Lots of B words: Our Summer Recap

I suck at blogging, guys. I haven’t written anything since May. It’s not that I’m not busy. I AM VERY BUSY. Client work, my podcast, working on creating online writing courses, writing that novel, housework, events and activities, virtual learning with the big kid, regular preschool with the little kid. Life, in general.

But, no excuses, right? I can recap our entire summer with a lot of B words. If I counted right the first time it was 38 ‘B’ words. That bothered my BRAIN so I added this sentence to the BLOG and now it’s 40.

BEANS (coffee), BOREDOM, BICKERING, BACARDI and BEER are a staple through this whole thing. So let’s just start there.

My BIRTHDAY was in early June. It felt semi-normal at that time. The virus was ‘slowing down,’ things were reopening. We had a small, outdoor party at our house and it was the first time we had seen our friends since March. You don’t realize how much you miss people until you can’t see them. It was a great night of catching up, sans kids, and feeling the human connection we were all craving.

Then, everything went right back to shit about a day before we left for a planned BEACH trip to North Carolina. Oh, we’re headed to a hot state. Awesome. Our trip was planned way back in January, long before Covid was a household name.

It was to be my family and two of my best friends from college and their families and honestly, we had been planning it for close to a decade.

While in college, we always talked about how when we got older, we would go to a beach house every Summer with our families. With two of us living in PA, one in Florida, jobs, family events, other vacations and having 8 kids between us, it’s been busy over the past 9 years.

We finally found a summer that it worked out for all of us. It’s almost ironic that it was 2020. The year NOTHING else worked.

We went and it was a glorious and much-needed vacation. We stayed in a giant house together. We had the beach to ourselves every day and we cooked all our own meals. The kids are BESTIES for life, made memories and formed a BOND they’ll never forget and we laughed so hard each night as we sat outside on our rooftop “BAR” we were crying.

We were safe, but we also had a BLAST. We made sure to get our classic BON JOVI pic and it only took 20 minutes to capture the below “perfect” selfie.

When we came home, we did the right thing and quarantined for the longest 14 days in history. That 14 days was over the 4th of July, too, which was a major BUMMER.

So, we missed all the family parties. We missed a big, graduation party. I canceled appointments. BOREDOM was the name of the game there. We did fireworks with the kids, but the grass was so damn dry from the lack of rain, talk about BARREN, we had to settle for sparklers.

Through the other summer days, there was lots of BACKYARD and BYGONE time.

Swimming in the little pool, doing crafts, playing Play-Doh, jumping in the BOUNCE house, reading BOOKS, enjoying the sunshine. And doing all things 80s like playing Mall Madness and listening to new wave hits.

One BONUS to not having much to do is you get to be more creative. So we bought things like scotch and BOURBON and held tastings with our friend, Randie. BUFFALO Trace and BLOOD Oath are my favorites. We are still holding the tastings. This will be ongoing. A real quarantine win.

We said BRAVO as Vincenzo got to do his hip-hop dance recital, sans an audience, at The Palace!

We got to see my BROTHER! I hadn’t seen him since December so it was a real treat to have all the siblings together and for the boys to get to hang out with their Unc for a few days.

We filled the rest of our days the best way we could. We played mini-golf, one day we played in a BOAT, we got Legos and BUILT masterpieces. We made the most of our time together and tried to do something new and fun every day.

We celebrated more BIRTHDAYS, all four of our nephews in the past few months, we held our fantasy football draft (outdoors, of course) and my husband BOLDY went with this yellow BANDANA.

The months flew by, to be honest. We found BALANCE through it all. We learned how to take deep BREATHS when the chaos was overwhelming. We found out the meaning of BELONGING. What it means to be part of a family, a friend group, and how much we really need each other. Love always.

We also did BRILLIANT things with no B – we grew pumpkins, cooked a lot of great food, did many house projects, watched loads of Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/Apple TV shows and movies.

Schitt’s Creek was our ultimate favorite and it is the BEE’s KNEES, guys. Watch it.

This Summer, we laughed, we cried, we worried, we wondered, we hoped and now as the BLUSTERY Fall air flows into our windows, it’s time to BELIEVE good things are headed our way and remember to BE present in every single moment.

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In This Moment: B is for Brooding

I’m sitting at my computer working, blasting classical music through my earbuds, kids are screaming, my brows are furrowed and I’m brooding. That is the exact word that came to my mind about how I felt and when I looked up the exact definition, I was even more sure it was the correct word:

brood·ing
appearing darkly menacing.

Imagine the start of a movie, the camera slowly panning up a mountain to reveal some massive, dark castle that sits atop, a piano concerto playing in the background when the camera finally focuses on the giant window to show a crazy, old woman dressed in all black furiously typing on her typewriter.

It’s me. I’m the crazy, old woman.

I’m not wearing all black, yet the undoneness of my hair and make-up is scary enough. I am not sitting in a castle, just a raised ranch with not enough space for two energetic boys, a husband working across the table, and me. I am not on a typewriter, just my 10-year-old iMac with 30,000 + photos and videos on it that I wonder daily how it keeps working.

I am trying to write websites that are due, but client work is not coming out. Just this blog is coming out.

My distractions are heavy these days, my mood is sinking and trying to remain positive comes and goes in waves.

My energy is low. My patience is slim. But you know what is getting me through right now, writing THIS. My feelings don’t pour out of my mouth as easily as I would like them to, but they flow out of my fingertips.

I’ve shared this quote so many times, but Hemingway SAID IT BEST.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

I am doing just that right now. Brooding and all, every click of this keyboard is making me feel more and more alive. The crescendo of this beautiful music is aligning perfectly with the speed of my typing. Word vomit is needed. It’s cleansing my soul.

The music isn’t just drowning out the children and my husband typing, it’s making me feel joy inside. Yet, it’s also making me sad. I miss my family. I miss them terribly right now. I miss my friends. I miss HUGS. I miss life as we knew it.

I’m a Gemini, an Enneagram 3. I need people, communication, interaction. These are the things that inspire me and keep me motivated. I get my best ideas during a night on the town or a visit with the crew.

I can’t foresee the future and I don’t know when anything will look different or better, but I can write through these feelings. You might exercise through yours, or cook, or paint, or build, or dance. Keep pushing through.

If you feel the wave of sadness, let it come, then let it pass. Do something for somebody else and you will instantly feel better. I’m going to text a bunch of people right now and tell them how much I miss them and share a memory. I hope it will make their day and it will get me out of this slump.

The inspiration to finish my work will come. I will share this blog and I will go back to the ‘real’ work and the words will suddenly come.

This is just my feelings by the way. I know MANY others are dealing with FAR worse and I feel for them immensely. All my love and support to the world working so hard out there. THANK YOU.

I just wanted to share a moment with you right now.

Today, it’s classical music, an oversized sweatshirt, a messy bun, coffee on top of coffee, deep breaths and WRITING.

What is keeping your soul refreshed these days? 

 

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The Neverending Quarantine

I told my husband the other day I felt like Atreyu in The Neverending Story when he’s walking through the Swamp of Sadness. You sink if you let despair overtake you, and that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling in the time of COVID-19 or The Neverending Quarantine.

Of course, after a couple drinks last night, I realized how parallel life is right now with this movie and this blog was born. “The Nothing” destroyed the world of Fantasia and we have our own disease (which feels the same because we can’t see it) destroying our world. It came out of nowhere and we weren’t prepared.

We are going on about Week 5 of this life and we feel we’ve already been doing this forever. When Morla (the giant turtle) tells Atreyu he still has 10,000 miles to travel to the Southern Oracle, he’s devastated. I feel you, Atreyu. It seems like we are 10,000 miles away from normalcy, too. Every time I wipe off a cereal box with a Lysol wipe or count my toilet paper rolls, I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe.

The day-to-day monotony is getting to us all. Whether we are working or not, we are missing our family and our friends. We are craving hugs and in-person interaction. We want to go to a restaurant, support our local businesses, get our economy back on track. We want our routine back. I for one really miss driving!

We are feeling sad, uncertain, annoyed, happy, our emotions are changing on a dime. We don’t have an end date for all of this. And even if we did, we aren’t sure what that means.

If you know the film, you know Falkor, the luck dragon, rescues Atryeu and takes him all but the final stage of his voyage.

We need our own Falkor.

I think he represents hope, and we are seeing versions of that every day. We are watching humanity come together and find creative ways to stay connected. We are finding ways to support and appreciate our essential workers. We are flattening the curve with social distancing. We are checking in on our neighbors and our friends. One of my friends sends me an inspirational text every day. I’ve come to anticipate it and I love sending her a funny GIF in return.

Atreyu has to believe in himself to get through the Sphinx Gate. We need to give ourselves a break and realize we are doing the best we can. If we are doing online school with the kids, if we are working from home, if we are doing family visits on Zoom, if we are working out in the world – we are killing it. Believe in yourself and your abilites, every single day.

Atreyu is not the one to ultimately save Fantastia. He needed Bastain, the little boy reading the book to save it.

Unexpected sources will be our saving grace.

The writers, the artists, the scientists, the medical professionals. We will all come together and offer our forms of healing. We need art just as much as we need science right now.

As I look out my window and the rain pours down and the thunder rumbles, I feel like Bastian, as he tossed that blanket over his head and finally understood the power he had in the story.  We all have power. We can all help in some way.

Maybe my blog today will make you smile and for that, you’ve given me motivation. You’ve made my day better. Use your power. Bake the cookies and drop them off on your elder neighbors’ porches. Sing the song from your balcony. Send the text or the email that someone needs to read. Share your knowledge online. You have power.

Bastian had to call out a new name for the Childlike Empress and we will need a new name for our world when this comes to a close. Nothing will ever look or feel the same. This picture I took the other day represents the weirdness I feel and also reminds me of the Empress.

Image from iOS (67)

We have and will suffer more loss, we will feel fear, we will worry, but we will also learn, grow and never ever take for granted the gift of the amazing people in our lives.

Sending my love to all of you.

 

 

 

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Just Another Weekend In The Q

The rain pelting against my window woke me up. I turned over to tap my phone on and 5:00 am smiled back. I realized quickly it was Saturday morning and we had a few more precious hours before the kids got up.

Even though we still live in the world of quarantine, at least we wouldn’t be sitting across from one another on the computers working and trying to coordinate conference calls. I snuggled up closer to my husband, rare there wasn’t a kid in the middle of us.

I guess that thought instantly woke our youngest. Because mere minutes later, I heard his footsteps in the hall and he soon appeared all groggy, in his little Spider-Man PJs, carrying his Ninja Turtles pillow. He jumped into bed and nestled into his usual spot right in the middle. He’s almost 4 and he’s not so little anymore, so we welcome him to lay with mom and dad anytime he wants.

A few hours later, our oldest, almost 9 walked in. “Hi mom and dad,” he said in his cute little voice. “Can I come in, too?” We opened our arms and he jumped into bed. We were all awake now and just chatting about the day…the quarantine games that Daddy would be hosting and the much-needed grocery order pickup.

We knew it was going to be a rainy one, so we were set to keep the kids occupied, as outside time was going to be slim. I woke up to cook breakfast, thinking I still had a package of bacon and I didn’t. Damn. Little pleasures like the smell of bacon are what keeps us all sane these days. Coffee was enough though and the kids had waffles.

The day was pretty uneventful otherwise, as our days are anymore. Yes, we did the quarantine games. Daddy had Nerf Gun targets set up, a Dixie cup water chugging contest, a ping pong balls in cups challenge and count the marshmallows in the jar, among others. We all actually got dressed and we ordered in lunch to keep supporting our outside world.

Image from iOS (5)

We chatted with family on Zoom and after Daddy picked up the groceries, from two different places, we spent time wiping everything down and cleaning the space. This is when we started to feel a little down. The annoyance of not even feeling safe picking up a cereal box and putting it away before wiping it off is just plain exhausting. And then the thought of staying in another night and then another day and another day, it kind of hits you all at once and you know you need to snap out of it and do something that makes you happy. The kids and I baked cupcakes, Funfetti of course, which made everyone feel a little sweeter.

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After dinner and setting the kids up with a movie and snacks in their room (So. Many. Snacks.), we caught up on a few shows on the DVR (no, we haven’t watched Tiger King yet, it’s on the list!), FaceTimed my best friend from college and her husband in Florida to just chat, reminisce and talk about how our families are dealing with all of this and then we had a Zoom date with another best friend from college and her husband in Texas and played some virtual beer pong. Even though it was only seeing one another on a screen, it made us feel connected and we ended the night happy and laughing.

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Today was such a windy day! We started with breakfast and got some piano practicing in early. The breeze coming in from the windows and the sunshine streaming in gave us a real boost. The kiddos got outside with yummy popsicles and ran off some energy in the backyard, while my husband and I cleaned the entire house. We only have another load or so of laundry and then we will be all set, for the hour or so that will last until the kids decide on their next project.

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I’m writing this blog as the kids are now enjoying some tablet time. It’s a moment of peace. We still have many hours to fill before the end of the day. Even though it’s difficult remaining inside these four walls so much, we love being together and even when we are driving each other nuts, I couldn’t ask for a better group to be in the Q with.

When we get back to school and activities ramp up, when weekends are crazy busy again visiting family and watching sports (please come back soon sports) and summer BBQs start to happen and weddings get rescheduled and LIFE returns, we need to be able to look back at the time we spent inside and be grateful for the slow down it provided.

For those of you still working,  whether in healthcare or the grocery store or wherever else you may be, THANK YOU. You are out there risking your life daily and it does not go unnoticed. And for all my family and friends laid off or out of work or scared about their businesses, I am thinking of you, I am praying for you and I am here to support you in any way I can. For all my friends and family posting pictures of your families and sharing resources and offering ideas, thank you. I love seeing positive posts and so many people are using this time to learn new skills or practice old ones.

I know it’ll go back to normal someday and I guess I wanted to blog a bit during this time so I could remember how I felt, how we all felt. We will never be the same after this. I will never take for granted seeing my family, or getting to go to a happy hour or out to eat, or running to the mall, or grabbing a coffee with my biz girls, or working out with my hip hop girls, or watching my kids at a recital, or going out on a date with my husband or just sitting around and laughing with friends.

How are you? How is your family? What are you doing to pass your time in the Q?

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11 Girls, Almost 20 Years and 1 Table

After an hour and ten-minute drive, I pulled up to the restaurant, sitting outside in my freezing cold car and text one of my best friends, my first friend when I moved to the neighborhood I grew up in during my teen years, and asked if she was inside yet.

She was. “We’re here in the front corner of the bar!” 

I could almost feel the excitement oozing out of that text. We did a thing! 11 girls from our graduating class got together the night before Thanksgiving for a mini-reunion. Some of us had not seen one another in just shy of 20 years.

WTF! How did almost two decades FLY BY?!

I walked into the restaurant, the Four Twelve Project, part-owned by one of the girls at the reunion and her husband and a place you MUST check out if you are anywhere local, and there they were – the girls. I could feel an instant smile appear on my face. 

I walked up to the table, many of us just coming in at that same time and we all hugged and started complimenting one another, feeling really comfortable for not being in a group together for a really long time.

I love your hair and your photos were so cute you just posted and I love your Christmas tree and your dog is the best. Women supporting, empowering and raising up other women. Is there anything better?? 

We found our way to a big, round table and the conversation flowed like water from there.

Some of the girls still live locally and get to see one another often, but some of us are farther away and even in other States.

You wouldn’t know we weren’t all best friends that hung out weekly due to the volume of laughter that came from that table.

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I took pause many times and just looked around at this extraordinary group of women. Every single one of them with amazing life stories. Sure we all follow one another on social media, but it is NOT the same as sitting face-to-face and having real conversations.

It was really a trip for me sitting right next to one of my oldest and dearest friends because we fell into a routine like we were teenagers again, even though it had been many, many years since we’d seen one another. We laughed so hard we cried, we text our other friends to make them jealous they weren’t there, we started every sentence with “Oh my god, remember…” and then told some ridiculous story.

I know these girls have gone through challenges in their life, just as I have, and also enjoyed many successes. But the focus of that round table was pure love. We started by mostly sharing stories about our kids, our husbands, our jobs, our pets. And then a shift happened. Our present lives are what they are, but our past is the thing that ties us all together.

Over wine and Moscow mules, we went back to a simpler time. We reminisced, talking about high school and friends and all the things we were up to back in those days.

We made this tentative plan to stay for 2 hours, but I think at the 2-hour mark we were just ordering food and wondering why the hell we don’t get together every year. Even though some of us were hosting the next day or had places to be early, we didn’t care. When you get the chance to do something like this, you embrace it.

After a smorgasbord of food landed on the table, everyone started sharing right away. Try this! You gotta have a bite! 

It felt like a family dinner, with really, if I’m being honest…strangers.

I personally don’t live locally and I don’t get to see these girls hardly ever, but something happened at that round table and it all just felt right. It’s scary how much time has gone by, but so comforting to know that there’s a group of girls who knew you when.. who didn’t judge you and liked you for who you were, who don’t judge now and who genuinely are all good and kind people.

There is something about that feeling of nostalgia, especially around our childhood. We were all friends at some of the most vulnerable times of our lives. We weren’t sure who we were yet or what we wanted to do. We went through the awkward middle school years together. We learned how to be in relationships and struggle with broken hearts. We dealt with parents divorcing or siblings going off to college. We toed the line between behaving and acting out. We started jobs and met new friends outside of our small circle. And now coming together as 36/37-year-old women, we know exactly who we are and what we want. And it’s pretty beautiful.

This is the season of feeling nostalgic and that dinner was a great way to kick it all off.

Just the other day one of my favorite Chrismas movies, Prancer, was on. I will forever cry when I watch Jessie in her big, puffy yellow coat walking through the woods or crying to her dad (played by the incomparable Sam Elliott) when he says she is going to live with her aunt because it takes me back to being a little girl and I miss that stage of my life. The stages go by quicker and quicker and it isn’t until we are on to the next that we can really reflect back.

Stop and celebrate where you are right now and cherish each moment.

We didn’t get enough time, girls! And I know we have plans to meet again in a few months and welcome even more girls to the table and I really look forward to that.

Location alone put a group of 11 girls in the same high school, but a craving for connection and one big, round table brought them back together decades later.

 

 

 

 

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Hey, be better

Yeah, it’s advice to myself right now. And I figured I’d hold myself accountable by sharing it with all of you.

I tell myself this, a lot. But after a recent event in which I hurt other people, I am feeling extra low. And one thing I hate is excuses, so when people give them to me, I’m not happy about it and I shouldn’t expect people to be happy with mine. It doesn’t really matter the circumstance. If you do something, whether intentional or not, that was a shitty thing to do, own it, learn from it, grow from it and don’t do it again.

That aside, what I also realized is that I can be kinder on a daily basis. I love Ellen. And every day she reminds me, and the rest of the world, to BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER. It’s easy advice, yet I forget it, far too often. How about you?

My stresses end up coming out in frustration or anger to people that don’t deserve it. Today I tried to start anew. It’s a new month, it’s a new season. It can also be a new me. And a new you, if you want.

I always do the online pickup for my grocery order. A few times ago when I went, I had a young man helping me load the groceries and we got to chatting about football. I had him again today and I remembered his name from the last time, so instead of just sitting in the car, I got out. I said, “Hi NAME,” and told him I remembered him from our last conversation. We high-fived and had a chat while we both loaded the groceries together.

Human connection.

It was a mere five minutes, but we made an otherwise tedious task of getting groceries a fun one, just by chatting.

After that, I stopped at the coffee place and the girl that handed me my order had really beautiful nails. So I told her. And she thanked me and had a big smile on her face as I pulled away. You know how many times I might have thought of giving someone a compliment and then not done it for fear of sounding creepy or making them uncomfortable. What a stupid thought! Compliment. All. The. People.

Human connection.

Actually, this started the other day…

Inadvertently, I was honestly waiting for UPS, I found myself opening the door twice to local politicians walking around with flyers.

Normally, I don’t open my door during the day but this day I did. And again, a few moments of just chatting with people, nice conversation, hearing about what they’d like to do for the community, left me with such a good feeling.

Human connection.

We are very quick to not answer the door, or the phone, or the text. We are quick to bury our heads in our phones in a waiting room or put on headphones waiting to cross the street or pick up the kids. We are quick to judge, to gossip, to act out, to ignore.

Let’s be quick to forgive, to ask for help, to be a support system, to try something new.

Everyone is dealing with their own issues, struggles and challenges. It’s up to us as humans to be as kind and compassionate to others as possible. It’s also up to us to recognize our own faults and forgive ourselves, yet also take steps to better ourselves.

Fall is really the perfect season to embrace something new. The weather has finally turned and the leaves are more beautiful than ever. We should feel as bold and bright as those leaves every single day we get to be here on this Earth.

Hold the door.
Pay for the person in line behind you.
Buy the candy bar from the little kid.
Help the new mom with the grocery bags.
Tell someone how awesome they are today.

My youngest is in preschool and the most gorgeous, giant orange tree sits out in front. All of us moms were joking that we’d taken a photo of it at one point that week. It was that little common bond to chat about, to laugh about.

That tree is a reminder of the beauty of life, the beauty of human connection and how quickly things can, and will, change. Enjoy every moment.

Happy Fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The tap on the shoulder…

I tapped my husband on the shoulder a few nights ago and said, “Our baby is going to preschool tomorrow.” 

I didn’t think much about that tap until lying in bed last night, writing this entire blog in my head and now trying to pump it out of my fingertips as fast as I thought it all out.

There have been lots of little taps or double taps I’ve made on his shoulder or his back or his arm before saying something important and each one has had a huge meaning behind it.

The first tap I remember was the biggest. It was THE tap. I tapped my husband, Justin, on the shoulder at the bar to sling my first of many smart-ass comments his way and our eyes met and just like they say in one of my favorite movies, P.S. I Love You...”that’ll be the end of it. The end of what? Life as we know it.”

I also remember sitting on our old, leather couch back in our first home together, only knowing one another less than a year, about to tie the knot. And I tapped him on the arm and said, “Oh my God, we’re getting married tomorrow.” I remember both of us starting to cry and I’m sure those tears were filled with every possible emotion. We were beyond happy and excited, but also terrified and nervous.

The little taps kept on coming over the years. Some of them were amazing…

“We sold the house!”
“I found a new job.”
“I got the raise.”
“We are going to be aunt and uncle.”

“I’m pregnant!”

And some of them sad and scary…

“Grandma died.” (that first name could be replaced with many names)
“I think I lost a friend today.”
“I had another panic attack.”

“Something is wrong, we have to go to the hospital.” This tap was the day my water broke 11 weeks early with our oldest son.

“What is gonna happen, the baby is going to be too early?” As I laid in the hospital bed not knowing what was going to happen and fearing the worst. Those taps were more like grasps. Justin and I would hold on to one another and hug and hold hands and cry and pray. It was the hardest time, yet one of the most strengthening in our marriage.

“We have to leave him and go home.” After Vincenzo was born and I was cleared to go home (after 5.5 weeks of being on hospital bed rest) we had to walk away from that NICU and go home without our baby boy. That tap was more just me just burying my head into Justin’s back, holding on for dear life and trying to get through each day.

“Our baby is coming home today.” This was a super excited tap on the back and one of the best and most vivid memories of my life. Putting our tiny little man in his car seat and every so carefully placing him in the car to drive home. We couldn’t even believe they were letting us take him. He was so fragile, so little, so precious.

There were many taps as we watched him sleep and eat and learn and grow.

“Can you believe we made him?”
“I can’t believe we’re parents.”
“He rolled over!”
“He is crawling, walking, laughing, throwing a ball, etc.”

And so many more.

Some of the taps were mean-spirited.

“It’s your turn to feed the baby.”
“You handle it. I need to sleep.”

And some were spoken out of fear.

“What if he never catches up to the other kids?”

A lot of the taps were encouraging

“You are an amazing dad.”
“You are my rock.”

The ones above I still tell him all the time.

Then life started to fly and the taps became…

“I’m quitting my job to take care of the baby.”
“I’m starting a business.”
“Our baby is going to preschool….to kindergarten…”
(this tap keeps on coming)
“I’m pregnant!”
“Can you believe we have two boys?”
“How have we lived in our house for 10 years?”
“The business is booming.”
“Our big man is going to be on stage.”
(Dance, piano, who knows what else)
“Our little man is starting soccer.”
(And I’m sure many sports to come)

And just the other day…

“Can you believe we will be married 13 years in October?”

Every little tap on my husband’s shoulder or his back or his arm has had deep meaning behind it. It almost takes the moment and freezes it in time. Sometimes only that little tap is needed…I don’t even need to say any words and he knows…

“I love you.”
“I love our life and our boys.”
“It’s going to be okay.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I’m proud of you.”
“We can do this.”

Those taps remind me why my heart beats. I have a blessed life that should never be taken for granted. The tap is simply the physical motion of cementing a major memory or idea or dream before I say it out loud.

I’m so lucky I get to tap that man on the shoulder and share my life with him. Here’s to so many more happy moments to come.

 

 

 

 

 

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Westley gets it…writing + communication + The Princess Bride

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Princess Bride. It’s utterly perfect in so many ways. You laugh, you cry, you jump, you feel like true love is alive. It really has it all.

**SPOILERS INSIDE**
If you haven’t seen this movie, go watch it first.

It also got me thinking about the great communication and writing lessons tucked inside.

Westley is at the center of many great examples throughout the movie!

As writers, some of our pieces appeal strongly to a certain group of our followers and not at all to others. For instance, in writing this right now, I’m neglecting everyone who has not seen this movie, but I’m really connecting to those that love it as much as I do.  

If I write a sports-related piece, only half of my audience is going to enjoy it. Not everyone likes sports and that is perfectly okay. But if my goal is to get people to go download my sports- inspired content cheat sheet, then they are my audience for the day.

Back to Westley. Oh, my sweet, Westley.

In the beginning, he’s quiet and docile. He loves Buttercup but realizes it will take time for this strong woman to show her vulnerable side and profess her love, so he waits and his words are simple and exactly what she needs to hear, “As you wish…”

When we write, we need to understand what our audience needs to hear. Do they need to connect with pain points, do they need positive reinforcement or support, do they need motivation and inspiration? Give them what they wish.

We don’t see it happening, but we know Westley must have really impressed the Dread Pirate Roberts because he didn’t kill him. In fact, he chose him to continue his secret life. I imagine Westley used his charm and knowledge of saying what only needed to be said to escape certain death.

A great lesson when writing. Less is more. Fluff doesn’t add anything but length. Keep your points clear, concise and memorable.

When Westley finally emerges and we find him facing the three men who kidnapped Buttercup, he again knows exactly how to talk to each of them.

When facing Inigo, even though they are battling with swords, they quickly find mutual respect. They chat throughout the whole duel, even complimenting one another on their skills.

This goes to show that even if your audience thinks differently than you do, you can build mutual respect by sharing knowledge that impacts. Maybe not everyone will get your humor, but everyone might resonate with the message of love or support you share in your writing. Who likes your writing might really surprise you.

Westley also intrigues Inigo and Inigo wants to know who he is. Westley doesn’t tell him, which is another good lesson. Always leave your audience wanting more when you write. If you have a 6-part series on sales and you publish it all in one article, there isn’t much more to share. Spread the content out over time. Mystery is a good thing. Leave that mask on a little bit longer.

Next up, he faces Fezzik, the giant. What can we learn from this? Never believe your writing isn’t good enough to stand amongst the giants of writing. Westley couldn’t beat the giant on strength alone, but he did beat him with persistence. He knew he could put the giant to sleep if he held on long enough and if you hold on long enough, you will start getting noticed, too. This isn’t an easy career. But it’s the most amazing one and if writing is in your soul, then you must write.

When facing Vizzini, he knows he’s dealing with a big ego. He also knows he has a powerful tool, an immunity to iocane powder, that he can use to battle Vizzini, who thinks he is much smarter than everyone else.

Our lesson here is practice makes perfect. Westley spent a year building up an immunity to the powder so he could poison both glasses. When we hone our craft, write every day, we become immune to the negativity and doubt that arises within. The doubt that ultimately kills our writing and instead, we flourish and thrive off that poison.

Lastly, even though I could go on forever with this…Buttercup realizes that the masked man is her Westley, only after she hears his signature phrase, “Aaaaaaaaaaas youuuuuuuu wiiiiiiiish,” as he barrels down the hill.

You need a signature writing style, brand, personality, etc. It’s already inside of you and once that mask comes off there is no stopping you. Not even by a Rodent of Unusual Size.

WRITE!

Go into that Fire Swamp of the unknown, battle your personal Prince Humperdincks’ along the way and come out at the end with the realization that your story is a beautiful one that deserves to be told.

 

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I’m tired of worrying, how about you?

As our two-year old flopped around like a fish in our bed last night, I couldn’t help but think, wow, the way he sleeps is the way my brain works.

It never stops. It’s always moving back and forth between feeling sane and totally insane and I never really feel truly comfortable. Just as he lay still for maybe a few moments, my brain is the same. It’s only when I get lost for a while, like during an amazing film or book or when I spend a day in nature or with my family and friends, that I forget to think or worry.

In 2019, I just want to stop worrying. I even worry about worrying. I worry about everything. I know you can relate.

Guys, my oldest went to a kid’s birthday bowling party the other day and all I could think leading up to it was who was going to be there and was he going to like his shoes or slide and fall down or stink at it and get made fun of. I worried if he’d close his mouth chewing his pizza or say thank you enough. And I WAS THERE. Imagine my terror if I wasn’t. And *spoiler alert*: NONE of this happened. His shoes were fine, he bowled well, he had fun, he said thank you and it was a great day.

Why didn’t I just trust and believe it would be a good day?
Why did I go into automatic worry mode? 

It’s frustrating AF.

And it’s not just my oldest, I worry about my youngest, I worry about my husband, my family, my friends, my clients, myself, the world. The only good thing about my worrying is I am really open to talking about it lately and I’m realizing we are all doing the same thing. We can all be in a room at a party “having a good time” but we all have something in the back of our minds bothering us slightly.

I sat at the kid’s birthday party with a really close friend (also a mom) and we laughed at all the things we worry about in a day. It’s refreshing when you just say it out loud.

When I worry, I tend to spiral.

It’s called Catastrophic Thinking and I didn’t even know this was a thing until I found myself googling about it. Basically, you worry about one small thing and turn it into seventeen things after.

For instance, I could worry that I make a mistake with a client and they lose business because of me and then they lose all their money and then they lose their house and then they file bankruptcy and then they hate me forever and then they sue me and then I lose everything, etc., etc. You get yourself so far from the original worry, you can’t even get back to it. And even though it’s super irrational, you find a way to believe it could happen.

You get that terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. You want to vomit, cry, run. And then maybe another day, that exact same thought doesn’t bother you at all.

There is a great quote from Michel de Montaigne (over 500 years ago) and he said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”

SO true. 

There was a study done that found that a whopping 85% of the stuff we worry about, NEVER HAPPENS. And when things did happen to people, 79% of them said they handled it better than they expected.

So why do we do it?
And why can’t we be more present in the moment?

IF something happens, we can deal with it at that time. Trying to figure out what MIGHT happen is not productive. Our imaginations run wild. It’s a good thing when we are trying to be creative, but not so good when we are worrying.

Another great quote is, “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.” – Glenn Turner

Another super true statement.

I think many of us worry about things we did in the past, too. Things we said or didn’t say. Mistakes we made. People we hurt. Situations we handled wrong. Faux pas we committed. If we didn’t make amends or do what we could do then, there is nothing we can do now.

WE ARE HUMAN. We are not perfect. We all grow and change. The person I was as little as five years ago, is not the person I am today. And you probably feel the same. Experiences teach us and hopefully the people that love us can forgive us and support us. We can’t keep punishing ourselves and letting it affect the rest of our lives.

And I’m not talking about people who have committed major offenses. I’m talking about the time you said something inappropriate and embarrassed your spouse or the time you got really drunk and threw up in your best friend’s car or the time you were snarky at the woman at the cash register at Target because you were having a bad day. Or the time you royally messed up at work or the time you weren’t there for someone when they needed you and you lost a friendship.  You pick the scenario. Again, it’s in the past. You can’t change it now, so don’t dwell on it. Learn from it and be better, do better. If you can do something about it, like reach back out to that friend you lost, do it and just be honest.

If we let the past creep into our minds and determine our potential future, we completely lose the present.

Worrying isn’t worth it. Stress is a killer, we know this. Our blood pressure rises and it’s tough on our hearts. We have to find a way to breathe and stop the cycle.

I don’t have any answers. I just know personally that talking things out REALLY helps. And you can talk to whomever you feel comfortable talking to. Maybe that person is a family member, a friend or an outside resource like a therapist.

The next time you start to spiral down that worry path, think about the facts. 85% of that stuff will never happen. That should bring you some solace. And all that stuff in the past, I bet it’s bothering you way more than it’s bothering someone else.

I also try to distract myself if I start to worry too much. I’ll start saying my prepositions in alphabetical order in my head (learned that at age 12, haven’t lost it yet).  Or I’ll name every state and their capitals or my favorite – I’ll relive an entire day. A day that was amazing and beautiful. Like my wedding day.

I will try to remember each minute, from waking up, eating breakfast, getting ready, running in the rain to the hair salon, every little piece of it. And my brain goes to a very different place and the worry disappears.

How do you cope with worry?
Do you meditate?
Do you talk to someone?

I would love ANY and ALL feedback.

Cheers to a clear mind and a focus on the present in 2019!

Follow me on Instagram at @letsmeetforcopy and @apassionforthepen

 

 

 

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Our Major Bathroom Renovation Revealed!

When we bought our home *almost* 10 years ago, a young couple with no kids, we didn’t see an issue with one full bathroom and one *kinda* full bathroom.

You see, downstairs in the laundry room, there were a toilet and a small shower. But it wasn’t a real bathroom. The only sink was the laundry tub and it was unfinished, as far as an exposed ceiling, crappy floor tile, etc. There were a bunch of shelves that we stored tools and paint and other miscellaneous items on and not to mention the washer and dryer were in there, so there was barely any space. It was never going to be a very feasible option for a bathroom. You couldn’t get ready down there or anything like that. We used it here and there when we had parties (it was the guy’s bathroom) and we never once used the shower. Here’s a pic to give you a visual (this was right before the demo that was about to occur).

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About five years ago, we had some massive plumbing issues and the downstairs *bathroom* became completely out of commission. We talked about replacing the toilet or trying to do something with that room, but of course, LIFE happened. We had two kids in that time and we just dealt with having one bathroom. Sure, many fights occurred about someone taking too long or someone needing to shower while the other needed to brush teeth and so on and so forth.

I don’t know what made us actually decide to do something about this issue. I think it’s the fact that our 7-year-old is now a little person who needs a place to get ready and our 2.5-year-old is going to be using the bathroom consistently now, too. As the only lady in this house of men, I needed another space. 🙂

In my head, I had this dream of what could be created in that area. On the other side of the laundry room was a wet bar. Yes, a bar we used OFTEN for parties back in the day. We have great memories of all our best friends coming over and putting their dishes of yummy food they made there or lining up some shots to celebrate a birthday, or just standing behind it and having a heart to heart. I have so many party pictures around this bar (that I could never post if I still want to keep my friends) so we will go with this one from one of our Halloween parties.

Halloween 2009 001That little spot was magical. But, after the parties died down because everyone had kids and no time, that bar became a place for storage. I would throw bags of kid’s clothes back there or old toys. In fact, the entire game room became a playroom. The bar was really just a wasted space, BUT, there was a sink, so there was plumbing on both sides of this wall, which was fantastic. Here’s a shot of the bar after we cleaned it all out:

IMG_5017IMG_5022My mom knew a contractor that lived in our area, so I emailed him and thus began the process. He told me we could knock down the wall you see behind the bar, open this space up and create a 6×8 bathroom (honestly bigger than my upstairs bathroom), and it would only take a few weeks. I couldn’t even begin to imagine this and my design brain went into overload.

After the demo, we realized that the existing plumbing was NOT going to work to put in a shower, because it would increase the cost by thousands, so we opted for a powder room instead.

I spent WEEKS before we got started on Pinterest and online, deciding what I wanted this bathroom to look like and I had a very specific plan coming into it. I get a little obsessive with projects (if you know me, you know this) and I want to thank my husband for letting me roll with everything and supporting me along the way. Also, my bestie Meesh for letting me toss ideas around with her and getting her expert design opinions!

I knew my plan was modern farmhouse. And I knew I wanted a vintage vanity, not a new one. That was the thing that took the longest to find. But first, more demo pics:

IMG_5032IMG_5035Crazy, right? And because the bar had a half wall, the contractors were able to use that, as well as the existing window to bring in some nice, natural light.

As the guys worked, I searched. I wanted an old dresser or table for the vanity. We must have gone to 20 different antique stores, Fleatiques, yard sales, thrift stores, you name it,  and nothing was just right. Too tall, too short, too wide, too old, too new.

I started looking at “new” vanities online and could not believe the cost. Most of the ones that were the right size and look were upwards of $800, most over $1,000 and I just could not justify paying that, I’m a bargain hunter.

Then one day I ventured out alone with my little guy (can you spy him in the mirror?) and we found her:

IMG_5047.jpgA 1930s dresser and yes, if you can see that price tag: $149!!!!!

Our original plan was to change the hardware, but spoiler, we ended up keeping it. Framing began to happen:

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It’s such a cool experience to watch a transformation like this. And my kids LOVED seeing it. Every day, after hearing the sounds of wood being cut or stepping over sawdust, they would just look in awe at the difference.

As the guys continued to build, I started to find the other pieces of the bathroom. I knew I wanted a rectangular vessel sink, oil rubbed bronze faucet and light, vintage mirror, gray paint, gray and white flooring and distressed white shiplap for an accent wall.

I found this beauty at an antique store for $20. Are you kidding me?? I knew she’d be perfect for the room.

IMG_5604.jpgWe got the faucet, sink and drain on Amazon, the toilet, lights, paint, shiplap and flooring between Lowes and Home Depot. The shiplap was the giant splurge. To do one wall was over $220. But SOOO worth it. Wait until you see!!!

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This gray for the bathroom is a griege, something I learned only after I painted my living room what I THOUGHT was gray. You can see when I compare the bathroom swatch with the living room, how much bluer the wall looks. I have never learned more about paint in my life.

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The guys put up drywall and painting began:

IMG_5582IMG_5584This all happened so fast. This entire project was only about 2.5 weeks total.

IMG_5586As the room became an actual room, I started looking for the final pieces. A bucket for a trash can, oil rubbed bronze toilet paper holder and towel bar. Some simple mason jars with flowers, crate for extra rolls, cute signs for decorations and hand towels.

I got a lot of this at Michaels (for under $30) and I ordered signs from Amazon (under $10) and bought distressed frames at Marshalls for $10! (You can see all that in the final pics below).

I also knew I wanted reclaimed wood shelves and I found these on Etsy. I LOVE supporting family businesses. The shelves are gorgeous and they come with all the hardware. I did another little splurge on these, around $80 total.

img_5602-e1536765902541.jpgAs I bought, more happened. The floor, lights and shiplap went up and the window was framed.

IMG_5645IMG_5646IMG_5659IMG_5661Then one day, I walked in and saw THIS. My vision, my dream come to life!!!!

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The way the sides of the dresser and the shiplap compliment one another amazes me.

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The fact that this mirror almost looks like it was specifically made for this bathroom astounds me.

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This faucet is powerful! And I love the offset look.

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The window brings in so much natural light.

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The final touches were putting up the shelves, towel bar and decoratiions. And here is the other side of the room:

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I can’t even believe this is MY bathroom. And of course, I want to redo the entire house now (and someday, we will). But for now, we can enjoy our new, little slice of heaven.

*If you can’t find me, I’m probably down here getting ready. Now, someone hurry up and have a party and invite me so I have a reason to get all dressed up! *

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