Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Living the Journey: Defying Gravity

“Your mind can grasp intellectual ideas, but it is in the FEELING where the transformation takes place.”
― Stephen Richards

I have been on this truly amazing journey over the last eight or nine months.  When I started, I was almost completely depleted of any shred of enthusiasm or energy for anything other than weeping.  And, while I was intellectually aware of my own personal responsibility for my own life, I really was trapped in this terrible cycle of blame...
  • "...if HE had done this..."
  • "...if SHE hadn't said..."
  • "...if THAT situation hadn't been quite like THAT..."
Sure, deep down, I was fully aware that my life is my own and my choices belong solely to me.  But I was making bad choices and I was accusing other people of not quite being what I NEEDED.  Here's the kicker:  No one is responsible for meeting my needs.  

WHAT??  (I KNOW, right?  Can you believe I just SAID THAT?)

I realize that I'm SUPER IMPORTANT.  I mean, every action EVERY person I know has to deal DIRECTLY with me, right?  If my friends looks at me funny, she is almost certainly thinking something terrible about me.  "Do I look really fat in these jeans??  I MUST or she wouldn't be looking at me like that!"  If someone didn't call me back right away, it was almost certainly because he was mad at me.  "He must be really upset that I forgot to run that errand."  What I finally came to realize over the last several months is that I probably wasn't factoring into every decision everyone around me was making.


I decided to do a little self-probing.  I enlisted the help of my (very patient) therapist and embarked on a massive multiple-week self-esteem program.

I learned a lot during those weeks.  I cried a lot.  I researched.  I read.  I did workbook exercises (every matter how foolish I felt).  I learned about setting (and keeping) boundaries. I learned about choices.  I learned about loving myself.  It was a crappy few months.  But it was the beginning of a transformation that I could not have predicted.

  1. The world does not revolve around me.  OK, sure, THIS blog world that I've created TOTALLY revolves around me.  I realize people have read more about the inner Kelly world than they EVER wanted to know.  But the worlds of other people have very little to do with me.  People are out living their lives not even thinking about me, for the most part.   I probably cross very few minds very few times throughout the year.  The actions (and reactions) of people are centered in their own lives and have little (or nothing) to do with me.  This was totally mind-blowing to me as a person who has always focused on "but how could he/she DO THIS TO ME?" as if people were just walking around thinking about ways to get to me.  OK, I'm sure it's happened....but not NEARLY as much as I once imagined.  
  2. I deserve healthy relationships.  I don't think I could have imagined that sentence a year ago, let alone actually type it on a page.  Here's the big piece I learned:  I have a responsibility to behave in a healthy manner in all my relationships. I have learned to be a friend who is open and honest WITHOUT being so sarcastic and cutting (although, let's be honest, I can never COMPLETELY cut the sarcasm!).  I place my trust in people and I deserve to have that trust honored.  
  3. It's OK to say goodbye to regrets.  Sometimes I wish for a giant cosmic eraser to rid myself of my whole past.  I would like to be born today.  New.  Fresh.  I'd like to start from HERE, thankyouverymuch.  I faced my recent past today with an enormous bag of regret.  The bag hung over me, heavy with the watery memories of misplaced trust and unfounded hope, and it threatened to drown me with its contents.  But these days, I'm wearing grown-up lady panties with heavy elastic.  I looked up at the bag, snapped my trusty waistband and moved the heck on.  I am too busy dealing with my own issues to try to figure out why someone ELSE is so screwed up.  (That part IS all about me...MY part.  The part I own.)
I intend to channel my inner Rizzo as my journey continues.  I am totally singing "There are Worse Things I Could Do" right now, in case you're wondering:  "I could stay home every night, wait around for Mr. Right. Take cold showers every day and throw my life away on a dream that won't come true..." Yes, I can hear the orchestra in the background.  

Or maybe I'll stick with Elphaba...

I'm through accepting limits, 'cause someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change but 'til I try I'll never know
Too long I've been afraid of losing love I guess I've lost
Well, if THAT'S love, it comes at much too high a cost
I'd sooner try defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye, defying gravity
And you can't pull me down.

Yes, I think that's it.  I think I'll try defying gravity. 

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive. 
And yes, there is a subtle "screw you" in this particular blog post.  I can totally channel my inner Taylor Swift, too.  :) 

    Monday, July 29, 2013

    Worst Parenting Fail EVER: The Target Story

    “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
    ― Henry Ford

    One night last summer, Thing 2 and I headed out to Target to buy something or other we needed for the house.  It was paper towels or dog treats or something we probably could have done without for another night.  We got in the car and drove to the shopping center about 10 minutes from our home.

    As we shopped, we laughed and teased each other.  Thing 2 is always good for a laugh and we never fail to banter back and forth whenever we're out and about.  After checkout, we were wagering if he could keep up with the car running beside it.

    "You COULD NOT!" I bellowed.

    "Yes, I TOTALLY could," he protested.  "If you promised to not drive as FAST as you COULD."

    "Even if I drove under 10 miles per hour it would be tough for you to keep up!"

    We continued debating as we loaded our bags into the trunk.  I unlocked the doors with the key fob and hopped behind the wheel.  The parking space in front of me was empty, so I eased the sedan forward and then drove out of the parking lot.

    Thing 2 was too young to be in the front seat, so I chatted merrily away to the backseat.  I drove onto the highway, speeding toward home, talking away.  Thing 2 wasn't answering.  Sometimes he plays tricks on me, so I called his name.  "WHY aren't you ANSWERING me?" I complained.  I adjusted the rearview mirror so I could see his expression.  It reflected an empty seat back.

    I frowned. "Thing 2?"

    Still no answer.

    "Are you HIDING from me?"  Surely, I thought, he was scrunched down in the floor board.  I was started to get a little irritated with the game though.

    "OK.  Joke's over.  Answer me, please."

    Still nothing from the back seat.

    I craned my neck toward the back, trying to make out a figure on the floorboard.


    My mind raced.  Well, obviously he was IN THE CAR.  I'd been talking to him the entire way!  Perhaps he was hiding UNDER the seat somehow?  Was that even possible?  Did my car have one of those trick back seats where maybe he slid into the trunk somehow?

    The reality was unthinkable.  My mind worked every POSSIBLE scenario except the only one that made sense:  I had left my child in the parking lot. 

    I pulled over at the top of the exit ramp and hurried out of the car to peer into the back seat.  No.  There was no child.  My mouth went dry and my heart plummeted somewhere near the vicinity of my knees.   I had left my child in the parking lot.

    Gulping for air, I did an illegal u-turn (sorry, police officers, I was PANICKING!) and sped back toward the ramp to the highway.


    My thoughts were wild.  He had never been left anywhere!  I am the OVERPROTECTIVE PARENT!  He always wore helmets.  He only went to friends' houses whose parents I was SURE were fine and upstanding.  I breastfed him!  He didn't eat peanut butter until the doctor said it was OK.  I mean...I HAD LEFT MY CHILD IN THE PARKING LOT.

    I have no idea how fast I moved my car down that highway, but as I sped along, an unknown number rang shrilly in the car, silent save for my wildly beating heart.  I answered quickly, hoping to find a Target employee on the other end.

    "Hello!" I shouted.

    "Mom?" A hesitant voice floated into my ear. 

    "OHMYGOD, honey, are YOU OKAY?"

    "You LEFT ME!"

    "OH, I know, I know, I know.  I'm on my way right now.  OHMYGOD, I'm SO SORRY. I'm SO SORRY."

    He told me that he recognized a kid from Scouts and his dad.  They had picked him up from his harried run after me through the parking lot and were idling in the lot while he called.

    I hung up the phone.


    I careened into the parking lot and headed straight for the SUV idling there with lights on.  I screeched to a halt, flung open the door and, wild-eyed, walked toward the car.

    The dad eyed me suspiciously.

    "Rough night?" He peered closely at my face.  I'm certain if he was assessing whether or not I was addled by drugs or mental health issues.  (And, hey, I can't blame him!  I actually am GLAD he was careful about me.  Obviously, there was cause for concern here.)

    I rambled on about something, probably doing nothing to assuage his fears.  He talked to me for a couple of minutes and then told Thing 2 to go ahead and get out of the car.  Thing 2 stumbled out of the car and ran toward me, tears now streaming down his face.  He had been brave as long as he could.  Now that mom was here, he could let loose.

    We took this photo on our NEXT Target visit.
    He got back in the car.  I took a few steadying breaths, thanked the Scout dad profusely and got back behind the wheel.  We went over how it had happened.  When I had unlocked the doors, I had only unlocked the driver's door instead of all four doors.  He thought I was playing a trick on him and ran alongside gamely, expecting to see my tail lights burn red at any moment.  But the car only sped up and away, leaving him running as fast as he could after me.  

    It was heartbreaking to hear his voice, small and scared and hiccuping through tears in the back seat.  I apologized a hundred times and told him that I would not make that mistake again.

    He bravely wiped his tears as I watched him in the rearview mirror.  And then he laughed,  "I can't WAIT to tell Thing 1 that you LEFT ME AT TARGET!"

    It's been a while since I left my youngest son in a dark parking lot.  But neither kid lets me forget it.  "Mom, I'm just going to take the CART OVER HERE.  DON'T LEAVE ME."  It's a little easier now that they ride in the front seat.  I can at least look over and realize that a warm body is occupying the space.

    Life goes on.  And we fumble along with it.

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    Teach Your Children Well

    What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
                                                                - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Anyone who became a teenager in the 80's probably remembers that commercial where the kid gets caught smoking pot by his father.  His father angrily shakes the bag of marijuana at his son and asks him where he picked up this habit.  The kid angrily responds, "I learned it from watching YOU, OK?  I learned it from watching you."

    BEFORE the snowball fight.
    I parent (as a verb) intentionally for many reasons.  But one of the reasons I am careful with my actions around my children is because that commercial always stuck in my head.  I know that my children will emulate my language, my lifestyles, my habits about money, and my easygoing attitude toward household chores (OK, sloppy attitude).

    I do realize that many of my choices will impact them profoundly for the rest of their lives and will spur them to make their own choices based on what they've known in our family of origin.

    So, I'm predicting the future.  Call me Swami Kelly.

    1. My kids won't keep secrets.  I am open about my screw-ups.  When I (accidentally) left Thing 2 at Target, I didn't ask them to keep it from their grandmother or their father, both of whom could have easily reamed me up one side and down the other for that little error.  I confessed to both parties and even told their father that if HE had done what I'd done, I would be LIVID.  I make a lot of mistakes as a parent. But I never, ever say to my kids "Don't tell..." because I know family secrets can destroy you.  I would never put that burden on my children.  And they know they can be open and honest.  And they are.  Much to my chagrin, at times.
    2. My kids will choose play over work. (I KNOW this is not always a good thing!) People are extremely important to me.  FUN is extremely important to me.  I emphasize to them that you only get this one life:  choose joy.  This means that my house is never clean enough, my "have to do" list gets longer, and I always look just this shy of homeless.  I care about people.  I care about experiences.  I model this for my children.  We are always up for going out for ice cream as a family or heading out to a movie over weeding the garden.  We choose to read books, each of us spilled over our furniture of choice, over cleaning bathrooms. I want them to know that they are more important to me than a freshly mopped floor (although what I wouldn't give to have BOTH!).
    3. My kids will spend money frivolously.  (Although, HOPEFULLY, they'll get more of their dad in them than me and be savers over spenders.)  I am always up for an slushie.  Or a movie.  Or an ice cream from the ice cream truck that calls to us from the street during the summer. Or whitewater rafting. Or skydiving. Again, I hope they'll pick up my lightheartedness but maybe a lot of their dad's caution as well!
    4. My kids will value people.  They've watched me drop everything to help throw a surprise party for a friend.  They see me in their schools.  They watch me volunteer in different capacities.  They hear me counseling friends over the phone.  I emphasize to them that people are the priority...always.  Everyone has feelings.  Everyone needs someone who will listen, lend a hand, or simply share a meal with laughter. 
    5. My kids will admit their mistakes.  Man, I certainly make a lot of 'em.  My kids see how I handle myself after I've lost my temper (which doesn't happen often...but...).  They have received apologies from me...heartfelt and sincere apologies after I've been in the wrong.  They know that I'm not perfect and that I don't expect them to be.  But I do expect them to accept responsibility for their choices...just as I do. 
    It's SO TOUGH to be a parent because the work doesn't stop at the end of a shift.  It's ongoing.  24/7.  They never stop watching.  And I have to be on my guard to model behaviors that I want them to emulate.  Sometimes I fail.  And that's when I admit my mistake and tell them I hope to do better next time.  They watch me fall down and they see me get back up.

    I want to be able to say to them:  Do as I do.  That is always, always my goal.

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

    Saturday, July 27, 2013

    Construction Zone

    “Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.”
    ― Carl Bard

    Copyright All rights reserved by Kraftfolio
    Did you ever build houses out of playing cards?  You spent time carefully constructing the walls, sometimes with shaking hands, and then you slowly added to the bottom layer with a second floor.  The house was always precarious and almost anything could knock it over in an instant.  All your hard work crashed to the floor with the opening of a door or a slight breeze from the dog's tail.  You learned not to cry about it or even bemoan it too much.  It was just a playing card house, after all.  You could always build a new one.

    Life is like that, isn't it?  You spend all this time carefully constructing your days.  You pick people to spend time with and you add them to your little structure.  You may have a job that holds up one or two of your walls.  You add experiences and layers until, lo and behold, you've built a little life... 

    ...until something knocks it down.  Or someone.  Maybe it was even you who did the dirty demolition.  Your carefully built life crashes down around you while you protect yourself (as much as you're able) from the falling debris.

    When the worst is over, you can survey the damage.  And you move through the wreckage to decide what to save.  Sometimes you don't save much of anything.  People and experiences are shuffled to the side while you search for new people who fit into the new life you imagine.  And then you begin to carefully reconstruct your life, piece by piece and layer by layer.  You rebuild until you need to knock out another wall or expand or until you need to start over from scratch once again.

    Copyright All rights reserved by Jay Gould
    My life-house is currently scattered around me on the floor.  I was the one who rode the wrecking ball.  I took a hammer to several layers of my life.  And I did it intentionally.  The life I was building didn't suit me...or, rather, it didn't suit the NEW me.  The demolition wasn't quick and goodness knows it wasn't easy.  But I had to tear it down.  There are still pieces of it leaning together that need to come down but I know that the next strong breeze will take them out, too.

    There is a healthy version of me who has recently emerged.  (Yeah, I'm surprised, too.)  After years of soul-searching, therapy, self-help books, prayer, reflection, introspection, more therapy, more prayer and constant (I mean CONSTANT) self-examination, a person I can live with is finally coming out of the ashes.  This person has boundaries, gratitude, humor and, perhaps most of all, self-respect.  She was apparently there all along but I'd only seen glimpses of her before so I was SURE she was a fake like those people who say they can predict the outcome of your life by looking at your palm.

    So, I stand here, looking at my beautifully broken life.  I accept that change is inevitable and even welcome.  It was tough (and scary) to make difficult choices during deconstruction. I know that some (many) people will rejoin me in the rebuild and I know that others will fade away into memory.  I cherish these experiences and these people for they've become a part of the foundation of the next building phase.  They have helped make me strong.  I can only hope that my impact on their lives has been even a fraction as profound.

    There are many challenges ahead.  Building a new life will take even longer than demolishing the old one.  But this time, I plan to build intentionally.  I will choose my materials with greater care and I will ensure the walls are solid and able to withstand the storms that will surely come.

    And this time I will build with steady hands...hands that don't shake with uncertainty but ones that are strong with faith and gratitude.  In the building, I will pause to appreciate and reflect instead of rushing ahead to see what the next phase holds.   

    And then we'll see.

    Have you ever started over?  Let me know how it went.  Or how it's going.  Advice is always appreciated.  Please add your comments below!

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    Shut Up, Move On: It's a Book AND a Lifestyle

    “You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could've, would've happened... or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the f**k on.”
    ― Tupac Shakur

    When my plans were rearranged this afternoon, I opted to spend it in the company of 40 million strangers at Barnes & Noble, my own personal version of nirvana.  And there, amid the bustle of strangers in the cafe and the smell of freshly published books, I found my own new personal motto:  S.U.M.O. (Shut Up, Move On): The Straight Talking Guide to Creating and Enjoying a Brilliant Life.  If you haven't read it, the theory is all conveniently packaged in a book by my new guru, Paul McGee.   I spent two hours absorbing this book, even taking FOUR pages of single-spaced typewritten notes.  And, yes, I bought it.  If you haven't done so, you should right now.  I'll wait.

    There are many wonderful lessons McGee teaches in the book, but one of my favorites is his recommendation to Change Your T-shirt.  He asks us to imagine that what you feel or believe about yourself is written on your t-shirt.  Many people wear Victim t-shirts with awesome phrases like:
    • I am stupid.
    • I am worthless.
    • No one cares about me.
    • It's just my luck...
     It's really true, isn't it?  People can tell how you feel about yourself within an instant of meeting you.  So I decided to begin creating changed by imagining my new t-shirts.  Here's what I came up with:
    • I rock in the shower!
    • Clumsy and proud!  (Wait...that's not a positive message...)
    • My boobs are bigger than yours!
    • I shower daily!
    I decided after the first few that my sarcasm was getting the best of me, so I tried again...sincerely this time.
    • I analyze everything!
    • Life doesn't suck...much!
    • Drinking makes me happy!
    • I try not to be mean!
    Once again, my t-shirts were decidedly NOT the positive-thinking bestsellers I'd been hoping for.  I dug REALLY, REALLY deep....
    • Crying keeps me from killing!
    • When life hands you lemons, squeeze them REALLY HARD!
    • Smile...even if your butt is on fire!
    • Hysteria is just another love language!
     Well, fortunately I bought the book.  I think I'll have to go through the steps a few more times before I can summon up the courage to Shut Up and Move On in several areas of my life.  In reality, that's my plan.

    Rascal Flatts said it best, I'm pretty sure.

    P.S.  I SERIOUSLY made a t-shirt.  You can totally buy it.

    strong women

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    Thursday, July 25, 2013

    Waxing Nostalgic: Why I Think Reunions Are Fun

    “I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.”
    ― Virginia Woolf

    Niiiiice hair...
    I don't remember much about my high school experience.  While I was there, I was too busy looking forward to college to focus on enjoying the present.  Also, I was kinda snotty.  It's not that I MEANT to be snotty but I looked down on the small town I lived in (CERTAIN I was destined for bigger things, duh) and I didn't want to be connected with people I would almost certainly leave behind forever in a few short years.  I had a (very) few friends but most of the people I went to high school with were, at best, acquaintances.

    I can apply two words to my 18-year-old-self:  Your loss.  (I could add a "bi-otch" for greater effect, but I think you catch my drift.)

    So, I apparently WASN'T destined for bigger things.  I live in a fairly small southern city less than two hours from the tiny southern town where I went to high school.  My career (if you can call it that) is uneventful and unexciting and I often do what most people seem to drift to:  get up, go to work, go home, go to bed, get up, go to work, go home, go to bed.  In my MIND, my life is exciting and challenging and extraordinary!  But, in reality, my life looks much the same as my neighbors.  I obviously didn't have it all figured out as a snotty little teenager.

    We're currently planning a joint reunion with the class of 1988, who is celebrating their 25th reunion this year.  We're doing it to boost attendance and, frankly, because a LOT of us in 1989 just would love for someone else to collect the money and do the majority of the planning while we sit back and drink wine.  :)  Many of our classmates still live in the area and, I believe, don't really see the value in attending a reunion of people they might run into the grocery store at any given moment.  But I believe they SHOULD go.

    Here are five good reasons to go to your next high school reunion:

    1. You probably missed out on some great people when you were an 18-year-old know-it-all.  I know I certainly did.  The people I have met who went to my high school are FUN.  They're funny and smart and most of them have their you-know-what together.  They make me laugh and they bring tears to my eyes.  I should have taken the time to get to know them back then.  But I am SO GLAD I get a do-over and get to know them NOW.  I don't want to miss the opportunity to truly know the people I knew when I was young.
    2. You have better hair now.  Especially if you're a girl.  Especially if you graduated from high school in the 80's or most of the 90's.  Or the 70's.  You should go to the reunion IF ONLY to show people your highly-improved hair.
    3. Cliques no longer matter.  You know that girl you teased for wearing ratty clothes?  She's running her own business.  You know that guy who sulked in the corner?  He is a lively and entertaining Little League coach.  Whoever you WERE in high school doesn't matter.  You've lived a whole lifetime beyond that.  Even if you're fresh out of college and deciding if you should attend a five-year reunion, I can tell you this:  You are ALREADY a totally different person than you were at 18.  People as they age tend to look past the outer shell and into the heart of you.  (Or, at they least they do in MY rainbow-colored world.)  Get to KNOW the people you graduated with as they are now.  Listen to their stories.  You might be surprised at what you have in common.
    4. Shared roots matter.  I have lived all over the country.  I have traveled and I have met some truly fascinating people.  I have loved people of all ages, shapes, cultures, and races and have learned to appreciate and celebrate the differences of my friends.  But the people who were  with you in high school share a significant bond that cannot be recreated.  Back then, you didn't have a choice about where you lived.  You lived where your parents lived.  You were thrust into this group and you played the cards you were dealt.  You handled it....didn't you?  You grew up with these people.  They knew you when you had pimples and thick glasses and a stutter.  And they loved you anyway.  Or they hated you for it.  Regardless, your interactions with them shaped who you are right now...whether you know it or not.
    5. Life is short.  You never know where life is going to take you.  Or when it's going to end.  Why not take a few hours of your time and have a drink with the folks who thought you were a/an idiot/snob/jock/jerk/princess/ghost/genius?  Tell a new story.  Write a new chapter.  I'm not asking you to relive the "glory days."  I'm not asking you to even WANT TO GO BACK (I really don't want that).  I am just saying that, for a moment in time, you shared space with these people as you were learning and growing and becoming the flat-out rock star that you are today.  What a fabulous opportunity to find out who they turned into!  
    Me and a fellow classmate at our LAST reunion. FUN, right?
    I cannot WAIT to attend this reunion...not because I'm excited about who I'll see..but I'm excited about who I'll MEET.  And I hope someone will meet me and think, "That girl is SO not the b***ch I thought she was..."  Actually, I hope they don't think that.  I hope they come right out and TELL ME!

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Lessons Learned from Dog Walking

    “A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.”
    ― John Grogan

    Sparky, Mr. McDougal and I have been awake since about 3:30 this morning.  After I finally gave up on sleep at about 4:30 a.m. and rolled out of bed, I put on my running shoes and shorts and headed downstairs.  The dogs know what it means when I put on my shoes first thing in the morning and they both skittered downstairs joyfully.  Little did they know I had a plan to get my OWN exercise in first thing this morning.  They looked at me sadly as I shut the front door behind me; Mr. McDougal stood there with his head cocked to one side as if to ask, "Kelly, dear, is it not morning?  Do we not walk WITH YOU?"
    At the end of my 45 minute power walk, I was tired and my old arthritic knees were starting to swell just a bit and I decided that I would walk the furry beasts later this evening....and then I opened the door.  They bounded toward me, tails wagging, tongues hanging out as if to say, "Yay, yay, yay!  OUR TURN NOW!"

    Who can say no to two happy dogs?

    As we walked along this morning, I laughed at the two of them as I always do.  They just crack me up.  One big.  One little.  One strolling.  One running along with his tiny little legs a blur.  I looked up at the stars as we walked along and started thinking about all of the gifts my dogs bring to our family.  And, if we pay enough attention, they teach us valuable lessons even on something as simple as a morning walk.

    1. It's always fun to venture out of the house.  Even if we're taking our customary walk route, those dogs bound out of the house like they are ready to summit Mt. Everest or chart an unknown territory.  Their noses go up and out and their tails wag and they pull at their leashes to GET STARTED.  They look forward to our walks every single time.  Fun is to be had around every corner even on something as simple as a morning walk.
    2. Life is better with a buddy.  Even though I think Sparky was pretty happy as a single dog, he seems even happier with his trundle dog tripping along beside him.  They push their noses together as they sniff through the neighborhood and they each wait patiently while the other does his business.  As they walk, they keep pace with one another.  
    3. Who you are is more about what's in your heart that what you are on the outside.  Sparky is a big dog at almost 80 pounds but he thinks he is the cuddliest lap dog you've ever met.  And when he meets people or animals during our walks, he wags his tail and begs to go and meet them.  Mr. McDougal, on the other hand, is a tiny Scottie whose legs lift him maybe four inches off the ground.  He thinks he is the biggest bad-ass to roam the streets.  He struts along at the end of his leash and just DARES other dogs to come over.  "You want a PIECE OF ME?" 
    4. Everything is interesting.  They sniff.  They notice.  They look.  Nothing escapes their attention.  This morning, I took a page from their book and paused to appreciate the beauty of the full moon as it eased toward the horizon.  
    5. If someone loves you, they are willing to carry your crap.  I do not LOVE scooping their smelly deposits into a bag and carrying it along with us.  But I love my dogs.  And I know that they love their walks.  And if I have to carry their crap...well, so be it.  I can take a little crap-carrying in exchange for all the joy I receive walking them.
    I adore my dogs.  I hope that I give them one ounce of the joy and wonder they give to me every day.
    Is it nap time yet?

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

    Friday, July 19, 2013

    My New Plan for World Happiness

    “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”
    ― Roald Dahl

    Kids are born with this incredible sense of wonder.  You can see it in their reactions.  Babies startle and smile when wind blows over their fat little cheeks.  Toddlers stare intently at the undulations of a caterpillar.  They stop (actually stop in their tracks) to watch an airplane move across the sky.  Every day is filled with new surprises and magic.  Where does it go?

    An blog from Psychology Today estimates that children laugh 300 times a day.  A 40-year-old adult laughs only four.  Are we that burdened by bills and deadlines and worries that we can only manage a chuckle at breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks?  As an adult who laughs way more than four times a day (but, sadly, way LESS than 300), I am pretty sure that much of the problem lies in our boredom and lack of wonder.  We've SEEN hot air balloons.  We understand that when someone crouches down behind the couch they are really still there. So even when they jump up and yell "surprise," we're no longer caught off guard.  Boring, boring, boring.

    Photo courtesy of Flickr user tobit_e
    I woke up this morning with a solution:  I think Congress should approve a Superhero Day.  It would be just like Earth Day or President's Day or Labor Day.  Actually, it would be more like Labor Day so people could have a three-day-weekend. I think three-day-weekends are especially important for cultivating joy.

    I know, I know.  You're looking at me with your non-laughing adult eyes and thinking, "What is she even TALKING ABOUT?  Does SHE know?  This constant blather bores me."

    Well, I woke up thinking about how when I was a little girl, I BELIEVED I could do impossible things.  I know you did, too, so stop looking at me like I'm nuts.  I would jump off my grandparents' porch over and over with umbrellas or towels wrapped around my neck like a cape BELIEVING I would eventually fly.  Some might simply call me an idiot who doesn't learn a lesson but I really did believe.  There's a teensy part of me that still believes.

    I also believed in Santa.  I mean I FERVENTLY believed in Santa.  Who wouldn't want to believe in a magical fat elf with a toy factory who knows your name and who knows exactly what you want for Christmas?  I got a sweater once for Christmas and I honestly believed that Mrs. Claus had knitted it for me herself.  I swear I did.

    I believed in stuff when I was kid.  And, here's the kicker:  I believed in myself.  I believed I was smart.  I believed all the hype in school when teachers tell you that you can do anything you set your mind to. (Eminem says this also....which totally must make it true.)  I believed that I could be an astronaut or a pilot or the president of the United States.  And, at one point or another, I wanted to be all those things.  Life was magic.

    OK, I get on a roll when I start talking about this stuff...back to Superhero Day.

    Here are the rules of Superhero Day (because we're adults, I know you can't fully believe in something unless it comes with rules):
    • No one can work on Superhero Day.  That's right.  We're shutting down WALMART and TARGET and MCDONALD'S.  (Imagine how peaceful our planet would be for a day if we shut down everything for 24 hours.)  For a day, we're letting magic and imagination rule the world.  No tired, grumpy folks.  For those of you who don't cook, just order takeout the day before and graze on the leftovers.  If the power plants can't run without be it.  No power.  No open gas stations.  NO ONE WORKS.  Remember the days when Sunday meant stores were closed and banks were closed?  Hearken back.  No one works on Superhero Day because you can't always work and believe in the magic of life. 
    • Everyone gets a cape.  Everyone.  And your cape can be whatever color you wish.  Mine would be red because red is the best color. (See?  I already sound like a five-year-old.)  Your cape can have stars on it or pickles or whatever you want.  But it must be a beautiful cape in your eyes.  You have to look at that cape and feel tears prick the back of your eyes because you think it's so beautiful.  Because everyone knows that in beauty we find magic. 
    • On Superhero Day, you have to do ONE NICE THING for someone else.  Just one.  And you get to pick the nice thing.  And no one has to even KNOW ABOUT IT.  You could leave flowers on the doorstep of your neighbor.  You can pay someone's power bill.  You can bring a cake to a favorite teacher.  You can smile at that guy you always frown at.  You can forgive your spouse for not being perfect.  Pick one nice thing and do it.  Because everyone knows that kindness is magic.
    • No one gets hurt on Superhero Day.  That's right.  No mean words are exchanged.  No one hits anyone else (INCLUDING, but not limited to, spanking).  No one gets yelled at (because everyone knows that words hurt most of all).  People put their weapons away on Superhero Day...all their weapons, including the ones you can't see but only feel.  Because everyone knows that being safe is magic.  
    Superhero Day, once a year, could help to restore our embattled spirits.  For one day, we could all learn to appreciate each other and our limited time here on earth.  I think we should institute it right away.  Or maybe we can just implement some of the rules starting today.

    Happy Superhero Day to you and yours.  Find the magic.

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

    Thursday, July 18, 2013

    I am a beauty bomb. No, seriously.

    “All little girls should be told they are pretty, even if they aren't.”
    ― Marilyn Monroe

    I am pretty sure I've given up on this whole beauty thing.  I know this because I ventured out tonight in a pair of torn Umbros (remember those?) I have had SINCE COLLEGE (800 million years ago...they were somewhat smaller than I remembered, though), a t-shirt that was about 10 times too big for me and a raggedy pair of flip flops.  My sweaty hair was knotted in the back of my head to keep it off my shiny, makeup-smeared face.  You've seen those cute teenagers who can knot their hair up and they still look like supermodels?  Yeah, don't picture THEM.  Picture instead a large-headed woman with thinning hair who can barely gather enough hair for a pitiful ball smack in the back center of her round noggin and you have something a little closer to my reality.

    I'm ready for my close-up.
    Twenty years ago I would have been AGHAST at my own appearance tonight.  Twenty years ago I didn't step OUTSIDE without a shower, inexpertly coiffed hair and thickly applied makeup.  This was not so much that I was concerned about my own beauty but more so that I was really desperate to appear not hideous to the outside world.  Hey, give me a break...I was coming off some really unfortunate teenage years.

    Now?  If my teeth are brushed, I am GOLDEN.

    Here are a few ways to tell if you're ready to surrender your beauty weapons:

    1.  The half-assed mani/pedi.  OK, my toes ARE generally painted in the summer.  Hastily.  By me.  Usually five minutes prior to walking out the door.  And sometimes I don't have time to completely remove the old polish, so I just add a thick layer RIGHT on top of the old.  Sometimes I do this four or five times.  I know this is frowned upon by professionals because I went in for a REAL pedicure a couple of years ago and the woman began a rapid-fire dressing down in an Asian language unknown to me.  She was apparently horrified as she applied acetone to my toes, rubbed hard, glared at me, applied more acetone, rubbed some more, glared some more and applied more acetone.  I gave her an awesome tip.  Manicures?  Meh.  Again, I'll slap on some polish if I'm feeling froggy.  I do manage to make my fingers match my toes.  I'm not a total imbecile. 
    2. Makeup.  I've been wearing the EXACT SAME makeup guessed it...TWENTY YEARS.  I always have brown eye shadow, brown eye liner and a hint of blush.  I did go a little crazy a few years ago and exchanged my liquid matte foundation for a mineral foundation.  I do not match my eye shadow to my outfit.  I don't even think about colors.  It's simply too much for me.  My entire makeup procedure takes approximately one and half minutes...if I take my time.  It took me a sum total of 20 minutes to do hair and makeup PRIOR TO MY WEDDING.  I've heard of women spending entire DAYS preparing for events like that.  
    3. Hair.  OMG.  Do NOT get me started on my hair.  My natural hair is a thin mass of curls that go up and down and over and out and all over my head.  My face under my natural hair looks very much like it's being swarmed by brown bees.  Lately, I've been drying it, halfheartedly running a straightening iron through it and then I hope for the best.  It usually ends up in a clip or a band within 20 minutes of "styling" anyway.
    4. Clothing.  My daily uniform consists of brown or black pants, a white tank top or t-shirt and either a cardigan or a button down shirt.  Every day.  Sometimes, I mix it up and throw on a jacket instead of the cardigan or button down.  But my pants are ALWAYS black or brown. Unless it's a weekend and it's jeans and a t-shirt.  I buy in bulk.  I have added in a rusty orange color and some purple.  Never patterns.  Always solids.  I am nothing if completely unadventurous in clothing.  Yawn. 
    If any of the above sound remotely like you, I beg of you to RUN (not walk) to your nearest fashionista friend and plead with her to keep you from turning into me.  I have given up....but YOU DON'T HAVE TO.  

    I texted a good friend of mine tonight during my Umbro outing and told her that I was in the process of violating every rule she'd ever taught me.  She laughed but didn't protest.  She knew I was telling the truth without even asking.  She loves me for who I am, apparently.  I've noticed that we're not spending a lot of time together anymore though...she just doesn't want to be witness to the rapid unraveling that's sure to happen as I move further into my forties.

    On the flip side, there's something pretty amazing about all of this:  I accept myself fully and completely.  I'm not only secure enough to venture out looking just this shy of homeless but I'm secure enough to laugh about it in blog world.

    That, my friends, is worth my weight in bobby pins.

    Monday, July 15, 2013

    Where Can I Find the Facebook Crazies?

    “I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh.”
    ― Maya Angelou

    I have a fairly manageable list of friends on Facebook.  And my friends there are witty.  And smart.  They often make intelligent arguments for causes they believe in.  They proffer links to donate to charities they're passionate about.  They're committed and involved parents.  They're loving husbands and wives.  In short, they are just really nice, ordinary people.

    What I found out tonight is this:  there is a-whole-nother Facebook world I am not privy to.  And I am obviously MISSING OUT.

    Several of the people I was with tonight were Facebook friends with the person who posted THIS gem (you're going to have to fill in the blanks because I just can't bring myself to fill them in for you):

    Being this f*ing sexy doesn't require any work or upkeep.  I just roll my happy a** out of bed and...BOOM B***CH! 

    The BEST part about the above is that it was followed by THIS status update BY. THE. SAME. PERSON.:

    On our way 2 teach Vacation Bible School

    And no.  I am NOT making this up!  The ragged discord these mixed messages sent through me made me laugh so hard I almost wet myself.  They just rolled their happy patooties out of bed and got their VBS on.  I guess it just goes to show that God uses ALL of us, doesn't He? 

    What I want to know is this:  WHERE ARE THESE PEOPLE ON MY FRIENDS LIST?  I mean, NOT A SINGLE friend I have who teaches Vacation Bible School (and there are quite a few of those) has ever (to my knowledge) posted a cute little Garfield pic with an f-bomb or the phrase "BOOM B***CH."   I have simply never seen it.

    This means that I can't make fun of a SINGLE friend on my FB list.  

    Let's troll through status updates on my Home page for a moment:

    • A cute pic of a dog guarding the door of an even cuter sleeping baby.
    • A well-written, thoughtful note about the beautiful evening sky and the sliver of a moon.
    • A Bible verse.
    • A motivational quote about movement.
    • A link to a training seminar 
    • A sweet quote about love dedicated to a partner
    • A wholesome family photo
    Not a SINGLE curse word.  Nothing about sexiness.  I can't mock A SINGLE FRIEND.  They're all just really nice people who say nice things about others and who do nice things for other people.

    I just can't figure out what I'm doing WRONG...I am BY FAR the WORST person on all of my Facebook friends list.  By FAR.  Am I not supposed to bring people down to my level?  These Facebook friends of mine are like the creamiest cream rising to the top while I sit here looking up at all of them thinking to myself, "BOOM B***CH!"

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.


    Sunday, July 14, 2013

    The Heat is On

    “It was always so hot, and everyone was so polite, and everything was all surface but underneath it was like a bomb waiting to go off. I always felt that way about the South, that beneath the smiles and southern hospitality and politeness were a lot of guns and liquor and secrets.”
    ― James McBride

    I am sitting in my recliner in ragged boxer shorts and a thin white tank top, lazily fanning myself with a dog-eared copy of Better Homes and Gardens.  A lone box fan is pointed near me but all it seems to do is to stir up the heat, making it wash over me in waves.   The dogs are looking at me, sadly, lying on the couch across the room.  Neither is panting but both have paced the floors throughout the day, looking at me quizzically.  I don't think they're accustomed to such stillness from me or from the heavy air.

    The ice in my water melts almost immediately, the condensation from the glass mocking me from a pool around the bottom of the coaster.  There is no music on nor television to distract me.  I am sitting in the heat...just being hot.

    I have no desire to get up and clean or move at all.  I haven't done a single load of laundry.  I haven't even read much.  I'm like an old-timer on a Southern front porch, just sitting and rocking and watching the world go by.  Mostly what I'm doing is sitting here counting my blessings.
    • I have electricity to move the blades of the fans in the house.  The overhead fans are whirring away and the box fans hum along on their highest setting.  I am so grateful for electricity.
    • Yesterday, it rained.  I am so grateful for the rains that have cooled the air.  
    • At some point, when the parts come in and when my HVAC guy can get the almost-day-long job on his schedule, I will have working air conditioning again.  I am thankful that I have a job so I can pay for this new unit.  
    • I am thankful for a working refrigerator with a built-in icemaker.  How fortunate I am that I can grab a cool drink in this confounded heat!
    • I am so happy that my boys were able to go the beach with their dad this last weekend.  They'll miss some of this heat since they won't return here until Tuesday night.  I am grateful to be able to teach them the lesson of how blessed we really are.  Doing without increases your appreciation for what you do have when you have it.
    • I am thankful for my friends who have offered a place to stay in the heat.  I haven't taken them up on it, but I appreciate the offers.  And I am so grateful for the friendships I have.  
    • I am healthy.  My boys and my animals are healthy.  I am so grateful that we have good health and are able to endure the heat without too much stress on our minds and bodies.
    • I have a car so if I really need to get up and out of this heat, I can gather up the animals and we can take a drive with cool A/C!  Or, I can use the car to go buy more box fans.  Or I can go and find an air-conditioned restaurant to cool my heels in for a little while.  I am so thankful I have a car that works.  
    • I am so thankful that I can be thankful.  My heart and my mind are at peace these days.  I can focus on the many, many wonderful things in life instead of dwelling on the things that may not work as well.  I am grateful that I have a heart that seeks peace.   And I am thankful that I have so many people to love. 
    So, kids, enjoy your air-conditioning.  Don't worry about me over here sweating my patootie off.  Coolness will come in time.  At least night will fall in a bit (although I think I'm going to wander out of this house in just a while to bring my core temperature down a few degrees before bedtime).  Maybe I'll look at some pictures of Alaska for a while or think about my childhood years in Leadville, CO where no one has any need of air-conditioning because the altitude is greater than 10,000 feet and the average high in July is about 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.


    Thursday, July 11, 2013

    My Advice for College Freshman (Even Though You Didn't Ask)

    “I've learned one thing, and that's to quit worrying about stupid things. You have four years to be irresponsible here, relax. Work is for people with jobs. You'll never remember class time, but you'll remember the time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So stay out late. Go out with your friends on a Tuesday when you have a paper due on Wednesday. Spend money you don't have. Drink 'til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does...”
    ― Tom Petty

    I suppose that's easy for Tom Petty to say....he's a gazillionaire.  While his advice is not EXACTLY what I would give to incoming freshman, I do have a few hard-earned words of wisdom.

    Several of my friends are bidding adieu to their precious offspring at the end of the summer.  They're booting them out of the nest into the Great Unknown of Adulthood...well, semi-adulthood...and into College.  Naturally, my thoughts turn to my own misspent youth and my college years at the illustrious N.C. State University.

    Thing 2 and Thing 1 on the Brickyard at NCSU
    When I first arrived on campus for freshman orientation a billion years ago, I was completely unprepared for the experience.  I had never set foot on a college campus (nope, never did the pre-college tour thing).  I had no money.  I had no real adult skills.  I have no idea how I managed to make it.

    But as I sat on the bottom floor of Metcalf Residence Hall at 2:00 a.m. on a sweaty July night (yes, kids, this was prior to the advent of campus-wide A/C) discussing my future with my new bestie (a guy who'd been a stranger two hours before), I felt like I belonged for the very first time in my whole life.  I remember getting teary sitting there, talking about my wide-open life plans and realizing that this, finally, was a place where I fit in.  College.  I sat there, breathing in the freshly-polished floor, sweaty teenager smells, and I remember smiling broadly and thinking to myself that I would take advantage of this perfect fit.

    I lost touch with the car-guy-bestie I met on that first day (I've always been a sucker for car guys), but I entered N.C. State University that fall as a wide-eyed country girl with high hopes and big-city dreams.  I threw myself into the experience with abandon.  I signed up for classes and I met people and I talked and talked and talked.  I put myself out there.  The next year, I became a resident advisor and, for the next three years, watched tides of incoming freshman enter, stumble and then regain their footing.  I listened, mediated roommate arguments and laughed through all hours of the day and night with scores of students.  I miss many of them and often wonder where they are today.

    So, if you have a kid who's getting ready to make the leap, I have a few words of advice for them (and for you):

    1. Take advantage of the opportunity.  Tell your kids to do the college experience RIGHT.  There are so many cultural activities activities on a college campus.  I watched bagpipe players.  I went to modern dance recitals.  I fell in love with a cappella music.  I listened to lectures on diversity.  I took a freakin' ballet class.  I began a lifelong love of drama when I played a part or two at Thompson Theatre.  I dove into college headfirst and I took full advantage of the incredible world that exists only on a campus.  Students have everything they need to thrive and become contributing members of society right there.  Don't sit in your room studying ALL THE TIME.  Don't go drinking with your friends all the time.  Go out and experience new things.  Stretch your mind.
    2. Don't stick with the people you know.  There are THOUSANDS of new people on a campus.  I always moan a little bit when I meet freshmen who are rooming with another kid from their high school.  Take a chance.  Meet new people.  Get out of your comfort zone.  You may find that you have WAY more in common with the kid from Minnesota than you do with the kid from your hometown.  I'm not saying you AVOID the people you already know...but, again, STRETCH yourself.  Free your mind.
    3. Explore different classes.  I entered college as a freshman in the engineering department.  Holy mother of pearl!  What was I THINKING? (I would be a TERRIBLE engineer.)  But I took a class called "Interpersonal Communication" (doesn't the title of that class just SCREAM Kelly?) over on the bright side of campus and realized that the people in THAT world were LAUGHING!  The classrooms were brighter.  The students didn't look all dour and morose all the time with their hair standing on end from running their fingers through it in frustration over the latest Diff EQ assignment.  That class changed the course of my life. 
    4. Live in your dorm. (I STILL have trouble calling it a dorm.  A dorm is where you sleep.  A residence hall is where you live and grow).  Do not get an apartment your freshman year.  I wouldn't get an apartment your sophomore year either.  LIVE on CAMPUS.  It's where the action is.  And don't go HOME every weekend.  Home will be there on holidays.  Home will be there when you graduate.  College is short-lived.  BE THERE. 
    5. Parents: Visit (not too often, though) and take your kids out to dinner.  Some of the most wonderful memories I have were when parents would visit campus and take their kid and one or two friends out to dinner.  I just thought this was cool.  And parents can get a glimpse of who (and what) is newly important in their new young adult's life. 
    6. Remember this: the time is fleeting.  You won't be in college long.  Breathe it in.  Be present in every single moment.  The real world is knocking on your door.  And someday, you won't be able to wake up at noon and stagger to your first class.  I don't necessarily believe in the saying "those were the best years of my life" because I believe we can make the best out of every day if we try hard enough.  But I DO believe there is nothing like college.  Enjoy the ride.
    I cannot WAIT for Thing 1 and Thing 2 to be ready for their university experience.  I understand that I will be far more excited about it than they will (unless, of course, I drive them crazy enough between now and then that they are excited just to GET AWAY FROM ME).  I am always a little envious of freshman...even now. 

    In closing, I only have two more words:  Go Pack!  :)

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    Dear George Clooney

    “You don't love someone because they're perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they're not.”
    ― Jodi Picoult

    Dear George Clooney,

    So, it's all over the headlines.  You've broken up with your latest super-hot girlfriend 20 or 30 years your junior.  Or did she break up with you?  I didn't get that straight in the snippet I got from Entertainment Tonight last night.  Regardless, you are now ON THE MARKET.  Just thought you'd like to know that I'm single, too.  Coinky-dink?  I think not.

    I'm a REAL CATCH, George.
    See, George, here's the thing: I think it's time you experienced a REAL woman.  Sure, you can argue that because you're a super-hot, super-wealthy, incredibly talented bachelor, you can have any woman in the world so why BOTHER choosing a real woman.  That would be ONE argument.

    The other side of the coin, though, is all about what you're looking for.  I mean, you MIGHT be looking for someone just to have on your arm so that everyone looks at you and thinks, "Damn!  How do two such super-hot people not just burst into flames when they look at each other?"  I mean, if all you're looking for is someone hot and nubile to spend your time with then, by all means, continue to date these gorgeous women who want nothing more than your money and a position in the sidecar when you jet around the world.  

    BUT, if you want something with a little more SUBSTANCE, then I suggest you give me a call.  Sure, I'm a little messy.  Maybe a little lazy sometimes.  I DO eat real food.  My diet consists of more than a few carrot sticks and an Ensure shake to provide nutrients.  Of course, that shows in my thighs...but, no matter.  We all look the same in the dark, right George?  

    I can be a little demanding.  I'll need you to bring home some extra half-n-half for my coffee, if that's all right.  And, oh, there are these two kids who live in my house.  They can be a little loud and demanding as well.  But, if you'll just buy them a few video games, I'm sure they won't get in the way.  Here's the good news:  I don't want to have any MORE kids.  I heard that was an issue in your last relationship.

    I have a job, which will cut into our travel schedule a little.  But I get three WEEKS of, that should be plenty of time for that little Italian getaway.  

    Oh, and I don't really wake up pretty.  I mean, my hair is a little crazy and I walk like I'm about a hundred years old immediately upon waking.  These old joints just don't respond as well as they used to.  But, in no time, my hobble increases to a slow crawl.  You'll get used to it after a while.

    Bonus news:  my hair isn't gray.  Yet.  Yours is...but I don't mind, George, because you're a guy.  A super-hot, super-wealthy, super-talented guy.  I can overlook your grays, George.  That's just how generous I am.

    I'm sure we can take care of that extra little jiggle I have when I walk the red carpet with you.  Spanx are perfect for that kind of thing and I already own some in nude AND in black.  So...we're totally covered there.  My vocabulary MIGHT be a little larger than what you're used to but we'll get you a Scrabble board and start practicing right away.  I don't want to be bored on all of these nights we'll be spending together, George.

    So, listen.  I'll just be waiting for your call.  Text is OK, too, because I DO have a job.  I'm really excited about our future together.  I know you are, too.  

    With love,
    Your future amour

    Sunday, July 7, 2013

    Why I Will Never Win a Beauty Pageant

    “Give me the discipline to get rid of the stuff that's not important, the freedom to savor the stuff that gives me joy, and the patience not to worry about the stuff that's messy but not hurting anybody.”
    ― Vinita Hampton Wright

    OK, so even if they HAVE beauty pageants for really old people on the back nine of life, I can NEVER, EVER win.  This is NOT because I do not have the perfectly crafted answer to the question "What is the biggest problem our planet faces?" because I totally do (lack of good coffee, duh) but it is because of my car.

    A rare picture.  It was someone else.
    You may have seen my car.  It's a nondescript bluish-greenish color with filthy, filthy wheels.  Well, OK, the FRONT wheels are filthy because the most brake dust is generated in the front.  The BACK wheels are just kinda dirty.  I haven't washed my car in...well, I can't actually REMEMBER the last time I washed it but I truly am grateful for all this rain we've been having because it totally rinses the grime off.

    Beauty pageant contestants are well known for their poise, their grace and the cleanliness of their cars.  This is a little known fact but I am almost CERTAIN that beauty pageant winners do not make left turns accompanied by the music of half-full water bottles being crunched under the weight of the Goodwill box that was meant to be dropped off two weeks ago. 

    I am currently missing three pairs of reading glasses.  I found ONE pair earlier tonight wedged between the right side of my driver's seat and the center console housing the emergency brake.  They weren't mangled beyond repair and are resting comfortably on the end of my nose as I type this.  Success!  Note:  Beauty pageant contestants also do not wear reading glasses.  (I am not so elitist as to claim they don't READ but, you know, if the shoe fits..)

    I just realized about five minutes ago that last night's pizza boxes (complete with at least two or three slices of actual pizza) are still in my trunk. Oops.  The BIG deal is that the four bag chairs that were absolutely drenched in the latest monsoon are still neatly folded in there as well.  Probably developing mildew as we speak.  That'll make for a nice smell in the morning...

    Any time I turn a corner, I wait for the sound of shifting items.  I should probably belt in some of the larger items simply for safety reasons.  MOST of the stuff in my car is not actually trash (although I did see some french fries in the back seat yesterday...I'm assuming the boys are saving those for a day when I forget to feed them). Most of the stuff is just...stuff.  Shirts.  Socks. Pens.  Books.  Notebooks.  CDs.  Water bottles (all half-full...none of them are empty...which is weird).  Yo-yos.  (I counted a few days ago.  There are three.)

    One would think that I would simply...clean it out.  But, something always distracts me.  As soon as I get in the house from the garage my mind immediately flits to...anything else.  But I suppose I need to do something about that pizza and those chairs pretty quickly...maybe even tonight.

    So, Beauty Pageant Organizers, just don't call me.  It's not even just that I would be mortified over the swimsuit competition (not because of my fat butt...more because of my lily-white, blue-veined legs) but it's that you won't be able to do the car close-up.  I just can't hang.

    It's getting late.  I'll think about cleaning it tomorrow.  Tomorrow IS another day...

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

    We Are Family

    “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
    ― Mother Teresa

    I have spent the past week entirely in the company of my children.  I am currently locked away in my bedroom with a glass of wine and two dogs with the television blasting the third season of the Gilmore Girls.  After seven days, suffice it to say that I am finished with family time.

    Rock, paper, scissors during the Fourth of July Festival
    Don't get me wrong.  I adore my children.  I do.  But I would currently like to adore them from a distance.  Preferably with them downstairs pursuing their own activities and me upstairs not having to talk to them.  People say that I will miss them when they're gone.  And I'm sure I will.  (Surely.)  But, for now, I need some space.  And some quiet.  And a few minutes where no one is farting and then telling me about it.

    We had a lot of terrific conversations this past week and we endured some fun (and some not-so-fun) activities together.  I learned more about these growing strangers in my home and I feel closer to them after hours in the car and in the house.  We've had junk food feasts, marathon movie sessions, car rides in the countryside and a variety of learning activities disguised as fun.  We didn't get to nearly all of what we wanted to do but that's typical of life with me.  One day, we decided to wake up when we wanted to and we stayed in our pajamas and ate ice cream.  We didn't have a typical "vacation" but it was one that may have been the most valuable yet.  And I'm leaving it feeling fulfilled and rested and ready to get away from these two.

    I came to an interesting conclusion here at the end of the week.  For a long time, I have yearned for an adult companion to share our vacations and, in truth, our lives.  I told my Ex Husband the other day that I am glad for the ability to come and go as I please, to do what I want and to not share my bed with a snoring man.  But that wasn't really the whole truth.  I have wished for that very thing over the past several years.  I tell myself (and others) that it's better this way.  It's better to be single and do what I wish.  But I have longed for a man who loves me and, most importantly, loves my children as his own.  And, as much as I like to ignore it, I am a woman who was made to be loved by a man. 

    This may really not happen for our little family.  Thing 1 will be up and out into the world in only five short years and Thing 2 will be not far behind him.  During this week together, I found that I enjoyed their company wholly and fully and we were able to be loud and silly together.  I found myself wondering if a blended family would somehow change that.  The answer is undoubtedly yes.  It WOULD change, I can't say if it would be BETTER or WORSE.  But the change would be inevitable.

    So I came up with a few good reasons why it's OK for me to remain a single mom for the next seven years:

    • I can make all the decisions.  Let's face it.  I'm ALL ABOUT control.  And being right.  And, if I'm the only adult present, I can sing Janet Jackson ALL DAY LONG.  "Now I know I've got to take...control.  Now, I've got a lot..."  I can say yes.  Or no.  And we can have ice cream BEFORE dinner.  
    • I can roll my eyes when Thing 1 has an adolescent throwing-things-in-his-room-fit.  This morning, Thing 1 woke up on the WRONG side of bed.  Thing 2 and I were downstairs hearing thuds and thumps.  I knew Thing 1 was just working things out and allowed the behavior because he wasn't harming anyone...he was just getting out his feelings physically without being destructive.  That's totally allowed in my home.  When he came down and slammed his breakfast dishes on the table, I addressed the behavior quickly and it ceased immediately.  I worry that another adult might escalate poor behavior instead of addressing and defusing it.
    • We can eat cereal for dinner.  Rules are present in my home but I'm not a stickler for some things.  I see no reason to cook a meat and two vegetables for EVERY SINGLE DINNER.  Sometimes we have cereal. Sometimes we have nutter-fluffers.  And, while we almost ALWAYS eat at the table, sometimes we have TV dinners.  Flexibility is my middle name.
    • There is no drama.  I'm not always the best at choosing partners.  I don't want to cry in front of my kids because my feelings are hurt.  I don't want to lose myself or sacrifice myself for another person.  That wouldn't be good.  When the time is right, I will be in a HEALTHY relationship with someone who respects me and loves my kids.  As it is, we have zero drama.  Zero drama is an important part of family life. 
    • They get all of me.  I can focus on my hoodlums.  My time and attention belong to them.  OK, I understand that it's important for them to see how healthy relationships function.  But they can get that from their dad and his girlfriend right now.  Or from their grandparents.  They don't have to model relationships from me.  What I can do is give them my energy.  I can laugh at their jokes (but only if they're funny) and play games with them and talk with them about their ideas. 
     Sure, part of me is still a bit sad that we don't have a fourth wheel with a wheel or two or three of his own.   But that's just not in the cards for us.  At least not for right now.   And that's OK. (I mean, I wouldn't say "no" to, you know, a real-life Prince Charming or anything...)  Our little family is chugging along just fine.  As long as they stay downstairs for a little while...

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.



    Wednesday, July 3, 2013

    Ignorance Truly Is Bliss

    “One reason that cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers.”
    ― Gwendolyn Brooks

    Some time ago, I made the decision to remove the daily news from my life.  Before then, I let the news wash over me, swirling into every corner of my head.  I wallowed in political upheavals, I raged at social injustices and I wept for victims in every tragedy.  I sought out news that made me FEEL and wept over the Sunday paper more times than I can count.  I could speak intelligently about issues around the world and I would do so, often heatedly with my voice strident and raised.

    I found myself walking around, zombie-like, in a storm cloud of depression almost all the time.  Sure, there were other factors but immersing myself in the news fed this overwhelming sadness.  I ached emotionally almost all the time.  I sought out stories that I KNEW would make me feel worse but somehow it seemed that I deserved this pain.  After all, these poor people in these news stories were suffering far worse than I and it only seemed right that someone tried to share their pain.

    This was crazy.  I was taking on the problems of the ENTIRE WORLD and feeling bad about it. 

    I started taking full responsibility for my own emotions a few years ago.  I developed the understanding (the TRUE understanding instead of just the intellectual awareness) that no one can make you feel anything.  Sure, people can treat you badly but your reaction to their treatment of you is entirely your own.  If someone yells at you and you feel sad...that sadness comes from you.  If they yell at you and you feel angry...that anger originates in you.  They may be TRYING to get these reactions out of you but, in the end, the reactions are your own and fully of your own making.  You can, believe it or not, choose to react in different ways.  And, if someone treats you badly over and over again, you are also responsible for whether or not you continue to allow them in your life.  You have the ultimate responsibility for your own actions and your own life.

    The same thing is true of circumstances: jobs, activities, and, yes, even news.

    So I made a choice.  I no longer read news if I can help it.  I watch snippets of the Today Show to get a general idea of what's going on in the world but I don't follow up on the stories with a variety of media outlets.  I don't go to  I don't visit liberal news media sources or conservative news media sources.  I even stopped listening to NPR.

    And guess what?  On the whole, I am a much happier person.

    Oh, I can no longer hold my own in a political discussion and I would fall flat on my face in a dinner party discussion of world events.  I don't really talk about the news.  Ever.  Does it make me an irresponsible citizen?  Yes, I think it might.  But I was a responsible citizen for a really long time and I didn't effect any real change in the world.  Do I care?  Not so much. 

    I worry that not knowing about the world around me will make my brain decay and wither.  But I still love books and I even started working those crazy Sudoku puzzles in addition to my various word games and crosswords.  So, I'm exercising that muscle.

    Do I want the world to change?  Oh my, yes.  Do I want people to operate out of love and not hate?  Of course I do.  But the world will do what it will do.  And I will live in love...not sadness.  And maybe, just maybe, the fact that I'm not watching the news and absorbing all that bile into my own life will cause change in my little corner of the world.  

    THAT, my friends, is making a difference.  Because I no longer walk around sad and numbed, I am more patient and kind.  I wasn't making ANY difference before.  I wasn't an activist for change.  I was just a sad person reading a lot about the suffering of others.  I wasn't DOING ANYTHING but feeling sad.

    There are people who are spurred to action by reading the news. Their outrage drives them to create change.  I salute those people.  And perhaps someday I will be one of them.  But, for now, I continue to heal.  I continue to become a complete person.  And, until I am stronger, I will avoid the news.  Happily.  Blissfully. In ignorance.

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.



    Monday, July 1, 2013

    Winging It: An American Family Staycation

    “Her purchases just about busted her vacation budget, but what else is a vacation for, if not for overindulgence and mindless extravagance?”
    ― Candace Schuler

    For the first time in my adult life, I am actively participating in a staycation.   The staycation isn't one where we just stay at HOME, but one where we stay within a day's drive (to and from...we spend the nights in our own beds) from our home.  The idea of a staycation runs in direct opposition to everything I feel.  I enjoy leaving home.  I like going..anywhere and everywhere.  I enjoy flying and driving to different places and spending the nights in random hotels in random places.  And, if my funds and time were unlimited, I don't think I would ever spend more than a few nights in a row at home.  Perhaps I would tire of unlimited travel eventually, but I think it would take about forty years.

    Regardless, I have embarked on the path of an actual grown-up these past couple of years and am not willing to spend money I don't have on a vacation.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spends about $1,415 for a week's vacation.  When I think about our past vacations, that's probably a pretty accurate figure.  I'd like to spend about a THIRD of that this year. Ideally, I'd like to spend about a TENTH of that but gas alone is going to blow that idea.  I didn't save money specifically for vacation this year...and I'm living my life on a budget without overspending (which is a novel concept in my life and one that frustrates me greatly on a regular basis).  I loathe the idea that I have to factor in expenses in planning a vacation but it's a cold reality.  Being a REAL grown-up SUCKS.

    Thing 1, Thing 2 and I on a Great Adventure
    I did say "planning" a vacation, right?   Yeah, I don't really know about all that.  I'm kind of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl.  I had a big "plan" for today's great adventure. I was going to drive them up to the Dan River and get a few inner tubes and have a lazy river float today complete with a succulent picnic lunch on a riverbank.  I woke up to the sound of a delicious rain and cloudy skies.  Hmm.  Guess we'll go indoors today.  Somewhere.  I'll have to think about it...

    I'm convinced this year's staycation will be a valuable experience for the hoodlums.  They'll learn a few things on their summer vacation with mom this year:

    1. You don't have to go far to have fun.  There will be days (perhaps today) when we stay in town and do things like go to TWO movies in a row.  Or we'll have Family Games at the kitchen table with popcorn and ice cream.  Or we'll just go amble along some of the many beautiful walking paths in our town we've never bothered to explore.  Life is a Great Adventure...every matter where you end up.
    2. Our vacation will fit into a budget.  Just because I WANT to fly to Europe and have a Grand Euuropean Adventure doesn't mean I can afford to do it.  The reality of life is that you have to fit your adventures into your wallet.  It's not a lesson I enjoy and it's not a lesson I love to teach on VACATION.  But it's a valuable lesson for kids.  They KNOW I love to go (just go).  And they know that traveling is something I WANT.  But, there is a greater lesson to them in letting them know that I can adjust my wants to fit within my means.  Sure, I still have dreams of an amazing cross-country adventure (that I've decided I will begin saving for...TODAY!) with Thing 1 and Thing 2.  But, for now, I am going to play out our dreams on a smaller scale.  Sometimes, kids, you can't always get what you want.  But you can STILL have fun doing it.  
    3. What I want MOST is to spend time as a family.  I adore my kids.  And they're growing into young adults before my very eyes.  They're developing their own personalities and becoming people that I enjoy being around.  This staycation is just another opportunity to be with these new people I'm ushering into adulthood.  In the end?  It doesn't really matter if, where or when we go.  The thing that matters is that I get the pleasure of their company.  (Talk to me in a week when I've been around them 24-7 for seven days.)
    It's a staycation.  The Great Kelly Family Staycation of 2013.  But it's STILL a Great Adventure.  These things are fun and fun is good, as sayeth the wise and good Theodore Geiss.

    If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.