Lessons in Summer…

And officially, August is behind us.

Back in the day there used to be a seasonal “What I Learned” blog link up, and even though those days are long gone, as I attempt to regain some sense of routine and productivity, I decided keeping track of “what I learned” this summer would be a healthy practice.

With the June-August block of time fittingly in our rear view mirror, I thought I would sit down and take some time to share those things with you.

to slow…

This Covid year had already given us a crash course in slowing, but as the world began to (sort of) reopen, and many people attempted to return to the way they remembered life, before the Pandemic, my summer took me deeper. This slowing, in the warm and muggy summer months felt more of my own doing.

Hammocks and afternoons reading on the porch became luxuries that I could embrace rather than just WISHING I could, because I was so busy all of the time.

Tall glasses of sun tea, and late dinners of grilled fish and vegetables became a standard that we could enjoy because we were present in those moments.

Slow=Present. Connected.

to substitute…

This summer we experienced the major malfunction of our fridge/freezer, costing us a lot of groceries. We can’t really afford to replace it, so we’ve had to be creative about how we place items in it. It’s been fun.

Simultaneously, our most used appliance died. THAT loss hurt. Thankfully we love the company and they replaced it, even out of warranty, though it did take 4 weeks to happen.

In the midst of that four week span of time, our actual oven died.

I say all of this to show that, in a time when we were not wanting to “run to the supermarket” continuously, and our means of meal making was challenging the very way we did things, we learned to substitute.

One silly example: I learned that though I love guacamole on so many things, the walmart brand of single serving guac is actually delicious, affordable and keeps longer than the larger ones I would usually by or make.

That is just one little example of the many ways we learned to adapt amidst the challenges. What we found, now that we are on the other side of that, is that sometimes it’s ok to take the “shortcut” and substitute. We don’t HAVE to make things harder to meet other people’s expectations.

to ask…

June kicked of as emotions were newly high over the murder of George Floyd. All over the internet there was activism, support, and black out challenges to support not only the Black Lives Matter movement, but to continue waking up the world re: the realities of systemic racism and injustice.

Inspired by the Share The Mic Now campaign (of which Glennon Doyle was a founder), I wanted to be involved in something that made a difference. After digging around, and watching others take to social media with similar campaigns focussed within their passion/career field, I was encouraged to launch a Share The Mic Now campaign for writers, and so I did.

At first it was TERRIFYING.

Growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s, I was taught that colorblind is the response of a non-racist. To accept all skin colors, you have to be blind to them. I was taught you do not ask someone questions about their ethnicity. So even though amazingly courageous conversations were happening (finally) re: how absolutely WRONG that mentality is, it was still a part of my core. I felt SICK approaching other women and asking them to participate in something BECAUSE they are Black.

But I asked… And almost everyone did.

And then, four weeks later, we did it again.

And the experience CHANGED MY LIFE. The biggest way it did this is that it stripped away a wall and created very organic connection between women. Through those adventures I got to know some of the most beautiful and amazing fellow writers. I am so proud to call them peers, and grateful to consider many of them friends.

We have had some hard talks. I have learned (and am continuing to) so much. Connecting with other female authors is empowering and life breathing…

to continue…

Through that experience I learned something else too…

Early on, in June, when I was witnessing the online community ON FIRE over the injustice, while the real world burned too, I heard several prominent Black speakers say that the “support of white people is nice and needed” but that they couldn’t trust it, because they’d seen it before and it always faded when something else shiny and new came around.

I was shocked.

I had said I would read and listen and learn, and I was.

I had committed to placing myself in uncomfortable situations for change, and I was following through.

I didn’t ever remember seeing anything like this happen before so I truly believed this was the pivotal point when eyes (and hearts) would be opened. I wasn’t able to see things as so many Black Americans could, because I am white. This isn’t meant to be shaming, and yet, I began to see how so many react as though it is…

The more I learned, the more my vision fine tuned. I was (and still am) changing. There is no going back. It took a little while for me to realize the majority was not changing with me.

People went back to their normal lives, and the spotlight dimmed. It was subtle, but I woke up to this reality like a slap to the face, when a fellow believer verbally attacked me over a social media post. She told me I “was what was wrong with this country” because I believed this was a cause worth fighting for. That i needed to “shut up” and let people go on to their normal lives. The post in question had been someone else’s. I had shared it in a “story” suggesting it was, if nothing else, thought provoking.

Within a week I had women from the Collective Community pouring out very similar stories. We were all sick over A) the disgusting responses of people we had once considered “ours”, and B) so heartbroken because what we had seen was merely a fragment’s fragment of what generations of Black men, women and children have felt constantly. Sobering.

It’s so easy to be swept up in something meaningful, when the whole world is floating that current. When the bend comes, and we have to go it mostly alone, against the water’s strong push- it’s a whole other thing.

Continue. The best news, despite hurt and sadness, is that we find new people we can call “ours”, and those people are way more ours than the ones who came before.

to adapt…

With all of our slow, extra time, we were able to do some things we hadn’t had time to do before. One was finally putting in an outdoor movie space. We’d wanted to do this since we moved here in September of 2018. We had slowly acquired the items needed and even attempted it last summer. We couldn’t figure out how to do it well, plus we were so busy…

But this summer we did it, and it’s amazing! Neighbors love it. We’ve had friends over and they love it. Hands down, the highlight of our summer!

When our local theater opened, last week, we lucked into some passes. Pre-Covid, we were AVID movie goers. We love movies, loved the experience. It was just “our thing”. In fact, we were at the theater two days before they went on lockdown, because I was doing some presswork for a small release. Coronavirus was already a major topic, and we left that screening terrified we were about to die. In the small, packed theater we had fellow patrons coughing here and there, and the energy among us all was stiff and rigid. As the credits rolled, I remember thinking “I feel like this was emotional and I should be crying, but honestly I just want to get the hell out of here!”

With our free passes, we braved going back last friday afternoon. It was weird. We were actually the only two people there, and had no anxiety about anything. We just didn’t love it. It felt long and uncomfortable. We realized that, although going to the movies had been such a big part of our lives, we hadn’t really missed it. We each admitted that our home theater is so much more fun.

We were both surprised…

What about you? What did this summer teach you?

brink…

It was the September of my 20th year when the combination of feel and scent in the air took me back, ala’ movie montage moment, to so many Septembers past. High school Septembers, Jr. High autumn evenings. Flooding, internally, from one to the next.

When I was thirteen, I declared I would one day have a daughter and name her September. It turns out that I neither had a daughter, nor named a child (or pet) that. I do not regret this, just so we’re clear.

All in all, if we were keeping score, September probably shouldn’t be a favorably definitive month for me. It was when school years began, and growing up I was not a lover of school. September marked my first full month as a group home kid, when I was 12.

It carried me into my two definitive adolescent romances, which led, in different ways, to deeply broken hearts…

It also, in fairness, introduced me to my husband, when I was seventeen. That September nearly killed me, as I dealt with a health crisis of extreme proportions, which may (or may not- we will never know) have led to my inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Pretty much nothing, at all, was going remotely ok that September, but in walked Chw and I knew that the two of us would be married, so for that I will declare September 1993 a victory.

A year later, September would bring us full circle, to a horrific miscarriage.

Why it stands out to me that Septembers marked more loss than gain, I’ll never know. Sometimes my biggest gifts (I met each of the kids I loved like a mother loves, in Septembers. First, 2000 and then 2003.) Beautiful gifts, further falling in love and inevitable heartbreak.

Shattering.

Destroyed irreparably.

September…

Two of my three beloved dog besties were laid to rest in Septembers.

My husband left me for another woman in September. Though we reconciled two years later, that first September had us glued to the tv as planes hit the towers and we gained perspective unlike we’d ever had before.

SO MANY milestones of trauma mark the ninth calendar month, of the year.

And still… still, I find myself to be a lover of September. The autumn air ushers in this crisp scented magic, and I am here for it.

This year’s janky calendar had hoards of people unable to wait for summer, because summer would fix the world.

Then it didn’t.

And now, now people are chasing after pumpkins, and spice and new sweaters earlier than ever, with a misplaced faith in this next season bringing the reset needed to right the world.

I don’t know… Maybe it will. September has proven to be a magical and tricky beast. These Sept’s of past have been known to bring about some incredibly unexpected gifts- I’ll just caution us all to be weary.

Whatever these days actually hold, (and let’s be honest- it’s 2020, September could bring us ANYTHING!) I’m pretty certain we will arrive at the first of October scathed in someway.

For all of us, I hope it is a beautiful healing way… A restorative way.

I’m cautious, but also here for it. Despite the track record, I’m a September girl through and through…

what i learned…

One of my first ever, favorite blogs belonged to Emily P. Freeman, way back in the early days. I still read and follow her, and find such value in this voice she has developed.

For a long time now, she has sat aside space to share what life’s seasons have taught her, issuing the challenge to her readers as well, and occasionally I have. One of the things I am trying to do, this year, is be more intentionally about noticing, breathing, and using this space for such. Reflecting on the winter months of this year seams like a great place to start… Here’s what I’ve learned-

1.} I overcomplicate…

A simple conversation, with a woman whom I respect and value so much, led to the “official” coming together of a group of like-valued women, on a regular basis. While it is mastermind-esque, it is something different too. From the first moment it was clear that this was an important, nurturing and vital space.

For a very long time I’ve dreamed of being a part of something like that, but I have stayed quiet, within that dream. It seemed too big… impossible…not for me. And yet, one silly afternoon conversation became this unboxable thing. While I like to think it hadn’t happened before because life was waiting for us to come together, in that exact moment, I have to admit that I stand in my way a lot. I overcomplicate things, believing they are far bigger than they are… When we get hide inside our thoughts, we miss out…

2.} sometimes over-complication looks like…

Avoidance.

I was playing an odd “dance” with my memoir, for awhile now. I would lose myself in it, for a season, and then when I needed breath I would pull out, and avoid it.

Over and over again.

I am practicing boundaries within my work. Self care through the hard things. Sometimes this is a walk, while other times it may look like losing an afternoon to a shallow book.

3.} I might be a bar person…

My husband is from an alcoholic family, and so our only (shared) experience of people who hang out at bars, stemmed from that. If someone had told me they were a “bar person”, I would instantly picture a falling-down-drunk person, or an intoxicated-fist-fights person. To be honest, I think my imagery may have been heavily influenced by movies and tv too…

But the thing is, there is something really special about finding a spot that feels like yours. I place that is not home, where you can sit with your spouse and just breathe. Take in the live music, maybe dance a little, and enjoy the company of friends.

4.} If you look, you WILL find it…

In my line of work, I have a lot of women who confide in me that they are desperate for a community of women who see them, love them and find value in them. This is an ache I identify with. Much of my adulthood looked just like that…

We are so fortunate to live in an era where there are worldwide, online communities, connecting people with commonalities, 24/7. It is amazing really. I’ve known this, but it wasn’t until this particular season when I really had my eyes opened to the powerhouse of community that we can become a part of, through social media.

5.} Five minutes here, really helps…

I have lived a majority of my adult life procrastinating the more tedious “chores”, in life, pushing it until I had more time… These same columns of tasks would travel, from day to day, on my agenda. Whenever my eyes would land on them, I would feel equal parts shame and guilt. My negative self talk would chime in with words like lazy.

It didn’t seem to matter that there may have been 73 tasks on a particular days list, and I accomplished all but the Tedious Four, that rolled over, yet again. LAZY, I’d think. Lazy? SMH.

Then I began to realize a few minutes today, does make it easier. It sounds so simple, but I just didn’t get it. Its like I’m finally growing up!

6.} it is ok to say “no”…

As I transitioned through December, and into the start of this year, there were a few areas of life that I had to strongly evaluate. Things that I was a part of, that were only leading to overwhelm.

The guilt was HUGE, as I cut those commitments. There were people who were disappointed, but I had to acknowledge that I was allowed to choose things to fill my time that kept me on the path I needed to be on. Maybe, to outsiders, this sounds selfish.

In truth, I needed to be free to invest myself in my biggest priorities. Being spread too thin meant that nothing was getting enough of me.

What did you learn, during this winter? {Also, have you entered to win two Fandango movie tickets? The winner will be chosen tomorrow.)

today’s good thing…

Happy Monday!

Today is February 10th, which happens to (oddly enough) be National Umbrella Day. If you’ve been around me long, you know that this girl LOVES all things umbrella. Today was made for me!

The other thing I love, (honestly, more than umbrellas) is the joy that I have in engaging and being a part of this beautiful community of women that has blossomed out of the Collective Podcast. I consider myself so blessed, every single day! Just last night, I fell asleep thanking God for this gift of knowing these AMAZING women. My life is honestly better, because of them.

I am really passionate about supporting others. If you are on my email list then you certainly got an earful, on this topic, in February’s note. (eyeful? earful? Whatever…) The bottom line, in case you missed it, (and why? You really should sign up, you’re missing out!) is that we should be supporting our artists and creatives. The internet is filled with content, like blog posts, photos, inspiration, podcast episodes, videos, etc, of these people who pour pieces of themselves into this content FOR FREE, simply because it is in their blood.

In our blood.

In MY blood.

It takes actual hard work to put these things together, and since they are passion projects, there is no paycheck sitting there, come friday.

Moral of the story, support your creatives! We all NEED beautiful things around us, and we will definitely see a lot more value in our investment if we offer it to them, over the big box, corporate greed. Just a few reminders, and some suggestions…

Here is a link to the Collective Patreon.

Here is the link to Buy Me a Coffee.

These are both ways to support me, without it costing you much.

Listening the podcast will not cost you anything but time, well spent, and it helps TREMENDOUSLY! Subscribing, rating and sharing it is so helpful! We all know women who can benefit from the stories, experiences and community of others…

I also have an Amazon storefront, and JUST added three fun shops for spring and Lit lovers…

Beyond me though, there is the Personal ShopHER Directory of women who own small artisan businesses. Have some shopping to do? Continue looking there first!

These are all AWESOME ways to help support me as I write and continue to move forward, connecting with and empowering women within the Collective community- sure. But, we all know creatives- from indie authors, to painters, photographers to musicians. Dream along with them, and help them create big! Each and every person, in this world, needs a team of strong believers supporting them and helping them out! As we watch the news and feel overwhelmed with the sadness around us- this is one practical and easy way we can make a huge impact for change.

On trend…

I am an enneagram four. It is literally NOT in my wiring to follow a trend. Growing up, seeking love, I might have dabbled in a music or apparel style only to get all cringy when I realized I simply could not commit. All of those weird 90’s kids, angsty and flannel clad, wearing our docs or converse, listening to music that made us FEEL- we were the real kids in America… The kids who didn’t want to follow the pattern, or color inside the lines. Most of us were Fours, only we didn’t know what that meant then. We found confidence (usually) in our need to find our own rhythms, and we found immense value in accepting all of the other “freaks” who weren’t trend followers either. We also, I’ll admit, still likely felt as though we were on the outside, always looking in; on the brink, but never really belonging…

When I was a young wife I developed a deep affection for Classic Pooh things. They were artistic and obscure little trinkets, hard to find, with steep price tags, when we did stumble upon them. Just before I turned twenty-three, a trend was emerging where every adult woman in the world wanted Disney store apparel themed in Classic Pooh. Dish-sets emerged, followed by entire kitchen ware collections, and household decorations, of the gently sketched little bear and his friends. Honestly, I was lived. Ironically, I was also on the verge of a shift, so as much as I may have wanted this trend to matter and wound my consistent strive for individuality- it didn’t.

When I feel in love with that sweet little bear, I was in this stage of my life where I deeply wanted a baby. In the way that I have always designed and decorated a room, within my mind, I imagined a nursery filled with unique little treasures featuring the gang. Those classically drawn images represented all things innocent and nurturing. They seemed to embody a heart full of aching, and my desperate need to hold my baby in my arms. As time passed, with each miscarriage I endured, the room filling my mind became more intentional. Whenever I’d stumble upon a new piece, I’d buy it, whether I could afford it or not. These were the things that I could do to control my shattering spirit. It wasn’t ever about Disney or trends, or anything other than the symbolism of something imaginary come to life- something cuddly and so incredibly love-able. My heart’s desire…

My seventh miscarriage had me so incredibly disheartened with doctors. It was the 90’s, and while women’s health medicine is still filled with frustration and horror stories, that decade really had this special way of making a woman feel like a complete piece of crap when she managed to have any fertility problems at all. (I have horror stories. I have small surgical procedures in a hospital hallway, by an eager (almost giddy) male doctor, while I was given no anesthesia or pain killer… I have football sized blood clots slapping onto a hospital floor, with a nurse saying “well, that happens! Hopefully the baby is there so we can be done with this and you can get some rest.”, I have promises of how I “definitely will not be losing this baby”, from the experts, while I sat miscarrying 3 hours later. The brutal times were significantly impacted, for the worse, by the medical industry of the time.) Each loss experience was completely different from the others. It is one of those bizarre, indescribable things… And so, when that stick showed a plus sign, in the autumn of 1998, I swore I would not see a doctor until I knew I was halfway through.

You see, in that same way that I was attempting to will God to give me a baby by creating a space for said baby to live, I was needing to blame someone for the lack of babies, thus far. The doctors seemed like the obvious common denominator in each messed up instance. No one would argue that they were not to blame for some terrible things. All of the people consuming my support network, at the time, would also wager that these doctors really did not care about me, my vagina or my future motherhood. The ambivalence with which I was handled was sickening… So, I blamed the doctors and I stayed away.

I ate saltines, took prenatal vitamins, and relished in the mornings I spent on my knees over the toilet. Everyone loved to reaffirm that the morning sickness was a good sign. The breast swelling came once again, the only consistent symptom with my pregnancies before. We slid gently into 1999, and my baby bump was slowly rounding. I had made it, I knew. This was it, finally. We found a highly recommended specialist, for at risk pregnancies, and I reluctantly agreed to see him. (By my rustic calculations I should have been 19-21 weeks along.)

It turns out that hormones are an odd duck. I wasn’t pregnant. My baby bump was a lovely nerf-football sized tumor, which had consumed an entire ovary and made a gigantic mess in my entire uterine area. The rise in some sort of something (this is how well I get science) had convinced my endocrine system that I was pregnant, and so symptoms mimicked pregnancy. It all sounded VERY Twilight Zone and I just knew the doctor was lying, and had disappointingy joined the big conspiracy against my babies, but eventually had to realize this was true. On a Wednesday night, in late January, I downed my first every peach bellini, and the next morning they sliced me open to bring that fat tumor into the world. I lost all of one ovary and a portion of the other.

Then March came, and I turned twenty-three. We had a big party, with a lot of friends, and I wore a denim Winnie the Pooh jumper as we paid a 90’s arm-and-a -leg for glow bowling. My white stitching was radiant beneath the black lights and while our beautiful friends were celebrating that I was alive, I wanted nothing more than the opposite. The doctor had said I could try and have a baby in the following year, but that the condition would happen again, and next time I’d probably lose everything. He had been encouraging, and internally I questioned how I hadn’t already lost everything. I didn’t understand how each bloody puddle that I’d sat broken in, upon ice-cold tile floors were so insignificant to everyone else. Hadn’t they been everything? Hadn’t those little heartbeats at least been something? The world was encouraging. Everyone acted like this had somehow solved the mystery of why I couldn’t carry a baby, and suddenly all roads pointed to a child of my own. I knew they didn’t. I knew that it was over. I couldn’t celebrate. I couldn’t find the happy, there within my inadequacy. I couldn’t have anything to do with that silly old bear again.

Just as the trend swept the nation…

I am an enneagram four. I feel things deeply. I process. I grieve. I march to my own rhythm, never following a trend. I, by nature, feel like an outsider aching to be a part of something. I couldn’t have a baby.

I got swept up in the fastest growing trend among American women…

I am an infertility and miscarriage survivor, and this is my story. One story, lost in the sea of millions.

(On the Collective Podcast this week I come together with four other brave women, vastly different in their own stories. They share their journeys and unexpectedly we find there, despite our differences, the commonalities of of both shame and hope. We find real. We would love for you to hear these stories. This is a safe space if you feel the need to share your own. Here is the link and it is episode 57.)