What Kind of Story Would You Have Written?

girl with book

All-American girl grows up in a happy, traditional household with a postcard-perfect childhood.  She graduates from high school. Goes to college. Falls in love. Marries the man of her dreams. Has three babies, the career she always dreamed of and lives happily ever after.

I’ve been working on a writing project. And I keep thinking how much easier it would be to write this story if everything had just gone according to plan. Not that I had a Formal Life Plan, but I think all of us imagine how we’d like things to go.

But if things had gone according to plan, I’m not so sure I’d have anything to write about.

“Once upon a time there was girl who lived the exact life she imagined. The end.”

girl on bed

And really, who wants to read about that? Who wants to read about someone’s life going exactly as they thought it would? It’s sort of anti-climatic, isn’t it? Where’s the meaning?   The struggle? The bravery? The victory?

Because instead, it went something like this:

All-American girl grows up in a spiritually split household, which leaned heavily on strict Word of Faith and Evangelical beliefs. Lots of struggle ensues. Girl graduates from high school. Goes to college. Gets pregnant. Has a baby. Gets married. Has another baby. Is widowed. Gets remarried. Has another baby. Gets divorced. (Does NOT have another baby). Dates. Struggles to figure out faith and love and relationships. Breaks a few bones.  And hearts, along the way– including her own. And THEN…

Then what? What happens next? 

You have to admit, the second version makes for a much more interesting story. I want to know what happens! (Ohhhhh I seriously want to know what happens!) I want to know details! I want to know the ins and outs and in-betweens! The first version actually sounds a little BO-RING.

Which on some days would be sweet relief, wouldn’t it?


Overcoming obstacles gives life meaning.

Searching for love. More than once.

Or twice.

Battling fear.

Pushing past insecurities.

Finding and losing… and finding… Faith and God.

Discovering and living out your true identity over and over again.

Wrestling with beliefs and traditions and mindsets that have just always been.

Building family and community and an authentic tribe of people you love and who love you back. And who like you, too

These are things that make life, well… alive. These are the things that create a great story. One worth reading about. (And writing about) And as it turns out, they’re also the things that make a great life. Living through the ups and downs of life has a way of reminding us that life is fragile. And special. And magical. And worthwhile.

girl reading

If we could write our own stories, most of us would leave out the most difficult parts. I know I would. And I think about this for my kids, too. l want life to be easy for them. But it’s not. It won’t be. It isn’t for any of us. But it can still be beautiful. It is still beautiful. I know this now. Easy would not make a better story- or a better life.

An easy life would be absent of the deepest, most beautiful parts.

What has your life been like? Did it go as planned? Was there one HUGE, completely unexpected plot twist in your life? Or a hundred little ones? Tell me, please. I’d love to hear about it.

Painting Your Counter Tops: A Tutorial. Sort of.

When you first move into a new house, there are usually a few things you have already deemed absolutely unbearable. As in, “This hideous monstrosity is THE very first thing we are going to replace!” But then this strange thing happens. Someone needs braces or baseball cleats or food, and suddenly, the once-embarrassing chandelier takes on a certain “Je ne sais quoi” and those counter tops feel sort of…”retro-hip” instead of outdated.

Fast forward 14 years and I suddenly decided I could not take the outdated laminate wood grain counter tops another second.  And so I’ve spent the past few months perusing all of the various DIY Counter top Remodel Projects on Pinterest trying to decide which would be the cheapest and easiest. (Read: which one I could manage by myself and eff up the LEAST.) Ultimately I ended up taking tips and ideas from a few different sources, coming up with my own tutorial, and deciding, “What’s the worst that could happen?” If I truly RUIN them, then I guess I’ll have to fully replace them. Which I wanted to do anyway. Fourteen years ago. So it would almost be like Plan A is actually working out, instead of Plan B getting all screwed up. And then suddenly I loved my idea even more.

The big makeover day arrived. I’m not big into the whole “preparation stage” of painting. I taped off a few sections of wall and stuff I thought I could possibly ruin if I got sloppy, threw a towel on the floor as a makeshift drop cloth and got to it.

Step One: Using a foam roller, paint the counter tops black.

This part was super easy and super scary. Because once you start, this is really it. You’re really doing it. You’re REALLY painting your counter tops black. And it’s even scarier when you realize that, in your haste of 14 years, you grabbed a can of enamel paint instead of latex. Enamel paint doesn’t quite clean up the way latex paint does. Do not ask me all the reasons I know this.

Okay. Um. Well. That’s okay.  I’ll just be extra careful, I promised myself.  And I will wipe up any drips or spills IMMEDIATELY, understanding they are sort of permanent.  And I will definitely keep this beach towel under my work space at all times. Pretty much.

There was no need to worry. The black turned out beautiful. And no one will ever really see the few drips on the floor here and there. I’m sure they will “buff out” eventually.

Step Two: When the counter tops are completely dry (or you feel impatient and in a hurry) begin the “marbling” process. Choose 2 or 3 colors that you will “sponge” on top of the black, allowing each color to dry in between. Or, you may also question, “Why do they have to dry in between? Why can’t I just do each color on top of the other, while wet?”

Well, you can. Yes, you can do that. And when “Safety 3rd” is your life’s motto, it turns out that IS exactly what you do.

It worked. I picked a few colors (taupe, white, grey) and got started. I used a professional combination of natural sponge, plastic grocery bag, and crumpled up paper towel. In the biz, they call this, “innovation” and it is a highly admirable trait. Then, because I was feeling like kind of a big deal, I used an old toothbrush and lightly flicked gold speckles all over. Everything. Everywhere. Oh well. It’s hard to be precise with a tool like that.

I was loving this! It was turning out better than I thought!

Step Three: When the counter tops are COMPLETELY dry, polyurethane the hell out of them. Because you are always in a hurry, shake the can vigorously, pour it in the tray, and get rolling.

Just as I did not completely follow any ONE tutorial, I do not recommend you follow mine to the letter, either. I hit my first big snafu at Step Three. When I started rolling on the polyurethane, there were air bubbles. Lots and lots and lots of tiny little air bubbles. I tried to convince myself in my best Mary Poppins voice that everything was going to be okay and these would go away on their own. Surely they would DRY smooth. Then I left the house in my state of polyurethane-induced delirium. They did not dry smooth. When I returned with a clear head, the air bubbles were still there. Shoot.

Step Four: Read the directions on the polyurethane can and learn that you must NEVER shake polyurethane. It causes tiny little air bubbles in the finish.  Whatever.

Step Five: Buy a new can of polyurethane.

Step Six: Lightly sand the air bubbles. Start over with the new unshaken polyurethane.

Step Seven: When you STILL see air bubbles, curse loudly. And repeatedly. In different languages.

Step Eight: Decide on a “texturized” finish. Which is really more durable anyway.

Step Nine: Add approximately 50 more coats (or 3). Open every window and door. Leave your home indefinitely because the air is completely toxic and not fit for life.

Step Ten: When you return home, admire your work. You are a Rock Star.

A few days later, when my girls returned home from vacation, they couldn’t believe the counter tops. They loved the update and how well everything turned out. At one point, however, the youngest ran her hand over them and gave me a slightly suspicious look. “Why are they kind of rough?”

I smiled. “They’re texturized. Don’t you love it?”


This morning as I crept downstairs to make my coffee, I set my favorite mug on my shiny, texturized new counter top. For a split second, I thought, “Oh. Wait. What if it leaves a mark, or a ring? What happens if these get scratched or ruined somehow?”

And then my brain made the type of jump it always seems to. I see metaphors for life everywhere– and the counter top project was no different. If they get ruined somehow, or do not hold up, I will paint over. I will re-roll. Re-sponge. Do a little sanding. I’ll replace them if I have to. You can’t really ruin them. We will fully use them. I’m not going to be scared or crazy about ruining the finish. Everything is fixable. I was scared to start this project, but it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to my kitchen.  I can’t believe I lived with that ugly wood grain laminate for so long.

When I bought that new can of polyurethane, the guy at the hardware store and I were chatting. I smiled and laughed and said, “I don’t really know what I’m doing.” He smiled back and said, “Nobody really does.”

And yet look. Everything turned out beautiful.

{If you’re seriously looking for more detailed instructions on how to paint your counter tops, please see any number of pins on my Pinterest Board, Paint it Like a Boss. Although I can’t imagine you needing better directions than this.}

You Gotta Fight For Your Rights

Woman suffrage. Mrs. Swing, picketing White House, 1917

You guys. One of my girls brought home THE most awesome thing from school today and I’m stealing it. And NOT because I didn’t have any content for this week. I just didn’t have any content I could actually publish. Because. You know. Some weeks are messier than others and it would just not be appropriate to press the Publish button. Woah Nellie.

But THIS! This fits perfectly into a messy week. It’s the Personal Bill of Rights and I totally wish I knew who the author was so that I could give them a big ol’ hug and kiss and double high fives and secret hand shakes and do-si-do with them and whatever else you do when you wanna celebrate. Because this rocks. I’m hanging it on my fridge and in my kids’ rooms and giving copies to a few friends. I’ve lived far too long with some blurry and loose boundaries, People-Pleasing Behavior Syndrome (because that’s a thing) and not always understanding what is reasonable to expect for myself or others. I’m guessing we could all use a reminder from time to time about what it genuinely means to be real people with real feelings and needs; Reminders about what is healthy and right and should be expected in healthy relationships. This list is that.

Personal Bill of Rights

1. I have the right to ask for what I want.

2. I have the right to say no to requests or demands I cannot meet.

3. I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.

4. I have the right to change my mind.

5. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.

6. I have the right to follow my own values and standards.

7. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it      violates my values.

8. I have the right to determine my own priorities.

9. I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behaviors, actions, feelings, or problems.

10. I have the right to expect honesty from others.

11. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.

12. I have the right to be uniquely myself.

13. I have the right to feel scared and say, “I’m afraid.”

14. I have the right to say, “I don’t know.”

15. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.

16. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.

17. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.

18. I have the right to be playful and frivolous.

19. I have the right to be healthier than those around me.

20. I have the right to be in a non-abusive environment.

21. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.

22. I have the right to change and grow.

23. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.

24. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

25. I have the right to be happy.

~Anonymous

Amen. And Amen. Thank you, Anonymous. You are wise and brilliant and insightful and you have done it again. XOXO

Starting Over on a Tuesday

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Yesterday was the first official Monday of the New Year. And it started out bright and early and shiny with so much promise. There was coffee. There was meditation and journaling. There was all sorts of positivity and optimism and good feelings. All kinds of regrouping and restarting. Ahhhh. A New day. New week. New Year.

And then it happened. Later on in the day, it happened. I totally lost my shit with someone. And I’m not telling you this because I’m proud of it. I’m telling you this because SERIOUSLY? It was Monday! Monday, January 5th! The new start! The fresh week! The Do Over! The Reset! I should’ve still been basking in the after glow of New Year’s resolutions and inspiration! Still full of hope! And I was! Until then.

But it was Yucky. It was like an Ugly Cry- Jesus, Excuse Me for a Minute, I’ll be Right Back- kind of moment. There may have been a foot stomp or two and a door slammed or so. You know the type. Yeah. One of those.  Happy Effin’ New Year. Blah blah blah. Bite me.


But luckily. Luckily, I had read this little gem of an article earlier on when I was still in my right mind. It was all about pausing in the midst of a total train wreck moment and deciding to say thank you. I know. I know it sounds totally whacked. But when I stepped away from the mess I had just been standing in and collected myself, I sat still for a few minutes and did it. With a few tears running down my face, I said to God and to the Universe, “Thank you.”

And at first, it was weird. Because, seriously, what was I thankful for? That I hadn’t just committed complete Harikari  in my own home? But Kate, the kick ass Life Coach and author of the article over at Your Courageous Life, had said this~

“What can shift in those seconds when you are in it, and deep, and you start saying “Thank you” is that you are paving a way to say that all is not lost–that there is something divine about this experience–there is something to be gained.”

And indeed, there WAS something to be gained. Besides composure. It was a very fast, very clear moment of self-awareness. I immediately was thankful that I could see exactly what the trigger point for me was. And exactly where I still have work to do in 2015. And 16. And probably 2017, 18, 34, and 52.

And in defense of my trampled little self-aware heart, the trigger was someone hurting someone I love. Which somehow makes me feel a teeny bit more justified about my fit. I don’t get worked up over traffic. Or long check-out lines. Or someone being late. But hurt someone I love and I will rip the bow out of my hair, clutch the pearls from my neck and go all Beer-drinking- Buffalo girl on you in two seconds flat. But still. It’s something I want to learn to handle better.

Which leads me to this: While I love a new year and a new start and fresh, clean slate as much as the next person, the truth is, every day is a Do Over. Thank God, every single day is a Do Over. Turning off the alarm every morning is like hitting a reset button. No need to wait for January. Or Monday. Or Spring. Or whatever it is. God knew exactly what He was doing when He divided the sunshine and moonlight into manageable blocks of time called Day and Night. He totally knew we would need time to regroup in between. Time to say, “Help.” Time to say, “Thank you.” And the continual promise of a Do Over every single day.

So here it is, Tuesday. And I’m starting over. Again.

This Is The Year

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2014, I want to both kick your ass and kiss you gently on the forehead. Like every year that has gone before you, you were the best of times and the worst of times. I love you and I hate you. I want you to stay over, but I also sort of want you to leave. In the beginning, I wanted nothing more than to sweep you off your feet, but by now? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. You were half empty and half full. Too much and not enough. I was glad to see you come but now I’m glad to see you go. Sayonara, Sweetie.

2015, you don’t even know me yet Doll, but I’m just going to say upfront that any hard and fast resolutions I make today would just be the December hangover from sugar and alcohol talking.

So let’s be realistic:

This is the year I will eat the cookie and buy the shoes.

 This is the year I will save the calories and the money.

 This is the year I will get more sleep because rest is good for the body, mind, and spirit.

This is the year I’ll decide to sleep when I’m dead. Life is happening NOW and I don’t want to miss it.

This is the year I will read more and watch less so that I’m feeding my brain and soul with intellectual and emotional goodness.

This is the year I will watch more and read less to give my brain and soul a break from so much processing.

This is the year I will eat less and move more. Restraint is a virtue.

This is the year I will eat more and move less. I don’t want to look back and wish I had eaten something totally decadent. Screw restraint.

This is the year I will stick to a regular workout schedule and be in the best shape of my life.

This is the year I will just enjoy and accept my body and stop trying so hard to make it something it’s not.

This is the year I will get up early to seize the day. Carpe Diem and all that crap!

This is the year I will stay in bed longer and savor the simple luxury of lounging in bed with coffee. It’s the little things.

This is the year I will stop buying so many new clothes and just wear what I have.

This is the year I will apologize more easily and often.

This is the year I will stop apologizing for things I have no reason to be sorry for.

This is the year I will forgive and forget.

This is the year I will forgive and remember lessons learned to save myself from future heartbreak.

This is the year I will stop taking everything so seriously.

This is the year I will start to take things more seriously.

This is the year I will stop making the same dumb mistakes over and over again.

This is the year I will say yes to community and no to isolation.

This is the year I will accept my introversion and honor who I really am.

This is the year I will go with the flow and embrace spontaneity as a lifestyle.

This is the year I will plan more carefully so that my life looks and feels exactly the way I want it to.

This is the year I will start saving money for a rainy day.

This is the year I will spend my money like I stole it. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

This is the year I will say yes more often so that I’m fully participating in life.

This is the year I will say no more often and not feel bad about it.

This is the year I will speak my truth, even if I’m the only one who understands it.

This is the year I will keep my silence and guard my words.

This is the year I will laugh more and cry less.

This is the year I will feel whatever I want to, whenever I want to, without apology or explanation.

This is the year I will let go of all the grief and heartache and loss so that I can make space for true love.

This is the year I will keep showing up.

I will be brave enough to just keep showing up.

2015, I’ve got this.

It’s the Little Things that Make a Wonderful Life

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“What if you woke up one day and it turned out your whole life was only a dream?”

My older daughter Casey shared this quote with me the other day. She read it somewhere recently and it really spoke to her.

As she and I went back and forth about the craziness of this concept and how it would feel and what it would be like, what struck me the most was this: She said she’d be devastated. Because– and I quote, “I have a pretty damn good life.”

Woah.

I was not expecting that.

I was not expecting that, given our family history– her father’s death when she was just a baby, my recent divorce and all of the preceding circumstances, and some of her own personal struggles in the past– I just wasn’t expecting to hear that she loves her life so much.

On sleepless nights, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about everything I haven’t been able to give my kids (read: an intact happy family) and the variety of loss they’ve experienced in their lives. I think as parents, especially, we tend to think it’s all much more complicated than it really is. And although at times my kids do feel the rough edges of brokenness rub up against them, it’s not how they define themselves or how they view their lives as a whole. There are tons of little things that give them so much happiness and make them feel loved.

And as it turns out, it’s the little things that make life wonderful, even when the very big things don’t measure up.

My daughter’s remark got me thinking. There are really only a few things any us of need to feel like it’s a pretty wonderful life after all. And the more people I talk to, the more I’m convinced that especially during the Christmas season, we cannot be reminded of this enough.

So what exactly makes the short list?  

Love that makes us feel secure

Feeling accepted for who we really are

A passion that lights us up

Lots of laughter

Being surrounded by people who genuinely like us

These are the things that make a wonderful life. It isn’t about creating an atmosphere of perfection. We never could anyway. It’s about tons of love, grace, and laughter. It’s about really connecting with each other. It’s about pursuing things that speak to our souls and set our hearts on fire. It’s about friends that feel like family and family that feels like friends.

George Bailey would’ve lassoed the moon for Mary. But even that was too much.

Mary toasted her friends simply by wishing them this~

“Bread. That this house may never know hunger.

Salt. That life may always have flavor.”

To which George added, “And wine! That joy and prosperity may reign forever!”

And in the end, it’s the bread, salt, and wine of life. The little things that make it wonderful, even when the big things may not be perfect.

Cheers to the little things~

And cheers to a truly wonderful life.

“I was still learning.”

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My girls and I were chatting recently and reminiscing about all kinds of different things. As one topic and memory led to another, I started to have Big Mom Feelings for both of them and began to tell them how much I like them and how proud I am to be their mom.

But as the conversation wore on, we all started to laugh as we recalled the littlest one in her much younger days. She was…How shall we put it? A handful. More fiery than the older two. A biter, if you must know. Much more physical and strong-willed than I was used to. Years ago, my then 5 year-old nephew once referred to her as a “rough woman.” We have many funny stories about things she said and did. And she knows this was true of herself and also laughs about it now.

But during this recent conversation, she looked up at  her older sister and I with a shy smile and said these very profound words:

“I was still learning.” 

Oh.

Oh baby girl. Oh of course you were.

How I love those words. How moved I was by her very gentle and compassionate perception of her former self. And though I didn’t make a huge deal out of it in the moment, because I’m pretty sure I may have been met with eye rolls and slightly blank stares (Mom is FEELING again)… That little sentence won’t leave me alone.

The rearview mirror of life can be pretty unforgiving. And age doesn’t even really matter. Most of us have no shortage of regrets. Words we wish we had said or never said. Choices that hurt other people or hurt ourselves. Broken relationships. Missed opportunities. And just the general crap of life. Bleh.

2014 is coming to a close and I’m already beginning to take stock of how it all went down. But now I’m resolving to take a page from my daughter and remind myself ever so tenderly, “I was still learning.” And I am still learning. Everyday. All the time. Maya Angelou once reminded us “When you know better, you do better”, and now my daughter has reminded me of this as well.

Be gentle with yourself and each other, dear readers. We’re all still learning.