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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Teardrops on the Heart



That is the most poetic and sappy way I can describe a pain that doesn't like to be discussed. The lump in the throat, wetness dripping down, running across a heart that doesn't care to dwell in the pain. 

August has always been a marked time of year for me, because my birthday falls in August. It was always the last month of summer as a child, with long, hot evenings stretching out as the cicadas screamed out into the starry nights. As an adult, August was a time when college started, and the kids' school started, and later, when I would return to work to joyfully begin preparing my classroom (when I worked in a school where I had one), and getting ready for students to return. It was one of the best times of the year. 

Two years ago, though, everything changed a little. One August day, my 21-year-old son came by for a visit, said goodbye, and walked out the door-forever. Caleb had battled with depression for years. He had struggled with the world since he was very young, even in preschool he stood out, and in later elementary was rejected by his peers. As a young, inexperienced mother, I tried to do what I thought was best-but who really knows what best is? I could talk forever about signs I might have missed-or maybe just didn't know how to handle-but the fact is, August 4th, he said goodbye as if it were just another day and August 8th, they found where he lay. The days between those days stretched into eternity, but a monotonous, uneasy eternity. Although I love using strong, melodramatic words when I write, in reality, I tend to be on the optimistic side-almost to the point of detachment. I can't help it. I truly, truly believe it will all be okay in the end. We just don't know exactly when the end is, and that can be frustrating. 

As his mother, I wish I could jump back into moments long-forgotten and find ways to make it all turn out better. I wish I could find ways to improve myself and make him whatever I was supposed to make him, instead of stepping back to let him become. There must be more I could have done. There must have been a thousand little opportunities to spread light which dropped into the abyss.

There were things I wish I had known. Perhaps groups my shy self should have forced myself into. And now I am faced with---just---an abrupt end to a life which had been painfully blighted for years. And the simplicity in which I can carry on brings a feeling of guilt and "What the Hell is wrong with me, that I can keep smiling?" And the sun still shines and the complexity of human life keeps spinning the world around. 

This is August.

Friday, July 17, 2020

5 Things You Should Know About Life by 30







Life is fantastic. It is an emotional roller coaster filled with ups and downs and sometimes it simply feels too hard. I was walking the halls of the building I am working in, and found myself envying the position and opportunities other people have. And that's when I had to take myself in hand and get tough. Envy might be useful for just a brief moment, but Envyland is no place to live.

Fighting Tooth and Nail


There are so many things I wish I had learned early in life. Some people appear to be born with an inner sweetness and fortitude which helps them navigate the wilderness of life and they appear on top early and stay on top. Others of us had a lifetime of the wrong kind of training forming our brain patterns in ways which seemed beneficial at first, but eventually led us deeper into the fog and away from civilized life (meaning acceptable norms and behavior). 

I am from the second camp. I have used tooth and nail to drag myself (along with the quiet helpful hands of those who have guided me tenderly and forgivingly) out of the self-imposed wilderness into, well, maybe the edge of the woods.  Yes, my mistakes have been totally humiliating, but no, they aren't who I am. I am so much more than just the bad. So I wanted to share some of the thoughts on life I have been having. To some of you, they may seem blindingly obvious. To others, the lesson is still buried in your subconscious waiting for the right time to flip the switch on to self-realization. 






5 Things You Should Know About Life by 30 (or earlier)

Note: You'll notice I have 30 instead of the 40 in the infographic. After reflecting on it, I realized I may have learned the lessons late, but learning them early is, naturally, preferable.


1. Forgiveness is key to happiness- This is one  idea that has been brought up time and time again, but being able to forgive people is essential for a happy life. Forgiveness doesn't mean letting someone hurt you over and over again. You need to do what you need to do to set and enforce your own boundaries for safety and peace of mind. But forgiveness means allowing someone to make their own mistakes without letting the choices they made blacken your heart forever. It is hard not to hold a grudge. Sometimes not holding a grudge can feel like weakness. It can feel like you are letting people walk all over you. But holding a grudge is like a cancer, encroaching upon your heart, eating away at the happy possibilities for the future. Bitterness can feel very right, but bitterness is the language of the ego and the ego is a child. The ego doesn't necessarily have your best interest at heart, even though it will present itself as doing so. Like a pleading child, the ego will tug at your emotions, begging to you avenge wrongdoings against you. But as long as you listen to ego, and struggle to hold anger and hate close, you will be hurt. Learn to forgive.


2. You can't always get what you want- I know it is shocking. It is even more so when others seem to have a golden lighted path leading the way into greatness with strong hands lifting them up along the way. Life doesn't seem fair. Meanwhile you find yourself striving and stumbling, and that which you want just seems to be out of reach. Like grudges, this can lead to a deep and dark bitterness. Learning to visualize the bitterness and anger being washed away has been very helpful to me. When I feel the burden building up on my shoulders I like to imagine golden rays of sunshine lighting my head with warmth as turquoise foaming waves crash gently against my shoulders. Lifting my burden, I am left with all that truly matters. These external desires will all dissipate eventually. The world itself will some day disappear. Learning to find peace and joy with what is inside, with what is real, is the key. 

3. You get to determine your worth- Noone else gets to decide your greatness. Not your parents, not your boss, not your lover. If you are happy with who you are and what you have accomplished, you are a success. Maybe your parents dreamed of you walking the halls in a white coat with a stethoscope wrapped around your neck. But your heart lights up at the smiling faces of your preschool students each day. You are a winner! Perhaps your boss doesn't think you are worthy of her inner circle- but your job gives you time to go home and paint spectacular paintings which thrill your soul. Winner. Maybe your lover wants you to earn more money and bring up their lifestyle, but peace is your ultimate goal. You get to make that choice. This doesn't mean you should be a jerk and not listen to input from others or continue to be valuable in the jobs and family roles that you are responsible for. It means not allowing someone outside of you to dictate how you feel about who you are and the value you bring to this world. That's up to you. 

4. Life is incredibly short- It's really a blink of an eye in the eternities of time. Balance wisdom with childlike curiosity. Save for retirement as early as you can. If you are in your 20's, start now! Don't put it off one more year. Take that income tax refund, or next raise and start investing it right away. There are a myriad of books available to help you get started. At the same time, have fun! Take that vacation. If you are like most people you will have to choose between experiences and things. I can't make that choice for you. My husband and I have chosen an older home with a lower price tag so we have more money for traveling and experiencing the world. If your heart lies in aesthetics, you might prefer living in a beautifully decorated home more than taking a vacation. Only you can decide what your values are. Do some soul searching-discover your values-what matters to you-and start making choices which honor those values. Don't wait. You can always start planning for your amazing life today.

5. Make the effort- If you want to connect with someone, make the first move. Send a text, call, stop by and visit. The worst that can happen? Well, I guess they could go on a radio show and share your heartfelt attempts in a mocking manner, but is that likely? And are they worth your time if they mock you? Take a deep breath and reach out. You might be the light of someone's day. Make the effort in all that you do. Relationship, work, play, rest. Don't be afraid of failure, hiding behind mediocrity, excusing your flaws away. Love yourself immensely and enough to keep striving towards the best version of yourself. Remember number 4. When you have decided your values, go full-force into attaining them. If you screw up, remember number 1. Forgive yourself. We are all learning. We are all perfect in our imperfections. Then stand back up and try again. I won't promise you will reach some arbitrary goal, but I will promise if  you don't try for what you want, regret will sink deep into your bones.  

At some point, life is painful for all us. But it can also be very rich, very rewarding, and very, very good.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Bathroom painting DIY / Free Boho Printable Freebie!

SEE BELOW for FREEBIE

Master Bath Painting

I am in the midst of painting the bathroom. I am the queen of half-asserie it appears. I live in an older 1970's home and frankly I love the retro vibe it has. Low ceilings, boxy rooms-this is my early childhood revisted. While the warm, cozy colors are what attracted me to this house in the first place, I find myself slowly replacing them with cooling, soothing colors. Except the front door. I wanted a rich, deep black for the front door, but somehow ended up with Terra Cotta Rose. Who knew?
Meanwhile, I went to paint the master bath (which was a warm golden yellow) a soothing shade called Highest Mountain Mist. If you have ever visited the alpine ridges you know the emotional appeal of anything mountain. So with a name like Highest Mountain Mist, well, this greeny color had to be mine. 


Before:

During:



OH MY GOSH! I had no idea the cabinets were so worn. My husband and I are both very much in our head type people. I just didn't "see" this. I am sure the cats are responsible. 



Really loving the counter/sink paint.



Problems? Who has Problems?

Sadly though I ran out of tape halfway through the taping. So, what a girl to do? That's right, start painting anyway! This is where the half-asserie comes in. So I splotched paint on the ceiling and reminded myself, heck, I'll touch it up later. I got paint on the woodwork. Not so pretty. I will try some kind of paint thinner or something later. If that doesn't work, I guess I will paint it. Personally the woodwork would look better with the highest Mountain mist if it were white, but...I'm tired, folks. 

Messy!

When the painting of the walls is complete and cleaned up, I will probably paint the wooden mirror frame and the deep wooden cabinets. I guess I will have to go white, like everyone else in the world, because it needs to match the cooler walls and the white sink (which I repainted last week). I am SO happy with the sink refinishing. I did my half-asserie work there as well, and it is still 100x greater than what I had before. Before it was a light almond fake marble with a gold glitter vein running through it. I actually would have lived with it, however, the paint in the sink was literally wearing away to the fiberglass or whatever the sink was made of. And hair color stains completed the look. I like it so much better now, but the white is bright and does strain my eyes a bit. 

This is what I used on the countertop. It only took one can! I have enough to do the shower next.
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After:

Light on

Light off 


And now the freebie!!


Friday, July 10, 2020

When Breath Becomes Air Book Review

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash


Biography and Autobiography is not a genre which I find attractive typically. When I picked up the book When Breath Becomes Air,  by Paul Kalanithi, after it was recommended in a Facebook book group, I found myself initially disappointed to see that it was an autobiographical book. However, it was fairly short, and I decided to give it a try. Within a few pages, I was hooked. The writing was interesting and the tone was one of a calm friend, explaining his world to me. I wanted to know this person.
 
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What interested me first was his casual dedication to excellence. The importance of a top-notch ivy league education to his family and the lengths his mother went to in order to ensure he was properly educated to be a competitive applicant to the top schools was fascinating. Honestly, it was a whole new mindset for me. All my life has been focused on reminding myself it was not a race-life was about experiences-prestige doesn't equal meaning. Suddenly, this person is earnestly talking about the importance of striving, and it was just--fascinating. My working class worldview couldn't help but be shook up a little. I found myself wondering how the mindset of his family and his friends was so different from mine. Are they just naturally more intelligent and thus striving towards excellence in their field is the only way of life they can fathom? Is it snobbery and keeping up with the Joneses-a life filled with achievements for bragging rights? Is it to build up a strong financial future so they can spend more time later working on wants rather than needs. I don't know. I was completely intrigued. My whole life was built around consoling myself that it is okay not to get what I desire because that isn't where meaning was to found anyway. To have someone so easily speak of achieving major accomplishments as if they were base expectations for life was just incredible.

The book itself is a heartbreaker. You will feel the wide open expanse of time as Paul briefly describes his childhood and feel the time cave in as he discusses his struggle with lung cancer. Paul struggled towards finding meaning and throughout the book, I found myself slightly unsatisfied. I kept waiting for that aha moment of illumination, when understanding of the purpose of life would shine on me, but it never came. His discussion of his childhood religion, and his belief that mercy trumps justice, left me feeling a bit in the dark. Of course, mercy trumps justice. Isn't that Jesus' point? Mercy and grace-giving people more than they deserve- are hopes we all cling to desperately as we feel life slipping away. But...why? Am I a sociopath in that I don't feel tremendously guilty about things? I feel bad when I hurt someone's feelings, particularly if it was intentional, but I don't writhe in my bed at night worrying about coming hell fires or even karmic vengeance. We are all just babies learning. My mother converted to Catholicism the year before she died. I struggle to understand this conversion. What had she done that was so bad she felt the need for someone to tell her God's grace was waiting. God's grace is all around us. God's grace is within us. We don't need Father Joe to tell us this-but maybe some do. Maybe some need that external validation that God loves them and will be merciful in light of their failings. It's a mindset I just don't struggle with. I've spent my share-precious few- less than two hands-of nights on the floor wrestling with the darkness and God's seeming absence. I've known what it is like not to feel another human's tender touch (besides my kids) for years, and finally broke down, staring at the carpet fibers as waves of darkness crashed over me. I've cried out in silent tears to God about the loneliness and despair of a world in which I just couldn't see or feel God's presence at all. But then, the loving arms of sleep would pull me in,  and in the morning I would rise once more.

But perhaps I am lucky. Perhaps my brain chemistry is just so that optimism is bound to peek around the corner even in the midst of the darkest thoughts.

And I started to feel that dark futility after I finished the book. For a brief moment, no matter how interesting and entertaining the book was, I wondered where Paul was. I wondered where the people I have lost are now. Are they there? Do they exist? My mom is deep within my cells-I am made of her. But Caleb? I can't feel him in my cells. I can't feel him around me. Is it because he takes me and goes out somewhere else? Does he feel me within him? If anyone has disappeared and ceased, it is him. And the darkness of death fell over me for just a moment or two. What happens when we die? Not the stories of old books, not the desires our heads have created, but what really, really happens? Is there this whole other existence, elsewhere? Is that the fairy tale we have created to make the days happier? Does the truth even matter? And then I pulled the sunshine out again. I will choose that which makes my soul sing. 

And the book was good.




Friday, July 3, 2020

Lesson Learned-Thanks Covid!

First of all, after an exhausting day, week, month, I just have to say-Covid 19 has been a real eye-opener. Most of the year, we go to work-I am usually gone before the family is up, because I like to get in and have everything lined out for the day, socialize a bit, and drink all the coffee.  After work I get home around the time my daughter brings my toddler/preschooler back and await the kids arrival from the bus. The big kids play out with the neighbor boys and there is screen time and inside play. I am usually very tired, and lament all the work I have to do, especially if my daughter watches my son (along with hers) at my house, because then I usually have to clean up from the day as well. 
Let's just say, being at home sounds like a dream. 

And it sort of was. Working at home was pretty good for me, because my daughter picked up all three kids for the morning while I did my work and then I picked them up around noon and we relaxed most of the afternoon. The bad part was, we could hardly get the kids to do schoolwork. It was a fight for my daughter and a fight for me on days I let them stay home. You would think even asking them to do 30 minutes of Dreambox (math) and Lexia (reading) was asking them to walk over hot coals for the duration of the time. It was miserable. 

When I got an online summer school job, it was more of the same. When I found out I would have two online jobs, I had to leave them at their sister's longer, but their schoolwork issues remained. They were becoming antintellectual. Working all day at home was MUCH harder than working three morning hours. I still had all the housework. I had all the driving. When I tried letting them stay home all the promises to not interrupt during my class meetings disappeared and suddenly they were bored and attention seeking right as I was trying to explain how to do the four operations on fractions. The worst was during my afternoon class when I was screensharing Tynker with a student and my son climbed on the easel. As I picked him up to get him down, the thin metallic whiteboard side of the easel literally ripped the top layer of skin back on his foot. There were bloodcurdling (sp??) screams and oh blood and grossness. I had to end my meeting (who knows what that poor kid thought) and tend a nasty cut (it's much better, but going to scar). 

On top of all this is lawless kids and way too much screen time. It's been bad. When sweet Gabe loses it, he loses it. Liam is always a challenge and 24/7 Liam would try a saint. Alec can be a messy little terror who delights in smearing peanut butter or toothpaste or even worse things all over everything. It's been hard. I am 46, guys. I am not the sweet patient momma of my twenties. 

So what's my point? 
I don't think I want to homeschool. All the times I thought I wanted to be at home homeschooling. Nope. At least not if I also have to work on top of it. It is too much. I don't want to homeschool unless my days were otherwise free and I have a firm grip on the time usage of electronics in my home. I can't. I just can't.

Now, if my kids were in school and I could just tend the house and just Alec alone. Fine. That's nothing. But this three kids, trying to educate, teach house, work, all of the above is just a whole heck of a lot. 

If we do have to return to online schooling, I want clear attendance hours required by the teachers. Make class meeting mandatory and take attendance. Be the bad guys so we tired mommas don't have to. 

That's all.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Personal System Reboot ~ Free Boho Printable




Free Boho Life Changes printable below

I have become slack in my habits lately. Working at home, combined with attempting, very poorly, to educate my kids has led me to sort of letting things go. After a harrowing dream which involved administrators, fellow teachers, my kids, and finally ended when a coworker left me locked in a hospital room with a classroom full of preschoolers with special needs I felt ill-equipped to handle to drop out the window and  rediscover her youth with a convertible full of boys, I woke up and decided the same old, same old wasn't going to work.

Honestly, it's been awful. I haven't been for a walk in over a week, we practically lived on sugar cereal and dinner food because I didn't feel like facing the store, and my patience has been nearly non-existent. I have been a grouchy momster.;) My natural inclination is to dive into my feelings and figure out why I am acting that way, and really feel and understand them, but...screw that. While it is vital to understand why you feel the way you do, after recognizing and naming what you feel, it is time to move forward. Not time to dwell, not time to share, because misunderstandings run rampant when you start sharing your feelings and feelings change, anyway. It's not time to think and overthink. Turning something  around and around in your mind feels productive, but you rarely really get anywhere. Your knowledge is limited. You can only guess why someone does what they do or how they view you. And the weird thing is, the harder you try to control everything, the more it slips out of your hands. 

I was looking up my boutique Pinterest account this morning, and one of the suggested groups was for successful women. I looked through the pins, first of all, felt a little overwhelmed, but then I started reading those little memes full of good advice people make until I felt filled and strong. And then, I got up and decided it was time to head back to the track. 

It feels like growth and self-improvement is a tango-a series of steps forward and steps back. As soon as you feel confident in your changes, you get lax and things start to slide. It can be frustrating, but I think really true change is just HARD. It's hard to drink water when it seems gross. It's hard for me not to share my thoughts and feelings, or rather, it's hard to find the balance between expressing myself and oversharing.  It is easier to lay in bed and stop believing that meditating makes a difference, or stop having a relationship with a greater power. It is so much easier to just slide through the day without thought-or perhaps without discipline. 

With these thoughts in mind, it is time to take action. Again!

Step One: More Water
I noticed a bit of a lower back ache, and since I am prone to health issues from drinking only coffee (it is all I ever want), I had a big glass of water. I haven't been buying any lemons and water without lemon is sort of gross to me in the morning, but I pushed it down anyway.

Step Two: Self-Expression
Writing a blog post several times a week, but not one of my confusion and feelings and angst. That's what journals are for, and I need to use mine more. But any form of writing forces me to categorize and organize my thoughts,  and that is useful.

Step Three: Refresh the Spirit
Continue my normal spiritual practices. I have been sleeping in more and letting them slip away, but I have found an organized method of expressing gratitude, communing with God, and setting intentions for the day has a more profound effect on my life than a thrown together in the moment plea.

Step Four: Movement
I just have to move more. Whether it is a daily walk, or getting out to real stores (not Walgreens), or just doing more house and yard work, I need to put in at least 30 minutes of movement. According to my phone I move at least 60 minutes a day, but I don't like keeping my phone on my body, and I don't think that incidental movement is the same as sustained physical movement.

Step Five: Better Parenting
I need to get my boys back on a strong schedule. We started last night by enforcing bedtime and closing the doors, even when Alec puckered up. And they were asleep fast! 

Truthfully I could write about a lot more, but I have listed five things I need to focus on, and five is plenty.

If you want to try a Personal System Reboot, I high suggest choosing 3-5 areas you want to work on and focusing on them in depth. It may be you have let your regular system slide and just need to oil it and tighten the bolts a little. Or it may be that you need an entire overhaul and some big changes. 

Writing down the areas you want to improve makes a huge difference. If nothing else, you will stumble upon the paper later and be re-reminded of the promises you made to yourself.

What steps do you need to take to reboot your own system?

And here it is:
Boho Style Life Changes Printable

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Watching The Book Thief-Are sad films hygge?



As the credits rolled on The Book Thief film, my husband and I listened to the haunting music and wiped our tears, faces screwed up. I felt a deep feeling of contentment while my husband said incredulously, "That's cozy?" I had been in charge of choosing a cozy film, so I choose The Book Thief because I think it's beautiful and cozy. I love the run-down house, looking so tidy and clean. I love the sadness and the narrator and all the other characters and just...I enjoy it. My husband agreed it was good, but to him it was depressing and not cozy.

I find myself wondering...what do you think? Do you find beauty in the sad? Do sad movies make you feel better or worse? 
A list of my favorite movies shows I definitely love films which tug at my heart. Out of Africa, The English Patient (though that episode of Seinfeld forever makes me self-conscious for liking it), and many more top this list. If I don't ugly cry-is it even good? I am exaggerating of course. I like many movies which don't make me cry. But the movies which stir my soul (and honestly, The Book Thief is only good, not a favorite), are the ones in which joy and sorrow are intertwined like shimmering golden and silvery threads accenting the fabric of life, creating the richness and depth of experience which is life itself (which by the way, was not a very good movie).

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