Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Line Lessons

I needed a new show to binge watch while recovering from some mysterious ailment and chose Parenthood. I watched the 2nd episode today--just skip this if you have already seen it--and got all worked up at the part where Sarah, the hardworking lawyer mom who’s trying to bond with her daughter who just wants her dad all the time is cut off in the car line by the hot, skinny, overachieving Buddhist stay-at-home mom. The latter also may or may not be trying to sleep with the former’s husband. Don’t tell me if you already know the outcome.

Anyway, seeing things like this, I instantly identify with the person who is following the rules or protocol and waiting in line as dictated. Most people I know do as well. I wrote about it a bit here. So ... Who identifies with the people who cut in line? Do the people who move immediately to the next open register even though they weren’t next in line recognize themselves in these caricatures? What about the person who cuts others off in traffic? How 'bout the driver who speeds all the way along in the right lane knowing that it’s gonna end then cuts over at the last minute bypassing the 84 people who got over when the sign said “Right lane closed ahead”? Who do they identify with when they see these situations played out?
I don’t know, because I don't hang out with anyone who does such things. I mean, who could do things like this and be good friend material? If you are my friend, and you recognize yourself in any of those above scenarios, our friendship is doomed. Still ... these people exist. I know the lady who parks her car at the elementary school in the spot that's not a spot every day. She seems very nice. She's not one of my people though.

Brad calls these people di@#s. Some people take offense to that word. I don't; my brother is a Di@#. And it's just a word, anyway, if you get all worked up about a word, then...well, that's your business, but you probably shouldn't read my writing because I sometimes use salty language.

Anyway, we have had many discussions about what constitutes a di@#, and Brad attributes it solely to di@#ish behavior. The above examples for instance. Also there is a large percentage of di@# drivers in Pittsburgh. HUGE di@#s. I mean they will run you right off the road and then flip you off for being in their way.
 
Name calling aside, do you think these people see their behavior as inconsiderate and rude? We all are works in progress, but if you’re not recognizing and working on your stuff, then you’re not in progress, cause you aren’t going anywhere so ... you’re just a piece of work.
In the past, I've gotten frustrated when my kids were involved in events that required getting in line. All three of them were very passive and let everyone go in front of them, always ending up last in line. “Get in line,” I would urge from wherever I was watching. They’d glare at me, their wide eyes communicating, “Zip it, you lunatic, you're embarrassing me!” and shrug their shoulders. Seriously, all three did the exact same thing.

I would silently seethe reasoning that they were getting walked on, letting people push them out of the way. I feared they weren’t capable of assertiveness and that not being first in line in pre-school soccer or wherever we were was some testament to how successful they would be in life. The space on my mantle is still waiting for the coveted Mother of the Year trophy.

In hindsight, I realize: There’s no hurry. Being last in line doesn’t mean you'll be last in life. Just as being first in line doesn't make you better than anyone else. Being kind, patient and compassionate are characteristics that we value far more than being first. Personally, I always gravitate to the back of the line. Brad does too. It's natural that our babies do. And it’s okay. Sometimes in the back of the line, you get to have conversations with people who are kind of like you. You get to watch other people take their turn so you understand what to do when it’s your turn. There are lessons to learn in the back of the line.

When I look at our big girl who's a confident super-achieving dynamo, I realize that none of her accomplishments came by pushing someone else out of the way or cutting in line. So, I've let up on the younger two and let them hang out at the back of the line being their awesome little selves.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

21 Days: Day 20 and TWENTY-ONE

It is with great relief that I'm writing this last installment. I honestly couldn't bring myself to write yesterday after suffering from a serious bout of second guessing. It's crazy how sometimes a little tiny bit of negative can infiltrate so much positive and make you question yourself.

Today, I went to the Niles campus of The Movement to hear my favorite Niles Campus pastor speak and was greeted with love, hugs, and several people thanked me for writing this blog and told me that reading about my struggles helped them. That mattered more than any criticism that had me kind of second-guessing if I was being self-indulgent or oversharing.

I strive for self-awareness, but I'm a work in progress. It is usually far easier to see flaws in others than it is to recognize them in ourselves. So I struggle on putting one foot in front of the other and praying for clarity and wisdom.

1. Each day that I woke focused on gratitude, my awareness of the goodness, grace and love around me was heightened, and I will continue to count my blessings day and night.

2. In the worship experience today, one of my favorite singers sang an amazing song. And as her beautiful voice singing the most powerful words sank into my heart, many of the experiences of the last 21 days washed over me, the good, the bad, the trying ... they all choked up in my throat and finally spilled out of my eyes and down my cheeks. I wanted to run out of the building and curl up in my car and cry. I'm usually pretty private and choosy with my sharing, but I have opened up my heart, mind and life in this tiny little space and in return, I've gotten grace, commiseration and so much love. I've also gotten criticized and psychoanalyzed. Most importantly, I've gotten chased down by people who told me that my words made a difference to them. Thank you for chasing me down. You made a difference for me.

3. Thank you for reading this and encouraging me. Thank you, Brad Bell, for being patient and long-suffering as I put my neuroses and our life on blast. Thank you, my girlfriends, for being supportive and amazing superwomen. Thank you for every like, comment, text and email. Thank you, my church family for every hug. You all have no idea how much you touch my heart.

Putting all your crazy out there for public consumption sometimes blows up in your face, but all of your love, all of your me too's, all of your hugs and winks and high fives matter. Thank you for being my people.

I'm feeling pretty raw and overexposed, so I'm gonna crawl into my shell and recover.

I realize listening to that song today that it doesn't matter what anyone thinks about why or what I write. God sees my heart, and He knows my motivation.

"Through it all; my eyes are on You, and it is well with me."*

*This isn't my favorite Movement singer performing; still, the song, the performance, and the message are awesome.

Thank you!

xoxo

Friday, January 23, 2015

21 Days: Day 19

Do any of you have that friend who repeats herself...maybe after she's had a few too many cocktails? And you're all, "yeah yeah yeah," but you love her so you listen anyway? I'm that person lately. I appreciate those of you who are still here saying, "yeah yeah yeah" and loving me anyway.

Also, this has been so deep into my every day life that my friends are asking, "Was that me you were talking about when you said ______?" Even Brad Bell said, "Was it me that advised saying bff was petty and immature?" It was. He was trying to wrap his head around some girl drama. I'm grateful for self-aware people.

1. I slept like a rock. I snoozed the 5:30 alarm. No one else gets up til close to 7 so I had plenty of time to clean up dog poop and be grateful for, among other things, a house that smells fantastic--despite the dog poop--thanks to some new PartyLite aroma melts.

2. A few years ago, Brad started having half-day Fridays. Since I worked from home at the time, and the kids were in school, we turned those half-days into dates. Sometimes we went to lunch or watched a movie. Sometimes we took a nap. It didn't really matter; it was a few hours of uninterrupted time together, which is super duper rare.

With holiday and work and travel and snow days, we haven't had a Friday date in close to forever. But today, we got one. It consisted of tool shopping and lunch, which was fantabulous. My usual--and only--date request is food or coffee or both. I've told you how gleefully I react to the mere suggestion of coffee, so you can imagine when you combine it with food, one of my other favorite things.

What makes me happier than food and even coffee is that after all these years, my man and I still have fun hanging out no matter what we are doing. We laugh at our own jokes. We have entire conversations that consist of nothing but Anchorman quotes. We talk about other things in addition to our kids. And that's good. Because these kids have a bad habit of growing up, and sooner rather than later, we are going to be spending a lot of time alone together. Thank goodness, he is my favorite.

3. I got a thank you from someone I wrote a thank you to in the mail. Love. Love. Love.

Yesterday two of my loyal fasting friends told me they cheated. I ate pizza in commiseration. Hey, I'm not trying to get in the Daniel Fast hall of fame. I've learned way more through the gratitude portion than I did by restricting food. Because guess what being hungry makes me? A. N. G. R. Y.

I'm only clarifying because I've gotten a few eye rolls from some Judgey McJudgersons re: my "modifications" of the fast. Well, the fast, kinda like life, is between you and God. So, when we are keeping tabs on what and how someone else is doing, then we're kinda missing the point. You know, the whole plank in the eye thing.

Guess what else? It's the freaking weekend, baby. Any fun plans?

If you have about 10 minutes and aren't offended by the "f" word, read this article; it's f#$%ing brilliant.

Two. More. Days.

xoxo





Thursday, January 22, 2015

21 Days: Day 18

ohmygoshyouguysitisalmostover!!!! I'm pretty excited for day 21 even though today has been filled to the brim with sweet moments. I don't really plan to change much once it's over.

1. I got up at 4 a.m. because my baby guest was coming at 5:30 so I wanted to be fully awake and functional. I'm a little rusty with babies but found that it comes back quickly, especially when they are at the super cute cuddling and cooing phase. They don't require much beyond a bottle, clean diaper and snuggles. But I had plenty of time to count blessings, let the dog in and out 75 times, and get my mind right before she got here.

2. In the area of friends, I have been richly blessed. We have a wonderful circle of peeps, some of our kids' friends' parents have become great friends, but one of my greatest treasures is the amazing women in my life. Women who inspire, encourage, teach, love, cry with, fight for and accept me. I watch Super Soul Sunday every week, but I am very fortunate to have my own team of super stars.

I talk a lot about my BFF, which I have been advised is petty and immature. I think criticizing other people is also petty and immature. She is everything you could ask for in a friend, and I would lay down my life for her. The only problem is that she lives about 1100 miles away. The good thing is she lives in a perfect vacation spot so we get to visit her at least once a year. Still ... that place is 1100 miles away.

We work it out though. We text constantly. She boycotts Facebook; I don't blame her ... the cons outweigh the pros sometimes on that front. We visit at least once a year and sometimes more. Our hearts are always connected even though we rarely talk on the phone because we both dislike talking on the phone, which brings me--finally, I know, right?--to today. My phone rang and it was my girl. Crazy, wonderful, unexpected surprise chats--or any kind of chats, really, with my forever friend are super soul nourishing.

3. These thank you's are having some really profound effects in my life. I wasn't prepared for the emotional roller coaster I was boarding.

I'm really grateful for the encouragement during this endeavor. Your comments, texts, likes and so forth mean so very much to me. It makes my heart happy when out of the blue someone shares that they identify with something I wrote. That's really why I write. It's therapeutic, and like my hero Anne Lamott advises, I write what I want to read. When I'm dealing with a trial, my first reaction is to read everything that is written about it. I love to read how other people's deal with the situations I face. And I relate with people who are honest, flawed and real.
 


You know, people are gonna talk; like RuPaul said, "What other people say about me behind my back is none of my business." (I had no idea who said that--thanks, Google. I was hoping it would be Eleanor Roosevelt. Whatever; it's good advice.) Regardless of whether or not people choose to be my friend or read my blog or like me, it's okay; I'm okay. I'm just meandering along my own path with some crazy amazing sidekicks. Writing helps me work through my stuff. And when you spend the first 20 years of your life smiling and pretending everything is awesome, when NEWSFLASH!!! It's not, there's a lot to work through. I never try to hurt anyone with my words. That's not to say that sometimes the truth doesn't hurt. As Brene Brown says, “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.” When you tell your stories, you take that power back.

I have made wonderful friends, had great experiences and many moments of grace and healing because I dared to be vulnerable. I've shared my heart, my flaws, my experiences--good and bad--and people have bravely reached back. The power of camaraderie. The blessed words, "Me too." That's what this is all about. I'm not an attention whore. I'm not self-righteous. I'm certainly not mean and the opposite of miserable. I'm a flawed girl loved by a perfect God trying to make my tiny place in the world a little kinder.

xoxo


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

21 Days: Day 17

I ate a baguette today at Panera. I contemplated telling them not to include it with my otherwise Fast-friendly meal, but I didn't, and it was there, and it was delicious. I felt guilty for about 47 seconds, and now I've confessed and am moving on.

1. I woke to my alarm, which isn't my favorite. No snooze. Counted lots of blessings not the least of which being no dog messes. She needed to go out and come back in and go out and come back in about 17 times, which freed my mind to focus on nothing else but being grateful. And, "ooooh, look at all these steps before 6 a.m.!"

2. When you focus so much on gratitude and meaningful experiences, it sometimes makes it hard to narrow it down to just one. That's a good problem to have. Here was my favorite today.

I absolutely love subscription boxes. I currently get Birchbox and Bulu Box and have gotten Box of Happies, Beauty Army, Fab Fit Fun VIP. Chloe got Birchbox and Bonjour Jolie. And Lily got Kiwi Crate. So when Peyton told me he wanted a Loot Crate for Christmas, I was excited because it's so much fun to get a surprise in the mail every month.

Today, after much anticipation, his first shipment arrived. If you're unfamiliar with Loot Crate, it is a subscription box for gamers. He was so pumped he practically skipped in from the mailbox. Then, he opened it as we ooooohed and ahhhhhed over each treasure inside. So simple. But watching him nearly burst with little-kid giddiness soothed my soul.

3. I may never stop writing thank you notes. Every time I think I'm going to run out of people to thank, a memory jars my heart.

After an amazing lunch with one of my super-hero girlfriends, who always inspires me to dream bigger dreams and expand my vocabulary while simultaneously making me laugh til I nearly pee, I had to go to Wal-Mart. A few months ago, I bought a Rubbermaid mop thing, which I love, but it was faulty, so they gave me a $25 voucher to replace it. Unfortunately when I tried to use the voucher, the mop itself was only $23.97, and I had to have at least $25 worth of Rubbermaid merchandise. It wasn't a big deal, but the whole determination of this took about 15 minutes, and I was mildly irritated and now running behind to finish my errands and pick up my kids.

So, I'm hustling out, when I hear, "Hey! Hey you! Stop, wait. Stop. Yes, you, come here." I doubted this was directed at me, as it was coming from one of three old men sitting in front of Subway. Continuing to pay no mind as the pedestrian traffic flow stopped, I hear, "Hey, YOU, with the nice backside." At this point, pissed off for whomever was being catcalled by these geriatric benchwarmers, I whipped my head around, and he spits out, "NOW I GOT YOUR ATTENTION."

I was prepared to give him a not-so-nice piece of my mind, but I was fresh from a discussion about when people do stupid, mean things it's because of something that's going on in them. And I looked at this old dude in his tattered, dirty clothes leering at me with his few remaining teeth and...sighhhh...I just smiled.

What would you have done? That shit makes me CRAZY. If he had been clean or young or even had a full set of teeth, I probably would have lit into him. But this guy was already so far down...dirty and nearly toothless...I could hear Brad Bell in my head saying, "Babe...that's like kicking a kitten."

How was your day? Did you make anything fabulous to eat? Did you cheat on your fast--misery loves company ;) Did you encounter any dirty old men?

xoxo

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

21 Days: Day 16

Okay, since I'm being pretty transparent, I have to admit that all of this openness and sharing is starting to freak me out. I'm ready to crawl back into my hermitage and recover. I could quit now, but one of my goals is to quit quitting things. Except bad things. In a minute, I'll take one hardship as a sign from the universe that I'm supposed to be on a different path. In hindsight, I often realize it was the right path. And I was supposed to climb over those obstacles.

1. I woke up at 3:27, which is baloney. After trying unsuccessfully to fall back to sleep, I got up at 4. I was grateful for extra time, and now I'm grateful that I'm still awake and not miserable.

2. For the past several months, I have been helping a dear friend write a book. We often spend more time drinking coffee and talking and dreaming and having therapy than we do writing, but still, we are working on it. Today, I started reading through the latest bit she wrote and was caught off guard by emotion.

I've always felt led to listen to people and give them a safe place to vent, but sometimes I am overcome by how deeply people trust me. I would never betray anyone's secrets, and most of my friends know I'm a vault but still. This probably amazes me so much because I trust very few (2, to be exact) people with my secrets. That some people are brave and trusting enough to open up to me overwhelms my heart.

In a few short months of writing, our friendship has developed and progressed to the point that I value and trust her as one of my closest friends. Like a person I can count on and tell secrets. It's inspiring how that works and always very clear when God has placed someone in my life for a reason by how naturally the relationship unfolds and progresses.

If you've trusted me with your secrets, you have part of my heart.

3. I think that the thank you notes have been one of the most meaningful parts of this whole challenge. Some of them were very natural and came easily, but some of them have really wrenched my heart. Realizing that some people who have made really huge impacts on my life may not even know it makes it tough to write. Especially to people who aren't really part of my life anymore and maybe were a reason or season.

I watched Eckhart Tolle on Super Soul Sunday today...wait, let that settle in for a minute. I never watch tv during the day. But, I am watching a sweet little baby two days a week, and that means occasionally, I get to sit down to feed, snuggle and play with her. Today, what do you know, I got to watch 40 minutes of tv. It was crazy.

Okay, back to Mr. Tolle. He said something that I thought was really important: If we want to change something we need to start by accepting it. Admit there is a problem. Right? It's the first step in AA, but for those of us who haven't worked the 12 steps, it's kind of a revelation. By the way, I recently read a book that was kind of about "working the program" for people's whose issues aren't a substance. It's called Gratitude and Trust. Pretty good read.

So, whatever our problem, whatever we aren't happy about: our weight, career, marriage...it is indeed where we are, right now. It's a problem. Accept it. Own your responsibility in it. Acknowledge the choices that led you to where you are. Then accept that you have the power to make different choices to lead you out. One positive choice at a time. Everything you need is already inside you; use it. I wasn't really talking to you, I was talking to myself. Just in second person. Because talking to yourself in third person is creepy.

Whew, how are you guys doing? I was strangely drawn to the Oreos in the cupboard tonight, and I don't even like Oreos. So, there's that.

P.S. I had written part of this earlier, but I hadn't proofread it. In my haste to pick up the kiddos for a dentist appointment, I accidentally hit publish instead of save. Thanks to my dear friend who commented on it, alerting me of my mistake. That's why, if you tried to click on it earlier, it wasn't there. Thanks for still loving me despite my challenges. I'm a work in progress.

xoxo

Monday, January 19, 2015

21 Days: Day 15

It was a happy day off filled with fun little girl activities, duct tape crafts and a trip to the trampoline park complete with a mommy date. I mean, who could ask for more. And now I get to enjoy a full hour and a half of tv with my son. My cup runneth over.

1. I usually sleep fitfully on Sundays, and last night was no exception. I was wide awake at 2 a.m. listening to my son cackle and carry on with his Xbox live buddies. It actually made me happy since earlier he was in a dark place after Tom Brady and company dealt his Colts an embarrassing loss. Still, I got to sleep in and was grateful for a happy kid, a warm bed, a happy husband and a good report from my big girl who spent the weekend in the Big Apple.

2. Sometimes meaningful things are so simple that if you aren't paying close attention, you might miss them entirely. Today, a few of Lily's friends came over to make duct tape crafts for a school assignment. They work in groups to make something, then they have a little market where they sell their wares--for Monopoly money. It is a fun project that teaches them a little bit about business.

Since their class is pretty split boy/girl wise, they made cute bows and pencil holders but wanted to make something to appeal to the boys as well. Another mom who was helping suggested paper footballs out of duct tape. I remember Peyton loving paper footballs when he was Lily's age and then some little plastic variations they made so we decided to make them. Except I had no idea how to make them.

So I ventured into his domain and asked P to make me two paper footballs. Sometimes when I ask him to do things, he complains. Sometimes, he procrastinates. And sometimes, he sweetly complies. When he responded, "Sure, Mom," telling his xbox buddies to hold on, my heart smiled.

A year ago, that wouldn't have been a big deal, but I recently watched one sweet little kid turn into a tween, then a teen and then boom an adult who lives in a different state, and I know these years zip by in fast forward. With this in mind, I'm trying hard to be a good boy mom and give him space and room to become who he is going to be and not be needy and clingy. But it's really hard.

It's painful and awkward to go from being the center of somebody's world to being kind of a supporting role. Especially when those people are always the center of my world. That never really shifts for mothers. I know it's natural, and I want our children to be independent, but it's not without growing pains. Chloe and I eased naturally into more of a grown up relationship, but she still asks me for advice and shares secrets with me. I am treading carefully around this relationship with my boy because I've seen so many moms blow it and end up with weird (or no) grown-up relationships with their sons.

But today, he stepped outside of his world willingly and kindly to do something for me, and that made my world feel a little bit sweeter.

3. I have a fresh supply of note cards, and guess what: The post office is open tomorrow.

I had a late lunch with a friend and our girls today, and we split a salad and grilled asparagus. Also, we oooohed and awwwed over it as if these vegetables were the most amazing meal we'd ever eaten. That's what the last week of the fast looks like.

Do you have any advice for navigating the teen years? Would you just like to commiserate? Or do you have an amazing relationship with your son and want to be my mentor? Anyone?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

21 Days: Day 13 - 14

Yesterday was a blur of moving, boxes and stuff and bodies and cars and All. That. Jazz. I didn't write and beat myself up about that, but I shushed the shrew voice and am moving on.

A few days ago I downloaded an app that counts your steps, lets you log your food and water intake, and so forth. I've been reading Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath and implementing some of the healthy tips. With all the moving yesterday, I figured I would destroy that step goal. Here's the thing about that though: Your phone must be in your possession for it to work. So it was mostly, "Oh shoot, where's my phone? LILY, I need my phone. DAMMITTTT, I left my phone in the car. Ugghhhhhhh...Whatever."

The book encourages consistent healthy choices rather than some big life change. With each opportunity to choose healthy or unhealthy, you choose healthy. So after the moving we went to dinner, and I chose stir fry and didn't eat any of the rice or bread. And there were peppers in oil. I put them on my salad. But, they still had Christmas Ale on tap. I mean draft Christmas Ale in mid-January is an obvious gift from the universe. So, it seemed rude and ungrateful to thumb my nose at it. I did, however, say no to the cinnamon and brown sugar rimmed glass. I didn't dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back.

1. It's really easy to wake early and count blessings on the weekend because I'm surrounded by love. And my husband brings me coffee in bed, which means I have about 5 full minutes between waking up and his arrival to express my gratitude.

2. Yesterday morning as we enjoyed an uncharacteristically warm sunny drive, I gazed dreamily through the sun roof and was amazed to see a bald eagle soaring over the car (Brad was driving, you guys.) I'm intrigued by animal totems and am often visited by hawks--and once a rogue owl--so I immediately started researching what message a bald eagle brings:

When an eagle appears, you are on notice to be courageous and stretch your limits. Do not accept the status quo, but rather reach higher and become more than you believe you are capable of. Look at things from a new, higher perspective. Be patient with the present; know that the future holds possibilities that you may not yet be able to see. You are about to take flight.

Whether you believe or think it's all just a bunch of hocus pocus, that's way cool.

3. I'm getting behind on my thank you's again. I'll mail them tomorrow. Wait...Tuesday.

So yesterday and today were pretty good eating days. I realize now that one of the most important elements for me is: Be Prepared. Pack healthy snacks. Make food ahead of time so I don't make an unhealthy choice in a moment of hunger-induced weakness. And the biggest key is never to let myself get too hungry. I'm mean and angry and much more likely to eat more and make bad choices. I was literally eating carrot sticks on the way to dinner yesterday because I was starving and didn't want to make a bad choice because my stomach was overruling my brain.

How are you guys doing? What are your thoughts on spirit animals? Have you read any good books lately? I've got a stack of non-fiction to get through, and then I'm going to reward myself with something fun. My girlfriend and I had a fake book club for five minutes during which we read Gone Girl, which was so great. Anyway, she sent me this awesome list of books to read if you loved Gone Girl, so I think I'll try one of those. I'm always looking for recommendations :)

xoxo

Friday, January 16, 2015

21 Days: Day 12

Well, about 50 of you are hanging in and reading this every day. I'll send you all thank you notes when it's over--most of you probably already got or are getting one though. Today was a spectacularly average day sprinkled with some fun little interactions ... impromptu chats with friends, a phone conversation with a much-missed soul sister, a snowy walk with the dog. Good stuff.

1. My day didn't start so great though. The dog woke me at 4:00 a.m. alerting me to how I'd be spending my morning -- i.e., scrubbing carpet. But, there were still plenty of blessings to count, and I had plenty of extra time to count them.

2. Historically, I've been a worst case scenario thinker. I worried about bad things happening to people I love. In the past few years, however, my life shifted to a degree that I learned to surrender and trust that everything is going to be all right.

For example, Chloe lives in another state. She traveled to two different countries last year. I don't see her very often. Sometimes I don't hear from her before I go to bed. Sometimes, I don't hear from her for almost a whole day; I do start to freak out a little bit when that happens. But mostly, I know that she is okay. I remember my dad telling me, "No matter how old you get, you will always be my baby," and that is the truth. But I am blessed that I get to have an awesome grown-up relationship with her.

Then there's the fact that Brad travels frequently for work. Twenty or so years ago, when I was super jealous and possessive, it would have made me crazy not to know exactly what he was doing. The ladies love that guy. And although he has never done anything to make me mistrust him, there is that shrew-y little voice that sometimes suggests he could be getting into all kinds of mischief. I told that voice not to even go there with me. Once, I surmised that he had a perfect job to have an affair, if, in fact, he wanted to have an affair. He gave me the squinty-eye and reassured me with, "You're silly, baby."

I realized today, as my daughter headed off to New York City, that I didn't even get a little bit of a pit in my stomach. I didn't tell her to be careful or lecture her on all the hidden dangers that could be lurking. She's been lots of places and knows about the dangers. In fact, she is far more worldly than I am. The only thing I felt was genuine excitement for her knowing that she is going to have an amazing time.

Acknowledging that I no longer have to worry about every little thing makes me extremely grateful for the way my molecules have been rearranged.

3. I have to buy more thank you cards. That is all.

I'm writing early because our afternoon and evening are filled up with activities, but today, I'm going to post it instead of messing around thinking, "Oh, I'll edit this later..." because that blew up in my face yesterday. 9 days left, kids. I ate a half an avocado and two carrots for breakfast. The crazy thing is: I enjoyed it.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

21 Days: Day 11

Despite how much I talk about it, I rarely see weight. That sounds silly, I know, but it comes from years of my mother's narrow focus on it. "Did you see so-and-so? Boy, did she put on weight!" and on and on and on. My brain evolved not to see it. Sometimes, I notice when people lose weight, but because of my neurotic tendency toward catastrophic thought, my immediate reaction is not that they look great or must be working out. No, I fear they have either a drug problem or terminal illness. To be fair, I've watched people in my life shrink and disappear from both of those things so it's not all in my head.

But it isn't just outsiders, I can't see it with myself or Brad or the kids. The only way I know is by the scale. I never look different to myself. Sometimes I feel different. Sometimes my clothes--and wedding ring--are tighter. When I was a little bit bigger of a nutbag, I used to get really freaked out about the wedding ring thinking it was an ominous sign. It was actually just a sign that I was 22 and 100 pounds when we got married. I don't want to be either of those things again. Still sometimes against my better judgment and the voice of reason screaming, "DON'T DO IT! NOTHING GOOD WILL COME OF THIS!" I still get on the scale and think, "Oh boy."

Thanks for indulging me. I needed to get that off my chest.

1. I was wide awake at 4:46--probably because I fell asleep at 9 p.m.--but the alertness that comes with waking up unaided when your body is fully rested makes for pleasant blessing counting. Of course I stayed in bed and counted until the alarm did go off.

2. Today, I happened upon a person from my past. "By happened upon," I mean that she came into my consciousness, and I googled her. It wasn't malicious; I just wondered what became of her. We were either reasons or seasons to each other, but I never figured it out. I think a lot about the reasons and seasons people. Mostly because I want to make sure to learn the lesson the first time so as not to repeat any painful ones.

That rabbit trail led me to forgiveness. I think, talk and write about forgiveness quite a bit. Although I have read and heard this many different times in a variety of ways, for whatever reason it seemed to click in my head today: Forgiveness doesn't absolve others; it allows you to move on.

Forgiveness is permission to let go of the hurts, slights, offenses, traumas, or whatever is taking up an unnecessary amount your psychic energy without producing anything positive. Forgiveness allows you to be free from ruminating over the pain and the people who caused it. Forgiveness is a gift to ourselves.

Forgiveness is not, however, a free pass. When we forgive a person we love so that we can move closer in a relationship, then we should absolutely forgive and forget. However, I get all idealistic and dreamy and decide to invite the wrong type of person back into my life or heart again. I probably don't need to tell you this is a bad idea. Guess what happens? They hurt me again, and I have to start forgiving them from scratch. Please learn from my example and spare yourself. Don't get all spiritually conceited and try to break bread with the jerks of your past. Just leave them in the past.
 
3. Today, in my Jesus journal, the devotion was about listening. I know that I talk a lot sometimes, but more often in real life, I listen. Actually, I am drawn to people who want to tell me their life stories and vice versa. It's a tiny defense mechanism, but it works out. People need a listener, and I often like to be anonymous since I'm so open and transparent here. Tangent. When I pray and then listen, I know who is getting thank you note. Today, I got a thank you for a thank you. How 'bout that little circle of love?
 
How are you guys doing? How are your fasts? I made some really good soup today. Here's my Daniel Fast board with all the recipes I have been yammering about. Did you make anything good today? What was your meaningful experience?
 
P.S. I wrote this at about 10 a.m., then when I started editing at 7:30, I messed up and deleted the whole darn thing and had to rewrite. I wasn't particularly grateful for that.
 
xoxo

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

21 Days: Day 10

Mmmmm, two digits. Almost halfway. We are moving a sister this weekend, which reminded me that we moved another sister last year during the Daniel Fast, which reminded me that the best part of moving is the beer and pizza after. There's not gonna be any beer and pizza, folks.

Today was a pretty normal day--a blessing as "normal" days have been the exception lately. Brad went to work, both kids went to school, and I did 47 loads of laundry and ran the errands I don't like to think about when Brad and the kids are here.

1. A good night's sleep makes for a good morning. I hit the snooze button and counted blessings for the whole snooze period. Bed, Brad, kids, friends, a whole day by myself ... so many.

2. The extra time home pretty much depleted the kids' snack cupboard, so after a meeting I headed to ALDI to fill it back up. If you didn't already know, ALDI has their buggies chained together, so you need to deposit a quarter to get a buggy, then return and re-chain it to get your quarter back. You also have to bring your own bags or boxes. I'm often scatter-brained and have more than a few times found myself there with no quarter and no bags. It's a great way to save money since you can only buy what you can carry. Unfortunately, if you were planning to do several weeks' worth of shopping, it's a downer.

Once, I got the bright idea of paying it forward by leaving my quarter in buggy in case someone came along and didn't have one. I imagined how thrilled I would have been on one of those quarter-less trips to find an available buggy. So, I've been running this shopping buggy ministry for years. Only a few times have I spoken to anyone about it. A person would say, "Hey you forgot your quarter!" And I explained. Usually they smile. Some say it's a good idea and leave their own quarter. Once, a lady pointed out my mistake. When I told her it was intentional, she looked at me like I had three heads. Then she took her quarter. And mine. I stared dumbfounded as she smugly walked to her car. I said some bad words. If I could have willed a comet to crash to earth right at that moment...

But I told you all this so that it would make sense why I was so ecstatic when I went to ALDI today, and there were FOUR buggies with quarters already in them! People are being kind and thoughtful even if it is in a small seemingly insignificant way. It's important. That little bitty ripple of kindness you sent out into the world is meaningful. You might never know who you touched or how you impacted them, but if you are sending goodness and love out into the universe, it matters.

3. Well, I mailed the stack of Thank You notes that were on my microwave. Also, I bought some groovy Janis Joplin stamps which made me super happy because I love that little raspy-voiced legend.

Janis is also a member of the 27 Club -- famous musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and more who died at 27 -- which is significant today because it's my brother Chris' birthday. He died just a few weeks after his 27th birthday, and he was a rock star to me. So those stamps made me happy even though writing about it now makes me cry. Even after almost 26 years.

Time doesn't heal wounds, but it affords you space, perspective and opportunity for growth. Life isn't always fair. It rarely works out how we plan it. Sometimes you have to carry all your groceries in your arms, but sometimes someone leaves a quarter in the buggy. Whatever we do, no matter how small, when we do it with love, it matters.

How are you guys doing today? What are you especially grateful for? Did you make anything remarkable to eat? I bought some cauliflower that I'm gonna try to make into something fabulous. Maybe tomorrow. I'm not feeling it today so I'm subsisting on apples and almonds. Speaking of: Where on earth were honey crisp apples for the first 30-something years of my life? No bother. They are here now. Thank Goodness!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

21 Days: Day 9

How 'bout those Buckeyes? There's something special about cheering together for sports that breaks down barriers. I mean you rarely see grown men so exuberantly displaying affection the way you do after a big win. Women are different, at least the ones I hang with. We can go deep, cry and pledge our undying love to each other on a random Tuesday with very little provocation. It's an interesting phenomenon, though, the guys loving each other. It's particularly endearing with this bunch since I've loved most of them for almost 30 years. Yeah, that's the good stuff.

1. What is not good stuff, however, is the sleep deficit that results from 8:30 p.m. games. Why couldn't they play on Saturday? Oh well. I was so afraid I would sleep through my alarm that I woke up about 427 times in the night. Grateful for: at 3:37a.m.--2 more hours of sleep; at 4:46--ummm...Brad's not snoring or hiccupping...oops, jinxed that; at 6:10--oh shit, I did sleep through my alarm.

2. About 12 years ago, I discovered the delight that is afternoon coffee. It's funny because I rarely think of it on my own, but when someone suggests it? I feel completely giddy. We have a sign in our kitchen that says, "Coffee is always a good the BEST idea." I promise I'm not going back to talking about coffee all the time; this is just background info. So on an otherwise normal and not special afternoon, Brad would say, "You want coffee?" and I of course responded, "YES! I would LOVE coffee!" And suddenly, the normal afternoon was a little bit special.

The past year or so--since we got a hot tub--"You want coffee?" has evolved into, "You wanna get in the hot tub?" Or on some super amazing mornings, "You wanna have coffee in the hot tup?" Honestly...who doesn't? It's not really about the coffee or the hot tub, but it's about the few minutes or sometimes an hour of conversation. It's about putting down phones, turning off TV's and just being...together. Tonight was pretty cold, and I thought for a 37.5 seconds before gleefully accepting the invitation, but it was so worth it. An hour of deep, therapeutic conversation and stargazing is so good for the soul.

3. I'm still praying about it. I am actually slacking on mailing these thank you notes. Four of them are addressed, stamped and waiting patiently on the microwave. I promise to mail them tomorrow.

Today, was a mixed bag of frenzied activity, whiny kiddos, sleep-deprivation and sweetness. I got 7 new books at the library. Seven. It's God's number, not mine. My fast has been super-awesome because I was too tired to even think about eating. I joke a lot about the weight loss/gain, but the bottom line is: I have a great group of friends with whom I'm fasting. We're all 30 and 40 something. In your mid-to-late 30s and 40s for sure, weird stuff happens to your body, random weight gain and muscle tone loss...head hair loss and chin hair gain. Just stupid random stuff. We talk about it a lot because we're girls, and that's what we do.

I went to the doctor recently with a whole laundry list of complaints, and she smiled and nodded knowingly, responding, "It's all normal, unfortunately. The 40s suck." I'm happy with the 40s, my body and myself, but I'm never complacent and always striving to do better; that's one thing I never want to change. As long as I'm breathing, I will be learning, growing, and trying to change for the better.

How was your day? Did you make anything fabulous to eat?  Did you make something mediocre? Are you too hungover to even think about it? This is a judgment-free zone. Namaste.

xoxo

Monday, January 12, 2015

21 Days: Day 8 -- LET'S GO BUCKS!

I have to write early because there's a pretty important football game tonight, and preparing physically and mentally takes a lot of energy. Additionally, my husband is home and bouncing around the house like a little kid on Christmas, and that makes it hard to write. And finally, I have to take my mom to the doctor, which also requires preparation...

Apparently, the snow plow drivers are Buckeyes fans and were already preparing this morning; at least they weren't plowing the snowy, slushy roads. It was a crappy drive to school so I used the time to give Peyton lots of useful tips about driving in the snow. It sounded a lot like, "See how close this a-hole behind me is? Don't do that." He won't drive for another year, was half asleep and not a bit interested in my monologue, but it soothed me.

1. After three lazy snow days and a weekend, when that alarm sang out at 5 a.m., gratitude wasn't my initial reaction. Ugh. Bed, Brad, kids, house, car with good tires and 4-wheel drive. I realize, as I've been writing about the blessings that my bed is nearly always first. It's a good bed. Everyone who sleeps in it agrees. The kids love it. Our Florida besties love it. Brad does too. Once, after an extended out-of-town stay for work, as we snuggled in, he whispered "I missed you so much..."

"Me or the bed?" I giggled.

"Both of you."

2. The good thing about having a husband who travels a lot is that you learn to do lots of things by yourself. That is also the bad thing. You have to because if you don't do those things no one else will. I used to complain more, but I have a friend whose husband travels a lot as well, and she never complains. She just does stuff, asks someone else to do it, or doesn't do it. She is one of my many role models. This morning, I dragged 3 garbage cans through 4 inches of heavy, wet snow and then drove P to school without thinking twice about it. I'm not bragging, just stating the facts. When I came home and told Brad that the roads were bad, he said, "Why didn't you wake me up to take him?" I didn't think of it because it isn't usually an option.

I've always wanted Brad to take charge of some certain traditional gender role tasks. Take the garbage out. Handle car maintenance. Clean the gutters. You know. But, a funny thing happens sometimes when you're waiting for someone to take care of you: You learn to take care of yourself. But today, watching my husband who is a) home and b) not only fixing my leaky sink but also replacing the faucet which has been leaking for years, I am almost overwhelmed with glee. When he was home every day, I probably would have been worn out from asking him to fix that sink. My reaction would have been more, "It's about damn time," and less, "Look at him! He's fixing the sink AND the faucet. He's an angel boy!" Changing circumstances sure can shift your perspective; I see that today with amazing clarity. 

3. Writing daily Thank You notes is teaching me that there are always people to thank. The smallest act of kindness can shift your mood and change your whole outlook. It's a good reminder that we can and do make a difference.

In Small Victories, Anne Lamott, in a quandary over political and military situations questions her friend, a Jesuit priest, how to help, and he advises: "You take care of the suffering," reminding her that there are people suffering everywhere. Sometimes we get so caught up in our helplessness on a grand scale that we miss a million little opportunities right in front of us. We forget to smile and hold the door because we're focused on our destination. We walk past a person picking up their dropped groceries caught up in fussing about what great things we could do instead of grocery shopping. (Or maybe it's because we're worried it's a ploy to rob us because of that email we just read.) We can't be bothered to pick up a frazzled mom's change clanging on the dirty Walmart floor as she wrestles her wriggling toddler into the cart because we are waiting for our big break. We're waiting for God to show us our purpose. That's the thing though: These little things are our purpose. Slow down, look up, pay attention, love, serve...

Don't miss out on the beauty of the life you have because you're waiting for the life you want.

This is gonna be a rough Daniel Fast day. Buckeye parties mean beer, more beer and delicious food that is not fast-approved. I'm going to eat sweet potato and black bean soup, which is delicious even if it's not pizza or 7-layer Mexican dip. I think I'll also wear blinders and a nose plug. But I'm already telling you: I'm gonna drink beer.

How's your Monday? Two of my fellow fasters text me to celebrate their 3 and 1 pound weight losses. I blocked their numbers. I'm kidding... I'll celebrate with you when you rub my nose in your weight loss, you beeyotches. I'm currently +2. Wooo Hoo.

xoxo

Sunday, January 11, 2015

21 Days: Day 7

The first week is almost over, and as far as the Daniel fast goes, I feel bloated, defeated, dissatisfied and tired of cooking. As far as the 21 days of gratitude challenge goes, I feel encouraged, satisfied, inspired and well, grateful. I've also enjoyed the consistent writing. Anne Lamott, my idol and secret soul sister (it's a secret because she doesn't know we're soul sisters) says that if you want to be a writer you have to show up at the same time every day and write. So, this has been a great exercise in showing up and writing--not necessarily at the same time, but in the same place. I'm a work in progress.

1. I love Sunday mornings, so it is super easy to be grateful for: sweet sleeping children, a warm safe home, a wonderful husband who will bring me a cup of coffee in bed as soon as he hears me roll over. I cherish these quiet minutes of gratitude in the morning.

2. Again, I feel as if paying closer attention and trying to be present has made every interaction more special and meaningful. Right now, I'm surrounded by 3 of my 4 people, and our house is filled with the amazing aroma of sweet potato and black bean soup. We spent a fun-filled evening surrounded by great friends, and I came home to a sweet surprise gift from another lovely friend. My whole day was sprinkled with the most endearing little interactions. This morning, at church, we served in Mini Movement (little ones up to 4), and usually this wears me out, tries my patience and gives me a headache, but this morning, each little one seemed to offer some sweet blessing. From my friend's tiny towhead who leaped into my arms repeatedly giggling, "Tickle, tickle, tickle," to another little peanut who shyly climbed into my lap and sweetly whispered, "I really want my daddy," these tinies touched my heart. Honestly, even the little boy whom I had to wrestle to keep him from crawling under the divider into the other side of the room made me smile later as he drove a matchbox car up and down my arm. Then his little brother took the same matchbox car and junk punched Brad Bell, and I might have rolled around laughing on the floor. He was fine, you guys, it was just a little boy, and I think boys/men instinctively flinch and protect that area if they sense something is headed that way. Besides, we're from Warren; the baby thugs are our people.

3. I don't know why I always forget to do this. Max Lucado says in a webcast promoting his latest book, Before Amen, that we could avoid so much worry and anguish if we would just remember to take our problems to God before our problems get to us. So I'm praying for God to bring me a person to thank. Amen.

With one week almost done, I feel a renewed commitment to see this through. I have seen small miracles taking place all around me, and I'm not sure if it's due to the prayer and fasting or simply the increased mindfulness and attention to grace and goodness. It doesn't matter either way. It just matters that there is good, so much good, so many people to love and so many people who love you back. So many opportunities to offer kindness, compassion and love. I'm grateful for the ever-increasing awareness.

Thank you so much for your comments, texts, emails and calls. You guys have encouraged me so much. This is just a 21 day journey, but isn't this really what our every day journey is about? Sharing with others, reaching out to offer a kind word, a helping hand or just to pat a fellow traveler on the arm and say, "Me too."

What are you cooking this week? I gotta get off the rice and quinoa, or my ass is gonna have its own zip code. For. Real.

xoxo

Saturday, January 10, 2015

21 Days: Day 6

One thing I have never mastered is cooking tofu. A few weeks ago at a Thai restaurant in Pittsburgh, a perfect tofu pad Thai dish inspired me to try again. The tofu was amazing. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Mine was the same as always: Mushy. This is irrelevant other than it just happened, and I wondered if any of you had any suggestions about how to cook tofu.

Today, I had a happiness hangover of sorts. So much good in one day was overwhelming. In a good way, but still overwhelming.

1. I woke up next to my husband. That alone makes all the blessings I normally count so much sweeter because none of them would exist if not for the sweet sleeping boy next to me.

2. After I lamented Lily's lack of interest in watching movies with me, her teacher (who is my good friend) assigned her this snow day homework: Snuggle and watch a movie with your mom. She's a good egg, that one. Somebody needs to give those angel teachers a raise. Lily wanted to watch Mean Girls, which has some inappropriate-for-8-year-olds content--that I'd forgotten--but brought up a lot of good talking points because that bullshit starts when girls are teeny-tiny. It also continues until, well, I'll let you know when it stops.

So yesterday, in a tangled web conversation with one of my closest friends, we unwound some strains of hurt and betrayal. Wanting to be loved and accepted are basic human needs not just desires. Unfortunately, through the cuts and bruises and scars we acquire moving through the sometimes thorny forest of life, we end up with some weird insecurities and hang ups. Then, unfortunately, on occasion we foist that crap onto other people we encounter. My really smart and amazingly talented friend Molly wrote about that here. She's a great writer, right? That brings me back to this: We all want to be loved and accepted so let's stop comparing and judging and criticizing and gossiping and trying to feel better about ourselves at the expense of someone else.

Trying to feel better about yourself by pointing out another's flaws or shortcomings won't make you better than anyone else. It won't really make you feel better either. And, it will just show people that you have issues in your own life that you'd rather not deal with. I'm choosing to be kinder. I'm trying to accept people as they are and not as some idealized version of who I think they could be if they'd just deal with their shit. I'm trying. One mindful decision at a time.

3. I'm still crying about yesterday's thank you note. Ugh. I have no idea who to write to today.

Yesterday, I gave in to the siren call of spinach dip and also something called Sex on the Horizon.
 If you could say no to Sex on the Horizon, then you're a better woman than I am. And if it makes you feel better to say that you're better than me, then you might want to read that paragraph above again, 'cause you might have missed the point. It tasted almost as good as it looked, but I paid severely for these transgressions when my stomach launched a full-fledged assault against me at 4 a.m.

Today has been good Daniel-fast wise, except for the tofu fail. Did I mention my husband is home? So despite the fact that 1/5 of our little world is starting her own little world in the City of Bridges, life feels mostly full and happy today.

How are you doing, my friends? What good did you eat? What made your heart smile? Aren't you glad I finally shut up about coffee :)?

Friday, January 9, 2015

21 Days: Day 5

Well, my friends, I might in fact be addicted to coffee. I had two cups this morning. But, I'm okay with that. Sick of me talking about coffee? I know, right? But I'm all freaking jacked up on the caffeine, man! This is a lot like when I quit smoking and then talked ad nauseum about quitting smoking. I was gonna link one post, but when I searched "quitting smoking" on my blog about 10 posts came up. Like I said, AD NAUSEUM. Interested in quitting smoking or reading about someone who quit/started/quit/started/quit...here you go. It has been almost 2 1/2 years since I quit the last time, by the way, so I consider myself an official ex-smoker, not that I'd ever get complacent with that.

1. Shockingly, school was canceled again today. My sweet fasting sister text me this morning and said, "How the heck are we supposed to make it through three snow days without coffee?" I took a deep inhalation of the creamy delicious cup of salvation in my hand and fessed up that I had raised my white flag. But I was up and at 'em today, counted the heck out of some blessings, did yoga, showered and dressed (WITH makeup on) by 9:30 a.m. I mention this simply because it is a huge feat for me to exercise, shower, and put real clothes on in the morning. Normally I rock gym clothes--whether or not I exercise--and no makeup til mid afternoon. This is a lot. I was super caffeinated--and grateful.

2. Mmmmm...so much today. So. Much. Stuff. I was happy, productive, so "Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day! I've got a beautiful feeeeeeeling Everything's going my way!" You know, from Oklahoma? Show tunes. Caffeine. Rehab, might be next. Anyhooooo, I have this awesome angel friend who just happens to be a psychiatrist--and a pretty good one according to my gut and also his freaking world-class credentials. We don't know each other except through one meeting, some mutual friend/relatives and correspondence via writing--by hand and email. He is a very dear kind person. Also probably a good guy to have on your side should you need an expert witness... not that I would. This morning he sent me an article about the benefits of coffee with a sweet note; the subject line read: "Be Kind to Yourself." You know, in a great big world of people and places and random inner-connectedness, the universe brought me this kind person, who happens to be a mental health professional. Add to that: In two days, two different friends shared with me some pretty freaking soul-crushing shit that was going on in their lives. I love these women like they're part of me, so to listen to them, hear the aching and questioning in their quavering voices. And you know what I do? Nothing. Listen. Love them. Cry with them. Hold their hands. But that's enough. That helps. But I feel like, What More Can I Do??? And today, in the midst of my secretly kinda beating myself up for drinking coffee ... I mean, a little bit, in a trying-too-hard-to-seem-okay way that trained mental health professionals see through and send you a little note that says, "Be Kind to Yourself." Phew. Okay. Thank. YOU. That's really it though; isn't it? Be kind to yourself. Be kind to other people.  Namaste.

3. I have a really perfect note to write today. To a person I have never ever thanked for how much a person she gave birth to changed my life.

Today was my absolute best day this week. Being around people who really love you...being encouraged by people who really love you...being able to encourage and love people...it's just so amazing. How are you guys doing? If you need encouraged, email me, call me, text me. Thanks for being with me on this journey!! I love you all.

xoxo

Thursday, January 8, 2015

21 Days: Day 4

Well, it's official. I'm addicted to coffee. Addiction might too strong a word to describe my relationship with coffee. Maybe in love would be more fitting. I remember from one of my grad school classes some nugget about addicts needing ever-increasing amounts of their substance of choice to achieve the desired effect. Numbness. Euphoria. High. I've heard from heroin addicts that they never reach that same first-time euphoria, and that is what they are always trying to replicate. Chasing the dragon. One night, Brad and I were listening to 70's hits on Pandora, and I kept googling what the songs were about. Almost all of them were about heroin. Even James Taylor (Fire and Rain). I know, right? He seemed like the boy next door with that sweet voice. I'm way off topic. This isn't about heroin. It's just about my one delightful cup of coffee. No more. And I feel like myself again not some evil-spirit-possessed-vile-mean-nasty version of myself. Phew...

1. Another snow day. I didn't even set my alarm, but I did wake up at a reasonable hour grateful for the usual warm bed, happy healthy kids, amazingly wonderful husband (I really miss him on Thursdays), and great friends who love and support me and are always ready and willing to offer an encouraging word, or a beer, or coffee or all three.

2. My back was really super-achy the last two days, so I spent a lot of time sitting up against a heating pad. I think that may also have been the universe's way of reminding me to be more compassionate to my bony little mom. Today, I decided that I wasn't going to let my back dictate my day. Okay, so I'm reading Anne Lamott's Small Victories--I told you that already--but there is an essay about her dying dog. I also have a dying dog, and I'm not nearly as nice to her as Annie is to her dying dog. I mostly get really irritated with my dying dog. She can barely walk. She has limited control of her...uh...functions anymore, so I'm always cleaning up messes. She bites me really hard if I forget and try to give her a treat out of my hand. She wants to go outside 57 times a day, which means I have to go outside 57 times a day, and she doesn't seem to care that it's really effing cold.

I promise I'm getting to the meaningful part.

Reading this essay today about how Anne refused to euthanize her dog and tried to make the end of her life as comfortable as possible by maximizing the things she, the dog, enjoyed softened my heart. Our dog fumbles and stumbles around in the house, but outside--especially in the snow--she runs and bounds like a gazelle. So, Lily and I bundled up and took her outside so she could race around and bury her snout in the snow and nearly rip my arm off because I wasn't going fast enough to keep up with her. She sniffed out where the groundhogs live. She trailed after some random scent like a bloodhound. She was happy. She was young. She was energetic. For about 10 minutes. Then she was exhausted, and I practically had to carry her back into the house, where she has been sleeping for the last several hours. It was 10 minutes of putting another's happiness above my own, and that felt really good after having been so angry the last few days. Lily had a good time too because little kids never seem to get cold even though one trip down the slide into a snow drift sent snow up both legs of her snow pants.

3. I haven't the foggiest idea who I'm going to write to yet. I have prayed that God will bring someone to mind soon.

On a Daniel Fast note, I made these awesome little energy balls today minus the orange zest and cardamom and plus vanilla, chia, and sesame seeds. I was contemplating getting out my food processor--which I really didn't want to do because it takes forever to drag down, assemble, and then clean up--when I thought, well, maybe this will work in the blender. Voila. Seriously. In about 15 seconds everything was perfectly blended to the most amazing consistency, and I did a big happy dance the kind that makes my kids come in the kitchen and say, "What the..." before joining in (Lily) or rolling their eyes and retreating to their bedroom (P). And it was okay because I was in my kitchen not the library. Rock on, you amazing little Kitchen-Aid blender. You're a shining star.

How are you guys? Did you make anything fabulous today? Or do you have a super meaningful story to tell? Gosh, I'm so much happier with coffee.

xoxo

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

21 Days: Day 3

Today started out wonderfully. Last night, we prayed that school would be canceled today, and lo and behold at 5:45 a.m. it was. We (or I) were super excited for a day of doing nothing but watching movies and snuggling. That is a pipe dream because my little dynamo girl wants an itinerary and a social director, not her actual mom who prefers to sit curled up in a chair trying to cajole her into watching a movie or reading or just snuggling. Anyway, this morning my own mom quickly snapped me out of that daydream by sending me on a drug store errand. I won't go into detail about said errand, but suffice it to say: It was unsavory. The kind of purchase that might send someone to Walgreens incognito. Fortunately, in my advancing age, I've reached a level of self-awareness that no longer lets my self-image get wrapped up in cashiers' opinions of me and my purchases. Still. The only snuggling was with the cat.

1. I woke up easily because I was anticipating that I'd be able to go back to bed as soon as the superintendent called. So, I drank my hot water with lemon and ginger, counted lots of blessings and was supremely grateful to crawl back into bed at 6:15 a.m. and count a few more.

2. My goal is always to be real and genuine and truthful, so describing today's meaningful experience also involves divulging that I was nasty today. I was short-tempered with my mom, impatient with Lily, irritated with the geriatric dog and just an all-around bitch. P was wise enough to stay in his room so he didn't face my wrath. Then, this afternoon, I spent a blissful hour and a half talking to one of my dearest friends on the phone. We laughed until my sides ached and then talked about some serious stuff too. It was like a therapy session and coffee date combined. She is also my best coffee friend. When we worked together, we hit every Starbucks in northeast Ohio and western PA. Although we live states apart now, we still manage to have coffee dates a couple times a year, even if they are only on the phone. So, while I was talking to her, I had a cup of coffee. Yes, I cheated on the fast. I put cream in it too. I'm not feeling horrible about it though as my little perfectionist self would have in the past because you know what? I have been a lot nicer since then. I'm not sure if it was the delicious caffeinated delight or just laughing and chatting with a dear friend, but my soul got some much-needed nourishing.

3. I did better today with my Thank You note. It's the coffee. I am admittedly smarter when I drink coffee.

Last year, "cheating" on the fast would have filled me with guilt and shame. This year, I realize: There's no shame in knowing and admitting that I chose to drink a cup of coffee. I didn't smoke a cigarette or use any illegal drugs. It's coffee. And God still loves me. And it was soooooo good. I'm not sure if I'll drink it tomorrow or not. School's already been cancelled so I might. I'll be a way better social director if I do; That. Is. For. Sure.

Oh, I forgot to mention: I gained 2.5 pounds. Isn't that awesome? Not even sure how that happens? I stayed away from nuts today. Stupid. Freaking. Scale.

Despite some shortcomings, it was a pretty good day. I made spaghetti squash with peanut sauce that was absolutely phenomenal--I don't know how I could be gaining weight :). How are you guys doing? I have talked to several friends who are doing way better than I am. Good for you, you bunch of overachieving show-offs ;) I still love you. And thankfully, I've also heard from some people who, like me, are struggling. I'm praying for you, my sisters. And by the way, I'm super grateful for all of you who are with me on this fast, cheering from the sidelines, and even those of you who are reading this simply to fuel your loathing. Keep on keeping on, my lovelies!

xoxo

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

21 Days: Day 2

Most of us would rather avoid negative people who complain and never seem to find the good in anything. Naturally. Well, there's the flip side too. The overly positive people can grate on someone's last nerve. A few years ago, I belonged to a small group of church women that met regularly. I love these girls like blood to this day--they're my sisters with issues. We were a diverse group to say the least, but one lady was super positive, always in a good mood, never worried or upset, just always "trusting in the Lord. Thank you, Jesus." This was all well and good until one day when a more spirited sister snapped, "Oh, whatever!! You're just so HOLY." That's right. Even holiness can be annoying.

Who wants to be around some happy chirpy little bird (like me yesterday) when you aren't feeling particularly sunny? Not me for sure. In fact, this morning, I didn't even want to be around my self from yesterday. I read Day 1, and my higher level mind was able to rise above the splintered damaged part of my personality long enough to roll her eyes as the shrew mocked our words and overall happy demeanor in a sing-song-y voice. Get. It. Together. Suffice it to say, today went a little differently. The cold weather saps my energy and kinda steals my sunshine.

1. I counted my blessings over and over like praying Hail Mary's for penance. "Thank you for Brad and the kids. Thank you for our health. Thank you for our home and safe cars to drive. Thank you for this warm bed and the sweet baby snuggled up next to me..." then I fell back to sleep. It wasn't two minutes. When the 8 minutes of snooze elapsed, I reiterated.

2. Try as I might to be grateful for everything today and to look for blessings, I mostly moped and sighed and ate apples. I think it's all the toxins exiting my body. They're pretty close to the surface right now and affecting my overall demeanor and behavior. This is me writing around my lack of a meaningful experience. Finally, as I was trying to wrack my brain for something to bliss out about, grace stepped in. Well, grace wandered into my bedroom in the form of my lanky 14-year-old who often doesn't leave his room for hours at a time. He moseyed in as I tucked Lily in, climbed in bed and snuggled her. I held my breath for a moment because this could have gone either way. Sometimes she welcomes his affection, and other times she offers blows to the face in return. Fortunately, she giggled and showed him a new game on her kindle and for about 2 1/2 minutes, I watched my two getting-too-big-for-my-bed babies share the sweetest moment that made even a kind of crappy day feel pretty darn blessed.

3. You guys ... I'm trying to dig deep with these thank you's, but my brain is so caffeine-deprived that right now it's a bit of a struggle. So, I'm being real honest with you: They're not my best work. You might get one. It might include run-on sentences or a scratched out letter or word. It might mention coffee because that's mostly what's on my mind. If we went on a coffee date--ever--I've been thinking about it. If I were using Facebook, my status updates would be about coffee.

Brief tangent: I walked into my mom's house today at about 2 p.m. and the sultry, seductive smell of coffee wafted in my direction. My mom only has one cup of coffee per day. In the morning. I took her engaging in this afternoon delight as a personal affront and spat, "ARE YOU DRINKING...COFFEEE??!!" Completely unaware of her crime, she innocently responded, "Yes, it's so cold. I thought I would have another cup. Do you want a cup?" Harumph. Afternoon coffee is my favorite.

So, Day 2 was less than stellar. Reading over this, I remembered that I had a divine appointment with a darling little friend, and Chloe loved all her classes. As one of my warrior princess heroines would say, "Life is so good." But as Adam Levine reminds us, "It's not always rainbows and butterflies." Thinking about Adam Levine's voice...and the rest of him makes me a little bit happier. How are you guys doing? I'm not doing Facebook, so please comment here or email me :)

xoxo

Monday, January 5, 2015

21 Days: Day 1

I woke up with anticipation and hope wondering what meaningful experience I could write about. Funny thing about that: When you approach life looking for blessings, that is exactly what comes to you. Power of attraction, intention ... call it what you will, but I'm gonna call it a fact.

1. I spent way more than 2 minutes counting plenty of blessings not the least of which was waking at my normal 5 a.m. and functioning caffeine-free--that, my friends, is nothing short of miraculous.

2. While I'm not scrolling through pictures and status updates and actually spending time being present in my own life, I have way more time to spend engaged in one of my favorite activities: Reading. So today, I took a long look at my Goodreads to-read list and requested a few from the library. Our little Cortland library doesn't always have the books I want to read, but they always get them within a week or so. Since I was really in the mood to read, and a few minutes early to pick Peyton up from school, I decided to wander around the library and see if any books wanted me to read them.

Strolling through the new releases, I nearly squealed (but I've been kicked out of the old Warren Public library enough times to know to keep quiet) when I saw Anne Lamott's newest release, Small Victories. I did do a small and nearly imperceptible dance that probably could have been written off as a nervous er whole body twitch. Anne Lamott is my absolute FAVORITE writer. I had just requested this book and never dreamed it would be on the shelf in our tiny library. But of course it would be. The subtitle is: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. I got it. This time.

3. Still working on my thank you note--by hand. I won't say who it is for because the person might be one of my 3 loyal readers. You'll know if you get a card in the mail :)

In conclusion, my friends, Day 1 was fab-u-louso. Ate healthy food, did yoga with my dear sweet friend, and got some great books to read. Also, I don't have a caffeine headache. That's really remarkable. I would love to hear how you are doing on the fast, or if you have a really kick-a$$ recipe you'd want to share. Or if you also love Anne Lamott. Cause she's awesome. Happy Monday; I'm grateful for you.

xoxo

Sunday, January 4, 2015

21 days of water, twigs, berries and thanks

Last year, along with our church family, we participated in the Daniel Fast. I wrote some about it here, here, and even a little bit here. This year, we are fasting again, but I feel better prepared and ready for the challenge. In addition to abstaining from caffeine, alcohol, bread and more, I've decided to add in a gratitude element.

Every morning, I spend my first few moments of consciousness thanking God for all He has given me...an amazing husband with whom I get to raise three healthy, beautiful, brilliant children...my own health...and every opportunity to use the unique gifts He placed within me to spread a little love and compassion.

Recently Rob Bell appeared on Super Soul Sunday--have you watched? It's an awesome show where Oprah talks to inspirational people and has completely replaced my Real Housewives addiction--and spoke about a 21-day gratitude challenge which includes the following daily tasks:
  1. Spend 2 minutes counting blessings
  2. Write out one meaningful experience
  3. Send a thank you note to one person
This seemed to complement a spiritually enriching food fast, and since I have this perfect place to keep me accountable, I thought I would drop out of some of my traditional social media scrolling for the 21 days and just post here.

If you are interested in joining me, please share your experiences or links to your own posts in the comments. And if you want to reach me in the meantime, you can email me at maryswanbell@gmail.com.

Love and prayers for a healthy and happy start to 2015!

xoxo