe going for a walk and getting ready for the evening.

When I walked into the kitchen, I saw flowers and cards from my parents. All our love, Mom and Dad. Cue the tears.

I was touched, to say the least, but I had to get over it and get ready for dinner.

I went out for margaritas with one of my best friends in our little waterfront hometown. This was especially rewarding because, try as we might, we hadn’t seen each other in about 4 months and a lot had happened! It was so fun to catch up and just hang out! At some point during the meal I mentioned not being used to all the attention I was receiving and she just simply replied, “Well, we all love you.”

Quite a different experience from last year.

When I got home, I decided to enjoy the sunset and take my dog for a walk and as I was admiring the sky, I started reflecting on the day and, I’m serious, I literally felt a wave of gratitude just wash over me. All of these people took the time and effort to show me they care. I’m important, I matter to them. After having some rough years when it comes to that subject, it was overwhelming to come to that conclusion.

I thought about all of the times throughout the day had said “Thank You.” And it struck me that I was in the moment and truly felt the gratitude as I said those words. Every time. But it felt bittersweet, because I can’t shake the feeling that things won’t be the same this time next year. Maybe that’s for the better, but I couldn’t let myself focus on that too long, because I wanted to soak up every last second of daylight. I couldn’t (and still can’t) let this day go.

I want to bottle it up for all those ordinary days. But while I still have the house to myself, I’m going to let myself bask in it. How many times in life do you feel truly special and completely loved? I think I owe it to myself to enjoy it.

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Old Habits

Something miraculous happened today. Well, maybe not miraculous. But it was certainly a change for me.

I was faced with the triggering situation I’ve mentioned in other posts and I feel like I reverted back to old habits. (You know the saying!) I obsessed and felt guilty and ashamed of what I was doing.

But one thing changed.

I always end up going for a walk to try and clear my mind and when I reach a certain spot with my favorite view (I call it my mountaintop), I pause and let the emotions wash over me. Usually this ends with me clutching my phone to my chest while sobbing and feeling sorry for myself and trying to decide whether I want to burden a friend with my sob story.

But as I approached that spot today, the only way I can explain it is that it felt like I was revisiting the scene of a crime. Or the scene of a great tragedy. Things were visually very different–the big open field is starting to get developed–but it was more than that. It was that feeling a character in a suspense novel gets at the end of the story. You know, when they go back to the place where they had that really big fight and someone “accidentally” dies. (I’ve been reading a lot of those books lately…) It felt like a line was drawn. I looked around and had memories of those days, but this was a new beginning. Things were physically and emotionally very different. But also exactly the same.

As I approached the fence and started to let down my guard, I was startled by my gut reaction.

I prayed.

I actually prayed out loud for the strength and courage and confidence to get through this situation. I tried to contain sobs and admitted that I can’t do this alone and that I need help.

I was so humbled by the beauty in front of me. Yes, things were changing. There was the beginning of a road, a fire hydrant and construction trucks. But it was still the same view I’ve been admiring for years. The tall grasses still blew in the wind, the birds still flocked to the pond, the butterflies and dragonflies still floated through the grasses, the big, strong Oaks still rustled their leaves. Everything was the same and yet, everything was completely different.

I turned around, crouched down and completely lost it. The tears kept flowing as the prayer became internal.

Eventually the tears stopped and I felt the need to circle around, walk it off and return to the same spot. As I walked, I felt more and more at peace. Words and phrases kept popping up in my mind and by the time I got back to my “mountaintop” I knew what I wanted to say.

I did end up calling a friend, but not with my sob story. I explained that things have been different lately. Better. I told her I wanted to tell her more about it in person sometime soon.

I haven’t talked with anyone about my new-found faith. I’ve kept it to myself because I don’t want to be that Jesus freak. I haven’t told my parents because while they would appreciate that I’ve come around, I don’t think they would quite understand why I don’t agree with them on all aspects. We’ve also had cryptic conversations about faith being a personal thing that you don’t need to vocalize to others. My friends all grew up in a church–not necessarily mine–and it’s just never been a major talking point for us.

But I’m ready to share. I want to be able to talk about it with someone who might understand. So I called a friend whose family has gone to our church for more than 10 years. (In fact, I saw her at church this morning!) She grew up in a much more openly religious family, but we’ve never really talked about it.

This is a big step for me. I’m nervous, but I’m also excited. I’m mostly just relieved to finally let those old habits die.

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Right Now

You guys.

It’s been a week.

Oh, man.

Nothing big happened, but a whole lotta small things happened.

I had a whole post written up that I was going to publish last week, but (thankfully) when I went to hit “Publish” it was dinner time and I decided I’d read through it one more time before sending it out into the blogosphere.

It always bothers me that we don’t do anything special for summer holidays and my friends and their families do, but for some reason it hit me especially hard last weekend. I fleshed out my feelings about the subject in the almost-post and ended up actually expressing it (quite emotionally, I might add) to my parents at dinner. We finished dinner with the understanding that we would treat the weekend as a staycation.

Luckily, the weather helped us out. It was the hottest Memorial Day on record here and the high temperature never dipped below 90° for 6 days. It was too hot to do anything outside, so we spent most of the weekend in/by the pool, experimenting with Mai Tai recipes, making (and receiving) far too many sweet treats, catching up on The Crown, whipping up fancy brunches for friends (just call me Martha!) and falling in love with our hometown all over again. It may not have been the lake, but it was one of the best Memorial Day weekends I can remember.

By Tuesday, I was actually missing the kids. And this was the last week of “normal” scheduling before things start getting topsy turvy for the summer, so I was determined to take it all in and enjoy every minute.

Spoiler alert: not every minute was worth remembering. And it rained. Almost. Every. Day.

On top of that, I was feeling pretty sluggish and disappointed from all of the indulging I was doing over the weekend.

Lots of familiar thoughts started popping up and it was exhausting trying to quiet them.

But I did.

I dove headfirst into a new book, made exercise a priority again, started saying no to that second slice of cake (and banana bread and ice cream sandwich and cookie…), made a new get-up-and-go playlist and started looking at minutes and hours instead of days, weeks and months.

I’m realizing that while I’m a planner and actually enjoy planning out months at a time, it’s healthier for me to focus on right now. 

Right now my nephew is sleeping, my niece is playing Barbies, my dad is mowing the lawn and my mom is off to help a friend finish a big project. Yes, later today I will be tested. Chaos will ensue and I will probably lose my cool. Tears will be shed and food will be thrown.

But right now I’m sitting in the sun in my favorite spot with my favorite dog doing what I love. Enjoying the peace.

It may only last a few more minutes, but that’s all I need.

Right now everything is good.

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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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The Wait

It’s a lonely night.

I’m lucky enough to have someone I can reach out to in these instances, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do.

I still have trouble stripping back all the layers and being completely vulnerable.

Without any of us realizing it, my parents raised me to keep the ugly feelings inside. Me being of the generation I am, that doesn’t feel natural. I feel like I should be able to be me, ugly or pretty, all the time. But I have to unlearn the bad habits and retrain myself. And I desperately want to.

But it’s hard.

It’s really hard to grow up.

I have these flashes of clarity and confidence, but that’s all they are. They disappear as quickly as they appear and leave me feeling hopeless.

I know I’ll find my path one day, but the wait is excruciating.

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Unfollow

I’m just going to say it: Facebook sucks.

I mean it’s amazing, but it sucks.

I have learned that my mind just can’t handle the constant comparisons. So-and-so is engaged! So-and-so is married! So-and-so is pregnant! So-and-so bought a house! So-and-so got a new “grown up” job! So-and-so had so much fun drinking with friends last night! So-and-so went on an incredible vacation! So-and-so has the best family!

Carrie doesn’t care! Or rather, Carrie does care and is actually a little jealous.

See, all I hear in my mind is: I’m not engaged, I’m not married, I’m not pregnant, I didn’t buy a new house, I don’t have a “grown up” job, I don’t go drinking with friends, I didn’t go on an incredible vacation, I don’t have the best family.

I’m not recognizing the joys of the little things in my life. It’s making me question my relationships (we don’t do that, so we must not be as close as them). It’s making me feel inferior. I’m such a loser.

And I’m done with that mindset. I’m done with the comparisons. I can’t live like that anymore.

Last week I did a little experiment. It was hard, but I kind of gave up Facebook. I only let myself check it once in the morning. That’s it. (We actually did have an incredible little day trip, (which I should share with you sometime) which helped for about 2 days.)

Then my sister-in-law posted a video of my niece. And my cousin posted a picture of her little one. And one of my best friends posted a picture of her family on vacation.

I realized that I was a lot happier without it, but I didn’t want to give it up completely. I still love seeing posts from my closest friends and my extended family that I don’t get to see often. And oddly enough, those don’t stir up any jealous feelings.

So today I unfollowed everyone I wouldn’t acknowledge if they walked past me on the street. Which ended up being most of my “friends.”

We’ll see if I feel like I’m missing out on anything, although I don’t think I will.

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