Well, there I am…

Thirteen months.

Three posts, counting this one.

Where did I go?

What did I do?

Why did I stop writing?

Great questions, and the details will reveal themselves at some point (or not). I didn’t stop writing, I just kinda stopped posting, and then found reasons to continue not posting.

I should rebrand.

I should redesign.

I should map out a series, or at least a post, explaining where I’ve been.

Or maybe I should stop beating myself up using bad words like should and just start writing and posting. I don’t owe anyone an explanation. No one is making me write blog posts. I’m not getting sponsored or however it is some folks get paid to write. I do this because it’s something I choose to do for me.

And I’m ready to return to the things that bring me joy. Which is what started this whole blog nearly SEVEN years ago.

Life has a way of leading me down unexpected paths. Often it’s fun for me to share my journey, and other times, it needs to stay off of public platforms. Knowing which content goes up, and which content is still processing, well, isn’t that the big dilemma?

I could write about less touchy things, like politics and religion. Maybe the folks who get into such debates use it as a clever disguise so they never have to deal with their own stuff.

For me, it all weaves together. Personal, public, politics, religion, family, scars, healing, progress, setbacks. The question is, what do I want to share with whatever audience remains?

Once upon a time, when I was researching blogs, it was suggested that as long as I served my audience to the best of my ability, the content would work itself out.

We could discuss my most recent relationship failure. Or the local beach conditions (red tide is the worst). We could kick around what it’s like to live with your adult children and grandchild. Or maybe we chat about the adventures of launching a podcast for my new job. We could dive into having a boudior photography session after a full hysterectomy (I will NOT be posting the pics here, sorry).

Maybe we could explore the side hustle I started or why I gave up cooking. Or maybe how, as an adult, I have relocated 27 times (yes, I realize that’s the random number I use when I exaggerate, but that is the actual number of places I have lived).

It would be nice to have a clear vision of what this blog will be as I move forward. As soon as I have one, you’ll know. In the meantime, what I can tell you is that it will be honest, insightful, and hopefully encouraging on some level.

I have been writing in my journal every morning, which is where I dump the accumulated insanity out of my head. After I scribble it all out, then my brain remembers all the good things, and I relax into gratitude.

Speaking of gratitude, here’s the latest list.

I have freedom.

I have my health.

I have family near that I see often and love immensely.

I have time to be creative.

I have courage to try new things.

I have time to read, and also time to write.

I have the opportunity to serve at my church.

I have food in the refrigerator.

I have new tires on my car.

I have a roof over my head and a comfy bed to sleep in.

I have great friends who listen, and care, and encourage.

I have a mentor who makes time for me each week.

I have a great job with opportunities to grow.

I have a short drive to visit a beautiful beach.

I have a beautiful smile now that the braces are off.

I have opportunities to enjoy my life.

Yes, there are challenges, but I am doing my best to work through them.

One of the things that helps me is writing. Another is gratitude.

What helps you?

What drives you?

What practices do you put in place to keep yourself in a positive space?  

Thanks for reading, and not holding your breath.
Until next time,

Sept. 15, 2003 – Dec. 31, 2020

This looks like it could be on a tombstone, doesn’t it? It feels like an entire life, but it’s not. It’s the beginning and ending dates of my employment at my church home.

It’s actually 17 years, 3 months, and 17 days. I was a different person when I began in my role there as an administrative assistant. As the church grew, my role expanded with it, and it was wonderful. My children and their needs were not pushed to the bottom of my priorities. When they were older, I was able to begin and finish my college degree. My employment offered me so much in terms of flexibility and care.

Over the years, there were other offers that came along. None felt like the right fit, or the right time to make a change. There were seasons when I felt like the place would fall apart without me. You could say I took my responsibilities seriously.

A couple of months ago, a new opportunity presented itself. When I read the job description, it seemed to have my name on it. Things I enjoy, things I’m good at, maybe some eventual travel (Covid limitations, obvi) and many new things to learn. After 3 rounds of interviews, and lots of prayer, they made me a great offer, and I’ve accepted.

It feels appropriate to make this change at the year’s end. Fresh year, fresh start.

The thing is that my boss and coworkers are really family. It was a tough thing to resign, and to let others know I was moving on. I’m so grateful for the peace I have about this decision, or these conversations would be excruciating. As it is, they will remain my community and my friends. There was a lot of ribbing, a send-off lunch, a few lovely gifts, and sweet reminiscing.

Also, I received a threat of being thrown in the pond after the Christmas Eve services as a proper farewell. Ha! This girl avoids fresh water in Florida (um, alligators), and all water in winter (um, freezing), so yeah, that was not happening!

When I return to church eventually, I will be a regular attendee. Maybe I’ll step into a volunteer spot at some point. But I will be there with a pure heart, and a sincerity for the community I’ve come to love, not as part of my work obligation. If I decide to disappear for the weekend with my man, I can do so freely.

It’s been forever since I’ve been a rookie. New software, new co-workers, new industry, new everything. It’s going to take some time to find my groove, but I am so excited for the fresh opportunity! It’s a big, expanding company and there’s a lot of potential for me to grow too. It will be challenging, and I’m ready for it!

Maybe you’re ready for some changes in 2021 too. Whether they are minor, or gigantic, may you have peace and excitement for what lies ahead!

Thanks for reading, until next time!

Have you seen my winter blanket?

There are three of us in my immediate family (my two daughters and me) – and in the past six weeks we have all relocated.

Which made me think of my winter blanket. As in, where exactly is that thing, anyway?

Wait, don’t you live in Florida? Why do you even have a winter blanket? Valid question. It’s a bit of a story.

absolutely true

When I was 17 and living up north, I found myself finished with school a semester early and also, without a job. It was the dead of winter and I had not a single thing to do. Reviving my crochet skills, I grabbed some yarn and made myself a scarf. Since that filled about a day and a half, I thought, well, maybe this should be a blanket. I have plenty of time and it felt more productive than getting lost in soap operas.

I would work on it, then get busy and do something else. Then I would pick it back up and work, then run out of yarn. Three years later, I finished that baby!

It was 7’ wide, and when completed, 7’ long as well. There were 4 rows of navy and 2 rows of burgundy, all done with a double crochet stitch, or a half double. Which is a strange term, half double, like isn’t that the same as a single?

When I finished this, I threw out my crochet needle and vowed to never attempt such a project again.

I managed to hang on to it for many many years, even though I’ve lived in Florida for the majority of my adult life.

Once when my younger daughter was in high school, she returned from a football game with this blanket all full of leaves and grass. I almost came undone. She had no idea prior to that moment that I had actually MADE the thing.

And now it’s gone. I have moved several times in the past few years, and it’s been a minute since I even remember seeing it. It’s not like it’s folded up in the corner somewhere and I missed it. This massive wool monster weighs about 20 lbs.

None of the offspring have seen it. And they’ve all handled their life’s belongings, as have I, in recent days.

Maybe I gave it to a friend who was moving up north? Maybe it mistakenly ended up in a goodwill drop off? The mystery has been haunting me for the last few days.

I have often thought if I could choose any super power, it would be to locate lost things. Or lost people, and dogs, maybe even cats?

Have you ever suddenly realized something was missing? And you have no clue as to its whereabouts? Could you use the super power of finding lost things? Tell me what you lost and when!

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Sister love

Sisters. Sometimes this is a challenge, and other times, it’s just flat out beautiful. My two daughters had an event recently that made us all cry. Lemme tell ya all about it. If you’re a softie, pause here to grab a tissue.

This is gonna be good.

Little sister was supposed to hop on a plane with her man for a month in Paris, to be followed by another three weeks of gallivanting around Europe. This trip was cancelled, obviously.

Big sister felt bad for little sister, and decided to surprise her by bringing Paris to her.

Big sister initiated and executed this covert operation. She cleaned, decorated, organized, and invited all of little sister’s besties. She recruited little sister’s man to get her there, fully dressed to the nines. (For anyone that knows little sister, this is not difficult. She lives for these occasions, even when she has to invent them herself.)

Big sister recruited me and my unicorn man Joe to help with food and beverages. Bellinis, Side Cars, Baguettes with Creme Fraiche, Fruit, and Macaroons rounded out the menu.

Little sister was surprised! Tears were shed, hugs were given, champagne was poured, and the whole evening was just so unbelievably touching.

Notice the sign. Soooo sweet!

As the mom of these two sisters, I am delighted and thrilled to see them care for one another so deeply. As a bigger sister, I have tortured my own little a-plenty through the years. I’m noticing how much better we treat one another these days. More acceptance, less squabbling.

Isn’t that the way? The more we age, and hopefully also mature, we realize that arguing and bickering is just wasted energy. Even when issues loom large.

We are all connected. And though we don’t have to agree with everyone, we can at least try to get along with one another. Respect for others goes a LONG way.

You said it well, Aretha

With all the chaos going on in our world these days, it’s a good reminder. If my two children can rise above their history and nonsense, turning something sour and disappointing into something kind and sweet, I feel like there is hope for the rest of us.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Hold on loosely…

Yes, there is definitely a nod to the song by 38 Special, but this post is far from rocking.

It’s heavy, because my heart is heavy for so many around me, and for myself too.

Working at a church gives me a front row to the joy- and the pain – of so many individuals. Most days I’m able to keep enough emotional distance that I don’t lose sleep. I’ve been to more funerals than most, and often it just makes me appreciate life and those around me.

Today feels different. Today is different because I lost a good friend. He was more like a brother. In fact, he called me sis. I’ve known him since 2003 and we even worked together for a few years. His wife and I are very close, and their daughter grew up with mine.

It’s just not okay that this family has lost such an important member. The lucky thing in all of this is that he wasn’t alone when he breathed his last. His wife was on one side and his daughter on the other. He wasn’t in pain. He is dancing with angels, though I’m guessing his dance skills are as terrible and awkward as ever.

One of my fondest memories is the night we drained a bottle or two of wine and tried to determine how I was his sister. Was I his sister – or his wife’s sister? We went round and round and never landed on anything definitive.

But this I know. He was family. And he left too soon. And he will be missed by many. None of us are promised tomorrow. Which is it so important to appreciate each person, each moment, each day.

Hold on tight, but also, hold on loosely.

what I’m learning about grief …
is that it need not be

a heavy gray shawl
to wrap myself in,
clutching my arms tightly
across my chest

nor …
need it be
a granite rock
that I should try
to push away

neither is it …
… at least, no longer …
a vast dark ocean
ready to pick me up
and slap me down
without warning

what I’m learning about grief …
is that it is not me,
but that it offers
to become a friend

a friend …
who will lightly lay a hand
on my shoulder
when tears come in the dark

a friend …
who will laugh
out loud with me
at remembered silly moments

a friend …
who can still hear
the music of our life

what I’m learning about grief …
is that this friend
doesn’t intend
to leave me

but promises
to hold my hand
to carry my memories

a friend …
who will bear witness to my love
as I venture
toward the next day
and the following night


By Nancy Cross Dunham

So tomorrow I’ll bring some food and some tissues, and we will cry and laugh and cry some more. And we will hold on to the memories, and to each other, and trust God for all the rest.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Making room

With all of the lockdowns and cancellations and life adjustments, I have to confess my concerns have been all over the board.

One minute, I’m worried that I’ll die and miss seeing Ellix grow up and my giant bucket list of adventures will remain undone. The next, I’m whining about my cancelled appointments, of which there have been many. So let’s just be grateful for a moment, shall we?

My good friend Christine does my pedicures, and since she can’t do them in person, she is offering a personal pedi supply package that I can pick up at her doorstep. My stylist Melissa texted me the proper number on whatever box dye I can find to cover these roots. I’m mostly thankful for my orthodontist who has been monitoring my progress remotely.

And since you’re probably tired of everything else you’ve been doing lately, I thought I’d provide a nice little distraction for you. I’m sure you’ve been curious, right?

At my last visit in late January, they put a gigantic spacer thing on my bottom teeth to make room for this one snaggletooth. Then three days prior to the next appointment, they were forced to close their offices. My teeth just kept on moving. I’ve been sending mouth selfies per request over the past two weeks as they are allowed to continue treatments when deemed necessary. And wouldn’t you know it, on Friday, they said, come on in!

My doc took extreme precautions, only seeing one patient at a time. In about five minutes flat, he changed the bottom wire and connected the little snaggletooth to allow it join the rest of the row!

And here’s what happened…

Friday morning
Saturday morning

Yes, that’s crazy fast. And yes, it was painful. And also yes, it’s worth it. It feels weird and awesome. Sorry if these grossed you out. There is actually a bigger message here besides my teeth.

It wasn’t the magic of a new wire and a short time span. And it wasn’t that my orthodontist has special skills. All the moving and shifting over the past several months was largely unnoticed. And that was what allowed for this huge shift.

There was finally ROOM.

It’s like this with everything, isn’t it?

If we want things to change or be different, we have to make room. And though NONE OF US asked for this pandemic, or the changes it is causing, it is allowing this for many of us.

We have room now. Room in our schedules and room in our brains. Room to be creative and figure out new ways to do the things we still value doing. Like church, or working from home, or happy hour! Discovering that we didn’t really need a gym membership, or to eat out as often. Looking through the closets and realizing how much stuff we don’t even need or use. Or maybe rediscovering cherished things that had been missing.

What is it that you are making room for?

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Life in a snow globe

No I didn’t move to the Arctic. I’m still in Florida where I belong.

I had snow globes when I was a kid and they were absolutely fascinating. Shake them up and watch it all float back down.

Not all of it floated of course. Just the snow. Or confetti or glitter or whatever it was. The bulk of things stayed securely fastened at the bottom. Where it was supposed to stay.

It may have been this exact one!

Unless of course your snow globe was some cheap-ass souvenir you got from your Aunt Carolyn when she went to the Ozarks – or wherever she went – and then it was a different story. If your snow globe was like that, it could not withstand the shaking. The fixtures were not so fixed, and soon the unglued scenery floated around with the snow.

Of course we thought this was hilarious which only prompted more violent shaking from us, the masters of the snow globe. It looked like the aftermath of a tornado when everything settled.

Eventually, everything settles.

This is what it feels like, doesn’t it? It feels like the world is being shaken up and everything is confusing and out of sorts and a lot of things we once thought as permanent are now floating around.

It’s sad when you look at the things that were once solid. Like spring semester of your senior year of high school. Sports. Prom. Graduation. These milestones that were once fixtures are now up in the air for so many, including my beautiful niece Macy.

Macy, class of 2020. Photo credit Andra Travis Photography.

My world is affected on a much less heartbreaking scale. Even so, I know it’s important to acknowledge and to name those things that I’m grieving, no matter how petty and frivolous. Here’s a short list:
-Not working at the office with all of my coworkers.
-Delaying my orthodontic treatments as planned.
-Not finishing my pottery class which is totally cancelled.
-Not eating in restaurants.
-Not taking a hot yoga class (but thank you Adriene!).
-Cancelling the trip to Paris scheduled for the summer.
-Seeing the hundreds of faces that belong to my church family.
-And the thing that aches most is NOT visiting the cutest baby ever.

If he gets a tooth or starts crawling before I see him again… I’ll just sob.

All of these are now hidden behind the swirling snow (and social distancing directives). I just really want everything to land where it belongs, and don’t we all?

Perhaps, while things are still swirling, we can take a look around and assess what REALLY matters.

Like what? Everything is still swirling! And this exactly why I need to also name the things for which I am grateful right here and now. Some of these could come unglued too, as no one is immune or exempt.

Remembering my faith in God and returning to a regular prayer time. Checking in with my family and friends regularly (thank you FaceTime and Zoom). Having time and space to spend with a new special man. Time and energy to be back in my studio painting. And also access to a private beach during the best weather of the year.

What are the takeaways from this post? Other than the obvious admiration of Baby Ellix and jealousy of the private beach?

Recognize we are in a snow globe right now. Take inventory and name your grief and your gratitude, no matter how big or small. Reach out to your people and let them know you hope they are still there when it all stops swirling. And see what they need in the meantime.

Hang in there everyone. It’s all gonna be okay.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

PS. If you are really struggling right now, there is help. Check out this message from Dr. Henry Cloud and this message from Dr. Brene Brown.

Keeping it real.

Let’s begin by simply saying that it’s okay when plans change. For example, I was going to blog about my recent adventures in pottery class.

Instead, I’m writing about reality, and that it’s perfectly okay to cry.

That’s what happened a week ago when I unpacked my suitcase. That I had packed on Thursday night, prepping for a Friday morning flight to see the world’s cutest baby. The same trip that I felt I could not take when I awoke in a near panic about going.

Continue reading

Stories from 1931, as told by my friend Vera.

Where have I been? No posts from this girl as of late, I know. I’ve been writing elsewhere. Keep reading and you’ll see.

Last summer I began brainstorming some ideas for a new venture. With school behind me, and the celebratory trip to Italy complete, there was time to dream.

My entrepreneurial class in college taught me to look around for opportunities. What did I know? Who did I know? What do people need? What talents could I bring to meet that need? Where was there a gap – or an opportunity?

It hit me like a lightning bolt.

A single powerful lightning bolt lights up the sky. Capturing this kind of photograph is one part skill and one part luck. (Photo: JanJar/Shutterstock)

I began considering the idea of helping people write their memoirs. Let me give some context.

I have been working for my church for years, and part of my job is helping people plan memorial services. And every single time, no matter the circumstances or the age of the loved one, no one was prepared to honor their person.

Families and friends scramble around to find photos, and to choose which song might be fitting. A lot of energy, and plenty of guessing goes into the preparation, all to honor someone – after they are gone. It’s usually pretty rushed, and very emotionally draining.

What about providing a way of honoring the person while they are still here? What if I could help capture the stories, the favorite poems or verses, and maybe Grandma’s secret molasses cookie recipe, and put it all together into a book?

So there is the opportunity. It just so happens that I love writing (duh) and have years of experience in the printing world. I enjoy working with designers, playing with fonts, and helping produce beautiful printed collateral.

I enjoy people and their stories, and have lived in this community for many years. This community being Sarasota, Florida, where the largest age group (30%) is over 65 years old. Our population continues to swell, and age, so perhaps there are some people with stories to tell? I think so.

Last July, Vera and I began chatting about capturing some of her stories to present to her family and friends for her upcoming 100th birthday. She was on board with the experiment, and I suddenly had my first client. We spent time together, flipping through photo albums, and emailing back and forth regularly. Yes, at 99, Vera uses email. She’s quite remarkable!

Now fast forward to last weekend, when we picked up finished books, and she gave them away to her loved ones at her 100th birthday party. We are both delighted with the finished product and, due to demand, are placing a reorder this week!

She loves denim!

It was quite the process, and there were some challenges along the way. This is to be expected in all new endeavors. And now that I have one project complete, I can apply that knowledge and experience to the next one.

Because Vera is so modest, we are not putting an ISBN on this, or making it available for wide distribution. We kept it really clean and left all the juicy stories out of this one (though I heard a few). Maybe we’ll collaborate on a different book and change all the names to protect the guilty.

For now, I’m grateful and honored that she trusted me with her stories. In her words, “It’s the greatest gift I could ever give to my family.” And also, “I finally got a chance to tell the story the way it really happened, and it’s now in print. Often I would hear them retold and they were unrecognizable!”

If you have an idea, try it out! See what happens. You never know what may happen along the way. And if you want to learn more about what my little side venture looks like, you can check my site here.

I’m already working on my next fun blog post about getting clay in my hair, so stay tuned. It won’t take six weeks I promise.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

7 days with baby E

A week ago, I was busy shopping and cleaning and cooking.

And in a blink, the week has come and gone. My daughter, her man, and their beautiful baby, have also come and gone.

Yesterday, I cleaned and tackled piles of laundry. I was glad to have something to do. I may have also rewarded myself by finishing off mostly-eaten bags of chips and random growlers of craft beer that were left behind.

They made it home safely, and I’ve got a mound of stuff to send that wouldn’t fit in their suitcase. I had to bag it and put it by the door so at least I’m not staring at baby things in every corner. My heart just can’t take the constant reminder that they are not here.

The amount of love and support that arrived in gift bags and through time spent is overwhelming. Let’s not forget the gladly loaned baby gear – donated pedicures – and dinners out. Our community blessed my daughter and her little family so richly.

Everyone cried except the baby.

It was a solid event-filled trip for them, which included:
– Attending church and having the most heartfelt baby dedication
– An open house / luncheon for a dozen people
– Naps (not enough, but is there such a thing?)
– Dinner out for Aunty Mo’s birthday
– Mommy & Daddy’s first night out without baby E
– A boat ride in the Gulf of Mexico
– A trip to the mall
– Breakfast out / lunch out
– Hanging out at the beach
– Hanging out at the pool
– Hanging out at the house with friends
– A visit with great-grandparents that live 90 miles away
– And to finish it off, a lovely sunset on the beach

This helps…

So yes, it will be quiet, and baby free, and oh-so-empty for a bit. I’ve already booked my next trip in just 54 days. The only consolation was to begin a new countdown.

Thanks, technology!

It was incredible to see my girl and her man operating as a team around their little one. They were helpful and patient and so loving toward one another and baby E. He is one lucky dude to have amazing parents, and I told him so the entire time he was here.

Our hope is that they are able to relocate at some point soon. For now, we’ll hop on planes and facetime each other and send group texts. Distance is annoying, but love and technology will help us to stay connected.

-To those who survived the bygone era of actual mailed letters, and photos that took a week to be developed, bless you.
-To those who missed hearing the voices of their grand babies (okay, cries more than voices), bless you.
-To those who are unable to travel to hug the people you love, bless you.

If you are lucky enough to live nearby your grandchildren, count your blessings. And don’t wait for a special occasion to invite them over or pay them a visit. In fact, go over right now and tell them you love them. And pinch their cheeks if it’s appropriate! Do it for all of us grand-parenting from a distance.

Thanks for reading, until next time,