Unconditional Love…No Strings Attached

Those words…I think everyone longs to have that unconditional love.  But what does it mean to give it?  What does it mean to love someone so much that nothing can make you stop loving them?

I will never be able to say that I love perfectly.  But, unconditional love…many of us do that every day.  And it’s hard, when you love someone that can’t seem to receive it most of the time.  When you love someone that seems to dismiss the love you give.  Who doesn’t realize that the pain doesn’t come from horrible words spoken.  It comes from being dismissed.  It comes from using the things you love as weapons.  There are highs, when the love you give is received and even reciprocated for a brief moment.  But then, the you get kicked again. 

My hope is that my unconditional love is known and that I am the safe person.  Able to dismiss because the love I give will always be there.  I need to be dismissed, because the need to impress others, fight for the love of others is the most important thing right now.  Or maybe only one side of the story is known, and because I won’t share my side, there is anger. 

But the thing with unconditional love is that you can give it, but you don’t have to lie down and take the hurt.  You can stand up for yourself.  You can dish out tough love, let them know you are hurt.  Be willing for them to walk away.  And, through that pain, you can still find that sparkle.

Why is sparkle so important?  Well, that’s the source for unconditional love.  If you don’t sparkle, it is going to be so hard to not be a victim, but to accept the circumstances and try not to take it personally.  I can be kind, yet firm. At the end of the day, no matter how far gone, I will always be here to give you love, when you are ready to receive it, and to accept your love, when you are ready to give it. So, I won’t ask to spend time with you, not because I don’t want to see you (I have tried asking), but because I am tired of the rejection. I won’t call or text to see how your day was, because there is never usually a response. But, will message you every day to tell you I love you. I won’t expect much, as I have learned that only gets me hurt. But it is more so you know that when you are ready to give and receive love, I will still be here. I have always been here. I have always loved you, even though sometimes it has been from afar. I will always love you.

To My Rock On His Graduation Day

Your first day is still a strong memory. I thought nothing of the cramps in my back, but everyone told me I would know. Riding to the hospital, I thought to myself, I’ll get fluids and be home in time for the fireworks. I have always loved fireworks. The sound, the brilliance, the kind that are so loud you can feel them in your gut. My fireworks, on July 4, 1998 would be life changing.

You were so small. I was terrified. What if I break you? Your cry was like a little bird. Your dad and I did not know that we would have a rough first couple of months. A medivac to the hospital, sleepless nights in the hospital. But you were so strong. You struggled to breath and you fought so hard. You were born a Rock.

Watching you grow was such a joy. You were so kind and caring. You had a sensitivity that I just adored. Your hunger for knowledge was incredible. The dinosaurs…boy did we learn a lot about dinosaurs. Going in to meet your preschool teacher, I can remember you looking at the dinosaurs she had. You were looking at one in particular and she said, “It’s called a bone head.” You looked at her and said, “Actually, it’s a pachycephalosaurus.” Your teacher and I had a good laugh over that. But, on the first actual day of preschool, I was the proud mother she kept after all the other kids got picked up, so she could let me know you ate the fuzz from your sit-upon. Tone set for the year. You were never rude, and mostly very kind, but you had a devious streak. I was worried you would have a tough time making friends, but, when I expressed that to the teacher, she said, “You have nothing to be worried about. All the kids love Joey.”

It took you some time to settle into elementary school. You always wanted everything to be perfect. But, in second grade, you got Mr. Cochran. That was your turning point in school. You found a joy in learning. He was fun, yet he also didn’t let you get away with a lot (especially sitting on the back two legs of the chair). How often did you have to stand at your desk?

When your cousin was diagnosed with food allergies, your world was turn upside down. You were always making sure if we had nuts in the house everything was cleaned up to make sure she was safe..

And Christmas, do you remember leaving out cookies for Santa. And then you came down from your room and gave us some of your money and asked us to leave it for Santa so he could make sure the kids that really needed it, got toys. So strong, so kind, so giving.

Big brother. I cannot think of a single person that would be a better big brother to Sophia. I loved and still love watching you with her. You helped teach her to read (but I am still convinced that was so she would read to you), you tutored her in math. You are always looking out for her. Even now.

Once you found your way in school, you made it look so easy. You had a love for learning. It was such a joy to watch you eat up all the knowledge you could. But even better, you shared it. You helped Sophia, you helped other friends.

What a teammate you were. Watching you play football was so much fun. The littlest guy on the team, playing on the line and making a difference. I loved it. Watching you score your first touchdown in High School, proud moment. But, you didn’t get an opportunity to play a lot. It wasn’t what you did on the field that was most impressive. Off the field, I watched you be strong enough to go to coaches and tell them what you were seeing on the field, and the coaches respected your perspective. I watched you go up to teammates and cheer them on. Coaches would ask your help to teach the starters they playbooks. And you did it.

I can remember going through the hardest time of my life. You never quite knew what to do with my tears, and I never blamed you. I didn’t know what to do with them. But when I started studying for my real estate exam, I would fall asleep in bed studying. I always felt you come into my room and cover me with my blankets and turn off my light. You will never fully understand how much that meant to me.

You leaving for college was hard. It was time to let go a little and watch you soar. You persevered through really tough classes. You learned how to cook (and very well, I might add). And you were accepted into the Masters Program of Engineering at Penn State.

Today, you should be walking to Pomp and Circumstance as the family celebrates your undergraduate success. We won’t be able to celebrate your graduation today, know that I am so proud of the man you have become. You are not just my Rock, you have been a Rock to so many around you.

So, Joey, on your graduation day, I want you to know that I am so absolutely proud of you and I am shouting it to the world. I love you more than the stars in the sky. WE ARE…….

Forgotten Purpose

I promise, this is not another pity party post. The last one was doom and gloom. We are all suffering through this pandemic. Social distancing and isolation (alone or with family) are tests of our spirit. Being told to stay home is difficult. My first thought was home projects. But, that requires trips to Walmart or Home Depot or Lowes. At some point, that may be essential to my sanity, but I am just not there yet, to take that risk. So, when I am home, I do some cleaning, but mostly, I stream shows and movies. And I think, there has to be more purpose to my life right now than watching TV and doing puzzles. This was a conversation I had with my girlfriends the other day, in our group chat.

One of the asked if we all felt we were losing a sense of purpose. The monotany of being home. Waking up and doing the same thing that day as you have done the past 30 days makes it difficult to see the point. But, another woman spoke up with, “just curious what you felt your purpose was when things were normal.” Wow!!!! It’s not a question I visited daily. Yes, I have thought about the things I have done in my life and thought about it. But, what this made me do is revisit what I was living my life for prior to all this.

What I learned is that what I saw as my purpose was on a much larger scale. It was very broad. For a living, I help people. I provide them comfort when they are seeking help for mental illness or substance abuse. I am a mother and a friend. I support the people I love. I did have a sense of purpose. And how are those things different than now?

For starters, I feel like I don’t always have the ability to support the people I love. We are all going through such different emotions. When I am down, I know I don’t have the capacity to actively help someone through their emotional valley. Not because I don’t care, but because I am clawing my way out too. Loss of purpose. I am considered essential at work, however, I can no longer see clients face to face and right now, very few people are calling in. The connection is not the same. Loss of purpose. My kids are in their house up in State College. I don’t hear from them very often at all. Loss of purpose. Dinners, game nights, drinks, dates (human connection)…all gone. Loss of purpose. But, are all these things really a loss of purpose, or do I need to rethink how broad my thoughts on purpose are?

Another friend very wisely said, “I have definitely had days where I had to go even smaller scale.  When you’re really challenged, and finding too many days of doing nothing, just say to yourself, what is my purpose today? Or before bed, on a bad day, plan your purpose for tomorrow.  Make it small and easily achievable, then build on it.” I have spent years working with clients and telling them to break their goals down to smaller ones. But I couldn’t see it for myself. I needed someone to tell me.

So, I have started breaking it down. What a difference that has made. Also, I have to remind myself that to carry out my purpose it may look different than a month ago. But the purpose is still there. So today, my purpose is to work from home and help those who reach out. I can also reach out to others, but sharing with all of you. My purpose as mom is to reach out to my daughter, who is celebrating her 20th birthday today. To make sure she knows that even though there are stay home regulations, just because she is out of sight, she is never out of my mind. I will reach out to my loved ones and make sure everyone is doing okay. I have a plan to do an online Zumba class, to stay healthy.

Our purpose is way bigger than today, or tomorrow or even this month. But, during a time like this, or any other time, when it’s hard to see the big picture, break it down. You do have a purpose, things may seem mundane right now, but they are not hopeless. We are not the first to go through quarantine like this. But we are the first to be fortunate enough to continue to have outside communication, with all the technology we have. I have learned that web meetings and video happy hours are absolutely no replacement for human contact. But that is what we have for now, and we are not alone in that. Our purpose, is to make the most of what we have right now. Learn from it. Take care of ourselves and to make sure the people around us are okay, when we have the capacity to do that. Be kind to yourself. If the day is bad, let others take care of you. That is still a purpose. People want to be needed. So, if you are down, you may just be helping someone else with there sense of purpose too.

So, be kind to yourselves and take care of yourselves. Stay home, stay safe. I cannot wait to see everyone when we come through this.

Loss…It’s Everywhere

I can honestly say that I don’t believe I know anyone that has tested positive for COVID-19. But, the truth is, there is not a single person that has not been affected. Life has completely changed as we know it.

Education seems to be a mystery right now. Kids are not just missing out on school work, but a chance to be with their friends. Seniors are not just losing the last days they will be with their friends before moving on, they are missing graduations and goodbyes.

Countless people have lost their jobs. They have no idea where rent or mortgage payments will come from, or even the money to buy groceries or pay other bills. Unemployment rates have skyrocketed. Small businesses have had to close.

“Go out, get exercise and fresh air,” they said. Trails are closed, parks are closed. The world is closed.

We are all experiencing a loss of a safe place. Nothing seems to feel safe anymore. I get groceries and it takes an hour to put them away because I wipe everthing down. Little things have become big things.

There seems to be a loss of hope, a feeling of helplessness. For me, I can feel everything slipping through my fingers. Family, friends, love, just the feeling of motivation. I go to work, and am alone. I come home and am alone. I have been told I am not alone, but the truth is, I am. I can feel myself losing interest in reaching out. I don’t have an appetite anymore. I start to feel hungry and my stomach just turns. I created a list of projects, and I find that I am sitting on my couch, in a dark house, not doing anything. Just sitting. What am I waiting for? I have no clue. And whatever it is won’t be here before June 10. I have moved past the anxiety and the fear. I am just sad.

When this is all done, I will be a different person. We all will. What will that look like for each of us? Should I look for a roommate so I don’t feel so alone? How do I teach my kids how important it is to never take for granted the family you have? How do I get past these thoughts that no matter how exciting my social life is, I am alone. It is not that people don’t love me or care about me. It is not that I don’t care about others. But when it comes down to it and a fucking pandemic hits, I don’t have anyone to hold me when I lose my shit. I don’t have anyone to stroke my hair and say it will be okay. I don’t have anyone i can just fall apart with.

So, I apologize for the pity party. We are all entitled and I think we all need it. I think we are in the Neverending Story and stuck in the Swamps of Sadness.

The Power of Four Legs

I am on what seems like day 1,256 of isolation. At work, we are in our own offices with doors shut an only meet via webcam. At home, it’s just me and Marshall (my 65 lb furry friend). I cannot imagine what it’s like being quarantined in a home with a house full of people. With young kids that parents are now homeschooling. I can say, being alone is super hard too. Those with a house full can’t run away from their family. Those of us living alone, can’t run too our family. Anyway, I wrote about the lack of human contact last time. But before getting into the heart of my post, funny story time:

I have been talking with friends and family over video chats. Lots and lots of video chats. That’s how I do my work these days too. The other night, while sleeping, I got hot. I ended up stripping down to just my panties while sleeping. Hot and cold, blankets on and off, all night long. Well, every time I kicked my blankets off, I jolted awake, grabbing for the blankets, thinking someone was going to see me on our webchat. Yep, my brain is in webchat mode even when sleeping.

So, back to the blog. About a year and a half ago I found myself searching for a four legged companion for my wonderful Spyder dog. I am pretty picky when it comes to dog searching. I believe in rescue, and I truly believe the dog picks you. I always have in mind what kind of dog I will get and that’s never the dog I end up with. Marshall was no different. I was determined I was going to leave with some sort of pit bull. But I saw him online and on a whim, wanted to see him. It took about 2 seconds for me to realize we were meant to be together. I jumped through all the hoops and Spyder got to meet Marshall. It went really well and Marshall became a part of my family. I didn’t know then, just how much I needed him.

With Spyder no longer with me except for summers and breaks, I am so grateful to have him for a companion. And now, with the quarantine, he is my apocolypse partner. I think he totally feels my needs for hugs. Since the first day I had him, I realized he gives hugs. The first time he put his paws on my shoulders I thought he may be a humping dog. But he isn’t. He puts his paws on my shoulder and leans his head into my neck. It’s just a loving act. When I come home from work every day, he gives me a hug to greet me before running to go outside. I have said, multiple times, that I miss human contacts and I just need a hug. The truth is, I am getting hugs from Marshall. And he seems to know I need really big hugs.

Our four legged friends are family and the love they give is unconditional. I have always known that and always loved having pets in my life. But now, when I am stuck in my house alone, I have gained an entirely new appreciation for what Marshall brings to my life. I have conversations with him, we eat together, and when I need to cry, he’s my shoulder. He was not put in my path by mistake.

Work has been extremely stressful. We are working so hard to make sure we continue to support people with substance abuse issues and serious mental illness. But the processes to keep everyone safe are different and we are adjusting to the system and trying to remain positive for our clients. There have been days I have just had to come home and cry. One hug, one nuzzle, one tail wag from Marshall, and I can feel the stress begin to melt away. That unconditional love these pets give have a way of removing the stress of a really tough day, week, month even a year.

Living in an Ever Changing World

A week and a half ago I wrote about my debit card getting declined, and the embarrassment of having to leave behind an entire cart full of groceries. Little did I know how much I would need those items. The issue with my card was fine, but that set back left me without essentials, that are now impossible to find. The toilet paper I needed was not deemed essential at the time. Days later, toilet paper is the new gold. I am just praying my 8 rolls last until I can scavenge some more.

In the last week, a new concept has been born. “Social Distancing.” We now give air hugs and stand back 6 feet from everyone. Only 10 people allowed in a restaurant at a time. I haven’t seen my parents in a week, and it’s been days since I have seen my sister (we went for a walk outside). My daughter, deciding to stay at Penn State for Spring Break, suddenly became very scary. I am so grateful her dad was with her for several days and stocked her up on toilet paper and other grocery items. My son and many other high school and college seniors, suddenly have no closure and no graduations to look forward to in the foreseeable future.

I continue to go to work in a public building on a daily basis. That puts me, and many others in the same boat, in harm’s way. What does that mean for me? Isolation when I go home. Lots of Netflix. Working on a puzzle. And house projects. It also means getting creative. I am a social person. I need people in my life. So, one of my girlfriends and I go walking each day. My dog, is loving me being home so much. I have been working on his training. He is horrible on a leash. He is getting better and better every day. My girlfriends, well, we have discovered the awesomeness of FB Messenger group video chat. The first night we just had drinks together. Last night we had a dress up party. We all wore costume jewelry and tiaras. And I am at work today still sparkling from my glitter spray. Tomorrow night, we have game night. We are maintaining our social life, it’s just different. It’s a new world.

You see the best in people and the worst. I prefer to focus on the best. Murlarkey Distillery is using their sanitizing alcohol to make hand sanitizer to give out for free. Catoctin Creek Distillery is providing free sanitizing alcohol and will be making hand sanitizer soon. I have seen tip jars being posted in order to help bar and restaurant workers as they are unable to work. School food service and bus drivers are working tirelessly to make sure students in need get at least 2 free meals a day. The world is full of amazing people rising to the occasion.

There is fear. A lot of it. What’s next? How are people going to survive when they have no work? What happens when this is all over? Will we go back to who we were before all this happened? Will we take for granted how easy it was to by a roll of toilet paper or to be able to pick out the brand of bread we want? I can honestly say that what I miss the most, other than seeing my family and friends, are hugs. It’s wonderful to have Facetime and FB messenger. But I haven’t hugged anyone since I saw my boyfriend on Monday. Okay, I am lying a little. I have a dog that hugs. But it is a bit different than family or friends or significant others wrapping their arms around you and just holding you for a moment. Virtual hugs are nice, but not the same. I look forward to getting back to those intimate rituals we have with family and friends that we are missing out on.

For all the first responders, medical workers, people still working in bars/restaurants, people working in grocery stores and for the schools and food pantries…anyone still working to meet the needs of others, a great big THANK YOU! The world has made a shift. Suddenly, the world of Fortune 500 companies, the corporate world of mega bucks is no longer as important as the indivuals who continue to come in constant contact with strangers, amid a world-wide pandemic, to provide us with what we need.

What I hope to take from all of this, is to enjoy all the moments we are given and never ever take for granted the “things” we have in life. Because, in 1 day, the entire world could change before my eyes. We never really think that could happen, because very few can say they have seen that happen…until now.

I hope everyone stays safe. And when this is over and life gets back to normal, take time to really appreciate every hand shake, every hug, every person in your life.

Always Look For the Silver Lining

Have you ever had a cart full of groceries you had to leave because your debit card was declined?

My son is home for Spring Break. I haven’t seen him since Winter Break. He offered to cook me dinner, and, after a long day at work, I was more than happy for us to go to the grocery store and get food for he and his girlfriend to cook. And to pick up some other needed items for the week. I was so excited.

Imagine my surprise when I ran my card and it was declined. What????? Okay, maybe I hit the wrong pin number. Second try, declined. I searched my purse for my debit card for my other account. Not in my purse. I could feel the pit in my stomach. The embarassment, not from the people in the store. I could care less about that. But my son is watching me and my card is declined and I have no way to pay for a dinner he was excited to cook. I have no way to pay for the bread in my basket. I have never pretended like I am loaded with money. But this was totally unexpected.

When we left, I checked my bank accounts. I had more than enough to pay for my groceries. I don’t understand. So, we decided to go to a different store. I have $20 cash. So, the goal was to pick up enough food to make dinner for 3 with $20 or less. We did it for $16. And guess what. My card was declined again. I couldn’t control the tears. As I went to get all the money I had access to, my son popped his debit card into the machine and paid for the groceries. My pride was crushed. I was mortified that my son had to bail me out of that situation.

When we got home, I went straight up to my room and cried. And looked at my bank account (still enough money). I was too ashamed to look at my son. As I sat on my bed, I decided I needed to throw my pride out the window…rewrite the events of the afternoon.

I was so excited to spend the evening with my son and his girlfriend. They decided to cook dinner for me this evening. The work day was a tough one, so I was thrilled to accept the wonderful gesture. So, I offered to take my son grocery shopping. We had had a nice drive over, chatting and catching up on how school has been for him. At the store, we got the food he wanted to cook, along with some snacks and some staples for the house. I can be a little lazy and hadn’t been grocery shopping in over a week. Probably two weeks.

With a cart full, we went through the check out. My card was declined. How mortifying. I check my accounts daily and knew I had enough money. Clearly the issue is with the bank, not with me. But it was still embarrassing. It brought tears to my eyes. My son was looking with me as I rechecked my accounts. Yep. Plenty of money to pay for the groceries.

He piped in, “Let’s try a different store. Get something small and see if the card works. Maybe it’s just an issue at the store.” So we went to the next store. I had $20 cash. Now, we had a challenge. Can we feed 3 people tonight on $20 or less? My son was amazing! He decided we could find some things in my pantry, and we just got what we needed. Yes!!!! $16. Again, my card was declined. As I went to get the cash from purse, my son used his card and paid.

I was embarassed. My pride was hurt. But then I realized, while this was pretty dang embarrassing, I should be so completely proud of my son. I had the cash to cover it. We were not going to have them restock the food. Yet, he chose to help me. I needed to step back and accept his gift.

When he was a baby, I can remember thinking, “I cannot wait to meet the person he becomes.” I know what kind of man he has become. He is kind, he is caring and nurturing. But today, I witnessed it, I experienced it.

We got home. I had to take time to collect myself. When I came back down, dinner was cooking and the kids were busy in the kitchen chatting and laughing. My favorite noise ever. Not once did they make me feel awkward for the events.

So, while there are terrible or embarrassing things that happen to us along our road, we can always stop and rewrite our story. It’s the same story, just a different viewpoint. Once I did that, I was able to enjoy my night with the kids. Silver linings have a wonderful way of keeping the sparkle in our lives.

Badassery…It Comes In All Forms

I love that my life is filled with badass women. Women who empower each other. Women who can call each other out when we are being silly, yet we don’t take offense to it. Women who lift others up and make them stronger. Women who have the resiliency to hold an entire family together.

I have met some women that have no clue what a badass they are. I didn’t use to either. There’s an interesting transformation that happens when a woman realizes what a power house she is. Today, post Galentine’s Day, I want to celebrate the badassery in my life. I am privileged to be surrounded by amazing girl power.

One of my friends, she put a group of women together who are going through similar life issues.  Every day, she fills us with words of wisdom.  When we struggle and sometimes it’s hard to find the right words, she comes in with the most amazing advice.  And she lives by her advice.  She is a wonderful mom.  During times of transitions, she has helped her children to not just get through the transitions.  They thrive through it.  She can share her wisdom because she has lived through the struggles, and continues to.  But every day, she get stonger and stronger dealing with her struggles.  The other day, her day had the potential to start off pretty crappy.  But she handled the situation with grace and didn’t let someone else ruin it. BADASS!!!

A single mom, with a teenager that she has raised totally on her own. She works her butt off. She works hard, and at the same time, provides a safe space for her teenager to be open with her. She and I have had some great adventures. In fact, when she comes over, even my dog thinks it’s time for an adventure. This summer, we spent the night in a motel in Atlantic City. Pretty sure people had been killed in that motel with the bright pink bathroom and the door that did not properly lock. What did we do? We wedged a chair in the door and laughed our asses off. Oh, and the Rob Thomas tickets…she made me a fan.

My friend that I have known for years, and had no clue that we would become so close.  She had an amazing journey to better her health.  She literally lost a lot of herself and looks amazing.  But she found the most incredible strength to create her own happiness.  She has had ups and downs, but during those, she has figured out what she is looking for.  She has learned to go to events alone. I am amazed at her strength and I am so thrilled that we were able to reconnect and become so close. She has had some challenges, but she has come so far and I love seeing her happy.

My birthday buddy. Our birthdays are close to each other. We have only recently met, but the first time we went out, I felt so comfortable with her. We are more than birthday buddies. We have been through very similar challenges. She is going through hers now and doing it with such grace. We went out to celebrate our birthdays together, and I was just amazed at her strength. Her path was different than mine, but we ended up on the same journey.

My next badass, well, she is a rockstar. She has been dealt a pretty shit hand, but she is learning how strong she is. Just this week, she did something I don’t think she ever realized she could do, on her own. She did some amazing stuff. And while the outcome may not end up being what she wants, she has proven to herself how amazing she is. That’s something that no one can ever take away from her. And, she has the best ideas for really awesome things to do for that special person in your life. When we ask for help, she jumps right in and I just think, dang, whoever she lets into her life is so lucky to have her. I feel that every day.

To my soul sister. Another badass mom. She makes no apologies for who she is. I can remember first meeting her. She was hurting and angry. But she has learned to co-parent with such awesomeness. She puts up with absolutely no shit from anyone and I love that. She has taught me so much about having open communication. When I am having a low-confidence day, she encourages me to talk. To be open. It’s given me strength beyond words. I am learning to have the difficult conversations.

So, my next badass, she is not a single mom, but she is badass to the core, and she has no idea. She has dealt with some really tough stuff. Her older kids had some really tough years. She put going back to work on the back burner, to make sure her family was strong. She didn’t complain about her struggles. And, while she was going through all this, she also took care of me. When I was going though my divorce and figuring myself out, she would come over and just be there for me. Sometimes she would stay until I cried myself to sleep. She has absolutely no idea how totally badass she is, and how badass the love she gives is. She has no clue how strong she has made me. No clue the strength she gives to others. She is one of the kindest, most amazing people I know. I am grateful to be able to have her as family, and even more grateful that we are friends.

My mom, well she has given me my competitve spirit, which, outside of sports, gives me so much strength. She stayed home with my sister and I for years. I have some amazing memories: trips to DC, Theater in the Woods at Wolf Trap, summers by the pool… To this day, if I need anything, she will drop everything for me. She stayed on my couch and watched me after surgeries. She has taught me to accept challenges that are thrown at me. In accepting those challenges, she has taught me my own strength.

Did I mention I have a badass daughter? I knew she was a force to be reckoned with from the time she was little. In 2nd grade, she was told she had to stop sucking her thumb. She read an adult how-to book in a couple of hours and never sucked her thumb again. I can’t tell you how much I missed her sucking her thumb and twirling my hair, but her determination was inspiring. For the last several years she has been living with chronic pain. I watched her endure painful tests with such grace. She doesn’t like to tell people her struggles, but she has no idea that, even though I know she hurts, I know the pain can really bring her down, I watch her endure. I have loved hearing her do so well in college. She and I have come through a lot and I love that we have gotten to a point that we can straighten each others’ crowns.

You see, I am not badass on my own. I am badass because I am surrounded by the strongest of wonder women. I am so grateful, every day, for the strength I get from each of these women. I only hope that I can give them even a little bit of what they give to me.

Two Roads Diverged in a Wood…

“And I took the one less traveled by…”- Robert Frost

This has always been one of my favorite poems.  I think it’s because that has always been my path…the road less traveled.  As a little girl, I always thought I needed to follow a certain path.  It wasn’t necessarily something anyone in particular told me.  It’s what society taught me.  Meet a boy, fall in love, get married, have  children and give up myself to be the best wife and mother.  My path started like many others, but it’s not my final stop. It’s just not me. I am a rock star mom. There is no doubt about that, in my mind. I may not be able to buy my kids all the fancy things. They may not always like how I do things. But I know they can never ever question my love for them and they know I always have their backs. They make me so proud.

I followed the “typical” path for a while. But then, I came to a fork in the road. I really had to examine my life. It was so ingrained in me that happiness is found by not being alone. And, by not being alone, I mean, finding a man, moving in together and getting remarried. But, for me, I looked down another path, one that was filled with vines, wild and unruly. I could feel it. There is something so amazing past the wildness.

My path is something I never saw coming. It was so covered up when I took it and there was a lot of shit to move. I went at those vines with a machete. I talk about my tribe all the time. I get so much strength through them. But another love is also part of my journey. I did find a man…well, we found each other. It’s been a year, and it’s been awesome. And I haven’t lost myself. It’s an unorthodox relationship and some may not approve. But I am past looking for approval. With him, I am free to be totally myself. I can be strong and independent and I am beautiful to him. But when I don’t feel so strong, when I feel insecure, he is there. When he is struggling, he reaches out to me too. My friends, well, he is thrilled I have them. There is absolutely no holding me back. We enhance one another’s lives.

So, when I have to battle obstacles, I can face anything. Not because my life is in a nice neat box, but because I took the road less traveled, “and that has made all the difference. “

Best Diet Plan Ever…Forgiveness

It’s been a while since I posted and everyone is just coming off of the New Year and maybe has made some New Year’s Resolutions. While the holidays were filled with tons of stress and I really struggled, I had a great visit with my kids. I didn’t see my son much, however, my daughter and I had such a wonderful visit.

When my kids headed back to school, I started thinking about the New Year and how we often make resolutions that involve health or organization. Once the stress of the holidays left me, I felt so light. And I have been feeling very light for quite some time, except, of course, for situational stress. I realized that as I look back on the last year or so, I have lost a ton of weight. But the thing is, the scale says the same thing. What’s happening? Well, I look back on the last year and a half and realized I have stopped harboring anger.

What did my anger look like? Well, I find when I am angry I ruminate on the object of those thoughts. I compare my life to their’s. I find ways to make myself a victim of that person. Every part of it is unhealthy. It is hard to let go of the anger. It’s much easier to feel that way, but it’s also a much bigger weight to carry. I have said for years and years that I have forgiven my ex. I said it while we were still married. I thought I had, but I realize I hadn’t. I spent almost 10 years hoping to become a better person so my ex would still love me. The thing is, I wasn’t able to be a better me…the real me, because I was still broken. I couldn’t have conversations with my ex without thinking mean thoughts. It was ugly. This past year and a half, I have focused on myself and the relationships around me that are healthy. I have built relationships that I can keep my baggage out of.

Here’s the thing about forgiveness. No matter how much you want to get rid of that extra weight, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. It’s self discovery. Finding yourself allows you to let go of what you harbor. Allows you to realize, what people do to you is a reflection of them, not who you are. It is a road of self confessions. Maybe my husband didn’t want to be with me anymore because I no longer wanted to be with him. And boy did I show that every day. While trying to outwardly be an amazing person, I was actually becoming someone hateful and ugly. I would get in bed and turn my back. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t forgive, because I never felt like I could step back and work on just myself. I was always working on saving a marriage.

Once I had the time to care for myself and rediscover me, I could see what I needed to do to stop allowing this baggage to follow me around. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying people are at fault for being hurt by someone. That is not it at all. But, how we react is up to us. Once I chose to focus my efforts on loving myself, I was able to move away from my anger. I was able to face the person I had become that allowed myself to react the way I did. My self discovery also required help from friends and family that were honest. Honest to the point that I had to face my demons. I don’t speak up for myself because I am afraid people will walk away from me. I am too eager to please others. What that meant was that I allowed people to stay in my life that weren’t healthy. I was too afraid to be alone to ask them to leave. It also meant I wasn’t always an honest friend. I was too afraid to be honest if something bothered me. All of this is a work in progress and it’s hard work. I can still fall back into my old ways. But I have learned that I don’t have to carry that anger with me. When I take inventory on my life, I don’t have the vacations I used to. Life isn’t always as easy financially. But my happiness is through the roof.

Anger and hatred weigh more than the heaviest of barbells. And we don’t just do 3 sets of 10. We drag it behind us. So, when you hear the term ball and chain, it’s not the people around us that are our balls and chains. It’s our anger and resentment. You don’t have to tell someon you forgive them. They don’t need to ask for forgiveness (most never do). Look at ways to improve yourself, and never look back. Let that shit go.