Thankful For Love

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that I have had a love/hate relationship. Even when I was married, often, my ex-husband was away on a hunting trip. I didn’t know if he would make it home for the day or not. If he made it home, it was amazing. If not, I was disappointed all day.

When I became single, well, it felt lonely because I didn’t have someone by my side. I became one of those single people whom everyone felt sorry for. I got to spend every morning with the kids, but, for dinner, they would alternate years at their dad’s house and with me. They can never know how lonely those years without them are. It doesn’t matter how much family is around, when my kids aren’t around, it feels so lonely. This was my 5th Thanksgiving living as a single woman. And, while it was supposed to my year with the kids (even though they are no longer minors, they have stuck with every other year), I was horribly disappointed when they told me they wouldn’t be with me. My son was having dinner with his long-time girlfriend’s family. I have been anticipating they would start doing holidays together, and I am so happy for him. Sophia decided to spend the year with her dad. It was a big sting, but not a suprise. So, I spent some time preparing myself, mentally, for a second year without my kids with me for dinner. What I really needed to do was take an emotional inventory of what I had in my life. My inventory consisted of only one word.

LOVE. When I look back at the last year of my life, I realize just how full my life is. Even on weeks that I sit at home for 5 nights straight, my life has been so filled. When I am home alone, it’s because I choose to be. I choose to take the time for myself. If I am feeling down, I have so many loves in my life that I am never really alone. This place is unchartered territory for me. Even when I was married, I didn’t feel this full. Now, I am exactly where I always wanted to be. I wake up with only my dog next to me. I make breakfast and eat by myself. But I never feel alone anymore. This is what people mean by living their best lives.

The kids got to my house last Sunday. I had such an amazing visit with them. We spent a few days together and it was such great quality time with them. I missed having Thanksgiving dinner with them. But in the end, Thanksgiving is just one day. I had a few amazing days with them. And it’s the little things they do that are huge to me. The hugs. Sitting at the table together. Cooking together. Joking around together. My Thanksgiving with them was all week. What more could I ask for?

This year marked the 35th year of the annual football game at my parents’ house. The game has evolved so much. It started as two families at a campground in Haymarket. When we moved to the country in 1986, it became a tradition. The game has changed a lot. I was a teenager when the tradition started. The game has seen some amazing gains…marriages, new babies, new friends, babies that have grown into young adults, their significant others. Some years there are 10 people that play. Other years, there are 25. But no matter what, we have a blast. The game has seen some significant losses too. Friends have moved away, one time players can no longer play, divorce, and mostly, the loss of someone who was like a second mother to me. One of the original players. She passed away right before Thanksgiving 16 years ago. Every year, we think about her. Her famous onion dip is always at the table, and my family will stand by the dip and talk about our wonderful memories of her. Our tradition runs strong, and so does her memory.

Dinner, just like for many others, is a tradition. The table has gotten bigger and bigger. It got smaller for a while, with the famous “kids’ table,” but they are no longer kids. So we have moved back to one table. What makes our dinners so special. Well, our dinner conversation. The things we say would make many people blush. We are rude and crude and sometimes we laugh until we pee ourselves. This year, as I sat at the table, surrounded by the family that I have so often taken for granted, I took in every ounce of love they had to offer. I didn’t feel alone at any point in the day. I felt surrounded and I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.

My love life…well, it’s definitely existent. It’s a bit unorthodox, but with that, it has allowed me to grow so much in learning how to have a relationship, yet still be independent and enjoy all the family and girl time I want. Until now, relationships have always been a way for me to go from being someone strong, to becoming needy and/or unhappy and giving up everything for someone. That causes resentment and unhappiness. This go round, I have learned to communicate, that I don’t have to step away from friends and family, and that I am very lovable as a strong and independent woman. What’s awesome is that we do not complete each other. But we enhance each other, we understand each other, and we are there for each other. I have noticed, in the last 9 months, that when something amazing happens, or something bad happens, we want to share with each other. When my baggage gets to heavy, I can talk to him. I have to be honest though, I used to go to friends first, who would listen and encourge me to open up to him. He accepts my baggage and my insecurities and has never made me feel bad for having them. We work through them. And, that baggage has become significantly lighter. I still get insecurities, but it’s rare now. Very rare. But I never feel bad for having them. We face them together. He shares his struggle with me. I listen. We talk a lot. We have found a happy place together. A place of calm and comfort. And I don’t mean that complacent comfort where things fall by the wayside. It’s a comfort that we can be ourselves and know that we will accept and love each other. Yes, I said it. The “L” word. That scares me, when it comes to an intimate relationship. For a while, I couldn’t admit it. What if I lost myself again? But I have learned that I am strong enough to have that emotion now. I am strong enough to accept that feeling and know that I am surrounded by enough love everywhere else, that no matter what happens, I will always be okay. Vulnerability like this is actually a superpower, not a weakness. When I give love, it creates more love for me to give away.

I have let so much love into my life this past year that I am completely overwhelmed sometimes…in a very good way. And, by letting that love in, I have found that the love I can give has increased infinitely. It gives me more patience with others around me. I have been told by clients I work with that my smile has made their day brighter. A co-worker told me I was like a walking love emoji. My friends see it, my family sees it. And my gosh, I feel it. So, this year, my emotional inventory is all love. I am so grateful for all the love I have in my life. Love heals, it strengthens, and love pours out of you when you have the right kind. In the words of Roald Dahl, “If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely.”

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family, to all my loves, to all the ones who were lessons in my life. May you all feel the love that I feel, throughout the holiday season and throughout the entire year.

Solid Walls Protect…But Do They Strengthen

I spent a long time being one of those “projects” I was needy, always needed to be reassured and couldn’t live my life alone. The last several years have forced me to find my strength. And finding my strength has had a huge learning curve. Strength comes in many forms. And each strength serves a different purpose. If I took inventory, it would provaly look like the entire inventory on Amazon. Very overwhelming.

My first strength was bricks. Bricks seem so solid. And, well, when you feel like you’re fighting the Big Bad Wolf, the bricks only seemed logical. After all, I had already been spit out by the wolf. I couldn’t let him completely destroy my life. Bricks are strong, but I had to figure out what to do with them. Have you ever bought bricks? You buy them in bulk and they don’t come with instructions. So, I felt the first step was throwing the bricks. I threw bricks at the wolf. I threw bricks at his family. The anger. I let the anger out. I screamed and I cried. I threw bricks at my family. They had no idea what I was going through. I needed to throw bricks and keep everyone at arms length. Words can be harsh and hurtful just like bricks. I used them and became proficient. I needed to be angry. My entire world was turned upside down.

But then, I learned about mortar. With a little mortar you can put the bricks together. Succumb to the fact that the wolf is going to come at you, as well as the other bad stuff. So with mortar, you can make a big wall. A strong wall. What’s amazing about brick walls is that big bad wolves can huff and puff and the wall will remain standing. So there I stood, behind my brick wall, keeping all the bad stuff out. It feels amazing. Huffing and puffing and I am safe. Safe and sound and, well, I am alone. That wall, it keeps everyone out, an it has no windows and no doors. But that was okay. I had learned that it’s not just the big bad wolf I needed to be protected from. It was the entire pack of wolves. So I waited it out. Waited for everyone that was going to hurt me to take their shot. I waited and waited until the huffing and puffing stopped. When it did, I was still stuck behind this wall, and I couldn’t see beyond it. I was alone. There was an emptiness. For someone who has so much emotion, so much love in her heart, emptiness is not a good place to be. Are solid walls really good?

So, I built a window. Just one. I could open it and let my family in. So they would come visit and they had a key to my window and could visit any time they wanted. But my kids, they were little baby wolf cubs and tended to stay close to the big bad wolf. So, they didn’t have a key to that window. I would only let them in sometimes. So, letting family in was wonderful, but being without my immediate family was still making me lonely. We have built an amazing relationship and I love my family so much. But, honestly speaking, it was also a reminder that my immediate family didn’t exist anymore. I needed another window.

So, I built another window. I wasn’t quite sure who I was building it for. Who I was thinking I would let in. But I built it. I joined a group on Facebook thinking I could find some sense of community and just watch it through that window. Not really let anyone in, but see it. But then one of them invited me to dinner, and she and I talked for a few hours. I opened the window a little. The funny thing is, she started working on events, which required me to climb out of that window and go out from behind my wall. I met more people each time I went out. That window seemed to be opening wider and wider.

During that time, I opened another window. I let someone in. I felt like I had to start looking for a man in my life. I needed someone to define me. A need like that will blind you and you won’t see that what you are letting in, is actually a sly fox. But I didn’t see him close that window, and all the other windows behind him, keeping everyone out. I could see my friends and family on the outside, but they are once again, at an arm’s distance. I try to open the windows, but I am being smothered. The windows aren’t enough. I forgot doors. Doors are much easier. But also more dangerous. What if the wolves can work their way in. Doesn’t matter. I take inventory. Strong family, strong friends…we can take on a wolf pack together. They have my back.

So I build a door. Not just any door. I build a huge, sliding glass door. The first thing I did with that door, was sent that fox straight through it, with his tail between his legs. And all my friends and family guarded that door with me. They didn’t have to guard it too long. I became stronger because of my family and friends. I saw how, with their help, I could fight off anything. And I looked out the window and realized, I had been stuck behind this wall for way too long. So, with a lot of help from the people around me, I destroyed the wall. I prefer to be free. I don’t want to be held back by my fear of what’s out there. I want to face those fears and know that I can conquer them because I am not alone anymore. The walls were only letting people trickle in when I allowed it.

There is a vulnerability in knocking that wall down. Sometimes, someone unexpected makes their way to you. I learned that I had everything I needed to be safe from all the bad stuff out there. So, when someone new made his way into my space, I had no walls to protect me, only my tribe of friends and family. I am vulnerable, but not in a bad way. I am open to new feelings, new experiences, because the walls are not there. I can let myself be vulnerable to someone new because the strength I have found with no walls, is like nothing I have ever known before. It doesn’t mean I won’t get it hurt by anything. But I will always have people around me that love me so much. Who are there for me. I won’t have to start from scratch, with bricks and walls with no windows. So I will bask in all my vulnerability and know that my vulnerabilty is really not a weakness. It’s this amazing strength to allow people into my heart, into my life, and reap the benefits of that love. Not because I need it to survive, but because they truly earned a place there. And if they are no longer there, my life will not come to a screetching halt. The strenght I have found will get me through so much…friends who aren’t really friends, difficult work days, money stress, job stress and a broken heart.

So, while solid walls may protect us, they also keep things out that may help protect us even more. Walls create an atmosphere of getting by alone. Bringing those walls down and opening ourselves up, can bring in much more strength than the strongest wall in the world. Because family and friends, well, they are much stronger than any brick you can find.

Living in the Moment

Call me unorganized. Call me a hot mess. Call me whatever you want. I don’t like to plan my life in advance. Of course, I have goals and I plan ahead for things that should be planned ahead. But I don’t make lists (or if I do, I don’t look at them anyway). I pack for trips the day I leave. The idea of an impromptu road trip is so completely exciting to me. But it’s also important to have goals. I have them. But I don’t necessarily have an outline to follow on how to get there. I’ve learned that if I have step-by-step instructions, I typically veer from them and am so disappointed in myself.

I have learned that outlines tend to be a straight line to a goal. They’re neatly laid out. That’s just not me. Remember the spirographs we used to use when we were kids? That’s sort of how I get to the end of something. I will go in circles and seem like I am getting nowhere. But I will meet my goal and have some amazing experiences along the way. For example: hiking…I love it and would love to do it more. I would love to do weekend section hikes on the Appalachian Trail. Seems easy enough. Get the gear and just do it. Well, not so easy. I don’t have the money for the gear. I don’t really have anyone that has the ability and/or interest in doing a section hike right now. And I don’t want to do it by myself. But, I will go around in circles getting there. Start with shorter hikes. Go camping. Really, just anything outside.

Being happy in life. What a huge goal. And not always easy to achieve. Defintely not a straight line. You know, throw in a failed married, some failed relationships, work hardships, heartbreak, money issues and you definitely don’t have a direct route to that goal. It can be frustrating, but when you stop to think about it, those curly paths are how we grow. How we strengthen ourselves to face other challenges. How we learn to be humble. Without the twists and turns, I would have missed out on so many things that are contributing to my happiness. A failed marriage led me back to a better relationship with my family. heartbreak of lost friendships led me to my tribe. Lack of money led me to enjoying and appreciating the simple things in life.

So, a straight line doesn’t necessarily lead to the happiness that is your goal. If I followed a straight line, I would still be married. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t be happy. So, why plan. I try to learn from each experience I have. I don’t want to look too far ahead. And I won’t be too hard on myself when I don’t follow the path that makes the most sense. I will enjoy the adventure I am living. I will live in the moment, even if it means going in a circles like a spirograph. After all, when you look at the final product of the spirograph designs, they are pretty beautiful. When I look back at the life I have led so far, even with the stuff that hurt like crazy, it has been a beautiful life. And it gets more beautiful each day.

What Do We Lose Throughout the Years

The other night, I was relaxing and watching TV. It’s gotten to be a pretty common evening practice for me. Sometimes I’ll color. Sometimes I will knit (I have been working on a baby blanket for 1 1/2 years). But it’s not often I do anything different…well, other than bills (insert eye roll). The only time I deviate from that is when there’s an awesome thunderstorm and I curl up with a book and listen to the storm roll by. I think I have written about that. But, why wait for a storm. Why do I wait for storms to get back to things I love?

You see, it’s not just reading. I wait for snow storms to pull out a good jigsaw puzzle. I haven’t worked on my photo albums in years, but when I did it, I would usually wait for a rainy day to work on pages of family memories. Sometimes I get so caught up in going out with my friends and family that I forget to stop and enjoy my hobbies. And I can’t help but wonder who else feels the same way. What did you used to love doing that you just haven’t made time for? I have skeins and skeins of yarn in my basement just waiting to be turned into something beautiful. I must have at least 5000 sheets of scrapbooking paper and stickers and die cuts to much the thousands of pictures waiting for me to tell their story. Scrapbooking was a tough one. I stopped working on albums when I got separated. I was working on the most amazing family vacation, spanning the entire length of Rt. 66 (from Chicago to Santa Monica Pier). I couldn’t bear to look at the pictures. It was too painful. But now, well I recognize how awesome that trip was and am hoping to complete it one day. What a keepsake for the kids.

I hardly read anymore. I love books…real books. And I love to curl up with a good book. I tend to doze as I read, but it’s so relaxing.

Why? Why, when I decided to get back to the old me, did I give up things the old me loved? I know time is a factor. But it’s important to not give up things either. Especially when I find myself sometimes wishing I could sit down and throw a scrapbook page together.

But could the solution be do the old things you love with the old and new people in your lives? My mom loves jigsaw puzzles. I think I see some jigsaw nights in our future. I have a girlfriend that used to love to scrapbook too. Why not encourage each other to work on some albums or fun paper crafts. You know who you are. And I think most of the people in my life love to read…and they love wine. Doesn’t that mean book club? We can scramble to read the book, get together, not talk about the book, and drink wine. So you see, I don’t need to wait for a storm to come along to realize what is good in my life and what I should keep in it. I choose to keep all that amazingness in my life through the sunny days too.

I’m curious to hear from my readers. Leave a comment about what you miss doing that you used to love. How can you bring it back?

What’s Your Halloween Costume?

I love Halloween. The idea of dressing up always sounds like fun. However, I don’t usually have much to dress up for. I haven’t been to a Halloween party in years. I get some trick or treaters, but not very many. It’s a shame all this Halloween spirit goes to waste.

When I started working at the distillery, I was pleasantly surprised to get to dress up for Halloween. I went as a voodoo doll. It was a blast. Last year, I ordered a costume, but just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t dress up last year. This year, I made a bold Halloween decision. I have always wanted to dress up in a sexy costume. I have thought about it many times, but never had the confidence to pull it off.

This past year, I have spent a lot of time building up my confidence. I have been very successful. With the help of my friends and family, I have finally started believing that people like me for who I am. They like me no matter what weight I am. They like me no matter how crass my sense of humor is. They like me even when I am feeling down…in fact, they lift me up. They check in on me when I am feeling down. When my crown is crooked, they straighten it.

So, with some amazing friends and a confidence that continues to grow, I decided to be bold. I’m hot! I decided to wear my hot costume and own it.

So, I went as a Hooters Girl. I would never have done this before. I know what my body looks like. But I have learned to own what I have got and be proud of all of it. And guess what, I’ve got the Hooters to pull this one off. I had a blast at the distillery and at the end of my day, I was so proud of myself for having the confidence. You see, it’s still very new to me to have this kind of confidence. But I loved it. How did I do at work you ask?

I’d say I did pretty well. You see, we all have body types that may not fit the “mold”, but that mold is in our heads and haven’t you heard…mold is toxic. So be confident and break out that outfit or costume you have always wanted to wear and own it. Happy Halloween.

The Importance of a Good Story

I’m always excited about new adventures, new experiences. So, when my parents invited me to the International Storytelling Festival in Tennessee, I was thrilled. Not only do I get to enjoy the amazing art of storytelling, but, I also get to spend the weekend with family that I don’t get to see very often. Double awesome!!

So here I am, in Johnson City, TN, and I just finished my first ever Storytelling Festival. I had a blast. We were in Jonesborough yesterday from about 10 am until 9:30 pm. It was a long day, but there were such amazing people we saw. I laughed, I cried, and sometimes, I felt like I had to pick my jaw up. I was picturing hearing people similar to some of my favorite childhood authors, Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein. While more modern, I was not disappointed. Some were quirky, some were hilarious, others were thought provoking, but they all offered something. Some shared their own stories and others shared stories that had been passed down from generation to generation. Others used music as a part of their storytelling (I heard a blues rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow that send chills through my body).

Last night ended with an incredible performance by Dan Hoyle. His performance of Border People left me speechless. He portrayed 11 different people of different types of borders. He did not just represent immigrants. He represented the LGBTQ community, the black community, and citizens who were from other countries. He portrayed different types of borders: physical, cultural, religious, racial. You would have thought a different person portrayed each individual. What’s awesome is he is not representing an entire community with each portrayal. He is representing one person, that he interviewed and spent time with to capture their truth. His accents, his body language…I felt that if I met the individual whom he was portraying, I would recognize that person. Check him out online. It was amazing.

And the best part. I have had a weekend with family. I have not had a chance to visit with my cousin a lot. I don’t see her near enough. Until this weekend, I hadn’t seen her since 2015. And the silly thing is that we have always gotten along so well. This is a good reminder for me that I love road trips and have no excuses to not make my way down here more often.

Road trips and time with family build amazing stories. While I won’t be up in front of a crowd at a storytelling festival, hearing the storytellers, this weekend, inspired me to continue to share my stories and thoughts and to live my life to the fullest and create more memories to share. And, I have learned that not everyone has to like what I share, nor agree with it. But, if I can make you think, and sometimes think outside the box, and make you see another perspective, well, then I am doing something right. Thank you to everyone reading and thank you for all the amazing responses.