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.

Kitchen Tables and Colonoscopies

 

It happened again.  The pattern repeated itself, and I found myself with a cluttered kitchen table once more.  I wasn’t sure what to write about last week because there is so much going through my mind; parenting, my journey to better health, where I want to go with my writing, keeping up with the house, the economy, the inauguration, how angry the world seems to be about our political situation.  As a writer, there is no lack of subject matter, and I wonder if this table theme has been overdone, but I also wonder how many people have a pattern like this in their own lives, a recurring pile or mess that signals the need to address something beyond the mess.

 

I first wrote about my kitchen table five years ago last week.  I posted a picture of my beautifully clean table with a lovely bamboo plant on it and seeing that picture makes me smile.  The picture above is a picture of what my table looked like as of a week ago, not a pretty site, but seeing the memory helped me decide the direction of that day and several after.  When I finally dove into the pile that had been building over several days, I knew it would be more than just a clearing of the decks physically.  It always has been and this mess was no exception.

 

Last week I found out our former high school principal died.  He was involved in a terrible car accident that left him with spinal cord damage and paralysis.  While in the hospital, they found a malignant tumor on his kidney and removed the kidney.  He died of complications from the surgery leaving a wife and eight children with no husband/father.  This was a kind man, a good man, and I struggle when kind and good people suffer so greatly.  It also gives me great pause when a father leaves a family behind, and a woman is left to raise her children alone, and since my own father was dying of kidney cancer when he was my age, it strikes an even deeper chord.  Even more poignant for me was facing my first age related procedure this week, the dreaded colonoscopy.  To say I was on edge would be putting it mildly, but I have a history of colon cancer in my family.  My grandmother died of colon cancer.  She also suffered a severe depression after my grandfather died and barely left the house for a couple of years.  She even told my mom, after reading an article on how the state of our mind is connected to the state of our health, she thought her depression might have contributed to her getting cancer.   So, I’m dealing with some personal demons on the subject of mortality and how I want to live what’s left of my life, not that I’m planning to leave anytime soon, but who knows when that is?

 

I think everyone wants to live a life that matters, but I think what matters is different for everyone.  Anyone who knows me is aware that being the best wife and mother I can be tops my list.  This year, I’ll be adding mother-in-law to that list, and I have a great role model to follow for that.  I only hope that I can be as wonderful to my future daughter in loves (yes, that’s what I call them) as my mother in law has been to me.  I have also made having a nice home a priority.  I’ve never been a fan of housework, but I see the blessing of having a home that is clean and tidy.  I think better and sleep better when the house isn’t in chaos, which may be why I’m struggling right now (that damned table again), and then there’s the writing.

 

There was a day I hesitated to call myself a writer because I wasn’t making a living from it, and now that makes me laugh.  I’ve written three books, one about parenting, one about motherhood and one about the holidays.  I love those books, and I am proud of them because each one was a triumph in some way.  I also love blogging because I think many of us go through similar situations and knowing how someone else deals with life can help us deal with things better as well. Writing also focuses my wandering mind because when I write, I let the muse take over and see where the words take me.  I know that may sound strange to others who don’t write, but I liken it to being “in the zone” for an athlete, in the creative flow for an artist or getting lost in a book for those who read.  I love the feeling of it and sometimes I am as surprised as anyone where it leads.  This past week it led to my kitchen table, a task I was sure would be done in a day, but is still lingering a week later.

 

I spent several days going through paperwork and facing things.  I called to make appointments.  I wrote checks.  I did holiday follow up and pushed through procrastination.  I also faced real fear about the procedure that was approaching and what the doctor might find.  My head knows that I live a healthier life than my grandmother and father, but my imagination can get the best of me.  I don’t fear death, although how my family suffered through cancer is seared into my memory.  But I have so much more living to do, and this is the part of mortality that I’ve learned to use to my advantage.  Because I know that life can throw you a curve ball at any moment, I’ve learned to say “the heck with it” and follow my dreams, but that journey isn’t a smooth, straight path.  It is windy, steep and curvy with underbrush of all kinds.  It’s paperwork and bills to pay and fear of being sick, but it’s also transatlantic video chats and collaborations with people who make my heart sing.  It’s progress rather than perfection.  It’s living each day with as much meaning as you can.  It’s letting the almost clear table be good enough.  It’s sharing the struggle in a week late blog post, and it’s encouraging everyone to see that every obstacle can lead you to your next best place.  For me, that was getting a clean bill of health, brainstorming for my next book and finishing this post.  None of it changes the world at large, but it changes my corner of it and inspires me to keep chasing my dreams.  Trust me, it’s a great way to live, and I hope you’ll join me by chasing your own dreams, whatever they might be and 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.

Do Better December 2016

10403387_10153084432873366_5861144938281823701_nFor those who have followed me for a while, you know that I dedicate December to doing the best I can in every area of my life, and I challenge others to do the same.  In the past, I have done this as a way to consciously counteract my tendency to get caught up in the drama of the holidays and forget who I want to be and how I want to live.  It also helps me overcome the procrastination and perfectionism this holiday season can bring.  With that in mind, I have been putting off the initial blog post for Where Karen Goes for some time now, and today seems like the perfect day to overcome the procrastination and perfectionism that has kept me from launching into this new adventure in my life.  Part of the hesitation is that I finally decided that writing and blogging is the profession I’ve want to follow, but I know I have so much to learn, not so much about the writing because I’ve been doing that for decades.  The fear comes from being out of the workforce for so long and worrying about my business ignorance.

The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know about the technology that fuels others’ success.  People who are the ages of my children astound me with what they think of as common knowledge, and I find it to be overwhelming at times.  In addition to the technology is the idea that you have to be in a niche to be successful.  I don’t feel like I fall into a niche.  I am married.  I am a mom of nearly all adult children.  I love food.  I love travel.  I love my family.  I have experience with ADHD both personally and as a parent. I have experience with a child and a spouse with medical needs beyond the norm.  I am creative.  I am a writer, author and blogger, and the thought of writing about just one of those things feels awful.  The one theme that does seem to run through everything I write is perspective.  It’s the one thing I’m always looking for, in all situations.  I savor the ones that bring me joy and strive to learn from and find the blessings in the ones that challenge me.  One of my favorite quotes is that change is inevitable but growth is optional, and I opt for growth whenever I can.

I believe in the goodness of human beings, but I understand that “good” is a very personal term.  I know what intolerance looks like from inside and out, and I am living testament of how people can change and be understanding and even loving toward people who don’t share their views.  I am not perfect, nor do I strive to be, although that pesky perfectionism does sneak into my life at times.  My goal is to be the best version of myself possible, to love as much as I can and to have as much fun as possible along the way.  I am not a fan of living each day as if it is your last because if I did that, I would never do laundry, clean my home or let my children or husband leave the house again.  Instead, I strive to live each day that if it were my last, I would leave a legacy of love and laughter with those I love most. 

I enjoy giving and receiving hugs.  I tell people I love them, and I mean it.  I believe in redemption and forgiveness and living as much as possible without regret.  I am a person of faith who honors those of different faiths because I believe there is more than one path to grace.  That doesn’t always jive with my own faith, but my faith also says not to judge others, so I do my best not to.  I am a woman.  I am white.  I am American, but most importantly, I am a global citizen.  I will rise up against injustice when I see it, but I’ve also learned, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and I have never seen anyone change their mind when someone screams at them that they are wrong, stupid, ignorant or” less than” in any way.   Like most people, I am a mix of things I really like about myself and things I am striving to change.  It’s been one heck of a journey so far, and one I’m looking forward to continuing for a long time to come. So here we are on December 1st, 2016 as we dive into Do Better December.  My life is good but could be better.  I have challenges, but they could be worse, and I’ll share how I overcome some of those challenges as December goes on.  My days as a full time parent are ending soon, and my life as a writer and blogger is just beginning.  While some people feel like their life is over when they hit 50, 40 or some other random birthday, I feel like mine is gearing up for another amazing chapter.  I’ve loved my life as a full time parent, but I’m excited about the wonderful things ahead.  In the next month, my first child will graduate from college.  In the next year, I gain a new daughter in love, and I say a big WOOHOO to having another female in the family.  In the next two years, all of my children will have graduated high school, and God willing, within six years, all of my children will have college degrees and will be living on their own.  That’s me in a very big nutshell.  You may not know where the next adventure will be, but you can bet it will be interesting and filled with perspective.  In the meantime, thanks for joining me on the journey.  Thanks for being you and have a great day.

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