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,

Sign me up for that!

It’s New Year’s Eve and I couldn’t let this occasion slip by without observation. I’m not doing a 20 things for 2020 list, or telling you how to reach your goals.

My take on entering 2020 is as simple as this photograph.

You could say I was excited!

More specifically, my expression reveals something worth considering as I set goals, make lists, break in my new planner, and generally prepare for a fresh decade.

It’s this: if I am not THIS excited / energized / enthusiastic about something, it’s a NO. It’s coming off my agenda, my calendar, my mind and heart, too. I am no longer interested in anything or anyone who produces a mediocre half-ass response.

Okay, I’m not referring to grocery shopping, cleaning the bathroom, or filing paperwork. We know these are necessary. Maybe sometimes I can smile like this afterwards – that I did something I didn’t really want to do. But this isn’t about chores, this is about all the OTHER stuff. The extra things, the recreation, the enrichment, the glorious things of life.

What I’ve realized over the past year is that I have had a lot of free time. Some of it was wasted on things that were really not fun or fulfilling. Or spent with people who did not bring out my best. Life is too short! My energy and time are too precious to waste on anything that doesn’t bring this expression to my face.

Or yours! When was the last time you were SO excited about something?

My friend invited me to an aerial yoga class, which I had been curious about, but had yet to try. It was every bit as challenging as it was fun, AND afterwards we grabbed a bite and had a great time catching up.

So it was a perfect GNO, and I was delighted to be where I was, doing what I was doing, and with whom.

I want one of these for my house!

That is what I hope and plan for 2020. That I can be enthusiastic with the endeavors of my choosing that lie before me, and that any company I keep will bring additional joy. As I ponder the future, I know I am going in with a fresh perspective and an optimistic smile!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Thanks for reading, until next time,

It’s time for the good stuff

Hi there!

It’s been a hot minute since I have written. Tell me, have you missed my wit and enlightenment? Say yes, please.

I was SHOCKED that this was not a topic of a post last year. I remember very specifically writing it in my head. I actually went back through all my posts and drafts and it’s nowhere to be found. So here goes.

Last year was the first official year that I decorated my tree as an empty nester. It was brutal. Pulling out all of the nostalgia just about killed me dead. I tried to set myself up for success. I had some funky dance music going, and a glass of red to keep me company.

What I didn’t realize is how sentimental I actually am.

Digging through all of the handmade ornaments, and realizing an entire era has passed. So many memories wrapped in paper towels, waiting to be hung on the tree once again. I remember last year, vacillating between the joy of decorating, and the melancholy of missing my kids.

So this year, I was prepared. I knew it was coming. I had funky dance music going, but held off on the red as if that would help keep my emotional wall strong and steady.

No such luck. If things are not perfectly balanced, or there are bare spots, I didn’t see them through my tears.

My daughters are adults now, responsibly living in their own places and I probably should give them some of these ornaments. Or maybe not.

It’s held up quite well, wouldn’t you agree?
Circa 1995, Evidence of my hair cutting fail.

Many women (okay, and fellas, too) decide to go full-on-decorator when their nest empties. It must all be fancy-schmancy, and fragile, and themed out, maybe even hand-blown imports from a land far away. With zero chance of a toddler invasion, it’s now safe to pull out the good stuff.

Yes, I need these ornaments!

What is the good stuff? The safe, color coordinated, designer ornaments that look as though they came right off of a Pinterest board? Expensive maybe, but not necessarily the good stuff.

Isn’t this just stunning?
And how fun is this?

The good stuff is knowing that there are lots of memories hanging on my tree. Coworkers that I miss, friends from years ago, and preschool handmade pieces that have survived only by a miracle.

I get it now. And if I weren’t saving all of my money for future goals, I’d run out and get my own version of decorator tree ornaments. My kids will all be here at some point to celebrate with me (okay, mid January will work), and they will appreciate all of the sentimentality on my tree.

I’d like to offer up a little poem…

Lights and ribbons and garland and such,
These do not cause the tears near as much,
As the small hand-print reindeer from Christmases long past,
The preschool sparkles disappear much too fast.
Enjoy your little ones and all their noise and mess,
For one day, you too will have to confess,
How much you miss those cherub-like faces,
And be thrilled for grand babies to take their places.
It’s perfectly fine to have a new fancy theme,
With decorator pieces and chosen color scheme.
Either way, let’s do our best to keep things festive and bright.
A Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Whether you’re keeping old traditions or beginning new ones, may your season one of wonder and peace!

Thanks for reading, until next time,

The Tale of the Failed Yard Sale (a non-baby post)

Some people at my church had a yard sale the other day to help out a family in need. It’s wonderful when a bunch of people rally to help others, no matter how it’s done. Some organize events like races or dinners, while others simply write checks. The motivation is what matters, and theirs was in the right place.

My involvement in this whole project was very minor. I helped coordinate the borrowing of some tables. I recommended to others that donations were welcome. And early that morning, I dropped by for a bit of shopping. I purchased a couple of great items and left a small donation to boot.

It was really best for all involved that I didn’t do any more than that. Here’s how I know this to be the honest-to-goodness solemn truth: I am terrible at yard sales. See also garage sales, tag sales, or estate sales.

The irony is that I just graduated from business college with high honors; yet I couldn’t get rid of my own junk without it costing me. At the time it was not the tiniest bit amusing. Now I can laugh about it. Maybe you will too.

Let’s properly set the stage, shall we?

My husband (now ex) and I, along with the four daughters between us, were living in less a thousand square feet. Many would agree (especially here in the US), that’s not enough room for a family of six. Add to that a man who refuses to part with things. It was time to clean out!

Honestly, I would have just taken it all to the Goodwill a mile away, but I felt like a sale could generate some cash. Maybe we could make a buck or two. The kids got involved, and before I realized what was happening , we were sorting through treasures junk and making signs.

Then the kids talked me into selling brownies and lemonade. Great idea! Except that I shelled out cash for brownie mix, lemonade supplies, cups, and more signage.

Photo credit, Published Jun 13, 2019

We spent a week sorting, debating, planning and pricing. Then at least an hour putting out signs, hauling all of our treasures junk outside, and then spent several more hours standing guard.

We were hoping for paying customers that would not barter over a fifty-cent item. Seriously. I’ve already marked this prize down to the lowest respectable amount, and you want a deal? Will I let you have it for a quarter? No, please, just take it. It’s free now. You win.

I managed to sell about $20 worth of stuff. It was mostly me buying brownies that the kids refused to let me eat for free. Then I donated a few of the bigger items to the neighbor across the way, packed the rest into the Isuzu Rodeo, and three trips to Goodwill later, it was finished.

Or so I thought.

The next day hubby began his inquisition.
Him: “What happened to that picture that was leaning up behind the book shelf? You didn’t sell it, did you?”
Me: “Wait, do you mean the ugly framed print that was covered in dust, with no place to be hung?”
Him: “Yes, that one. It had been signed by the artist who was a dear friend of mine who has now passed away. It means a lot to me.”

Oh, great. That detail had not been mentioned AT ALL in the days leading up to the sale, or at any point during the sale in which said picture had been marked at $2 with not a taker all day. (Note: hubby had been home for the several-hour-sale, but chose to not participate. I’m not angry, you’re angry).

It might have been fun to have told him someone bought it. I could have just handed him $2, but that would have been lying, and I try to be an honest person. This precious print was at Goodwill where I had gladly dropped it off. There was such wailing and carrying on when I confessed its whereabouts; the only right thing to do was to try and retrieve it.

Do you know what happens when you try to reclaim a donated item at Goodwill? You get to BUY IT BACK, that’s what. They thought it was worth TEN DOLLARS, which is what I spent the following day. Add to that, the brownie and lemonade supplies and signage, and I actually lost money on the whole cluster endeavor.

So this is why I don’t hold or even help with yard sales anymore. What did I learn through my yard sale fiasco?

First, no more yard sales.
Second, don’t marry a hoarder.
Third, don’t buy anything I don’t absolutely love.
Fourth, if the kids want an enterprise of their own, they need to self-fund or find another investor.
Finally, stick to what I’m good at, which quite clearly excludes yard sales. Five solid lessons learned. I’ll take it!

Also, I thought y’all needed a break from all the grand-baby posts. There will be more soon enough. But here’s a quick peek to hold you over.

Ellix at 9 days old. PC – our very talented friend, Kate of Pearly Kate Photography

Any yard sale tales you’d like to tell? I’d love to hear from you. It can’t be worse than the one I just shared, or could it?

Thanks for reading, until next time,

See you real soon…

Winter, you win.

I’m about to hop on a plane to head back to Florida where all the cool and hip grandparents live. Obviously.

There are many other reasons to head home besides the frigid temps. None of them seem important though. But in attempting to swallow this giant lump of sadness in my throat, I’ll be logical and list them here for both of us.

1 – He is not my baby. He is my daughter’s baby, and she is well able to take excellent care of him. She is a natural and I’m beyond proud of her and her man already.

2 – Everyone needs their space. I need my own space to live, and they definitely need me to not be in their space any longer. And since a second home isn’t an option, it’s back to Florida I must go.

3 – I have another daughter. True, she is independent and can go for days without seeing me, but she is still my kid and I’ve missed her.

4 – I have a job. Not just any job, but one that I truly care about. Also, after working remotely, I realize it’s not the kind of job that can really be done from afar. It’s hard to “work” in a community when you’re not actually there.

5 – I need to take care of myself. While away, I basically ignored the yoga mat in my room, barely wrote, and ate garbage (my daughter has a sweet tooth, and I joined her indulgences). My self-care routine suffered a bit, and I know it’s not sustainable to continue without it.

These are all logical and mature and wise observations. But my heart is just breaking at the idea of not holding this one for 2 whole months. Ugh…

Countdown app has been activated!

We parted this morning without any tears, and so far I’ve (sort-of) been holding them at bay. I know he is in good hands, and everyone knows how to feed themselves and do the laundry and love on that baby.

I feel so very grateful that I have been able to be here for my girl and her man during their last few days pre-baby. And even more thankful to have been able to enjoy this adorable boy’s first eleven days in our world.

So here’s what I’m telling myself: Hang in there. Use Facetime. Find travel deals. Call often. Prioritize the relationship. Also, know what’s mine and what isn’t.

To all those who grandparent from a distance, what wisdom do you have for me? How do you manage? For real, I need to know!

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Combat boots recommended.

Ten days ago, I hopped on a plane to be with my daughter and her man. I had gotten too antsy to remain 997 miles away from them and their baby bump. All signs were pointing to his imminent arrival, and I did not want to fret for another single second about getting there in time.

What transpired upon my arrival? Several days of waiting. But not waiting from a distance, waiting with them. Those final days of pregnancy are miserable (especially if you go beyond the due date!), and I was glad to help with the cooking and cleaning and shopping and laundry. I’ve spent more time on domestic chores in this span than I have in the past six months. I wish I was kidding.

The flight may have been considered by some to be premature, including me occasionally. I adjusted to living with a dog, sleeping on an air mattress, and living out of my suitcase. All these details were expected, and totally fine with me. I was helpful and generous and tried to stay out of their way.

And then a couple of days ago, labor began FOR REAL. This was also expected. Duh. People don’t stay pregnant forever.

Kelsey and Tyler. Aren’t they adorable?

But what I was sort of prepared for, was completely falling in love with this tiny precious human baby. My first grandchild. My child’s child. What in the actual ___? I realize I seem too young for this, but apparently looks are deceiving, because it’s all true. And here he is…

So fresh! So tiny! And may I just say, perfect?
The nurses know how to swaddle them like burritos!

Meet Ellix Morgan, born at 5:37pm on Wednesday, October 30. He weighed in at 7 lbs, 7 oz, and measured 19.5 inches long. Most people enjoy such stats. You’re welcome.

The name is nearly original. Tyler met someone with the name Elixander, and they both instantly loved it, and modified it to be their own version. The middle name, though? That’s what has completely done me in.

Background: I have two daughters, Kelsey and Morgan.

Maybe the choosing of her sister’s name, as his middle name, is not a big deal to others. But to me, the floodgates opened and I sobbed.

If we can ugly cry like Brittany, is it still ugly?

The entire time these two daughters were growing up, my prayers were that they would love one another in their adult years. There was plenty of evidence that divine intervention would be necessary. They fought with each other, and with me. They competed for time and attention. They argued about clothes and cars and anything else nearby. There were rough patches for sure, I wasn’t sure it would ever cease.

And now, here we are. One loving the another enough to use her name. Miracles do happen. The next generation seems to be starting off with as much love as a grandmother could ever hope for.

It seems like tissues would be appropriate. So what’s up with combat boots?

Because life brings challenges, and it can feel like an all-out war. Prioritizing relationships and keeping close family ties is not for wimps. Overcoming disagreements. Having healthy boundaries. Knowing when to speak up and when to shut up. Forgiving each other. Understanding and having compassion for ourselves and others. All of these things are difficult, but so worth the fight.

Here’s to a new generation of love, wonder and joy!

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri, aka JoJo