Another Ball Falls. Pick it up.

Keeping new years resolutions is hard. For that reason, my 2017 resolutions were simple:

Be happy.
Stay Strong.
Love.

I can confidently say there were points all throughout the year where I accomplished all of those things, but there were certainly times when I did not follow those rules–and that’s okay. It’s too damn hard to keep it together all the time and if I’m not okay with that, well then that diminishes my happiness and strength and I’m back to square one.

We all need to find a way to keep ourselves mentally strong and the above resolutions were developed around just that–my emotional stability. I also snuck in a resolution centered on my physical ability:

Learn to juggle.

I began my juggling journey eager and with a great deal of confidence until I realized what a challenge it would be, and as with most resolutions, I slowly but surely gave up, moved on, and pushed it to the back of my mind. That’s to say, I forgot about it until about three weeks out from the new year.

Being someone who hates to fall short of physical goals I set for myself, I panicked­–hard-core panicked. I was determined to meet this goal come hell or high water. From that moment on, I spent time each day practicing–uncontrollably bouncing balls (or fruit) off walls, counters, floors, and my face, but even with all that practice, December 31st showed no progress–just the sound of limes smacking the floor, which annoyed my husband to no end.

Halfway through the day, I switched to spiky dryer balls and about 15 minutes before the clock struck midnight, for the first time (and with much encouragement and help from my husband), I was able to keep two balls in the air for seven to ten consecutive rotations!!! I’d found success–one marked by limited time, growing pressure, dents in the floor and my face. The greatest kind.

Although mission accomplished, it taught me (or reminded me once again) that even goals that seem attainable, (like 365 days to keep two objects in the air for a very short amount of time) can fall short of success if one is not resolute. More importantly, we humans never reach our full potential by cramming. I’m sure with a little practice each day (slow and steady) I could have joined the circus or at least met my goal with more confidence and pride. My speedy shortcut certainly got me to my goal but in no way did it represent perfection.

To wrap up:

In 2017, I was happy for moments. I stayed strong as best I could. And I certainly loved. I also learned to juggle–maybe not as defined by Barnum & Bailey but certainly as defined by Siri.

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Since all of that worked out so well, I have chosen new challenges for 2018.

My goals to strengthen my emotional stability are:

Recognize good moments. (There will be plenty of them.)
Do not be paralyzed by sadness or pain. (It will come but it will pass.)

My physical ability resolution will remain a secret unless of course, I succeed. If my character and determination prove strong, you will find out next year. Until then, slow and steady my friends.

God bless you all in 2018!

For your viewing pleasure, here are some stills of some of my many failed attempts…

 

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To Dad.

70 years seems like an incredible feat, especially since I oftentimes question how I’ve survived for just over half of that. But your 70 years of life experience, is probably what has gotten me through my mere 36. You’ve taught me so many things—things that have carried me through some of my best and worst days. From teaching me how to ride a bike to helping me navigate the stock market—you prepared me for life’s little and big tests.

I understand how important it is to believe in myself, to show up, to not take anything personally, to be fun and to have fun and to “not stand on the boards”—a reference only my former skating friends will understand, but that everyone should. It means to understand the value of time, to use it wisely in order to uncover its worth. So DAD, happy 70th birthday! Thank you for using your time wisely—to make my life better but mostly thank you for loving me for more than half your life and for all of mine.

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Hungry for more.

Recently, I felt sadness for a complete stranger. Maybe it was timing more than anything else. Perhaps I was unusually fragile that day. Or maybe it was purely selfish, having suddenly realized I had missed an opportunity to learn all I could from one member of a truly important generation. No matter the reason, empathy had hit me hard.

As I’ve had more time to reflect, I find myself wondering if the importance of those who came before us has been lost on my generation and even more so on the generation who follows me. I’m terribly afraid that we’ve taken the wisdom of those who preceded us for granted, brushing them off as old, out of touch or unreasonably sad and angry. Had I capitalized on all of the free life lessons that came directly from real life experiences? Just how many of these opportunities had I missed? And why had I not questioned myself until now?

Prior to this awakening, I would have undeniably omitted myself from falling into the category with those who didn’t think twice about this – with those who cared more about their own life than the lives of those who helped shape it. But now, I wonder if their significance has been lost on me as well.

Let’s back up. Last year, I started volunteering with the organization Meals on Wheels. I had seen the TV commercial many times and figured that I was plenty capable of “dropping off a hot meal and saying a quick hello” but after just a few deliveries, I learned that it was so much more than that.

Combating senior hunger (initiated through the loss of independence due to declining health) may be the foundation of this organization but combating other forms of hunger – hunger for companionship, for conversation, for friendship, for love – those are what continue to drive it. It truly is about “taking care of those, who once took care of us”.

For me, the experience has been priceless. I have some humorous stories that I could entertain you with. I’ve seen and heard a lot, some of which is forever burned in my mind, including moments like the following:

  • Being greeted by a senior in just his underwear who seemed confidently unaware
  • The time I felt supreme guilt for possibly being responsible for an escaped cat
  • The few times that I’ve been treated as a thrift shop representative and was gifted many undesired trinkets
  • The countless, unsolicited, reports I’ve received of ailments and escaping bodily fluids

I’ve certainly gathered a strange combination of happy and sad. I’ve listened to many “woe is me” narratives and truly feel I’ve been witness to deep depression onset by old age. I’ve had a quick glimpse into the life we don’t consider when we’re praying for a longer one. We don’t fully understand what is connected to such a wish. We don’t realize that we’re asking for a life that could be full of insurmountable odds – a life that may be pretty darn sad and lonely.

I quickly learned that behind many closed doors lies physical and emotional pain. There is sickness and loneliness. I was shown a clear picture of loss of life within life. Many of these people sit under their own dark cloud in secret until forced to open the door and then they either hide that sadness and pain or display it in plain sight.

I promise it’s not all sad. I’ve seen the opposite end of the spectrum, too. Some client’s are content or seemingly happy enough and they all have been grateful and kind. Some still have their companion or at least someone who helps them maintain the “pep” in their step and love in their heart. But many don’t and on this particular day, I realized that we all have someone, until we don’t.

That day, an unfamiliar face opened a familiar door. She was a somber faced woman, dressed in black. “We’ll be cutting down to one meal. Did they tell you?” At first, this didn’t strike me as strange. I had always secretly wondered if the man who lived there had requested two meals just for himself. Today, I was ashamed of my assumption, which usually made me secretly smirk. As strangers, we sometimes do that. We imagine other people’s lives. We wonder. We speculate. But seldom do we put in the effort to seek out the truth or learn a stranger’s story. I wish I had asked. I wish I had asked where his wife was every time I did the drop off. He would have likely told me, “She is sick in bed.” Instead, today his niece told me that she had died. I’d been to her home countless times and never knew she was there.

In that single moment I was harshly reminded of my real duty. It wasn’t just to feed. It was to care. Bringing this newly widowed man food wasn’t going to heal his heartbreak, his sadness or his loneliness but maybe our next conversation or the one after that, would.

Food is important. It’s a basic human need but it’s not the only thing that feeds the body and it won’t feed someone forever. Stranger’s stories are just as important as mine. These bodies and souls were once like me, and one day, I may be just like them. They paved my path, your path. They saw things I may never see in my lifetime – some of which I’ll yearn to, other’s which I pray I’ll never have to.

So the next time you cross paths with an elder, stop to ask them how they are. Ask them where they’re going. But please, ask them where they’ve been. One day, you may be them. They (I) may not tell you they are (I am) sad and lonely and would like to talk but I promise you, they (I) do.

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Subscribe to happy.

How many thoughts pass through your mind in a single day? How many times do you find yourself paralyzed by doubt and uncertainty? For me, the answer to both of those questions is, “too many”.

I would categorize myself as a self-doubter, an over-thinker. I have always struggled with indecision. It’s plagued me since I can remember – always fearing that I would make the wrong choice and once I made one, I would torment myself by questioning my decision.

I’ve read that sometimes uncertainty can be beneficial. A certain amount of self-doubt is healthy and can serve us well. It generates questions that force us to review all options, from all angles and this close examination places pressure on us to make the best decision.

But if you’re like me, self-doubt can become debilitating. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize my own disabling, self-scrutinizing patterns. Options and “what if’s” are my greatest adversaries and create a lot of mental resistance. And it’s not just having to choose between A or B, it’s my internal debate of wondering if I’m good enough, smart enough or capable. It’s wondering what others may think. At times, I agonize over the little things, making mountains out of molehills (as my mom would say), putting me at capacity both mentally and physically. It can be exhausting.

I know I am not alone. We all question ourselves from time to time. We all lack confidence, once in a while. We all fill our minds with trivial, negative thoughts. It’s human nature. But we need to remember that our minds and bodies can only handle so much. Our fears, coupled with constantly overflowing thoughts, can stop us from accomplishing what we want. They can and will interfere with our happiness and personal sense of freedom.

When I’m lacking confidence or questioning a decision, my dad always asks, “Did you do your best?” When I’m grumbling to him about being stressed, he asks, “Is stress real?” Those are such simple questions but they are not asked as such. To him, they are rhetorical. He knows I always do my best and in regards to stress, he believes if you cannot touch or see something, it does not exist. One can argue the latter, however his point is that stress does not exist on its own. It’s something we create. Either way, both questions fulfill the purpose of reminding me that my worry and negative thinking, is needless. They are two simple reminders that have a profound effect on me. They provide me with the reassurance I need to clear my mind and move on. In reflecting on this, I wonder…can it be that simple? Is it that simple?

In keeping on the topic of my dad…he gave me a book years ago – The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by Miguel Ruiz. As I recall, it was during a time when I was (surprise, surprise) hounded by worry and “stress” (which I have placed in quotes because remember, it does not exist). For a relatively “quick read”, its message is powerful. Ruiz alludes to domestication (learned behavior) being the main detriment to our “journey towards spiritual transcendence” or more simply put, freedom, love and happiness. It sounds complicated but post-read, it will make all the sense in the world. It will encourage you to pause and re-evaluate your habits and priorities in order to live a life devoid of stress, worry, gossip, anger, self-abuse and anything else that holds you back. After I finished the book, I memorized its four principles (supposedly derived from ancient Toltec wisdom) and vowed to apply them to my daily life. It’s obvious, however, (in writing this) that I forget to refer to them from time to time.

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Although up until this point I have lacked in my commitment to them, I strongly believe that practicing these principles can help remove much of the doubt and uncertainty we face on a daily basis. If we use them as a guide to living, it’s possible to achieve the confidence that is required to uncover peace of mind and move forward with conviction.

It’s best to read The Four Agreements in its entirety for extra guidance and context but its four main principles can and should be learned and applied without delay.

I present them here;

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
  4. Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Even when advised against it, we remain our own greatest critic but if we can retrain our minds to minimize our negative thoughts by way of this advice, we will be one step closer to personal freedom and true happiness.

As for me, I think it’s time for a full “re-read”. 😉

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*Relatable song of the moment: Heavy by Linkin Park

I Will.

I woke up on January 1st (along with the rest of the world) forcefully pushed into that brief period of reflection – angry with myself for once again focusing too much on the “has beens” and the “what if’s” of life – wrapping myself up in the past, as if it were my inescapable future.

The few years leading up to 2016 was a mix of good and bad and so I headed into the year expecting the worst, hoping for the best and based on my standards, ended up falling somewhere in between. I suspect someone who fell victim to hard times would say that my year was a good one but for me, the gap between where I am and where I want to be seems to keep growing and the very thought of that throws me into a downward spiral of negativity. But just as I’m about to count my adversities one by one, I hear one-year-old giggles coming from the next room followed by the cute swishing sound of my nephews chunky thighs, speedily rushing towards me and suddenly, all is right in the world. If that’s all it takes, then surely things can’t be so bad!

There are always things to be grateful for and to be happy about. Sometimes, we just need that perfectly timed reminder. 😉img_7322

In 2017 I will:
Continue wishing.
Remember & appreciate the past but won’t look back too hard.
Envision my future.
Keep things simple.
Be happy.
Stay Strong.
Love.

Thank you.

It’s that time of year again! The streets have gone eerily quiet as we adults try our hardest to wrap it up, while secretly trying to stretch it out  – all while the brutal, end of season heat, sucks out whatever life was left in us. The kids, on the other hand have obviously gone into hiding, in hopes back-to-school will not find them. Welcome to pre-Labor Day September.

As I near my 35th birthday, I find that this time reminds me more of being an adult and working in a school, than it does of being a kid and going to school. That means one of two things. Either I’m getting old and the closer things are, the better I remember them OR my teaching experience had a truly profound effect on me. I’m certain it is the latter.

Thirteen years ago (wow), I worked in an integrated preschool for Autistic and typically developing children. I stepped into a world I never knew existed and unbeknownst to me at the time, it was a world I would never fully depart. I’ll be candid and admit that I had never been more shocked, saddened, confused, frightened, frustrated and discouraged as I was on that first day. I had also never felt such joy, pride and love as in the days and years that followed. And it was not until I left, that I realized I had fallen so completely in love with those kids and that I was forever changed. I miss them so much and for what they did for me, I owe them some recognition.

Autism is still a mystery. To some, it is viewed as a complication, a misfortune – a puzzle as the infamous symbol illustrates. And it’s hard to argue against any of those negative characterizations. But let’s take a second to say those words out loud and hear the sadness in them, as they relate to children. As confusing, frustrating, exhausting, sad and unfair as Autism is for the child and the family, my time spent around those children, allowed me to see it differently and in a more positive light. Through their daily struggles (that also became my own) and their small but simultaneously monumental achievements, they opened my eyes. They taught me to be thankful for my own blessings and empathetic towards others hardships. They made me stronger (emotionally and physically) and taught me true patience. They simplified and evolved my definition of the disorder to slowly become this;

Autism – noun: A gift of an unusual but special kind. One that is impossible to guess the contents of, just by looking at it. A gift that must be handled with care due to its fragility. A gift that must be carefully studied and cautiously, slowly opened. A gift that must be loved at all times – before opening, while opening and after opening. And in some cases, it must be loved well after one has discovered the possibility that there may be nothing more left to open.

We talk about Autism as a mysterious, sad, unfortunate disorder, which it no doubt is. But I will always remember the children behind it.  I will remember their amazing differences. Their quirky habits. Their tremendous pride in a single accomplishment. Their need and content for simple, repetitious days that simply are not good enough for anyone else. Their love for exploration and discovery. Their ability to love and their need to be loved back. Yes, they are all different – each one their own puzzle but with time, patience, love and a little luck  you just may find the child hiding behind the mystery. And there is no greater feeling than rescuing a soul (even if only for a moment) from the entrapment that is this mysterious disorder.

I’ve long since moved on from that job (in both professions and in miles) but that part of my life is forever with me. My biggest fear has become that they will never know the gift they gave me, that was simply them.  So although it’s unlikely they will be reading this, they should know that what I learned from them has carried me through many of my days and I’d like to thank them for that.

Thank you…

  • for confirming that life will continue to surprise me but hope can carry me.
  • for teaching me dedication, how to have patience, how to be accepting, the importance of forgiveness, the meaning of self-worth and the value of humility.
  • for showing me that a smile is worth a million words and proving that one word is worth the whole world.
  • for showing me you can love what you once feared until you love without fear.
  • for proving that you can’t learn human behavior or anyone’s story, from a book.
  • for teaching me that an intentional and mutually understood hug, is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
  • for teaching me how uncomplicated my life really is and how in the scheme of things, we really are all so small.

I’ll never forget you. xoxo

“Her voice is a gift alone that brings tears of joy to us.”
Autism thx

 

Just Make It Work.

We don’t always have the luxury of customizing a space exactly how we see it in our heads. Open floor plans, high ceilings, oversized windows…not always a possibility. Even if those were do-able, you may not want to put yourself through what could turn out to be, a construction nightmare. Money, time, patience (or lack thereof) all come into play and sometimes, you just have to work with what you have. The good thing is – often times when you’re forced to work with what you have, you’ll find that what you have, can actually work.

My husband and I were gifted a small dose of “You can’t always get what you want” as our home kindly offered up a “small space” challenge of its own – the dreaded “porch turned interior room” project. Our little, extra room. I wanted to view it as a bonus but it actually felt more like a burden. What would its purpose be? A den, an office, a sad excuse for a library in a home where the word itself simply sounds ridiculous?

We’re certainly not the first homeowners to tackle a tiny space. Tiny, we could handle but tiny and overlooked or not usable, I could not.  The room is tucked away behind our living room and my first concern was, how can it be useful or inviting if no one noticed it was even there? Frustrated by this thought, my goal right then and there became to make it enticing by way of intrigue. I vowed to make the room intriguing, usable and of course, beautiful. And so followed a course of action based on intrigue, purpose and beauty – three things I want to have when I grow up. 😉

Step 1: Choose Room Color
With all our rooms, choosing the paint color came first. This room has ample natural light so even dark wall colors would have sufficed but I chose to maximize the already light and bright by choosing a nice, light green – more specifically, Benjamin Moore – Aganthus Green

Step 2: Choose Room Mood
Unlike with people, you can choose the mood of your room. I quickly convinced myself that this is indeed, a bonus room – a space to do anything we want including one or all of the following (probably not simultaneously): read, relax, nap, peruse the internet, reminisce over photos, flip through magazines, write, dream, work and the occasional push-up.

Step 3: Furnish the Room
I asked myself, “What might be helpful when doing one or all of the above?” A work space or desk (to write, work or peruse the web), chairs OR a couch (to relax, read or nap), a bookcase (to store all the books and pictures), a floor lamp (to see), a vintage rung ladder (for the occasional magazine) and a throw (to keep one comfy while doing all of it OR just because I want one).

Let’s break down how checking off this list went:

DESK
Finding a desk was challenging.  Once again, my Pinterest board built dreams that became crushed after my actual “search to purchase” activity and I came up empty. Fortunately, I was able to find many a tutorial on how to make the desk I envisioned and it turned out to be not overwhelmingly hard.

To make our desk:
1.) Decide on measurements.
2.) Go to your favorite hardware store. Mine happens to be Home Depot. Choose your boards and have them cut to size.
3.) Purchase stain of choice, metal connectors and screws.
4.) Lightly sand edges & surface.
5.) Stain and allow to dry fully.
6.) Lay boards out on a work surface spaced to your liking and enlist someone to assist holding in place for attaching.
7.) Get over your need for everything to come out perfect. (I’m constantly working on this)
8.) Attach the hairpin legs. I ordered mine from www.hairpinlegs.com

SEATING
A couch won out over chairs but choosing the right size couch was aggravating because the size we wanted, would not fit through our front door and we were forced to downsize, compromising a bit on the style.

Tip #1: Triple check the measurements of the door it will be coming through before making the purchase.

Furniture is not like clothes. You can’t try it first and so despite measuring numerous times, I still held my breath up until the moment it made it safely through the threshold. However, fitting through the front door is not the only success you need. It also needs to look appropriate in its intended space, which for us turned out to be a big fail. Even this smaller version couch looked way too big where we planned for it to go.  It protruded too far into the belly of our room, leaving little space to do that one push-up.

Tip #2: Always have a back-up plan.

Unfortunately, swapping it with our living room couch (which was my back-up plan), did not work.

Tip #3: Always have a back-up to your back-up plan.

This tip was not just an afterthought. I did, in fact have a Plan C.  And it did in fact work, sliding perfectly into the nook on the far wall completing my vision of that inviting space.  What’s more inviting than a comfy looking couch? My husband proves that nothing is. 😉

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LIGHTING
As I mentioned, this room gets ample light during the day but at night, you’d trip over yourself. Enter, floor lamp. I really craved one from Crate and Barrel but I opted for the cheaper Target version, which does the job just the same and still makes me smile.

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Some finishing touches included curtains, which were hung with our old apartment rods (sprayed gold) and a mini display of some photos and other artsy decor.

 

*Framed stamp collage made by me but stamps courtesy of Grandma & Grandpa’s travels.

 

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*Typewriter, courtesy of my mom’s younger days.

“I’m not a beauty but I’m pretty.
I’m not a genius but I’m witty.”

 

 

 

 

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*Dining Room chair turned desk chair, courtesy of  World Market.

 

 

 

 

 

I also became obsessed with a recycled pallet project that I had seen on pinterest and just had to make it. It was work and I ran into some trouble getting the right coloring on the wood but the end result is close to what I was hoping for and it was a cheap project overall.

Free pallet courtesy of a Facebook search
Existing mason jars colored with mod podge, blue food coloring & my oven
Faux flowers from Michaels
Pipe clamps from Home Depot
Some nails & screws
Stain
Sandpaper

 

Still missing – a rung ladder but otherwise…..voila! A room we rarely use.