If Mom Were Still Here

Today is a new day. One that for me, comes with a bit of pain.

Because 3 years ago today my mother died.

Life has never been the same since.

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But here is the good news: Though the day may be hard, though I may shed some tears, today I will not fall apart.

Instead I’ll allow myself a good cry, wipe away my tears and get on with the business of life. I’ll do my morning workout, get some writing done, throw in a load of laundry, call my best friend to chat and figure out what the heck to make for dinner. Thoughts of Mom will come and go in the midst of it all, but I will be okay.

It’s not that I’m stoic.  Nor does it mean I don’t care.  Simply put, I accept, but don’t dwell in the grief I’ve been given.

I once read that grief doesn’t ever go away, we just learn how to dance with it.  I believe this to be true. I didn’t just lose my mother and then forget all about her. Instead I’ve learned to live in this world without her physical presence. I’ve come to accept the tiny hole in my heart and understand that it will be with me forever.

Yet adjacent to my grief and pain are love, joy, compassion and hope. The myriad of my emotions reside together within me, and there is room for all. Though I don’t relish the pain, I know it adds a facet of richness to life (without love there is no loss, no joy without pain, right?).

But here’s the thing: Though I’ve learned to live without my mother, I still miss her.  I miss her grin, and the blazing fire in her eyes that came whenever she got excited. I miss going to her house for dinner (she was an amazing cook and set a beautiful table). I miss her hugs.  But most of all, I miss talking to her. I long to fill her in on everything going on in my life. I miss her listening ear, her love for my family, her words of wisdom.

So many people I know harbor regrets.  They wish they had said or done something differently before their loved one passed.  They wish they could go back in time and fix those things.  Do I have regrets? Maybe, maybe not.  Sure, my mother and I had words that went unsaid. And I have questions that never got answered.

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So what then would I say to my mom if I could have her back for a day?

It’s probably not what you’d think. And I hope you don’t think badly of me for what I’m about to say. 

If I could talk to my mom just one last time,

I wouldn’t bother to tell her I love her.

I wouldn’t ask her if I did enough for her in those awful last days of her life.

I wouldn’t ask her to forgive me for being such a wretched teen.

Sounds harsh, I know.  Yet somehow I feel my mom is not concerned with such things. I think when we’re in heaven, we’re given heavenly understanding and compassion for the pain those on earth still struggle with. I wouldn’t want to waste my precious moments with mom discussing my fears from the past.  

I believe my mom already knows I love her.

I believe she knows I did my best for her when her illness was at its worst.

I believe she understands how horrified I now am by my childish, selfish teenage ways.

So instead, if I had one more day to talk to my mother, I’d spend that precious time talking about the things we always did. I’d catch her up on life.

I’d tell her how well Sarah is doing in graduate school. And we’d laugh together, because we always knew she would.

I would share how Meg loves college, is still running and is working hard in all her nursing classes.  Together we’d relish in the understanding of what a good nurse she will be.

I would tell her she was right, that Abby is very artistic. We’d share our dreams of all the cool things she might do with that talent.

I would tell her all about what Steve and I have planned for our future, how much I love writing and teaching, how her son is a good father and that my Dad, her husband, is hanging in there.  And she’d be so happy for us.

It’s the simple conversations I miss the most. Life is full of milestone moments. Graduations, first jobs, weddings, houses, babies and more. These are wonderful, memorable times. But for me, the best times are the moments in between.

The small, the seemingly insignificant, the ordinary.  May your life be full of such blessings.

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The last photo I have of my mom, taken in December, 2013.

 

 

 

Posted in attitude, Faith, Family Life, God, gratitude, inspiration, kids, life lessons, love, trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seven Signs You Should Take a Chance on Love

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We were sitting at her kitchen table, my friend and I, when her daughter walked in. I immediately got up, gave her a hug and congratulated her on her recent engagement. We all sat for a while, drinking our tea and chatting about love and marriage.

When I told the story of how my husband had proposed, my friend’s daughter asked me, “How did you know he was the one?”

It was a simple question, one I should have had an answer for; but I didn’t.

“Well,” I said, “I just knew.”

I paused, trying to remember, “I was so excited when he asked,” I said, “It just felt like everything was right.”

She nodded like she understood, and we went on to talk about marriage, houses and babies, the cornerstones of the American dream.

Later, on the way home, I kept coming back to this young girl’s question. I felt I hadn’t really answered it. It’s true that when my husband proposed I was excited. It’s also true that once I said yes, there was no turning back for me. I was all in.

But when I think back to the days before those days, I do remember bits and pieces of being a young girl who spent hours and hours trying to figure out love.

I vividly remember the first boy I ever cared about. I recall thinking that I’d die if he ever broke up with me. Months later, it was me, not him, who decided it was time to part ways. Insert new boy and: wash, rinse, repeat. By the ripe age of twenty, I met Steve. Wow, I thought: Now this is a nice guy. Cute, funny and smart; someone I could hang out with. When we first started dating, I noticed something was different. Being together was easy, comfortable, and fun. And maybe the first time, I had no angst over whether or not he cared for me as much as I did for him.  Perhaps I was finally growing up…

Just a couple months later I began to think he might be: The One. And of course, being the analyzer that I am, I then had to wonder if I was crazy for thinking it. Hours and hours I spent, writing my in journals, racking my brain, all in an effort to understand just what love is, and how it worked.

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Funny as it sounds, none of my angst had anything to do with Steve. He and I were fine at the time, dating, having fun and getting along fabulously. Instead, my internal concerns had everything to do with my personal fears.

Fear of the unknown.

Fear of choosing the wrong person.

Fear of getting hurt.

What I didn’t know then, was that my qualms about committing to a serious relationship were pretty normal. Simply a part of the process we (worriers) go through when we fall in love.

We can’t love without risk. And we can’t risk without fear. (Profound, huh?)

So how do we know if love is worth the risk?

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I am certainly no expert on love, but I have been married for, like,  forever (okay, just over 25 years). Add to that the fact that I still like (and love) my husband, and maybe, just maybe you should keep reading. (Regardless, it’s my blog-of course I’m here to give you my thoughts.) So let’s continue. Below are the seven signs that you should take a gamble on love.

Love is worth your risk when your loved one…

1-Is there for you when the world isn’t. You know what I mean: You’ve got a fever of 102, your breath stinks, and/or you just lost your job (and self-worth). Life happens and when it does, we often lose our footing. When your someone is there to help you plant your feet back on the ground, well then, he’s a keeper.

 2-Brings out the best in you. We are all here, I believe anyway, to lift each other up, and not put each other down. When our partner believes in us, it is somehow so much easier to believe in ourselves. But when the one we love isn’t in our corner, well…It makes for a long and lonely road.

 3-Makes you laugh. Life can be amazing. It can also be so stinking hard. And frustrating (think dealing with the cable company’s customer service). Being with someone who can make you laugh along the way makes it all a bit more bearable.

4-Challenges you. Somehow my husband sees right through me. He knows when I’m procrastinating, when I’m whining (dang it) and when I’m not being fair. Unfortunately for me, he calls me out on it. (See number two.)

 5-Loves you when you’re unlovable. I’ll admit, there may have been a time or two when I’ve yelled at my Steve unfairly. Perhaps once I made the flu out to be as bad as a terminal illness. And occasionally I can be a little passive aggressive. I’m not perfect, but neither is he. When your partner can overlook your faults and love you anyway, well that is a gift.

6-Enjoys your company. There is nothing better than having fun together. If you are lucky enough to enjoy being with your partner, whether it’s a big night out or a cozy night in, you’re pretty darn lucky.  And seeing as marriage is forever, this is pretty darn important.

 7-Contributes to your life together. So many good men lack the romance gene. But does it really matter? People show love in different ways. These same men who forgot the flowers are out there earning a living, helping bath your toddler, picking up your preteen from her school dance and/or mowing the lawn. They are doing what needs to be done. Contributing to your life together.  This, my friends, is love in action.

So on this Valentine’s Day, if you discover your mate made the Tracy cut, be sure and thank him/her for being such a great partner in life. 

And if you’re still out there looking for Miss/Mr. Wonderful, be sure and look beyond physical attributes, romance and your person’s (ugh) potential. Instead, take a good look at who your loved one is right now.  Pay attention to the condition of his/her heart.  Then consider whether such a heart deserves yours. 

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers!

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Do Less, Be More: Why I’m Not Doing Christmas this Year

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I love the holidays, I really do. Anyone who knows me knows my priorities in life are faith and family. But if I’m honest, there is usually a tiny part of me that can’t wait for it all to be over.

Why? Because for a introverted, to-do list clutching, over-thinker, Christmas can be overwhelming.

For me, getting through the month of December feels like running a marathon (caveat here: I’ve never really run one, I’m just guessing). You start out excited only to find yourself getting a little tired about a third of the way through. Yet you keep on trucking, and next thing you know you’re seriously considering the fact that you just might really die from exhaustion.  But alas you don’t, and then all of a sudden, you find you’re crossing the finish line with a sense of elation. Next thing you know, you’ve collapsed on the ground in a colossal heap.

This is what I don’t like about the holiday season.

The tasks of Christmas-the cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping, waiting in line, waiting in traffic, and running out of tape at 9pm the night before the night before Christmas-all really get to me. Sometimes I just wish I could run away (this cabin would be perfect!).

winter-cabin-for-blogCan you imagine staying here?  An introvert’s dream! 😉

I surely don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy/Tracy. I don’t welcome the irritation that rises up when the slow lady in front of me clogs up the aisle at Target. And as a Christian, I for sure don’t want to be crabby in this most important season.  But each year it happens, that is until God steps in. It goes something like this:

I hit December with my feet running.  I shop. I bake.  I send cards.  I participate in extra activities, buy clothes and food for the needy, and and take on way too much.  Then, I get tired and whine to God (pretty bold of me, all things considered).  God, I imagine, just rolls his eyes and whispers to himself, ‘Here we go again…’ But never does he let me down.

Instead God throws me a rope, provides a little perspective to get me through the season. This year, he got a handle on me early, through the words in a book by Max Lucado.

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(This is how I picture the sky looking when God speaks to my heart.)

My bible study group is reading Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado. Lucado is a witty Texan pastor with a plethora of books to his name (nearly 100 according to Wikipedia). This particular book shares the story of how Jesus came to Bethlehem (and to us) in an unexpected way and in the midst of chaos. Now to this I can relate.

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Because of Bethlehem is Max Lucado’s newest book.

I’ve read Lucado before and always enjoy his entertaining writing style.  But what struck me in this book was Lucado’s suggestions for how to find peace amidst the chaos. Yes! Peace! Go Max! This is what I’m always seeking in the holiday season.

One action item he recommends is to ditch the to-do list for a to-be list.  “We often get caught up in the busyness of doing,” says Lucado, “Time is short, and our to-do lists are long, especially during the holidays.” Sounds like my life… Lucado then asks the reader the following question, “How might it change your experience of Advent this year if you were to make your priority being-the person you want to become-instead of doing?” He then suggests the reader make a list of all they want to be.

And so I did. Just making the list has quieted my heart and mind. Made me excited about this busy, celebratory season. Given me peace. So I’m happy to tell you that for the first time in years, I am not running the race in December. I will not do Christmas, instead I will just be.

And because I’m either brave or stupid, today I’m sharing my to-be list with you.

 Tracy’s Christmas 2016 To-Be List

*I want to be a person who delights in the holiday season, appreciating the traditions of twinkling Christmas lights, holiday music, and gift-giving.

I want to be a person who makes sure her family and friends know, without question, just how much they are loved.

I want to be kind, patient, content and centered amidst the chaos. (Even when I’m the 8th customer in the one open lane at Walmart and it seems like Christmas will come before I get through the line-no one said this would be easy).

I want to be cognizant of God’s plan for and gift of eternal grace.  What an amazing gift it is.

I want to be still before God, each day, not just on Sunday.

I want to be a friendly and encouraging face to others. We all need this. 

I want to be less self-centered and more other-centered. This is hard, and I will fail time and time again.  But a girl can try, right?

So much of my stress during the holidays is self-imposed.  When I put focus on getting things done instead of being present, I lose sight of myself and get crabby.  I forget the entire purpose of the season. I miss seeing the blessings God pours down over me.  Not this year.

It’s December 7th and I’ve barely touched my to-do list.  But it’s okay, the good news is this: I’m a little easier to be around this season. Definitely more at peace. And somehow, I know that what really needs to get done, will get done.  I may never get around to sending out cards, but somehow I think God doesn’t mind so much. 

Happiest of Holidays to you, lovely readers!

 

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Don’t Think about it, Just Jump

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A year ago this week my husband and I were in Maui, taking a private tour on the road to Hana.

If you’re not familiar, the road to Hana is a miles long stretch of highway along the east coast of Maui. As you drive you’ll find yourself in the middle of a glorious rain forest with a number of waterfalls, beaches, and about 64 million photo opps. The views are incredible.

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We were nearing the end of our day when our guide, Laura, brought us to Wai’anapanapa State Park. Here we walked the black sand beaches and afterwards she asked, “Do you guys want to swim in a cave?”

It took me all of ten seconds to answer, “Yes!”

My husband looked at me. Between the two of us, I’m more the adventurer or at least I used to be. He was thinking it through, considering the downsides of swimming in a cave. Do we want to be wet in the car? Did we have the right shoes? What about our wallets and phones?

All I could think about was that I didn’t want to miss out on this experience. We’d wanted to swim in a waterfall, but the week’s heavy rains made doing so unsafe.

It took a little coaxing, a little me talking about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get my Steve to agree.  But once his concerns were met, he was all in.  After changing into our swimsuits we followed Laura down the short trail to the cave.

“Not everyone knows about this,” she said, “but a lot of locals come here. It’s actually a lava tube (natural tunnel made out of lava) and some even swim out through to the ocean.”

We arrived minutes later to find a father and his four children getting ready for their swim. I watched them, one by one, as they jumped into the narrow opening of the cave. The children were filled with delight, laughing as they jumped, there father right there in the water with them.

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After they were all in, Laura followed suit, “Ah, feels good! Who’s next?” she said, “Steve? Tracy?”

Suddenly I was terrified. I hadn’t expected to have to jump into the water, but the rocks were such that one could not step in. They were situated a good six feet above water. When was the last time I’d even jumped off a diving board?

Steve looked at me, “Well? You going?”

I giggled, I do this when I’m nervous. “I don’t know, it looks scary, you go first.”

My husband hesitated, but only for a minute. He jumped, went under and rose to the surface. “Whew!” he said with a laugh.

Oh Lord, it was my turn.

I wasn’t sure I could do it. I wanted to, yet I didn’t. The water was going to be cold (refreshing Laura had called it) and I hate being cold. Not to mention the jumping part  But I knew if I chickened out, I’d regret it. Still, I couldn’t get my feet to remove themselves from the ledge.

The father, who was still in the water, saw the fear in my eyes, “Come on, we’ll count you down,” he said. I looked up at his smiling face, his dark hair slicked back from the wet water. All four of his children were staring at me, excitement in their eyes.

“One, two, three…” shouted the crowd.

Lord have mercy.

“No, no, don’t do that!” I said, giggling again, “That makes it worse!”

Oh, the pressure.

Then Laura gently said the words I needed to hear, “Don’t think about it, just jump.”

Yes, I thought, she’s right. My fear is paralyzing me, holding me hostage. I mean, really, what did I think was going to happen?  I needed to quit thinking and just do it. And with that I closed my eyes, pulled my legs up toward my belly and jumped into the cool dark waters of a cave in Wai’anapanapa State Park in Maui, Hawaii.

It was thrilling.

It was exhilarating.

It was better than I could have ever imagined.

Laura, ever the tour guide, pulled out a waterproof flashlight and told us to follow her into the depths of the cave.  We swam along in the dark, following her tiny light. The water, spring fed, was crystal clear and beautiful.

It was an experience unlike any I’d ever had.

And I’d almost missed it.

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How often, I later wondered, have I allowed my fear to paralyze me?  How often have I missed out on something spectacular because I feared the water might be too cold?  The answer: lately, it had been all too often.

The older I get, the less I like stepping out of my comfort zone. I like being comfortable.  And part of me feels like I’ve already had my share of thrills in this life.

I could be content to sit on the sidelines, watch others ride the roller coaster, cruise the zip line or swim in a cave.

But here’s the thing: there is joy to be had when I step outside of my complacency.

Doing something different, doing something scary is exhilarating. It makes me feel alive, and there is nothing better than feeling alive.

Let me repeat that: There is nothing better that feeling alive.

I’d forgotten about this adventure until recently when we took our daughter to Holiday World.

“Come with us Mom,” she’d said, as she and her friend got in line for a crazy water slide ride.

I hate water slides. I hate being cold and wet and those tunnels on the slides scare me a little.  But I love living. I love the joy of life.

“Okay,” I said, “I’m scared, but I’ll do it.”

In all aspects of my life, I think I need to say that more often.

 

Posted in Faith, Goals, gratitude, inspiration, life lessons, travel, trials, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Standing in the Middle of the Mess

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She came down the stairs, a look of defeat on her face, “It feels like I’m not making any progress,” she said, “You can’t even tell I’ve done anything.”

My oldest daughter is going to grad school and is moving into her own apartment. As my youngest is dying to move into her room, I’ve given the eldest the task of cleaning it out before she leaves. Completely.

She’s been sorting through all her things to determine what she needs to take with her, and is tossing or donating what she no longer needs.  The hardest part is going through all the memorabilia of her childhood.

Boxes and boxes of craft supplies, photographs, papers, notebooks, CDs, stuffed animals, letters from friends, mementos from her high school years. It’s a tough job.

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Cleaning out her room is a big, messy, time consuming endeavor, and not one I can really help with.

“I know,” I say to her, “That’s the way it is when you tackle a big project. It always gets messy before it gets clean.”

We spend the next few minutes talking through her stress. I give her words of encouragement. I suggest she not think about how big the job is, but instead focus on the task at hand. I tell her she will get it done, it just takes time.

It is then that I realize: I need to take my own advice.

I’m working on a book, my second book. And I am smack dab in the middle of the writing. I’ve got pages upon pages of outlines, chapters completed, chapters half-written, a notebook full of words I need to add, change or fact check. I think about it so much my head might actually spin off my body. The thoughts and fears and doubts tumble around my brain over and over again.

Is this a good story?

 Is that part even important?

 Am I getting my point across?

 What am I missing?

 Is this entire project a fail?

Just as my daughter is cleaning out the belongings and memories from her childhood, I am cleaning out the inklings and thoughts in my heart.

As I look at what I’ve written, I realize it doesn’t all quite go together yet. I’ve got some stories on paper and others lingering in my brain.  I’ve got plot twists rolling around in my subconscious attempting to rise to the surface. Part of me is crazed with wanting to sit down immediately and complete this puzzle. But another part of me wants to run away from it all, ditch the entire project.

Like my daughter, I often cannot see any progress. But I won’t give up.  Because I’ve learned that sticking it out makes all the difference.

In 2013, I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop. It was my first time there (I went this year too, it’s a great conference!) and I especially enjoyed a session called Buttonhole the Experts. Attendees can sit down with a faculty member (all of whom are successful in their own right) and ask anything they want. I sat at a table with Hank Phillipi Ryan, a successful journalist and author of multiple, award-winning mystery novels. Ryan spoke of how she became a novelist and how she goes about writing her books.

There were eight of us wannabees at the table, clinging to her every word, anxious to learn her secret sauce. You know what she said? Every time she writes a book, she doubts herself. Every time.

She feels the same way when she’s working on a news story.  About half way through, when things get tough, she feels like giving up. The various parts of the story feel unorganized and pointless, like nothing viewers would ever be interested in. It gets…messy.

But she keeps working and next thing you know the story comes together.  Ryan eventually realized messy is just part of the process.  Her comment really struck me.  It helped me complete my first book and as I remember it now, it will help me finish this one.

I need to get comfortable with the chaos.  A mess lying at my feet can be overwhelming, it feels as if I’ll never get the job done.  Never get the room clean, the event planned, the kid raised or the book written. But that’s okay.

Feeling anxious and overwhelmed is a step within the process.  

If I keep cleaning, writing, event planning or sticky-finger wiping, my efforts eventually pay off.  The disarray and clutter come together. And then, the hard work transforms into something beautiful.

UPDATE:  We moved our Sarah into her apartment last Friday. I’m not sure she could be any more excited for her new journey.

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I’m sure her year will be filled with new experiences, some good, some not so good. She’ll have days where she questions herself, her abilities, the choices she’s made. But she’ll also have days when everything comes together.  And in the end, because I know my girl won’t give up, she’ll end up with a diploma (and hopefully a job).

My youngest girl now gets a new empty room to make her own.

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And me? I’m embracing the messy.

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I’ll keep trudging along and remind myself that with time, all my post it notes, lists of edits, and half-written stories will eventually come together. I can only hope it turns out to be something beautiful.

Posted in attitude, Faith, Family Life, Goals, humor, inspiration, kids, life lessons, parenting, trials, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On Becoming a Cowgirl, or Finding Your Happy Place

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It’s day one of our adventure and we’re getting ready. I look across the room and see my husband sliding his feet into his new cowboy boots. I can’t help it, the sight makes me chuckle.

Steve. In cowboy boots. Never in a million years did I think I’d see it. He looks up at me and grins. “What?” he says.

“Nothing, it’s just…you’ve changed. I never thought I’d see you in boots. This is not the same man I married twenty-five years ago,” I say with a giggle.

He smiles, “I don’t know, I think I’ve just figured it out, the things that make me happy.”

I knew exactly what he meant. My husband comes alive when he is in nature, he loves being in wide open spaces and watching wildlife.  I too, am learning to recognize what I love.  I’m learning the difference between things I like, and things that bring me great joy. They are very different things.

My family has just returned from a week at the Bar W, a dude ranch in Whitefish, MT. For me, it was a dream vacation; a bucket list item I’ve been considering for over 10 years. Was it expensive? Yes.  Did it measure up to my long held expectations? Yes.

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There are so many reasons this was a great trip. For one, it was a wonderful ranch in a beautiful setting and we had great weather. The staff, food and lodging were top notch. Secondly, my family and I had the opportunity to try new things: fly-fishing, skeet shooting and river rafting to name a few. But really, for me anyway, the joy was in the setting.

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 I seem to find myself in nature. It is here than I can stop thinking about everything and focus solely on the trees, the wildflowers, the colorful stones I find upon the path I’m walking. I loved being able to get up, throw on a pair of dirty jeans and head out for a morning ride (so much better than waking up to check email, Facebook and the news). I loved getting to know my horse Cody (sweet but grumpy, with a penchant for wildflowers).  I loved waking up in the middle of the night, peaking out the window  and being rewarded with a multitude of stars. 

 

I think I could have been a cowgirl. I could have been happy growing up in a small town in the west where riding, rodeos and line dancing aren’t a novelty, they are just what you do. I could be okay with crawling out of bed, sliding my feet into my boots and spending the day getting dusty and dirty with the horses.  Maybe.  I mean, I will say I was sore in all kinds of strange places by the end of the week.

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It doesn’t matter if I could or couldn’t.  The chances of me chucking my life and becoming a cowgirl at this point are slim to none.  Instead I’ll make sure I make time for nature in my city girl life.  I’ll take walks in the park, watch the sunset from my patio and take full days to unplug, completely.  It won’t be quite the same, but hey a (cow)girl can try.

Thanks Montana, you’ve helped me find my happy place.  Friends, where is yours?  

 

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6 Lessons Learned From Being Alone

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My bucket list, handwritten in 1998.

Back in 1998, a friend and I decided we would make bucket lists; 100 things we wanted to do in our lifetime. My list was entitled, My Ultimate To-Do List! Oh my, was I young…

Anyway, I keep this list in my nightstand drawer and look at it from time to time. It’s interesting to note I never came up with 100 things I wanted.  In fact, I got stuck at 61. Of those, I’ve now done 29. I don’t consciously work my way through the list. I just come back to it from time to time and happily discover I’ve completed a few more items.

Last week, I was able to scratch off item number 23: Take a trip by myself.

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While most people shy away from being alone, I seem to revel in it. It’s not that I am a loner; in fact I’m quite social. But being alone recharges me. It is in the quiet that I find peace and renewal. So when my husband gave me the go-ahead to go away for a few days to work on my next book, I jumped.  Days before my trip, I began to get cold feet.

What if I’m lonely?

 What if I get bored?

 What if I can’t get myself to work?

 What if an Uber driver abducts me?

 I’m happy to report none of these things happened. In fact, I had an AMAZING trip! I not only got work done, but I also rested, road my bike and took long walks. And most important, I gained insight into myself and the way I work. Here’s a bit about what I learned.

6 THINGS I LEARNED FROM BEING ALONE

1-THERE IS VALUE IN DOING NOTHING. I’ve heard this before but the idea is so counter-intuitive to the US culture. On this trip, I really allowed myself to indulge in doing absolutely nothing for a few minutes every morning. I did not think, pray or plan my day. It was just a cup of tea, the beautiful view and me. This practice not only relaxed my body, but also relaxed my brain. Ultimately I believe I was more productive over the day for having started it in this way.

A cup of tea with lemon on rustic wooden background

2-I TALK TO MYSELF. I’ve always talked to myself, but I never really noticed how much I do it until I was surrounded by silence. Or standing in the produce aisle of the grocery by myself (embarrassing!). But as it turns out talking to yourself isn’t so strange after all. A lot of people do so and in fact experts believe there are benefits to those of us who chatter solo. More on this here: http://www.today.com/health/talk-yourself-out-loud-here-s-why-experts-say-s-t76531

3-THE NOISE OF LIFE ZAPS MY CREATIVITY. By nature, I’m a do-er, a list-maker, a get-things-done kind of girl. I like having a rhythm to my day. I enjoy hearing the hum of the dishwasher and washer in the background as I work in my home office.  I like to  take a break from work to check Facebook or to get a handle on the endless email.  But writing is so mental. It takes getting out of your head to get in the creative zone. Thus my constant, internal struggle… I’ve learned when I step away from the list, the housework, the junk of life, my mind is free to wander.  It allows me to look at my writing in a different way, to think more out of the box.  I hope I can find ways to continue to do more of this now that I’m home (I’m a work in progress people).

4-THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS IN THIS WORLD I COULD LIVE WITHOUT. Let’s just name a few: reality TV, junk food, make up, many forms of social media and about 85% of what is being calling news these days.

beautiful young pinup woman apply makeup and cosmetics beauty treatment isolated on white in studio

5-THERE ARE SOME THINGS I CAN’T. Chocolate, books, tea and comfy pajamas are high on that list.

delicious chocolate pralines

6-I REALLY LOVE MY FAMILY. While I loved being alone, I equally loved coming back home to my family and friends.  I’m so grateful that my hubby and kids understood my need to get away and that they loved me enough to allow me that time.

Have you ever traveled alone or thought about doing so? 

After having this on my Bucket List for 18 years, I can now say I wish I’d done it sooner.  I imagine it’s like that for most things we put off. Perhaps that is the biggest lesson learned. 

 

 

 

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Like Mother, Like Daughter

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My mom, daughter, me and Grandma ‘Cille

 

If she were here, she’d have called me on the phone a month ago, asking me about my plans for Mother’s Day.

I’d have said, “I don’t know Mom, I haven’t gotten there yet.”

If she were here, she’d have called back an hour and a half later. If we did come over, she’d say, would pot roast be okay? Kroger had a sale and she has a nice one in the freezer. She’d also make mashed potatoes, and strawberries for the kids of course. And pound cake for dessert.

I’d be chuckling at her enthusiasm over food, and would have replied with, “Okay, Mom, we’ll see. I need to figure out what we’re doing first.”

It’s what she did when she was here.

traditional roast beef dinner

If my mother was anything, she was enthusiastic about life.  Whatever she did, she did full on.  Whatever she loved, she loved with all her heart. And whenever she was faced with pain or sadness, she chose to look to the good.

I miss my mother most every day. I miss her phone calls and our conversations about my kids and the way she got mad at my father for being forgetful. I miss her smile, the light in her eyes and her determination to live a normal life despite being chained to an oxygen tank.

I miss her.

Though my grief has subsided, and my memories are no longer painful, losing my mother fashioned a hole in my heart. It’s the smallest of fissures, but it’s a space too substantial to ever be filled. Oh have I tried: stuffing the heart with food, alcohol or material items. But such tactics fail me.

So what do I do with this hole in my heart?  With time, I have to learned to:

Acknowledge its presence.

Feel my pain.

And most importantly, move on.

So often in life I don’t want to feel. Pain. Anger. Stress. Sadness. Frustration. When these emotions come, I want to drown them.

I eat.

I drink.

I buy shoes.

I pray for God to make it all go away.

As I gain in years, I’m learning; I can’t really escape reality (who knew?).

I might get nice shoes out of the deal, but fabulous feet won’t really curb my pain.

I’ve also learned that heartache and joy are not mutually exclusive.  Instead, the two reside side by side, taking turns with me throughout life.  I can feel sad about my father’s dementia and thankful for my lovely daughters all in the same space and time.  I can be happy over the richness of life and aching for a friend’s challenges all at the same time.

I can feel, I can release and I can move on, thanking God for the many gifts I have in life.

Like mother, like daughter, I guess.  It’s perhaps the most important lesson she ever taught me.  Now, on to plan Sunday’s dinner…

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE FABULOUS MOTHERS IN MY LIFE!

 

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Mom at her beloved lake house.

 

 

 

Posted in attitude, Faith, Family Life, God, gratitude, humor, inspiration, life lessons, parenting, trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

10 Reasons Why I Love Yoga

Side view of young woman doing yoga against clear sky outdoors

I’ve spent the majority of my life exercising. But in the last seven months I’ve been fighting a few pesky health issues that have knocked me off the proverbial exercise wagon.

Only now am I beginning to get back into my routine, and I’m starting with yoga. I’ve practiced yoga on and off for years, but today I have a new appreciation for this ancient practice and want to share why.  

If you never tried yoga, here are 10 reasons why you should.

1-Yoga is for both the Body and the Mind. Yoga has long been considered a physical, mental and spiritual practice. The stretches and poses reduce the stress hormone Cortisol in the body. Your muscles get a workout while your brain gets a break. What could be better than that?

2-Yoga allows me to Move at my Own Pace. I love that there is no stress of competition or comparison. I can work on my tree pose as fast or as slow as I like. I’ll probably never master the headstand. But who cares? There is no pressure and I slowly improve.

3-Yogi’s are Friendly. I’ve met more people in yoga than any other exercise class. It’s a friendly, nurturing environment, making conversation easy. It’s perfect for introverts like me.

4-Yoga Works a Variety of Muscles. Most gym classes focus on strengthening the same muscles. Yoga poses often stretch muscles we rarely use otherwise. It’s a great way to strengthen the entire body.

Man practicing yoga asana

5-Yoga Instructors Tell Me What I Need to Hear.   Just breath…Focus on this moment…Give yourself permission to let go of everything…”  These sweet words of calm and peace are music to my ears in this very busy world we live in. I can’t get enough of it.

6-Yoga reminds me to Live in the Moment. The deep breaths, the positive words from the instructor, the slow and steady movements for each pose, all these things help me to stay in the present. I can forget about everything that happened before I came to yoga and everything I need to do after. It’s like getting a break from my brain.

7-Yoga is for Everyone. Most yoga classes welcome people of all ages and abilities. I’ve been in classes with seniors, high school and/or college students, and even mothers with their young ones. It’s nice to take a class with a variety of people.   And I love that even as I get older, I won’t have to give it up any time soon.

handsome young man practicing yoga on in modern home terace with ocean and sunset in background

8-Yoga Eases My Aches and Pains. Another benefit of yoga is how I feel afterwards: relaxed, calm and able to handle whatever is coming next. The pain and tension I come into the studio with are left behind when I leave. I also tend to sleep better after a yoga session.

9-Yoga Class is a Judgment Free Zone. Yoga is all about acceptance. As you learn poses, you learn to push yourself, but never to the point of pain. Instead, you become skilled at accepting where your and accepting your body’s limits.

10-Shavasana, need I say more? Most yoga classes end with Shavasana, a final resting posture. It is meant to be a time of complete relaxation to give closure to the session and help the body and mind reap the benefits derived from the class. But whatever-to me it’s a tiny, ten-minute slice of heaven.

I believe when we enjoy an activity, we’re more likely to stick to it.  What’s your favorite exercise or stress reliever?

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Nothing Good Happens After Midnight and Other Lessons From My Youth

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“…And you know what he said? He said, ‘It’s good to want, Tracy.’”

I chuckled to myself at the memory.

My daughter was less than impressed.  “I know, Mom. You’ve already told me this story…”

Had I? I couldn’t remember. But it’s true I’m often recounting tales from my childhood with my own children.  I do so as an example.

My parents were very wise people.

My father was a man of quotes. I don’t know if he made them up or heard them elsewhere but he had a slew of them up his sleeve. He repeated them so often that they’ve been ingrained in my memory.

When I complained that things weren’t fair, he’d say, “Tracy, the fair is where you go to see the horses and the pigs.”

When I whined about life in general, I’d hear, “In each one’s life, a little rain must fall.”

When I wanted something he considered unnecessary, he’d inevitably say, “It’s good to want.”   End of story.

My father gave me wise words designed to teach.

In my teen years, I often begged to stay out later, and he’d say, “Tracy, nothing good happens after midnight.”   I later learned in college that this was pretty much true.

When I got old enough to have a say in my curfew, he’d (jokingly) tell me, “Don’t call me if you go to jail.”

You know what? I did go to jail. It was a minor infraction, a cops teaching teens a lesson kind of thing. And though I hesitated for a minute, I did call my father (who else was I going to call?).  And yes, he came to get me.

My father may have been disappointed in my behavior, but he was there for me. He helped me through the situation.

My father showed me love through his actions.  

My mother had a few sayings of her own. Her words helped me in times of great duress.

When life got difficult and I wasn’t sure how to get through a situation, my mother would tell me, “The only way out is through.”

When I felt like giving up, when things looked hopeless, my mother would remind me, “This too shall pass.”

When I struggled to take a risk, my mom, who knew I tend to doubt myself,  would always say, “I think you should do it.”

My mother believed in me and gave me hope.

Now, everything is different.

My mom is gone, I’ve been without her for almost two years.

My dad is in assisted living, his memory not what it once was.

My words of wisdom and encouragement now come from a different place.    

When I need words for how to live, I go to the Bible.

When I need direction, I pray.

When I need to hold on to hope, I focus on scriptures.

And you know what?

Just like my parents, God gives me wise words designed to teach.

Just like my parents, God shows me love and grace.

Just like my parents, God believes in me and gives me hope.

When life doesn’t feel fair, when things don’t go the way I want, when the only way out is through, I now turn to my heavenly Father. 

I want nothing more than to lean on him, rely on him.

I want the peace that surpasses all understanding. 

Sometimes it’s hard to hold on to my faith.  And I admit, I fail, over and over again. Worry usurps trust. 

I want so badly to get better at this. And so, I will keep trying.

He may have meant something completely different, but my dad had it right: It’s good to want.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family Life, God, inspiration, kids, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments