Living In The Moment

Good morning, Dear Reader! I stepped out of my home this morning and did not immediately start sweating, so I’m going to call that a win in the Ozarks weather department.

I’m also doing something new today. I’m putting that link to your song right here – front and center. Please take a moment to listen and then read on…

I recently took possession of a tiny 964-square-foot home (Rented, not purchased; I have enough commitment issues. I just won’t buy a home in this market). I currently have a sofa, a folding table as a desk, and a bed for my kiddo. Some would freak out in this environment, but I’ve been here numerous times throughout my life – sometimes on purpose (like now) and sometimes not. There wasn’t much to do last night but read and hang out with my kiddo learning all about Scratch and a new game he was making. Halfway between “Mom, you should play it” and “Blah, blah, this gamer that and that gamer this”…I realized how distracted I’ve been over the last six months. Actually, frenzied is a much better word to describe the previous year. I learned so much about my son with nothing to compete for my attention.

First and foremost, I realized how incredibly talented he is. For the first time, I also noticed how his beautiful grey-blue eyes sparkle when he is fully engaged in conversation. I kind of teared up a little. Okay. A lot. {Ahem}.

Genius at work.

I used to be so good at knowing when I was not living in the moment. I could take a break from multi-tasking. I could step away for a few hours and take a walk near the lake. What happened to those times? What had happened that I was so ‘busy’ that I was missing out?

Name it, really. Too much television. Too many commitments. Too much work. Too much house. Too many people. Too much…too much… too much…

Living in the moment is difficult at first. It may seem unproductive or even a waste of time. But there is so much for us to gain when we stay present and remain in the moment with ourselves and those we love. My fella and I went out to dinner recently – I even put on a dress and eyeshadow. I mean, it was swanky. We sat across the table from one another and actually talked. I asked him silly questions. “Who was your favorite teacher and why?” and “Out of all the jobs you’ve held over the last 35 years, what was your favorite?” Things he has probably told me a dozen times, but I was too busy to listen. We sat there, fully present, in each other’s company. It had been for-freakin’-ever since we did that. And, of course, that kind of intimacy usually leads to even better stuff (wink, wink), so I highly recommend it. I give the night five stars. Would do it again. 

Living in the moment opens up our hearts to new experiences. It’s easy to become engrossed in the mundane, but living in the moment is available to us anytime. I’ve driven through my city thousands of times with my brain on autopilot. Still, yesterday I decided to live in the moment and be totally aware of my surroundings. With the radio off and my brain engaged, I noticed the most beautiful oak tree. I don’t think I’ve seen that tree before, although I’ve driven past it every day since my son started kindergarten. In fact, if it hadn’t been so enormous, I would have sworn it was just planted because I could not remember ever seeing it in my life. And it was beautiful.

Living in the moment helps us to know what is really going on. Ever had an argument with your spouse and danced around an issue to the point of total exhaustion? When I have “discussions” with my guy, he often talks, and I think about how to respond even before the words get out of his mouth. Taking a breath and truly living in the moment allows us to truly ‘hear’ what is being said amidst those uncomfortable times. It will enable us to hear beyond the words and see into a person’s heart. If we do this and stay present, we can usually listen to what isn’t being said: I’m hurt; I don’t feel respected; I need time alone; I need you to hug me. Those are all vulnerable statements, especially when anger and sarcasm come more easily. But being fully present and vowing to stay in the moment during those tough conversations can keep both parties calm and collected for the most part. I’ve been working on how to stay present during times like these. Learning to respond rather than react takes work. I know I can sometimes contribute to someone else’s pain – and I’m learning to acknowledge that when it happens – but I’m not responsible for their feelings. I can respond in love, with kindness, without owning their anger. This is a difficult transition for me – the fixer and the fighter – but it is worth growing out of old patterns. Some people are worth a better version of you. 

Living in the moment is a gift. The more we allow ourselves to remain in the present moment, the more we honor those we love. When we give people our full attention, we receive so much clarity, and they receive so much love that new realities come to life. What better gift than to give honor and respect to those in our presence?

Living in the moment takes practice. I don’t expect you to get it right away. But today, I ask that you do one task and entirely give it 100% of your attention. Last night, I was listening to my son explain some game I’ll never understand. I’ve watched him lean over his tablet for over a year and never really paid much attention to what he was doing. I realized how much I have missed and how incredibly talented and creative this little human is. I was in awe of him. When was the last time you were in awe of someone?

None of us are perfect, and we live in a busy world. But I encourage you to simplify your life. Take each day as it comes. The present moment can be extraordinary and lead to much you never expected. Try it and report back. I’m eager to hear about your experiences.

PS…If this post was the answer to all your prayers (insert “scoff”), share it with others on social media. Please and thank you.

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How Low Can You Go?

Good morning, Dear Reader! Today is FRIDAY, and I am so ready for the weekend. Thanks to this pandemic (We are still in the middle of a pandemic, you know!), I am not inclined to accept every invitation. When all the shit hit the fan in 2020, I gave myself permission to relax and do a pretty good job setting boundaries on my time. It’s vital for everyone to recharge and I, the quintessential introvert, need more time than most. Almost everything works better if you unplug it sometimes, including yourself.

I embraced the ‘simple life’ back in 2011. I’ve lost my way a time or two, but I have learned to just walk out of chaos or clean out a closet when things get crazy. Reclaiming and embracing a simplified, minimalist lifestyle have allowed me to declare Saturdays a day of rest. Complete and utter rest. I try very hard to plan absolutely nothing but relaxation activities on Saturdays, which has been so wonderful.

I want to point out that my ‘simplicity’ is less about minimalism and more about boundaries. I didn’t always know how to set boundaries. In fact, I was pretty fucking bad at it. But I follow and learn from others in this simplicity-sphere, picking up some life hacks along the way. I hope to be a teacher of simplicity for you, too, Dear Reader. 

I’m a huge fan of Becoming MinimalistZen Habits, and Miss Minimalist. I encourage everyone to check these sites out because these people have been my teachers for almost a decade.

This morning, by accident – which is usually the case – I again stumbled across The Happiness Project, which I had forgotten all about. Author Gretchen Rubin reminds me often that ‘lowering your standards’ and ‘lowering the bar’ is not the same. This concept, coupled with a conversation with a good friend yesterday, helped me formulate my thoughts for the day.

First, if you want to understand the difference, please read Gretchen’s post, so I don’t have to repeat all she said. I agree with her 100%, so my post today is about the simple application of such thoughts. Here are a few areas to which I have decided to lower the bar in my own life…

So, go on. Grab a drink. Settle in. Let us kick off the weekend with wit and honesty, shall we?

1) Religion. Yup. I said it. It’s been a while since I was on a dating site, but there’s always this awkward pause when filling out the form. Christian? Agnostic? Spiritual but not Religious. Geesh. There really should be a box for “Who the fuck knows anymore” because honestly, living in the bible belt amidst a sea of Red Ridiculousness is enough to make me say “Fuck the whole damn thing.” So, I guess I just answered my own question: Spiritual but not Religious. I’m sure I’m inviting hostile comments here, but here’s my truth: I feel closer to God, more connected to Spirit, and more confident/better about myself since I stopped attending church. Don’t misunderstand me…I love Jesus. It’s his fan club that gets on my nerves. My 30-year-old Self would have struggled with this. I’m not saying everyone should abandon church… I’m just saying that lowering the bar in this area means fellowship with others I consider spiritual with totally commitment-free Sunday mornings. Bonus.

2) Dinner (or any meal for that matter). Speaking of dating sites, do you know how hard it is to get a date at my age when you admit you don’t like to cook? *Rolls Eyes* It’s true. I mean, I can cook. I just don’t like to. As Gretchen states, “An imperfect meal that I serve is better than a perfect meal I never serve.” I don’t even judge my ‘dinner’ of an apple with peanut butter or a bowl of Cheerios imperfect. Not making dinner frees up time to read. So, have you really ‘lowered the standards’ when you swapped out trading your time to engage in something you enjoy? Yeah…um…no.

3) Relationships. Instead of being all things to all people, I’m going to just be myself – the messy, outspoken, kind, and generous conglomeration I am. It seems nuts that anyone would think they just couldn’t be themselves…but I had been conditioned to believe that being honest about my true Self was somehow unattractive. So, I hid. BUT… to lower the bar, I will just be myself and those who can’t handle it, well, you know…they can find someone else to bother. It’s not calloused… it’s just simple math. I don’t have the fuck budget to please anyone who isn’t in my inner circle.

4) Entertaining. Tomorrow I move into a house that boasts less than 1000 square feet. So, yeah. You may have to bring your lawn chair when you come to my house. You may have to eat your dinner while sitting on the sofa. The silverware doesn’t match…and I only have 6 plates, so you may have to eat off throwaway plates. There are nights I drink wine from a mason jar and eat my Chinese food directly from the cute little red and white box-thingy. Get over it. I have.

So, that’s been a review of life applicable, lowering the bar situations in my life. I’ll leave you with a song (can’t let you down, now can I?). Go on. Click it. It’s catchy. I’m so tired of living for other people and so tired of living in fear. Turn off the news, tune out the people who aren’t on your team, and (in my best Webster County voice) ‘Git on out dare…”. Be fearless. Lean on others. Wear your heart on your sleeve. And…tell anyone who tries to tear you down to politely go fuck themselves.

If you liked this post and didn’t think anyone in your circle would mind that I sprinkle the F-word around like glitter, then share with others on all the socials. Please and thank you.

Buttons Come and Buttons Go

Good morning, Dear Reader. One of you mentioned that you noticed I had gone ‘radio silent’, which is true. And thank you for noticing.

During the first week of absence, I had COVID, and while I wasn’t on my deathbed, I wasn’t well and didn’t have the energy to write. The following week ushered in the full moon in Aquarius and all its nonsense, which kinda sucked. The next week I just didn’t feel like it. How’s that for honest? I’m rarely at a loss for words when writing, but truthfully…I had a case of the blahs. I was all out of plant analogies, and sometimes, when your heart is not ready to share…the keyboard is, well, a foe.

I’d love to tell you that the autumn season may have finally arrived here in the Ozarks. The weather has been in the upper 80’s which has been a blessing, but you gotta love Southern Missouri and her fickle nature. I bet we are in for a few high temp days still yet, but for now it’s cool enough to walk around the block without passing out, and I ordered a hot chocolate at Scooter’s yesterday, so there’s that. 

The ‘fall’ is coming early for me regarding moods and transitions. I felt a shift coming on a few weeks ago, so I haven’t had a drop of whiskey since early August (or wine or coffee). There is no need to throw depressants and stimulants into a body that is already feeling some funky vibes. Feel me? 

So, I guess…grab that drink and settle in. I’ll join you with a cup of Earl Grey with milk – you know, British style – and we can talk about change.

I won’t go into any personal details today, but there’s always change, right? That’s the one thing we can count on in life. I used to fight it like a Highlander in the middle of a Scottish revolution – gathering my sword and blindly swinging, kicking, and screaming the entire time. (Too much Outlander, maybe?) Now, I just think, “I’m not sure I really understand what is happening here, but it’s happening. I’ll just buckle up and close my eyes.” Not great in war. But okay when anxiety levels are through the roof. Amiright?

With all change, it doesn’t just affect you, I’ve learned. Others are either directly involved or catch some shrapnel in the process. When I make inevitable decisions, my heart breaks – not only for myself but anyone else who may suffer the fallout. As much as I wanted to sell a recently shared home with a relative, I also knew that she would be sad. That made me sad. I’ve been a people-pleaser for so long that I sometimes can’t separate my feelings from those of others. Being an Empath can really suck at times. My sense of loyalty encompasses me in a shroud of guilt, even when I know the change is best for me. I guess I haven’t really learned the difference between ‘selfishness’ and ‘self-care’ as much as I’d like to have by now. I ‘grin and bare it’ so often that there are moments when I just can’t move for fear I will explode into a million tiny pieces.

When I struggle with certain decisions or challenges, I (as a writer) will typically look to children’s literature for the answer. Adults can make life so complicated, and sometimes I need a new view. Take Charlotte’s Web, for example. This novel is a great children’s story even if Kansas banned it once. Stupid, Kansas. If you think about it, the story is one of vulnerability, friendship, diversity, inclusion, and grief. Reading such a book through the lens of adult experiences reveals themes one can’t visualize as a child. By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve experienced all of that, right? We can see how mean that rat is. How much Wilbur wants to have friends. How grieved all of them are when Charlotte dies. (Ooops. Did I just spoil the ending for you? Sorry ’bout that.)

This entire month, I’ve wrestled with change, and while I cuddled in my blanket in a quiet space, I reminisced about another story that was one of my son’s favorites. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean is – at it’s core – a story about non-attachment, letting go, and moving on. It is a story about accepting that change comes and goes, and it’s up to us to decide how to handle that change. (That link is an audio version of the book. Come on. Take five minutes. It’s really good.)

When faced with change, we can do one of three things: Accept, fight, or ignore it. I don’t recommend that last one. The change will happen whether we participate in it or not. If we can stop kicking and screaming long enough, we might see that change often happens for us, not to us. And sometimes…sometimes…the lessons amid change are not just your lessons. Maybe, just maybe, there are lessons others are to learn during that time, too. 

I don’t know. Too deep?

{Sigh} Okay. Well. 

Maybe it’s a job. A relationship. A pattern of behavior. Whatever. We can always find something in our life that is begging for change. Transitions are complex – I’m not invalidating that at all. But there are some ways we can navigate change to stay as calm as we can during it. I can offer two nuggets today. That’s all I have the energy to deliver.

First, admit to yourself that change is hard. Change can be both good and challenging at the same time. Give yourself time to process the change. ‘Sit in the space’ and accept that you don’t know what will come next (Buddhists call this space “emptiness”). I’ll readily admit – this is absolutely terrifying to me. The Type A, Virgo, INTJ gal that I am prefers the ‘waterfall’ method rather than Agile (That’s project management speak. You can google it.) But rarely is life consistent with the ‘waterfall’ method. Most of the time, in life, the minimum viable product is all you get. At some moment, it will all be clear. Not usually during the process, though. The hope is that in the end, we all have what we need and what we want. But the process can be daunting and frustrating. I won’t lie to you about that.

Secondly, avoid asking everyone you know for their help and opinions. I went through my most recent change in absolute silence. I only shared with others after the change was in motion. I don’t know if that was helpful, but it was certainly out of the norm. I knew though that I didn’t need a bunch of other people clouding my thought process and projecting their own fears and anxieties on me. So, I didn’t gather the masses and start asking for their advice. I went to Spirit, and I listened to my heart. My heart. Not my head. Big difference.

How do you like them apples? Fun times today, huh? Yup.

And, in my melancholy mood, I leave you with a song. Life’s changes can feel like a landslide at times, but there are so many seasons of our lives, and each one brings a new direction if we let it. You may be going through the worse time of your life right now – and I empathize with you. I really, really do. I also know that it will, eventually, get better – especially if you lean into it.

(Oh, and next week is my birthday. Send me good vibes. I’d love some of those.)

Elsa Was On To Something

Good morning, Dear Reader! I’m up early again today and thinking I really enjoyed that thunderstorm that woke me up yesterday. I can’t begin to tell you how much I adore a good Missouri storm. The only thing missing during that storm was a glass of wine and a metal roof. I’m not prone to drinking at 6 a.m. , but if I had a metal roof and I suddenly found myself amidst a thunderstorm, I just might.

I’m struggling to come up with a good metaphor that relates to my mood this week, and I must tell you, I’m not sure I’m going to come up with something riveting. But I’m going to try my darndest because you clicked the link, and I believe I need to inspire you to do something great.

I’ve patiently been waiting for the trees to lose their leaves and Dunkin to launch All Things Pumpkin Spice season. I don’t want to rush my life, but man it’s hot here and it’s been hot for-fucking-ever. Our trees – and all living creatures – are under a tremendous amount of stress. People are acting batshit crazy and I, for one, am eager for a change in the weather. If you look closely, you’ll see that some of the trees are even starting to lose their leaves, and that’s because of environmental trauma – not because autumn is around the corner. (Although, we are seven weeks from October. Sigh. Seven long weeks.) 

So, there you have it, folks. Even the trees know that lessening the load is the best way to cope (survive?) with trauma. (You’re welcome. That’s my third ‘plant’ metaphor in a row.)

I think we can learn a lot from this. I could go on a big tangent about trauma responses and how our bodies trick us into doing stuff to keep us from dealing with it. I fear, though, that would be very uninspiring. I’m going to do my best to bring this back around to how our lives – like those of the trees – can be enhanced by letting go.

Grab a drink. Settle in. Today I’m going to give you some tips on how to let go.

Before I dive in, though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say: Letting go isn’t as easy as it seems. But, I’ve found three major themes when I decide to let go, and that’s where we are today.

1) Purge shit you no longer need. I like to pretend I’m moving from time to time (if you know me, I’ve moved 18 times in 16 years, so it isn’t a stretch for me to get in the ‘I’m getting the heck out of here’ mindset.) With this last housing transition, I didn’t even think twice. I barely reminisced over anything at all. I chucked so much that I don’t even own a skillet of my own at the moment. A lot of letting it go was to make room for the things I really wanted and needed. So far, that’s been minimal.

2) Avoid nay-sayers. Some of those people in your life who are taking up space in the VIP section need to be reseated to the regular seats or escorted out of the viewing room altogether. At the risk of sounding dramatic, this can be heartbreaking. And still, maybe you need to get on with it. I faced the music last year and watched as people floated magically out of my life. In the past, I would have chased after them. This time, I didn’t. I went through the gamut of emotions – hurt, anger, relief. They don’t get to be courtside if they aren’t cheering you on and rooting for you. 

3) Excuse yourself from the table. I once had a friend who said, “I hate being the source of conflict. When that happens, I’ll quietly exit the room.” I finally got that about a year ago. I made of list of all the things I no longer enjoyed doing and a list of the people I no longer enjoyed being around. And I started crossing shit (and people) off the list. I ignored my sunk costs in everything: the knitting supplies, the house, the time spent trying to make relationships work, and the expectations of others. I finally came to the most challenging part of letting go when I realized that the place I’ve called ‘home’ for nearly 33 of my 51 years is a terrible place for me. It isn’t healthy to walk among my demons, and I got tired of dodging people in Wal-Mart. So I moved. And while it wasn’t far…it was far enough if you know what I mean. You don’t need to be so extreme. Still, I think you can apply this to anything that no longer brings you joy including, but not limited to, bras, Sunday dinner with your in-laws, meetings that get you no closer to the goal, etc. This past year, I let go of several toxic relationships, ridded myself of 90% of my belongings, moved to a new place, quit two jobs, stopped volunteering at my son’s school, and stopped drinking cheap whiskey. I am happy to report: All is well in my world. I don’t miss any of it. I’m better because I made all those choices – even when it was difficult – and you will be, too, Friend.

As I close, I’m reminded of a song by Dalton Domino. The lyrics are: I’ve burned some bridges. Torn down some fences. Some I’m still mendin’. Some I’m leaving the ashes where they lie. And I can’t think of a better metaphor for letting things go and not apologizing for the reasons why. Who you were is not who you are. You are allowed to shed all the leaves and grow new ones.

I get that this may not have been highly inspiring today. Still, I promise you it’s a segue into what’s been happening since making these decisions. I like teasers, and this one is a doozy….so wait until next week. It’s just starting to get good.

PS: If you liked this post and thought others might, please share on social media! Thanks, Sugar Britches. Much appreciated.

A Body In Motion Stays In Motion

Good morning, Dear Reader! I come to you from what feels like the depths of hell. It’s a gazillion degrees outside and rising. How people can live south of the equator and still function is beyond me. I can’t wait for this heat to break. Even though we did find ourselves with a 77* day over the weekend, I’m feeling a bit ungrateful.

I’ve been mulling today’s post over in my mind since arriving home from my little road trip through Iowa and Minnesota last month. I was able to see all of the covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa. Still, the one bridge that stuck out the most was the one I saw as I crossed back into Missouri on my way home.

The Locust Creek Covered Bridge is located in Linn County and was built in 1868. It is the longest of Missouri’s four remaining covered bridges – almost 151 feet. 

As I arrived, I noticed no bridge at all, only a little walking bridge that took me over the fair-sized river. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to find, but I’ll tell you one thing: I was a bit confused. This little walking bridge was definitely not a covered bridge, and I was concerned I was in the wrong place. 

As I read the posted literature, I realized the bridge I was there to see was about a quarter-mile through the woods. Odd, huh? I grabbed my water bottle and proceeded with caution on the trail nonetheless. As I meandered through the forest, I realized I was walking away from the river, which seemed problematic. Despite having no knowledge of the bridge’s history or of Linn County, I stuck with it.

And then I saw it.

It was breathtaking.

And it was in the middle of the prairie. Which made zero sense.

How in the world does a bridge end up in the middle of the woods, with no running water under it? I mean, isn’t carrying folks over a body of water the entire point of a massive bridge? 

And that, folks, is where we are today.

So grab a drink and settle in. Let’s discuss what can happen when you refuse to be flexible.

According to the overly reliable source, Wikipedia, I was able to find out this about our beloved state bridge:

After World War II, the course of Locust Creek was changed and the bridge spanned a dry creek bed. Over time the creek bed filled with silt, leaving the bridge resting on mud much of the time. In 1968, the State of Missouri acquired the bridge and established the Locust Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site, then repaired the bridge, replacing its roof, sheeting, and flooring. The Missouri Department of Conservation undertook another major improvement in 1991, raising the bridge by six feet to protect the wooden frame and flooring from the marshy ground.

Did you catch that? The creek’s course was changed. To put it another way: The creek moved, but the bridge did not. (You can read more here). And because the bridge could not proceed with the creek – its original purpose was no longer viable or valuable. Now, it’s just a place for older people to take pictures, young people to have parties, and stupid people to ruin with their graffiti.

The point? A body in motion stays in motion. 

To fulfill our purpose in life, we must be willing to move and be transformed by whatever nature throws our way. I’m still unclear on who or what was responsible for changing the creek’s course. Still, I am sure of one thing: Due to its inability to move with the water, the bridge is magnificent – and basically worthless.

Fast forward a month. Over the weekend, I sat with a dear friend who lost the love of her life to brain cancer last year. It was her birthday, and we enjoyed the company and drank copious amounts of wine. This year has been everything for her: devastating, foggy, blurred. I’m sure it sometimes felt as though she was standing in quicksand. And yet, her business is growing, she enrolled in University to earn her undergrad, and she started teaching courses. Although the course of her life was altered, she did not stand still. She grieved – and is still mourning. In fact, proven by the number of tears shed at one point in the evening, it is clear that we all are still grieving the loss of the man everyone liked. But instead of sitting in a recliner and waiting to die, she got busy doing the things he would have wanted her to do. The course of her river changed. Unlike the Locust Creek Bridge, she moved with it.

Our lovely bridge was acquired in 1968 (a hundred years after it was built) by the State of Missouri and deemed a historical site by someone important. The bridge was repaired and is now maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation. People come from all over to see it. But it stayed dormant for a century before anyone cared enough to invest in it. What a waste of time.

When life experiences change your course, you have every right to mourn the loss of a dream, a job, a relationship – whatever. Facing grief and its insidious scramble of emotions is normal. But, after a while, staying put and waiting for someone else to fix the issue will only result in you missing the entire point of living your life. 

I get it. A bridge can’t really fend for itself because it is an inanimate object. But we aren’t. We can fend for ourselves. And we can nurture others along the way, too. We must be willing to go with the flow and move with whatever life throws our way to remain in service. In service to what, you ask. The fuck if I know. At the bare minimum? Ourselves.

You may not feel like it. You may not want to right away after something devastating changes the course of your life. My divorce and all its deception left me stagnant for a bit while I caught my breath. For you, it may be the loss of a loved one or a business that simply never took hold. Life will throw us all kinds of situations, and we will all find ourselves a bit off course at times. It’s okay to grieve. It’s not okay to stay in the prairie where the silt and mud will eventually take over.

That’s a lot to swallow this morning over coffee, isn’t it? Well, then, I suppose I need to leave you with this song today. There were quite a few suggestions from my fan base on how I can get you to listen to these. The songs – for the most part – wrap the story up neatly. I often spend more time researching the right music than I do figuring out how to make sense of the stories I want to share. If I laid on enough guilt, now you can have a listen.

Until next time, if you liked this post and thought others might, too, then share away on all the socials. Hugs and kisses, Kids. Hugs and kisses.