Saturday, December 31, 2011

{Joyful Resolutions}

I rarely keep resolutions made on Dec. 31. It's too much pressure, I think. What can I do at the start of a new year to transform my whole life? Well, jeez. That's a lofty ambition. Do I start with what isn't working at all? Or should I start with areas I've made minor progress and add on to that? You can see my dilemma.

Last year, I tried to keep it lighter. I decided to read 111 books in 2011. Very straight forward goal, plus reading is one of my passions. I've got this. What I could not keep a handle on, unfortunately, was logging each and every book I read. I was on matrix overload. By February, I just conceded that my obsessive tracking was getting in the way of reading, so I stopped entering the books altogether. I'm pretty sure I read more than 111 books. I can't prove it though.

Maybe I would like New Year's resolutions better if they all focused on finding more joy in your life versus the traditional changing all the "bad" stuff. Joy goals would be more straight forward. Simple. Savoring every ounce of your life. If change happens amidst those joy-finding activities, well, good for you. If it doesn't, no big deal. Your main goal is just to live your life to the best of your ability.

With that in mind, here's my 2012 joy list:
1. Nature balances me. Surround myself with great views, sunshine and the smell of pine.

2. Sneak in as many snuggles with my kids as I can. Even if they resist, hold them down for snuggles and call it wrestling.

3. Spend more quality time with family and friends. Hug them more, too.

4. Read & write every spare moment. It's obviously what lights my fire.

5. Speak kinder words to husband. Critique less. He deserves joy, too.

6. Help others.

7. Try one new, crazy adventure a month. Growth is good.

8. Cook fabulously for my family, even if I've never heard of the wholesome ingredients.

9. Make do with less.

10. Count to 10. Take deep breaths. Enjoy this amazing ride.

If my list gets you thinking about your list, I hope you will put finding joy and a passion for your life front and center. You deserve that. Here's to a new year and, I hope, a more joyful us.

Much love, Heather.

Monday, December 26, 2011

{Scent Blowing Box}

This is my Christmas box. It's my hubby's unique creation made with love and lots of hours. It holds my two candles that I always burn from my favorite candle shop, 5B and Co., in Weston, Mo., with a hole in the middle for a scent-blowing fan. I, of course, can't feel the fan, but my husband assures me it's the gem of the whole project. I'm not so sure.

The top also slides off at the side, so I can place my matches and wick dipper securely inside. It's sealed pretty tight, so unless I bulk up on muscles in the new year, I doubt I'll be able to open it by myself. This is fine with me because the wires to the fan got tangled both times my husband removed the top to show me all the amazing things inside.

Do I love it? Well, I definitely love the idea of it. A person who loves me enough to try to make the perfect gift knowing his percentage of failure is really high. He does it anyway despite my lack of trust, negative comments (even in the blog-a-sphere), or irritation at his gift-giving history. I'm not sure I deserve that kind of love with my current Christmas attitude, but I feel honored that he keeps on loving me amid the beautiful peaks and hurtful valleys of our life. That's the really special part. The box is just scent-blowing fluff on the mantelpiece.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

{Crazy Roller Coaster Monkeys}

I blog when I'm happy. I also blog only once a month. Mmmm. Interesting correlation.

It's been a tough week and, I note with an exaggerated sigh, that it's only Tuesday. I've been a single mom for the past few days and being in charge of the universe, or even our small household, is not a job title I relish. It sucks actually.

Our boys have been acting like crazy monkeys, the dog has eaten more silly bands then I can count (and two bananas this morning), and we have no running water, thanks to a lovely leak in our 100-year-old pipe somewhere in the back yard. Presents are begging to be wrapped and I haven't even thought about food dishes I need to prepare. Plus, there is more work at work than I know how to get done this week. Dang it, I'm tearing up just writing this stupid list.

Here's the thing. I feel like a silly girl for all these minor frustrations I let set the direction of my day. I have a great life, full of wonderful people that I love and that love me, but here I am writing down a list of complaints in my week. The biggest one may be that I'm overwhelmed by the pace of my life. The lack of control, or perception thereof, sets me spinning. As much as I try, I haven't figured out how to change that yet.

When my kids are arguing or complaining, I always make them say one thing they are grateful for at that moment. Expressing gratitude can change everything. So here it gratitude turnaround for this exact moment. I'm thankful for this roller coaster that is my life because, even when I'm screaming and holding on for dear life, the view is pretty darn amazing. If I get to have someone next to me in the seat, or perhaps puking in front of me, well, I'll count myself even luckier because the journey is richer with others.

Thank you for listening tonight, friends. I do feel some happiness pouring in.

Lots of love and sweet hugs,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

{One Perfect Gift}

My hubby is a great guy. Unfortunately, he's a terrible gift giver. I only mention this because Christmas is coming and, against my better judgment, he's convinced me we should bring back the tradition of giving each other gifts. I'm pretty sure I'm going to regret this.

Last Saturday, I came home from running myself ragged looking for his perfect gift and he was sawing wood in our living room (yes, in our living room, but I don't have time to even touch on that emotional hot button). He has cut, sanded and bolted a medium-size box together with a lid that slides off the top. Inside is a fan, secured with wires from one of our kid's remote-controlled cars. He says it will be my one perfect gift this Christmas. All I can think about is why anyone would need a fan inside a closed box. It's ridiculous and exactly my husband.

I still remember the first Christmas gift he ever gave me. We had been dating six months and it was our first official gift exchange. I opened the box to the largest size jeans I had ever seen with BOSS written down the side of the leg and a matching bright yellow shiny top. It, too, carried the word BOSS across it. It left me speechless. I later asked if he would mind if I took it back to the store to exchange it for something more my style. He let me, reluctantly, and he still mentions to this day that I exchange all his great gifts.

Oh, I wish that were the case. I was not able to take back the large frog figurine that shot water out of it's mouth while croaking nor the 20 miniature cactuses planted in the heaviest pot ever known to man. I kept those, but each time I passed them in the house I asked myself the same silent question---does he know anything about me? How is it that we've been together 15 years and he seems utterly clueless about my tastes, interests and wants?

That's why, a few years ago, I suggested we just focus on gifts for the kids and forgo our personal exchange. In some ways, he seemed relieved. I always thought he was relieved, however, because he didn't have to brave the stores to find a last-minute gift for me. I'm starting to wonder if he felt relief because he no longer had to carry the burden of my major expectations. I didn't want an expensive gift, or a hard to find gift, or an off-the-wall gift, but I did expect something even more difficult from him. A perfect gift that said he knew the very essence of my soul. Somewhat selfish and certainly unattainable, huh?

Since I've come to that revelation this week, it's been a lot easier to look at all the parts of my unfinished Christmas box scattered across the kitchen table. Frustration at the loss of a $50 "perfect" gift has been replaced with love and understanding for the unselfish heart of the maker. It's a big ole' mess, but it's mine. He's a big ole' mess, but he's mine, too. While I'm still not sure what this fan in a box is going to turn out to be, maybe my hubby is finally right about this one. It will be my one perfect gift this Christmas.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

{Attitude for Gratitude}

I've had a lot of things on my mind lately. None of which have made it to my blog, or the small idea book, or even my one-line-a-day journal. In fact, I think the last one liner I wrote about my "exciting" life was back in mid-September. I suck at keeping up.

It has been an amazing Thanksgiving holiday though. Before the food frenzy even began, three people I love dearly asked me for recipes to serve their family and friends on Thanksgiving. That's a lot of trust. Plus, they all gave me rave reviews after the chowing was done, which tickled me pink. I love to feed my own family, but knowing the love was passed on is exciting and, in a crazy way, fulfilling.

I also skipped all Black Friday shopping yesterday for some outdoor time. When the weather is 65 degrees at the end of November, it's time to thank Mother Nature by soaking it up. The boys and I went on an outdoor hiking adventure in the 100-acres of woods around the grandparent's house. It was an adventure alright. I never got to be the leader, the dog jumped into the pond, there were some tears over a nasty thorn bush, and a random tick fell out of my underwear (alive and happy, I might add!) after we finally made it back to the house. It was a pretty good morning. Then to top it off, I got to discover a new hiking trail at Binder, all by myself during afternoon naps, with a great winding path and even better views. I truly believe the smell of cedar can heal almost anything.

So am I thankful? You bet. I'm most thankful for being able to slow down a bit and enjoy the really good stuff. My family. Nature. Great food. Friends. A good read. Snuggles on the couch. A warm home. Love. Plus all the great adventures I get to have along the way. I'm blessed. No, scratch that. I'm super blessed. And as frustrating as life becomes along the way or as frazzled as I may be in a moment, there are such big pockets of happiness tucked in between. I just have to embrace them. I hope you will, too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

{Autumn Bliss}

In honor of the season finally changing today (not by the calendar, by the way, but by the first chill in the air), I tried a new autumn recipe tucked away in a dusty, old cookbook. It was simple, but delicious. While I may be the only one in my house that celebrates change with baked goods and giddiness, I'm sharing the recipe with all of you. You never know when you might need something delicious and new in your life. Happy autumn, friends!

Apple Crunch Muffins
courtesy of Celebrate Autumn Cookbook

1 1/2 cup sifted flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 cup Granny Smith apples, diced

Topping: 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (mix together)

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in mixing bowl. Cut in shortening until fine crumbs form. Combine milk and egg. Add to dry ingredients along with apples. Stir just to moisten. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling 2/3 full. Spring with brown sugar topping. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 12.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Music Manifesto

I'm crazy for music. I'm all over the place in musical interests, too, which is why my ipod playlists are a big, hot mess. 1930's big band jazz. Love it. Eminem. I've got a thing for him, too. Bluegrass. Yes, please. Black Eyed Peas. Well, a girl does have to dance.

I do have a favorite. I don't want to offend other genres of music, but I love the acoustic singer-songwriter best. Piano or guitar, I don't really care, just bring me those touching lyrics and one strong voice to deliver the message. I'm in. Every.....single......time. I even scour NPR's World Cafe, or search itunes for long amounts of time, to find the next great song that sings to my soul. I download it, and then listen to it to over and over and over until it sinks right into the fiber of my being.

My husband calls this crazy. I just call it good music. It changes the mood of my life, simply by turning it on and turning it up, and I embrace it whole heartily. I can't imagine a world without music. For all you kindred spirits out there, I'm posting my last few downloads that I'm digging right now. I hope you will give them a listen. Even better, how about dropping me a line about what's moving your soul in music these days? I would love take a listen.

1. "Turning Tables" by Adele
2. "The Way It Will Be" by Gillian Welch
3. "Like Rock and Roll and Radio" by Ray LaMontagne
4. "My Girl Tonight" by Jon McLaughlin
5. "Room with a View" by Tina Dico
6. "Manifesto No. 1" by Shooter Jennings (careful now!)
7. "Hey Little Mama" by Frazey Ford
8. "Good Biscuits" by Memphis Minnie
9. "Where I Stood" by Missy Higgins
10. "Little Sparrow" by Audra Mae

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

German Flannel Sheets

I'm no great shopper. Oh, I love a good deal, don't get me wrong, but the best stuff I own has come from gracious hand-me-downs from friends or family. You love my sweater? Probably one from my friends in KC. Admire my king size bed? Best friend, Jamie. Giddy over my vintage Archie juice glasses? My mom. It's all good stuff. Plus, it's free.

So, last winter, I surprised myself by ordering some semi-expensive, heavy duty German flannel sheets online that had more than 3,000 customer reviews. All good. All raving about these amazing sheets. I like flannel sheets, I really do, but I was pretty sure I was going to have an out-of-body experience once they sheets were snug on my bed. That's what people kept telling me, over and over again, in these reviews.

Friend to friend, these sheets are something else. Spectacular. It wasn't out of body exactly, but I did want to stay in bed for a good long while. In fact, I'm so in love (and please don't spread this around town) that I even kept them on during the summer. I know. Flannel sheets in the summer is crazy. They just feel so great on my skin.

I've written this whole long blog about sheets to get to my next point. My sheets have a hole in them. A small hole, but's devastating. I stared at it for several minutes tonight as I was making the bed trying to decide what to do. Oh, sure, it's fine for now, but I imagine this hole will get bigger with every kid that jumps on the bed or every circle in my dryer. Could it be that I may have to give these beloved sheets away for free some day?

To ensure another warm bed through fall and winter in my 100-year-old home, I acted fast this evening and ordered another set online. Different color, of course, in case the hubby inquires about the necessity of more, huh, flannel sheets. I'm starting to feel better already. In 5-7 days, or whenever they finally arrive on my doorstep, the world will be right again. Fall can officially begin.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dreadlocks and Dreams

I would like to write a novel. There. I finally said it out loud. I even wrote it in my blog, so all my 27 followers will know my biggest dream. I would like to be a published author.

Oh, but there's more. I secretly hope this labor-of-love novel will get published. Hundreds, if not thousands, will buy it. I would then be asked to go on a book tour to spend time in quaint bookstores across the country. Coffee charged and a little road weary, I would sign every book with my name and an encouraging word. God bless. Keep reading. Don't give up on your dreams. Thanks for all the love in Wichita!

Here's the crazy thing about big dreams, my friend. You actually have to take a step and begin. It can be small, even microscopic, but it does need to be in the general direction. Just thinking it, dreaming it, hoping for it, over and over in your mind doesn't get you any closer. Believe me, I know. It helps to immerse yourself in inspiration or become disciplined in your plan of action. I've not been good with either of those things, which is why I am here instead of there.

My last writing inspiration came last April (way too long ago in the inspiration realm) when I went to see Anne Lamott in Kansas City. She was amazing. She's been a writer for more than 20 years and published countless novels. But writing is still tough work for her, every word, every chapter. Her writing advice: "Always have a pen and write what you would like to come upon." Such sweet inspiration to be in her presence for an hour.

You can bet I took myself to the front of the stage that night to have her sign my book. She signed her name with a heart at the end. I cozied up next to her for a quick picture (posted above), a memento of the evening but also a lasting reminder of my dream. Write more. Write often. Write it to completion. Then be brave enough to send it out into the world. You never know. With some hard work, it might be me one day, long dreadlocks, talking about my writing and signing my name. I can see it. Now it's time to do it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Gross Naked Truth

At the dinner table tonight, my 4-year-old announces that I look gross naked. He then erupts into a fit of laughter. My husband doesn't laugh out loud, mainly because he values his life and this is the second time this subject has come up this week, but he does ask him to elaborate.

"Why does Mommy look gross naked?," my husband asks.

I lean in to hear the answer, too. I mean it's not everyday someone feels confident enough to comment on your body at the dinner table.

"The bumps on her stomach are super gross (pronounced GWOS)," he says.

"Belly button?" No. "Mosquito bites?" No. He then points to his nipples. I gasp at the table. He is talking about my boobs.

"Are you talking about my boobs," I shout. "They are NOT bumps, they're boobs, a lot bigger than bumps, and all girls have them!"

"Not little girls, they don't have them," he says confidently.

"No, but big girls have them and they're not gross," I confirm.

"What about sisters? Do sisters have them?" he asks, wide-eyed and, oh, so innocent.

"Is the sister younger or older?" I counter.

"Older sister."

"Yeah, an older sister probably has them," I say.

"My Mommy looks gross naked, my mommy looks gross naked," he chants between laughs, taking the conversation full circle.

"Enough about Mommy being gross naked," my husband finally says, intervening. "Finish your dinner!"

This is our conversation at the dinner table. This is my life. I am defending my body, and its grossness factor, to a 4-year-old (and not very well, I might add). It only affirms the obvious, folks. I have no idea what I'm doing as a parent. Not a clue. Even my explanations about the world and how it works, comes out a little skewed, which leads me to believe therapy in the future is a given.

On the bright side, I do show up every day as a parent (usually dressed, in case you're wondering for the story referenced above) ready to tackle the world for my boys. I might not be perfect, but I am present. There's got to be some good in that, right? I've also still got my sense of humor, which is a good thing, because, apparently, I look really gross naked. Hee. Hee.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Excuse Me

It's been 51 days since my last blog post. I guess I could be grandiose and say that I gave up blogging for the summer to focus on a simpler life. I turned inner versus catering to the outer. I love that concept, really I do, but it's just not true. The truth is that I filled myself up with excuses this summer and didn't have time for anything else.

I stopped walking outdoors, which keeps me totally sane and physically healthy, because it was just too hot. I got behind on housework and laundry, too. No energy, you see. I also lost my patience completely right before July 4 and never got it back, but it's because I have boys and they're crazy. I've been swamped with work stuff, personal stuff and then a whole bag of "other" stuff. When you're life is this full, who has time to write and reflect?

Tonight, I walked for an hour at the Nature Center. While soaking up the beauty and putting my feet into action, it's like all those nonsensical excuses just poured out of my soul. The world came back into focus. It was quiet and quick, but it made me teary just the same. I also made a few resolutions, starting this evening, to ensure my summer of excuses doesn't turn into the story of my life.

1. Walk outside everyday. Nature heals many things.
2. Blog weekly. It doesn't have to be profound or lengthy, it just has to be real.
3. Snuggle with my kids more.
4. Cut out white sugar. It's crack that makes me fat.
5. Nurture the relationships around me.
6. Find a few moments of quiet time in my day to meditate, pray or reflect on what is real.
7. Laugh.
8. Lighten up. My life isn't a dress rehearsal, but it can still be a good time.
9. Stay hopeful.
10. Try one new adventure each month. Be open to asking others to join me.

I'm back, my friends. No more filling my belly and mind with excuses. We make our life what it is and I'm thankful for that. I've already got my alarm set to walk outside tomorrow morning. What will you be doing?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Strangers Now

People are divorcing all around me. Close friends. Community folks. Complete strangers. All couples, once madly in love, now going their separate ways. I have this uncanny need to know every detail about their love story and subsequent break up, as if understanding these random pieces will help me predict my own marital future.

When did love leave and loathing arrive? Was it months or was it years? Was there a sign? Did she know he was married? Could you forgive him? Would you take those years of love back if you knew the ending? Are you scared?

I'm scared. That's why I ask all these crazy questions. I'm scared great love will turn into something hurtful and tragic. I'm scared there will be signs of growing apart, but I'll be too busy with my life to notice. I'm scared he'll leave and I'll be lonely, or he'll stay and we'll hate each other. I'm scared he'll have a change of heart. I'm scared I just might, too.

I was watching Storytellers the other night with songwriter Ray LaMontagne when he was talking about his marriage and how tough it was to stay connected. Even though he had been married to his wife forever, even childhood friends, he messed it up while on the road. He put it perfectly when he said, "I lost the plot of my life." He looked so sad and sincere and humbled by this revelation. He sang Like Rock & Roll and Radio. I cried the whole time.

How many of us have lost the plot of our lives? How many of us have lost sight of what is important? How do we forgive the humanness in others, which sometimes feels impossible, while also forgiving ourselves? How do we keep from becoming strangers?

Divorce reminds me of the messiness of love. We must rely on others to love us back and, sadly enough, that doesn't always happen like we'd like it to. No matter how many questions I ask, there's never going to be a perfect formula for doing it right. We just have to keep going and pray the hurt doesn't kill us along the way.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sorting Out My Life

My mom has been cleaning out her basement, which means she's been sending box after box of childhood mementos my way. She has saved every piece of artwork, certificate, pen pal letter, medal, grade card, poem or graded paper that I took home. It's a lot of stuff. For someone not into clutter, such as myself, it's pure torture to dig through.

If there is any good that comes from sorting junk, I have found some common themes emerge from my childhood. First, I loved things with my name on it. I have pencils, bags and notebooks with my name everywhere. Heather. Heather Boehmer. Heather Dawn Boehmer. I must have liked the way my name looked in print. Ironically, I still kind of feel that way. My secret wish is to see my name on the cover of book, hopefully with "national bestseller" right above it.

Secondly, I was a prolific writer. I wrote letters to friends in the summer, random pen pals, journal entries, notes to family members, poem after poem after poem (all terrible, by the way), and many short stories. The writing wasn't terrific, but I was amazed by the kind, encouraging words of my teachers. "Keep at it, you've got great potential," one wrote on my paper. They believed in me before I knew to believe in myself.

I also realized how much my mom relished every part of my journey. She kept every word, every picture, every award. She was so proud of me. While I've written often of the struggle growing up with single, teenage mother, I'm not sure I've accurately conveyed what an amazing woman my mother is. She is humble, funny and kind. She has never, not even for one small second, given up on me, though my actions would have tested the most patient soul. I guess I'm thankful she's let me sort out my life at my own pace.

At the bottom of the last box I went through tonight, I found a poem I had written in the ninth grade with a green honorable mention ribbon stapled to it. I don't remember the poem or the ribbon, but it reminded me of the dreamer I used to be. Still am, I guess, in many ways. Here's hoping we can all grow into something special and keep working on the big dream. If it's super unrealistic, well, then I think you're definitely headed in the right direction.

Lament for the Non-Dreamers
by Heather Boehmer, 9th grade

They never seem to look beyond today
or wish for anything unrealistic.
A second of their time is not wasted
on such foolish measures
as daydreaming a tomorrow.

Their lives are synchronized into patterns,
which are colored black and white.
Their eyes are closed to all the magic and beauty
that is soundly sleeping behind the closed doors of their imagination.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Cicada Cycle

I'm not a bug person. Too many legs and really weird eyes. You would think with two sons, often giddy about anything squirmy and squishy, and then a mountain man for a husband, that I would have some affection for these living creatures. Not so much. I think it boils down to their lack of respect for my personal space. They're everywhere and I think it's rude.

I read last week that the cicadas (often referred to as locusts) will be coming out of the ground by the thousands this week. They've been underground for 13 years and are finally emerging for a few short weeks. Magicicada is the species here. As far as I can tell, their short life above ground is dedicated to singing loud love songs, mating and then more mating, and finally the laying of a gazillion eggs by the female. Death follows closely after for all the adults. The eggs hatch, fall to the summer grass and bury themselves underground for another decade or so.

I'm not sure why I'm fascinated by the cicada story. You would think thousands of bugs emerging from the ground would be enough to freak me out. It's the cycle of the cicadas, however, that draws me in. When this group of babies first crawled underground, I had moved away from Jefferson City for the first time and was soaking up the college experience. I loved every minute of it. Since then, I've married, worked some tough jobs, lived in a big city and moved back home, given birth to two children, grown older and hopefully a little wiser. What will the next 13 years bring, I wonder?

My boys were gathering cicadas this evening. Glee and merriment abounded. Cicadas, cicadas! I even watched as one baby emerged from it's hard shell, all white and wet, to spread it's wings. It was a beautiful site even with the red, beady eyes. Any mother would have been proud. It also hit home how precious life is on this earth. We may have a few weeks, or 13 more years, or a lifetime, if we are really lucky, but unfortunately we have no control over the time clock. We are just a part of the cycle, like it or not. We must keep emerging, my friends, despite the struggle. Like the cicada, I will try to do the same.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Slow Ride, Take It Easy

I have the pleasure of working for an organization that puts great value on its faith-based mission. So much, in fact, that they provide an inspirational, motivational, keep your head up, you can live a great life, hug-and-heart fest once a year for all employees. It's usually pretty good stuff. Unfortunately, it was scheduled for today and I just wasn't in the mood to give up four hours in my crazy, overloaded work day. But I went. Begrudgingly.

We started off talking about our character strengths. That was alright. I found out I'm curious about the world, humorous and playful, and full of gratitude. My co-workers also thought I was spiritual, full of love and genuine. While I tried really hard to be reflective and soak in these super kind words, I just wasn't engaged. I'll confess I checked my phone several times, drank three cups of coffee and took two "unofficial" breaks in the first hour alone. I was an animal circling a cage.

When the speaker got to his top 10 strategies for developing personal resilience, his words and great personal stories started to sink in. I closed my eyes, inhaled deep breaths, and let the sun shine on my face to cultivate more gratitude. I laughed out loud at a comedy skit on the evolution of dance to help us identify our plethora of options in the world. But it was the number six tip that hit home and went deep.

#6: Slow things down with some regularity. He quoted an author saying, "What if you missed your life like a person misses a train?" There was a whole room full of people, but it was like he was talking only to me. I mean look at how I had treated this day already, which is the same, sadly enough, as every other day. I am in a race to get things done. Instead of slowing down and focusing on one thing, my mind is racing toward the 46 things that need to be done by the end of the day. I like achieving, I do. I'm just starting to regret what I might be missing.

For example, my 6-year-old becomes a chatterbox when we get in the car. He talks my ear off. He also remembers every conversation and promise I've ever made. I often mumble back to him, half-listening and half-heartily, that it slipped my mind or I forgot about that story. "Well, of course, you forgot," he said to me one day. "You gave half your brain to me when I was born and then my brother got the other half. You have none left, so that's why you always forget stuff."

This is where the tears came in today. I'm not forgetful, my friends. I'm just not paying real close attention. I'm missing beautiful parts of my life because I don't slow down to enjoy it. That's hard to admit. It's even harder to change. The speaker gave a great suggestion when he said, before you enter a room, touch the door knob and say, "be here now." Be present. Be open. Be here now. I really love that.

I imagine that if I don't get everything done in day, no one will care all that much. People in my life might not even notice (because they're super busy, too), but a big transformation is taking place within me. I'm going to start slowing down and enjoy my life a little more. I don't have to juggle the whole wide world. This isn't the circus. It's my life. I'm thinking I better make it count.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lighting the Fire

For a few hours this afternoon, I had time to myself with no kids running around the house. Did I clean? No. Did I cook? Not even close. Did I do laundry? Kind of, as in I folded a very small basket of wrinkled clothes that had been sitting there for a week while watching the movie Julie & Julia.

I love this movie. First of all, you cannot say enough wonderful things about Meryl Streep playing Julia Child. She nailed it, absolutely nailed it. I'm just sad she didn't receive an Oscar for her stellar effort. As a writer (or an aspiring writer or someone who loves to write), I find myself inspired by this movie. Julie Powell, the writer, finds her niche, her love, and though she questions it every day, she plows ahead and doesn't look back. I admire that kind of bravado.

It also makes me want to write more. Sure, I blog once or twice a month, but that's only if all the stars align above my house on Oak Street. Julie Powell blogged every day for 365 days PLUS cooked over 500 French recipes. Did I also mention she worked another full-time job? Then, she got a book deal and that followed with a movie deal.

I want that for myself, friends. Not the cooking part, but the fire in my belly to do more of what I love. Write, write, write. Every day. Even, and maybe this is what stops me, when I feel like I have nothing to say that someone would like to read. If I'm honest with myself, being a mom, wife and full-time marketer doesn't stop my dreams. I do. It's because I'm afraid. I'm afraid I'll plow forward with all the bravado in me and fail. Miserably.

I'm sure Julia and Julie would say not chasing your dream is the biggest failure of all. It took Julia over a decade to get her cookbook published and Julie was in her 30's before she even starting blogging about cooking. I'm still relatively young, I guess, and fairly passionate. I just need to light the fire. Any suggestions on doing that?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Iris Isaacson

Last Sunday, I participated in a poverty simulation at a local church. I had no idea what it was, of course, but a friend sent an invitation my way. This person has a heart for people suffering, including in our community and around the world, and I often wonder if I will feel the call (like she obviously does) to help people. I was curious, I guess. So I went.

From the moment I entered the gym, I was assigned an identity and role to play. I am Iris Isaacson, age 19, a high school dropout without a job or any job prospects. I have a one-year-old son and live with my boyfriend, who is 25 and, thankfully, employed. He is not my child's father but he does have a child of his own. We have one car that breaks down often. Our rent, utilities and food add up to more than we bring in each month.

Every 15 minutes is one week in our lives. We must circle around the gym and stand in long lines to get to work, the bank, the grocery store, the quick cash, social services, and the utility company. It takes one transportation ticket to get from place to place, including back home. It is a totally different world than I live in. Banks and quick cash places take money off the top to cash your checks. By the time you get to a place to pay your bill or get to the front of the line, it closes. Police offers take you to jail for loitering too long outside a place. You must choose between a week of food or taking your child to the doctor.

How did I do in four weeks as Iris Isaacson? Not very well, I'm afraid. I lost the rental trailer. I got our utilities turned back on finally, but I was still in the hole with the utility company. I did not make it to the required training to keep my unemployment benefits, so those will be taken away next month. I begged a transportation ticket from the neighbor family using a fake story about my sick kid. I also considered an offer to go home with a gentlemen in the bank line who would "treat me right" and got a monthly stipend from the government. I pawned my watch and all the furniture to make ends meet, which was small potatoes, because I was so desperate I probably would have sold my soul.

When I became Heather Feeler again, I had to report out how I felt about the whole exercise. I felt sad. I felt confused. I felt terribly unworthy to be living my carefree life where I whip in and out of restaurants and stores with my full tank of gas. My glass is always full. My stomach, too. For the first time, I felt how the cycle of poverty keeps spinning around and how hard it is to pull yourself out. I also found that my middle-class values, plus my quick judgments of right and wrong, don't always apply when it comes to survival. We do what we must to survive.

It's not easy to see the world differently, I'm discovering. It doesn't feel so good when you can't fix what's broken, or even see how you can do enough to matter. While I have no answers, just a discontented heart right now, I'm going to start by giving others my greatest respect, understanding and kindness. You never know their journey. It could be Iris, who is really me and then I am her. As it turns out, we are all the same.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

For Book Lovers Only

I love a good story. On my worst days, or even semi-bad days, you can find me in the library or bookstore greedily looking for a story to devour. Happy or sad. Real life or make believe. Romance or tragedy. If you write it well enough, I will probably read it.

On rare occasions though, I come across a book that when I close the last page I think, "Dang, I wish I would have wrote that." Here are a few books I wish I could claim for my own.

1. House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
2. Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
3. Finn by Jon Clinch
4. At Home in the World by Joyce Maynard
5. The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
6. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
7. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
8. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
9. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoe Francois and Mark Luinenburg
10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The best part about a good story? You get to tell others, so they can experience it for themselves. If you haven't read the books above, or baked bread from the number nine recommendation, add them to your list. I'm also ready for your recommendations, my friends. Go ahead. Give 'em to me.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Day

It's been awhile since I've written, but it's not because I don't love you. It's just that my life has been, well, so hectic lately. I thought maybe the new year would bring a slower pace, but I haven't been active in weeding out anything in my life. In fact, I've added a few more things, including turning another year older.

With the impending storm of the century, I left work early this afternoon to pick up kids and get home safely before the roads got rough. The boys and I snuggled on the couch, munched Boy Scout popcorn and watched Karate Kid. We had a tickle war, did some kung fu fighting, and then had a dance off during the credits of the movie. It was one stellar afternoon.

School had already been cancelled for tomorrow. If we get enough snow, work might be cancelled for me, too. The giddy feeling in my heart has suddenly returned like I'm a kid again and about to dust off the snow boots and sled. There is no plan for the day, no place to be at a certain time, just the idea of a grand adventure. The kids get all of me, whole and happy, and I get to take back a few hours of my life. There is so much good in that.

So if I see you on the snow sledding hill tomorrow, you'll know it's me by the hysterical laughter and contagious joy of an unexpected slow down day. Last one down the hill is a rotten egg. COWABUNGA, dude!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Letter to My Sons

Dear Cooper and Tuck:

When I was younger, I used to be a great letter writer. Well, maybe not great, but certainly ambitious. I wrote page after page of the boring details of my life and sealed it with wax, wafer seals or spit. I also immersed myself in the words of prolific letter writers. The weirder, the better, too, which is why JD Salinger always topped my list. While I have a drawer full of beautiful stationery, it's been a while since I've put pen to paper. That saddens me, but I hope this letter to both of you will still be meaningful and lasting.

At this very moment, the two of you are wrestling with each other downstairs, all giggly, fierce and super loud. You are six and almost four years old, respectively. You are my greatest gift and also my scariest adventure. For almost everything in this life (your driver's license, going to college, job certifications), there is a test to ensure you are ready. Parenting, unfortunately, is not one of those things. You just figure it out as you go. I'm pretty sure there is a HUGE margin for error here, but then again I'm no mathematician.

Here are some things I am screwing up everyday as your mom. I'm impatient. I am prone to worrying. I run around the house like a chicken with my head cut off, screaming instructions to you from room to room. I hate cleaning and cooking, but always manage to bake you something to clog your little arteries. I'm competitive. I have really high expectations of myself and others around me. I come from a family of semi-crazy women, which means I'll end up crazy. I've also not mastered the graceful art of forgiveness yet. Oh, I try, but it's meager.

Having said all that, I hope there are a few good qualities you will note about me. I love to laugh. I'm loyal. I am so loving that sometimes I suffocate you. I celebrate differences and hope you will grow up to be a bright color in a sea of sameness. I'm good with adventure, spontaneity, and trying anything once (yes, I jumped out of an airplane, but that is how I finally knew it wasn't for me). I like people and their stories. I also believe learning can come from living in the real world just as easily as it comes from a book. I can dance like the dickens.

I guess I just hope you know how much I love you. If I mess up, and I have and I will continue, it wasn't because of anything you did, it was because I'm human. Nothing in this world can prepare for you for molding individuals into something that will matter. It's hard work and with the lack of any training manual, or big ole' test, I'm just faking it. It could end up bad, but then again it could be a really great adventure that we're on together.

In the interim, I'm saving money for your future. You can use it for college, or traveling, or finding yourself should you get lost along the way. I love you to the next galaxy and beyond. Please don't forget to write to your mom when you get to where you're going. I really would love to hear about all your crazy adventures, if you're stilling talking to me or have time.

Big hug and loud sloppy kisses,