"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Tweaked Traditions

 

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A meal out with my grandparents.  We were at Howard Johnson’s or Sambo’s (I think Howard Johnson’s bought out the Sambo’s chain at some point, but the decor was the same for a while).  We used to go to those two places a lot.  When you would clean your plate,  you would reveal a little picture on the plate, because at that time I needed that kind of incentive to eat everything.  

My family has had certain routines and traditions that go as far back as I can remember, many that began well before I was born and continued long after I became an adult out on my own.  One was my mom getting her hair done every Saturday at the hairdresser (washed, put in rollers and heatset under the dryer for 45 minutes), followed by lunch out with my dad.  As a kid, I was surprised when I learned that other moms actually only went to the salon to get a haircut once in a while and did their own hair every day.  I’d seen my grandma get her hair done this way (pinning it up with little clips and tissues and not sleeping with a pillow during the week to keep it nice) and so I assumed that’s how grown-up ladies managed their hair.  I was greatly relieved to find out as I grew older that the practice was a little old-fashioned and unusual, and I didn’t have to keep up that tradition.  I don’t think I could sit still 45 minutes under a dryer every week, and I know I couldn’t give up my pillow so my hair would look pretty.

Still, there have been other little routines that I grew up with that I cherish, and as an adult, even miss from when I was a kid. Sunday morning was spent going to church, a practice normally preceded by my brother and I trying to find ways to dawdle long enough to be too late for service so we could get out of going.  But after church, well, that was another story.  The reward for going to church was getting to go out to lunch, which was certainly a treat.  We were allowed to drink soda and could order what we wanted to eat, as long as it wasn’t too expensive.

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Often, my grandparents would go out to lunch with us.  I can tell this is a post-church picture, because my dad is wearing a suit…a leisure suit, but a suit nonetheless.  Gotta love those.

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As I became an adult with my own family, we continued this habit of lunch out after church, oftentimes eating with Dad and Mom.  It was a time to connect with them, catch up on what was going on with everyone, and just be a family.  As it always does, over time this became less and less frequent as life got busier with kids’ activities and commitments.  After we started attending a different church, and my aging parents didn’t get out to church as often, those Sunday afternoons with my parents became a thing of the past.

It was such a gradual thing I think I hardly noticed until I realized the little family tradition had ended.  That season of life, for all of us, and a humble routine that I took for granted, had come to a close.

A few days before Halloween last year, my mom suffered another round of strokes that left her very weak and unable to swallow.  She stayed in the hospital until the beginning of December, when they discharged her into a skilled nursing center.  I felt very comfortable with the place we picked for Mom, as my daughter, Erin, and I have volunteered for the last few years helping with our church’s service held there once a month.  It was always clean, the staff friendly and caring towards the residents, and not too far from our house.  But, still, it was placing her in the care of strangers, away from the familiarity of home, family and her beloved dog.

The first few weeks at the nursing home were a new experience for all of us, having never navigated that particular system before.  Admitted under her health insurance plan, she was given daily physical and speech therapy (that worked on her swallowing ability) for about three weeks.  Unfortunately, the health insurance company decided that there was unlikely to be any more progress to be had, and said she was ready to go home, even though her sole nutrition was through a feeding tube, she was unable to dress herself, walk or get out of bed unassisted (thus, use the restroom by herself without major help).  My father’s health is less than ideal—he has mobility issues and cannot get around by himself, either, so sending her home was not an option for us.  We made the decision to keep her there at the home, as a resident versus in a rehabilitation setting.  Anyone who has ever had a loved one in a nursing home understands the range of emotions it brings to the family, as well as the patient.  No matter how much I realized that the level of care needed for Mom was beyond my family’s and my abilities, it felt like we had given up on her.

As she continued to improve slowly, and was able to sit up for longer periods of time, we started bringing her down to the church service held in the main dining room on Sunday mornings.  The first time we took her was the morning of Christmas Eve.  Snow was falling like a scene straight from a movie, and as I listened to the message and watched the snowflakes fall gracefully through the large front windows of the facility, I took in the sight of all the residents in their wheelchairs.  Some were listening intently, others sleeping; my mom was sitting with my husband, Darrell, hunched over a songbook. I quietly sucked in my breath, and realized it was the first time that holiday season that it actually felt like Christmas.  It wasn’t the Christmases of my childhood, and my dad wasn’t there with us, but it felt like it would all be okay.  I felt peace.

Since then, we’ve started to take her to the service every Sunday that we can.  When I visit her during the week, she continues to tell me how much she got out of the service from the previous Sunday.  She’s been getting to know the people that help with the service, as well as the other residents.  She’s known around the facility as the Dog Lady.  I bought her a stuffed dog that looks like her dog at home, and even though she knows it’s not real, it keeps her company.  She says it makes her think of me, and she brings it with her wherever she goes.  During the week, several visitors bring their dogs with them, and they all know to take their canines to go visit Mom.  She will shower them with all the love and praises a little doggy could hope for.

More recently, my dad has been joining us on Sunday mornings.  He loves that we sing the old hymns he enjoys so much and he gets to take communion.  Dad and Mom hold hands during church, and share the songbook together.  There are times I see the two of them like that and my eyes fill with tears I can’t hide.  It is so precious to see a love that has endured.  I will put my arm around my mom and squeeze her thin, bony shoulder during the verses in the songs where I know where she gets emotional.  In that moment, we are a family.

Mom has been slowly weaned from the feeding tube, and we now have lunch in the dining room of the nursing home after church.  Darrell makes a point of going out to get us something from a local restaurant that we will all enjoy and brings it back for us to share a meal together.  Last week we had a video call with our son, Tyler, who is away at college, so he can say hello to his Grandpa and Grandma.  We laugh and catch up on all the things going on and just enjoy being together.

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After the church service before lunch.  Interesting to see we’re back to brightly-colored chairs and carpet.  All things old really are new again, I guess.

I wish I could tell you that we turned a corner and since we re-vitalized this family tradition all is happy and well, but of course, that isn’t true.  The reality of navigating the health issues of the elderly has many twists and concerns, and there are still good days and bad days.  These Sunday mornings often serve as a reminder of where all of us are in this journey of life.  Yet, somehow this comforting routine of church and lunch connects us in a way that no other gathering of our family does.  The familiarity of this simple custom, even under different circumstances with limitations, brings us immeasurable joy.

Some traditions go by the way of hair rollers and overly-long hair-drying sessions.  That’s not such a bad thing!  And sometimes a tradition just needs a tweak to make an old thing new all over again.  A family tradition that focuses on the family part, not all the details of the where and when, or practiced merely for the sake of tradition, is the one that will be remembered, cherished, and celebrated.  Even in the most unexpected places.

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The meals are simple, the ambiance is a little different, but the company can’t be beat.

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Why Former Stay-At-Home Moms Can Be Rock Star Employees

IMAG0656After “staying home” about twelve years with my three kids when they were younger, I decided to gingerly test the job market about seven years ago.  At that point, my kids were all in school and could manage to look after themselves for a few hours without burning down the house.  My logic was that I could earn a little money for the extras, while getting out of the house and re-developing skill sets that could enhance my resume.  The Mommy Track became very real to me as I looked for something to get myself back into the workplace.

I didn’t expect to jump from “Stay At Home Mom” to CEO or anything, especially with my big girl career background being mostly in a niche industry (I had worked in the very heavily-regulated secondary federal student loan market).  When the kids were little I had done odds and ends paid jobs—Assistant Pre-School Teacher, home-based business cosmetics and skin care, some contract work doing computer work—but nothing that made me a stand-out job candidate.   I had also done a lot of non-paid jobs, mostly kid-oriented—coaching, volunteering at church and knee-deep involvement with two Girl Scout troops.  I loved my volunteer work with the kids’ activities, but I was seeking to spend time with people that I would not have to remind to use their indoor voices or sit “crisscross applesauce”.

I ended up working for a little over a year at a Retirement Home as an Activities Assistant.  It was a very fun job for someone like me who loves talking with people and learning about their lives.  I led exercise classes and discussion groups, helped with our facility’s numerous and magnificent parties, bar tended at Happy Hour and learned how to play Euchre with some wonderful people.  I learned a lot about people at that job—mainly that BINGO could be considered a contact sport at times—but the pay wasn’t that great, and the hours were split up in such a way over the week that I felt like I was working much more than 20 hours a week.  So I went back to what I was comfortable with, and ended up working part-time as an Administrative Assistant, focusing on placing past organization and computer “hard” skills on my resume.  It’s a nice gig, Monday through Friday six hours a day, a flexible boss and a very short commute.

Occasionally I’ll take a look at a job website to get a feel for what’s out there.  I’m amazed at how much job searching and applying has changed, not just since my fresh-out-of-college days, but in the last seven years.  Almost all job applications are online and involve uploading documents.  It drives me crazy to painstakingly fill out detailed employment history on an online application when you’re giving them your resume’ anyway.  I understand how it can make a hiring director’s job much easier to have a computer program pre-screen applications searching for specific keywords, but it certainly takes the human out of Human Resources.  When one hasn’t taken the traditional career path, trying to tie a non-job related life experience skill set to a specific career keyword can be frustrating.

There are a lot of women (and men, too) that have taken similar career paths to mine, and I’ve noticed that most of us overlook some notable character traits that come with the Mommy Track territory.  Sure, career websites and other experts tell us to highlight our past career and volunteer knowledge and not to diminish the roles we’ve played in being our own Household Executive.  My personal experience has been that it is easier said than done.  Calling myself my family’s Chief Operating Officer?  I can’t picture that on a resume that gets taken seriously—especially if the person reading it has juggled full-time employment while being Family COO.  It’s not that the strengths of many stay-at-home Moms are exclusive to just those individuals by any means; they are just often not acknowledged as being experience to easily taut while re-entering the workplace.

Often, potential qualities and strengths I’ve seen in others on the Mommy Track aren’t tied to the hot buzzword of the moment, but that’s not to say they are not resume-worthy, timeless assets.  As time distances me from those days in my own life, it’s easier for me now to identify in others some typical skills honed during those years with the kids.  My goal is that perhaps this short list will help others who need to see themselves with new eyes come up with some translatable terminology. I’ll use the title “Former Stay-At-Home Moms” for simplicity’s sake with apologies to all the Dads and others who may be offended because I find writing she/he/his/her on every point cumbersome; feel free to insert the appropriate title and adapt.

#1.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms possess great leadership skills.  “Because I’m the Mom” aren’t just words to be said when avoiding the “Why?” question.  The parent who is organizing schedules, making sure that some sort of nourishment is given throughout the day and deciding who gets to ride shot gun on the way to the grocery store can’t be a follower.  She has to be able to make a decision, execute it and be willing to re-visit later if necessary.  That’s not to say her authority won’t be questioned, so a strong backbone is required.  Kids like to push limits, especially when they are tired, hungry or miss their favorite Spongebob episode.  The ability to identify every-changing needs in varying situations, as well as coming up with an action plan and following through are all vital skills.

#2.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms must be resourceful and think creatively.  Anybody who has ever tried to keep the younger set occupied day after day in an environment that’s safe and allows for learning opportunities has to be able to be flexible and work with what’s available.  Sometimes that means the Halloween costume might be a simple green shirt with brown pants and drawn on beard-scruff so “Shaggy” can go trick-or-treating at the last minute.  It can also mean making sure Mom’s “It” during Hide and Seek so she can throw a load of laundry in while actively “seeking” the kids in their hiding spots.

#3.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms develop insightful diplomatic and people-skills.  What job can’t use the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of a saint?  The ability to read and understand people’s motives while remaining neutral and calm is part of all parenting.  Some are better at it than others…sometimes I was better at the insight part than the being calm part.  A person who can learn to referee squabbling siblings diplomatically can transfer that ability to clients and fellow employees.

#4.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms know how to research and learn.  Why do dogs circle around their bed before they lie down?  Why is the sky blue?  Who was Genghis Kahn?  Shh…don’t tell the kids, but parents don’t always know EVERYTHING.  Sometimes we need to research an answer (thanks, Wikipedia, YouTube and Google).  What is most fulfilling about this kind of learning is that sometimes it leads to producing lifelong interests for our children, or even ourselves.  The ability to find accurate answers quickly is a job skill that crosses every industry.

#5.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms understand being realistic and “The Big Picture”.  It can be hard for all of us to visualize how the small steps we take today towards our goals really do produce results when those results seem so far in the future.  Anyone who has ever been a Girl Scout Troop Cookie Manager knows that rounding up everything needed to get the troop’s cookie-selling is not for the faint of heart.  It requires patience, the ability to chase down parents for required signatures on documents and orders, and oftentimes a large vehicle for cookie hauling.  In the moment it is hard to see how this does anything but add a mere quarter per box to troop funds.  Big Picture thinking is required to see the true impact of that thankless job—girls who learn how to set financial goals and follow through with them by marketing and selling a product.  Being able to see beyond the here and now towards a goal that’s not guaranteed is certainly an asset in today’s immediate gratification world.

I’m positive that not all of these in my list apply to everyone who has left paid employment to raise a family; however, it’s a good start for those who may have forgotten that what they do can translate into tangible job skills at some point.  While I’m not sure how to best encapsulate these observations into a blanket-statement, bulleted list on an individual’s resume so they make it past the pre-screen, they are definitely points to be made in cover letters and interviews and can be tailored.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent that doesn’t happen to be looking for employment outside the home right now, may it encourage you to know that these years do matter.  Involve yourself with the community and your family—and don’t forget to work in time for your personal pursuits.  The Mommy Track doesn’t have to be a separate path from career building—consider it the scenic route.

(One of the Reasons) I Miss 80s TV

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Recently, I’ve been re-watching an old favorite TV show of mine, Scarecrow and Mrs. King.  Anyone under age 40 probably doesn’t even remember it.  It was a spy-type of comedy that ran four seasons from 1983 to 1987 about an ordinary housewife, Amanda King, played by Kate Jackson (Sabrina of Charlie’s Angels for you 70s TV show fans) and Lee Stetson, aka Scarecrow, played by Bruce Boxleitner, a seasoned spy for “The Agency”.  Completely by accident, Amanda is recruited by Scarecrow to be a spy, albeit in a courier-type capacity at first.  Of course, eventually she becomes a key player in all types of Russian take-downs.  After all, who would believe an ordinary DC housewife would be a spy?

Can you begin to see what I miss?

The willing suspension of disbelief.

True confession:  I am not a big fan of Reality TV.  Sure, I watched American Idol (whatever happened to David Cook anyway?), love ghost hunting and true crime shows and all things HGTV, but the Writer’s Strike of 2007 ruined a lot of TV for us who didn’t mind believing premises that were, ahem, a little far-fetched.

In the 80s, shows that featured a good guys vs. bad guys storyline were everywhere.  In the 80s, it was easy to feature the Russians as the bad guy in every spy flick.  It was the Cold War!  We did not have a bunch of Russians protesting outside of a studio somewhere saying they are being misrepresented in American TV.  And it made life simpler.  We had pay phones instead of cell phones, typewriters instead of computers and crazy notions about impropriety.  It was the day of the cowboy in the white hat versus the villain in the black hat.  As I write that I realize that now even having colored hats is politically incorrect.  If I’ve offended, I apologize.

I hate the PC movement.  It’s probably because I am not a hateful person—either that, or I’m just an idiot.  If I had to be honest, I’d say that there were always certain characteristics that, growing up, I associated with the bad guy.  (No offense to the PC crowd who thinks it could be a bad “girl”, which could very well have its own innuendo.)  The person who was a liar, spiteful, a thief or was anti-American was not to be trusted.  So many stories today feature the person who is a liar, but for good reason; the meanie who was just misunderstood; the thief who just needed a break; or anti-American…because, gosh, we can’t think that we are better than anybody else—Americans are such an arrogant bunch.  But when I watched a show where the criminal happened to be a certain ethnicity or race, I didn’t relate the bad guy in the show to anybody who fell into the same demographic.  Maybe because I saw the show as…fiction.  Corn was a vegetable and thrown on dinner plates as such.  Who wants a show about real life? (Corn is a starch, only broccoli is a healthy vegetable. Throw out the green beans-they aren’t going to add years to your life. Mom vacuums on Tuesdays.  Stop perpetuating untruths!)

It’s not that I don’t appreciate nuances in storytelling where characters are deeper than what they seem.  I like watching movies and shows that stretch what I think I know.  I just miss the simple bad guy vs. good guy premise.  Throw in a little sexual tension (NOT rolling around in the bed after knowing each other a whole two hours), mystery and some comedy and I’m sold.  I’m simple like that.  So yeah, I miss 80s TV.  Magnum PI. Simon and Simon. Cagney and Lacey. Moonlighting. The A Team.  Somehow they had a way of having horrendous crimes, but didn’t seem so dark.  They were okay with throwing us couch potatoes a taste of the darkness of human nature—murder, rape, revenge—but making it seem like it was just another day at the office for our heroes.

There are a few shows out that are a great throwback to those times.  I love the show Castle, which just ended last year.  Who wouldn’t want to believe that a fiction crime writer would be part of a New York homicide detective team?  His theories on cases alone were entertaining.  Or Bones, where a Forensic Anthropologist would be on the front lines chasing down bad guys?  Now that I think about it, I think that show ended, too.  But when I watch shows like that, I can see myself thrown into the action.  Can’t you?  It’s fun.

And why I like TV.

Like Walter Mitty, I could be the hero.  Me, ordinary City employee and Mom, Amy.  I could save the day.  Be the unassuming hero in my ordinary town.  It’s fiction.  I’m okay with it.  In fact, I embrace it!  I am free to not associate any of the bad guys in the script because the story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in the production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

I do miss my 80s TV.  Maybe it’s because I was just a kid, and things were simpler when I had that naiveté.    But it sure seemed like a lot more fun, and less of a statement.  So go check out shows from the 70s and 80s.  Relax, enjoy.  Don’t read into it too much.  You may find yourself slightly entertained.  And that, in today’s reality-heavy TV, is a gift within itself.  Enjoy.

 

Reset, Please!

Remember when the cure for “fixing” a computer was to re-boot by turning it off and restarting it?  It seems like my PC doesn’t do that quite as often anymore, but that’s still my go-to cure with anything that has an on/off button.  Note this does not work well with coffee makers—when the machine says to descale, it’s time to get out the vinegar and not keep unplugging it.  While my body doesn’t have a plug-in cord or an actual reset button, there are times when I mentally feel like a reset is in order.

Often it’s our circumstances that reset life for us.  It could be a move to a new school when you’re a kid, the death of a loved one or a new city when a job change occurs.  All can be daunting and attitude plays a huge role.  One thing I’ve found is that big changes don’t tend to happen in a singular fashion—it’s typically the accompanying little changes that piggy back one another that alter our life’s course.  It’s those little ones that make it hard to tell what the catalyst for inner change actually was.

Other times in our lives require that we orchestrate a reset to get out of a funk or a less than ideal situation.  For me, these can be harder to do, because they involve making a big decision to change something and following through.  It’s letting go of the comfortable and moving into unchartered territory.  Those types of difficult resets—the kind that make your whole hand shake as you press that little reset button—but can be extremely empowering.  As a person of faith, for me they involve soul searching and prayer.  Ultimately I feel when I’ve contemplated those resets with those two components I don’t make rash decisions I later regret.  However even then, very rarely does that mean they turn out how I expected.

Blame it on my Astrological sign (I’m a Gemini), but I enjoy coming up with various ways to renew life to feel refreshed.  Or maybe I have a little ADD.  Either way, as much as my kids might argue that I am stuck in my ways about some things (yes, I have to order cashew chicken with hot and sour soup every time I’m at Green China), I feel like mini resets are how to continue to grow as a person.  When life becomes too routine and comfortable, it becomes stagnant.  I try to keep that from happening, sometimes at the risk of failure.  Yeah, I tried to eat strictly Paleo—it lasted about three weeks.

Fortunately, when you’re raising a family, the natural progression of life keeps it from standing still in any one spot too long.  There’s no doubt that kids keep things fresh.  New interests, sport seasons, friends, and grade in school once a year ensure something’s just beginning or ending.  It keeps life interesting, but in truth it is their annual reset, that involve a few logistical tweaks for me.  At this point in time, our “life events”, as defined by insurance plans everywhere, usually revolve around the status of our children.  With all that craziness going on, my reset can be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep.  And sometimes that’s as close to a PC re-boot I’m going to get—this week!

Forget the Skinny Jeans

I don’t think I’ll ever be a size 2. Let me re-phrase that…if I am a size 2, somebody should be shopping for my coffin, because I don’t have long for this world. This is due to several reasons—genetics (body type), age, eating habits and a lack of willpower.

That being said, I, like most people, want to stay in shape. I like when I put on my jeans and I don’t have to suck in my stomach to the point of not breathing to zip and button them. The practical part of me appreciates not having to buy new clothes because I’ve gone up a size (though I don’t mind if it’s DOWN a size!) And I’m not going to lie—I like when I look in the mirror and I’m not sporting a muffin top.

A few weeks ago I joined a gym near my house that my running partner belongs to. Since we’ve moved into the winter months, getting in our morning run has been more of a challenge. It’s not so bad as long as it’s over 25 degrees, but when it’s colder than that and the mileage is over five miles, it becomes more of a torture session. I’m not a huge fan of the treadmill, but they’ll do in a pinch, and the gym I joined has a big theater room that plays a movie. Last week we watched “Dodgeball” during our long run on the treadmill, which made the miles go by a little faster than when I only have music in my headphones to listen to.

I’ve also started going to their Body Pump class. The first day just about killed me, but I was able to scale back the weight enough to keep up through the class. Ibuprofen took care of the next few days. Word to the wise: do not try an ambition exercise routine and follow it with eight hours in the car. It’s a recipe for disaster. The next time I took the class, it was a teensy bit easier, in part because I knew what to expect. The next day I didn’t even need the ibuprofen.

When I signed up at the new gym, there was a special for personal training sessions, and since a friend I used to coach Girls on the Run with is a Personal Trainer there, I took them up on the offer. I have met with her to put together an action plan for my fitness goals. Even though I run quite a bit, my upper body and overall strength is pretty pathetic these days. But not for long.

This is where my perspective has changed over the last fifteen years. When I first started regularly working out post-third-child to get back into my regular, non-maternity clothes, my goal was to look good. Now, though I still want to look good, I am really after the boost in mood and energy to keep up with my life! Especially in the winter. And I’m really more excited about becoming strong more than skinny.

But you know what my favorite thing about the gym is? The social part. I never went to the gym I used to go to because I didn’t know anybody that went there at the times I could go. When I walk into this gym, I see other parents from my kids’ school and meet others in the classes that I didn’t know before. There’s a special bond created when you’ve seen each other with no make-up and hair styled in bedhead form. And having someone to chat (or groan) with makes it fun to show up at the gym for me.

So later today I’ll be meeting up with Missy again to see what’s next in my training and I know I’ll have to exercise more than just my jaws. (Too bad talking alone doesn’t strengthen the rest of me.) While I’ll still never be a size 2, I know at least I’ll be reaching for some pretty lofty goals. Bring on those tight-lidded pickle jars!

The Jokes on Me: Advice to My Younger Self

Do you remember when you were a kid—or even later when you thought you were no longer a kid—when you told yourself you were never going to do something the same way your parents did? Or have you ever declared the laughable, “I’ll never do such and such!”?

There’s a commercial for State Farm insurance out right now where the guy says “I’m never getting married,” and the next scene shows him getting hitched. The commercial continues along those same lines of “I’ll never” followed by a scene of him doing the very thing he was never going to do. It ends very sweetly with him snuggling with his wife and kids and admitting how he’ll “never let it go”. I laugh every time I see that commercial, because I think of some of the ideas and opinions I had when I was younger and how they’ve changed over the years.

While I can’t pinpoint all the reasons the when and why those opinions and “nevers” changed, I do think both life experience and maturity play a large role. If I were my 43-year-old self back when I was in my teens and early twenties, well, I just wouldn’t be the me I was meant to be today. So I’m glad I took the path I did, and I don’t have any huge regrets. But there are a few times when I wish I would have had more common sense back then, or at least been able to know a few things I know now. Although I probably wouldn’t have listened to my older self anyway, if there were a magical way to tell Young Amy a few things, I would have to at least give myself this list:

  • Wear sunscreen on your face, even if you don’t get sunburn. Yes, I know there was even a song out a few years back encouraging this, but I really wish I would have listened. I have spent a TON of money on dermatologists and skin care products to fade several huge patches on my face that have hyperpigmentation (dark spots).
  • Quit worrying about when your kids will ever sleep through the night or in their own room. It may seem like they’ll never do either one, but they will. Who ever heard of twenty-year olds that still sneak in bed with their parents when they have a bad dream? You can save your worrying for when they start driving. (Yikes!)
  • Don’t be afraid to take classes in school that are outside your major or what you think you like. Use that time in college to discover your interests and talents. Grown up life will be waiting for you soon enough—no need to rush those years.
  • Buy term life insurance when you’re young and healthy. Darrell and I did not do this when we were first married and instead bought mortgage insurance when we purchased our first house. What we paid for that insurance would have bought us at least a year or two of term life insurance. As it happened, we didn’t buy life insurance until after Darrell had a health condition, which makes the rates higher. Argh!
  • Take a tape measure with you to the furniture store. It never looks as big in the store as it does in your home. I also might add never furniture shop on a whim after having a margarita with dinner at the little Mexican place down the road from the furniture store.
  • Pay attention when your parents and grandparents tell you stories. You may think you’ve heard them a thousand times, but when they are no longer around for you to ask, it’ll make you sad when you don’t remember all the details or how the story went.
  • Practice for your piano lessons! Even if you don’t feel like it or you’re sick of playing scales.
  • Never utter the words, “My kids will never…” It is the quickest way to ensure their DNA will contain the exact genetic code to be a picky eater, nose picker, thumb sucker, etc.
  • Pay your credit card off each month. If you can’t afford to do so, you’re living beyond your means. Don’t get into credit card debt.
  • Choose to be around people that build you up, not make you be untrue to who you are. Being negative and having a bad attitude do not make you cool. Don’t be afraid to move on.
  • Leave the perms for the professional stylists to do. The same came be said for messing around with hair dye colors when you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Take every opportunity to travel and explore new places.
  • Blame your hormones, not your loved ones. When something irrationally upsets you, realize it’s probably just PMS, shut your mouth and go to bed early. Emphasis on shut your mouth. You’ll feel better in the morning. Trust me.

It’s definitely not an all-inclusive list; after all some things have to be experienced first-hand for us to learn and grow—a pair of oh-so-stylish Sally Jesse Raphael-style eyeglasses comes to mind. The funny thing is, this list is far from being unique to just me. (Well, maybe the hair dye incident of 1985.) Regrets serve no good purpose, but what would YOU tell your young self? How would it affect the YOU of today?

PS Today is my blog’s one year anniversary!

The Hidden Mansion

Comfort zone. The path of least resistance. The easy way.

One of the things I like about new beginnings, like starting a new year, is that I start things with a lot of enthusiasm. I think most of us do. There’s the idea stage, the effervescent joy that comes with a plan. Then reality comes in the forms of little things like speed bumps in our plans. It curbs that original enthusiasm, most of the time replacing it with something new…determination.

It takes a bit to get to the determination stage for me, but I think I’m there.

If you’ve read my blog before, you may remember a post I did a while back questioning whether or not contentedness was a form of apathy. I still don’t think it is—I think it’s healthy to be content. But here lately it’s been cold outside (which equals not running very much and a crabby Dragonfly), the daylight hours are short, and my energy level is just low. I go through my days pretty much the same—get up, go to work, eat meals, crave bedtime, throw in a little housework and laundry (maybe a game or two of Candy Crush) and finally hit the sack. The cycle repeats the next day. I have a growing list of things I want to do, but instead of looking at them with the eagerness I usually feel, I dread them. This is not being content.

While I do blame a lot of it on the winter blahs, I can’t continue in this status quo pattern of doing the minimum to get through the day. I compare it to home ownership. You can do the least amount of work to live in your home—pick up just the most damaging messes, fix what’s broken, basically just put out any theoretical fires, —but after about ten years the value of your home hasn’t really gone anywhere. If anything, it’s gone down from not being updated. On the other hand, if you invest a little time and effort into your home beyond the minimum by sprucing up what time and life dish out to its walls, in the end your home grows in value. This is true for the soul as well.

Finding that place of determination usually means hitting some tough spots. What starts out as simply a fresh coat of paint can lead to patching some holes. It helps to not overthink those so as not to get overwhelmed, which I think it what I’ve been doing.

So I’m updating my personal mantra. Even if just for today.

Do hard things. Challenge yourself. One more mile…

These are what I tell myself when I don’t feel like doing something or I’m faced with an unpleasant task. It doesn’t necessarily make what I’m doing more fun, but it reminds me that I’m working on being stronger and facing whatever it is I need to tackle. A bit silly? Yes, but it helps a little. After all, beneath these layers of peeling paint within lies a mansion, right?

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