Friday, November 29, 2013

Stupid Artificial Christmas Tree

November is the month of gratitude. I love reading all the daily thankfulness posts on Facebook or the magazine articles on the art of gratitude. Perhaps it's over done, but I guess I like the fact that people are trying to slow down and appreciate the blessings in front of them. Gratitude is definitely a gift we have to cultivate.

After a wonderful day yesterday of eating turkey and catching up with family, I found myself already moving ahead to all the things I need to get done in December, the biggest consumption month of the year. I wrote handwritten Christmas cards last night until my hand cramped. I finished getting all the supplies for my advent calendar for my boys. And the hubby and I got into an argument this morning about why our stupid artificial tree is so much damn work. For him. Grrrr!

Thankfulness has already fled, my friends.

So I gathered my cup of coffee and retreated upstairs to write. I wanted to write something really meaningful, long-lasting, funny even, and far away from all the things in this house that are overwhelming (cleaning and laundry, Christmas decorations, shopping lists, etc.), but it's difficult to do much of anything when your spirit is overwhelmed. It's paralyzing.

I'm taking up a new strategy. Forget December. I'm staying in November forever--the month of being thankful for what is right in front of you. Quality time with my kids on a rare day off from work. A full fridge with Thanksgiving leftovers. A husband who makes me crazy, often daily, but knows the real me and loves me anyway.

The tree can wait. Right now, I'm going back down to snuggle with these fine loves. Three of my finest blessings.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beauty in Life's Moments

I'm always rushing. I'm rushing to this event or my next meeting, or to pick up this, or to do that. At the end of the day, I've gotten a lot marked off my list, but I haven't enjoyed very many moments. Almost none, actually.

One of my favorite charities,  To Write Love on Her Arms, an organization that helps people struggling with addiction, sent me an email today with the t-shirt below. The proceeds from this shirt, purchased in the next seven days, go toward TWLOHA. While the flowers on this baseball tee are nice, it was the message that hit home for me. 

Beauty is found in life's moments.

Courtesy of Sevenly
It's so simple, yet so true. Beauty is in all of life's moments. The great ones, the terrible ones, the rushed ones, and the simple ones. It's waiting for us to soak it in. We just need a nudge, a reminder now and again, to stop rushing and start enjoying.

A message this strong is hard to resist. I bought the shirt. I'm such a sentimental sucker.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Balancing Act of Life

I have a happy spirit inside me. It's been there every since I was a kid. I love life. I love family and friends. I also love the possibility of the next adventure up ahead, including all the interesting people I might meet along the way. I am a social soul.

Unfortunately, I hit a low patch the last couple of days. I'm not sure what triggered it or why it has stayed awhile, but I've been wanting to pull the covers over my head and stay there forever. All by myself. I'm teary and tired and temperamental. And, even worse, I feel like if I have to juggle one more ball in the air that is my crazy life, I could start shredding this big tent and give the freak show a run for their money with my hysterical screaming.

I am so tired of running the race. So so so tired.

Whenever I hit this humbling low, I find myself going back to the basics. It helps me unbury my head from the sand inch by inch. Gratitude always tops the list. I think about all the abundant blessings in my life and thank the Lord for every single one. I then write thank you notes to people in my life who are making a difference, whether they know or not. I feel better when I seal a note telling someone the world is a better place with them in it. Or, a simple, beautiful...I love you.

Honest talk with my friends comes next. I love to be the person that lifts people up with my kind words, support, and love. It's harder for me to be the one who needs lifting up. Instead of being happy Heather, I have to admit I'm struggling. I have to say the honest words. It's the only way I can accept the honest help. There is something so healing about letting people see the real you, ugly warts and all.

Lastly, I have to let go of some control. Not easy for a control freak, let me tell you. I want to know every single detail of every single minute so I can plan every single detail. If I don't have my pulse on everything, something might fall through the cracks. As you can imagine, this also causes much worry and anxiety and fretting. The world wouldn't stop spinning if I let go of a few things, would it? It wouldn't be a worse place if I took a time out and let someone else have a go. I must repeat over and over: I do not control the universe, I do control the universe, I do not control the universe.

In the end, I'm just me. I have to remember that being me comes with some amazing, unique, awesome highs and some unsettling, sadder lows. It is the great balancing act of life. We must remember we don't get to stay too long on either side. We find meaning in the moment, if we're lucky, then move on to the next great ride. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Finding a Sister

I checked a big item off my bucket list this week. A sister's photo shoot. It's huge because, for one, I don't actually have a sister and, two, it involves some quirky, creative photography that is way beyond my skill set. In my mind, milking a goat would have been mastered way before I found a sister. I like it when life has other ideas.

Did I mention I have a wonderful friend with a wonderful name? Dulce. We have lots in common, too. Mother to two boys. Reading. Sharing stories. Laughing at ourselves until our bellies hurt. We even share a love of two sisters, Elsie and Emma, and their creative blogging, which also includes their "famous" sister photo shoots, where they dress up in clothes they've made or vintage finds. As it turns out, I'm not the only one with this item on her bucket list.

My original plan was to find some vintage clothes with Dulce, maybe even a thrift shop gem, and take some selfies of ourselves while giggling hysterically. Dulce took it one step further by enlisting another friend, who is a gifted photographer, to help us create an unforgettable photo adventure. And, friends, it was an adventure.

I've never seen a sunflower field so vibrant. Or ridden a two-seater bicycle. Or sat in the middle of a sun-warmed road and enjoyed the view outward. Or worn such a lovely vintage dress. Or laughed so hard. Or wished so much that a moment could last a little longer.

Here are a few photos from our sister's photo shoot.
Vintage fun in a sunflower field. Copyright Posy Creative.
Pinky swear we'll be friends forever. Copyright Posy Creative.
A bike built for two is risky business. Copyright Posy Creative.
Laughter and love, sister style. Copyright Posy Creative.
It feels good to check something off my bucket list. It feels even better to have invited someone along for the adventure. Life is pretty sweet. Enjoy it, my friends.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Love and Pizza Dough Beards

I used to think my love language was acts of service. However, in the last few months, I've come to realize just how important relationships and quality time are in my life. People tip my happiness scale upward. And while the crazy pace of my packed schedule often sucks the life right out of me, time spent nurturing relationships rarely does. 

This past weekend, my cup was overflowing with quality time. I had date night with the hubby. We had some great discussion over onion rings and IPA. I then got the opportunity to re-connect with someone I mentored many years ago, who is now a college student making her big dreams happen. Over dinner and catching up, I couldn't believe a decade had already passed in our friendship.

I also got to spend lots of quality time with my boys. We wrestled, fought over toys, played games at a picnic, jumped off diving boards, and ended our evening by sharing the best part of our day over pizza. We even managed to work in making a full beard out of pizza dough. It may not be proper table etiquette, but it's what we do when we're having fun.

Boy with pizza dough beard.
So, friends, here is my wish for us all this week...

May your days be filled with laughter and pizza-dough beards. May you feel loved from the person sitting next to you, or across from you, or in front of you. May your cup be full, even slightly overflowing, and may you always remember to fill the cup of others. May you be kind, loving, and present. May you love boldly and be boldly loved back. May your happiness scale, if it must be pointed somewhere, always be pointed up.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Scrub a Dub Dub

I hate to clean. Scratch that. I hate to clean in a house with a husband, two children, and a dog. It feels like you never get ahead. You go into one room and work your scrubbing magic. Return a mere 15 minutes later and it's back to chaos. Grrrr!

It isn't all their fault, I'll admit. My love-hate relationship with cleaning has been years in the making. Childhood even. You see, my mom, she is a crazy cleaner. A scrubber. A put-on-those-ugly-plastic-gloves-and-scrub-the-daylights-out-of-something kind of woman. My mom would scrub when angry, frustrated, or sad. Our house always shined.

I had a few chores, too. My mom would leave the perfectly typed list dangling from the fridge listing three chores for each day. The chores I was assigned always involved organizing (my better love!), picking up, or putting away, but never scrubbing. Deep cleaning was her mission and an escape from life's frustrations.

My escape? Books. I would spend all day reading, lost in the world of someone else's imagination, and then rush through my chores the last few minutes before my mom returned home. It was a neck-breaking race to the finish line. It was never rewarding, but it always got done. Even to this day, I would rather be lost in a story than a sink full of suds. This is, perhaps, why my house never shines.

This week, however, I am tackling a new cleaning strategy. I printed off a cleaning schedule I found with three chores in the morning and then three different chores at night, rotating items seven days a week. If you do those simple chores each day, your house is pretty much cleaned top-to-bottom in one week. Then begin again. Shiny, shiny, shiny.

So far, it's been good. Not amazing, of course, but more manageable, and the productive feeling of keeping a shiny house is coming back to me. I also love my perfectly typed chore list dangling from my fridge. It reminds me of a woman who worked hard and did an amazing job, so I could spend time in faraway places, dreaming my big dreams. 

Here's to paying it forward with a happier heart. I sure hope I can keep up.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ugly, Heartfelt, Inspiring Seeds

A few years ago at a work conference, I was given a seed of happiness. It's not actually a seed. It's a crazily formed lump of clay with a smashed nose and crooked smile. It stares at me every time I sit down to write. In a real writing slump, which is often, I roll it between my palms as I ponder. 

The story behind these seeds is a simple one. Kindness. Mark, a sculptor in St. Louis, decided to make something meaningful out of life's leftovers. He took his left-over pieces of clay and formed them into small smiley faces, then painted them like a rainbow. He took his first one to a friend's son, who was dying of cancer, because he didn't know what to say, or what to do, but he wanted to make him smile. A Seed of Happiness was born.

The best thing about these ugly, heartfelt, inspiring seeds is you can't buy just one. You have to buy a whole pack, 10 or more, so you can give them away. While you are always welcome to keep one, and roll it between your hands when lost, true kindness comes in sharing the crooked smile with others. Paying it forward, passing it along.

The truth is we are all homely lumps of clay, made in all shapes and crazy colors, trying to be something beautiful in this world. It's the kindness that ultimately defines us. The passing of our smiles and the act of giving ourselves away.   

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Music of Poets

I love the way words come together. How they make you feel when put together perfectly, or even how they make you see the world so much differently. I can't tell you how many times I've read a line in a novel and thought, "Damn, I wish I would have written that!" Song lyrics are no exception to my envy.

My husband often jokes that I have a melancholy soul when it comes to music. How do you not love the music of poets? Couple that will some acoustic guitar, maybe even a ukulele, and the tears start flowing. I want my music to move me!

In the search for my musical poets, I always turn to NPR's Tiny Desk for that unique blend. I am never disappointed, including yesterday when I stumbled upon Keaton Henson. Maybe it's his gentle demeanor, his heartfelt lyrics, or his mesmerizing voice, but I could not quit listening or look away. I cried the whole time I listened to the last song called "You."

"If you must wait, wait for them here in my arms while I shake. If you must weep, do it right here in my bed as I sleep. If you must mourn, my love, mourn with the moon and the stars up above. If you must mourn, don't do it alone."

Here is some Keaton Henson poetry, my friends. May you feel it down to your very soul.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chicken Little and Some Discipline

Chicken Little was right. The sky is falling. The proof is that I'm writing two days in a row. Intentionally.  

I often talk to my friend, Mel, about my writing process. Or, more accurately, my lack of writing. I have lots of excuses, but my go-to excuse is always the same. No time and, maybe the even bigger hurdle, I have this huge amount of self-doubt that what I write won't matter. To anyone. 

It paralyzes me. I don't write until inspiration, or a deep-felt experience, comes and about knocks me over the head. Even then, I'm cautious. If I write it, I want to really feel it. The pace of my crazy, parenting, full-scheduled life has numbed me. It is a vicious excuse cycle.

The secret to great writing, as it turns out, isn't actually a big secret. Almost every writer knows intuitively what makes them a writer. Discipline. The big D. Setting aside time each day to write. And then actually doing it! You write when you're uninspired. You write through your hectic life. You write when you're up or down. Then, you keep writing some more.

Writing is my gift. I don't know if I've always viewed it that way, but I do now. It's not a gift because I'm going to write a bestseller, or change the world with my words, or figure out (finally!) what is meaningful to you. It's a gift because when I'm writing I'm home. I'm exactly who I am doing exactly what I do.

Almost every time Mel and I talk, she always has the same question for me. Have you been writing? While my answer is usually no, it is her loving way of reminding me that what I love to do is out there. Waiting. I just need to sit down in the chair and begin.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My Bucket List....Bob Goff Style!

Bob Goff wrote a book called Love Does. I could sit here and tell you how fabulous and wonderful and amazing it is, but that doesn't even begin to do it justice. For me, it was life changing. 

Goff lives each day pursuing love, adventure, whimsy, and meaningful relationships. He doesn't just think of living a life fully engaged, he actually does it. Every story, inspiration. Every struggle, learning. Every encounter, meant to be part of your story.

This is exactly why my copy of Love Does is battle worn. I often re-read a chapter or two a week (nerdy, but true!) to soak up the inspiration. Tonight, I came upon the part where he talks about taking his friends on his bright blue classic motorcycle, complete with a sidecar. A whimsy mobile at its finest!

He says, "When I pass by people they smile because they've never been in a sidecar, but I can tell they wish they were the passenger. Whimsy is a lot like that--it needs to be fully experienced to be known. Whimsy doesn't care if you are the driver or the passenger; all that matters is that you are on your way."

I added "ride in the sidecar of a motorcycle" to my bucket list shortly after reading this chapter. I did want to ride in a sidecar. I also wanted to have more adventures. So, I started writing down my bucket list, not just keeping a random list in my head, to ensure I would actually start DOING them. And I have. Slowly, but surely.

But, it occurred to me tonight, I don't often ask people to join me in my adventures. While I say yes to joining anyone who needs a partner in their adventure (like my friend, Mari, who invited me go to a Pink concert in November to check it off her bucket list), I often drive solo thru my own journey. I never ask anyone to get in the sidecar.

Starting now, I am officially amending my adventure mindset. Below is my working bucket list and you are all invited to join me, friends. If you see one that strikes your fancy, let me know. I'll give you a shout when the adventure is about to begin. 

My Bucket List
1. Walk my kids to school everyday. Enjoy every minute.
2. Stand on the side of the street with a "Free Hugs" sign.
3. Only buy local or go without.
4. Hear Anne Lamott speak again.
5. Learn to play lacrosse.
6. Hear live music at Red Rocks, Colorado.
7. Sisters photo shoot.
8. Act in a community theater production or at least have the balls to audition.
9. Learn to auctioneer.
10. Roll a Chipotle burrito. No rips.
11. Milk a goat and/or learn to make goat cheese.
12. Ride in a motorcycle sidecar (yes, still on the list!)
13. Hike Yosemite.
14. Get invited to Bob Goff's cabin for a sleepover.
15. Lunch or coffee with Stephanie Meyer.
16. Visit national parks to sniff more trees.

Lastly, if you happen to be working your bucket list and need a sidekick, I am your girl. I repeat. I AM YOUR GIRL!

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Lost Parent

Tuck, age 6, and Cooper, age (almost) 9
Before I had kids, I had a passion for things. I wrote poetry. I embroidered tea towels. I sipped coffee slowly. I even sang power ballads in the shower that could make a grown man cry. All this interestingness...gone, gone, gone.

In its place is this new me. The professional yeller. The impatient multi-tasker. The sock matcher. The grocer-store shopper. The pocket cleaner outer. The bill payer. This grown up (and I use this term loosely, folks) in charge of the whole wide world. Time is no longer mine. I am owned by everything else around me.

In an act of rebellion tonight, I walked upstairs to my computer room after plating up their dinners and shut the door to write. All by myself. The kids are officially fending for themselves while I try to write something grand or grandiose, but it's not been an easy go.

I had to give a tribal yell to get their attention downstairs when it sounded like elephants were tearing up the place. We're dancing, they shouted back, give us a break! I'm pretty sure a few things fell off the wall.

There's been biting and someone got kicked in the balls.

There's been a surprise attack outside my computer-room door with swim goggles and a sling shot. I think I might know what it feels like to have a heart attack and a panic attack at the same time.

One kid has asked for cheese. The other one wants to play the Nintendo DS. No and no.

Lots of laughter. This must mean they are doing something I will discover later and be very angry about, or a tickle war has begun. You lose the tickle war when you pee your pants or vomit. Your choice.

Finally, we now have silence. This is the worst news yet. It means I need to wrap up this crazy endeavor of writing by myself, so I can jump back into the world of parenting. So, here's the quick ending, the short and sweet of it.

Despite the fact I've lost some of myself along the way, raising sons is the greatest adventure I've ever been on. I might get lost. Feel crazy. Have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. So what? It will always be a more interesting story than tea towels and shower singing. It's a life in progress, imperfect and beautiful. Enjoy it.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

{Rock-and-Roll Daughter}

All I can think about when I look at this photo is ZZ Top. I also think about yellow and how it's way too much for one vintage ride, but mainly it's just ZZ on my mind. The band. The beards. The classic cars. It's all here...staring back at me.

This is actually Doug, a guy I don't know all that well. In fact, this is one of the only pictures I have of Doug, standing next to something he lovingly restored with his own hands. He is so full of pride and love. His baby. Doug is no ZZ Top, you see. He's just my dad.

I've mentioned my dad before. The one who left when I was two, showed up again in my life at 19, and hasn't been back since. I'm 35 now (in case you're counting). He calls every few years to tell me he thinks of me often, but his words have never been worth anything, certainly never made of action. He is daughter less guy. I am his fatherless girl.

Yesterday, I met Doug's brother for the first time. Great guy. He's been married to his wife for 40 years with four children and many grandchildren. He's also a minister. He glowed when he talked about his faith and his family. There were some tears, too. 

He cried when he talked about the abuse that he and his four siblings, including Doug, endured at the hands of their step-father after being abandoned by their real father. He spoke of a mother incapable of affection and love. Extreme poverty. No second changes. Hurt, that for years, has gone unhealed in many of them.

I listened. I soaked it all in. I looked at family photos, including this one he gave me of Doug. I only cried once during our visit. It was when he was talking about how he didn't love or hate his own dad, who would come in and out of his life. He mainly felt nothing. I cried because I felt nothing, too. It makes you sad to have that hole in your heart for someone you should love, but simply don't.

It was a tough day yesterday. But it was also good. For the first time, I was able to hear a solid reason why my dad may not have been able to show up to be my dad. It's more than just not knowing how. He may not be capable. And then, even better, I meet someone full of love and warmth that learned to love despite being unloved. It means there is hope for me, too. Hope for us all. The cycle can be broken.

I like this photo. I really do. It makes me laugh to think my dad could really be ZZ Top instead of what he really is. I'm glad he's found something he loves. I have to.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

{I Am a Tree Sniffer}

Forget roses. Stop and sniff the trees, my friends. There is nothing better than the smell of pine as you hike in the forest. It is seriously the best smell in the world.

Tree Sniffer, 2013
This is me yesterday hiking at Three Creeks Conversation Area near Columbia. It was my first time hiking this trail and, even though we had to creatively cross a few creeks, I loved getting back outside after a long winter of hibernation. 

I sniffed the tree. Or made love to it. It's hard to tell in this photo, I know, but I love the smell of pine enough to stick my chubby cheeks right up in it's grill. I almost hyperventilated breathing it all in. I think the tree appreciated the love, too.

Today, back to snow and sleet in Missouri. Boo. Hiss. I am posting this picture as a reminder that tomorrow brings a new day, a new trail, maybe even a new adventure. Sniff it. Stick your face in it. Breath it all in. We get no guarantees in this life. 

P.S. This might be a cedar tree. I can't tell the difference between cedar and pine. I just sniff everything. No discrimination here, folks.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Feeding the Beast

The blogs I love post several times a week. Some, even daily. I follow cooking blogs, DIY blogs, parenting blogs, comedy blogs, and even the blogs of a few friends. I love the writing, but mainly I love staying connected. Writers post stuff to stay connected. 

I haven't made a blog post, if I can even call it a blog at this point, in six months. It was fall when I last wrote. Today, I realized it's spring. Well, shit. This totally confirms I'm a complete slacker.

No excuses. Okay, I do have a few (the best slackers always do, right?). Work has been chaos. Kids played basketball this winter, so there was no "off" season. I stopped walking. I started devouring sugar. I took up hot yoga, if you can call taking two classes and puking like a champ after the first one a new hobby. I run from meeting to meeting. I referee fighting kids. Housework is piling up, laundry even higher. 

I feel exhausted. Dried up. A writer with no words to give.

BUT, BUT, BUT....instead of doing the things that restore me (walking) and energize me (writing), I do the exact opposite. I escape into the pages of stories I didn't write and under the comfort of covers to sleep. I scroll endlessly through people's Facebook posts and candid pictures. I research new adventures with intensity, knowing in my heart I will never go. I seek bigger dreams than the life I am living.

Someone said the other day, "We become the creature we feed most." Such truth in this simple statement. What we feed, flourishes. We we nourish, grows. Hopes and dreams are wonderful, but it is our actions and what we practice daily that ultimately defines us.

I guess what I'm trying to say, friends, is I'm not a writer. Not yet. But I'm tired of silly dreams, of others and my own, with no action behind them. I'm ready to feed the beast. Get ready.