the little things…

Back in the Fall, my husband and I had planned a mini-weekend trip. We have season passes to a fairly popular amusement park, in Ohio, and decided to spend a Saturday there, and then hit up Costco on Sunday morning, while coming home.We LOVE Costco. Before we moved to Pennyslvania, Costco was our weekly source of organic produce and misc. foods. We miss it, a lot.

Amusement parks are pretty amazing, aren’t they? If you love rides, they are made for you. If you love ridiculously overpriced (and mega unhealthy) fair-style food- ALSO for you. If you love live performances, sometimes random in nature, this is your scene. As an empath and an observer, I love the energy of amusement parks. There is so much adrenaline and thrill induced JOY. Sometimes, simply walking through the park, I am in awe of the priceless memories and moments being made. Countless people, all coming from vastly different places in life, together for something GOOD. I love it!

We were so excited to go! We’d made sure our dog, Elenor was cared for. We made sure we would return from our trip exhausted, but welcomed by a clean home. We had done all of the things that one is supposed to do… As we crawled into bed, the night before, I quietly said something so off-the-wall strange-

“I don’t know if I’m more excited about the amusement park, or Costco!” I had said it to be funny, but it was also true. What I didn’t expect was for my husband’s face to contort into a surprised understanding as he exclaimed “I know! I keep thinking the same thing!”

The first time those words had made their way into my brain, I felt pretty stupid. Warehouse stores are known for being anti-minimalism and promoting a consumer culture of MORE. Neither my husband nor I ascribe to that culture of accumulating simply because. Even so, my brain chided me for being materialistic. My husband is my life partner. We have shared everything over the past twenty-six years, including some pretty hellish experiences, and yet- yet, I found myself hesitant to admit that silly truth, to him.

The next day, we sat in the car for far longer than either of us wanted. Beyond the trip there, the park was shut down due to being over capacity, and this was AFTER we’d sat in bumper to bumper traffic for HOURS, just waiting to get in. We were both working overtime to maintain a sense of patience and adventure, but our will was fading. Oddly enough, the one thing that our forced conversation and banter returned to again and again was our optimism for Costco, the next day. We had connected over something SO silly, and that connection got us through a frustrating time.

Life is hard, and marriage is no exception. We live in a society OBSESSED with wedding culture, but the general attitude of marriage tends to be akin to death. It’s sad really, because, despite how hard it can be, marriage can be rewarding in the way that no other relationship is. There is not another person on the planet I would rather have travelled through the pits of hell with, just like there isn’t anyone else who I would willingly have gone through the stages of hangry with, when it seemed our fun adventure was a bust…

We eventually left the line, and went back to our room. We were disappointed, while each trying to act like it was OK, because it was an adventure. Eventually we made our way to a great little waterfront place for dinner, and as we decided to walk along the twilight pier, after our meal, I noticed headlights on the road leading to the park.

Dare we? I asked… I knew he was frustrated and I was certain he’d say no. Instead he shrugged and said, why not?

We did, and it was really fun! We had five fun filled, night time hours. We met truly fascinating people, each of us having our own stories to share about the day the park shut down. It was an awesome adventure, and we can’t wait to do it again! None of it had gone as planned, but because we opened up to each other (even about the trivial and embarrassing stuff) it went better than we could have imagined. Marriage is like that too… It requires honesty, vulnerability and sticking out the inevitable frustrations. It isn’t easy, but it is SO worth it.

In the end, it is the little things that bring about human connection. The shared interests and experiences. That is the very foundation of our relationships. The big moments matter, but it is the little things that make the life.

If you’re curios, Costco was AMAZING! Equally as fun, (no, I’m not exaggerating) I give it a 10 out of 10.

It’s beginning…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere we go. Most towns, come this part of the year, begin to morph into something straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie. When I was growing up I swear that I remember our town tree being decorating with tin pie pans, and yet believing it was the most gigantic and magical tree in the world. I’ll admit, my memory may be off, re: the pie tins, but it is true that the holiday season really does evoke this sense of magic and wonder in children.

And then, for most of us, that fades away. We chastise ourselves internally, that Christmas is for kids. That it is better with kids. That it is childish. Do you know why, as life-jaded adults, Christmas is better when kids are around? Because we try to absorb the joy and wonder they still hold. And it doesn’t make us any happier, and so a lot of times we get sad.

Guess what? Christmas is for EVERYONE. This season is full of wonderment and magic because the very heart of this season is generosity.

It is the giving of compassion to others.

It is the wrapping of treasures, to give.

It is the baking and creating of special things to share with others.

It is the time most people think about others outside of themselves. Charities receive the most attention…

It is when we open ourselves up to receiving, which is cathartic and honestly pretty difficult to do.

THIS is why the season is magical. When we are children, our only job is to simply witness it all. We see illustrations of this play out in cartoons, storybooks and holiday specials. Living life by the light of a twinkling tree, we are able to capture the magic that is not only unwrapping a mystery adorned in festive paper, but also watching the eyes of loved ones as they open their own gifts. The magic never disappears, honestly it just gets buried beneath the weight of adulthood. The bills, the expenses, the stresses…

The lack of, instead of what is all around. (that’s a line in one of my favorite Christmas movies: Christmas really is all around. Bonus points if you can name that film- although, as Drew Carey used to say- “the points don’t matter.”)

It is beginning to look a lot like a magical time, and already I am hearing so many people FREAKING out. Tinsel triggered stress is a real thing.

While I can’t personally limit your stress, I CAN actually help a little bit. If you don’t subscribe to my email list, then you likely missed a few important announcements. I have three things that might reduce a little bit of your stress load, as we enter into this holiday season. Well, two technical things and then a little thought provoking advice to back up the two things…

1.) I have once again created a holiday gift guide of my favorite things! I do this every year, I know. This guide has helped many of you buy some great gifts, and prompted you to reach out and ask for my help for additional treasures. THIS year, in addition to my guide, I have put together an actual SHOP on Amazon, FILLED with something for literally every age or interest, on your list!

2.) Working alongside very capable and passionate women, I have created the Personal ShopHER directory. This is a growing directory of small, women owned, online businesses. This directory is ever growing so I encourage you to keep checking it out! (And currently the Beauty Counter link is gifting a free gift with every purchase, but ONLY through November 25th.)

3.) Shopping in these ways really captures the holiday giving season. Whether it is the Amazon storefront or the women in the Personal ShopHER, each purchase directly benefits a woman who is simply doing her best to build and create a business for herself and her family. Can we say that every time we check out at the big-box store? No, we can’t. As we go into 2020, I know that I am growing increasingly more aware of ethical spending and how frugality seldom leads to the best decision. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but there it is. With solely frugal decisions, everyone loses. When we train ourselves to consider how a purchase might put good into the world, we create something altogether different. Jen Hatmaker used an analogy and I’ll borrow it now:

Say I need a white t-shirt. I could get one for $7, from a big box store, or I could buy a similar one for $67 from a smaller company. Most would choose the $7 one, right? But what if we had the opportunity to trace that shirt back to its origin? (that company back to its origin.) One company likely exploits women and children, basically enslaving them to do back breaking/taxing labor for nominal pay insuring that they produce as MANY of those cheap white t-shirts as possible. These can be the people creating the fabric, the people in the fields, the people sewing…(Important uncomfortable fact: Do you know how many women working in these fields are raped on a regular basis? Here is one example. Google it- there are many. This is an issue even within migrant workers and US agriculture.) In addition, there is the carbon-footprint of the transportation. OR you can have the small company with grassroots origin, who goes out of their way to insure that their products are not only made by adults who are paid fairly, looked out for and not exploited. This then means that children don’t have to work for pennies, and can do things like go to school and play with their friends. They painstakingly brainstorm ways to get the best quality of materiel in the most ethical way. Ethical spending isn’t about getting the LOWEST price, but about getting the BEST price.

Being good stewards of our money means KNOWING where our money is going, it was never meant as a justification for bargain/exploitation. It might be checking out Facebook Marketplace or a local used furniture store, over Walmart, when you need a desk. Maybe a quality built desk from a local carpenter will cost ten times what that particle board desk-in-a-box might, so you have to save your money. Those dollars spent mean so much more than what you give at checkout… We can be charity minded, but we can also simply begin (start small) to think about what we spend, and why. Buying from local and/or small business really does help us to meet our shopping needs while also giving back. Everyone wins.

Magic wrapped joy…

Anyone who truly knows me can attest to the fact that i LOVE gifts. Long before anyone was publishing books about Love Languages, I was enamored by the mystery of a wrapped present. I loved the magic of giving them, even when I clearly knew what was inside. Emotionally, I engaged in the unveiling of the secrets, with the recipient. I am even an absolute fan girl of the empty wrapped gifts meant only to adorn hotel lobbies in December. I don’t know why.

I was just sharing a story, with a friend, about one Christmas when I was a little girl. My grandmother would put her wrapped gifts out weeks before Christmas and I loved looking at each one. While I obviously had a vested interest in the packages with my name on them, I held a pretty committed intrigue to each gift, regardless of who it belonged to. On this particular Christmas, my grandmother had a wrapped gift for me, in the shape of an octagon. It was roughly ten inches long, and octagonal around. I was enchanted. Every empty moment spent at her home, that season, became filled with me sitting cross-legged beneath her tree, that gift in my hands. What WAS it? What could it possibly be? I would rack my brain imagining everything I knew, shaped even remotely similar. I concluded it had to be a candle. A really large, octagon shaped pillar candle. The disappointment of receiving a candle for Christmas was real, but also much smaller than the satisfaction I would obviously feel, come Christmas Eve, when I unwrapped it and had been right.

If gift guessing had been an Olympic sport, I would have gone out for it EVERY SINGLE YEAR… (I also would have been disqualified in ’85 for tearing 2″ pieces off of the back of every present beneath my mom’s tree- the equivalent to “doping”, in this event)

Christmas Eve finally came. Our tamales were eaten, merriment was high and, as the youngest, my time came to begin the unwrapping festivities. I’m sure you will be surprised to learn that the amazing mystery gift was not a candle. In fact, it was two Barbie boxes taped together. (because Barbie boxes used to not be square) It was absolutely GENIUS and while I give my grandmother full credit for being the family Einstein of gift wrapping, she inspired my creative gift wrapping beast to emerge… (Yes, I DID learn it from watching her! Thanks, ’80’s, for the commercial sentiment that is applicable to so many things!)

So yeah, now that it’s a legit “love language”, it is safe to say that gifts are mine. As I’ve matured, my gift giving has too. i LOVE it. It is my absolute favorite thing, of all times. (EVER!!!) If I had the money and corporate sponsorships of Oprah, everyone would be getting presents, all of the time. I keep running gift lists for everyone in my life, from friends to family. I have a ridiculous number of loved ones reach out to me for guidance and direction year round. (I wouldn’t say I’m a gift expert, but I will say I am pretty ok at it.)

I’m not Oprah though. I’m not Ellen. I don’t have awesome companies giving me things to give to people I like. I have me. I have my starving artist budget. The plus side to this shiny (and yet equally dull) coin is that this means I am far more intentional about the gifts I do give. The less than fun flip side is that I don’t get to give a fraction of what I would like. (If you were hoping that this silly post might end with presents galore, it won’t. I’m sorry- but I do promise imaginary puppies for everyone!!!)

Take my husband, for instance. Gifts are NOT his love language. They are not something he cares too much about. He could never again give a gift to anyone and be absolutely capable of both sleeping at night, and seeing his reflection in the mirror… (I know, it sounds like I’m describing a MONSTER, but I’m not. Chw is a really great guy, he’s just a little flawed when it comes to presents. I have learned to accept him…) He also, hasn’t been the best gift receiver. Personally I feel that it may be my purpose, on this earth, to one day create a course helping weak receivers not shatter the hearts of the generous givers they love- because this is REAL. If you’ve never known such hell, count your lucky stars… Because when you pour all of your love (and thought and time, and therefore self) into the perfect gift, for it to end up shoved in a drawer or never worn/used- it kills… You just can’t please some people… (by no fault of their own, of course. They just don’t care. And are damaged. They may crush souls for breakfast, but I’m not here to judge. Whatever.) Even with this reality, I love him, so I continue to torture myself and therefore, for him, I have three gift lists…

There’s the:

  • ridiculously boring stuff he actually wants that, in my opinion, make for really crappy gifts. (a tire gauge? really? Nothing says Merry Christmas, you are the love of my life like a tire gauge- am I right?)
  • awesome gift ideas that he should love, yet fit within my crazy small budget.
  • the ten million dollar list of things that i KNOW would make him blissfully happy, (Apocalypse Tesla? YES! Your own Japanese Steakhouse, on call, in your own kitchen? DONE!) but that I also know I will never get to give him, and that’s ok… It’s still fun to dream, and the dreams that really make me happiest are the ones when I imagine I get to give really wonderful gifts to the people I love…

Take my podcast, for instance. Every single guest I talk to, I think of the perfect gift for them. I can’t buy it for them, but I deeply wish that I could in an overwhelmingly powerful way, send them a creatively packaged present, after we chat, so that they could hold how much I value, respect and appreciate them, within the palm of their hands.

Perhaps loving via gifts, is less of a gift itself… I don’t know. I am a tortured, writer soul, i am no expert. What I do know is that Christmas is around the corner and so many of us go above and beyond (heart wise, time wise, stress wise, and financially) and it isn’t healthy. This season that we are approaching is the most depression filled, suicidal season within the average calendar year. While there are many factors at play here- finances and the expectations around our capabilities concerning our money/spending/gifts/travel are huge. It doesn’t have to be that way. I have something coming, that can help… If you aren’t on my email list- sign up to stay in the loop because next Friday a few great things are happening. Relevant and timely things… (Just keep in mind, I’m not Oprah!)

Back to that Octagon Christmas… While I remember the amazement I felt, discovering what the package was- I couldn’t begin to recall which Barbie’s they were. I can’t tell you anything else I unwrapped, that year. I have literally zero recollection of what Santa brought Christmas morning. I am forty-three years old, and do you know what I DO remember? The beauty and the magic of that gift. The mystery, and the weeks of wondering, which led me to absolute joy.

The moral of this story: The JOY is in the giving. (the second, somewhat deeper moral: If there’s no joy in the process- it’s not right and you need to stop.)

the simple pleasure…

The world loves for us to apologize, doesn’t it? I don’t mean being remorseful over making a solid mistake, I am talking about the practice of feeling so incredibly pathetic and inadequate that we apologize simultaneously within a strain of honesty. In fact, we are so skilled at this subtle art of sorry that we don’t even have to utter the word… We deliver the message within tones indicative of the inevitable disappointment that we are surely bestowing upon those around us. A coworker may ask where we want to grab lunch and we know full well that we can not afford to go to lunch, and also that we brought leftovers from last night. So, instead we might scramble for excuses, as if having tight finances somehow makes us less than. We turn down the slice of cake with apologies about our diet, shame about our intolerances, etc. We do this with the small things, and the larger things. I’m sorry I dated people before I met you, I’m sorry that I can’t have a baby, I’m sorry that I have issues tied to past trauma… While we should become well practiced at being remorseful for hurts we’ve caused, there is never a reason to apologize about ourselves.

Take note- you probably subtly apologize forty times, in a given day. Ashamed you drank that coke, embarrassed you chose that movie, a mix of both shame and embarrassment that you love that band… Will people ridicule you for it? Maybe… But so what? We can’t all love the same things.

A few weeks ago my bff K was here visiting, and she was teasing me (lovingly, of course) for being obsessed with the Masked Singer. She couldn’t believe it when we encountered another friend who also loved the show. She thought we were both crazy because that show “looks absolutely ridiculous.” Sure, I could have not watched it that Wednesday, since she was here. That isn’t the choice I made. I giddily sat down to watch, and she sat there too, and it turned out it wasn’t quite what she thought. She found it interesting, and though that’s awesome, I wouldn’t have been hurt if she’d hated it. Are you a 47 year old woman who still listens to Brittany on your morning commute? That’s cool. Are you a grown adult who keeps Otter Pops in your freezer? Is your favorite food Kraft Mac & Cheese, but you embarrassingly pretend it is Rack of Lamb instead? Are you obsessed with Dr. Pimple Popper and a closet watcher of those things that ooze? Also cool… Whatever it is, (within legal and ethical boundaries obviously, I’m not a maniac) it’s fine. Bottom line: Give yourself the freedom to be you as authentically as possible, every single chance you can.

My very favorite movie is a little known French film entitled Amelie’. (In case you actually haven’t heard of it- that was a joke. It’s a world wide, award winning movie.) In it, the narrator takes a moment to talk about the unusual things that each character loves and derives great pleasure from. I think about it often- what my things are.

Let me ask you now, what are those simple, every day pleasures that bring you the sort of happiness that money can’t buy? (these things, they aren’t embarrassing, they are not things to be ashamed of. Love yourself and embrace yourself, quirks and all…) So, seriously, right now- grab a pad of paper and make a list. Listen to that precious, inner you and what they whisper to you. It matters. If you feel so bold, reply to this email or leave a comment and share a few…

My simple pleasures that bring me a happiness money can’t buy:

  • lowercase letters where capital letters “belong”. It’s wrong. People judge. I don’t care. (Someone once told me it was a sign of a writer’s insecurity. Nah- it is just an odd thing that I take a thrill in.)
  • using the ellipsis…
  • the smell of fresh cut pears.
  • salt on watermelon.
  • K-pop & K-drama.
  • dogs. ALL. of the dogs.
  • shapes of clouds.
  • the smell just above my husband’s lip, but just below his nose. (it is my favorite thing in the whole world- and it is free!)
  • wildflowers.
  • walking barefoot in the grass/barefoot on the beach.
  • the sound of a baseball bat cracking as it hits a ball.
  • equally- the sound a paddle makes, as it dips into the water. (when I was a little girl I would “row” my hands in the bathtub over and over and over again. It both thrills and soothes me.)
  • that moment when you learn you have something unique in common with someone. (I wish I’d began a journal decades ago, collecting those moments.)
  • Entertainment awards shows.
  • researching who people are, behind their celebrity.
  • watching bunnies/birds/squirrels in the yard.
  • the smell of clean laundry.
  • a heavy quilt, at the end of a long day.
  • eating a soft serve ice cream cone with a spoon.
  • Monopoly. (Sorry- not sorry!)
  • And as previously mentioned- the Masked Singer.

Your turn…

On being naked…

Over the past month, or so, I’ve been really privileged to spend evenings in deep conversation with various women who were guests in my home. Sometimes there was laughter, and quite often there were tears. In some instances there were glasses of wine, while every time there was an abundance of food. In these moments I found myself humbled by the absolute magic that forms when we simply bring women together, in a cozy environment, and let them be. Let us be, because this includes me too.

Women are so heavily armed in layers. Many design their layers out of fashion and appearance, but in truth these shields of armor are much deeper in roots than that. While our multi-tasking minds can be a huge asset in many areas of life- it is a hinderance here. Subconciously we can judge another woman in an effort to make ourselves feel validated, while simultaneously obliterating our perception of self worth in the very same fragment of a second that we are taking stock of the countless negatives we bring to the room. It is exhausting… And we walk around under the weight of these silent, habitual patterns twenty four hours a day.

Until the magic moments happen, anyway…

Lights low, maybe a little background music. Glasses full, with whatever she wants- no judgement here… Around purply-plump grapes, cubes of cheese, warm breads piled with butter and richly colored seasonal produce. Everything warm and pleasant- slowly our layers fold back. A woman opens up about a heartbreak, and every single time another tears up because she can relate.

In that space it is suddenly safe to be truly naked, naked from our self protection and our shames. In that space we are seen.

In the times that this has happened, over these past weeks, the magic moment of amber beauty has caught me off guard, stealing my breath, every single time. You’d think I would be better prepared, but I am not. I finally realized why- because we cannot script or plan for these times. They cannot be forced or coordinated. The stripping and pealing of layers must happen organically, on their own.

May we find more naked moments…