Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for Zest

Today is the final day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. It also happens to be the letter that has stumped me the most when it comes to a topic! Even as I sat down to write today's post, I hadn't fully decided which word I was going to go with.

I have a list of 22 Z words that I came up with during my brain storming process. I sat with it for several minutes, my eyes stopping on each word and the one the jumped out at my the most was zest.

I went to my trusted Roget's Thesaurus for synonyms for zest and found this spectacular list: relish, gusto, enjoyment, pleasure, delight, good appetite, enthusiasm, cheer, delectation, satisfaction, happiness. I read all those words and thought Yep, that's all me! and so my word for today was chosen!

I think I can safely say that I have a zest for life. It has taken me into my thirties to get a point where I am comfortable with the fact that I like to live my life for myself and have fun. Even if that means I "don't act my age" and do things like wait in line with a bunch of children to have my photo taken with a mascot, wear clothes meant for younger folks and dress my dogs in funny hats!

So today's life lesson is: Have fun! Live your life with zest! Whatever that looks like to you is okay!

P.S. Bonus points if by now you are singing the jingle "You're not fully clean unless you're zest-fully clean!"

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for Yelling

I grew up in a yelling household. I mean, how do you expect people to understand you're angry if you aren't screaming at them?! I've realized that my default mode became to raise my voice when I got upset.

As I got older, I had a couple teachers and then bosses/co-workers who would yell. After a brief phase of being intimidated by the individual, I wouldn't take him/her seriously anymore. It's kinda like the boy who cried wolf, if someone yells at me every time

I will admit I have been guilty of the behaviors mentioned above. I went through a phase of being the "bad guy" in a work place and I know it wasn't fun for anyone involved, including me.

Over the past few years, I've really chilled out. I attribute this to my time playing roller derby and having a great life coach! I've learned techniques for dealing with situations that used to make me upset. More importantly, I've learned how to avoid many of those situations in the first place!

Even though I don't resort to yelling when I'm dealing with conflict, it still is my automatic response when I stub my toe or my dogs aren't listening! (It doesn't help either of those situations, by the way!) Where it does help, I've noticed is when I'm frustrated or anxious and need to let of some steam. A loud shriek of an exhale can do wonders for releasing some pent up energy!

So my life lesson here is: don't yell at other people. (Unless you really have to, like the building is on fire or something!) It won't make you feel any better in the long run, it certainly won't make the other person feel good, and it's not going to solve your problem. If you get to your yelly place, stop and take a deep breath and think about what you're about to say. I bet you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for Xanadu

Here we are at the third to last day of the A to Z Challenge and it's the first time I've gotten stuck coming up with a subject for a letter! These last three have had me a bit stumped so I turned to my shelf of writing books for inspiration.

Rogert's Thesaurus of Words for Intellectuals defines xanadu as "A place of perfect, idyllic beauty."

(I know it's also a reference from Citizen Kane and a movie from the 80's but I can't tie those into a life lesson!)

When I left home on my adventure, I was not only re-evaluating my relationship with my partner but also my relationship with myself and with the place I live. 

Earlier this month, I wrote about how Montana has changed me. It's an incredible place. "Perfect, idyllic beauty" couldn't sum it up any better. I'm continuously amazed by how much open space and untouched land exists here. But for all the ways that Montana is lovely and majestic, it is also harsh. Winters are long and sub-zero temperatures can make daily life challenging. Your car won't start, the gas pumps don't want to work and staying outside too long can be a health risk. Spring finally creeps in with summer right behind it. Then suddenly there are forest fires and the air is tinged with smoke for weeks at a time. By fall, everyone is praying for snow again to quench the earth. It's an endless cycle.

Any Montanan can tell you, it's not easy to live here. There are reasons we do it and those are a little different for everyone. For me, it's the raw beauty of the place. People travel from all over the world to see what I get to view on a daily basis.

I've lived in many different cities in four different states and I've done a lot of traveling in the U.S. I've learned that no place is going to be a perfect place to live all the time. There are going to be moments of pure joy that make the rest of the time worth it. It's important to find the place that gives you the most number of those moments. For me, right now, that's Montana.

So my life lesson here is: find your own xanadu, the place you long for when you're away. You don't necessarily have to live there, but spend as much time there as you can. It will feed your soul!

Where is your personal xanadu?

Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for Writing

Glennon Doyle Melton is one of my favorite bloggers ( and general all around motivational humans. On the subject of writing, she says "When you write your truth, it is a love offering to the world because it helps us feel braver and less alone."

That line stuck with me like crazy glue from the second I read it. It struck me as so utterly true because it sums up the feelings I've had for years about why I write and also why I read avidly. The potential for connection with others when I share my writing is endless. I get comments and messages regularly from people who relate to what I write about or simply enjoy reading what I write. Either way, it's incredible! 

Last summer, I was being treated for food poisoning at our nearest urgent care facility (Avoid meat on a stick at outdoor festivals, folks.) My other half was in the waiting area and heard an elderly lady start telling her husband positive things about a magazine article she'd read that day about an animal rescue group in a neighboring state. I wrote that article! I wish I hadn't been suffering miserably in the next room, but I still think it's super cool that was overheard!

I've kept a journal almost daily since I was eighteen. Writing is a part of who I am. I shelf recently filled journals on my desk but I have a big box of old ones that have stored in a closet. Every time I move, I lug them along. For the most part, they just stay in the closet but I've consulted them occasionally for a piece I was working on and once for a legal matter! Sometimes it's nice to be able to verify dates and events as I recorded them.

Kermit sits above my filled journals

It was only in the past couple of years that I began to say "I am a writer" with confidence,  instead of "I want to be a writer." I've been one all my life, always able to BS my way through a book report or essay question! I frequently encounter people who say "I've always wanted to be a writer," or "People tell me I should write a book." I've even taken writing classes with folks who want to write regularly but for whatever reason aren't able to make it a regular practice in their lives. To all of those people, I say: Just write!

What I've learned in my life is that it's so important to just write it down, whatever it is. Regardless of what you feel you need to get down on paper, whether it's your life story or your To Do List! 
Writing by hand is a completely different process than typing. I write everything by hand before I transfer it to my blog or a Word document. I like a specific brand of pencil and notebook to write and  I need to be sitting upright at a flat surface. This is how I work best!

The experience of writing is different for everyone and I recommend to anyone. Treat yourself to a brand new notebook and start by keeping a journal or even just a gratitude list. Allow yourself to write whatever you feel the urge to put onto the paper. I promise you will surprise yourself!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

V is for Vegetables

I know you're probably wondering how in the heck I'm going to come up with a life lesson about vegetables! Well, as I've mentioned before, food is an extremely important part of my life and vegetables are food! In my opinion, they're the most critical, yet underrated part of the food pyramid. (Wait, I don't know if that's even a thing anymore, but you catch my drift...)

I was a vegetarian for seven years, through most of my twenties. I started eating meat again shortly after I moved to Montana, when I began having health issues. It just so happens that my return to being an omnivore coincided with dating an honest to goodness cowboy who would grill me steak kabobs that also held giant chunks of shiny red peppers, purple onions and fat white mushrooms. 

I dabbled in vegetarianism through my later childhood/early teen years but was never catered to by my parents and eventually gave in to eating what was served at meal time. I officially became a vegetarian in college and still own my very first cookbook I bought myself when I began living on my own!

I didn't stop eating meat because I dislike it. I love it, to be honest. Especially any and all things pork related! My passion for animals and my desire to make a living caring for them drove my decision to stop eating meat. Even now, I find veganism a lovely concept but it's not one that I could embrace full heartedly. 

My other half and I have been gardening for the past five years. It turns out that growing your own food in Montana is painfully challenging but it can be done! Eating vegetables we've grown ourselves is grounding for me. There's something to be said for connecting to the warm earth with my bare hands and feet. To come inside after a few slow, hot hours in the garden with a basket of veggies for dinner is rewarding and provides a positive energy boost!

Harvesting turnips

Every once in a while I encounter a person who says he/she doesn't like vegetables and I can't help but be fascinated! How can one so broadly eliminate so many amazing foods? If you are one of these folks, I wonder if maybe you just think you don't like vegetables because you haven't discovered the right ones yet or the best way to cook them! If you've only ever had canned green beans and frozen broccoli, you haven't given them a fair shot. What about a spicy okra creole or mashed roots with butter and garlic? Don't they sound delicious?!

So, my life lesson when it comes to vegetables is simple: eat them. Roast them, grill them, boil them, fry them, blend them in a smoothie, anything to get them into your body! And try growing some. Even if it's just one tomato plant in a pot on your patio, I promise there's great value there!

Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for Universe

I'm a spiritual being, although I don't follow any particular religious doctorine. I suppose my personal beliefs are closest to that of Buddhism but I'm not educated enough to consider myself a Buddhist. 

What I do believe whole heartedly is that there is a power at work who is much greater than myself. I call this power The Universe. 

The Universe is wise and powerful. It is kind and forgiving. The Universe is not a cruel teacher who "tests" us or sets us up for failure. 

The Universe hears us. Even when we aren't clear on the message we're sending out, it is received. Then, we are provided with options. The choice is ours to make. 

Sometimes there is a lesson we must learn. If we don't get it the first time around, The Universe will present that situation again and again until we achieve what we need to. 

All living beings in this world are connected; people, animals, plants. It's all energy. Whether you pay attention to those connections and honor them is up to you, but they're always there.

Each day, I thank The Universe for all it has given me and I ask for continued guidance as I navigate  my path in this life. 

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned is: Trust The Universe. Have faith. Remember that everything happens for a reason. Everything will work out exactly as it is supposed to, because The Universe knows the truth. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for Try

Chocolate bacon sundae

If there's one phrase I utter more often than any other, it's probably "Try it!" This is often followed by "You'll like it!"

 It's easy to fall into patterns and hold onto comfortable things in life. Going out to eat and ordering the same thing every time is safe, right? You know you're going to like it. I get that. Sometimes I want familiarity too. But when we cling too it too tightly, we miss out on new experiences.

I can't tell you how many women I've encountered who say some version of "I've thought about playing roller derby but I'd never be able to do it because  ________________." Fill in the blank with any excuse you can imagine. My response always is "You never know. You should try it." There's always a rebuttal. The truth is, you really don't know what it'll be like and if roller derby is something you think you'd like, you should try it.

Suiting up in my derby gear for the first time
I'm a pretty adventurous eater but there are a few things I was sure I didn't like: avocados, eggplant and onions come to mind. Last year, a friend suggested I try avocados in a smoothie. I was skeptical but I gave it a try and lo and behold, that has become one of my favorite quick breakfasts! 

I do not like white water rafting. I've only gone once and I was terrified the entire time. I'm generally not a fan of being on water in any way, shape or form. My other half, however, loves white water rafting and asked me to go with him at least once. I did and I doubt I'll ever go again but he appreciated that I was willing to face my fear and get in that raft! Now I do something on my own while he goes rafting with his siblings but at least I know what I'm missing!

Suited up for white water rafting

My life lesson here is simple: Try it. Whatever it is, give it a go. Take one bite of something, try on an outfit that isn't your usual style, take a class or lessons for a new hobby.

I believe that we, as human beings, are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. This goes back to my first post of the month, that you can do anything!

So, what is it you'd like to try that you never have?

That's me in green!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for Sex

I vacillated between whether or not I should go with this topic for my S post. I don't want to offend any A to Z participants, or break any of the rules. I had other ideas for S subjects: self care, social media, stress, solitude. I certainly could write about those things, but when I looked at my list of S words, I kept coming back to sex. (If you know me well, I'm sure that line mad you chuckle!) When I think about all those other words, I don't see one that holds as many life lessons for me as the subject of sex.

If I have to sum it all up into one, my life lesson when it comes to sex is this: It is totally okay to be a woman who likes sex. It's nothing to be ashamed of and there are healthy, positive ways to go about it!

My mother discovered I had lost my virginity by doing some snooping. I was a senior in high school at the time, less than a month away from graduation. She got mad at me,  I was grounded. There was never an explanation other than I was young and shouldn't have done it. Maybe this is why I developed a sense of shame around sex that lasted through my marriage. It wasn't until I was divorced and approaching thirty that my attitude changed.

I've taken a lot of slack for being a gal who admits she's looking to get laid on occasion. I've been called names and judged by others. I'll admit I've made some poor choices in this arena, but not only do all my experiences make me who I am, I also know that my sexual confidence contributes to me being an honest, loving partner in my current relationship.

I am not advocating promiscuity here. Not at all. I just think there is a double standard in our society when it comes to attitudes about sex and gender. A guy who has a lot of sexual partners is a stud but a girl who does is a slut. It isn't fair! I believe there are ways to talk and teach about sex that advocate healthy relationships and sexual behaviors without shaming.

I also think it's extremely important for women to talk to each other about sex. Keeping all your secrets to yourself perpetuates that air of shame. If I didn't have friends who I could vent to and ask personal questions, I wouldn't be writing this post!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Return

When I left my home in January, I didn't expect I would ever return. But then, we all know what I've learned about expectations this year!

My decision to return home was one made from a place of love and learning but it wasn't exactly easy. When I left, I was confident I wouldn't return and I couldn't help but think of how I would appear to others for coming back. And of course, I struggled with the question of why the heck did I leave in the first place?

I had been home for about a week when I received this beautiful image via text from a friend. My eyes filled with tears as I read the words. It was exactly what I needed at that moment.

I left because I had to. That's clear to me now. Things would not be exactly as they are now if I hadn't gone. Returning was exactly what I needed to do as well. Mr. Pratchett's words couldn't be more fitting for my situation. Sure I could have stayed but I would have spent the rest of my life wondering What if? 

So the lesson here is borrowed from that wise quote: Returning to where you started isn't the same as never having left.

Do you agree?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Q is for Quitting

I'm going to cut right to the chase for today's lesson: If you hate your job, you should quit it.

I've experienced this lesson first hand. I've seen what happens when I stay too long at a job (The Universe forces a change) and I've also seen what it's like to finally quit a job that's been crushing my soul for years.

Now, I know all the reasons you say you can't quit your job. I even know that some of the reasons you stay at a job you hate are legit. But this is where Saturday's post about priorities comes in handy. You can get another job. You might not make as much money or have the same schedule but contrary to popular belief, there are other jobs out there.

I've been told that some of my life lessons are "easier said that done." I'll agree this is another one that falls into that category. But guess what? Life is hard.

I think quitting gets a bad rap. I'm not just talking about jobs. When I retired from roller derby last year, I struggled with the fact that I was quitting. We're conditioned to think that quitting means we're a loser, weak, scared, that it's always a bad thing. The truth is sometimes it's time to quit.

I've done my fair share of quitting. I've quit jobs, hobbies, relationships. It can be difficult to stand up and say "Okay, I'm all done here," but it almost always comes with a rush of relief. Getting that proverbial weight off my chest in knowing that I'm doing the right thing.

I'm not saying quit anything at the first inkling of discomfort. I played derby for over two years and I can't even count how many times I thought of quitting before I finally did. The same with my soul sucking job. The older I get, the shorter that time frame gets where I'll tolerate feeling bad. But it's still exists. I'll wait it out to make sure quitting definitely feels right.

Our society floods us with motivational posters telling us to never give up, never quit, keep going, etc. And yes, there's a time and place for pushing yourself and persevering. Maybe at the gym but not in a work place.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is for Priorities

One afternoon this winter, I was soaking in my hot tub with my finance's niece and nephew. At the time they had been living in Montana less than six months, after spending all of their lives growing up in Boston. As the eight year old girl bobbed around amid the jets, she surveyed our back yard and sighed "Wow, this is nice. It's like you guys are rich." I didn't want her to perpetuate that misconception. I realize she isn't used to visiting people who own homes and have back yards. "Well, " I began gently, "This is called having priorities. You spend your money on the things that are most important to you. We have a hot tub but we don't have fancy cars or expensive furniture." Her 11 year old brother nodded his head enthusiastically, to indicate he was familiar with this concept. She tilted her head to the side as she tried to understand. "But you still have a really nice car!" she exclaimed. I had to admit that yes, to her and I, my 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit is a "nice car" but as far as price and luxury go, it's fairly low on the list.

It's a difficult concept to explain and I'm not sure I should expect an 8 year old to understand it when I know plenty of adults who don't! Priorities is a subjective term too. My priorities are constantly shifting and dynamic. Sure, there are a top few: spouse, self, family, work, pets, home but even those can change from day to day. And sometimes something pops up that needs to take priority for a short time, like planning a wedding, and everything else gets rearranged for a while!

The life lesson I've learned here is that it's important to re-evaluate your priorities from time to time. AND, it's okay to have some on your list that are unique to you, like our hot tub! I don't believe there's one thing that should always be the number one priority in life. Not every single second of every day. Any one who thinks otherwise is not realistic.

So take some time to look at your priorities and make sure you're on the list!

Mimosas in the hot tub

Friday, April 17, 2015

O is for Outside

When I moved in Montana in 2007, I was seeking change and a fresh start. I got much more than I bargained for!

Montana has changed me in ways both physical and non. I'm stronger and more independent. I appreciate solitude and nature, and enjoy a slower pace to my lifestyle.

The most valuable lesson Montana has taught me is that sometimes, I just need to get outside!

There is a power and energy that comes with being out in nature that cannot be replicated any other way. The serenity that I find while riding a chairlift is something I have not experienced elsewhere. Being suspended above the earth, gliding through the tress during a lightly falling snow, is incredible. Hiking to a mountain peak and viewing the entire valley that is my home is invigorating. Living in a place that provides me with the opportunity to have honest to goodness adventures on a regular basis was something I hadn't considered when I moved here. I'm glad I didn't have any preconceived notions about this aspect of my lifestyle because I was able to discover  activities that I enjoy without being on a search for them.

Being outside doesn't always have to be an epic adventure. Sometimes it's as simple as a walk through the neighborhood with my dogs or sitting beside my backyard pond. For me it's about taking breaths, maybe getting my heart rate up, and feeling sunshine (or snow or rain!) What it comes down to is feeling alive!

I came upon this video on YouTube a couple years ago and fell in love with it immediately. Not only do I adore Jason Mraz and anything Muppet related, I appreciate the message the song is sending. It's sweet and fun but also important.

What does being outside do for you? What are your favorite ways to enjoy nature?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for No

I was raised to be accommodating. If someone asks you to do something, you do it. If you commit to something, you follow through. Putting oneself first is viewed as selfish. As I got older, the world reinforced these tendencies in me. People who recognized my tendency to put others before myself took full advantage of me. 

Any time I was asked to cover an extra shift at work, I'd do it. If a boyfriend disregarded my interests, I'd let it happen. I took on other's demands and expectations without much thought about how they affected me. I just wanted everyone to be happy and like me. 

By the time I reached my thirties, I was exhausted and resentful. 

When I started seeing my life coach, one of the first things she said to me was it seemed like I had too many burners going on the stove and needed to choose one to turn off. What? No way! Work, home, partner, hobbies, family, pets. How could any of those be turned off? My coach helped me see that there wasn't a burner labeled as self. Because I wasn't putting any energy into treating myself well, I was doing a lousy job of maintaining all those other hot burners. 

One of the most important skills I've learned as an adult is how to set boundaries. It can be uncomfortable at first, if you aren't used to doing it. Even now, I occasionally struggle with feeling guilt, as if I'm letting others down by speaking up for myself. But actually I'm doing us both a favor!

Boundaries aren't always fun!

Learning that it's okay to say no was a HUGE life lesson for me. Sometimes people in my life don't understand. They aren't used to hearing "no" and don't say it often themselves. Sitting down with a boss or a boyfriend and saying "This isn't working for me" takes a lot of guts. Trust me, I've done both and it sucked. It's a big step, to recognize when it's time to say no and when the response is negative or the person lashes out, it can make a tough situation even worse. 

Fearing another's response to no isn't a reason to accommodate him/her. In fact, you're doing each other a huge disservice if you don't speak up. You can trust me on this one too because I've been there as well! 

I like to use the example of airplane emergency procedures when it comes to self care: Secure your own oxygen mask before you begin to assist others with theirs. 

Taking care of myself first doesn't mean I'm selfish. It means I value myself and my loved ones enough to know when I'm on the verge of becoming overextended. I was spread thin for far too long and that me isn't nearly as healthy and positive as the me that takes time our for herself!

If you're feeling pulled in too many different directions, I challenge you to say no to something. Say it nicely and with kindness but say it. I promise you will be glad you did!

Bison without boundaries in Gardiner, MT

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for Marriage

I'm recently engaged, so marriage has been on my mind a lot lately.

Before I was engaged, I looked at other women's hands for rings. There have been many times I've been the only woman at the workshop, class, dinner party, without a ring. I'd wonder what that said about me that I noticed.

I wasn't looking out of jealousy. Maybe there was some longing, but it was mostly curiosity. Who is married and who isn't? Is that the only difference between us as women?

Now that I wear an engagement ring, I still look at other women's hands but in a different way. I think of all the love and planning that went into me having this ring and the sweet story that I have to tell about it. I wonder about the story behind each ring now.

When I got engaged, my best friend, who is a photographer and has worked with many brides, prepared me for the fact that everyone was going to have input about my wedding, and boy was she right! When I was picking out my wedding band, the gal behind the counter gave her opinion of my choices, warning me that I might feel differently once I'm wearing a wedding band.

The funny thing is, I have worn a wedding band before. I've done all of this before. I got married 13 years ago, and while I was a different version of myself back then, it was still me. I know what it feels like to wear that band constantly, to work in it, to get it snagged on things, to tug gloves over it.
My future husband has been married once before as well. Trust me, we know what didn't work for us the first go around!

While it's fun and exciting to be planning a wedding, it's also felt strange at times. I've been divorced for 10 years but a lot of memories and feelings have come swirling to the surface for me recently. I've experienced a whole world of personal growth, emotions and changes in those years. I've learned what I want and need in a partner but also what I don't. I know that what the wedding looks like doesn't reflect what the marriage is going to be like.

The life lesson I've learned about marriage is that it's different for everyone. The only thing that matters is that it's the same for the two people entering into it together. You would think that's a given, but it's not. It's something that should be discussed in great detail. Marriage is about more than loving each other. I didn't realize that the first time around.

Marriage is more than just a piece of paper, but that piece of paper is really important. You can live as a married couple without that piece of paper but it's still not exactly the same as when you have it.

For years after my divorce, I swore I'd never get married again, never ever. I'm glad I don't have to be held to that!

Image from she

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Light

There was a time in my life when the middle of the night was my worst enemy. There in the dark, I would re-hash my biggest failures and heaviest anxieties. There were nights when I thought I am seriously not well, because I couldn't stop obsessing about my ex-husband or a mistake I made at work, or something embarrassing I did when I was twelve! Eventually I'd wear myself out and fall asleep and when I woke up in the morning I could early remember what it was I had been so stressed about all night!

My life lesson here is: Everything looks better in the light of day.

I don't know why it is but I know it's a common condition. People all over the world lay down to sleep at night and are flooded with worry and pressure, fear and loneliness. I remember a particular period of time when I was single and would curl up on my side at night, imagining a loving man spooning me and I would think Some day I will have a man to spoon me. I won't always be alone. I'd wake up in the morning with my dog curled up behind my knees and think I'm not alone at all. Why the hell do I worry so much about finding a man? I believe the solitude that is forced upon me by the darkness leaves space for the doubts and fears to creep in.

Over the past several years, I've gotten a handle on my anxiety thanks to finding the right medication, therapy, exercise, a supportive partner, etc. Nighttime is not something I fear. In fact bedtime is one of my favorite parts of the day because I always read in bed and I love to sleep.

But occasionally the demons do show their faces around 3 or 4am. They say "Hey, what about that magazine deadline? Do you have enough money to pay your car registration? Stay awake with us and worry about those things!" That's when I snap on my bedside lamp and reach for my book. Distracting my mind with reading is one of the few things that makes those worries evaporate into the words and characters on the page. I read long enough to keep drowsy and turn the light off, knowing that when my room is flooded with sunlight in the morning, I will be able to tackle everything on my to do list!

Similarly, I often notice a difference in my disposition on a bright, sunny day versus a gray, gloomy day. Here in Montana, we can go through phases in the winter when I can't remember the last time I saw the sun. Everyone becomes slow and a bit melancholy. And then suddenly it's a glorious day filled with sunlight and I feel like myself again! There's such a huge shift that occurs in the spring, when the days get longer.

I'm a person who would rather be hot than cold. I'd rather sit in the sun than the shade. I'm a morning person. Daylight and sunlight represent a lot to me; motivation, happiness, the hope that comes with a brand new day. 

Tinsley likes to find a sunny spot, just like me!

Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for Kindness

As I began to embrace a gratitude practice, I noticed a shift taking place in my life. From that point forward, my sharp edges began to soften. The protective shell I'd built around myself my entire life began to fade. This process has taken years, and is still happening but it started when I began to face the world each day with gratitude and kindness.

It turns out that if you're miserable in your life and a bitch to be around, you tend to attract other miserables bitches and you all wallow together in your wretchedness. I am grateful for the friends I have who supported and tolerated me when I was at my lowest and helped to guide me out of my distress. Receiving kindness and choosing to separate myself from people whose energy I didn't want to share any longer (or having The Universe force that separation,) allowed me to start from the ground up, so to speak. I was able to rebuild my life with a foundation of my own choosing.

My life lesson here is that kindness is a cycle; you dole it out, it makes the receiver feel good, they dole more out and so on until you are the receiver and the circle continues.

I've spent the majority of my adult life working with the public, mostly in the field of veterinary medicine. If you've ever worked with the public, you know some days just suck, no matter what you do. And when there's a full moon? Forget about normal. Crazy stuff happens then! Over the years, I came to realize that people tend to act out when they are upset. A client who is rude to me about their bill is most likely distraught about their beloved pet, facing financial hardships or any combination of the emotions and challenges in life. I've witnessed first hand how being kind to a rude person will disarm him. He'll tilt his head or take a step back as if he's thinking "Oh, I'm not going to get a fight here so I guess I'll be nice!" I do believe that some people simply like to complain. They call or come in looking for an argument. When they don't get one, they don't know what to do so they retreat. Although occasionally a person will continue to lash out and there's nothing I can do to help. I just smile and say "Thank you, have a nice day!" These situations are challenging. I cannot say I'm always able to keep my cool. Every once in a while there's a person who is just down right out of line.

Plato said "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle." I can't think of a better way to advocate for kindness. You never know the stories of the people you pass each day. Think about your worst struggle and imagine a stranger facing it, then give that person the treatment you would have wanted when you were struggling.

My boyfriend taking a photo for strangers in NYC Aug. 2010

Saturday, April 11, 2015

J is for Junk

The donation bay at my local Goodwill

The saying goes that one man's trash is another man's treasure and I have learned this to be true.

The Webster's New World Dictionary defines junk as: things of little value; rubbish. Defining the value of something, however, is fairly subjective.

I've written previously about my love of yard sales and thrift stores, and my general appreciation for pre-owned items. I find it interesting to look at the things people have discarded. I think it says a lot about someone, even if I don't know the person. I enjoy slowly pursuing the shelves at my local Goodwill and photographing interesting finds. I like to hold an item and consider this thought: This used to be someone's treasure. What made them get rid of it?

The majority of my possessions are items that would hold little or no value to anyone but me. Not all of my things were purchased second hand, of course but I have a tendency to become emotionally attached to items I received as gifts or obtained during an emotional time in my life.

Often, second hand items hold energy that I can perceive. Many empaths dislike pre-owned things for this reason but I actually like it. For the most part, feeling that energy is a positive experience for me, although occasionally it can be negative and make me feel queasy or simply overwhelmed. I tend to dislike brand new items at times because they can feel "blank" to me.

I especially love it when I come across something at a yard sale or thrift store that's particularly unique yet specific to me. For example these Declaration of Independence glasses which I purchased at Salvation Army, both for a quarter! Since I grew up near Philadelphia, the city holds a special place in my heart and I particularly love things related to the rich history of the city and all things Ben Franklin related! I was thrilled to run across these here in Montana!

Similar to that is the story of this bust of Teddy Roosevelt that I found for my other half at a yard sale for $5. I bought it on an impulse, knowing Teddy is his favorite president, then had buyer's remorse on the way home. His reaction when he saw it was priceless. You never know what you're going to find across when you search through someone else's discard pile!

I also use the term junk to apply to one's emotional baggage. So I have a lot of junk in this sense too!

No matter what you call it, everyone has junk, both physical and non. I think it's another glorious part of being human. There's so much stuff to choose from. We get rid of some, we pick up some more. We pass ours on to someone else, we take some that another is giving away. It's all the same in the end, really. What matters to me is that I'm surrounded by the stuff that means something to me and makes me happy, my own personal junk.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I is for Ice Cream

Shortly after I started dating my other half, a little convenience store opened up in the subdivision where he lived, where we now live together. Pop's Country Store has expanded its inventory a bit since then but they have all the basics you might need when you get home from the grocery store only to realize you forgot something, or if you're in the middle of cooking dinner when you realize the milk you're about to use is spoiled! "Do you think Pop's would have it?" is a frequent question in our home, when the batteries die in the remote or the hot dog buns I pulled out of the breadbox are moldy. 

The most mentionable item that Pop's has served since it first opened is ice cream. Local Wilcoxson's brand hand scooped ice cream. You can choose a sugar cone or a bowl. I'm a cone gal!

My first outing after my concussion was a walk to Pop's
Having this treat less than a mile from home has reinforced the life lesson I already knew, which is: Ice cream makes anything better. Grief, joy, pain both physical and emotional, all are improved after a walk to Pop's!

Charlie waiting patiently at Pop's

Thursday, April 9, 2015

H is for Humor

I love to laugh. Especially that rolling, uncontrollable laughter that you can't stop even if you try. I like when I laugh at something without even having the thought that's it's funny first. I like to laugh until my abs are sore, until my eyes are watering. I love being around people who can make me laugh a lot. My closest friends are those with whom I share my juvenile sense of humor. 

When it comes to movies, I prefer comedies over other genres. If I'm going to spend 2+ hours of my life watching a film, I want to be entertained. I don't want to be scared or sad or have to think too much. I like other movies at times, but a good, silly comedy is best-think Austin Powers or classic Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler. The goofier, the better!

I have learned that finding humor in difficult situations helps make them bearable. This is part of what inspires me to be a non-fiction writer. I believe that if I tell my story of getting fired, or divorced, or concussed, in a humorous light, I can bring a bit of hope to someone else in a similar spot who may not have seen the humor yet. 

My favorite writer, David Sedaris, is the champion of this. He can tell a story from his less than idyllic childhood, or an awkward social interaction that makes the reader cringe and laugh at the same time. This is what I aspire to as a writer!

I'll admit it's not always possible to laugh at our hardships as we face them. Sometimes it takes weeks/months/years to be able to look back on something and say "Okay, that was funny." But I believe it's important that we're able to do it eventually, to laugh at our blunders and failed attempts. Even if it doesn't deter my next blunder, it reminds me to think Hey, at least this will make for a funny story later!