Lost, But Not Forgotten

It’s been well over a month since my last post. I’ve been so caught up with the holidays, hosting family from out of town, and then recovering from all of that activity. It’s been a stretch of pouring myself into others and counting my blessings for having so many loved ones!

Guess what the first thing to go by the way side is when I am completely focused outward? Self-care. You notice I said I spent part of my time “recovering.” I’m pretty certain that I wouldn’t need recovery time if I continued to practice self-care continually, rather than just when it is convenient. I know I’m not the only woman, man too for that matter, who struggles with this. When push comes to shove and timelines get tight, we push ourselves to the bottom of the priority list and tackle the other stuff first.

So here’s a shout out to self-care!

A few of my favorite ways to practice this:

  • Enjoying coffee at a coffee shop, by myself, while reflecting, reading, or writing.
  • A very girly bath! Dimmed lighting, candles, a really relaxing bath bomb and just completely relaxing. Push everything out of my mind and just be still.
  • A project just for myself. We all have those things, for me it’s a messy drawer or an overflowing space in my closet, that we never get to and they drive us crazy. Carve out an hour or so to tackle it. Focusing on organizing it in a way that makes me happy, removing old unwanted things, and tidying it up makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something just for myself. I can also be reminded with a peaceful, fulfilled feeling each time I revisit that space!
  • Calling a friend or a loved on that I haven’t had the “time” to connect with in a while. Chit chat about what has been going on, enjoy listening to their stories and commentary, laughing… most of all laughing.

What are some of your most loved go to self-care activities?

So friends, I may have been lost for a bit, but you are far from forgotten! I’ve also remembered that writing is one of my favorite ways to unwind and feed my soul!

All the Twinkling Lights

Friends, do you love decorating for the Christmas season? I do! But, I’m here to tell you that no one, and I mean no one, loves it as much as my boys! They are at the Clark Griswold level, and that might not be enough!! HA!

It’s nearly time for us to bring out the boxes of decorations, we do it yearly immediately following Thanksgiving. I’ve been hearing brainstorming, chatter, and planning from the boys for weeks now. The other day we were in Meijer, our local superstore, and I lost them. They were two aisles over in the freshly put out Christmas decorations. It was so cute to see their eyes so big and hear them planning all of the things that they could do to the house, inside and out.

I’m a Christian and I fully understand the true reason for the season. I also like our family to focus on giving, kind acts for others, and love, but I’m here to tell you that there is something enchanting about a child and their excitement at Christmas. It’s magical! Plus, I think that there’s an argument to be made for them wanting to make our home sparkle for all to enjoy!

A few years ago, when they really started getting into extreme decorating, my gut reaction was something similar to annoyance. Thoughts like, if it’s not done just right, it will look tacky. Does every surface, vertical and horizontal, really need to be covered in some sort of decor? How many Christmas trees do we need, isn’t one enough? And worst of all, who is going to clean all of this stuff up after Christmas?

Talk about Mom sucking the joy out of everything they were excited about doing! It took me a beat, but I’ve adjusted my way of thinking on this. Oh yes, the occasional “you’re doing what?!?” thought still rolls through my head, but overall I have taken a step back. Remember when you were young? What was magical to you during the holiday season?

For me it was helping both my grandparents and my immediate family hang lights, put up the tree, appreciate all of the little ornaments and hear the stories about the special ones. Who made it, when was it gifted, and how special it was for various reasons to members of my family. I loved baking and decorating Christmas cookies, making plates to take to gatherings and neighbors. We’d often drive around one evening prior to Christmas, with Christmas music blaring and singing all the way, and see all of the beautiful lights others had put up. I’d be buzzing with excitement over the several holiday parties that we attended. But most of all, my very most magical memories were coming out of my room early on Christmas morning. The tree was always left on overnight on Christmas Eve. The tree had the most beautiful glow, the star or angel sparkled just a little bit extra. The house was always a bit chilly at such an early hour, but my parents would pop right out of bed, stoke up our wood stove, we’d cuddle up under blankets, and enjoy our gift giving together.

But those lights, on that tree, on Christmas morning… that will live in my heart forever!

So, after thinking back on my memories, the emotions I had, and the magic that the little things offered; it was really important to allow my kids to enjoy the sparkle too! Let their hearts be joyful and light. Let them design their ultimate decorative plan and share it gleefully, possibly even seen from outer space!

Something special happened within me too. I wasn’t so wrapped up in perfection any more. Worried about the messes. Worried about things that are silly. I was playing again, laughing again, making cookies with flour everywhere, enjoying all of the little gifts the season brings.

Grumpy grownups out there, I challenge you to let your child-flag fly this season. Have that spontaneous snowball fight, even if your clothes get a little wet and your fingers chilly. Make a mess in the kitchen making the most ridiculous looking snowman cookie you’ve ever seen. Delight in singing along to Christmas music. Go ahead and put on those Christmas socks and red scarf. Greet passers by with a smile and a warm greeting. Giggle through a holiday story book with a child. Take a second and remember what made the holiday season magical for you, when you were young, and recreate the magic with your family and friends.

Get your twinkle on, either by stringing some pretty lights, or a new found gleam in your eye!

Did Someone Say Turkey?

I’m totally stealing this idea from a friend of mine, but after we discussed it the other day, it continues to rattle around in my head. Let’s see if it resonates with you.

The holiday season is upon us, Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and then we have the blur of madness between it and Christmas. Small talk seems to revolve around plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas; who will you see, where will you spend it, is it family tradition or are you breaking out on your own for something new. A common theme we hear in those responses, however, is complaining. How many people are dreading seeing their in-laws, sister’s husband, that one cousin, having to spend “boring” time with a grandparent, or maybe even dreading seeing their own parents for one reason or another?

People, this is sad!

Now, I know not every family situation is black and white or simple, there are some out there with very legitimate reasons for dread and avoidance. I’m not talking about those situations, I’m talking about those who are griping about spending time with their family because it’s an inconvenience, they share mildly different views or ways of life, they don’t like the way Betty cooks, or how their brother dresses, Mom talks to loud and is nosy, and Grandpa has an annoying laugh. Whatever it is, you get the gist.

I struggle relating to those comments and sentiments. Even those in my family who occasionally drive me crazy, and there are certainly a few, I hold very dear to my heart. I will be the first to admit that I was blessed with an extraordinary family. Starting with my grandparents on both sides of the family, an amazing example of strength, perseverance, and love. They didn’t all always make the right decisions, heck, they didn’t even always handle their mistakes well. They did, however, survive! They lived through wars, depressions, women’s rights becoming a thing, jobs, firings, many children. They have seen and done things that I cannot even imagine. Some of my grandparents are gone now, I miss them dearly. I have no regrets about the amount of time that I spent with them, learning, loving, growing, but man o man what I would give to share another turkey dinner with them.

My parents, they have just entered into their retirement years. They have gone from being tired, a bit grumpy, and having a slightly negative outlook after working their butt’s off for 45 years. To being free, adventurous, their laughter and life passion is contagious. They remind me of teenagers now. I swear they are out to get into as much trouble as possible (meaning that in the best possible way). We all go through stages with our parents. We love them when we are young, we battle against them when we get into our teens, we respectfully and humbly come back to them in our twenties after we realize we didn’t actually know it all, and then the true friendship relationship blooms. My mom calls me daily, sometimes many times a day. Why? Who knows, sometimes to catch up, sometimes to tell me she’s driving to the store and bored. I sometimes think, “Doesn’t she know I’m working? Doesn’t she know I’m busy?”

Guess what? Some day she won’t be “bothering” me any more. Some day my phone won’t ring with her always-happy, sweet voice. That day will come. It will come for all of these folks that we gripe about seeing for this or that silly reason. We all know this, but we push it out of our minds.

I’m here to remind you, life is short. Our time together is precious. We have so much to share and learn from our families. They are part of our tribe. Enjoy them. Soak in those crazy snorting laughs, those amazing high-wasted poly pants, laugh off your grandma’s gossip and wry comments, hug your mother and father. Take advantage of the time we are gifted with them. Savor the way the family recipe of stuffing tastes, that no one makes pie like your aunt, the way your cousin derails every story you tell. Seriously, let the crap go and invest yourself in making the memories that you can hold onto forever!

Love it, live it, appreciate it.

The Gift of Time

I’d be the first person to admit that I have two very spoiled boys! Between their dad, my ex-husband, and I they are able to enjoy and participate in an extremely wide variety of things. And for those things, they have all of the clothes, equipment, games, gear, toys, and on and on. We try to teach them modesty and to understand that they are very privileged to live in such a way, but they are young and this is the only life they know.

Dad is all about the farm life, outdoor living, animals, dirt bikes, hunting, sports, and ice fishing. You name it, if it’s happening outside, he’s all in. Our boys have riding horses, draft horses, goats, chickens, and dogs. They play baseball, soccer, football, and football. They each have a four wheeler and a dirt bike. They’ve got several rifles, bows, and pistols for hunting and target practice. You guessed it, they have every new ball, new shoe, ball and batting gloves, fuel for their toys, ammo for their guns, saddles, bridles, riding boots, and equipment. Any single thing they need to experience all of these things in a big way.

Mom is more metro, although I enjoy most of those other things too. We paint, craft, play video games, go see the newest movies, get excited about new books that come out, go snowboarding and skiing, shop, camp, theater, museums, restaurants, and go on several travel adventures near and far. Yup, you guessed it again, I’m gifting them with things and planning things for us all the time.

I’m just trying to set the stage for you. I feel like I do a lot for my kids. I am trying to provide things and life experiences for them to make them well rounded and educated youngsters, as well reward them with fun and excitement for their hard work in school and overall good behavior. I think most parents are attempting to do the same thing, all of us at different levels, all of us in different ways.

With this in mind, let me share a little story with you. Two years ago, for Simeon’s birthday I bought him a suitcase. He always had to borrow one of Grandma’s when we would go on a trip and I thought it was time for him to have his own. That in itself didn’t seem like a very exciting birthday gift for an eight year old, so I put a note inside that said something to the effect of, “With every new suitcase, comes a new adventure! So what do you say? Let’s go to Las Vegas and see what we can see.” I know what you’re thinking right here, take an eight year old to Las Vegas? Chill! There’s so much kid friendly stuff to see there, plus I wanted to take him to the Hoover Dam. Not to mention, I had airline miles to get there and an essentially free room.

We took off for our long weekend adventure in Las Vegas! We stayed at Circus Circus, saw the circus, did the indoor amusement park, rode and rode and rode the rollercoasters, walked the strip, watched the fountains, saw the tigers, flamingos, and gardens, we took pictures of the statues (insert little boy giggles for all of the “wieners” he stood by), saw street performers, ate at some really cool restaurants, shopped, went to David Copperfield’s show, drove out to the Hoover Dam, walked all the way to Arizona (haha), zip-lined down Fremont Street, and had ice cream at least three times! I filled up almost all of our time with activity and exploring. Each night after we could make it back to the room, we would play Go Fish on the bed in the room and dish about the day. On the very last day we laid by the pool for a few hours before we had to leave for the airport. Side by side on two lounge chairs, people watching, reading books, sharing a set of earbuds and listening to music, and soaking up the sunshine.

On the plane home I asked Simeon what his what his favorite part of our vacation was. To my absolute surprise he said, “Playing Go Fish with you. Everything else was super cool mom, especially having our very own driver in those Ubers, but my favorite part was just having all of you to myself playing cards and laughing.”

Whoa.

I instantly teared up. Now I know that he had a great time on our trip. He talked about it for months, to everyone and anyone. It still comes up sometimes. I had an “ah-ha” moment that day though, it’s not about the stuff. We know this as adults, we talk about it, we believe we live it. We think that we are giving them what they want and need through all of our ways, and don’t get me wrong, all of the time and attention we give our kids is valuable to them. That’s the thing, the biggest gift that we can give them is our undivided attention, to spend time with just them without distractions, to listen to them speak their minds, to hear what’s on their dear hearts. They want to see us happy to be enjoying their company. They want to see the smile that’s on our face actually touch our eyes. They want mom to slow down enough to laugh and be silly, to let the plans go and be spontaneous, to let the mess be and enjoy the moment.

I was reminded of this again just this past weekend. We’d been busy all weekend. Bowling on Friday night, college football get together on Saturday, and on Sunday when I asked them what they’d like to do… I got a meek response from both of them. They asked if we could just stay in our pajamas all day, sit on the couch together, read story books, and watch movies. My little guy, Parker, said, “Momma, maybe you could just take turns cuddling us all day!”

As we enter into the holiday season, when thankfulness, gift giving, and family are on our minds, don’t forget this little lesson from my kiddos! Give your loved ones the gift of your time. Put down the phone, put away the to-do list, shut the lid on the laptop, whatever the thing is that pulls you away. Give them your undivided attention, however much you’re able, and you’ll give them the most precious gift of all.

My Tribe

I used to hear people talk about their tribe and be filled with curiosity. I assumed it was another slang term for their group of friends, like their crew, their posse. I suppose in a way it is, but it’s so much more.

A coworker of mine recommended a book for me to read. It was something that he mentioned was really helpful for him in terms of expanding his career and getting people to buy into his ideas and support him in his pursuit of growing and climbing the corporate ladder. The book is actually called Tribes, written by Seth Godin, it’s a great book. It’s an easy read and I would recommend it to anyone, not just those looking to excel in their career.

The idea is that you start out with an idea, a philosophy, or a way of life and spread the word. It’s essentially like a grassroots effort of building a buzz around your topic. As you talk and share your ideas, people contribute and engage, and suddenly you have a group (hopefully ever growing in number) that believe in what you’re saying, feel empowered because they have a voice in it, and look to you as the leader of the movement. As it grows in strength and numbers a movement begins.

I suppose that’s what the goal of this blog is, a way of getting together a group of individuals who can feed off of each other and join forces to establish a tribe of people living more joyful and fulfilled lives! I want to share things that are close to my heart, situations I struggle with, stereotypes and cultural norms that I battle against in a meaningful way and encourage others to be brave and follow me in breaking out. It’s hard to buck the system. It’s a challenge to look at the norms we live with and call bunk on some of them. But let’s face it, some of the things we have grown to accept as meaning “success” are really ridiculous and counterproductive to being present in our lives, relaxed, and happy.

We hear expressions like “keeping up with the Jones’ ” and “comparison is the thief of joy,” but do we roll our eyes and just keep trudging along? We need that bigger job so that we can buy a car that’s fancier than our neighbors. All the other moms in my son’s class make beautiful, Pinterest worthy snacks for the class party. My brother never seems to struggle in raising his son, they are always so calm and perfect. My college roommate is the CEO of her own company, but I’m barely getting by doing volunteer work and odd jobs. BLAH… The list of thoughts goes on and on! It’s different for everyone, but I’d bet the farm that you are comparing yourself to someone else, and worse, beating yourself up over it.

Are you in love with your spouse? Are your children cared for and healthy? Do you have transportation to and from your job? Heck, do you have a job? Even if you’re not making what you “could be,” does your work make you feel good about yourself? Let’s be thankful for these blessings and stop comparing ourselves to others.

Let’s face it, if we focus enough on what we don’t have, what we aren’t doing, who’s got more, who’s more successful, other’s have a more perfect family, etc… then we rob ourselves the opportunity of enjoying and celebrating what we are doing and what we do have. It’s the quickest way to drain out all of your positive energy and joy.

My current tribe is filled with my extended family who, God love them, are a hot mess most of the time! I have several wonderful friends with talents well beyond mine, photographers, musicians, choreographers, technical geniuses, mechanical masterminds, absolutely amazing show stopping mothers, basically bosses each in their own right! My pups are part of my tribe, they could care less about anything other than the fact that I’ve walked in the door at home and have some love for them. My kiddos, they don’t care that I brought store bought cookies to their Halloween parties, they only care that I showed up! I’ve got an amazing group of students in my class right now who want to hear real life work stories from me, and what impact my decisions (good or bad) had on the end result. They don’t care one bit that I’m not a seasoned professor with perfect teaching methods. My project teams at work and my corporate peers are part of the tribe. They know that I’m not so good at having a “thick skin,” which can be critical in the consulting world. They love me for being loyal to them, trusting that no matter what happens I’m going to do my best to take care of them and lead them to success.

My tribe isn’t huge, but they’ve all bought into the idea that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We support each other, cheer for each other, celebrate successes together, and cry on each other’s shoulders with no shame when life gets hard.

So buck the system, quit trying to live up to some standard of “success” that deprives you of the small wins, of being present, and drains the joy from you. Join me in saying screw it, I’m living this life my way and I’m proud of it!

Let’s start a movement!

Karla

That Nasty L Word

LAUNDRY. What did you think I meant? LOL!

I stroll into my oldest son’s room, he tells me that morning that he has no more clean pants. I think, “what?!” I swear I just did the laundry. Well, maybe he didn’t bring down everything, you know, it was hidden under the bed, stuffed in back packs from the gym, or whatever. You know what, he has an overflowing hamper! Surely this must be his fault in some way, not my shortcoming.

Next stop, little brother’s room. Damn, his basket is just the same. Let me think about this for a minute… oh, maybe it wasn’t last Monday I did laundry, I was traveling for work and the weeks have blended together. Okay, okay, this is making more sense. So we’re just a little bit behind our once a week, unless it’s a fashion emergency, laundry cycle.

Last stop on the way to the laundry room, our room. Holy! Okay, seriously, how have I not noticed that it’s not only full, but spilling out onto the floor. Does Ricardo even have clean underwear?! Leave it to him to not complain, or just do a load to get us by without making me feel bad I’ve dropped the ball on my domestic chore (we divvy them up, I have the laundry short straw).

Sigh.

“Alright guys, let’s knock this out!” I say to Gus and Lexi (they ever so cutely tilt their heads like they are completely in tune and I just gave them the secrets to life). I sort it all out, seven loads. For heaven’s sake, why do I get myself into these predicaments?! I work from home, so doing laundry during the day isn’t a big deal, I just swap from the washer to the dryer in between calls and meetings and try to get the bulk of the folding done during lunch or right after the day ends.

Seven-ish hours later we have success, all of the piles are gone, it smells delightfully like Gain in the house, and all of the clothes are ready for everyone to put away! Yay!

Minus the two hour back and forth with the kids arguing to get them to put it away. You know, they are clever little fellows… can I just carry it to my room and not put it away? why do we put it in drawers and the closet anyway, it’s so much easier to see what I have when it’s out? I promise I’ll do it as soon as I get home from school tomorrow, will that be okay? Hey mom, you’re going up there anyway, can you just do it? NO, NO, NO, and NO! An A for effort in evading their responsibilities though! Anyway, back to the story, two hours later I am indeed upstairs with them, helping with homework, reading stories, and just some good old fashioned goofing off and guess what?

Yup, that’s right… those gloriously clean dirty laundry hampers are already half full. I swear!

Rant over.

The truth is all of us have these things that sneak up on us. Whether it’s the dishes, laundry, doing maintenance on your car, or even taking care of yourself. We all have our “dirty words.”

The point I wanted to make, and the thing I needed to remind myself, is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Not one single day did my family leave the house naked. Most likely I spent the time that I could have been cleaning and folding doing something much more enjoyable, like playing a never ending game of monopoly (watching Parker learn about money and laugh at him trying to be the banker, noticing that Simeon is beginning to strategize about the game, rather than just play along) and laugh, laugh, laugh. I probably had a long conversation on the phone with my mother, texted a couple of my girlfriends, took the dog for a walk, or whatever. And you know what? It’s ok!

I’ve also made sure to teach my boys these basic living skills since they were itty bitty, so if push came to shove, even my five year old knows how to load his clothes into the washer, swap to the dryer, wad them in a ball and call them folded, and put them in his room. They don’t want to do it, heck, I don’t want them to do it. There’s only so many years left that I get to fold their clothes, wonder what happened to make their socks so nasty, and pretend it’s the worst thing ever! One day either they will do it or their significant other.

So Ladies, don’t worry about it! I’m not saying to let your house turn into a health hazard or ignore your responsibilities entirely. I AM saying, don’t stress about it. Enjoy the stuff that wiggles it’s way in. Enjoy that you have people in your home who make dirty laundry, it’s so much better than living alone!

Karla

Busy, busy, busy…

I know this topic has been addressed in articles, movies and tv shows, but DANG, people aren’t getting the hint.

What’s the deal with everyone being so busy? Not only that, why is it supposedly cool to be so over-worked, over-tired, over-caffeinated, over-booked, and basically over-run? You see pictures on Pinterest of gloriously multi-colored day planners, filled to the max with appointments, reminders, and to-dos. We have technical gadgets to integrate all aspects of our lives into one massive, non-stop reminder system; it’s always dinging, pinging, and alerting us to the next thing we need to be looking at. So many fashion pictures are accessorized with a Starbucks cup. The lines at coffee places are insanely long, people are even putting in pick up orders so that they don’t have to “hurry up and wait.” We have meals on the go, or many women skip eating meals all together, what’s wrong with that… it’s less calories, right? We take on ask after ask, whether from work, our children, friends, family, community projects, and every other Tom, Dick, and Harry who might ask us for something.

I don’t know about you, but I find this exhausting. It makes my soul tired. My body keeps pushing forward, to an extent. I go through the motions, I’m there at all of those things. Making sure that I can check that item off my list, or hit dismiss on my Apple Watch. I do those things to meet my obligations, the obligations of a busy schedule.

But, my mind wanders, it refuses to go through the motions! I want to stay on the couch in my hoodie and veg, I set my alarm to wake up early in order to fit in more and in my sub-awake state shut it off completely when it goes off. I long for the days when I drank coffee because it was delicious and I savored the smell, taste, and ease of enjoying the cup. Remember those days, like back in high-school, when you had a daily planner and it had a few assignments in it for the day, maybe even a note on something you should start, but it’s due for two weeks? You could doodle in your planner or easily ink (not pencil) something in on a whim. Something that was truly something you wanted to do, that you enjoyed and filled you up.

My life is busy. I cringe every time someone asks me how I have been and my answer is, “good, busy.” Many wear the busy badge with honor. They love to talk about how many irons they have in the fire and all of things that keep them going a mile a minute. I love the days that I can say, “great, it’s been very relaxed lately. We’ve been able to enjoy a lot of family time, got outdoors a lot this fall and loved the foliage and crisp air. I’ve taken some time lately to invest in myself and found that writing is an outlet for me, something that really makes me feel inspired. I’ve been working on that in my spare time. And, YES, I have spare time and I’m proud of it!”

Ladies out there, don’t be afraid to say no. It’s ok to opt out of things in order to take care of yourself. You should be able to enjoy your morning coffee and not be running on an all day long coffee drip, no sleep, and a hand full of vitamins in place of meals. Forgive yourself for slowing down and not getting to every single little thing that you “could have done” completed.

Watch your kids laugh, catch that naughty smirk on your husband’s face, notice the changing of the leaves outside, light that candle, enjoy a glass of wine, go ahead and take that nap you so desperately need. Life is short, find the things that fill you up, not the things that make you busy and drain you.

Karla