Body Says No.

It’s been a busy…well, lifetime, really. I know, I jest (sort of) but the past several months have really kicked into full gear. I won’t bore you all with the details, as I have been honest about my chaotic, messy life in many posts, but there are days when I miss simply plopping on the couch to watch TV that isn’t Disney related. Other days, I miss feeling like I had all the time in the world to get chores done.

The reality is that I am constantly running from task to task, which seems odd because my very goal was to never be one of those moms. I never wanted to be that mom who scheduled her kids for tons of activities. I never wanted to be super scheduled. I swore I wouldn’t overschedule myself or race from place to place. I wanted to be the calm, laid back mom. The very concept of racing from sport to sport, activity to activity looked exhausting. I have friends that do it, and as they list off their schedules I cringe. While I have limited the kids’ activities to usually one thing a season (which still took up crazy amounts of time…football I’m talking to you!) which suited them perfectly, I still feel like I am always on the go. The little does gymnastics and horseback riding, and has done so for some time. Those take up relatively little amount of time, but she does really well at both and loves both as well. The boy child has taken time off from sports, and is practicing the whole teenager goal of hanging with friends, riding his bike, or skateboarding. This means that much of my time is spent driving kids places on the weekends, or working on the closet donations at night. The fact is, I’ve done well at not overscheduling the kids. The problem is that it’s me who feels overscheduled.

The other day someone asked me a question, and I pulled out my phone to check my calendar. Trying to coordinate things is becoming more and more difficult. I’m a full time working mom, working on a big project doing most of the physical work myself, and also trying to mom up. It’s a lot. Add on those unforseen life moments that are hard and stressful in and of themselves, and I wore myself too thin. When I refused to acknowledge that I was overextending myself, and that I had to pause to do right by myself, my body stepped in and brought things to a halt.

It was quite funny and quite disturbing, all at once.

I awoke Friday feeling stuffy and out of sorts. By Friday night, I had pins and needles throughout my left hand. Numbness set in. I believe it was last year (time just rolls on these days and I have to constantly check dates) I started losing feeling in my ring and pinkie finger on my left hand. I would awaken with numb fingers a few times a week. Then one day, the numbness didn’t go away. Several dr visits later, I was told my nerve was getting pinched in my elbow. The Dr’s recommendation? Keep my arm straight. Do you have any idea how awkward and unnatural it is to keep your arm straight all the time? I wore a brace to keep it straight, and we hoped the nerve would repair itself. Fortunately it did. Then last week is started creeping up again, only then the whole hand went numb. This unnerved me, but I assumed it may be combination of carpal tunnel plus the elbow issue. In other words, I am a hot boo boo mess.

Saturday, my bestie, who knows all of what’s going on in my life, invited me over to test out her new hot tub. I settled in and we talked for ages. I hadn’t paused myself like that to do something so luxurious in quite some time. All the jobs at home went undone, because I felt like perhaps I needed to pause life a bit and just try to relax. By Saturday night, my son arrived home and I mentioned how tired I felt, but I had to wait for my daughter to get home. He looked me in the eye and said “mom, I love you but you look like garbage. Go lay down and I’ll wait up for her”. I was so grateful. Just then my husband came home, and I was sent to rest.

Sunday, I was still stuffy and numb, but felt more rested. My knees decided they’d had enough as well, and both started to ache. Ahh the joys of getting older, eh? Today I worked, but tonight I’m resting again. To hell with the jobs around the house. I’m stuffy, numb, and limping. I’m afraid if I don’t listen to what my body is saying it’s going to take me out completely.

I knew I was struggling to quiet my mind when I was kept up the other night by the random thought of “what is the etymology of Orange?” “Who came up with the word orange, both as a color and as a fruit? Who said it first?”

When the brain is overworked, the body will crap out and put a stop to things. Mine has decided it needs an episode of Love Island Uk, some family chats with my cousins and an early night. I’m renaming myself BitchyMcNumbFingers for the time being.

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Drag me to filth. Please?

This past weekend (and the past few years) I attended DragCon in New York City. Every year, I make the trek out there via train, and the experience is always a fabulous one. This year was no exception.

Part of the reason I love traveling so much is to get out of my comfort zone a bit, but also to see new things. I’ve never much understood people who don’t want to expand their horizons and viewpoints. Drag to me is fun, exciting, and an art form. I love the illusion of it. I love watching the skill of the makeup techniques and clothing designs. There is so much care, thought and artistry, especially with seasoned drag queens, that it is pure energy. The queens are bold, bright, and glittery. They wear their art. I have always perked up when seeing a drag queen, but was always interested by RuPaul as he/she broke into the mainstream, which was quite groundbreaking. Everyone seems to know who RuPaul is! Well, when Drag Race, Rupaul’s competition show came out, I was front row and center by the TV watching. I’ve watched (and loved) every season. (If you’re one of those people who still gets offended in this day and age, I’m clearly not one of your people. You don’t know what you are missing, and I can tell you as a straight woman, the LGBTQ community is amazing and just wants the same rights as you. They know you’re not gay, they don’t want to convert you. They just want to be treated like everyone else. Hate has no home here.)

When I saw there was not only a drag convention, but that it was in the northeast, I was incredibly excited. I’m close enough to NY that I could go. I came, I saw, I LOVED it, and I’ve been going ever since. Sadly I can usually only go for one day, normally a Sunday, but I manage to pack in quite a lot during the time I am there.

This year, as in some years past, I went with one of my sister in laws. Her and I both have a love of all things drag, and we were both excited to go. Unfortunately, I initially missed the train I was supposed to meet her on, so I had to drive about 20 minutes to “outrun” the train and catch it at a further station. I JUST made it, and we sat chatting and planning what we wanted to do and see. My first goal? CAFFEINE. I had been out late the night before seeing the movie IT with a big group of family and friends, and I didn’t get to bed until 3AM. As soon as we arrived, I popped into Starbucks for a drink I had seen people raving about called a pumpkin cream cold brew.

Y’all…..

It’s DELISH. Not too sweet, perfectly smooth, and it lived up to the hype. I also love the new cups Starbucks has for them which is basically an adult sippy cup. No straw needed and it’s perfect. Once we got our coffee, we cabbed it to the Javits center.

When you arrive at DragCon, there is an electric energy that pulses around the room. The convention was held at the Javits center which is MASSIVE. As you enter the convention area, you can see an enormous pink carpet down the middle. Sequins, sparkles, bright colors abound. What you also sense upon walking in is a sense of freedom to be unequivocally oneself. In a world where so many live in the prison of worrying about what other’s think or spending time keeping up with the Jones’, this environment feels electrifying.

Drag queens from the show RupPaul’s Drag Race are located in booths throughout the venue. The queens most recently on the show, or recent winners typically had the busiest booths. Some who I believe would have been busier had shorter lines due to a high minimum amount to take a picture with the queen and meet them. That seemed to be a theme. The queens with lower minimums (buy something for $5 and still get a meet and picture) had quick, massive lines while others had shorter, expensive minimum lines. People were making money, but I can’t help but wonder which style of handling the merch and meet came up ahead. Vanjie had a long line with a $40 minimum to meet her. Scarlett Envy had a shorter line, but still a $30 or so minimum. Both were recent members of the show. Willam, a queen has had quite some controversy, was a queen we were surprised but excited to see. Willam’s booth had a decent sized line that moved quickly and efficiently. The helper’s kept things moving, and gave instructions. Willam took really well done selfies with each person, with Willam holding the phone. Honestly, the pics were great. Some queens I wanted to meet, I didn’t because I do get rather shy and awkward. I never really know what to say. Some had booths that kept them hidden behind curtains, so your only chance to see them was to pay up. This always makes me a bit sad, but I get it. Drag is not only an art form, but a business as well. It’s a fine line to keep your fans feeling appreciated while still bringing in the money. Every queen we encountered was lovely.

While the convention focuses on queens from the show, my favorite part is to look for local, non show queens, as this is often where the magic is. Local queens roam the floor and are often very eager to take pictures with attendees. One year I met Kari Kerning, who made me giggle with her amazing bee keeper outfit. Last year I met Selma Nilla, who donned a pig nose and smile. This year I had two favorites, but I didn’t catch their names. I loved their creativity and execution. Part Halloweeny, part art, Both caught my eye and I just HAD to take a picture.

I roamed the booths and ended up near the stage where they held a pole dancing competition in which both men and women competed. The MC was fantastic and made me laugh. One of the dancers, a male, was so impressive I had to take a video to show my sister in law, who had gone to another section. The strength, grace, and skill he had was unmatched. I don’t know how he didn’t win because I was mesmerized watching him maneuver seemingly effortlessly. It’s not everyone that can hold a pole and position themselves parallel to the floor at the top of the pole and wave like a flag using only their hands to hold on. It was UNREAL.

Did I buy anything? Yes, I did. I stepped out of my comfort zone and bought a wig. It’s long with big curls and it’s sassy. I love it. It’s the first lace front wig I have ever owned and while I need to practice at putting it on, I love it. I also bought some gorgeous fake lashes. I came home with loads of complimentary free hair care and skin care samples, pots of glitter, and other goodies.

There was so much to see and do that we worked up quite an appetite. After bidding some lovely friends of my SIL goodbye, she and I grabbed a cab to surprise my daughter and my niece who were on a special trip to NY with my daughter’s aunt and uncle. We walked into the restaurant to big smiles and hurried chatter of their day’s events. After hugs and kisses, they headed off to the train while we headed to Tea and Sympathy, my favorite British tea shop. Located on Greenwich Ave, there is a small shop that sells British sweets and items. To the left is A Salt and Battery, an authentic British fish and chip shop. It’s one of my favorite places in NY. It’s not fancy, but I can confirm that it feels and tastes just like a local fish and chip shop in England. It takes me right back to childhood when we would arrive in England and run to the “chippy” for fish and chips wrapped in paper. To the right of the shop is Tea and Sympathy, a litte tea shop that makes all sorts of British food, my most favorite being the Rhubarb crumble drowned in hot custard. It’s an expats dream. The bread there is divine, and everything tastes great. The rhubarb crumble has now become a post drag con staple. We settled in to choose our meals while discussing the days’ events. We also commented how we had seen a drag legend, Lady Bunny, on instagram frequenting T&S and mentioned how great it would be if the famous Bunny might stop by. We knew she lived locally, but wondered if we might even recognize Bunny out of drag. It’s very rare to see or hear of LB out of drag. This night, my SIL were ravenous because neither of us had eaten all day. We each got the “Sunday Roast” which had hot roast beef, fresh peas, broccoli, roasted potatoes and yorkshire pudding. It was filling and divine. While surprisingly a bit pricy compared to what I’m used to, it hit the spot and was really delicious.

When we left, I think we then had one of my favorite moments of the day. While wandering down a street, my SIL paused to get her bearings. As she paused to look at the signs, something shiny caught my eye. It was a sequined dress. I glanced up and saw that the person had the BIGGEST blond wig I had ever seen. It looked just like….could it be? LADY BUNNY. “Bunny! Lady Bunny! Bunny!” I tried to say quickly to my SIL. She spun around to see what I was looking at. I swear we thought we had seen a unicorn. We rushed over by the door she had slipped through and through the window we saw the tail end of a shiny sequined dress step through another doorway. Just like that, the person was gone. Now I can’t say for sure it was LB, but the odds are quite good considering the size of that wig. To honor Bunny’s privacy, I won’t say where exactly we saw her, but for us it was quite a magical moment. After all, hadn’t we just been saying how amazing it would be to see Lady Bunny out and about, in or out of drag? For us it was like seeing a favorite actor or actress out in public. It always makes you wonder “was that really them?”. So one of the highlights of my day? A wild spotting of a Bunny.

We took a long stroll back towards the train station but hopped the subway to get there faster. We just caught the earlier train home, and settled in for the long ride back.

Art, style, glitter, crystals, rhinestones, chaps, wigs, gowns, bodysuits, makeup, lashes, support, pride, comfort, self, drag, selfies, poledancing, jokes, laughs, smiles, coffee, thrills, walks, giggles, food, possibly bunny sightings, subway, lights, action, people watching….New York had it all.

Until next year, NY.

Watch Me.

Today I was hard on myself. A project I was doing at work had some technical glitches and didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped (although I got it done. My daughter was a bit upset by an interaction with a teacher in the car line when I picked her up. I had to race out to the orthodontist and stores after work. Dinner was late and I ended up having my son help me with it. I had a bunch of jobs to do like ordering school pictures, trying to gather items for the Closet project. I’m tired. Tired physically and tired of garbage humans who are just shitty people. I looked around at the chaos in my house and felt overwhelmed. I started getting frustrated with myself that I couldn’t get it all done and do more around the house.

Then I took a deep breath. And another. I sat back and watched a mental replay of what I had done all day.

I began to realize that I was too busy giving myself a hard time and wasn’t acknowledging the successes I had today. Some were small, but they were wins as far as I was concerned.

That project? Well, I got it done, and learned a whole new software in the process. I got another big project on my dreaded to do list accomplished as well.

I worked a full day and got a lot done.

I coordinated kids getting home.

I turned my car around in the car line and went to speak to the teacher who had upset my daughter. It was a misunderstanding, and I ended up really liking her and sorting it all out where everyone was happy.

My daughter, who has shed many a tear at the orthodontists, looked at me when I told her “you’re a big girl now and you can communicate what you feel needs correcting and you can rock this” and did just that. She handled it like a boss and walked out proud without a single tear being shed.

I got the items I needed from the store.

I ordered school pictures.

I was able to coordinate getting the shelving units I need for the Closet Project with the help of a friend, for free, donated by her neighbor. This is HUGE because currently everything is in random bags, boxes and bins making it near impossible to find what you need. I also found clothing racks for cheap and purchased a couple. I’m excited to now get it set up.

I coordinated a few more donations of clothing and toiletries.

I took a moment to ponder how grateful I am for the internet and the volume of things I can accomplish by using it.

I scrubbed the tub and toilet quick.

I delegated some jobs to my son, who was a rock star and cooked dinner.

I got a load of laundry done.

I did a load of dishes.

I fed all the pets.

I saw a woman say something vile and called her out as the asshole she was.

I saw a lurker lurking, sighed, and wrote this post anyway.

I did some good deeds.

I made calls I had to make and sent emails I needed to send.

I gave out some compliments. I laid out some truths.

I took out my esthetician’s equipment and helped my son with a breakout.

I gave goodnight hugs and kisses. I sent two happy kids to bed.

In other words, I did a LOT. I did some small things, and I did some big things. I did lots of things and I handled my business. So my house is messy. I work full time, run a major project to help kids, raise two kids, and manage a household often on my own since my husband works different hours. I kicked some ass today! I’m proud of myself and my kids told me they are proud of me too. I often find myself being so hard on me, never taking the time to just stop, breath, and recognize all the things I DID accomplish during the day. Sometimes I need to step outside of myself and watch all the things I have accomplished, and all the things I did get done.

Are you watching me? Because I’m watching me, and I kicked some ass today!

Take me to the Ranch!

I’ve been (mostly) MIA the past couple of weeks as summer has wound down. Summer, which normally feels lazy and laid back, became crazy busy. Between work, camp for the kids, and my nights spent working on the Closet project, I stayed busy. I was burning the candle at both ends and by last week I was in dire need of time to rest and recharge. We had booked two vacations at the end of the month, one for our annual family reunion at the lake, and the other at a Ranch in upstate New York. The Ranch trip was first.

Now let me preface the rest of this post by saying I’m probably a little high maintenance, but at the same time, I have a soft spot for the country and would love to live in the country at some point. Despite coming from a family who is very into horses (several of my cousins own, breed and show horses. One is a professional rider), I am….not. I grew up far away from them, and never had much opportunity to ride. I spent my childhood on boats and the water, but despite a love of horses, I’ve always been a bit nervous around them.

We booked the trip with some family members that we have vacationed with in the past. They have been going to the ranch since childhood, and they asked us to join. We decided to jump at the opportunity as we know we vacation really well with them. We share a similar vacation mindset. That’s very important when travelling with others. If you don’t kind of have the same vibe when it comes to how you vacation, you may feel either you didn’t fully get the experience, or you may feel like you need a vacation from the vacation. This collective group just worked like a charm, and I knew fun was to be had.

We arrived at Rydin-Hy Ranch on a Saturday. I had had a stressful few weeks leading up to the trip, and unfortunately got a call with some bad news about a family member on the drive there. I arrived stressed, but looking forward to having some down time, as was my husband. My kids were wanting to do all the things. As we pulled in, I saw log cabins, and a gorgeous lake ahead of us. Our cabin looked out towards the lodge in front of us, and the lake to our right. It was simply stunning. We checked in, dropped off our stuff, and headed out to explore. My daughter, who LOVES horses, was eager to ride, so we signed up for a trail ride. The boys headed off to check things out. We wandered over to the barn where there were loads of beautiful horses. The cowboys that work the barn (that’s actually what they are called on the ranch) chose horses they thought would be a good fit for everyone. They helped each of us get on the horse, and we got in a line to go for a slow leisurely trail ride. I was nervous and a bit anxious the first ride. Ok, I was the same on pretty much every ride, but I couldn’t help but have fun.

After the ride, we headed off to the lodge for dinner, which was delicious. The easiest way to explain it is that the food is simple, yet done well. Each family has their own table for the length of their stay, so you simply wander in during meal times and sit at your table. The staff there were extremely accommodating. After a delicious meal, we headed off to the bar for drinks and laughs. We had a fabulous night out at the bar, and a good time was had by all.

Each day in the lodge, they put up a chalk board with the times and locations of all the activities. This is the moment when you start to realize that your kids have likes and know how to do things that you had no idea about. To my surprise my son signed up for a ping pong tournament. I didn’t know he enjoyed ping pong, as he’d never mentioned it, but he said he played at camp all the time. Turns out he’s really good at it! My kids were very eager to try archery. My daughter wanted to do the banana boat, which is a long inflateable yellow banana looking boat that you sit on while a speedboat tows it at a pretty high speed in the water. I went on, as well as her aunt, and the three of us were laughing hysterically as it pulled us through the water. I sat amazed at how fearless my kids are, and how much joy they got from trying new things.

My sister in laws’ cousins were there the first day and were extremely kind enough to leave us their kids’ bikes to borrow while we were there. This gave our kids another layer of freedom. There is an incredibly strong feeling of “home” at the ranch, in the sense your room door is unlocked throughout the day (you get a safe for valuables) and kids are considerably more free range than you see at many vacation destinations. Of course parents have an eye on their kids but you feel safe allowing them to roam a bit if they are older. My son, a teenager now, loved having the freedom to come and go as he pleased, riding the bike throughout the ranch from place to place. He went to the gym to work out, played basketball, and attended activities on the board that piqued his interest. My daughter loved spending time riding around on the bike while the adults were relaxing outside. One of the things I loved was that kids were a bit more free range there, and it all felt super safe and easygoing.

While I was there, I got a call with some more bad news and needed a bit of time to process it. Travelling with the Aunts, Uncles and bonus grandparents made it easy for me to ask for some alone time, as they were happy to oblige and take the kids to different activities. The ranch sits on a beautiful lake, and they have plenty of paddleboards, kayaks, rowboats and paddleboats for the guests to use at any time. I hopped on a kayak and took off across the lake to have some quiet time to process things. It was exactly what I needed, and I found myself feeling really calm and collected when I arrived back to the beach. I ended up kayaking multiple times per day and each time enjoying myself more and more.

The resulting sunburn? Not so much.

OOF. One night my skin felt like it was on fire.

The bed? Well, the bed was way firm. Perhaps it wasn’t super firm, it’s just that my bed at home is so soft it’s just ridiculous. I have a double pillow top with a massive feather bed on top, and a down comforter. It’s like sleeping on a cloud. Heaven. The bed at the ranch was the polar opposite. Not uncomfortable, but firm. I told myself it was the cowboy life for me that week and to suck it up, buttercup. I was so tired from all the activity each day, I slept like a log. The first night, I had multiple dreams I was laying on the floor, so my brain was certainly processing I wasn’t at home and was on a firmer setup than usual.

Each day we found ourselves excited to see what was planned on the board in the lodge. Activities differed from day to day. This was an interesting lesson in learning new things about my kids. I was surprised to find out my son really enjoyed ping pong after playing it at camp, and was also very good at it. He’d never mentioned ping pong to me before, but he was looking forward to entering the Ranch’s ping pond table. I was surprised my daughter was eager to do the banana boat ride after seeing it tip over at a fairly high speed, dumping all the riders into the lake to be picked up by the pontoon boat. She was all in. I was surprised when my son said the horseback ride he took was his favorite part of the day, as while my daughter takes lessons, he’d never shown much interest before. Even my husband really enjoyed riding. The boys went hiking to check out what was around. The girls did some water sports. I tried paddleboarding for the first time (harder than it looks but I enjoyed it). We attended our first rodeo, and my daughter was thrilled to see a girl close to her age doing the barrels. We all tried archery. The adults spend the evenings around the bar laughing and talking. The bartender took a shine to my daughter and let her sit with us, handing her a rootbeer in a bottle. She joined in for late snacks and sat happy to be a part of the group. My son, more of an introvert, rode his bike at night around the loop and did manage to squeak in a few texts to his friends. Considering the wifi in the room was minimal (it was good in the lodge) and there wasn’t a TV in the room, my teenager acclimated well to a minimally electronic vacation. My daughter, the early riser of the four of us found great joy in being able to run up to her Aunt and Uncle’s room to hang out in the mornings, while my son relished in being the last one of out bed. Even my husband and I, neither of us early risers, found ourselves getting up early to see what the day held. By the end of the week, I think we all tried something new, and everyone left the Ranch relaxed and smiling if not a bit bruised. Personally, I felt like weights had been lifted off my shoulders.

I arrived home with bruises on my legs, sore arms, but happy and content. After a busy and chaotic few weeks, to come home feeling peaceful and relaxed was perfect. My mood was great, my body was battered but felt strong, and my family were all smiling.

We enjoyed the ranch so much we booked another trip for next year.

Ridin’ Out of Summer

And I’m back!

It’s been a super busy few weeks, but it feels like summer is officially over now (even though technically it’s not.) Between work, projects, summery events, travel, and some other things, the summer blew past me. I felt like I spent my summer either running around like a mad woman, or melting in the heat. Sometimes it was a combination of both.

So where have I been? What have I been doing? Inquiring minds want to know. I’ll give you a bit of an overview and then will post again with more specifics soon.

The Closet project has been steaming ahead and almost got a bit away from me this summer. I was super fortunate and was able to pick up a lot of clothing donations. The bad news was, we lost our space at the school. For last year, we were able to the old dental room. Originally, the health department had a special room at the school in the nurse’s suite where they would come and do free cleanings etc. Once they privatized it, the new company never bothered to come in. That is, they never bothered to come in until we used the space to create the Closet space. Well, at the VERRRRYY end of the year, the company showed up, rather displeased we had taken over the space they failed to use. Maybe it was a snub of “well, if you’re not going to use it, we will” but they have arranged to start coming back to the school, which is GREAT for our students. The bad news is, we had to move everything, and unfortunately the school is packed. Luckily the principal is amazing and find me a small space. It.s not ideal, but it shows she stands behind the project and I was inherently grateful for it. I was getting calls throughout the summer from parents in need, and at times was out late at night doing dropoffs of items. You know, this project really highlights the best in people. My goal every time I step out to help someone is to refrain from any judgement. It’s the only way the project will work. When I tell people about it, people often say “how could parents not have XYZ for their child?” but it’s important to simply go with purpose and not judge. Hard times can fall on anyone, and in a town where you have a mix of rich and poor, people often forget just how tough times can really be for some of us, or how good people don’t always get a fair shake. Judging others does us no good. A big reminder of this was a late night drop off I did the other night. I asked the dad what his daughter’s name was. As soon as he went to tell me, his whole body language changed. He stood tall, and clearly, happily and lovingly told me his child’s first, middle and last names. You could see the pride. You could see the love. To be honest, that simple moment was everything, and it was the best moment of my day. I loved seeing the pure love for his child on his face. Hard times can never diminish that.

I also made the decision of a mad woman to do our family vacations the last week of summer. Meaning, I left on a Saturday, came home on Wednesday (the day before school started), sent my babies off to school Thursday and Friday, before we headed back out for a family reunion from Saturday to Monday. PHEW! Are you tired yet? I sure am!

Trip one was a trip with some family members to a Ranch in Upstate New York. We had such a good time that the trip deserves it’s own post. For now I will say that each family member found something they loved to do, we ate constantly, we all tried new things, and I came mentally relaxed and physically bruised. Better than the opposite, if you ask me. I had bruises on my legs from horseback riding and riding a bananaboat, and I couldn’t lift my arms up over my head from the soreness of all the kayaking I did.

It was heavenly.

We enjoyed ourselves so much we booked it for next year as well. Again, I’ll write more on that trip later.

The only tough part of the trip was getting a call from my dad on the drive up there that my grandfather wasn’t doing well. It was touch and go for a few days as far as whether my dad would be able to attend the reunion or not. In the end, he called and said he was flying out to go look after my grandfather. I think he felt bad about not seeing us, especially since we haven’t seen my dad hardly all year, but to be honest, I felt glad he was going to look after my grandfather. I told my dad not to worry, and I would see him soon. We still headed up to the lake house to visit the family, and it was a wonderful time. It’s laid back, easy going, and always great to watch the kids all fall right into step with each other. They all come from different states but as soon as they land in the same house they all run off like old friends. I really missed having my dad there but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. We spent a day at the lake, a day at a country fair, and a lazy morning before packing up to head home.

Once I got back home, I decided to treat myself to a guilt free nap.

It’s funny because I feel guilty when I nap. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s that I always feel like I should be doing something, or running somewhere, or looking after people. So for me to say…”I’m gonna take an hour and have a nap” was a big deal for me. It was awesome. I slept for an hour and woke up feeling lazy and useless, but it was perfect.

And so begins fall. Fall schedules, which are a bit more hardlined. Sports begin again. New projects begin. Existing projects get streamlined. Pro football starts. Food gets more comforting. Pumpkin everything. Coffee. Just, coffee.

My house stays messy…because while I’m an eternal optimist, I’m also a realist.

Sadly, I think that has wound up most of our travel for this year, outside a day trip here or there. Of course, I never rule out more. The past 12 months have been outstanding in so many ways, but most of the best moments were because of travel. I’m excited to plan for next year!

Christmas Thoughts in August

This morning, we found our old video camera and some tapes. I had been looking for the camera for years, as I got it as a gift from my parents the Christmas before we had my son. It was also what we knew was going to be the last Christmas with my mom.

That Christmas was such a strange mix of happiness and devastation. My now husband and I drove down to Virginia to spend Christmas with my parents. Until that point (we were still dating at the time) I believe we had each spent the holiday with our own families, but this Christmas was different. My family is British, so of course we held it all together and put on the famous British “stiff upper lip” but each of us knew that the next year, it would be very very different.

Christmas was always my favorite holiday. It was just my parents and I in the US but my mom made every effort to make Christmas magical. If we got to go to England for Christmas it was even MORE magical because then I had my cousins to play with and my massive family around me. While my parents didn’t have a lot of money in my younger years, my mom somehow managed to pull together enough money to get whatever was on the top of my list plus more. It wasn’t just gifts though. She just had an air about her that made the holiday absolutely magical.

2005 was the year my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. By the books, she wasn’t supposed to live more than a couple of months. The cancer had started in her lungs, spread to her liver and pancreas, which are some of the worst places for it to go. She would end up living until June of 2006, but at the time, we never looked up what the books said. We just lived and took each day at a time. That year, I was inherently aware that it was likely my last Christmas with her. This broke me inside in ways I’ll never be able to explain, and I hid that grief from everyone, including my husband. He knew I was struggling, but nobody else knew just how bad it was for me at the time. I put on a brave face most of the time, and soldiered on. It wasn’t until I could be 100% alone that I really let it all come pouring out, and then I bottled it right back up. I couldn’t let my parents see how bad it was because they had their own battles to fight and I didn’t want extra worry about me falling into the mix. They were worried enough.

I was very pregnant that Christmas, and the hormones sure didn’t help me tackle the grief process. My parents I believe had gotten me the camera (althought perhaps we got it?) but I remember recording moments in the kitchen, including one of my mom cooking Christmas dinner. I’ve thought about that moment for years. This was back before smartphones and everyone having a camera and video recording device in their pocket. I’ve spent years wondering if that video was there, and most importantly, if I could hear the sound of her voice. I’ve missed that voice…the sing song “Hello Sweetheart!” and joking “Ya cheeky bugger!” in her British accent more than I can ever say. I just wanted to hear her voice.

This morning, my husband found the camera and tapes, far back in his closet, and handed them to me. It felt like Christmas. I was beyond excited. What was interesting is that yesterday, after having a particularly bad day, I looked up in my linen closet and saw the quilt my mom had given me that Christmas in 2005. I remember the card she had written, asking me to remember that particular Christmas as it was likely our last Christmas together. Somewhere, I have the card stashed away and the blanket has been in my linen closet to keep it safe.

I plugged the old camera in and was thrilled to see it still worked. I popped in tape after tape. Sadly, it looks like the footage I was looking for may have been taped over. On the bright side, it was footage of my husband’s family gathered around the table at a family event, and my father in law is there. He passed away a few years after my mom did. I excitedly told my husband we had footage of his dad, as well as another clip of him holding our son for the first time in the hospital. It was incredibly sweet to see, and to see everyone from 13 years ago in all their youth. There is video of me in the labor and delivery room, in labor, recording while my husband is fast asleep. I found video of them laying my newborn son on my chest while I was in recovery. There was video of my husband talking to the baby in silly voices, and making me cry with laughter by doing silly dances. There was footage of his first birthday party, some of his first steps, him telling me he was scared of thunder, and us being first time parents. There are silver linings.

My house was clean back then too. Isn’t it funny that I made note of that? but it was. Lots of toys around, but it was clean.

2 kids, work, pets, life happened, but ok, I did miss the cleanness of the house back in the day.

That being said, I wouldn’t change it. I love our life and our crazy house. Floors can be dusted. I want the memories.

If there’s one thing that’s been reiterated to me today, it’s to get in the pictures. Get the videos and get IN the videos. One day my kids may be looking for me and my voice in the old home videos. One day they will want to see our memories in a visual form. I want to be in them, and leave them my voice, my love on a screen as a reminder, and to be present. Times have changed and videos are so EASY to make now. I know my mom often didn’t like being on film etc, but I wish I had made more of an effort to get her one screen and in videos. I’d be more content now to be able to hear her and see her on screen on those days I miss her.

In a few weeks, I am headed down to see my dad and step mother. I plan on taking videos. I want voices, and memories for not only me, but for my children as well. I realized I don’t have many pictures and videos of my dad. Not as many as I would like, anyway. It’s time to correct that, while I have the chance.

Seize the day.

Enjoy the Silence

Last week I looked around and had to admit to myself and the people I trust the most that I’m overwhelmed. For the most part, I handle whatever life throws at me with a sense of humor and determination. I take life on and I’m willing to toot my own horn and say that while it sure isn’t always pretty, I get most things done and some extra as well. I balance as much as I can and keep the plates spinning so to speak. But with working full time, 2 kids who have very different needs, a husband who is working opposite hours, pets, my project to help kids in need, and the day to day grind, all it takes is one plate to get unbalanced and they all crash down on top of me.

The other week, I saw the plates wobbling. I knew that my mindset wasn’t quite where it should be, and I felt down and sad. My brain felt overwhelmed, with too much life noise coming at it every day. When you have so many things spinning at once, things start to get neglected. The house is a wreck. Jobs I need to do weren’t getting done. Impediments were stacking up and making things damned near impossible. Money issues felt more concerning. The yard was overgrown and an absolute disaster. Summer wasn’t feeling summery at all as the fun, lazy time I remembered as a kid. The heat was making me aggravated easily. I was antsy, but I was not sure about what. Suddenly all the little jobs I had been neglecting in order to get things done appeared insurmountable, and I froze not quite sure where to begin.

My bestie who had knee surgery was home, so I headed to her house one night for a chat. I laid out some of my worries to get her advice. That’s one of the best parts of having a blunt, brutally honest bestie who has known you your whole life…you can show up and vent your worries and they will give you their unadulterated opinion with no sugarcoating.

She gave me some ideas for resolving the money issue I had, told me I need to pick a starting place and chip away at each job one at a time, and had a very frank conversation about some of the people in my life and that I need to circle my wagons and just quietly watch their behaviors because actions don’t lie like words do. She also recommended I tell my husband I was overwhelmed. I left her house feeling determined to try some of her advice and seeing how it goes.

I admitted to my family how I was feeling. I spent my weekend tackling jobs that had been rather neglected with all my busyness, starting with the back yard. I mowed, I weeded, I pulled out gigantic patches of pricker bushes that had become overgrown and taken over a memorial stone I had received when my mom passed. Our back patio, which had been taken over by vines that were creeping up the house, was cleared and the vines all taken down. I dug, I sweated. Oh how I sweated. I think every fiber of my being was drenched in sweat and smeared with dirt by the time I was done. I felt utterly disgusting when I finished.

But I felt….happier.

My husband tackled a couple of jobs inside. The kids tackled cleaning up their rooms and my son laid down the new rug in my daughter’s room. To be honest, all the work we did is a drop in a bucket to all the jobs we want and need to do around the house, but I still felt like we had been productive. I felt a bit less overwhelmed. I felt inspired to keep going.

While I was weeding, pruning and clearing, I let my mind wander, and it brought me to some conclusions. I talk a lot. I listen sometimes to engage, rather than just listen. I need to work on that. Not only because I could do with being a better listener, but I could also stand to be a better observer. The more I mulled over the words of my best friend, the more I realized that while I had been listening and trusting words, I hadn’t been paying close enough attention to people’s actions. My willingness to always seek the best in everyone was clouding my judgement and causing me to not pay enough attention to actions vs words. People will show you their true selves before they will tell you about their true selves. As I worked, finally not distracted, I started realizing a few things, and I know now I need to make some adjustments. On one level it’s upsetting, but on another, it allows me some freedom without guilt, and I’m feeling it’s a good thing. Silence also allowed me to work determinedly, calmly, and to allow me to see the end goals more clearly. My brain needed the quiet to thrive.

I feel like there is light at then end of my tunnel, so to speak. It’s merely a case of putting one foot in front of the other, quieting my mind, and doing one task at a time. Not everything needs to be done at once. After so long of having attention on everyone else and everything else, I need to focus on me and mine, and make good choices going forward. I need to feel and work in the quiet so I can hear and see what is important. Will my house be spotless and everything be perfect? No, I don’t see that being the case. But I can see me getting through some tasks to creating a place I feel calmer in. I don’t need perfection. I need peace.

Wish me luck as I tackle the mountains that currently feel so insurmountable. One step at a time, I’m determined to scale them.

Oh yes, and I shall reward myself in a few weeks with a lazy, fun filled vacation with some of my beloved tribe. I can’t wait.