Going All In For Lent

March 2017 coming in like a lion

This has been an interesting week, and we’re only halfway through.  Over the weekend, we found out our youngest son, who has been struggling in school has slipped further.  Monday brought a meeting that challenged those of us who write, blog and do video to go “all in” for our profession and see where that takes us.  Tuesday was a lovely Fat Tuesday lunch with my sister in law and mini celebration with my family, which brings us to today.  Today begins a new month, a creativity bootcamp and Lent.  For me, this is like the holy trinity of new energy.  I love each of these events for the promise of positive energy and a clean slate of sorts, so of course I woke up with a headache.  I decided to sleep in, which is rare for me, but about 30 minutes later the thunder, lightning and hail jolted me awake, and I knew there was no going back to sleep.  Luckily the headache was gone, so I sat down and began to organize myself to go all in creatively for the two week bootcamp and beyond when my husband texted me that there was some water in one corner of the basement but not to worry about it.  Being the type that likes to see things for myself, I headed down to take a look and found water in all four corners of the basement, and I felt so defeated in that moment, I nearly gave up on the day, the bootcamp and my writing career.  I know, it sounds dramatic, but I wanted this day to be perfect and so far, it looked like the Divine was telling me in no uncertain terms that the drudgery of life was going to be the focus rather than the joy of creating.  This is not good for a person who lives to create.


Hail on my north facing covered porch

You see, I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12, and I am a writer.  I wanted to write and publish books and I have, but I’ve never made a career out of writing.  I’ve made a career out of being a wife and mother and household manager, and I’ve loved it, but something else is calling to me now.  I still want to be all those things, and while many are longing to wrap up their paid careers, I’m looking to dive into mine, but every time I make a commitment to move forward, I feel like something drags me back, whether it’s my son needing help with his academics, the basement flooding or even keeping up with the housework, something always seems to be pulling me away from the writing.  This morning I was nearly ready to give up, but the pictures that go with this post tell the story of today and illustrate the stories we sometimes see and don’t understand as well as the ones we tell ourselves that might not be as true as we think they are.  Follow along and see what you think.


The first picture in this post shows the torrential downpour of the storm that jolted me awake.  The second and third are the hail on my porch, and I couldn’t bring myself to take pictures of the water in my basement.  I got pretty wound up in my pity party and was ready to throw in the proverbial towel for the creativity bootcamp even though it hadn’t started yet.  Fortunately, I have this amazing husband that talks me off the edge in these situations.  He reminded me that my writing is important, not financially yet, but to my overall well-being, “so write,” he said.  It wasn’t his permission that I needed.  It was his perspective.  I was willing to throw away the things that give me joy to face my perceived obligations, which would have made my mood worse and the stumbling blocks look bigger than they were.  It’s just a little water, and it’s an inconvenience, so there it stays until the fans in the basement help dry it up.


The second set of pictures involves my breakfast.  In the creativity bootcamp, we are supposed to create every day and share with the group.  I figured that even if I couldn’t get something written, I could create a beautiful breakfast plate for myself on this meatless Ash Wednesday.  I know the breakfast is a bit unconventional, but if you know me, that’s no surprise, and I am proud of the meal I created.  I am more proud that I managed to add a bit of parsley to ramp up the visual appeal, a little thing, but creatively it means growth in my photography skills.  I framed the plate and placemat to look as beautiful as I could and snapped the picture.  I like the way it turned out, but the best part happened when I sat down to eat.  I started laughing because while I’m happy with the beautiful breakfast picture, it’s part of a larger story of the mess on my kitchen table and the chaos in my life.  It doesn’t tell the story of my life.  It tells the story of an intentionally created breakfast, and it’s a tiny piece of my life, but if you only looked at that plate, you might think everything in my life was perfectly peachy and it isn’t, so I decided to show the whole scene, and I am proud of that as well because social media can be such a mind trip that only shows the breakfast plate rather than the whole table, and we don’t even get a glimpse of the basement.  This is how some people live their lives as well.  They put on the perfect façade and won’t let anyone see the messes.  Others parade the messes and forget to look for the perfection, when in truth, most of us, not all, are somewhere in between.  So, here I sit, writing a blog post instead of cleaning my basement, taking a shower, cleaning my house or even going to the grocery for some much needed supplies (we’re using the travel shampoo bottles y’all).  We made it through this morning’s storms, and as I was writing, the sun came out and I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful blue sky, with the fallen limbs and the neighbor’s work truck cropped out.


I’m figuring out that going “all in” for March, creativity bootcamp and Lent isn’t about doing anything perfectly.  It’s about doing the things that matter most and figuring out exactly what matters most in any given minute.  I’m reminded of the Zig Ziglar quote that if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting, so I’m doing things differently this month. I’ll be creating every day and posting as much as I can, and if I’m not perfect, I’ll forgive myself, but I’ll also hold myself to making my best effort every day and seeing where that will take me.  While that may not make sense to some, I know it will make perfect sense to my fellow creatives.  If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends, follow the Facebook pages or join me on Twitter or Instagram, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Carrie Fisher, Badassery and 2017

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Carrie Fisher passed this week at the age of 60.  The best tribute I saw talked about how her character in the Star Wars franchise evolved from a princess who lost her family and her entire planet into a general who lost her brother who disappeared, her son to the dark side and her husband to patricide, yet she still did what was right in every situation.  In her real life, she was no less of a warrior.  She stepped out of the shadow of her very famous mother and risked offending everyone in Hollywood by showing the darker side of her life growing up.  In essence, she unmasked one of the darlings of Hollywood as a less than perfect mother and human being.  As if that wasn’t enough, she admitted and talked candidly about her mental illness when it was hugely unpopular to do so and still kept her razor sharp wit and sense of humor through all of it.  In every sense of the word, Carrie Fisher was a badass woman who lived life on her own terms, and it wasn’t until she died that I knew she did most of it scared.


I’ve told several people, and I’ve written on occasion about how magical it was for me turning 50.  I know people have read the quotes about not caring what others think of them, and those quotes often come off as nasty or bitter, but at 50 I began to understand them on a different level.  It wasn’t that I cared less about anyone when I turned 50.  I honestly began to care more about people.  Somehow, though, I  began to care less about what people thought of me and how they perceived me, and I began to care more about how I felt about the way I lived.  I still wanted to be a great mom and wife, but the desire to be a better citizen of the world took hold too.  I had volunteered most of my adult life in my children’s schools and while it was fulfilling, there seemed to be something more calling to me.  I knew I couldn’t end homelessness, but because I was driving by homeless people regularly, I began to carry bags of supplies that could provide a bit of comfort.  I cannot stop child abuse, child hunger or childhood disease, but I can treat every child as if they matter, because they do.  My greatest thrill on Christmas Eve this year was when one of my great nieces who had never even given me a hug climbed in my lap because I told her she could take pictures with my camera, my rather expensive camera.  She and her sister spent the next ten minutes taking silly pictures, some of which I’m sharing here.  They didn’t want to leave when their mom said it was time to go and only agreed when I promised I would see them soon, and I would bring my camera with me.

Most of the people who read my blog know I’ve published a few books.  I am proud of each of them in a different way; the first because I actually wrote it, the second because motherhood has been my passion and the third because it has set me on a journey I love living nearly every day.  I am learning and growing as much now as I have at any time in my life, and I’ve learned to do it scared.  I was out of the workforce for over two decades and others know so much more about technology than I do.  I’ve written all my life but never knew if I was any good because no one in my family thought writing was much of a career so I mostly kept it to myself.  I’m overweight.  I have paralysis on my face from Bell’s palsy.  One of these things is enough to scare me.  All of them can be downright terrifying, but there is so much fuel for my fire as well.  You see, my father died at age 54, and three of my grandparents died at age 65 or younger.  I live a much healthier life than any of them, but it’s a reminder that time may be short, so why waste it?  I have friends and family who have life threatening medical conditions who could be fine one day and gone the next, kind of like Carrie Fisher, so I do my best to spend as little time complaining as possible.  Instead I do what I can to make the planet a better place through the words I put on a page and actions I put into the world.


Photo credit tripadvisor.com
I think one of the greatest gifts a person can receive is the understanding of how incredibly important and unimportant each of us is.  As a parent to a small child, you are someone’s world.  That child could not survive without you or someone like you to raise it.  If you’re a nursing mother, your body is so incredible that your breastmilk changes as the needs of your baby changes.  In your little part of the world, you are nearly indispensable, but go on a cruise or fly over the ocean and you realize an hour or two after you lose sight of land how small and insignificant you are in the giant tapestry of life.  It doesn’t mean you’re unimportant, not at all.  The Mona Lisa would not be the same painting if even one brush stroke was different, but one brush stroke does not make the Mona Lisa.  It’s a conundrum for sure, but here’s something that isn’t a conundrum for me – our time on this Earth is limited.  None of us knows the day or time we will be leaving this life, and I want to be one who lives fully.


So as this year of 2016, the one many never want to speak of again, winds down, I do not mourn the passing of Carrie Fisher.  I celebrate the kickass life that she led.  I intend to carry her spirit forward and be as brave and determined as I can be and honor her in every way that I can.  I’ll do it scared.  I’ll do it to the best of my ability.  I’ll do it without excuse because if a mentally ill, abused child can grow up to be the icon for a generation of women, what is my excuse?  Sail upon the stars Princess Leia.  Lead on General Organa. Come along dear reader and do the thing that you desire most.  Take the leap to the better life you secretly want to live.  Write the book.  Take the trip.  Go for the new job, or just love everybody the best you can.  Start little if you must, but start and then keep going.   Let’s do this thing we call 2017 and may the force be with us all.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.


Christmas Choices

Tis the morning of Christmas, sort of, in my part of the world, and I’ve been debating whether or not to publish a post today. I say “sort of” because we’re having our Christmas celebration with my brother this evening because he heads back to his home in Florida tomorrow. Then we have a Christmas Eve celebration with my husband’s family, all 60-80 of them, on Christmas Eve for which we cook and bake and do massive preparation, not because we have to but because we choose to. We make beef barbecue, meatballs in sauce, little sausages in sauce, three kinds of cheeseballs and nearly 100 dozen cookies. My husband and I love to cook, so we’re happy to do this as a gift to my sister in law who hosts our family on Christmas Eve and her husband’s family on Christmas Day. Our Christmas Day will be different since we’re waiting to celebrate with our immediate family until December 27th because my oldest will be away on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We will host a brunch for our mothers and have been invited two other places to share in the joy of the day, and we will go, with more goodies in hand. Did I mention that we like to cook? So, it’s busy in Bemmesland, but it’s mostly filled with joy, and that’s why I decided to post.

This has not been our easiest holiday season. Because of the release of Happiest Holidays, I did not do as much pre-planning as usual. We traveled to Florida for our son’s last Disney trip with his high school marching band, and we traveled this past weekend for my oldest son’s college graduation. I wasn’t as consistent as usual, and it’s showing because I’m usually ready by today, and this year I’m not. I have moments of overwhelm I haven’t felt in years, but the blessing in that is knowing that this holiday is not about whether my house is spotless, my food is perfect or even if I have all the right gifts. With one son who is moving to another city and who will be getting married next year, another son who plans to work away from home for the last quarter of the year and a third son, my baby, who will be graduating from high school in a year and a half, this holiday season is about enjoying each of them as much as I can and letting the rest be what it is. It doesn’t matter that the lights went out on the top third of the tree or that there are no wrapped gifts underneath. What does matter is spending time with the ones I love and hoping that other years when the calendar isn’t quite so busy, we’ll have time to get a tree that lights up fully and presents that are wrapped more than a few hours before they’re opened.

Today, we’ll be having a late dinner because my kids want to go to see Rogue One as a family. I thought about staying home and getting more accomplished, but then I thought about what I want their memories of this Christmas to be. I want them to be great memories of experiences we share and spending time together, not mom skipping out on the fun to do her work. I wonder how many times I’ve done that over the years, opted out of the fun because of self-imposed “shoulds” or “have tos” or “needs”. I caught myself doing that this morning. I should stay home and get the house in order. I should wrap more gifts. I should do some training for an upcoming job. If I choose any of those, what message am I sending to my family? I’m saying that a spotless home means more than time with them. I’m saying that the appearance of having it all together is more important that having memories with them. I would be doing the opposite of how I feel about the season and my family and how I want to live my life. So, again, why am I spending time on this blog post? I’m doing this to remind myself in years to come that I made the decisions that align with who I want to be, and maybe to inspire others to do the same.

It’s currently 11:30am in my part of the world and I have to be ready at 2:30pm. I will have this blog published by noon and will then have a quick lunch. I’ll take a shower and have my family help me with laundry, running the vacuum and clearing the tables. I’ll have my husband help me start the ham, and we will pre-fill the pans with water that the vegetables will cook in after we come home. I will finish the loaf of bread that is in the bread maker now and make another batch of dough if time allows, and I will go to see this movie with my family and enjoy every minute. If I remember, I’ll take a picture and post it to the Happiest Holidays Facebook page. If not, I’ll just enjoy the moment and will catch up with you all next week.

My wish for you this holiday season is to have the season you wish for yourself. Whether it’s joy or peace or contentment, I hope you get as much of it as you want. For me, it’s a mix of joy and fun and enjoying my friends and family because every moment means something to me, even sitting in a dark theater with those I love best. Happy Solstice. Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Happy Chanukah, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Holiday Expectations and Interpretations

So, I had been without my own bed since the week after Thanksgiving. My husband and I were gifted a soft sided waterbed the week my youngest child was born sixteen and a half years ago, and it decided to spring a leak right after Thanksgiving. While looking for king sized mattresses, we found out that a sleep number bed was only a few hundred more dollars, so we opted for that. The catch was that we would have to wait two weeks because those beds are made when you order them. In the meantime, we have been sleeping in our oldest son’s bedroom. Fortunately, we bought our older two sons new queen sized beds last year, so while we were not in our own room, we had a better than decent bed to sleep in. Yesterday, our new bed was delivered and last night, we were back in our own room. I was so happy until our ceiling fan began to make a strange noise. It was difficult to go to sleep, and it was difficult to stay asleep, and I woke up tense and slightly irritated that my first night in my new bed wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. There was a time I would have groused about that inconvenience all day, but today I’m different. Today, I realize what a blessing it is to even have a bed. Today I know what a privilege it is to feel safe in my home. Today I am aware of what a joy it is to have a home at all. These are the things that keep me humble and incredibly appreciative of all I have.

When I was pregnant with my youngest child I spent eight weeks in the hospital before he was born by emergency cesarean section. He then spent five weeks in the hospital afterward before we could bring him home, and during that time I learned a lot about stress. I learned that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a new or expectant mom who is worrying about her baby, a mother worrying about wedding plans or a teenager worrying about a pimple on Prom night, the stress is still the same. The other thing I began to learn was that the more we stress over things outside of our control, the more miserable we become. The more we learn to let go of those things beyond our control, the happier we will be. I couldn’t change the fact that my son was born with a medical condition. I could, however, learn as much as possible about his condition and how to help him, so I did. This was before Google had all the answers to our questions but after the internet became the place to start looking for answers. I looked and learned and took care of my child the best I possibly could. I laugh now when I think about everyone saying, “See, I told you he would be fine” because even though they looked at him and saw a healthy albeit tiny baby, I knew how vulnerable his health was, and because of that, how vulnerable my husband and I were to possibly losing a child. My life became an exercise in learning to manage that stress, which I did for the most part, but who wants that life?

What letting go allowed him to be. Photo credit Jim Calloway
What letting go allowed him to be. Photo credit Jim Calloway

It took years, but at some point, I finally let go of it all. I realized that no matter what I did, the unthinkable could still happen, so I stopped thinking about that and started thinking about how to have the best life we could have every day. I learned to breathe, especially when the moments came that made me want to hold my breath, the days when he was sick and I prayed he would keep his medicine down long enough that I didn’t have to take him to the hospital. I learned to remind myself to let my shoulders fall away from my ears, to relax my neck and shoulder muscles and to release my stomach muscles as well. In the moment that I did that, I could live in faith rather than fear. I could focus on getting my boy healthy rather than how scared I was that he was sick, and it worked more often than not. It’s why, when I’m standing in line, I do my best to send positive energy to everyone near me, especially the mom with the child melting down, especially the older woman who doesn’t understand why the Apple people can’t hack her email and fix her phone without any documentation that the phone is hers, especially the Apple employee who is telling the woman for the fifth or sixth time that to do that without the proper documentation would be illegal. It doesn’t always work for them, but it certainly helps me.
The other thing that took years to get passed and sometimes I still have issues with is my own expectations. I used to envision the perfect life, the perfect holiday, the perfect day, and when I did that, I was always disappointed. Even now, I sometimes have such high expectations of what I can do in a day that I disappoint myself on a regular basis, but I started doing something to change that. In the past, I would check off my to-do list as the day went on and write a new one the next day in my planner. Now, I write my list on a clean sheet of paper and check off the items I work on and enter only my accomplishments in my planner. While that may sound counterproductive or perhaps childish, I’ve found that listing my accomplishments helps me to stay positively focused. The other day, the day my bed was delivered, I felt like I was behind all day and wasn’t accomplishing anything. As I began to write down what I had done that day, I realized I was being incredibly hard on myself. I had done five loads of laundry, helped the bed installers with whatever they needed, made a trip to the bed store to buy the mattress cover that I needed because the one I purchased elsewhere wouldn’t work. I placed an online order that took over an hour to create. I made chicken parmesan and took a call that might result in part time work for me. I cleaned the bathrooms, picked my son up from school and helped put my bedroom back together as well. I ironed a king sized bed skirt for heaven’s sake, using starch! That not productive day was pretty darned productive when I took a step back and looked at it through a different lens, and not the one that included all the things I hadn’t done on my list.

May family without my youngest on Thanksgiving
My family sans my youngest on Thanksgiving

I think the holidays are probably the worst time for expectations because there are so many variables and so many things can change. I have to admit I dove into the holidays this year with expectations of my own. I expected this to be the last Thanksgiving I would spend with my three boys at my sister in law’s house, something we’ve done all but one of the past twenty three years. It has always been one of my favorite times, and I planned to savor every minute of it. Unfortunately, my youngest son got sick and had to stay home from our Thanksgiving celebration, so my expectation of our last Thanksgiving before my son gets married next summer was dashed. I also thought I would have one more Christmas holiday with my son before his wedding, but it turns out that he and his fiancée are traveling to her hometown for him to visit with her family. I have to tell you that one was hard to take because Christmas is a big deal for me, but I knew once he was married things would probably change. I wasn’t prepared for them to change quite yet, but they did, so now there’s a new plan, and that’s the final piece of the emotional stress puzzle for me, adaptability. With three boys and a husband whose work schedule often includes overtime and sometimes includes travel, I’ve had to learn to be adaptable. It isn’t always easy and sometimes it takes me a day or two to regain my balance, but I always do. Even with this blog post, I started with one idea yesterday, and it changed today as I did four hours of paperwork and had little time to finish it the way I would have liked, but that’s life, especially during the holidays. I ebb and flow the best I can, especially on days that feel like I’m on a roller coaster in a blizzard, and I do my best to enjoy the ride because stressing over it doesn’t do me or anyone else any good.

I read an article recently from a mother to a daughter regarding the changes that are taking place in my country. The article asked everyone to focus on the “most respectful interpretation” in every situation. I thought that was a brilliant statement, and I’ve written it down to remind myself to do that very thing every day. It is what has kept me from getting into political debates, judgment of others and much eye rolling. It is a quality we could use much more of in this world from everyone, including me. It’s how I plan to get through the rest of the holiday season and beyond and it helps me feel peace in a sometimes chaotic world. I know all is not right in the world. I understand all is not right in my country, my city or even in my home, but when I can be at peace, only then can I help right the wrongs in any of those places. I’m not always there, but even when I’m not, it is the place I’m always heading back to. I wish you all peace as we head into the last days of this holiday season. I wish you adaptability. I especially wish you the most respectful interpretation of whatever situation you’re in, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Happiest Holidays






Pirouetting through the Holidays

When I was young, I took ballet and was not very good.  Ballet, tap and jazz never felt natural to me and after struggling for several years, I finally gave up.  I couldn’t even do a proper pirouette because I never seemed to be able to find my spot each time I turned my head.  For those who are unfamiliar with how to do a proper pirouette, as you rise onto your toes, you find a spot on the wall or in the room on which to focus.  You keep your head as still as possible as your body turns, and when your head must turn, you turn as quickly as possible and refocus on your spot.  If you cannot pirouette properly, you cannot become a great dancer.  I couldn’t and didn’t.  It turned out to be a good thing because I never had the figure to become that type of dancer anyway.  Instead, I learned to love dancing with my friends, and that was good enough for me. 


For those who celebrate something this month, we are in full on holiday mode.  This month can be exciting, overwhelming, fun filled, discouraging, tender and enraging, sometimes within a few days, hours or even minutes.  As a “go with the flow” kind of woman, I used to find this season to be the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows as I let the events of the day determine how I lived and felt.  As the big days got closer, I would feel like I was on a stormy sea of emotions, and the tiniest slight would feel like the biggest snub.  A suggestion to change something I had planned could feel like a soul crushing criticism, and some days it felt like I couldn’t do anything right.  Then I learned something profound.  I learned that we do not see the world as it is.  We see the world as we are.  If we are angry and scared, we will see the world as an angry and scary place.  If we are kind and loving, we’ll see the world as kind and loving.  I also learned that we have more choice in that matter than we care to acknowledge in most cases, and that was a game changer for me.  That meant that I could have the type of holiday I wanted rather than the one that was dished out to me, and I wanted a peaceful, joyful and loving holiday more than anything.  The question was how to get it.  Actually, the first question was what would help me have that peaceful, joyful and loving holiday I longed for.  Turns out, it started in my own home.


I love having a clean and organized home, especially during the holidays.  I spent over a decade learning how to get my home in order; now I spend less than an hour per day maintaining it.  Fatigue has often gotten in the way of a joyful holiday season, especially when I was the queen of late nights and early mornings.  I found I could be productive on Monday and Tuesday, but as the week wore on, I would spend more and more time on the couch and more and more time thinking I was an absolute failure as a mom, wife and human being.  It was amazing how an extra half hour of sleep per night helped cure that.  When I wasn’t sleeping enough, I couldn’t understand why my daily todo list seemed insurmountable or the sofa seemed irresistible.  A mere thirty minutes of extra sleep per night made all the difference.  How did I manage to get to bed thirty minutes earlier?  I turned my TV off at 9pm.  It sounds so simple, but it was more difficult than I thought in the beginning.  I was amazed at the amount of mindless TV I watched.  Years ago we figured out that having TV on in the morning was disastrous to our morning routine.  It amazes me that it took two more decades to realize the same thing about our evening routine.  The computer is another issue.  I love social media.  I have contacts all over the world because of it, but the allure of catching up often got in the way of being productive, so I’ve made a deal with myself.  The computer/iPad/smart phone are put on hold until most if not all of the morning home blessings, meditation and writing are complete, and they get one final check in the evening after the TV is off, then it’s off to finish the evening routine and head to bed.  I also make sure that a load of laundry is done per day and the results are miraculous .  Life began to fall into place.  Life gets easier.  I get happier, and I find the inclination to write and live better in every way.  I know how trite that sounds, but those habits changed everything for this previously undisciplined woman. 


You know, I used to hate the word discipline, probably because I didn’t have any and it always seems like a horrible way to live, but I learned something about discipline.  When I was a young parent, I heard that punishment is something you do to your child.  Discipline is something you do for them.  When I learned to discipline myself to do the few things I just mentioned, I completely understood that concept for the first time.  I realized the gift that discipline can be, and how, without discipline, we constantly punish ourselves for not being able to be who we want to be.  It can either be a vicious or victorious cycle, and I shoot for victory every time.  Do I miss the mark now and then?  Yes.  Do I lose the spot as I pirouette through life and the holidays?  Occasionally, but the daily habits of taking care of me, my family and my life are what constitute my spot on the wall, and every time I refocus there, the rest takes care of itself and that will always be good enough for me.


Do you have a holiday challenge you would like help with?  Please comment on this post or send me a message on our Where Karen Goes Facebook page, and we’ll see what we can do to help.  Need holiday help with everything?  There’s still time to get your printed or Kindle copy of Happiest Holidays, Your guide to a budget friendly, peaceful and fun holiday season.  It includes several tips and recipes to make your holiday season the best it can be.  And that, I hope, is good enough for you.  Thanks for being you and have a great day.