Monday, December 23, 2013

Beautiful Mistakes

They were mistakes, no doubt.

But, they were beautiful mistakes. Not so much because it was good to have made them, but because it was good to have learned from them.  When she looked back, she could see the turns she had taken that maybe weren't the wisest choices.  But, when she looked back, she could also see how those turns had taught her something.  Lots of somethings.  And lots of somethings that were important to learn.

They hadn't been easy lessons. Some of them had hurt deeply in the learning.  Sometimes they had hurt her.  Sometimes they had hurt other people. They weren't lessons that had come without a price.  Some prices, she was happy to pay.  Some prices, and mostly the ones for which she wasn't the one who had to pay, she wished she had somehow made other choices. But yet, in the end, they were prices that had been paid, choices that had been made, and there was no going back and choosing other things. There was no going back and paying other prices.

So she looked back and she simply found herself grateful for the lessons. She was grateful for the wisdom. She was grateful for the opportunities to grow and change and become something else.

And yes, she was grateful for the mistakes.  Hard mistakes, but beautiful mistakes.

For they made it possible to be who she was today.  And who she was...  well, that was beautiful, too.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013 Theme: Choose Who You Want to Be

Choose who you want to be, 
despite what anyone else does, says, or thinks.

In the end, I suppose this was my theme for 2013. It's something I stumbled across early in the year, and I really liked its idea.  But, I kept returning to it over and over as the year wore on.

I suppose that I am (and perhaps we all are?) a pretty responsive person. I don't act so much as I respond. I change what I do and think and am, based on what other people do, think, and say about me.  And perhaps that isn't un-understandable.  It's difficult to not let those things affect us.  But, I came to a decision early on this year that I was responsible for who I was. I was responsible for what I did and thought and said. And it wasn't okay for me to blame other people for those things.

Because, at the end of the day, I got to choose who I was.

And who I was... it wasn't dependent on other people's choices and thoughts and words.  Those were their things to choose.  I couldn't control those things, and neither should I try.  But what could I control?

I could control me. I had power over me. I could choose the person I wanted to be and I could make choices based on that person.

I'd love to say that I was a rousing success.  But, it probably wouldn't be true. I often had to be very strict with myself and reprimand, "No! You get to choose. Don't change who you are, the person you want to be, the kind of friend/parent/etc you want to be, based on someone else's actions. Let them be responsible for them. You be responsible for you."  Sometimes I listened.  Sometimes I didn't.

But I think I'm ending the year content in those choices. Part of me wishes that I'd chosen deliberate action more often, and responsive action less. But, I think I'm ending the year content in the choices I made, content in the times that I went right along being who I wanted to be, no matter if anyone else was on the train with me or not.

Be the person you want to be, Jo. It doesn't matter what anyone else does.

I think I'll take that into 2014 with me, too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

It's been a really rough six weeks.  Really rough.

It wasn't supposed to be!  November started with a CRUISE with my absolute favoritest group of vocalists, and I was really excited about it.  The first time in a really long time that I'd been able to go on a vacation that was just for me.  But, on the plane ride home from Miami, I was inundated with emails from my youngest...

Mommy, when are you coming home?  I am so sick...

And.... she was. A misdiagnosis of strep throat had passed over the pneumonia in her body, which took a repeat visit to the doctor to find.  She's been sick ever since.  We're still struggling with breathing difficulties, trying to figure out the right medical road to walk.  And while we do that, school marches on without us. I'm ever aware of the amount of school she is missing, while she struggles with being panic-attack-level afraid of returning.

On top of that, another one of our kids got sick a week ago and she's been home too!

Can we just say I'm a little worn out of playing nurse... and I'm struggling to see the light at the tunnel.

And sometimes life is like this.  Sometimes life is a struggle and you walk roads that seem dark and that have no end.  It's on roads like this that you have to be deliberate about looking around you. You have to pay attention to the good things around you, even if they are little.  Sometimes the littlest smile can make the biggest difference in a week of hard.  And you are going to have weeks that are hard.

And so you need to enjoy that cup of coffee without guilt.  Make time for the run that fills you with endorphins and makes you feel strong. Sit in front of the fireplace and stare into its flames.  Play that new CD you bought and stop apologizing that it's the 19th time you've played it in the last four days.

Do what you need to get to the end of the tunnel...  cause it's there. Just keep walking, keep looking, keep smiling.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Before I Fall

Before I fall, could you look a little closer?
I want you to see who I am really.
I need you to see.
I need someone to see.

Before I fall, could you move a little closer?
I just need to be in a space that isn't so open, so empty.
That won't hurt so much when I crash.
As if the mere presence of others makes the ground softer.

Before I fall, could you speak a little softer?
Just a kind word or two, a thought of understanding.
It makes such a difference just to know that we're not alone here
That someone cares.

Before I fall, could you hold me a little longer?
Hold my hand another minute before letting go...
Because I know that the fall is coming
And if you're here, someone might catch me when I finally let go

And fall.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holding On and Letting Go

Sometimes I think that one of my deepest struggles is knowing when it's time to hold on and when it's time to let go. I don't always trust myself and and I don't always trust if my feelings reflect what is true, and so I often look outside of myself for someone to tell me which road I should walk, which path I should take.

But, I think that you know.  I think that, when you're struggling with it, deep in your heart, you know if it's time to do one or if it's time to do the other.  Fear complicates that knowing.  Are you letting go too soon and losing the chance to heal what's broken? Or are you hanging on for too long and robbing yourself of the chance to find where you're meant to be?  And that fear, on either side, keeps you immobile, keeps you from moving down either path.

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe my deepest struggle isn't knowing which path to take. Perhaps it's just being able to trust myself and to believe that what I know in my heart is right.

Because I think you know.  Deep down, under all the "what if'"s and indecision and "but what about"s, you know.  And you have to trust that knowing. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hard Words to Say

These are hard words to say and sometimes I just don't know how to say them. Or sometimes, I'm worried that, if I say them, you won't hear them right or you'll hear the wrong tone and you won't understand what I'm trying to say in the first place.

So I say different words. And we talk about different things. Because the things I really want to say are too hard, too fraught with danger, too untrustworthy.

But, the hard words are still there. They haven't gone anywhere and there are parts of me that still need to say them. That still need to be heard. So I bury those parts and I bury those words and we don't talk about the things.

Because they are hard to say.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Safe in the Harbour: Following Your Own Dreams

When I got involved with being a Celtic Thunder supporter, I was a passionately exuberant fan. There were a lot of reasons for that - some of them personal, some of them less so. But, one thing that drew me was that there was something quite inspiring and rewarding about watching someone achieve their dreams. Real life Cinderella stories played out in people I'd actually spoken with.  Perhaps, it's something of what draws us to watching shows like American Idol and the like, too. Very simply, it was a fun thing to be involved in.

And involved, I was. I threw myself headfirst into participating, supporting, and promoting in any and every way that I could. I was delighted if those things contributed in any way to the success of the artists I admired. And even if they didn't, I was thrilled just to see those people succeed, anyway. In many ways, there was nothing wrong with that delight. Wanting to see others achieve their dreams is a good thing.

One of the members released his first solo album a couple years ago, and on it, he covered a song called "Safe in the Harbour" that began to really speak to me.

"Some men are sailors, but most are just dreamers
Held fast by the anchors they forge in their minds.
In their hearts they'll know they'll never sail over deep water
To search for a treasure they're afraid they won't find.
"So, in sheltered harbours, they cling to their anchors
Bank down their boilers and shut down the steam
And they wait for the sailors to return with their treasures
That will fan the dull embers and fire up their dreams."

Every time I heard it, it nagged at my heart. And I ignored it - because listening meant change. But, when I could ignore it no longer, I began to understand what it meant for me. You se, that well-intentioned desire to see people I barely knew attain success had become my personal top priority. It was what I worked for. Their success had become mine - only it wasn't true.

For as fun and rewarding as it was to see their dreams come true (and it was), the truth was that their dreams weren't mine. I had my own artist's heart burning within my chest. But, by throwing my all into fanning the embers of someone else's fire, I was pouring buckets of water onto my own. There was simply nothing left for me.

There is great value in supporting each other's dreams. We should all be doing that for each other. Supporting, encouraging, sharing each other sensibly when we can and helping each other up when we fall. But, we each are given a burning purpose in our hearts and souls, and they are each weighted with value. When we douse our own flames to make someone else's more valuable, we insult the impact that we were meant to have.

It's not a bad thing to support someone else, and I don't mean to communicate that there is. There is good in that and likely none of us would see much success if we didn't share that support. But, I was wrong in how far down that road I allowed myself to go. I dishonoured my own passions and talents. I disrespected my own dreams and value. And those were wrong things.

Balance is a good thing. Support each other, but follow your own dreams, too. Not just someone else's.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Thought I Would Be Different

I thought I would be different...  when I got through it all.
And I was. I was different.
I saw things different. I said things different. I felt things different.

But I was the same, too. I had the same past and the same face and the same pain and the same happy.
and I wasn't really sure how to be both.  To be both the same and different.
Perhaps I'm still not sure.

I'm still the same. And I'm still different.
But I don't always know which I want to be.

And I guess that's okay. It's okay to have changed.  And it's okay to have not changed.
And it's okay to be both. and it's okay to not be sure which I am at a given moment.

It's even okay that I see things in me that maybe others haven't seen yet.
It's okay that I'm not always who people think I am.

This "becoming" business isn't always pretty. There are stops and starts and they don't always make sense.
It's a twisty topsy-turny road...  but honestly, I wouldn't want to be on another.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Great Thief

Where you've been isn't necessarily where you're going.

Are you one to focus too much on what's happened in the past?  I definitely am, and so I am probably the single worst person in the world to preach on this.  I have walked through this lesson more times than I can count, and most likely, I will walk through it again a countless more before I really internalize it.

But, what I learn over and over is that focusing on the past only robs us from being able to focus on the present, and in doing so, we miss our future. That's too much to miss.

Sometimes what has come before is so haunting. There is pain and regret, what-could-have-been's and choices you wish you had made. There are words that were spoken, some by you, some by them - and sometimes those words just hang about in the air, a whisper in your ear of what things you can't seem to walk away from.  And so I understand when the past seems too heavy to escape.

But, if you can walk out from underneath its weight, and if we can do that together...  there is much waiting for us here. There is beauty and sunshine and... just life to be lived! People to meet, experiences to be had, relationships to enjoy.

Don't let your past steal your future.  Let it go... and embrace what is here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday Tales: The Clock Tower

I looked out the window and I watched the hands move on the clock across the courtyard.  Minute by minute, they ticked away.

I'd always knew this day was come. When I got involved, I knew what could happen. But somehow, I never thought it would happen to me. Like I was immune from the risks inherent in the situation. Sure, I knew others who had fallen. But me?  Never. I don't think it really ever entered my mind that I would somehow ever be here in this room, facing what I'm facing today.

I thought I was superhuman.  But, as it turns out, I'm just normal-human.

The hands ticked again.  Up to 12.  There was a pause, as if the clock itself was inhaling sharply, unwilling to toll its bell and signal the beginning.  I waited, and eventually it could stall no longer.

The bell rang out.
The door to my room opened.
And suddenly it was all dark.

Today was Execution Day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Back to the Start

"Let's go back to the start," we said. "Where it all began and let's start over..."

and so we tried. But, it never quite worked.

I think that's where we messed up -- by trying to go back to the start.  Because you can't do that, not really. You change, they change, we change. And going back to the start is trying to go back to fixing something with people who don't even exist anymore. You can't build a relationship on ghosts.

What you can do is start again, but where you are. But, it's not going back to the beginning. You have to deal with what's come between the start and the now.  You can agree to forgive each other, and that can be a part of the dealing and the healing. But, you can't go back and pretend that those things didn't happen, and you can't pretend that those things didn't mean something.

Because they did... if they didn't, you wouldn't need to start over and you would have no reason to even want to go back to the beginning.  They meant something.  And because they meant something, they matter and you can't just ignore them and hope they'll go away. They mattered and we need to respect that.

But, just because you can't go back to the beginning doesn't mean that you can't still have something beautiful. It might be work for a little bit...  but beauty is not easily achieved.  But, when you get there, it is sweet and it is beautiful and it is worth it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm Going on Vacation

A friend of mine returned from vacation awhile back and we were catching up over email. After telling me about her trip, she asked how my summer had been. I told her that I was really glad that she had taken her vacation and that it was so important to take a break from it all from time to time, and then launched into everything that had been going on over the summer in our family.

When she wrote back, she told me, "You make me laugh!  First, you tell me how important it is to take a break, and I bet you didn't even realize that every single thing you told me about you was about the kids."

And she was right. As we talked, I realized I couldn't even really remember the last thing I had done that was just for me.  We mothers can be downright martyr-ish sometimes.

So... I'm going on vacation.  I wasn't going to go. The day after I asked my husband if I could, while he was thinking it over, I almost told him "Never mind, I don't need to go" several times. It was selfish, wasn't it? It would be an inconvenience of money and time. We would have to juggle the kids. It was definitely selfish. And I almost backed out of it.  I almost backed out of it over and over.

But every time, I stopped myself.  I stopped myself because this is what I do. I always convince myself that doing something for me is unreasonable.  And if it was any other woman, I would tell her that she was wrong, and that doing something for her is actually quite important.  But I can never quite find it in me to give myself the same lecture.  To me, I say that I'm not being a good wife or a good mom. And if it isn't advice I'd give to someone else, it probably isn't actually good advice or expectation to give to myself either.

So, against all habit and reasonableness, I'm going to Jamaica. On Friday. And I hope that I have a really good time.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Just Called To Say...

I suppose you're wondering why I called.

I don't know really. I don't have anything I need to tell you, nothing I need to say. No dates to arrange, nothing to apologize for.  I guess I just wanted to hear your voice.

And I wanted you to hear mine. Maybe I just wanted to be sure you were still there. I hope it's okay that I called with no reason to call, and you don't mind me being here on your phone line, with nothing real to say.

Nothing but Hi.  Nothing but how are you? Nothing but I love you.

Because... I guess that's why I called. Just to say hi. Just to make sure you're okay. And just to tell you I care.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

YES!!! I lost a kid!

January 5th, 2013.  This year.

A start of a new year and I'd lost patience with myself. It was Saturday and I was going back to Weight Watchers.  It had been awhile.. I'd gained back weight and I felt embarrassed to return. But the whole "I'll go back after I lose 10 lbs" thing really wasn't working for me.  So, I was biting the bullet and I was going back.

Before getting into the shower that morning, I stepped on the scale and sighed at the "217" that stared back at me.

I have worked hard this year. Despite a few glitches where I gave in to entire bags of licorice, I have mainly "stuck to plan." I cook often (and it's good stuff! Not just baked chicken all the time!) and limit eating out (though that's limit... I still eat out smartly!) I have slowly added in more activity. I started running.  I mean, not marathon running or anything. A real runner would scoff at what I'm proud of being able to do.  But, I'm running 3-5 days a week.

And today...   9 1/2 months after that day... I stepped on the scale this morning before getting in the shower.  And "167" looked back at me.

50 pounds.  I've lost 50 pounds in just under 10 months.

I'm not done yet, though I'm very close to the point where my mom starts freaking out and going "Joey... Joey... I really think you've lost enough now.  You should stay there..."  I've got at least 15 more to go, but BOY do those 15 feel attainable right now.

They so do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Vulnerable Girl

Vulnerability is not a weakness.

We treat it like it is... like it's something to be run away from. Like it means we don't have strength in our hearts or that we haven't conquered enough to get over being vulnerable. We prize those who have become hard and triumphant and who have beaten those around them.

But, we don't reward vulnerability. We don't reward kindness. We don't reward being afraid, but being willing to trust anyway. We don't reward opening up our insides or even letting our real emotions be felt or shown. Those are all things that we teach should be kept hidden for they show the world that we are not strong.  Because we think vulnerability is a weakness.

And so I sit here this morning and I just simply disagree.

It takes perseverance to win. And it takes determination to be the last one standing.

But it takes great courage to face those who have the power to hurt you, and to reach out your hand anyway. It takes incredible bravery to know that walking forward means that you are probably going to get hurt but to walk forward anyway.

And, my darling, I hope you know that your vulnerable heart does not make you weak.  But, it makes you incredibly strong. And someday, you will look in the mirror and you will see that and you will know how truly amazing you are.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Quiet Girl

You laughed.
You laughed today like you laugh every day.
And I said nothing...  Nothing because I am the quiet girl.

But I went home and I cried.
And when I was done crying, I planned.
And you never knew.

And you never saw it coming.
Because I am the quiet girl.
And you didn't know what I was capable of.

But now you do.
And you won't make that mistake again, will you?
Because now you know....
You don't mess with the quiet girl.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Letting Go of Who I've Been

I've changed.

I'm not who I was a few years ago.  I've grown. I've matured. I've altered the things that are important to me, and I've tweaked my focus. I care about different things than I did. I've learned a lot about trust, about friendship, about people -- about me. I've been hurt, and I've been healed, and I've learned to let go and move on and embrace new things.

But sometimes I still want to hold on to the girl I was then. I want to be new, but I want to be familiar, too.  I want to keep things that I lost, even as I'm embracing the things I've gained.

I've learned to let go of a lot of things --  and I'm learning that it's okay to let go of who I was, too. I'm learning that it's okay to change and it's okay to be different.  It's okay if I don't always recognize the girl in the mirror and it's okay to take awhile to get to know her.

I'm learning that I like the person I'm becoming, and it's okay to be her.  And it's okay to say goodbye to the girl who lived in my skin before.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

You Have to Protect Your Sisters

I have three daughters.

One of the things I've tried to teach them and get them to understand is that I know it's hard sometimes to have sisters. They get in your way. They steal your stuff. They leave their stuff around your stuff and your stuff gets sister cooties. They tease you sometimes and they hurt your feelings and they're just plain annoying.  I get that.  I'm the eldest of three girls myself.

But, the second you step out the door, you put those things away. Because your sisters are your family.  And you protect them and you take care of them, and your very sisterhood is the wall that attackers have to face to get to you.  And that is some wall.  Because you can do what you want to me... but if you even think about attacking my sisters, I will take you down.

I had the opportunity this morning to see that some of that has actually sunk in.  I can't tell you the circumstances out of respect for my teenage children -- but I started on my run this morning, with tears running/freezing down my cheeks and the thought, "DAMN but I have great kids."

The thing is.. it's not just about being blood sisters. This always goes in waves, especially on the internet, but I feel like I've seen a lot of "stuff" in my social media feeds lately where we're just attacking each other all the time. Attacking each other's bodies, our hopes, our fears. Fighting over politics and religion and history. Insulting each other's likes and loves and desires. Arguing over food choices and music and whatever!

Ladies...  we've got to have each other's backs. What do we get out of fighting over all these things? What do we get out of tearing each other down?

Nothing.  We get nothing.

And I'm not talking about some grand feminist burn-all-the-bras sisterhood thing...  I'm just saying --  We have to have each other's backs. We have to be there for each other. We have to be kind to each other and supportive and encouraging.

Monday, October 14, 2013

You Are Not Forgotten

In the moments of darkness, in the moments of loneliness....  
You are not forgotten.
When it seems you can't be seen and when no one knows you...  
You are not forgotten.

You aren't invisible, as much as you may feel like you are.
You are not unknown, as much as it seems no one sees the real you.
You are important when you feel small.
And you are special when you feel like nothing.

I see you.  and I love you.
And I never forget you.

Open your eyes the next time you feel forgotten.  And you will find me.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Downplaying the Things that Matter

Have you ever been interested in something but then felt you had to downplay it to others, so people wouldn't think you were odd?  Or maybe it was something that you were upset about, but you knew it was something that wasn't the end of the world in the grand scheme of things and shouldn't be upsetting you so much... so you pretended that it wasn't bothering you because you didn't think anyone would understand?

I think sometimes that we spend a lot of time convincing ourselves that the things that are important to us are inconsequential...  That the things that grab our hearts aren't important.  And so we spend a lot of time being a little ashamed or embarrassed about the things we like, and even about the things that grip our soul and leave us so unsettled.

You know what?  They all matter.  If it's something that matters to you, then it matters. The end. It's okay that it isn't something that might change the world.  It's something that is or has the potential to change your world....  and simply by that definition, it's something that matters.

And it matters because you matter. The things you love matter. The things that are bothering you matter. The things that you can't stop thinking about... they all matter.

They matter because you do. Because you are important and you are worth something. We all are.

So maybe it's time that we stop making excuses for the things that we think about and for the things that we love and for the things that capture and occupy our heart.  I don't care what anyone says... they matter.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When Expectations Aren't Reality

Sometimes things aren't what we expect them to be. That doesn't mean that it's the end of the world, necessarily.  But, things just don't quite pan out to what you thought they were going to be.

I guess that's where I am today. Expectations (and maybe unrealistic ones) clashing with reality, and it's all leaving me feeling a little... off. I know that none of it is worth getting unbearably upset over, and so I can't justify wallowing in the upset.  And yet, I can't help a little bit of disappointment from settling in my heart, either.

And maybe that's okay for today. Maybe it's okay that, for a little while, I allow myself the disappointment. And maybe it's okay that, for a little while, I allow myself to not chase after the silver lining immediately.

It's okay that the expectations don't always meet reality.  And it's okay to be sad about that.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Things To Tell Yourself Every Day

"You've got this." -- Whatever it is...  whatever you're facing, whatever's on your plate, whatever you're going to face today...  you've got this. You are capable and accomplished, and you've got this.

"You can't control everything, but you can control you." -- So you can't control everything that happens today.  You don't have that kind of power.  But, what you do have power over and control of is you. You get to control what comes out of your mouth, what doesn't, the actions you take, the way you react to things.  Everything you do is a choice, and you're the one who makes it... so make them choices that you can be proud of.

"You don't have to be perfect." -- This isn't a contest, it's just life. It doesn't really matter who gets to the end with the most money, the coolest cars, the most followers on Twitter. What matters most is the love you make and the people you are in relationship with.  But, it's okay if you mess up. And it's okay if you fall down.  You don't have to be perfect... there aren't extra ribbons for that.

"You have a lot to offer... but if you keep it hidden, no one will know who you really are... and who you really are is actually kind of cool." -- It's okay to be you.  Not some perfect version of you... but just really you. And you don't have to apologize for that person or twist them into someone they really aren't.  Just be you.  "You" is pretty cool, and if you just let "you" out a little bit more, other people would see that too.

Monday, September 30, 2013

No One is Against You

It's easy to feel like the world is out to get us. This is our story, and as its hero, we're supposed to win.  And so, when we don't, well surely it must mean that the antagonist of our story is winning and that we are losing.

The thing is... everyone else is their own hero too, writing their own story, trying to win their own battles.  It's really not that other people are against us.  It's just that they're for themselves, and not necessarily for us.  In fact, it doesn't have much to do with us at all.

Overwhelmingly, we are selfish creatures and, more than anything, we are concerned with ourselves. That's not to say that anyone is bad.  They're not. We just naturally think of ourselves first... our own comfort, our own battles, our own needs, our own wants, our own struggles.  And we're happy to assist others in their battles.... as long as doing so doesn't interfere with accomplishing our own ends.

That's something that we have to address in ourselves individually. Stepping over own needs to help others is something we should do, and it requires conscious choices to do so. I know very few people who can do that selflessly, and it's a quality that I admire a great deal.

But, I think it's important to understand, too, that people aren't against us. They're just for themselves. So, we need to stop thinking that it's us against the world. There's just a bunch of "us"'s all trying to make it, all struggling to do so, all looking out for ourselves, and all forgetting to reach out a hand and help those next to us.

It's just us.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Slacker PTA Mom

I'm sorry, Ladies.  I'm that mom. The one you always have to track down.

When my children were born, I really didn't think I'd be that mom.  I thought I would an upstanding member of the my neighborhood school's PTA, ready to help at everything... fighting to volunteer in my kids' classrooms... cutting out hearts and whatever.

But then, we started school.

Please understand we live in a fairly affluent neighborhood.  And when your school doesn't have real problems, the PTA makes them up.  I knew I was going to be a "bad fit" while sitting with the other mothers at a softball game one spring.  The other moms were flipping through a catalog of games you could rent for the school carnival.  They were the kind of games that took a kid a minute or so to play, and then they'd get some kind of candy or trinket at the end as a prize.

"Oh, the kids really like that game... we definitely need to get that one!"....
"Oh, this one is good, too...."

As the conversation went on, all I could think was "No, they don't. All they care about is a bounce house and a cake walk.  The End. This is dumb."  I mean, I didn't speak those words.  But I thought them.

I thought them and I knew that I wasn't a very good fit for a Stepford Wife-ish atmosphere... so I kind of checked out.  Forever.

So, I'm sorry you always have to track me down to do the stuff I'm supposed to do.  I'm not really a terrible mother... I just think most of this stuff is lame.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stand Out!

I'm going to stand out today.

I'm not going to worry about if people will look at me. I'm not going to worry about what they might say. I'm not going to worry about what they might think.

I'm just going to do it.

I'm going to say what I think. I'm going to feel what I feel. And I'm not going to apologize for any of those things. I'm just going to be -- unapologetically.

Today is not a day for living quietly and under the radar. Today is a day for living expectantly and deliberately.

So I'm going out and I'm going to wear bright colors and wear red lipstick and wear stiletto heels. And I'm going to laugh and maybe I'm going to cry and maybe I will say things. And not under the cover of whispers, but with pride and confidence.

Because today... today, I am consciously going to stand out.

Full Disclosure: I am probably not going to wear stiletto heels. Falling down is not the kind of "standing out" I have in mind.

Monday, September 23, 2013

On My Mind

I found you on my mind today.

I thought about picking up the phone and telling you.
but I didn't have anything else to say -- 
and I thought you'd think I was dumb.
so I never dialed your number

I thought about opening an email and telling you
but written words are things you can't get back, stamped there in print for eternity
and I wasn't sure if I wanted you to know you were on my mind if I wasn't on yours.
so I never sent the message

I thought about stopping by your house and bringing you coffee
Like maybe a peace offering of caffeine would somehow alleviate the tension that once was
but I don't even know if you like coffee anymore and I was afraid of what you would do if you saw my face there on your doorstep
So I never came over

but you were still on my mind.

and so I'm telling you here... in this place you probably never read
so that somewhere, it's there. and if you're interested to know... 

You were on my mind today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Forgiven, but not Forgotten

I've been thinking about the idea of forgiveness again. I struggle with it -- maybe not so much with the idea of forgiveness itself, but with the line that lies between forgiveness and wisdom. I've often walked the side where I have been very open with forgiveness and have let repeat offenders cross line after line. I got burned by that, deeply. And then I cowered back to the other side of the line where I was afraid to let anyone who had hurt me before have the chance to do it again.

It seems that there should be some middle ground there and I'm trying to find it.

I want to be the kind of person who can have the courage to extend grace to those who have been hurtful. But, I also want to be wise and not invite in disaster.  It's like if someone came into your house, totally trashed it, and then left -- without a second thought or a care for what they left you with.  It is a good thing, I think, to be able to forgive them for their actions and their thoughtlessness.  But, would you let them back in to do it a second, third, fourth time?

I guess that's the rub. -- But it's also what I think about on both sides of the coin.  I haven't always been faultless either. I've made choices that I wish I hadn't, said things that I wished I'd kept silent on.  So, when I'm faced with someone else's mistrust, I have to understand that and not be angry over it. I have to understand that maybe they're struggling with forgiveness and the ability to trust, too.

That we're all trying to find that middle ground.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Feel the Rain

Feel the rain.

Don't ignore it. Don't pretend it isn't there.
Walk out in it. Let it seep to your bones.

Don't cover it. Don't hide from it.
Let it be a part of you. Acknowledge it.

Not every day.  Maybe every day doesn't have to be a storm.
But some days? some days, it's okay to feel the rain.

Some days, it's okay to be sad and not sunny.
It's okay to be the rain.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Not Your Door

Quit it.

That door you're banging on so fervently? That door you keep trying and trying to get through?  Honey, it doesn't have your name on it. It isn't meant for you. That's why it doesn't open. That's why it doesn't budge, no matter how hard you try to squeeze it open.

I won't argue that what lies behind it isn't great.  It is.  It would be a great thing, and it will be a great thing for the person whose name is on it.  But, the door beside it?  The door with your name on it?  Oh, if you could only take a moment to see what things lie behind it.

You think this door you're trying to pry open would be great?  It's nothing compared to what lies behind the door with your name on it. THAT is truly magnificent. Not just because it is wonderful, but because it's specifically meant for you. Designed for you. Planned for you. Blessed for you.

But you can't see it, not yet. All you can see is this door. This door that won't open because it isn't yours.

Sometimes, darling, that's why doors won't open.  Because we are meant for greater ones, different ones, doors that don't belong to others but just to us.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday Tales: Starting to Like You

I'm starting to like you and it scares me.

Until now, it didn't matter. You were just a person and I was just a person, and we were just two persons living in the same world, not mattering to each other. It didn't matter if we messed up or if one of us thought the other person was weird or crazy. Because we were just two people. Two people who didn't matter.

But I'm starting to like you.  And it starts to matter. It matters what you think of me, even if the world tells me that I shouldn't care about that. It matters what I think of you. What you do matters. I suddenly want you to be someone who is worthy of my respect and my affection. I want you to be all you can be, and I want to be all I can be - because I want to be someone who is worthy of yours.

And this all scares me.  There's so much more pressure now than when we were just two people who didn't matter. Now we matter. Now what I do and say, it all matters. And maybe it always mattered, but now I'm suddenly aware of it.  I guess that's a good thing.

It is a big world and, with so many people in it, it can start to feel like it doesn't matter - like we don't matter.  How could we? We're but pebbles dropped into a big ocean. And so to be suddenly faced with our own mattering, it can be a lot to get our heads around. And it's a little frightening to realize that you matter. That what you do and what you say and what you think and what you feel... it all matters. It's important.

And suddenly I can't go back to thinking I don't matter and that you don't matter and that we don't matter.  Because I know the truth now. I know I was wrong.

It all matters.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What You Don't Want To Do: Commitment When You Want to Quit

Sometimes I feel like throwing in the towel. I'm beat down. I feel like I've done everything I can do, and yet it isn't enough.  So I want to quit.

Maybe you wouldn't blame me for quitting. Maybe if you knew how hard I've tried, you'd understand and you'd say that it was okay. No one would think less of me for walking away.

No one but me.  Because I would know. I would know that I walked away. I would know that quitting wasn't being the person that I wanted to be. Maybe I wouldn't fail you. But it would be failing me. It would be not being the girl I want to become.

and so instead of walking away from what I want to quit, I pick the towel back up. And I don't quit. and I stay. And I persevere. Not because you deserve it, but because I do.


Monday .......................... What You Don't Want To Do
Tuesday ......................... Forgiveness When You're Still Hurting
Thursday ................... Kindness When You Want to Lash Out
Friday ........................ Apologizing When You Don't Feel Wrong
Monday (again) ......... Commitment When You Want to Quit

Friday, August 16, 2013

What You Don't Want To Do: Apologizing When You Don't Feel Wrong

"Casey," I stopped my daughter before she went outside. "Can you please pick up the clutter in the living room before you go?"

Immediately the but-it's-not-fair face slid over her features. "But that stuff isn't mine!!" she whined.

"I know. Can you pick it up anyway?"

Then, the words came. "But it's not fair! Why do I have to do it??"

"Because you're part of the family, and sometimes that's what being part of the family is."

Sometimes I think that's a little bit what apologizing when you're not wrong is like. We've all been in situations like that, haven't we? We're in conflict with someone over something, and sometimes it's not our fault.  Why should we be the one to apologize??

Because sometimes that's what being in relationship with people is. Sometimes you take blame that doesn't belong to you for the good of the whole relationship.

There are a lot of things that go into this, I think. There are always three sides to a situation: your side, their side, and the truth -- which usually lies somewhere in the middle. You're rarely as right as you think you are.  And that doesn't necessarily mean that you're wrong... but you're also biased in thinking what you do.  There's the idea that sometimes being right isn't worth destroying the relationship. I mean, is it? If the choice is "maintain your pride and not apologize" or "damage the friendship beyond salvagability," is it worth it?

This almost feels like this should be a topic for another day, but I didn't want to walk away from this without saying that it's a balancing act. The thing with relationships is that sometimes you give more than your share, and sometimes you take more than your share.  But, if you're always giving or always taking, that's something that needs to be addressed. Being a doormat and always being the one to give in shouldn't be your M.O. -- but neither should always being the one to be the stubborn hold-out.


Monday .......................... What You Don't Want To Do
Tuesday ......................... Forgiveness When You're Still Hurting
Thursday ................... Kindness When You Want to Lash Out
Friday ........................ Apologizing When You Don't Feel Wrong
Monday (again) ......... Commitment When You Want to Quit

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What You Don't Want to Do: Kindness When You Want to Lash Out

I'm good with words. But I'm not good with patience.  When you add the two together, they can sometimes result in a caustic wit. Sometimes that wit is funny, sometimes it misses its mark. But, always, it comes at someone else's expense.

I used to just think that this was the way I was, and I couldn't help it. But, that wasn't really true. I could. But I enjoyed the emotional release of not having to hang on to my patience. And truthfully? I enjoyed the laugh. So I chose not to control it.

Over the past few years, I've tried to walk away from that. I'm not perfect and I still mess up.  But, I've tried to err more on the side of kindness than on the side of impatience. I've swallowed my retorts. I've kept a lid on my need to engage when people say things that sting or rub me wrong. And I'm happy with this. I'm happy with who I'm becoming.

Sometimes I feel like other people aren't as pleased with it. Like they counted on me to fill a certain role and they didn't like me as much when I stopped filling it. But, the role they wanted me to fill wasn't someone I wanted to be anymore.  Don't mistake... I could still be that person -- easily. But that person isn't someone I can look in the eye every morning and think that I'm glad to be them.

It gets easier with time, but it's still hard sometimes. Just the other day, someone made some comments about a lifestyle choice that we have chosen... and they were derogatory, condescending, and cruel.  The old me would have slapped back, and part of me wanted to. But, you know what?  Slapping back wouldn't have changed anything. There would have been a war of words, more hurt feelings on both sides, wounds to lick, and we both would have walked away thinking exactly the same as we had before the conversation started. So, instead, I decided it really wasn't worth getting upset over and walked away.  But, part of me really wanted to slap back.


Monday .......................... What You Don't Want To Do
Tuesday ......................... Forgiveness When You're Still Hurting
Thursday ................... Kindness When You Want to Lash Out
Friday ........................ Apologizing When You Don't Feel Wrong
Monday (again) ......... Commitment When You Want to Quit

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Don't Want To Do: Forgiveness When You're Still Hurting

I sighed.  The hurt was real; I wasn't imagining it. I wanted the relationship to be healed, but I also felt like it wasn't something that I could just sweep under the table and pretend wasn't there. I needed us to talk about it.

But, they wouldn't.  Or, maybe they couldn't. I don't know. Every time I tried, it turned into a conversation about something else. It turned into blame at something else, something that didn't have anything to do with us. Eventually, I realized that it was never going to happen. They were never going to understand my hurt, they were never going to understand what they had done.

So, what happened next was my choice. I could continue needing an understanding and apology I was never going to get and walk away from a relationship that could never be healed. Or I could make the choice to forgive something that still hurt and heal a friendship that needed that salve of forgiveness in order to survive.

What would you choose?

Both are hard... both require sacrifice. Maybe your need for understanding and apology trumps the value that the relationship brings to your life. Maybe you can walk away.  Maybe the promise of relationship is enough to give you the strength to swallow your hurt and keep walking together.

But, here's the thing about forgiveness and relationships.  If we choose the latter, it has to be complete. Forgiveness for something that we keep bringing up, whether in conflict or even just in our heads, isn't forgiveness.

It's just cheap talk.

So what would you choose? What will you choose?


Monday .......................... What You Don't Want To Do
Tuesday ......................... Forgiveness When You're Still Hurting
Thursday ................... Kindness When You Want to Lash Out
Friday ........................ Apologizing When You Don't Feel Wrong
Monday (again) ......... Commitment When You Want to Quit

Monday, August 12, 2013

What You Don't Want To Do

We'd torn the house apart looking for the needed handout that went with the homework. Somewhere between school and home, or between home and now, the paper was lost in the house or the neighborhood. I'd exhausted all my ideas of where it could be, and the only option the child had left was to return to school the next day and ask her teacher for another copy.

"But, Mom," she wheedled. "I don't want to... I'm going to get in trouble for losing it."

I patted her hand. "I know, baby.  I don't think you're going to get in trouble, but I understand not wanting to admit that you lost it.  I don't see another option, though."

She sighed.

"Baby, sometimes this is what growing up is.  Sometimes you do what you don't want to do...  because you have to or because it's the right thing to do.  And you know what, even as a grown-up, it doesn't really get easier. But, you do it anyway.  Because that's what growing up is."


Monday .......................... What You Don't Want To Do
Tuesday ......................... Forgiveness When You're Still Hurting
Thursday ................... Kindness When You Want to Lash Out
Friday ........................ Apologizing When You Don't Feel Wrong
Monday (again) ......... Commitment When You Want to Quit

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Your One Thing

What is your one thing?

That one thing that, in the deepest parts of your heart, you wish you had the guts to do.  That thing that your mind keeps returning to when you're not controlling what it dwell on.  The thing that you keep telling yourself not to get your hopes up over. The dream that you keep telling yourself can't come true.

Today, I want you to think about it. Daydream about it. Feel what it would it feel like to accomplish it. Let yourself soak in that accomplishment. Let your mind go... play the scenarios in your head. Jump over all the excuses, all the obstacles, and enjoy it.

There are a lot of voices... sometimes they're in our heads. Sometimes they come from other people, even. They tell us all the reasons our dreams and goals can't happen. They tell us everything that stands in our way. They tell us we aren't good enough or we aren't strong enough. And they sound so convincing that we're afraid to even start.

And so, of course, they're right. We can't do something we never start.

I can't promise you that the dream you hold in your heart right now will come true. But, I can promise that if you stay stuck in your fears, it definitely won't.

What is your one thing?  Dream about it.  But, today, I want you to think of one thing that you can do now to get you one baby step closer to that which you dream about.

Just one thing. That's all you have to do... and then you're one step closer than you were when you starting reading this.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fears on Fire

"The way their eyes follow me, laughing with malice, across the room."

Her pen came to the end of the line and she dropped it at her side.  Ripping the paper off the notebook, she folded it in half twice and set it on the top of the others.

"The time I tripped in front of the whole class."

"The day they told me to meet them at the Dairy Queen and then they all went to Starbucks instead."

A whole stack of them.

"How I'm afraid I'll never be good enough."

"How I can never seem to say the right thing."

"How my dreams seem so unattainable."

She fingered the last one and picked it up, turning it over slowly in her hands. Moving almost as if in a dream, she lit the first match and touched it to the paper, watching it begin to crumble into flame.  Releasing it into the air, she picked up the next piece and set it on fire, too.  One by one, she went through the entire stack until the air around her was filled with the burnt embers of her fears and insecurities.

She sat there in the grass, watching it all burn.

She sat there until every flame died away.

Then, she stood up and walked away. Today would be different.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Don't Let Comparison Steal Your Joy

I've been really committed to losing weight this year and have been meeting with success, thanks to that determination.  As part of my endeavors, I've recently started to get back into running.  For me, that means slowly building my endurance back up through interval training (like the C25K program).  For the past week, I've been trying to do 4 minute running/1 minute walking intervals.

This is great for most of my route, but there is one section of hill that was totally kicking my butt.  It took me three different runs to be able to get through it, and on the second successful run, I was feeling pretty dang proud of myself. In fact, I was elated about how freakishly awesome I was.

Then, it happened.

Miss Athletic I-Don't-Even-Sweat ran by me like I was walking BACKWARDS, muscles in her shorty running shorts pulsing away, her hair still perfect.

Suddenly, my little 4 minute run up the hill didn't seem so pride-worthy. In one second, all the pride I had in my little accomplishment slid away, and I was filled with disappointment in myself that I couldn't run like her. What I had done no longer mattered.  All I could see was what I couldn't do.

Comparison is like that, always swooping in to steal your joy.  Always making you forget what is great about you, and making you see only what you aren't. The thing about comparison is that you will always lose. No matter your accomplishments, there will always be someone who has accomplished more.  Even Miss Athletic I-Don't-Even-Sweat shows up to her marathons and cringes because her times aren't as good as someone else's.  Even she allows comparison to steal her joy, instead of having pride in the things she has accomplished herself.

Your thing might not be running.  But whatever it is, if you are comparing yourself to someone else and not measuring up, you are stealing from yourself.  Because your accomplishments are important! Sure, maybe you're not as far along in your journey as someone else is in their's, but you are farther along in your journey than you were a year ago.  And the progress you've made is important and you should be proud of it.

We should all be proud of those things.

So, just you wait, Miss Athletic I-Don't-Sweat.  You may be lapping me today, but next month, you're going to have to run faster to do it with the same ease.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Who Do You Want to Be?

So, here's the thing.  Who do you want to be? There are parts of you that are just there and are difficult to change. For instance, I am naturally shy. I am okay in small groups, but less so in bigger ones. I've learned to fake it, but it's faking it, and I'm not sure that I'll ever be not-shy.

But there are other things that I get to choose. I can choose to be kind and compassionate. I can choose to be bitchy and cruel. I can choose to be considerate and I can choose to be rude. (Truth? I have chosen all of them at different times.) They are behaviors and actions and words that I get to choose to make.

So, think about it.  Who do you want to be?  What kind of person do you want to be?

Sometimes, other people make it really hard for you to be that person.  Don't they? You start out doing a pretty good job making the choices you want to make... and then, people enter the equation and mess you all up!

I used to get really worked up over people saying things to me, saying things about me.  I have a good friend who would say to me, "Jo... you've got to learn to let that stuff roll off your back. Why do you care? Their opinion isn't really that important."  I knew that was good advice, but I just couldn't figure out how to follow it.

Time has gone on, and I'm better at it.  I'd be lying if I said I had it down, but I'm better.  I saw a great graphic on Pinterest the other day that really summed this up for me.

I loved this -- because it's true.  The less you let yourself get upset by things said to you, about you... the more you are able to be who you want to be. If someone else is bitchy and rude, that's their problem, but it isn't yours.  It's only yours if you let their choices become your choices.  Let them be who they choose to be.

But you?  You be who you have chosen to be.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thursday Tales: Door to the Future

(Except it's Friday... it's summer and I've completely lost track of the days of the week)

Door the Future

The sign above the door read "Your Future Awaits.  Enter Here." I gingerly pushed it open and peered inside.

It was mostly empty, or at least what I could see of it was.  The corners were bathed in shadow and I wasn't really sure what awaited me.  But, at the end of the room, I could see a doorway bathed in faint light, as if something bright and amazing waited behind it.  Like a sweet summer day after a year of winter, where the sun seeps into your skin and you can feel the warmth rush over you in a wave.  That kind of amazing.

I dropped my bags in the doorway and stepped forward to examine it more closely.  But before I made so much as a step, a voice spoke from the corner.  "Please close the door, dear," it said.  I peered into the dark but could make it no more than a vague form.  Glancing back at where I'd dropped my things, I hesitated. That was my only way out. My only escape should things get too dangerous.

An exasperated sigh of annoyance came from the corner just before the door slammed shut, pushing my things out into the corridor I'd just left.

"Hey!" I protested. "That was my stuff! I may need that!"

The old woman that I could now see in the light of her staff smiled gently and raised an eyebrow. "You can't head into the future if you refuse to let go of your past, dearie."

And with that, the light flared and the door to my future opened.

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