One Year Later…

Old Me Better

Growth is Painful, Change is Painful, But nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.

It has been almost a year since I had my version of a hitting bottom, and no it didn’t include any kind of mood altering substance so much as a ridiculously cathartic crying jag. In that moment, if I recall it was being kicked out of the DMV for toddlers that “decorated” a patron’s shirt with red berry sauce, I knew something had to change. Everything in my life seemed off course, random, unpredictable, and out of control. Life was happening to me, and not because I was busy making other plans, but because I was busy treading water trying not to freaking drown.

At some point that day I made a decision to fix what was ailing me. I set forth on a new undefined path with really only one thing in mind, please oh please let things get better. I started this blog to share my journey and sometimes perhaps I overshared, or even offended, but the words and feelings were all my own, and not intended to harm or maim anyone. It was a process, a good dirty process that I hoped would be the kick in the ass I needed to build a life I actually wanted to be living in a way that would leave me feeling happy, in control, and satisfied.

Shake it out Florence and the Machine

Okay, you can stop laughing now. I know I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was desperate and writing has always been what makes my mind peaceful. Knowing I am not alone gives me courage. Breaking things down and sorting them out creates knowledge to move forward and plans for action. So I went online searching for happy, better life, peace, Zen, anything I thought would help what I was quickly beginning to think was a broken soul.

I discovered so many things online and in books and in sharing with others. I sorted through all the advice and suggestions and methods for living better and being happy. I tried on the many “hats” of change at times stepping far outside my comfort zone or taking risks I hadn’t been able to take before. I lost some friends, I made some friends, and I found a soul sister. I lost weight, I gained weight. I worked out, I binged on ice cream. I danced. I brought music back into my life (something gone since my sister died and took it with her).

It is hard to really cover all the steps I took to arrive here in this moment, one year later. It is hard to truly break down the impact that this past year, and all my efforts have really had. So I’m just going to make a lessons learned list, because maybe there is a lesson in there for you, yes even you. Maybe something in there will spark something in you, and you too can start a journey that only goes where YOU lead it. Because I can honestly say, with out a doubt, that my life is better, far better, than it was. I feel full, in control, happy. So if you don’t, you can.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Breathe- Sometimes breathing is all you need to turn a stressor into a pinnacle moment. I learned that when my patience was lost I had a much better response if I took a breath before opening my mouth. I learned that no moment in time is worth as much as the moment I take with that one cleansing breath, because all the moments after it are clearer, more focused, and easier to cope with. Not to mention nicer.
  2. Do something- No seriously, do something, anything. Most unhappiness seems to come from not doing, being too afraid to try, being too still to move. If you have a goal then step toward it, if you don’t then simply dance, but get up and DO something. Nothing will ever change without your participation, and the only way that can happen is if you freaking do something to make it change. I wanted to do more writing, I wanted to find other work where I could write something more interesting. So I wrote and wrote and wrote, this blog, my books, and silly songs. As a result, in April I applied for, and received, an awesome job working with great people that is closer to my dream job than anything I’ve had before. I still get to work from home, but now I feel a sense of pride in what I do, an excitement to “go” to work every day. The feeling is great, and I know in my heart that this job will help me attain the dream job, and I wouldn’t have gotten it if I hadn’t written this blog, they hired me based on this blog. I just have to keep doing something.IMG_4323
  3. Stop making excuses- I never made that many excuses, not out loud and certainly not for my situation so much as my inability to change my situation. But once I decided to just change what bothered me instead of finding an excuse about why I couldn’t change it, life got infinitely easier. It was far less work and effort to actually do work than to make excuses on why I couldn’t. No joke, the effort involved in doing nothing and letting life happen to you is remarkable. It’s only too bad it isn’t a great calorie burner. I got where I was because I had LET life happen to me and I had made a mess of excuses in my head as to why it couldn’t be changed. I clung to those excuses because it felt easier to do that than to let go. I can honestly say it is easier to let go, easier to stop making them.
  4. Live in the Now- this one almost couldn’t get more cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason now aren’t they? Once I figured out how to train my brain to be happy right now, consider this moment right now, I was infinitely happier than when I was planning or dreading the future, or lamenting and agonizing over a past I can never change. I recently went on a trip and my return flight was delayed by so many hours I had no hope of getting home that day. Instead of stressing and panicking or getting angry, I just thought eh? Could be worse, no big deal, what can I do with my extra night? How much more fun can I have? I’ll sort the rest out later. Sure it put a monkey wrench in my life, it meant my husband would have to change his plans, and my kids would be disappointed, but those were all things I couldn’t control and the NOW was one more moment with a friend. The extra night was like a gift from the universe, and we got to finish all the things we hadn’t completed. I’m glad I didn’t lose that moment to stress or worry. I’m glad that plane got stuck in Dallas.IMG_4358
  5. Eat right- I’ve always eaten better than most people, but in July of last year my son was diagnosed with Celiac disease and it meant a diet change for all of us. He can’t have anything with gluten, and in case you didn’t know this, gluten is in pretty much everything, especially if it is processed or made in a factory. This meant we had to change what we ate entirely. Now we never eat out, we eat whole foods, and my little one snacks on peas like they’re candy. We eat more fruits, and I have become a whiz at hiding veggies. I hate to cook, and I imagine I always will, but there is some self-satisfaction that I know everything that goes into my children’s little developing bodies, and I can honestly say it is pretty good stuff. Children’s Hospital even gave me the seal of approval with the dietician claiming she has never seen a more complete nutritional diet diary, like ever. While I hate eating gluten free I will say this, I am glad that I was forced to do the right thing for my family and myself. I am thankful we are now healthier. I can feel it, I can see it. On a side note I no longer have seasonal allergies… coincidence? I doubt it. So while I am not saying “hey go gluten free!” I am saying be healthy, make wise choices, don’t eat fast food or processed crap. Treat your body well and it will treat you well. I really do feel better.
  6. Take control of your finances- No brainer here but I suspect lots all of us suck at this. Last year we were drowning in medical debt from emergency surgeries and a deathly sick child. We weren’t even living paycheck to paycheck because what we made was spent before we even made it. This knowledge kept me up at night, and made my life burdened and miserable. We would never get ahead, our fate was sealed. So I took over, I had no choice, and we had to make some hard decisions and some difficult choices. We risked hurting others and missing out, but we really had no choice if we were going to save our future, and build a great life for our kids. So we plugged away for a long time and I am thankful I finally said enough. I no longer worry about money, and at the end of the summer we should be out of debt with the exception of our house and my student loan. There is no purchase that feels as good as money in the bank does.
  7. Keep seeking medical help, even when they think you are crazy- this one is serious, because if I hadn’t my life would have been forever altered. My son was sick all the time, almost from the moment we brought him home. He was born healthy, but he seemed troubled forever after. I took him to the doctor at least once a week and often the urgent clinic after hours. No one had answers and several of the doctors implied he was fine, it was me who was crazy. Long story short, after almost a year in a half I finally convinced someone to do blood work on him. I could feel it in my heart that he was dying. A day later I got a call asking me to bring him in right away, it was a Sunday. His blood work was terrible, he really was dying, and we didn’t know why. Thanks doctors, thanks a lot. I couldn’t even take a moment to gloat in being right, it felt like a race to fix him with the race to diagnosis him. We were the “lucky” parents who got to keep our son and heal him. We are the lucky parents whose child only has Celiac disease, and not a life threatening cancer. I would never equate what I went through to the lives of those less fortunate, it can’t be compared. But what I will say is this… had I not continued to fight for him, had I not insisted and finally gotten scary angry and pushy he would have died. On a personal note, after 20 years of feeling shitty with a “managed” thyroid disorder, I finally hunted down a doctor who would give me T3. It’s magic, sheer magic. I feel better in the last month on this new drug than I have since I was 21. I’m only sad it took that long to get a basic hormone available everywhere. I’m glad I didn’t give up, it was only getting worse. I’m just sorry I wasted money on specialists trying to figure out what was wrong, when all I had was a bum thyroid and a crappy string of doctors.IMG_3680
  8. Forgive but don’t forget- People talk about this one a lot. In essence I say you forgive so you don’t poison yourself with hatred and anger, but you never forget so you don’t let it happen to you again. When people hurt you, forgive them. When people repeatedly hurt you, lose them. Life is too short to keep taking punches, there comes a time when you have to say for my own well-being I must tell you goodbye. And that is not a bad thing, but a healthy thing. Never be ashamed or feel you need to make excuses for letting people go. Their drama should never be your trauma.
  9. Surround yourself with like-minded, goal oriented positive people- The best way to become something is to invite it into your life and soak in it. The best way to do that, is to find people who are on the road you want to be on, have reached a destination you want to reach, or feel the same way you do about life. People who have goals and motivation are intrinsically happier, surrounding yourself with happy people will make you happy. Misery loves company, but happy throws a freaking party like you won’t believe. So find enough friends to throw a party, even if you don’t throw the literal party, you should have enough people to bring a smile to your face every day. For you this may mean 1 or 10, for others just a select few, but however many just find those people and hold fast to them.IMG_4276
  10. Feed your soul- If you have stopped doing something you love, start doing it again. If you haven’t treated yourself in a while, do it. I had made a lot of sacrifices for the people in my life. I had bent over backwards and picked a bale of cotton in the name of making others happy and in the process I no longer was. I had lost what made me and I had lost a part of my soul when my sister died and the combination of the two had left me a husk of a person and a shadow of my former self. I recently took a trip that made me unbroken and all I can say is sure I had the best company a girl could ask for, but essentially we did everything I had been missing. We listened to music, drank wine, ate cake, sat on the beach, swam with rays, laughed, talked, trained dogs, took photos, did silly things, held hands, gave support, and mingled with sharks. It was a perfect trip, but beyond the fun and the sun it actually, miraculously healed the broken parts of me, and I came home feeling whole for the first time in four years. I feel like I should have felt selfish for taking this trip for a week away from my wonderful husband and adorable kids, but I don’t. I’m a better wife and mom, I am a better me for feeding my soul, than I have been the last 4 years being broken.DSC_0363
  11. Let go- This is a big one. You have to let go of the past and everything ANY BODY ever did to wrong you. This isn’t the same as forgiveness not really, but you do have to move past it all and stop using it as a reason for why you are how you are, or why you make the choices you do. You have the ability to make intentional choices in life that have nothing to do with how you were raised, who broke your heart, how you were abused, what chemical you were addicted to, or how the world is out to get you. Every day you make the choice to either let your past define you or to define yourself. I am not a victim, I am not a survivor, I am a participant. Once you realize that you are a participant in your own life, it becomes clear that participants get to choose, participants get to be active, participants don’t let things happen to them. And once you truly “get that” you can find a kind of happiness you have never known. Stop being any label anyone put on you, stop being a collection of mistakes or experiences you no longer want to define you. Make your own definition and start living to that. You are not your past, or what people believe you to be. You are whatever you choose to be, you can be whoever you intentionally work toward being. The choice of happiness is yours, but first, you have to let that other shit go.
  12. Be lenient on yourself- no one is perfect, you aren’t trust me. I was never really a perfectionist, and I am not one of those women who has a running inner monologue about my thighs touching, but I did dabble somewhat in a defeatist how did I get here attitude that had me overanalyzing choices I’ve made in the past and how my life might be different if only blah blah blah. The problem with this is, the blah blah blah doesn’t matter, I can’t go back and change what has been done, but I can only go forward and change what is yet to come. I remind myself daily that I am a work in progress, not a finished work of art, and that it is okay to be less than perfect because some of the most amazing and beautiful things are filled with imperfections.
  13. Do something that scares you- Maybe it’s a yoga class you know nothing about it, maybe its swimming with sharks, maybe it’s not saying every word that comes into your head, but whatever it is, if it scares you and inhibits your progress forward then just do it. Most of the time, when you get it over with, you feel stronger because it turned out better than you thought it would, or at least you are one step closer to being who you want to be or having the life you want to have.

Life isn’t perfect, I’m not sure it ever gets to be, and hoping for that might be setting myself up for failure, but it is pretty darn good. Financially we are right on track, and I feel confident we will reach our goals in life to be without money worries. Health wise my boys are doing well and I’m better than I have been in 2 decades, it feels good to have a body that works the way it should, and to not have to go to the cancer and blood disorders wing of Children’s Hospital every week.  We have what we need, and even some of what we want, and it feels good to wander the grounds with my dogs and kids hunting flowers and poop. I wake up with a smile and I actually sleep now. I still have blue carpet I hate, and a small mouse problem, but I have the things that matter, and I can appreciate them all now.

Life is Beautiful Keb Mo

This one year journey came with lots of surprises and strangely three bouts of flu, but I wouldn’t have traded the moments or the struggle for anything else or any other life. This life is the one I have chosen, this work is the work that I enjoy, this man is the man I want to grow old with, these kids are the kids I want to rock at night until they are far too old for that shit, this house is the house I want to mark with their heights and fill with our laughter, these friends are the friends I want to have adventures with and invite to my funeral, this moment is the one I want to live in, the one I choose because it has everything I need (and some of what I want), and that is more than enough. It doesn’t mean I won’t be striving for more, if anything I believe now more than ever that I can get more, it just means that each moment is one that can be oddly perfect even when sad, or not going the way I had hoped.

DSC_1111On my trip, my friend had to put down one of her beloved dogs, and it was oddly perfect. A handsome fellow she had spent over 10 years with. A man that had played witness and supporting role in her life. He was a really cool beast of a dog, and I am grateful I got to share his space and photograph his face. But the point of this is not the sadness of his passing, for it was sad and she still feels loss and I do to for her, the point is that even that moment was a good one, because I got to hold her hand, I got to share her sorrow, I got to ease her pain, and I got to say goodbye to a really really good soul. I got to witness a peaceful moment between friends that somehow made my heart hurt less not more. I hate to sound selfish and I’d bring him back healthy and strong for her if I could, but I also wouldn’t want to give up that moment we shared because it brought us closer to each other and helped build a bond that won’t ever be easily broken.

I’ve learned that to be with those I love is enough.

Walt Whitman

Every moment has the potential to be good. You have the power to make it so. You can choose to create a whole new life. I did. I made a life that looks a lot like the life from a year ago, but this time, I’m making it mine, and loving every moment of it. This time I am in control and it is truly beautiful.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. Thank you for letting me vent this here. Thank you for the opportunities this blog has brought me, those I hoped for and those I could never have foreseen. There are great things to come. More great things to come. And you can bet, I will be sitting front and center having the time of my life.
Back Home by Andy Grammer

The Best of 2013

I’m not going to lie, 2013 kicked my proverbial ass in many ways. In other ways it was one of the most eye opening and life defining years of my life. Entering into motherhood three years prior had left me feeling like I’d lost myself. Losing my sister three years ago left me feeling broken.  I continued moving forward because that is what life is about, that is how you get unstuck from the muck and that is how you create the life you want, but in many ways it was just me going through the motions as opposed to me really living life. On the outside it looked like I was getting stuff done, sticking to a plan, on the inside it was like watching a movie and wishing it was over so I could sleep. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, I love my husband, I love my life, but sometimes life knocks you down and makes other plans and you can stop and wallow in that shit or you can give it the middle finger and keep on moving even if you are injured (see that old intentional living I have been going on about for months).

2013 gave me a sick baby and doctors and hospitals and people I wish I had never had the need to meet, but am so grateful I did. It had my family discovering that Celiac Disease is actually a positive thing (when I consider the other potential options). It had me falling in love with my husband all over again by being lucky enough to watch him embrace his life as a responsible adult (something I think men struggle with). 2013 had me reach my pre baby weight but not my pre baby body (I still hope to shock and amaze you with before and after photos one day, maybe a 4 pack at 40 kind of thing by June??) but I learned my ability to be a dude is far more important than a flat stomach.  2013 saw my mother move to our property, my oldest learning how to be a good big brother, and my youngest potty training himself. 2013 let me reconnect with old friends, find my soul sister, and create laughter. But 2013 also brought me something else, this blog.

To some of you that may not even be note worthy. To me it has been a journey, and at times, an eye opening experience as I peruse all things in life looking for a better life, a happier life, a good way to live. By writing about my thoughts, by conveying what I have learned and all I have read I have not only learned much about me, I’ve learned so much about that better life. I am now able to turn off my mind when it tries to harm me with thoughts about my past or future, thoughts I cannot change and events I cannot alter. I have learned how to find happiness in this moment, how to let go of pain, how to manage my finances, how to talk to my husband, how to confront constructively, and how to love more completely. I have far more patience than I did when I started this journey and I can actually see the me I used to be before kids, before loss. There she is, looking at me in that mirror. There she is lounging surrounded by pups. There she is playing games with her kids. She didn’t disappear, she just got a little lost.

I spent a lot of time this year feeling defeated, scared, beaten down, broken, just utterly lost. I was frustrated that life wasn’t what I had been sold, that things could go horribly askew without my consent, and that so many people all over the place, every where I looked, were suffering. Then one day I sat down and I Googled happiness. I Googled, happy life. I Googled Zen. And it changed everything. Something so silly and ridiculous changed everything. So while we are better off financially than we were, our son thankfully does NOT have cancer, and our family life is full of laughter and peace, I know, I know in my heart and my head that I got to this place thru the journey of intentional decisions. Of choosing to shape my future so it would not be defined by my past. Of choosing the identity I wanted instead of the one I had fallen into.

While I think there is value in many of the posts from 2013 (I am bias after all), here are the most popular posts and those YOU found value in. May 2014 be a year where we all continue to make our own destinies and give the middle finger to anything that tries to stop us.

Things Dads Do- Apparently you all love videos, especially if it is a video of my husband doing questionable things with his children.

How to get laid more- Apparently you all love having sex too. I’m shocked by this one. :)

I help you all pick a deodorant- or at least I make you feel less alone picking a deodorant.

3 Songs- I got a lot of feedback on this one that it reminded people to remember what they love about their significant other. It went a way I didn’t expect when I wrote it, I’m glad you all took it another way. I was instantly more grateful.

You and Your Finances- This one made you all feel a little less alone. I know it made me feel less alone and it was the first step, a coming out if you will, that allowed us to get on the road to fixing our finances.

How to Kick Ass at the Gym- Speaks for itself.

and my favorite, not just because it is about me, but because writing it and really considering it,  opened my eyes and reminded me of who I am and why I like that person. About Wendy

Book em Dano! Spoiler alert: This is not about Hawaii 5 O

I once met a man who told me with great pride that he “wasn’t a reader”. He seemd not only proud of this fact, but worried that I might assume he was a reader and therefore judge him harshly. He was about to begin a story about getting spooked after reading a certain book, and he wanted it to be clear that the particular book in question was the ONLY book he’d ever read that wasn’t required for school. It was really hard for me not to give him the polite, yet condescending, golf clap.

There are two things wrong with this man, okay there were way more than two, but for the sake of this post lets go with two. The first was he thought that being viewed as a reader was a bad thing. That being a reader implied something negative about a person and so therefore it must be clear he is not associated with that group. The second was he thought I would understand or even agree with this. He clearly did not know his audience.

I am a reader! I am a proud reader. No seriously. I can remember reading long before starting school. Begging the librarian to let me check out the big kid books in the second grade, and often feeling like the only people who understood me were fictional. I love to read and I can’t understand people who don’t. I just don’t get it. I would never choose television over a good book. If I were trapped on an island I would want there to be books. When I am bored, or even doing other things, I am thinking about books.

It wasn’t until I started this blog that I realized just how much I love them, or how much a part of my life reading is. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t “in the middle” of a book. I always have something I’m reading laying around. I buy my next book usually before I finish my last book and ibooks is my new bff (we cuddle at night but don’t tell my husband) But writing this blog every week and posting the what I’m reading at the bottom was sort of an eye opener. I read at least one book a week, sometimes two, this past week three! (It was a great, can’t put it down trilogy. I won’t apologize for my level of nerdom. All hail Veronica Roth!)

Until what I was reading was there every week staring me in the face, forcing me to consider the author and the name, I didn’t realize I actually read that many books a year.  If I keep up my current pace, by the time the blog reaches its one year anniversary I will have read close to 70 books. Seventy!  Even I can’t fathom that, and I am the zealot reading them.

I have been looking for a happier life and a more peaceful way of being. I now realize, through sharing my weekly book choice, that reading is one of the ways I find peace. Call it escaping, letting my imagination run wild, or just plain old entertainment, books are still some of my best friends and I am grateful I get to spend my spare time with them. They never complain about how far away my house is or the dog hair on the couch. They never judge my unbruushed hair or my snack choice. Books just beam happiness that I am reading, the rest doesn’t matter to them.

How we spend our free time says a lot about us, and I think it also determines our happiness, creativity, thoughtfulness, and outside human interactions (wait there are real humans out there?). I work a full time job from home with two children under the age of 4. Its sort of like having 5 jobs and spinning like a top while you balance plates on your nose. It sucks all available time and energy from your body and mind. Sure I am always home and available to do laundry and dishes between tushy wipes and dull government requirement editing, so I don’t have a lot of chores left when the work day is officially over, but I also have little alone time or moments to breathe.

When the work day is over, and I have created a wonderful home cooked gluten free meal for my men, I clean up, give baths, feed dogs, put children to bed and finally crash on the couch. I then spend questionable “quality time” (how can mindless tv be quality?) with my husband while we watch our favorite television shows for about an hour and a half (there are over 200 hundred hours of things stored on the DVR and we will never have enough time to watch them all). Then, when the night is still and my children are done stirring and my husband is snoring, I finally get to read. I only tell you about my day so you don’t tell me you don’t have time to read. If I can eek out even an hour at the end of the day, then I think just about anyone can.  Most people spend three times that watching terrible television. There is no excuse for not reading.

I love my time alone in the dark reading books that make me laugh, make me think, make me fall in love with new people I will never get to meet only to bring me back down when they die. I love that I don’t need anything but a single book to make the world okay, and make my fears and stress disappear.  Reading a book is like escaping to another world where I don’t matter, where no one needs me to feed them, pay bills, or remember to give medicine. Books make me feel alive and whole. Is it any wonder I want to get my own book published? Nothing could be greater in this world than knowing as an author that your words reach thousands of people, inspire them to change, challenge them to think. Wow the power of the written word!

I recently read about people making promises to themselves to run every day from Thanksgiving to New Years. I thought that was pretty cool and maybe I would do that too. Setting goals is a great way to achieve dreams and often times something bigger. Then I remembered I don’t run. The fact that I read this while running on a treadmill is merely ironic and hardly noteworthy. But there are things I do do. And there are goals I can make, that I can achieve, that will make me happier and healthier. And that is, after all, the goal of this blog. Happiness, peace, realization, intentionality, Zen.

So my goal is to read, everyday for at least two hours. This should get me two books a week without much of a problem. The books will be fiction and not about anything that touches my own life. In other words I don’t want to read about motherhood, sick babies, or dysfunctional relatives. I don’t want my mind to linger or stray to real life. I want books that take me somewhere new and make me believe that great things are happening, even if the great thing is just perfect literature. I challenge you to read. I challenge even the “not a readers” out there to pick up a book and just start (and Yes Candace I mean you!). You never know who you will meet, where you will go, or what you will learn. You will never know how great it can be until you do it.

What book will you read?

As a sub goal, I want to write everyday as well. I want to write my ass off. Now who wants to babysit two sweet angelic boys while I do that?

 

What I am reading: The Entire Divergent Series by Veronica Roth. I don’t even know how to gush on about how much I love these books. I’d tell you that if you like the Hunger Games you will like these, but that would be wrong to compare these books to anything else. I just finished the third book last night, and the nerd in me is going to read them again.

What I am listening to: Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons

Now moment of the week: Hanging Christmas tree lights with my husband. I always wanted outdoor lights as a kid but we never did them. I think my little kid mind felt you had to have a daddy to do them. I used to drive by houses counting which houses had daddies and which did not, like the lights were a badge of identification, honor. I never did them as an adult either. It seemed like a lot of hassle without little kids to be in awe. But this year we did them together, Mommy and Daddy. And we laughed, and it was silly and over too quickly for me. And now I promise you, and the little girl inside me, that we will always have Christmas lights on our house this time of year. (not year round of course, my husband maybe a redneck but I am not, after all I’m a “reader” ;))

Inspirations from the ether: Amazon Prime. I really can’t say too many awesome things about it. I’ve had it a year now and given our gluten free celiac status it makes grocery shopping for specialty items easy and shipping is free. I can read books for free on my kindle and watch tv and movies for free through my Blue ray player. Seriously, I heart Amazon Prime. You complete me Amazon Prime.