Jul 9, 2017

A Dose of Loneliness Amidst the Crowd

Sometimes I just want to take a crowbar, firmly wedge myself into a group of best friends, and pretend like I had been there from the start. Does this happen to anyone else? Like I watch them from afar (thank you social media) and think to myself—Hey, I like that too. Or, Hey, that is something I love to do. Or HEY! We are just exactly the same, you and I. And in my case, it isn’t just a single group either. In fact, it is almost any group; any gathering of friends I am not part of. Every party, every event—Every. Freaking. Time. It always makes my heart hurt a little bit to be excluded. Then I feel silly, because I don’t even really know them! It is a vicious cycle I just can’t seem to quit. And why? Loneliness.

I pretty much have one best friend who has stuck with me through thick and thin over the years—and what a blessing she is. The friendship has lasted despite, or perhaps because of, the distance always between us. In looks, we couldn’t be more different. I am tall, and while not heavy, sturdily built with blonde hair, brown eyes, and skin that tans easily in summer. She is shorter and wisp thin with red hair, green eyes, and freckles. We actually met on the monkey bars, playing Olympic gymnasts, when I was about eight, and she was a year and a half younger. Over the years we never went to the same elementary school, the same junior high or high school, and for the most part, we didn’t go to the same college either. Across our entire educational career we literally had one class together. But we only lived about a block and a half apart and had so much in common we were as close as sisters.  

I had other friends in the neighborhood and friends on the swim team, but none of those really stuck beyond school. When college came and I felt like suddenly they all vanished. Back then I didn’t know anyone, and didn’t really have time to know anyone. I worked, went to school, went to the gym, slept and repeated the cycle. I still had my best friend most of the time, but we were getting busier and busier with life. Then I got married and moved—but not too far. Then she got married and moved—to Carolina. We were still best friends, but we hardly ever saw each other anymore.

And while I did find enough time to date and marry my husband in that time (thank goodness), there weren’t too many more people who stuck quite so tightly as him, my best friend, and my family. A lot of the friendships we made in our neighborhood were ebb and flow. We would spend a lot of time with people, thinking that this was finally it, but then they would move out or get busy with their jobs. Then we had our own kids. For some that makes building mommy friendships easier. For me it was even more difficult. I tried a few times to connect, and wedge myself into a group here and there. It just never worked out. You can’t force someone to be your friend. You must choose each other. And while there is something so beautiful and wonderful about that, it is also terrible.

Rewind to just over a year ago when we sold our home of 10 years to live in an apartment. We wanted to build a house better suited to our family desires, and I knew the apartment was temporary—a year at most. It felt like a waste trying to make any connections there. Why bother when we would be leaving in just one year? And it got harder and harder to stay in touch with my old friends. We never really spent that much time with each other, even when we were in the same neighborhood. And with the distance between us every visit had to be planned and scheduled. It felt like a job! As a result I just spent all that time with my family—not all a bad thing. I love them to pieces and they are so much more than just friends to me. But at the same time, they are stuck with me no matter what, just like I am stuck with them.

In this new neighborhood, I sort of feel like I have this blank slate, much like I did in college. Except this time I have room in my life to actually do something about it. And that completely stresses me out. I desperately want to make those deep connections again, but man I just know it will be a struggle for me. Will they like me? Will they want to spend time together? Will they make time? Will they choose me as much as I choose them? Will the friendship feel easy between us, like we had already been friends all this time? Can we just keep showing up in support of each other? I really, really hope so. Wish me luck!

Jul 7, 2017

I Joined a Soccer League

…a very small soccer league, but still…Yes! I did it.

A while ago an old friend reached out and asked if there was anyone who wanted to join a soccer team she was heading up. At the time my brother was in a league with friends from work and we had seen a few of his games. It looked like fun and sparked some interest in me. But I had never really played much before. I had only kicked the ball around the yard with my brother and stepped in on a few pick-up games at the park. I knew my friend played on the high school team and I was beyond intimidated by the idea. So I let the request go unanswered—the first time.

The next time the offer came around we were going to be in the middle of moving into our new home for the first few games. I knew I was going to busy, and stressed, and tired. Timing wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. Yet, the invitation to join the league still tugged at something inside of me. I really wanted to do it. I wanted to do something I had never done, connect with people, and compete again. The whole idea sent a thrill through me. So I talked to Spence and asked my friend a few questions. Was it okay that I had never played before? Yes. How much would it cost? The price was a little steep for 8 games, but I still really wanted to do it. Would Spence mind if I did it? Not at all. It felt foolish and a little selfish, but I committed, paid, and signed on for the team.

That first game the other team forfeit—they didn’t have enough players show up on time to play. I was bummed at first. But then our team used the time to get to know each other, practice a little, and play a quick game. I invited my sister in law to come play on the team, and was delighted to find out I knew another player on our team—she used to baby sit me years and years ago. What fun! By the end of those forty minutes I was exhausted, and hurting in places I hadn’t worked in a long time, and completely thrilled. I was still really intimidated and nervous about actually playing in the future, but that first experience had been great.

Before the next game I felt sick, much like the feeling I used to get before a swim meet. My stomach churned and I felt like I had to use the bathroom every five minutes. But I pulled on my socks, stuffed in my shin guards, and tightened the laces on my thrifted cleats. We had nine ladies on the team, so that equated to six on the field and three subs. I rotated off every time I was out of breath and soaked in what was happening on the field. I would listen closely to the others on the bench and picked up as much as I could about the rules of indoor soccer, some tactics, and of course, the jargon.

“Shoot!” that one was easy.
“Man on!” meant a defender was closing in on you.
“Line,” meant drive straight up the middle.
“Wide,” or “corner,” meant to look for a teammate in a corner or on the side.
"Drop," meant you had support behind you if you needed to pass backwards.
“Take ball,” meant to step up on the offender with the ball and let someone else pick up the player you were defending.

Aside from learning how to play, I also enjoyed getting to know the players on the team and the consistent rotation of new subs. We always had a nice combination of veteran players and newbies like me. And those first couple of games felt like we would be well matched. We won the second game and lost the third, but just barely. It was fun, and I could feel the pain in my muscles for two days after game.

During the fourth game my parents and little brother also came to watch, which was just funny to me. It was like I was a little league team or something. Unfortunately, before they arrived I rolled my ankle—badly. It popped twice on the way down, and I jumped up and hobbled off the field before the pain could really set in. On the bench I could feel the zing of the sprain and immediately sat down. After a few minutes I tightened the laces on my boot and started testing my weight on it. It was so painful at first, but I knew people were going to want to rotate out. If it was just a small sprain I could probably walk it off. After a few minutes of pacing I was walking decently and ended up back on the field throughout the game. We lost that game, and by the end I was tired, and felt the low throb of pain in my foot, but still had so much fun. My family went out to sushi after and I could feel the swelling set in. I iced my foot as soon as I got home, but in the morning it was black and blue and a complete cankle.

I had to use the bad ankle the next day to help move our big stuff out of the storage unit. And I had responsibilities on Sunday as well. Walking on it actually helped keep away the stiffness, but nothing I did helped with the swelling and bruising. By the end of that week the purple was finally fading to green, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to play soccer on Friday—and I was surprised at how sad that made me. I had really come to enjoy the weekly games. After that I found a brace and was sure to play the next three games a little more carefully. We lost all three, but I enjoyed every minute.

Now we only have one more game left, and I’m sad. I have had so much fun these last few weeks. And despite still getting queasy before each game, I love being out there. Half the time I feel like I have no clue what to do, but every once in a while I fall in step behind the ball and do exactly the right thing. During one game I accidentally scored a goal—it just sort of rolled in amidst a tangle of legs and cleats, and because I was the last one to really touch it the goal was mine. But that wasn’t even the highlight of the game.

The highlight for me was when someone passed me the ball and we had teammate downfield with an unimpeded shot. But there was a defender between me and her. So I dribbled a bit to draw the defender up and then booted the ball over her head. It went just as high and as far as I wanted it to, landing right in front of our player, and she went in and scored. Giddy with delight I whooped and danced—not believing that I had just done that! 

Those are the moments make every stress, every failure, and every misstep so worth it. And I am sad I won’t have any more of those. I guess that means I will just need to sign up again some time. And to anyone debating about doing something new, or scary, or out of their comfort zone—just go for it! I can’t say that playing in this league has been a life changing experience, but it has been exactly what I needed during this crazy time in my life. I am so grateful for the experience, the people I met, and the confidence it has given me. 

Feb 21, 2017

movie review: la la land

I liked this movie, I did—but I really wanted to love it. I had seen so many reviews and heard many good things. It sounded wonderful, transportive, and genuine—hearkening back to the musicals of yesteryear. I was honestly expecting an old-fashioned masterpiece. That is likely why I left the theater feeling more than a little disappointed. And it wasn’t just the ending.

Q: Is it possible to hold on to your dreams? A: Not without sacrifice.

Mia (Emma Stone) is working as a barista on the Warner Bros. lot, but aspires to become an actress/playwright just like the ones who breeze in and out of the coffee shop. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a stubborn jazz pianist, obsessively stuck in his purist ways, who wants to open up his own club with the same traits. While Mia constantly cuts out of work for auditions (which are laugh-out-loud hilarious!), Sebastian is stuck plunking out clichéd, cut-rate tunes in various clubs. Both are old school dreamers trapped in a modern mess of the mundane. They cross paths in the opening scene, flip each other off, and then stumble across each other a couple more times before the inevitable. The rest is the story of how these two lovers get swept up, fall in love and fail in life, chase their dreams, and come out of it all on the other side.

My Take: ***(Little Spoilers)***
Because of a few reviews from friends I knew what to expect in the ending. It was going to be a let-down, and I was prepared to handle that. I did handle it. In fact, the ending sort of saved the film for me. It grounded the plot, and the unsettled feeling stuck with me long after I had driven home and was up to my armpits in laundry and toys. That means a lot. Unfortunately the rest of the film stumbled, almost as much as the two armature tap dancers on screen.

The movie started off on the wrong note—literally. Due to some technical glitch I am sure, the sound in the theater was just a fraction behind what was happening on screen. Hardly noticeable really, but just enough that I couldn’t get over it for the rest of the film. So yes, while I can appreciate people bursting into song in the middle of an L.A. traffic jam, I was so caught up in the delay that the opening scene felt completely fake and cheesy—as did much of what followed.

Something I could get behind? The retro glam! I was head over heels for the suits, the shoes, the dresses, and especially the 40’s vibe sunglasses. I mean, nothing says romance like starry nights, street lamps, and a billowy yellow dress. While the setting is contemporary L.A., right down to the Prius, the soul of this movie is deeply rooted in old Hollywood. Swoon!

All in All:
I liked it. I am still thinking about it, which is something too. And I am making a playlist from the soundtrack on Spotify as we speak. It was a romp and ramble, full of all the passion and pizzazz of old Hollywood romance. With that came a few eye rolls and head shakes (ahem, almost the entire planetarium scene). But it also had a brooding, moody, disconnect that plucked at me--bittersweet to the very end. All together it was sweet, hopeful, and devoted, while also being discordant, frail, and turbulent. So while I didn’t love it, I will likely own it once the movie is released—I'll just skip through the long, whimsical, floating scenes and the montage at the end, thank you very much. 

Nov 30, 2016

Just Say No to Humbug!

So it is finally here, the season of Holidays. Only this time I am not getting excited. Nope. No little tickle in my stomach or twinkle in my eyes. No matter how much I try to get in the spirit, I just can't muster it this year. What is going on? Well nothing. Nothing is happening. I am on pause. And that is a bit of the problem.

Ever since we started the whole home building process I feel like my life is on pause. I can't really buy, or build, or make because I am saving it for our new house. So what can I do? Not much besides wait. And waiting for permits was already completely exhausting. No word, no timeline, no start date. Not having anything to go on made it feel like we would never have a home. They said four to eight weeks for permits, and of course it took the full eight weeks--almost to the day. Then it happened! We had our permit and construction appointment. We went over the blueprints and I felt it--that excited, happy feeling I thought I had forgotten how to feel.

We would have the meeting just in time to pour concrete before it got too cold. Yipee! We walked through the newly completed show homes and the spec home that is similar to ours. It was thrilling and, dare I say, joyous. Finally moving forward! We walked over and just stared at our lot. It was beautiful to me again. A beautiful hole. A big, beautiful hole because they had to dig down past the peat moss and refill it with engineered dirt that wouldn't expand and contact with moisture. It was really happening! But alas, it was not meant to be. We still did not have concrete and it was coming up on Thanksgiving with cold, winter weather right behind it. Not ideal concrete pouring weather. The day we drove home from our St. George vacation it snowed, and snowed, and snowed. And with each flake I knew it would be even more time before they could pour concrete.

So now, it is approaching Christmas and still no concrete. I walk through the stores, stocked full of warm and cheerful home decorations, and I sink. Bah humbug! I do not want to buy decorations just for an apartment where nothing works and nothing fits. Our apartment--blech. I am so sick of it. There is absolutely no room for anything more in there  anyway. And even if there was, I don't want to spend money on things I will use for just one year and never want to see again. For a hot second I thought I would be really picky, and only choose the things I would want to take with me to the new house. But honestly, all that did was make me want to BE in the new house even more. So I'm saying no this year. No to the decorating. No to the tree. No to the swags, and garlands, and silver sleigh bells. No to the tinsel, and trimmings, and lawn ornaments. No to all the things. Not this year.

Instead I have decided to take myself off of pause and say yes to the experiences. Yes to snowmen, sledding, and bundling up to walk the streets. Yes to baking cookies, and reading books, and writing letters. Yes to taking all the pictures of my family. Yes to games with family. Yes to driving around town to see the lights. Yes to sipping hot chocolate in front of our favorite Holiday movies. Yes to reading about the Savior and remembering the reason for the season. I don't need a tree, or ornaments, or lights, or our new house to get me in the spirit. I just need my family and the Savior.

Mar 13, 2016

Get Over It!

My family has been passing around a bug this last week, and it sucks! I have been sick as a dog, coughing, fevered, stuffed, sore, and not sleeping a wink. It is the most ill I have been in a long while--and I hate it! Not only is it just plain awful to be sick, but we are in the throes of selling our house. We have had inspections, appraisals, installers, and countless others in and out of our home the last couple of weeks. I have had to back off of freelance work and start putting some of our things "away," in storage so we can move out by the end of the month. I am stressed out, pooped out, and not handling anything very well. This has me in a terrible funk. The kind that makes me the worst possible form of human being. It needs to stop!

I know, pity party! But I just can't help it. I am overwhelmed all the time. I think the only one constant is my ability to yell at my kids. I don't like this side of me--this state I have allowed myself to fall into. I am cranky, mean, and snappy. I even sulk, which is not pretty, especially when my nose and eyes run at the same rate. So I am going to do my best, starting now, to just get over it.

Here is How I Will Do It

These are the steps I need to take:
  • Focus on supporting and loving my kids through this tough transition
  • Let go of what I can't control and focus on what I can
  • Take all the naps when I need them (until this dang cold is caput!)
  • Yard Sale!!! The main opportunity for dejunking my life
  • Seek and accept the help I need from others (tough for me)
  • Find every opportunity to express my gratitude because we have been so blessed
  • Support my husband better, he does so so much for us
  • Put my iPhone away

Mar 2, 2016

Healthy Dose of Laughs During Snack Time

I crack up every time EV eats blueberries. She used to love them as a baby and would eat them whole without complaint. But now she is growing a more delicate palate and has started refusing certain foods. Tomatoes make the top of the "ick" list with full on refusal, cheese is the top of the "ummmm" list, and now blueberries fall somewhere between the two. She pops one in her mouth and mushes it around. Then she slides out the skins with her tongue, pinches them between her little finger and thumb, and tosses them on the floor for the dog. The dog then picks up each skin with her tongue, then spits it back out as well. Over and over until her little fist-full of blueberries is diminished and there is a pile of blueberry skins on the floor. 

Now, I could get ridiculously mad about this. I could rant and rage every time I step on a slimy blueberry skin.  I could stop giving her blueberries. But I just don't have the energy for that. I not only allow her odd eating routine, but also sit there and laugh and smile while she does it. Because I adore her--the place she is at right now. And I don't want to forget it. 

I spend much of my time looking forward to what is coming next. "I'll be happier when..." and then every happiness gets pushed off. This is especially true lately, since we are putting our house up for sale, moving out, and planning to build. I keep thinking I will be happier, kinder, sweeter, better--just as soon as we are settled into our apartment. Then it hit me...that is such a depressing way to live. 

Moving is a big change, and one of the toughest things. As I pack away the books on my shelves my heart breaks a little. It is so hard to not know where we will be in a few weeks, where we will live and what we will be doing. It also feels a little backward, selling our house to go and live in an apartment for a year. I get stuck in a melancholy cloud. But the blueberries gave me a way out. 

For ten minutes every day, at snack time, I can sit with my little girl at the table and just marvel and laugh. I soak in all that we are right now, and for the most part it is pretty good stuff. 

Jan 15, 2016

Reaping the Rewards

Already I have been kicking January's butt. I mean, usually I hate this month with every fiber of my being. It is slow, cold, and lagging after months busy with friends, family, and Holiday delights. The days are dark and the sun is gone most of the time. Did I mention the cold? It is dismal, and often I have already fallen short of one resolution or another by mid January. But not this time...

The Kill List

This time I am attacking January like Atillah Hunn, and already I am starting to see the benefits. So here is just a rundown of what I accomplished in the first 15 days of the year:
  • Cleaned the entire house
  • Purged my bookshelf
  • Called a realtor
  • Had her do a walk through of our house
  • Decided to be ready to sell by March 1st (I am freaking out, and kinda sad)
  • Already boxed up some things for storage
  • Found a list of 10 local apartments that are pet friendly
  • Joined a writing group
  • Took something for them to critique (and had a blast chatting)
  • Set up a play date schedule for my kids
  • Handed down a church responsibility to the next leader
  • Wrote at least 7,500 words (not freelance)
  • Cleared off the spin bike (haven't ridden it, but hey, it's a start)
  • Used my juicer at least five times
  • Meal prepped at lest three times
  • Ordered out only six times (a huge step for us)
  • And turned in all my freelance work on time!

No question it has been an exhausting 15 days. I have also had a sick kid, a teething kid, and a Superman working 18 days straight. Fortunately today is Friday, and it snowed last night. So the kids and I are taking refuge in the warm house and spending the day just watching Rescue Bots, playing Disney Infinity, and eating all the leftovers. I am even contemplating a nap. Because honestly, I've earned it!

I know I still have a long road ahead of us, especially if we commit to selling the house as quickly as the realtor thinks we should. It wasn't something we were planning to tackle so soon. But the sorry truth is we are quickly outgrowing this starter home. And if Superman wants a separate work shop, which he does, then we will need to move eventually to a place with larger property. So why not now? Before kids start school. Before the busy summer starts up and the market triples in size and we are less likely to sell for the price we want. Before we loose our vigor for this new year and new adventure it promises. 

Wish me luck! I will absolutely need it if I hope to keep this up and meet all my other "Commit 2016" goals. 

Jan 11, 2016

The SEO Rules that Rule them all in 2016

When I tell friends and family that I write freelance for a living they all seem very impressed. Their eyes light up with interest and their smiles widen—like freelance writing is the coolest job anyone could have on the planet. So glam! Of course London writes freelance, am I right? They almost always have questions about who I write for, where I get my ideas, and how I find jobs. It all sounds so chic and interesting to them. But the reality? My freelance career is pretty mundane.

In the Shire, a Long Time Ago…

When I first started writing SEO based content I was still in college. I went to classes, did mounds of homework, attended a writing group, and felt like I was completely losing my mind. I was already working a part time job in accounting (choking sounds), and suddenly one of my group mates asked me if I wanted to write freelance for him. It sounded like The One Ring of Power to me too, back then.

Me: “Sure, if you think I am good enough.”
Him: “I’ve seen your stuff. You are good enough.”
Me: “What kind of writing?”
Him: “SEO based web content on a variety of topics.”
Me: “Um, ok. What is SEO content?”
Him: “Don’t worry, I will teach you.”

And he proceeded to give me assignments with super clear directions on keywords, how often I should use them, and what the content should look like. I wrote about spaghetti, going to the zoo, iPhone cases, and treadmills. I wrote coupon pages for pizza, and pasta. I wrote about a colon cleansing diet pill. By the end of school I had thought I had it down pat. I was basically tricking Google into thinking I had good content because I used certain words a certain number of times. No big! I felt as slimy as Gollum. But then, that was pretty much what SEO meant. To get that first slot in search engines, you just needed a lot of the right words—the right words in the right places.

Then this friend dissolved his company, but recommended me to someone else I could write for. I picked up another job, and another. I figured out how to use Elance.com.  I picked up more jobs and got more direction along the way. Then I specifically wrote SEO content for an SEO company about what it meant to write SEO. It was crazy, and a little stressful, but I gleaned a ton of information about the craft. Here I am, almost 10 years later and SEO has changed dramatically. There is no tricking or sidelining anymore. Effective SEO is absolutely here to stay, and you better know how to do it right.

Effective SEO Rules for 2016

You cannot drive traffic by packing the right keywords in headlines and filling the rest of the content with shiz. Search engines are smarter now, and they won’t allow sites and pages to play dumb. Instead, if you want to join the fellowship, you have to follow these rules:

1. Interaction
Back when I first started, the most you were looking for out of a page was to get “the click.” Now the search engines are the Eye of Sauron. They watch how visitors interact with your site to see if they come back, where they click, how long they are there, and if they find what they are looking for. It isn’t just the first click anymore, but the post-click activity that has more value. So your SEO content not only gets them there, but must also keep them there if you want to maintain your place at the top of the results page.

2. Interpretation
As said before, keywords were the be-all, end-all. Now, not so much. Instead search engines are good at interpreting meaning. So while it is still good to mention, “Horn of Gondor” on your page, if that is what you want to rank for, it isn’t the only set of keywords you should use. Google also looks for other words you might expect, like “death of Boromir,” or “Stewards of Gondor.” This gives the content authority and helps bring up rankings. Also, because 75% of queries are between three and five words, you might want to keep all headlines to that same length as well.

3. Experience
Original content ranks higher than ever. So images, videos, and text need to be the best possible content—things people want to read, like, and share. Ultimately, this means you need to care about what you are writing. Or at least care enough to keep it original, readable, and useful.

4. Extent
Another thing to note, longer articles get more attention. On average articles with 1,200 to 1,500 words rank higher on search engines than those with just 300. However, with so much text in one place, SEO writers need to break up the content. Most web-writing pros suggest you use sub-headings, bulleted lists, and more images. This makes them easier for readers to digest.

5. Optimization
It isn’t just Pippin with a palantir in his pocket. Now, more than ever, people have a smartphone that goes with them everywhere. They use it to read news, check social media, find physicians.  As such, Google not only needs to understand content on a website on a desktop, but also understand content within an app on a mobile device.

 Of course there are more trends and more to it, but this is what SEO is right now. There are a few other things involving the rise of voice search and “direct answers,” but I will save those for another post, another time—if there is any interest. Basically, this is what I do as a freelance writer, and why SEO is still the King of Gondor, and why Sauron never wins. And yes, I am such a geek!

Jan 1, 2016

Word for 2016: "Commit"

Each year I choose a word to focus on for the next 365 days. Last year I sort of dropped the ball and completely forgot about choosing a word to live by. Funny thing was I felt the absence of that intention. It is nice to be dedicated and to work towards something. So, instead of repeating last year's mistake, I decided mid-December on a word for this year instead of . "COMMIT." It was a word that kept coming to my mind as I looked back on some of my disappointments from the previous year.

To me this word represents how much I am willing to invest in myself. Instead of waffling back and forth on decisions, I will commit. Instead of fudging the deadlines on my work and my play, I am going to commit. Instead of just saying I will do something, I am going to...yeah, you probably get the picture. There are five specific areas I want to zero on in this year. I commit to my craft, my body, my mind, my faith, and my family. Now, down to the specifics.

5 Ways I Commit to 2016

Here are the exact goals I have outlined for this year to work in tandem with my word:

1. Commit to my Craft: I am going to write 500 words every single day. 
This is something I heard said by a college professor back in the day. "If you want to be a serious writer, then you have to write. You have to write every single day." I heard them, but I didn't act upon the council. Then, just the other day on my Facebook, another writer friend posted a page that listed out the daily word count for several famous authors. I took it as a sign, looked it over, and decided 500 words a day was something I could actually, and should actually do. So, I plotted out a chart on my Google Drive and will mark off the days I hit the 500 word mark. I will not miss a day!

2. Commit to my Body: I am going to do another Triathlon Sprint. 
I did one about five years ago (was it really that long?) and loved it so much. I loved the training, and the working out. I loved the time I had to just focus on myself. I loved how in shape I was. There was just so much to like about it. So, I am going to do it again. There are several of them I could do over the course of the summer, and I might do those, but the one I am aiming for is the Turkey Triathlon in November. It is the one I did the last time, and seems like a fitting choice for a repeat. I don't necessarily want to improve on a certain time or do anything better than I did the last time. I just want to do it again and feel confident in my physical ability.

3. Commit to my Mind: I am going to meditate once a week. 
I have several friends who think meditation is the end-all when it comes to health and sanity. It helps them manage stress, depression, anxiety, and numerous other plagues brought on by too much busy-ness. Admittedly, the last time I meditated, truly meditated, was just before the State competition my senior year of high school. I had a bunch of the swimmers sleep over at my house and one of them had a meditation tape we listened to right before bed. I remember the soothing man's voice helping us focus on goals, flex and relax certain muscle quadrants, etc. Then I totally zonked off. It was super relaxing and helped me let go of the anxious feeling that might have kept me from a good night's rest. So I am going to read a few more articles and books, download an app, and make sure to meditate once a week. I want to use the time to center myself, focus on what matters most, and maybe ease a little tension that has me snapping at my kids all too often.

4. Commit to my Faith: I am going to read scripture every night before bed. 
...not exactly something I have excelled at as of late. A few years ago, when my husband was working nights and I was left to my own fears and devices, I read scripture every night before bed. It was my way to let go of my fears that something might happen to me, you know, while I was alone in the house at night--when all the scary things happen. We also got a dog! But honestly, I remember feeling so full of God's love and light when I read from scripture. I knew things and felt things so clearly. Now I get promptings and messages, but only a fraction of what it should be. I want to feel that way again, renew my testimony, and increase my faith. The best way I know how to do that is to read from the best books.

5. Commit to my Family: I am going to give time to my children and my spouse each month. 
This will not be easy. I get so wrapped up in my own things that I often find my attention divided. I am on my phone while having a conversation with my son. Or I am working on my freelance while also trying to make sure my daughter doesn't get into the cleaning supplies under the sink. I am not saying those things will never happen, because they absolutely will. I will be simultaneously working and watching my kids more often than not. However, I will also specifically set aside time each month this year just for them--one on one. No phone, no television, no computer to get between us. I am going to put it in my calendar and make it happen in the form of dates with my spouse, late dates with my son, and playtime with my daughter.

A Few Other Commitments
In addition to these top five, there are a few other commitments I want to make this year. My husband and I are going to focus on paying down debt and getting our house in order so we can potentially sell, when the right time and opportunity comes. I also want to commit to keeping a cleaner house, making healthier meals, and spending more time outside this next year. These are pretty typical though, of every new year. And hopefully I do a little better and a little better--then one day I will be a little better too.

Dec 16, 2015

Stay Tuned! Coming 2016...

...I think I am ready to come back! This time it might just stick, especially because I plan to focus on doing what I love--writing!

So come back soon.

Jan 29, 2015

Sure-Fire Ways to Make Houseguests Feel Awkward and Unwelcome

Photo By Leon Ephraïm
Image by Leon Ephriam
The other day one of my friends made an inquiry on facebook that brought me to a jaw-dropping realization. She and her family had just purchased their first house and wanted to know things people did to make others feel welcome in their home. Some of the answers were so thoughtful and charming, and all I kept thinking was how I totally and completely failed at each and every one of those things. I am basically the anti-hostess in almost every way, so much so there may as well be a sky-high wall of brambles surrounding my house and a warning sign on my door. No, not even on the door--maybe out on the curb, just so you are safe. Instead of "Beware of Dog," my sign would say "Beware of Complicated Wreck and Her Disastrous Baggage."

8 Ways to Make People Feel Welcome

Here are just some of the cute fun things people suggested my friend do:
  • Keep the house tidy, but not sterile
  • Throw comfortable blankets and pillows around the sitting room
  • Display interesting books or photo albums on the coffee table
  • Encourage guests to make their way through the house (no closed doors)
  • Fresh baked cookies always in the oven or on the counter
  • Offer them something to eat or drink
  • A nice fire in the hearth on cold days
  • Take their coat, but let them keep their shoes on

Tidy? Ha! Open doors? Ha ha! Fresh cookies? Ha ha ha! This might as well be some nightmarish version of the laughing game. I need to take Hospitality 101 or something. Send help! I am not even joking.

I am the worst at having people show up at my house, especially unannounced. In fact, just the other night someone came to the door for a visit and I am sure nothing could have hidden the wide eyed shock and embarrassment as it struck across my face. "Here? You want to come in? I wasn't expecting you." All those things seemed to tumble out of my mouth at once. Yep, how could you resist that welcome wagon? Our christmas tree was still up, there were boxes and clothes all over the sitting room floor and if you wanted to sit on the couch you first had to remove the car seat, baby carrier, bags and papers piled there. Not to mention the piles of dirty laundry at the bottom of the stairs and the heap of shoes growing ever larger by the door, most of them mine. And that was just what you could see from the front room. Good grief!

I know one day I will look back on this tumult my life is in and want it back. I'll want all the freelance work and the busy. I'll want the holy terror of a three year old spoiling every room I try to spiff up. I will want a crying baby and my hands full of dirty diaper or burp cloths. However, the moment those visitors knocked on the door I just wanted to shut it and say, "No, no, no. This is not my life. I don't want this to be me." It was shameful, I know. Life has been especially hectic this new year and I can't help but feel a little out of place in it all. I mean, shouldn't the adjustment period be over by now. I mean, our little girl is five months old! I have been working as a freelance writer for more than nine years! I have a three year old! Shouldn't I have all of this in hand by now? The truth is, I don't.

So here's the deal. I am changing my ways. Do I want a clean and tidy place to welcome guests? Yes. But am I going to be ashamed if my house isn't perfect? Not anymore. I welcome visitors one and all! Please knock on my door day or night, just be sure to expect a bit of a mess. After all, I am raising an amazing Superhero who thinks pants and socks are optional for now. I am constantly lugging around the most precious pink bundle and am grateful to have my hands full with her during most hours of the day. I work every spare moment I have so I can afford hospital bills, car payments, insurance and a few fun things on the side. This means I might still have my pajamas on when you come over and there is a slight chance my socks won't match. There will not be warm cookies, hip beverages or a warm fire in the hearth. I don't even have a hearth. But I do have a heart, and you are completely welcome to that whenever you need it. "Welcome. Please come in. I am always expecting you."

Jan 26, 2015

I Want to Ride My Bike!

Photo By Matthew Wiebe

I have gone so very long without my Celia and it is starting to take a toll. Really, I never thought I would miss riding my bike as much as I do. It wasn't like I was an avid cyclist or what have you. But I was so invested in spin and cycling the last couple of years I yearn for it now. I just can't get enough and pregnancy, birth and now winter have kept me from my love for just too darn long.

After I had KB I was back at the gym after a few weeks, as soon as I was fit enough to sit on a bike seat. Yeeouch, that first time was a little rough, but I just kept going every chance I got and it was wonderful to get my strength and shape back so quickly. But with EV, it is completely different, as it has been with everything she is involved in. Because of the miscarriage first I put on more weight this go round than I intended, packing it on for one and a half pregnancies instead of just one. Also the last part of this pregnancy was middle of winter instead of end of summer, so I was not only packing on baby weight, but also winter weight. No gym pass this time. No nice weather. No long walks with my baby stroller. You get the idea, I am sure. I am not in shape. Not. Even. Close.

Oh wait, what about that spin cycle your husband and dad spent all their hard earned money on for your for mother's day? What about that? Well, yes. You've got me there. Which is why I feel like a complete dope that I am still murmuring about the fit of my jeans. Alas, I do have a spin cycle that I hope to get more in tune with very soon. However, it must be noted that somehow the tension rod on that thing is a little off because I can turn the knob all the way until it just don't turn no more--but still there isn't enough tension on the wheel for a steep hill climb. So I have had to make due with a steady pace for all of my home spinning and the monotony is almost as bad as not biking at all. Never fear! I have a replacement brake pad on the way, and possibly a new tension knob too if that doesn't do the trick.

Anyways, the other day I was walking through the garage gazing admiringly at Celia when I realized I still will not be able to take EV along on rides until she is a year old. Gah! Facepalm. Well I guess G.G. is going to get her share of baby watching this spring while I get some miles on Celia's tires. I just cannot wait any longer! As soon as that sunshine arrives for good I will be off on some two-wheeling adventures. 

Oct 21, 2014

I Used to Be

Lately I have been giving my blogging career--occupation--thing some thought. I know. Again? Yes, again. Every year or less I seem to revisit this topic. Funny thing is, I just don't ever feel settled in the place. It is both a good and bad thing. Anyway, for about the last year I've had this strange disconnect happening with this here forum for thought and creativity. It is like a detached appendage that never was really attached in the first place. What do I really do with it?

I think this lack of connection can most easily be illustrated by a short segment from a movie, 13 Going on 30. Remember when Jenna shares the elevator with her teen neighbor for the first time and the awkward conversation ensues? That is the full on story of my blogging relationship lately. Just before having Everly I partied it up a few times with bloggers. It was sort of my last hoorah before being quarantined with my newborn. So I didn't want to miss a single thing. Yet, I felt completely out of place most of the time. Still! After all this time and all these parties. Then, when I was brave enough to confront some new people to introduce myself things got even weirder. Here is how almost every introductory conversation went.

Me: "What do you do?"
Them: "Oh, I'm a blogger."
Me: "Me too!" insert short, yet awkward pause while my eyes dart away. "Used to be."
Insert another awkward pause.
Them: "Like your dress."
Me: "Thanks." Thinking: That's because I have these incredible boobs to fill it out--and baby belly.

See what I mean? It is just like 13 Going On 30 minus the baby belly. Sad part was, I really did consider my blogging days to be mostly over. I didn't want to give these people the name of my sad, neglected little blog. I never really considered myself a blogger anyways. No big deal, right? Now, feeling even more out of place I just half-jokingly called myself an Instagram stalker, explaining that was how I knew about the party. Then I would duck away before making a complete goof of myself.

One of my insta-friends turned real friends, only to discover we actually knew each other before (how's that for crazy social media relations?) had something on her profile that really rang true to me. In fact, the first time I read it I laughed out loud, but then sobered up instantly and considered what it meant. It said, "Instagram killed my blog." Yup, I could relate and it made me more than a little sad. Ever since my discovery of Instagram my blog has been limping along, hardly touched but maybe once or twice every few months, during which time I would quickly backlog about 5 or 6 posts trying to fill it out with pictures and updates. I'm sorry, sad neglected little blog. I had to face the facts and realize I was not 13 anymore. I have grown and changed so much from when I started this blog. The things I was doing with it back then seem so silly, simply a mimic of what I saw and admired from around the interwebs. And the things I was currently doing were completely immersed in family stuff, which should should go on our family blog (and which I promptly removed from here and placed over there BTW). Where was I in all of that mess?

So, yes I have changed and so will this blog, eventually. No! I won't let this blog go down without a fight. Yes, it is still my blog. Maybe I wouldn't exactly consider myself to be a "blogger" by trade. Truth is, maybe I never will, and that just has to be O.K. However, I do have a blog. That should count for something. And though I am sure it will be ill managed and fairly neglected in the near future, I simply cannot give it up and shut it down. Not yet. Expect to hear more from me. At least, a little more--eventually. Once I sort out what I want to be doing here.

Sep 23, 2014

Autumnal Essay: Before the Close

It is here. That crispness in the air and the bluness in the sky. That little something that tickles at the top of my stomach with the first yellow leaf on my neighbor's trees. The smell of the furnace kicking on for the first time, after months of being unused, and sending a little old dust through the air vents. This time, this season, this me. With each passing year I find it feeling more and more like home. There is always something to be said for this time of year, so I thought I'd make a tradition out of saying it. Partly stating the obvious, I know, but also partly showing just how pivotal this time of year really is for me. So, without any further ado--I leave you with my newly christened Autumnal Essay.

Before the Close

With Spring there is a newness and freshness to the air. Spring, so full of growth and re-brith. It is all very bright and exciting, invigorating the bones and ringing in a new spirit of awakening. That is all fine, dandy even. Spring is Spring and can have its day. To be honest though, Spring, that upward growth, is in fact the  simple beginning of the Fall. It is the start to the finish, a means to an end. Autumn, as a response to Spring, is a time of closing, a death in many ways. But wait, Autumn is death the process, not death the already dormant.

A little eerie and morose, yes, but also a sigh of relief. There is something so comforting and relenting with this process of closing. The plants are tired from blooming, blossoming, and producing all Spring and Summer long. They long to rest, to close. Even the other mammals take stock, cozy up, and ease into a lasting sleep. The final harvest has come and gone. The gourds begin to bedeck stoops and stairs. The chipper pastels of Spring have long faded. Now there are colors far richer to bask in. Everything glows with warmth in the fall. Though, this warming is from the inside out, and not the reverse. The light now comes from within, and all the better, don't you think?

In Fall, things are far from finished however. There is still so much to be closed with Autumn, so much living to be done, so much of the process to be finalized. I've recently seen how Autumn, this easing into rest, also comes with a staggering urgency, a last fight before Winter. Autumn is so much like those last few chapters, last few pages of a book. You wish to enjoy them slowly, fully, never wanting the story to end. And yet, there is still this nagging, this rush to reach the conclusion, this need for all the loose ends to be tied. So you read quickly, but fully, savoring each page of text until you reach those final words. By then you know what follows. Blank, white pages. The death, the end, the emptiness of coming to the close.

For now I am saying no to winter, to the dormant and stark pages at the end of the year. Instead I will revel in the rich, beautiful, urgency of Fall.

P.S. You can read my last fall essay endeavor here.

May 21, 2014

Spin Bike and Routine

Lately I have found some semblance of normal in my pregnant life, miracle of all miracles. I am steadily getting back to routine. For some a routine is a little blah, and I get this way sometimes, but right now the routine is more like, ahhh. It is so fulfilling to get back to things I usually do. There is so much stability and assurance in routine. I revel in the simplicity of it all. I love routine!

My spin bike has been a huge part of my successful routine. In the morning I wake up, and instead of wasting time in bed with my iPhone, I spin. I spin for as long as I can tolerate, which is only 33 minutes right now. It makes me sweaty and happy and puts me on track for a productive day. Then I shower and happily wake up my boy. We do breakfast and a little Mario Kart. In mid morning we do errands if we have them and lunch around one. Then while the boy keeps up napping like a champ for two hours I work on my computer. By the time he wakes up it is time for dinner prep with some snacking. Later Papa gets home, we eat, watch one show together, and head to bed.

This routine may not seem like much, but to me it is my whole world right now. Summer is coming and with it comes crazy schedules and spontaneous adventures. It means vacations and everything but routine. Summer is good, summer is great. For right now though, I will take the routine of it all. I will take full advantage of it.

May 15, 2014

What I Eat


Ten Things You May Not Know About My Food Relationship

1. Spearmint Lifesavers are like candy. I never suck on them, ever.
2. I add mustard to my home made tacos. Tradition passed down from my aunt.
3. Pickles and cheese and bread, the things I could easily survive on.
4. I am an excellent enchilada cook. Each time I make it they are better and better.
5. My favorite candy bar has long been Twix, but Rolos will also do.
6. There is a stash of Hershey's in the freezer that I cannot live without right now.
7. Sushi is something I frequent at least once a month, more if we can afford it.
8. When asked where I want to eat out I usually choose Olive Garden out of comfort.
9. I drink tons of water. Like camel amounts of water. ALL. THE. TIME.
10. I don't like green beans, green peppers, or fish sticks.

Lately I have been paying more and more attention to what I eat and am trying to do better. During the early stages of pregnancy I felt terrible. I would eat just to not feel terrible, and anything in proximity would do. Despite the fact that I felt sick all the time, I never really got sick too often outside of the morning. So I was eating a lot and keeping a lot of it with me. I gained quite a lot of weight early and that did not suit me at all. It wasn't all bad weight or bad food, but not much of it was really good either.

Recently I have noticed so many people hopping on Whole 30 foods and lifestyles. That is not really something I can do at this point right now, especially when it is so hard for me to know what Supeman will like and not like for dinner. For me I could do mostly whole dinners all the time, NBD. But it isn't substantial enough for my solidly built husband. I do however purchase a lot, lot, lot more produce these days. I can easily price match it and this helps cut down on a lot of junk around the house. It really helps to have good things on hand for both me and Littleman to snack on or eat for lunch throughout the day. Things like cereal and bread are staples for me though, so I can't see me going completely off of those things, at least not right now.

There are a few Whole Foods recipes I have tried and really liked. Salads are practically all I like in summer, so that is not a bad thing. I also like food hacks, like getting a lettuce wrap instead of a bun at Five Guys or the Tri Tip Salad at Cubby's. I feel like each healthy choice I make is one more step in the right direction as far as a healthy food relationship goes. Mostly I feel like I have a really good balance going right now, eating healthy much of the time and indulging in treats and sweets only on weekends.

May 1, 2014

May I Have This Month

I love the month of May. There is so, so much I treasure about this time, this place in the year. 

First and foremost, it is my Birthday Month! That makes May pretty spectacular all on its own. I was born! I was born! I still absolutely love my Birthday. Not really the party or the cake, though those things are oh so good, but more the perspective of moving ahead one more year and seeing all I have accomplished in the space of 365 days. 

Second, flowers! Early in the month we usually have very little by way of flowers, but by the end there are blooms a plenty to be enjoyed by all. My favorite flowers of the season happen to be lilies of the valley and lilacs. The scent of these two summer smelling flowers take me right back to sunny days spent in my grandmother's back yard. 

Next up, May brings yard work, gardening, and some real time outdoors without the need for hats and coats. My Littleman has a scooter and a trike now, and I can only imagine the adventures we will have in this coming month. Oh, and bubbles. We love bubbles on the freshly cut grass. Mowing the lawn, and I am serious about this, YAY! 

Also May is the month of Mother's Day. I think this celebration of women is one of the best, but more on that later I think. 

So yes, I love May. Bring it on!

Apr 21, 2014

Being Overrun

Well friends, the belly is taking over. Or at least I should say, the girl inside the belly is taking over. This little one has a mind of her own. She is pretty mobile for only being about one pound and the size of a bunch of grapes, at least that is what my Ovia Pregnancy App says. Not only is she kicking and bumping up a storm at the most inconvenient times, but she is also taking over my brain, aka my Pinterest account

I have boards and boards dedicated to this pregnancy. Everything from Baby Girl's Room and Baby Girl's Clothes to Dressing this Bump and Exercising with this Bump. It is so amazing how fully I have flung myself into the idea of having a girl--and at the same time not. More and more often I am disappointed by all the frills and bows and pink that come common with a baby girl. Truly I am not the pretty, pretty princess type and for some reason I keep feeling adamant about my little girl not being that way either. Guess that is a sure guarantee she will be the girliest, girl of them all right? Anyway, despite the not so girl things I am going through, there ARE so many things I am smitten with that come along with the idea of having a baby girl. 

There are so many things I want to cultivate in her, so many things I want to teach her. I cannot wait to watch K.B. share is monster trucks and his Superheroes with her. I cannot wait for them to wrestle and play in the grass together. I am so looking forward to the gentleness and meekness that comes with a small infant being around the house. It is all going to be so new and all-encompassing. As you can see, I am already overrun by this baby girl. 

A girl! A girl! A girl!

Ok, I think I am done for now. 

Mar 27, 2014

Cup a Noodles

Yesterday was pretty gloomy, and this morning and early afternoon remained much the same. Last night we even got snow, though not enough to qualify me as winner of our bet. Luckily all of that nonsense is made up for with one little Cup of Noodles. I threw a few of these cheapy lunches in my shopping cart while I was out the other day and am so very glad I did. Turns out these are one of those simple pleasures that takes me right back to times past.

Growing up, my grandmother would often pick up my brother, my sister and I from elementary school. She would watch us for the last few hours of my mom's work day and we really enjoyed the time with her. We watched some of our favorite movies that were completely ridiculous and mostly ate her out of house and home. Our favorite after school "snack" was Cup of Noodles, aka the Maruchan Instant Lunch. She would heat up the water, unseal the little flap on the cup, and set the fork back on top while the noodles softened. Then she would add an ice cube to each cup and had us stir it in before eating. To this very day I can hear her saying, "Don't eat that until the ice is melted. It's hot." She would say this every time and back then we would roll our eyes, but now the words make me smile.

Then the four of us would settle in upstairs. My grandmother would be wrapping yarn around her hooks or needles while the rest of us flopped on the floor, enjoying our noodles. The soothing smell of this beef ramen took me right back there this afternoon. I set my fork on top of the flap just as she used to do, and I even stirred in an ice cube for good measure. "It's hot." When I sipped up the dregs in the bottom of the cup I almost anticipated her voice again. "Do you need anything else? There is pop down in the fridge and cookies in the cupboard." She loved us and took care of us so well. I am sure we caused her some panic and grief once in a while, but it never showed. I can't remember, but I truly hope I told her thank you. I hope she knew how deeply we loved her.

Now I am missing her today a little more than usual. I miss her house, her clicking needles, and her happy, wrinkling smile. I miss her eclectic collection of movies, the movies we loved so, so much. I miss the strange noodle curlers she would put in her hair and even her varicose veins. I wish I could give her one more big hug. Mostly I wish I could share Blake with her. She died just before he was born. I wanted to show him all the stashes of treats in her house. I can't believe he will never crawl under her bed or hide in her closet. He won't see her roses or smell her lilies of the valley. I will do my best to bring some of these parts of her memory into our home, but I know it will not add up to my soft, warm grandmother.

And to think, all that missing and memory brought on by one little Cup of Noodles. 

Mar 26, 2014

I Wonder, I Wander

Sometimes I wonder if I am enough. I wonder if I am doing all I can and all I should. I wonder if any of it gets through and makes any difference at all. I wonder a little and I wonder a lot.

These moments of self doubt and self fear can be brought on by any number of things. They come from exhausted attempts at correcting behavior. They come from times shared with amazing friends who are fiercely lovely and strong. They come at night, after I tuck my Littleman in bed and look into his eyes, seeing the love and the little disasters of the day reflected there. They come when I wake and decide to hide under the covers. They especially come when I feel overworked, under appreciated, and ready to just stop trying. Tonight they come from a seemingly silly source, something that shouldn't matter at all, but the doubts have come all the same.

Who am I and is it enough? I am sure, wandering through this life, we are meant to sometimes stop and ask ourselves this very question. It can be good and productive to wonder, but at times it can also be debilitating. Tonight I feel like I am wandering in one big circle, making progress for a little while, then coming round the backside and sinking again, getting nowhere at all. It is frustrating, but even worse, it is disheartening. I need my heart, I need all of it, and it is natural to wander and wonder and fear when my heart has been taken in this way.

Again, it isn't anything big causing the turmoil, but it feels big in the moment. It feels large, and looming like the long cast shadow at twilight. It feels like a small failure, if there is such a thing. The object itself is so small, but the shadow is hauntingly vast and I have stopped dead in that darkness. Will it pass? Certainly. Will I find the light again and with it my heart? Yes. Will I continue on? Assuredly, I will. I will plot the course and become the enough I am chasing. I will!

But not tonight. Tonight I wander. Tonight I wonder. Tonight I grow quietly in the shadow, waiting for dawn.

- From my iPhone