To Build…

It is Friday and that means I am again linking up with several lovely writers over at Kate’s Five Minute Friday spot!

(If you aren’t familiar, every friday we free-write for just FIVE minutes, prompted by one word. This week’s word is BUILD.)

~

The foundation was shaky, shattered, torn.

I was broken, this I knew.

My heart lived, aimed, at the idea of a family and a home. My seventeen year old daydreams saw myself with a faceless husband doing household chores in a sleeveless t-shirt, laughing with a laugh which melted my heart. I imagined no lavish excess, just a simple roof over our heads and three beautiful faceless children. I knew they were two girls and one boy, and I knew that although I could not see their faces, this feeling they pricked deep within my core was the motivation for everything.

I sat, in a breakdown. Devastated, exhausted and so damaged from break-on-top-of-break, of my scarred girl heart. That dream propelled me forward, daring to believe there had to be something more than abandonment and loss.

And there was.

It may not have been how I had thought it would be, and it certainly was not all roses and sunset kisses, once I got there, but I did build a life, despite that terrible foundation. I learned the pain, and the redemption, in tearing out that foundation and laying a new, truth-bricked one in its place.

Together, that man (whose laugh I had dreamed up at seventeen) and I built a home. It was not composed of roof tiles and painted walls, but rather a space that moved wherever we did, warmth and rich in unconditional love, support and the freedom to grow as we needed.

This home was everything neither of us had known, as children, and just what we had needed.

~

(My inspiration for this piece is the song To Build a Home by The Cinematic Orchestra. It is beautiful and it deserves a listen.)

She sparks joy…

February feels a lot like these sun-rays, peeking out from behind this tree. Is it time yet? She softly asks, and with a resounding YES, we who are Janu-weary come together and urge February out of hiding…

The thing is, even though I am now a resident of Pennsylvania, I’ll be honest- I don’t believe in that groundhog or what silly weather fears that the men in tall, outdated hats project on it. Leave it alone already, men in hats! It is TOO MUCH PRESSURE. Will there be more winter? ok. Will Spring come early? ok. (I’m pretty disinvested in the answers to these questions, except that the answer seems to be “spring”, so I might be a little more interested in things now.) More times than I can muster up the energy to count, I have heard “no snow in the forecast” and gone outside an hour later to see three fresh, sparkly inches blanketing the ground. Likewise, I have heard “rain showers for the next three days.” and spent the very next day hiking in sunshine.

Being a weatherman might just be the best job ever, you get to just make stuff up, be proven wrong and not only will you still get a salary, but people will still flock to listen to you… EVERY. Single. time…

Let’s be real- It’s going to do what it’s going to do. If they are warning of something catastrophic, or at the very least preparation worthy, I’ll prepare. But I won’t stress. It’s weather… TOTALLY beyond my control. Beyond anyone’s control… (Pennsylvania Hat Men, do you hear me? ANYONE’s control…)

I took a slight ranty detour there. I apologize. FEBRUARY… I, along with everyone else in the masses, am so happy to see her. Even though it’s still coldish, even though February often shows us that winter isn’t even close to done yet, it is.

If you’ve read here for long, you’ll know that while I don’t really put a lot of stock in Valentines Day, I habitually believe in giving Valentines. I don’t want an expensive gift from my husband, but I do love the excuse for a fun date. I don’t need a box full of cards and chocolate (or any) to validate my worth- but as a gift-giver by nature (and a hand written letter lover) I look for any reason to share love and so, I can’t hate the day completely. (as a Valentine to you, please accept this wallpaper download, this cellphone wallpaper download and this perfectly curated February playlist. These and much more were in my February newsletter, and if you didn’t already know that- then you should probably sign up so you don’t miss stuff! XO)

But also, in her handy bag of luggage, February brings beautiful flowers in the supermarkets, more sunshine (even if it’s bitter out), later sunsets, less days til March, better movie releases, fun tv events like the Superbowl (don’t care) and the Oscars (DO CARE), and countless little milestones to get us through spring. (These little milestones help us get to the next thing, unlike January, which just offers us this blank expanse of blustery cold depression and misery which drags on and on and on, forever.) Personally I find myself more inspired creatively, and more motivated all around. Helloooo, February! 

What am I planning to do, this month, with all of my new found inspiration/motivation?

  • bake Valentine sugar cookies (since the plague made me miss Christmas cookies)
  • order prints to fill my empty frames.
  • a fun/fancy date night with my love.
  • a fun brunch date.
  • mail hand written Valentines.
  • work on a creative project.
  • Michigan weekend.
  • get my hair done.
  • emerge from winter and connect with new people.

What are your plans, for these 28 days?

The darkness and the spice…

Some months really have the effect of reflecting back over their days and feeling like they themselves lasted a year. This month has been one of those...

Like many, I began the month with goals and plans. I set off January pretty proactively, despite still feeling under the weather. While there were things I put off until I felt better, for the most part I forged forward. One of the lessons that this month held for me what that I am not guaranteed to feel better, no matter how many “right things” I do to ensure it. (thanks, January! You’re a pal.) My list, written in terrible script on my kitchen chalkboard, looked like this…

  • get set up with a trainer and ready to get back into a fitness center routine.
  • reorganize my spice storage.
  • jump back in to The Collective podcast stuff, after a couple of months off.
  • make progress writing on my memoir.
  • learn to do something new.
  • make a pot of homemade soup and a loaf of scratch, crusty bread.
  • establish a weekly evening tradition.
  • continue adjusting to my husband’s non-traveling schedule.

Oh, friends…

Ohhhh, friends…

I could write it a third time, but I still feel like it wouldn’t be enough. There are so many quippy things that one can say about “best laid plans”.

  • I DID! (even feeling crappy!) And it was great, until said trainer had me do an exercise that I felt strongly I should not do. I pulled a muscle, caused major stress to my (bad, seemingly 80-year-old) hip. Good times…
  • I’m sure you’ve seen Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix. While this was already a (desperately needed) goal, her show made me come face to face with the realization that how I had my tiny little cottage kitchen set up was NOT working. I was avoiding it because I felt helpless about how to fix it. Too much stuff/too little space, but try as we might, C and I could not get rid of anything else. We’d downsized so significantly and what remained was essential. It was a bleak 10 day attack. Stress and frustration became my new kitchen decor theme, (shout out to any of you 90’s young homemakers and the need to have a “theme”) and my husband began scripting funny comedy sessions about the ever evolving state of the kitchen. I insta-storied my low moments… It was truly, truly bad. But guess what? My spices are the best their going to get and the entire kitchen really is MUCH better.
  • done and done! We trouble shot some technical things, I connected with other podcasters. We started a Patreon and are REALLY excited about what’s down the road!
  • I did. Not as much as I’d hoped, but I am really proud of what I did put to paper.
  • FAIL. EPIC FAIL.
  • Done. Winter and soup are really the perfect couple. Well, and fresh, crusty bread plays a part, so I guess perhaps the perfect thruple?
  • For the month of January we settled on Fridays and began the routine of unplugging, grabbing carry-out for dinner and renting a movie. We LOVED it… Will it continue? I think so, at least on the Fridays we can.
  • You would be surprised how actually difficult this is…

So, there you go… a little account of my significantly flawed person, in this odd little month.

My truly biggest January lesson/revelation was that while I felt significantly depressed pretty often, I wasn’t alone. I would utter those words to a friend, and hear an emphatic agreement that they too were feeling depressed. This happened several times, and I was surprised, comforted and a little less heavy with each occurrence. It is a little ironic that the very idea of being bravely transparent and then accepting that you aren’t alone is the premise behind my podcast and yet, here I am going WOW! This REALLY works!

This month I read several books, but the book that I really connected with the most was In Pieces, by Sally Field. Truly raw and transparent pages chronicling not only the highest and the darkest moments of her life, but also her own flawed perceptions and reactions. Never soapboxing, Sally simply shares her truths. It was a brave undertaking, and it resonates.

A few things that I unexpectedly fell a little in love with, this month, were the American version of The Masked Singer on Fox, (I am actually pretty good at guessing, and their masks did NOT give me the nightmares I feared, so this is a win!); the film Juliet, Naked, (which I really, really loved and did not expect to even like it!) and this recipe for sheet pan shrimp fajitas. (I thought it would be ok, but we both loved it so much! It was so easy and so delicious!)

The only thing that didn’t really work this month, (other than my continued pursuit of cold medicine, and my waste-of-time new (now ex) physician) was that, in an effort to connect with other women locally, I bought a ticket for a ridiculous book club. The price seemed so extreme ($29) but the original description had made it seem like it came with the book, tapas & beverages at the venue (wine and craft coffee beverages) and so I thought it was worth a try. I received the book in the mail, (not a super great book and seriously the length of a pamphlet) and a little note talking about the food and beverages costing extra. I emailed the organizer to clarify my confusion and it was true, the ticket price simply included the book and (her words) the privilege of coming. Hmmm.

Wasted my time reading the book, wasted my money and decided I simply didn’t want to go waste my time at the actual meeting so I skipped it. You win some, you lose some. This was a definite lose…

How did your January play out? Did it pair nicely with your own goals?

What were your bests? (and equally important, was there something you tried that simply did not work?)

Girl talk…

On the rare occasion that I log onto facebook, I usually end up feeling sad because of those silly little reminders from six, ten or however many years ago. It isn’t that I am now a miserable sow, but it is a truth I have long since accepted that my life turned upside down in 2012, and in a lot of ways it never recovered. As the years have passed,  new normals have formed. Not everything is all bad.

Sometimes the sadness simply lives in the differences.

One of the differences is that our home, pre-March of ’13, was always full. There were always bodies there, fun, laughter, and love. Always. Holidays were the moments I lived for. We hosted parties throughout the year, entertained guests on a whim, and just really lived a full life.

Post the big shift, this hasn’t been a truth we know. There is a very haunting sadness about that, and I think in so many ways we just really want that again, even if it is with different people.

Another truth is that I really miss my friends back home. It hasn’t been a lack of effort in making new kindred connections, in the years that have passed, but a bit of isolation has remained the theme…

When we moved to Pennsylvania, a few months ago, I hadn’t even unpacked before I was putting myself out there in search of friendship. Over the 5.5 years that had passed, my comfort zone had become a thing of the past. (It’s safe to say that is a good thing.) In a giant twist of irony, though I started off on a good foot, I then acquired the forever-long-virus-from-hell  and have now been sick seventy percent of the time I’ve lived here.

A couple of weeks ago I was having a video team meeting with other ladies for the podcast, and a truth struck me- as much as I love each one of those girls, and would rather be hanging out and laughing with them in person- if I’d had a fulfilling social calendar, this podcast would not exist.

It took my rock-bottom and gut-wrenching loneliness to put me in a place where this project bloomed from. It was existing in that space that put me face to face with women who needed to share their stories, and let’s be honest, it probably required me to be in that frame of lonely context to be able to really listen.

I absolutely LOVE doing this show. Are our mics more outdated than they should be? Sure. Are we learning as we go? Yes. Because of the format we record, (over the internet) do connections sometime get faulty? Yes they do. It doesn’t matter though, because we are engaging in real life, about real life.

This week is the airing of our twenty fifth episode. (Due to a misalignment it is MARKED 24th, but the 25th aired two weeks ago. See? No polished process here, because it’s run by normal and unpolished people. I dig it.)  Twenty Five is a beautiful milestone and I am so grateful! On the front end of this journey, I had low expectations and high frustrations. I was willing to undergo this experiment but was also fairly certain it would be super short-lived. What happened next was nothing I ever imagined… The show meant something. Women rose up and said “no! We need to keep this going, it matters,” when it looked like it might be over. And it is true, it does matter. For every woman we meet, in an episode, who bravely shares her story, there are roughly six more who write in. This show matters. Women from England and Australia reach out to talk about episodes that struck them and I’m left here asking how in the world, in the past 40 weeks, this show has traveled so far?

From the very beginning I have said that whoever is supposed to be a part of the show, and whoever is supposed to listen, will. I’ll do my part, this amazing group of women will do theirs, and this show will do what it needs to do. That formula surprisingly works.

In the end, I may not have a friend to catch a movie with, but I get to video chat amazing women all over the world, walking alongside them through hard, dark things and celebrating with them in the beautiful ones. There isn’t a movie in the world worth exchanging for this…

Twenty five episodes in, I just wanted to thank you for your support. If you’re reading this and in the dark, I really hope you’ll tune in. I’ve loved the journey of the past couple dozen episodes, but I am really excited about the things we have down the road. Travel it with us?

Poptart theology…

There are no adequate words to express to you just how much I love PopTarts. Well, more accurately, how much I love frosted Strawberry PopTarts. I actually do not care for any other flavor of store bought “toaster pastry” at all, and really only like PopTart when it comes to strawberry. (I do also really enjoy Toaster Strudel cherry, but do not like cherry PopTart or Strawberry Toaster Strudel. I’m a complex girl.)

I went several years avoiding this silly (terrible for you) “breakfast” treat because of the very reason I just mentioned: the are TERRIBLE for you! (All hail the 80’s childhood, where a bowl of sugary cereal became a balanced breakfast once you added a PopTart or toast with jam and a cup of fake orange mystery named after both sunshine and happiness…) Then, a couple of years ago I was sent an article about the top tips for managing a life with Fibromyalgia and one of them was to keep a container by your bedside with easy to eat “comfort foods” for bad flare days, and the TOP suggestion was POPTARTS! This exclusively gave me permission to add them to my grocery cart on my next super market trip. They’ve been making a regular, though not constant, appearance ever since.

I’ll let you in on a few secrets though… First, when PopTarts are in the house, they are my go-to “food”. I’ve never been a big breakfast maker, for just myself, though I have top notch intentions. So, when all of a sudden, late in the morning I realize that I am painfully hungry, what is easiest and handy? PopTart! Hours later I forget all intentionality when it comes to lunch and am once again feeling those terrible hunger pains- PopTart to the rescue. Evening snack? Yep, pretty sure you see where this is headed. Suddenly my box of 12 is gone, never a space-packet of their tasty evil making it to my bedside, which is best because I’d just eat them in bed while Chw was trying to sleep and this is a nightmare of different proportions…

The other day the husband accompanied me to the supermarket and it was by sheer accident that we ended up in the PopTart isle, noticing they were on sale. Here is the conversation that ensued…

M- the 12 count is $2.50. That’s pretty good, right?

C- yes, because the 8 count is $3 Who does the math here?

M- Aren’t you buying an 8 count of Raspberry ones for work?

C- yes. I’ve never had them and they sound like a nice snack. (in all fairness, half the box will be gone by APRIL. this is exactly how PopTarts should be eaten, if they must.)

M- well then I guess it doesn’t matter WHO does the math, because most of the flavors only come in 8 count so people will buy them anyway.

C- you can go through them pretty quick. (yeah. thanks.) I wonder, what about these? (he points to “healthier” options.

M- those are $4 for 8!

C- but they are healthier for you.

M- They are gross.

C- so you’d eat less of them.

M- I’ll just get the 12 count. Remember, they ARE the best Fibro food.

C- I think it’s more like they are the easiest Fibro Flare food, not the best. (here he notices something on the bottom shelf.) What about this 36 count for $6?

M- WHAT?!?!?! That’s a good deal! (no, misty. NO IT ISN’T. This is NOT REAL FOOD…)

C- it is less expense in the long run. Do you want to get them?

I really pondered this, you guys… and here is where the moral of this whole ridiculously humiliating (but pathetically honest) post culminates in something resembling a point:

M- no. No. I mean, I DO want to get them, but I can’t. I can’t because then I will just eat them, and I don’t need to eat 36 PopTarts.

C- I wish they had Raspberry in the 12 count. (notice here how he’s wishing for MORE of the “pastry” he has NEVER tasted, simply on the faith of my own devotion and the not repulsiveness of my PopTarts)

M- I mean, at least we are choosing healthier PopTarts, right? We could be buying the 12 or 36 count of Hot Fudge Sundae or Smores flavor.

C- That’s totally true.

Why?!?!? What is wrong with me? First of all, I completely befell to PopTart shaming, which should be beneath me. More importantly, I was absolutely willing to give myself the frank boundary of not having a ridiculous number of handheld garbage to consume, and pat myself on the back for such a decision. YET- yet I wasn’t willing to not buy them, or buy them for the very reason I allowed them into my diet again in the first place… AND FURTHERMORE why was I wanting to congratulate myself on the fact that at least I wasn’t consuming the crappier crap.

In high school, walking home one day I turned to my best friend (who incidentally was a guy) “I know I’m overweight, but am I as fat as that girl walking ahead of us?” Emphatically, lovingly and protectively he assured me that of course I was not. Of the thousands of lifetime conversations this person and I have had, this is one of the ones that sticks near top of my memory bank. The truth is that his words were meaningless. His guarantee was filtered through his care for me and my feelings, not fact. I asked him because I knew this truth, even if I didn’t want to admit it. (I was a terrible person for asking it in the first place. What did it matter?)

Maybe we are all guilty of allowing “a little to a moderate amount” of garbage in, but standing resolute that the line is drawn and no more, beyond that.

Maybe we allow someone to verbally abuse us, but determine we will not allow physical violence. At least my boyfriend doesn’t hit me like Sally’s does

At least I’m not covered in bruises like she is…

Sure, my husband goes out for drinks with female coworkers even though he knows it hurts me, but at least he comes home

Extreme comparisons aside- it is an unhealthy pattern that I see woven throughout SO MANY areas of my life. Just a little, but at least it’s not this kind/much/blah blah blah.

We have to stop.

Loving myself does not mean limiting my PopTarts to when they are on sale alone, it might just mean deciding my body is better than any PopTarts at all. Now Chw with his box of 8 that will last him 3-6 months- he’s ok with the occasional indulgence. He’s good on the PTs, he doesn’t seem to have a problem. Me? I’m pretty great with having anything else around, but put a box of those within my reach and my next meal will be a guarantee.

What is your “PopTart”? (we’ve all got something… something we expect ourselves to tolerate and settle for.)

{oh hey, by the way! Have you listened to the latest episode of the Collective Podcast? This week is a GREAT one! And If you wouldn’t mind, could you please subscribe and give us a rating? We will love you forever! xoxo}