Today is my birthday. Its not a milestone but I’m definitely on the other side of my 40s, approaching 50, and that got me to thinking. The human life span is supposed to be 120 years old. I’m not sure I want to live to see that number, but I’ve always hoped to see 100. I was thinking about 46 and if I’m aiming for 100 then I’ve lived 46% of my life. That’s not even half! And, when I think about it like that I really don’t feel old. I was thinking about all the things I’ve done and seen these past 46 years and all the things I still hope to do and see. This got me to writing a list, which is just…typical Chrissy! I’m always making lists! Anyway, I decided to share one of those lists with you. Below are the 46 things I’ve accomplished in my 46 years.
1. Learned how to ride a bike
2. Learned how to rollerskate
3. Visited Copper Mountain Michigan
4. Seen pictured rocks in Michigan
5. Visited Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan
6. Traveled to Toronto, Canada
7. Traveled to Prague, Czech Republic
8. Traveled to Beijing and Shanghai China
9. Stood on the Great Wall of China
10. Attended the opera in Prague
11. I have been to the ballet
12. I’ve seen the Flint Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra perform live
13. I’ve seen a fair amount of the works of Picasso, Monet, and Rodin while traveling
14. I’ve fallen in love
15. I’ve given birth and raised a child
16. I’ve experienced thunder snow!
17. I’ve earned a college degree
18. I’ve taught Sunday School
19. I learned how to drive a car
20. I’ve learned how to bellydance
21. I learned how to play the piano
22. I learned to shoot a gun
23. I learned how to ride a horse
24. I learned to swim
25. I learned how to garden and have grown beautiful flowers
26. I learned how to make stained glass
27. I’ve seen the Grand Canyon
28. I’ve seen the California Redwoods
29. I’ve stood in the Pacific Ocean
30. I’ve been to Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior
31. I’ve been to the Bahamas
31. I’ve been to the Guanajuato, Mexico and wandered the streets of the most beautiful city carved out of a silver mine
32. I’ve traveled through the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico
33. I’ve been to Disney World
34. I’ve been to the Art Institute of Chicago
35. I’ve seen Neil Diamond perform live
36. I’ve seen all of the Star Wars movies in the movie theater
37. I read all the Harry Potter books when they were first published
38. I was alive the day MTV launched on the air
39. I’ve watched technology advance from a phone on a wall to a miniature computer in the palm of my hand
40. I voted for the first African American President in American history
41. I started a blog!
42. I’ve been a cosmetologist, a medical transcriptionist, and a laboratory technician
43. I’ve been on TV and interviewed by a newspaper
44. I’ve survived 3 car accidents
45. I’ve voted every year since I turned 18
46. I’ve reinvented myself at least a dozen times
Not bad for 46% of my life. Maybe not as impressive as others. I haven’t traveled the world but I’ve seen a few pretty places. I haven’t tackled any extreme sports but I still have time. I haven’t climbed any mountains but I’ve traveled through a few by car. My life hasn’t been perfect. It hasn’t been easy. But then no one lives a perfect life. And anyone who tells you life is easy is selling you something. Life is hard, and its fragile. Life is terrifying and awful, and incredibly beautiful. Ultimately, its totally worth living. I’m looking forward to the next 54 years. I have a long list of things I want to accomplish. There are still places I would like to visit, things I would like to see. Fifty four years is a lot of time. The one thing of my youth I hope to shed is the sense of urgency and idealization of busy. I want to slow down and take time to appreciate all that is around me. I want to spend less time looking at the world through the lens of my camera phone and more time really watching the sunsets. I want to spend less time watching nature documentaries on TV and more time hiking the trails and being in nature. I want to improve my piano playing. I want to be a stronger, better swimmer. I want to learn how to ride a horse well enough to lease my own and trail ride through the woods in the fall. Still so many things to do and thankfully, still so much time.
I’m a trailer park girl. I was born in Flint Michigan where we lived in a Section 8 housing apartment complex called Rollingwood Manor. When I was a teenager we moved to a small town in Northern Michigan called West Branch. The only thing my mother could afford was a small 2 bedroom mobile home that was probably 30 years old when we moved in. I considered it to be an upgrade from our life in Flint. We had a small yard. At the time we moved in most of our neighbors were senior citizens and no one was selling heroin out of their kitchen, which was a nice change of pace for me. It was so quiet at night. Positively peaceful. It didn’t occur to me that I was a ‘trailer park girl’ or what that even meant.
Trailer parks have a well-earned bad reputation. Mobile homes are lopped in close together and left to slowly decay as one tennant to another moves in. As assisted living facilities and senior apartment complexes became more affordable my retiree neighbors began moving out. The thing about a mobile home is that their resale value is shit. No one with money and a decent credit score wants to invest in a mobile home because mobile homes are not investments. Besides, most banks and mortgage companies will not finance a mobile home. This limits the pool of potential buyers for mobile homes. Its a recipe for a sterotype of all mobile home residents being poor white trash.
I lived in the mobile home park for 15 years, and to tell the truth I was always happy. I really liked my neighbors. One of my neighbors was a deputy for the local sherrif’s department. Several of my neighbors worked at the local hospital. Unlike other mobile home parks the one I lived in had well-spaced lots so we were all given a yard to enjoy. There was a pond in the middle of the park and it was home to ducks, turtles, and a regular stop for geese every fall as they traveled south. What we all had in common was poverty. My mother never had much money. She worked as a waitress and relied on tips. My mom never had money in the bank. She never had emergency savings to fall back on. She was always one step ahead of disaster. She paid the utilities just enough each month to keep them from being shut off. Most of the time. My mom had no idea how to manage her money. She frittered her money away as fast as she earned it. When your poor you live paycheck to paycheck, moment to moment. You can’t think about next month or next year or retirement because you’re too busy worrying about right now. Will the car be repossessed? Will the heat be turned off? Do we have enough groceries? This drives compulsive spending.
My mom was a compulsive spender. If she had money in her wallet she had to spend it as quickly as possible. My mom was so used to long periods with no money that when she had money she spent it as soon as she earned it. That’s the thing about poverty. Its a vicious cycle. It fucks with you mentally. You are constantly chasing your tail. You are broke because you spend what little you have because you are tired of being broke. Someone once said to me that people on food stamps should not be allowed to buy steak. Well, let me tell you. I grew up on food stamps and we rarely ate steak. Steak was a treat. My mom spent her hard earned cash to buy us steaks to cook on the grill when she should have used that cash to pay a bill. Why didn’t she pay the bill? Because when you spend day after day, week after week, month after month, depressed because you can’t pay your bills and you’re only eating ground beef because its cheap, well once in awhile you say fuck it! and you buy the damn steak. And I”ll tell you, those steaks on the grill that my mom made for my siblings and I are some of the best I’ve had in my life. Not becasue they were cut by a great butcher. In fact a lot of times they were the cheapest steaks in the counter. They were wonderful because of the memories made eating those dinners with my family. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’m not ashamed to be a trailer park girl. I’m rather proud of her. She and I have been through a lot and I’ll share those experiences with you on future blogs. But today I want to focus on the topic of money management.
When you live paycheck to paycheck you are living moment to moment. You can’t think about the future because its taking all you’ve got to figure out today. And, if you’re not thinking about the future then you can’t learn how to manage money. And, if you don’t know how to manage money then you are doomed to stay in the cycle of poverty forever. Why am I telling you all of this? Because this summer I realized that like my mother, I do not know how to manage my money. I’ve spent my entire life living paycheck to paycheck, and to be honest, I don’t know how to live better. I have a well-paying job with a 401K, paid vacation, paid sick days, and weekends and holidays off. I should be alright now, right? Well, I should be. The thing is, I’m not. I’m still living paycheck to paycheck. I have direct deposit. I get paid twice a month and I’m usually broke within 3 days after I get paid. Yes, the cost of living in Southeast Michigan is very high. Average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment is between $1200 to $1500 a month. Groceries are expensive. Gas and electricity are high. But I’ll tell you, in spite of all that I should not be broke 2 days after payday. I’ve had a lot of financial disasters of my own making these past six years. Fortunately, my family has been there to bail me out. I’ve created budgets. I’ve promised myself I would stick to them. I’ve cut costs and reduced monthly expenses. This spring I was well on my way to financial comfort. Not wealth. By comfort I mean knowing that all my bills were paid on time, my groceries were bought, I had gas in my car, and $200 to last until the next payday. I thought I knew what I was doing. I created a budget with the 50/30/20 principle and consulted my Aunt who is smart with money for help. I finally felt like a grownup. And it was going really well, until the Lavender Festival.
The Michigan Lavender Festival is an art and craft fair held at Blake’s Farm every summer. I love art and craft fairs. I’m usually broke when I attend them. This year the fair fell the day after payday. Yahtzee! Being the much wiser woman that I thought I was I paid the monthly bills on Friday and headed out to the craft fair with my sister and daughter on Saturday. And that’s where it all fell apart. I told myself that I wasn’t going to spend any money. I had a rough idea of how much money I could spend. The thing is all the bills I paid had not posted yet so my account balance was deceptive. When I got to the fair something in my brain clicked, and unfortunately, the rest of my brain turned off and my inner trailer park girl was unleashed! I treated myself to bundles of dried lavender, spices, handmade jewerly, and lavender chocolate. I bought lavender plants for my yard. I bought packets of culinary lavender to bake yummy lavender treats. As long as the debit card was accepted, I shopped. Trouble is, all those swipes were credit charges. Not debit charges. The following Monday I checked my balance expecting to see a low number, probably less than a $100. I knew I lost my mind at that festival and I was feeling guilty and stupid. When I saw the three digit negative number that popped up my stomach hit the floor. I had overdrawn my checking account by $400.
Yes, you read that right. By the time all the bills I’d paid and all the shopping I had done had posted I was $400 in the hole. I felt numb staring at that number realizing that payday was a solid 2-1/2 weeks away, and I hadn’t grocery shopped yet. Now what? My daughter asked me if I was going to call my Aunt and ask for money. How could I? I knew better! I felt utterly stupid. I was mad at myself. How could I have done this? I took a quick mental note of the stock of food in my freezer and cupboards and realizing we were not in danger of starving until my next payday I decided that no, I was not going to ask for help. We would suffer through. Perhaps a reminder of what it felt like to be poor was exactly what I needed! I figured a couple of weeks reliving the struggles of trailer park years was exactly what I needed to straighten my head out and get back on track. My daughter wasn’t excited about this plan, but I figured it was a good lesson for her too. Learn from my mistakes and all that. So, did I learn? Well, no and…yes.
During that 2-1/2 weeks we went without daily comforts. Again, I’m not talking about steak and eating out. I’m talking about TV. The payment for all the streaming services we watch couldn’t process because my account was negative. So, we didn’t have TV. I subscribe to meditation and fitness apps that I use daily and those montly subscriptions couldn’t be renewed, so they ran out. Toiletries began to run out and my daughter and I began rationing a bottle of shampoo and bar of soap. I dug through my spare change and got a bottle of laundry soap at the dollar store so we could wash our clothes. Every day I scolded myself. I had to be careful with the food in the cupboards and freezer so I went without lunch and breakfast. I couldn’t wait for payday! I promised myself I would never do this again. This would be the last time I lived like this. So, what do you think happened?
Payday was last Wednesday. I paid my utility bills that were late. I restored all of my streaming services and app subscriptions. I steered clear of Amazon. I told myself there would be no luxuries or fun stuff. This was all about getting back on track! On Thursday I went to the pet store and picked up cat food, flea medicine, and a new scratching box for Blue so he would stop trying to shred my sofa. I paid my gym membership which was late and tacked on another set of swim lessons. That night I treated Alexa and I to dinner at the new Italian resturant downtown because after all, I deserved it didn’t I? Hadn’t I been so much more responsible (hint, not really)? After dinner we went to Target and stocked up on toiletries for me and Alexa and household items. I was too tired to grocery shop so I decided I would do that on Friday. Friday morning I woke up and as per usual checked my bank balance. I stared numbly at the screen which read back to me -$36.00. How? I asked myself. How could I have done this AGAIN? I scrolled through the items posted. Yes, I could see all the items I had spent. I also realized that in doing my math I had not accounted for the fact that when my direct deposit hit it would first cover the -$400. See, when I open up my account on the mobile app it shows me my account at the present moment. But that balance doesn’t account for all the transactions still pending. I hadn’t accounted for that on Thursday. I’ve been ruminating on this all weekend and yesterday I came to this conclusion. I simply do not know how to manage my money. I am overwhelmed by the whole process. And, like my mother, when I have money in my account I spend it before I think about it. I live in the moment rather than thinking about next week, the next two weeks. What makes this really infuriating to me is that I do not have to live like this. My income is not unpredictable. I know exactly how much money will be deposited into my checking account each payday. I’ve budgeted my monthly expenses. I know what I need to pay out and when. There should be no reason for me to miss a bill, or be without a few dollars in my account. So, what the hell am I doing?
Last night, I had a long talk with my inner trailer park girl. I reminded her how hard we worked to get to where we are. I reminded her of all the nights we dreamed of this life now, of earning a salary all my own that would be enough to support me and Alexa. This morning I spent 2 hours doing an online course on money management provided free of charge by PNC Bank. The course is called Foundations of Money Management. I highly recommend it. The course is well-written, easy to follow, and goes back to the very basics. It explains what a checking account is, how it works, and most importantly, how to manage one. I learned how to reconcile my bank statements. I learned that even though I use my debit card and have a mobile banking app, these tools do not replace an old fashioned check register. In fact, a check register is even more important in this age of swiping a card. I discovered a great tool offered by PNC called a paycheck planner. Its a simple form that allows you plan out your upcoming expenses from one paycheck to the next so you keep your future responsibilities in front of you. I got a refresher on budgeting although frankly, I like my 50/30/20 approach better.
I read a couple of online book summaries on money management. I want to share those tips with all of you. I will write a blog post about financial fitness in more detail later but I want to share with you the most important lesson I learned today.
Thinking back on all those years in the trailer park when we were so poor I realize its not things that make you happy, its experiences and the memories they create. Living in that trailer park I would shop on Amazon and create wishlists. I would put items in my cart and imagine hitting the button to complete the purchase. Yes, I longed for things but even if I could have hit the button to buy that would not be the memories I cherish today. I look back on all the times spent with neighbors and friends laughing, cooking hot dogs on the grill, and I remember family dinners with my mom, sister, and daughter and how happy we were around that little table in that little mobile home. Its the experiences that brought me joy, not the things. The memory of those experiences is what drives a lot of the joy I feel now every day. I feel very blessed to have had so much happiness despite so much hardship. And that is the lesson my inner trailer park girl wants to share with all of you this Sunday. The amount of money you have really only has a minimal influence on how much you smile, how much you laugh, and how much you enjoy yourself on a daily basis. During the poorest years of my life I experienced incredible joy, love, and laughter on a daily basis. Over the last two weeks when Alexa and I were rationing two boxes of graham crackers we laughed and smiled every day. It was difficult but not the worst thing that has ever happened to either one of us. So, if you are living paycheck to paycheck and feeling overwhelmed by your finanaces or lack thereof, I highly recommend the online course from PNC. You can find it by googling Foundations of Money Management by PNC. You do not have to have an account to take the course. The course is free. I will learn to manage my money so I control my finances without feeling overwhelmed or worse needing another rescue deposit on my PayPal account. But more importantly, I am going to try to gather more experiences than things because happy memories are worth far more than anything that you can buy at an art and craft fair.
I love Mondays. No I’m not dying and I haven’t dropped my basket – yet.
I honestly love Mondays. It has become my favorite day of the week. Monday has a bad rap, which personally I think is really unfair. Let’s be honest – Monday is dreaded because it’s the first day of the work week. It’s the day after the weekend when stress replaces relaxation, responsibilities replace freedom, tasks and to do lists replace lying on the sofa, and tedium replaces fun and creativity.
Every Sunday night my social media newsfeeds fill with memes dreading Monday. Post after post = I hate Monday. Frankly, it’s depressing. I’ve stopped scrolling my newsfeeds on Sunday nights to avoid this endless parade of negativity. Monday mornings aren’t much better. It’s a steady stream of tired faces sipping coffee walking into the office as though they were walking onto death row.
C’mon people! It’s not Monday you hate it’s what you perceive to be the return to responsibility which is overwhelming. If you allow it to be!
I made a decision this year to see Mondays in a more positive way and honestly it’s one of the kindest things I’ve done for myself. I get excited on Sunday nights thinking about Monday. Like you I have a stressful job, bills to pay, tons of emails, errands, tasks, etc. I love my weekends. I love the down time with no plans, no meetings, no emails. And I do feel a pang of sadness when I wake up on Sunday mornings and realize this brief taste of freedom is nearly over. But then I think about Monday.
Monday is the start of a new week. It’s a clean slate. I say goodbye to the regrets from the previous week and focus my attention forward to the week in front of me. I set new goals. I reorganize priorities so that I can focus on what’s off track. Monday is a chance to get ahead, accomplish things, produce results, and if approached right, then it’s the day that sets the rest of the week up for success.
So stop whining about Mondays. Embrace the opportunity to slay a new week. Kiss last week’s failures and regrets goodbye and focus on the week ahead. Smile at your coworkers and wish them a Happy Monday, and really mean it!
Most importantly, smile and be grateful you have this day and another week.
What’s on your mind today?
Me? I’m thinking about forgiveness.
What does it mean to forgive? Simply put, forgiveness is the act of mustering enough compassion for someone who has hurt or wronged you to move forward rather than allowing bitterness and anger to eat away at your mind and heart. But does that mean we have to let someone continue to hurt us?
I think forgiveness is a tool for self-empowerment. When you forgive someone you take away their power to hurt you. Of course there are exceptions where withholding forgiveness can also be empowering. Victims of sexual assault often find the path to healing when they allow themselves to be angry at their attacker.
My daughter asked me what I thought about forgiveness. I think the key to forgiveness is intent. When we are talking about whether or not to forgive someone, intent matters. I created the example below to help my daughter understand forgiveness. I call it The Reckless Driver.
Let’s imagine you are standing on a corner waiting to cross the street. The crossing sign lights green and tells you to walk, so you step into the street and proceed to walk. Suddenly, a car comes rushing up the street and hits you! Thankfully, you are not killed but you do have a broken leg. You are lying in the street bloodied and bruised with your leg broken and you’re in terrible pain. The driver gets out of the car holding their cell phone. The driver was texting and driving and didn’t see you. The driver walks up to you. Now, there are several different ways the rest of this scenario could go.
The driver gets out of the car apologizing profusely. The driver says “I”m so sorry I hit you. I should not have been texting and driving. I hurt you. I feel awful about this. Please forgive me.” What would you do? You are in terrible pain and shock so you might not do or say much, but once that shock wears off you have two choices. You might be furious with the driver. This broken leg is certainly going to interfere with your plans and your lifestyle for several months and it’s going to cost you a lot of money. You could stay mad at the driver and refuse to accept their apology. I heard it said once that holding onto bitterness and resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Did the driver intend to hit you? Intent matters. In this example the driver did not mean to hurt you. The driver knows their reckless actions are the reason you are hurt. They accept responsibility for their actions. They are truly sorry. Your bitterness and resentment are worthless to you. The guilt the driver feels is their punishment. Your resentment and bitterness are now your poison. Holding onto them will only hurt yourself. Forgiveness will allow you to move forward to a place that is more peaceful which is certainly better for healing. Unfortunately, not every situation in life is this easy.
Let’s imagine the driver got out of the car and looked at you lying in the street bloodied and in pain and said “Why are you laying in the street like that?” This driver has no idea they hurt you. You explain to the driver that you are lying in the street because they hit you, but no matter how much you try to explain it, the driver just doesn’t understand that because of their reckless driving you are lying in the street with a broken leg. What do you do? Did the driver intend to hurt you? No, but they don’t understand that texting and driving is the reason you are hurt. This is dangerous. They could hurt you or someone else again. Still, holding onto the anger and resentment doesn’t serve you at all. In this instance it also doesn’t punish the driver. This person doesn’t understand they did anything wrong and will likely just rationalize your anger as you being crazy. Forgive them, but remember when I asked if forgiveness means we have to allow someone to continue to hurt us?
Forgiveness does not mean the person who wronged us doesn’t have to face the consequences of their actions and it doesn’t mean we must allow that person to hurt us over and over again. The driver who was texting and hit you must face criminal charges for reckless driving. They will likely lose their driver’s license for awhile and be required to pay restitution. Pursuing prosecution of this person does not mean you don’t forgive them. Its not unchristian. Its simply a matter of teaching the driver that their actions have consequences and removing the opportunity for this person to hurt you again is an act of self protection. It’s not done in anger. It’s a matter of fact. If someone in your life hurts you over and over it’s okay to set boundaries. You may limit the amount of contact you have with this person. They may see it as punishment and try to make you feel badly, but remember it’s just a form of self protection.
Still, some experiences in life are very confrontational. Now we must imagine the driver gets out of the car and starts screaming at you “What the hell were you doing in the street? Look at what you did to my car! This is just great. Now, I’m going to be late for my appointment.” This asshole thinks they are the victim. They just hit you and not only are they not taking responsibility for their actions but they have the audacity to think they are the victim! You know people like this. Maybe its a relative like a sibling or a parent. Now the situation is even trickier. Can we set up boundaries with family members? What do you do? Again, did they intend to hit you? No, but they did hit you and they somehow have rationalized this in their mind that they are the victim rather than you. You need to forgive this person so you can have peace. You deserve peace. But again, you do not have to let this person continue to hurt you. You can set boundaries that limit your exposure to this person. Boundaries are not a form of punishment. They are put in place for protection. You need to control the setting in which you will interact with this person. Forgive them but don’t let them continue to hurt you. They may not understand, and that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find peace.
Now let’s imagine a strange but sadly common scenario. What if the driver knows they hurt you but they really don’t care. Imagine the driver gets out of the car, sees you lying in the road, shrugs their shoulders and says “Oh well.” Now what? Did they intend to hit you? No. But they did hit you, they acknowledge their personal responsibility but, they really aren’t sorry. The answer is the same as above. Forgive them, but set boundaries.
Finally, let’s imagine that the driver intended to hurt you. Imagine the driver saw you step into the street and stepped on the gas hoping to kill you or at least hurt you. What do you do now. Like I said, intent matters. This is where withholding forgiveness can be empowering. Allow yourself to be angry. Let yourself feel the anger and rage. Remove that person from your life if you need to. Withhold your forgiveness for as long as you need and when the anger no longer serves you, let it go.
My daughter asked me if setting up boundaries is disrespectful. Is it disrespectful to say, a parent, if we do not forgive them and set up boundaries? No. First, no one, not even your parents should be given respect out of a sense of requirement. Respect is earned. It is never given. No matter what the relationship between people.
Respect is earned through trust. If we cannot trust someone then we cannot respect that person.
Remember, forgiveness is a tool in our mental tool box. It’s used to bring us peace. It’s not meant to bring the one who hurt us peace although by design it can. Use this tool as often as you need and as often as you can.
Some of us are comfortable inside the box
Some of us aren’t meant to be kept in boxes
If you’re comfortable inside the box then that is where you should be. Don’t let the world bully you into believing you must step out of your comfort zone and color outside the lines. They are intimidated by your strength. And if you are the type who just doesn’t fit inside a square box no matter how big the box, don’t fret. Ignore those who try to bully you into the box. They are intimidated by your creativity.
In the box, or not. You have strength, creativity, and talent and they flourish when we are content.
Happy Caturday! What is Caturday? Its the day after Friday. The day after a crazy busy week with all of its to do lists, errands, and appointments when we slow down and take it easy. Relax and nap with the cats!
What does your typical Saturday look like? Are you and your kids scheduled every weekend all weekend? Growing up I remember Saturdays as the day spent in front of the TV watching cartoons eating a bowl of cereal. My mom would make something special for breakfast like homemade donuts or french toast. The afternoons would be spent playing with friends or going to the movie with my family. What we didn’t do was run around living out of a minivan. When my daughter was young we all wanted our kids to participate in every sport and extracurricular activity we could possibly squeeze in. Saturdays were a crazy day spent running around to games and recitals, birthday parties, and play dates. If there is one do-over I could have it would be to have one of those Saturdays back. To sit in front of the TV under a pile of blankets with my daughter and watch the coyote build an elaborate trap to catch the road runner.
If you’re a new parent, or the parent of young kids this is probably one of the most important pieces of advice I can give to you. Cancel all your plans for today. Skip the game. Send your regrets to the birthday party or play date. Build a blanket fort in your living room with your kids and watch cartoons. Pop a can of cinnamon rolls and put them in the oven. Yes, they are processed and full of chemicals. They’re also yummy, and a treat. You’re not living off them on a daily basis. Let your kids get their fingers sticky eating ooey gooey warm cinnamon rolls. Tell knock knock jokes and cuddle. There will be lots of games. Lots of swim meets. Lots of birthday parties and play dates. You get a finite number of years to make these memories. Don’t let the time slip away.
Be like my Daisy Mae below and enjoy your Caturday!
I think every blogger does this. It’s like those viral posts on facebook we all do. Let’s get to know each other better! Share 10 random facts about yourself. I need to create an about me page for this blog. A classic exercise for any writer is a brain dump. Just start listing shit out. So like every other blogger below are random facts about me.
1. I hate doing things the conventional way. I’m more of a follow the beat of my own drum kind of person so rather than writing an even number of facts like 20 or 30, I’m listing out 31.
2. I’m half Norwegian and half Greek. I’m one part Viking and one part Goddess. I’ll kick your ass or smite you whichever way my mood is blowing 😂
3. I don’t like beer, and I really don’t love wine. In fact, I’m not big on alcohol at all. I would rather drink a coke over ice than any alcoholic drink.
4. I’m big on aromatherapy. I keep loads of essential oils in my medicine cabinet. I use them in diffusers, apply them to my skin, and make my own concoctions. I burn incense every day, and I keep roller bottles in my desk at work and in my purse.
5. I love beaches on the Great Lakes and oceans. I like visiting small lakes but nothing stirs my soul like the beaches of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and the Pacific Ocean.
6. I’m not afraid of public speaking. I could walk onto a stage and speak in front of thousands of people on live TV if I had to.
7. I’ve been struggling with social anxiety since my mom died 3 years ago. I never used to have issues going out with friends, joining coworkers for a drink after work, going to parties but these days I find myself making excuses and canceling more than I go out.
8. I was obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the 1980s. I loved the way she dressed and I loved that she was the superhero. I follow all the actors on Instagram today.
9. I don’t have any tattoos.
10. I have never tried drugs or smoked marijuana, and I have no desire to.
11. I don’t like coffee. I don’t like the smell or the flavor.
12. I love Mondays! I love the possibility of a whole new week. A new chance to accomplish goals, learn new things, and there is always another weekend to look forward to.
13. I have a scar on my nose. Its been there since I was 5 years old after I was attacked by a dog.
14. I have dermatillomania. It’s a chronic skin picking disorder that is related to OCD. I also have a sort of borderline trichotillomania which is hair pulling. I don’t pull my hair out and I don’t pull out my eyebrows, but I do twist my hair and sometimes I twist it until it breaks. I’ve been picking at my scalp for 3 years. It’s currently covered with open sores. I’m working with a therapist and psychiatrist to help me stop hurting myself.
15. I use spreadsheets in everyday life. NERD ALERT! 😂
16. I speak in hyperbole and exaggerate a lot. I didn’t realize how much until I started working for a German company where all my German colleagues take everything I say so literally. 🙄
17. I always chose chocolate ice cream and chocolate cake. Always.
18. I’ve been reading poetry since sophomore year in high school. My favorite poets are Edna St. Vincent Millay, C.P. Cavafy, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allan Poe.
19. If I won the lottery I would buy a farm and grow lavender and keep horses and peacocks. That would be my dream job, and I would vacation in a house on the beaches of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.
20. I sneeze really loud. It’s annoying to everyone around me and incredibly embarrassing. I’ve tried to sneeze quietly, but it only gets louder. I give up. So if you are near me notice me fighting off a sneeze, plug your damn ears 😂
21. I eat fast. I always have. I can finish a meal in 5 minutes. I inhale my food. It’s gross. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes I get the hiccups. It’s rude. I’ve been scolded, lectured, and shamed. I’ve tried to modify the behavior but I can’t. I’ve been eating this way my whole life. Recently I decided that I’m not going to try to change it anymore, and I’m not going to be embarrassed anymore. It’s one of my imperfections and I am learning to accept them as I accept myself.
22. I can recite the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe from memory. It was the first poem I read in sophomore year of high school. It made me fall in love with poetry and I’ve been able to recite it since the first day I read it.
23. I don’t fit well in square 📦 and I’m finally okay with that.
24. I am not a competitive person. I hate playing competitive games. I hate sports. If I’m put in a position where I have to be competitive at work I withdraw. It never motivates me to perform better. It actually demotivates me and demoralizes me.
25. I pray every day, several times a day. I pray before I go to sleep. I pray when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes I pray in the car while driving to work. Sometimes I pray at my desk while I’m working.
26. I talk too much and too fast. I always have. But, unlike my eating habits this is one habit I am trying to change. I want to talk less and listen more.
27. I love to read. I read several books in the same time period. I rarely watch TV. I will read one book before bed and a different book when I wake up in the morning. I’ll read a different book at lunch, and yet a different one again in the evening. I can switch between books during the day the same way others can switch from one TV show to another.
28. Rain falling on the sidewalk and hitting the windows is my favorite sound in the whole world.
29. I cry when I hear music by Aretha Franklin because it reminds me of my mom. She loved Aretha. We would listen to it together. I knew the words to Respect, Chain of Fools, and Natural Woman by the time I went to kindergarten.
30. The sound of my cats purring is my second most favorite sound in the world.
31. I climbed the base of a mountain and stood on the Great Wall of China and stared into the snow covered mountains. If I live to be 100 and cannot remember my own name, I will remember standing on the Great Wall of China breathing in the cleanest, coldest air while staring into the mountains.
Aromatherapy, what the hell is it? Is this for real, or is this more internet bullshit? Essential oils are everywhere. Everyone is buying diffusers, and I’m willing to bet your social media feeds are flooded with people selling Young Living and DoTerra, right? There are lots of articles on the internet about essential oils claiming all kinds of miraculous health benefits from curing cancer to the fountain of youth. There are also horror stories of people with terrible burns and skin reactions after using essential oils. I know its overwhelming but don’t worry, I’m here to help you sort out the real from the bullshit.
A simple definition of aromatherapy is essentially the use of aromatic plant oils for the treatment and improvement of our physical and psychological well-being. Aromatherapy is an art that utilizes aromatic essences extracted from plants to balance, harmonize, and promote the health of our body, mind, and spirit. The intent of aromatherapy is to unify the physiological, psychological, and spiritual processes of mind and body. Aromatherapy is an alternative medicine and it is a wonderful complementary medicine.
The benefits of aromatherapy include relief of stress, anxiety, and depression; increase in energy and boost in memory function; pain relief and healing; improved sleep; improved digestion; headache treatment; and relief of symptoms of chronic illness.
Studies cited by the Mayo Clinic have shown aromatherapy results in improvement of anxiety and depression, improved sleep, and improved quality of life for patients with chronic disease. Smaller studies using lavender essential oil showed reduction in pain for patients suffering pain from osteoarthritis in the knee, improved quality of life for dementia patients, and reduced pain for people with kidney stones.
So how do you get started with aromatherapy? Essential oils are everywhere and it seems like no matter where you go you are bound to run into someone selling Young Living Essential Oils or DoTerra right? Hell, even Amazon and Groupon are blasting ads for essential oil diffusers and collections of “high quality” oils. Again, don’t worry, I’ve got your back. First, let me start by telling you that I have been practicing aromatherapy for 22 years. I got started while working as a cosmetologist. I was introduced to aromatherapy in skin care and massage classes. At that time aromatherapy was not mainstream. It was for hippies and weirdos. Its use in the salon industry gave it a bit more creditability although misleadingly as a ‘cosmetic’ rather than alternative medicine. I was surprised by the power essential oils had on the well-being of my clients. I used aromatherapy as part of facials, pedicures, manicures, and scalp treatments. I learned how to make my own blends. The effects were both immediate and slow-release. Clients experienced immediate psychological benefits and over time with continued use physical benefits. I’ve been a devoted believer in aromatherapy and its benefits since the first time I performed a facial using a blend made with lavender on a client with a bad case of rosacea on her face who had just lost her husband of 30 years to cancer. Not only did the redness in her skin calm down but immediately following the facial she experienced an emotional release of pain with tears flowing followed by hugging me and thanking me profusely and for what she didn’t know but only that she felt so much better, so much lighter. So, with my 22 years of experience, below is a very brief how to get started in aromatherapy.
First, you need to invest in good quality oils. When it comes to aromatherapy you get what you pay for and not all oils are of the same quality. I know a good quality oil immediately by the smell but it takes time to develop a trained nose. Quality oils do not smell perfumey. They do not smell like oil. They smell like the plant listed on the bottle. If you are totally new to aromatherapy its a good idea to contact one of your friends who is a distributor for Young Living or DoTerra. I don’t consider these brands to be the top two brands on the market but they are very good reliable brands and if you are new with an untrained nose these are a great way to get started. You will certainly get good quality, 100% therapeutic grade essential oils. That last part is essential. You always want to be sure to buy therapeutic grade oils. You do not want fragrance oils. Fragrance oils are used to make candles and perfume. They do not have the therapeutic benefits that essential oils provide. In fact, when clients would tell me that they tried an essential oil and it didn’t work I asked them to bring me the bottle of oil and 99.9% of the time what they had purchased was a bottle of fragrance oil rather than a therapeutic grade essential oil. So, if you are not buying from a Young Living or DoTerra distributor please read your labels carefully.
Next, you will need to think about how you want to use your oils. There are three basic modalities: aerial diffusion, direct inhalation, and topical application. Aerial diffusion is achieved by using a diffuser or humidifier with essential oil added to the water. An old method for aerial diffusion, and one of my favorites, is by burning incense. Direct inhalation can be achieved by applying the oil directly to a cotton ball and holding it to your nose. Topical application can be done in a variety of ways. You can add the oil to your skin care and hair care products, you can add it to your bath water directly or to your bath salts or shower gel, or you can use essential oil infused soaps, lotions, and body oils. You can apply essential oils directly to your skin, but this must be done with caution. Some oils cause photosensitive reactions which result in the horror stories you’ve seen on the internet. There are even essential oils that can be used for cooking. Lavender and rose oils are wonderful for cooking. I will be posting blog entries on specific oils in the near future, and I will include all the ways you can use each of the oils. But for now, I am going to leave you with my top 5 favorite oils. The list below are the five oils that I always have in my cupboard and use the most. They are my go-to oils and where I would recommend anyone new to aromatherapy begin. So, write them down and the next time you are in the store check out these five oils. Ask your friend who sells Young Living and DoTerra to show you these oils and how to use them. And, I’ll write more on these and other oils in upcoming blog posts.
Oh, one final note, please remember that essential oils are derived directly from plants. The rate of allergic reaction is high. Remember that nature is powerful magic. It can heal and it can hurt. So always test out any new oil on a small patch inside your arm to see how your body reacts before using it all over. Cheers!
I hate goal setting. I’m more of a leave it to the last minute kind of person. I like to free fall. I love the excitement of the unknown, the unexpected wins, and surprise endings. But, there are some areas of life that you just can’t succeed unless you set goals. Work, education, and fitness to name a few.
My boss loves to use sports analogies when he is trying to illustrate a point. I neither play nor follow sports so I usually struggle to relate to these analogies. This morning when I sat down to write this post I came across a sports analogy that I think perfectly illustrates why we need to set goals. “Without a goal we spend our entire lives running up and down the field and never score.” Immediately after reading this I pictured two football teams just running up and down the field, no one scoring. No one winning. No one really sure what they are trying to achieve. Get the ball! Throw the ball! Catch the ball! Run! But, why? What are you trying to achieve? How do you know when you’ve won?
When I started working in the corporate world I was introduced to SMART goals. The concept is great. Don’t just set a vague goal that can’t be measured and takes forever to achieve. Those are too easy to give up on and get sidetracked. Instead, set a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.
Ex: I want to lose weight. –> This goal is too vague. Most of us want to lose weight, but how much, why, and by when?
Ex: I want to lose 50 pounds over the next year and feel comfortable wearing a bikini by next summer. –> It’s specific, its measurable, it’s achievable, its relevant, and it’s time bound.
But is it motivating? Does this goal make me want to jump up and go to the gym and start eating healthier? What are the rewards? I could rewrite this to be more specific to include language about how this will make me healthier, and allow me to live my best life, blah blah. But again, that’s just too vague. We see those slogans and phrases all over social media and the internet. Have they managed to get you off the sofa and exercising? I’m betting not.
What we need are SMARTER goals. SMARTER goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound, AND enjoyable, and rewarding. Goals are easy to achieve when you enjoy what you’re doing. I set SMART goals in college to help me accomplish my goal of completing 19 credits a semester while working 40 hours a week, raising a child on my own, and caring for my sick mother. Looking back, one of the reasons I was able to achieve my SMART goals is that I enjoyed learning. It wasn’t hard to follow the reading and study plan I had laid out because I enjoy reading and learning. It was fun to immerse myself into my textbooks and was rewarded not just with a passing grade but with new knowledge and skills gained along the way.
You know what I don’t think is fun? Working out. Over the years I have used the SMART model to set up fitness goals but I just have not had the same success as I did with academics. I realize now the reason is because I did not find the tasks required to complete the goal enjoyable. Also, there was no reward along the way. I set up rewards for completion of milestones along the journey and for completing the goal itself, but it just wasn’t enough to motivate me. Then it occurred to me, what if I made sure the tasks were as enjoyable and rewarding to me as academics? Instead of developing SMART health and fitness goals, what if I developed SMARTER health and fitness goals.
Ex: I am going to lose 50 lbs over the next year so that I am healthier and feel confident enough to wear a bikini to the beach next summer. I will achieve my goal by creating a fitness plan made up exclusively of exercises that I like to do and an eating plan that does not make me feel hungry or deprived of my favorite foods. I will reward myself every month for sticking to my plan and when I succeed I will treat myself to a new bikini to wear to the beach.
Okay, see the difference? The goal is now very specific. It’s measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, but its also designed so that the tasks to achieve it will be fun. I have included a reward system that will motivate me continuously and keep me going to achieve the ultimate prize which I have set up clearly rather than just a vague overall goal.
SMARTER goals give us motivation. Think about the mouse in the maze. Would the mouse continue trying to make its way through the maze for 1 piece of cheese at the end? Probably not. But leave rewards along the way and the mouse is motivated to keep going. Would football players keep playing the game if they hated it? Probably not.
But make the game enjoyable and rewarding from start to finish and you win. This is the secret to successful goal achievement. I am developing my own fitness plan called The Michigan Wonder Woman Workout. I am working with a NASM certified personal trainer to ensure that this workout is effective. I want a workout that will improve my flexibility and balance, increase my strength, and help me lose weight. But more importantly, I want a workout that is fun! I want to be excited to exercise. I need a health and fitness plan that rewards me for my discipline and hard work along the journey.
I’ll be sharing my journey along with exercise and eating tips here. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.
Dear Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain,
Its been a week since you took your own lives and though the world stopped for a day everyone has now resumed their normal rhythm. Isn’t that the way it goes though? We hear someone we know, loved, and admired has ended their lives and everyone’s social media feeds flood with well-intentioned memes urging readers with suicidal thoughts to come over for a cup of coffee, call the 1-800 number, reach out!! Fair enough right? But they don’t understand it do they? You know you were loved. You know you were needed. You know how much we all admired you. But depression is a monster that lives inside our heads and obscures the light. It blinds us from our ability to see, to feel. The darkness creeps in until it consumes and leaves you feeling overwhelmed. Depression mutes your ability to speak, to reach out and ask for help until eventually, it just feels hopeless.
To those of us on the outside you had it all. Glamorous lives, dreams fulfilled. Lives that were creative, adventurous, and rewarded. But depression numbed you to all of that. The numbness was probably the worst part right? How tiring it must have been to feel nothing. No joy, no fear, no pain, no love, just…nothing. Every day. All day. It makes you not want to face anything again. Just lay in bed under the covers and sleep until the numbness goes away. You canceled plans. Stopped doing the things you enjoyed. You stopped showing up. If only they would have checked on you! If only they would have reached out. But we’re all trained and conditioned not to. When someone stops showing up we assume they’ve moved on. We take it personally or we’re too afraid of being intrusive to check in. We feel helpless. We don’t know what to do.
Depression is so, so heavy. You were strong but now you’re tired. You had been dragging that weight around for so long you stopped believing in hope. All those memes on social media about positivity and living your best life seemed ridiculous. Dying had to be the only way to find relief, right? Because after all, you were just a burden to everyone. The world would really be a much better place without you in it. You had nothing left to give anymore. No purpose.
But oh, you were wrong. So, so, so wrong! Depression is a liar. Depression is a lying bastard! You were never a burden to anyone. You were never alone. Hope is not a lie. Hope is real. Your life had value. Your life had meaning. When someone leaves this world they leave a massive gaping hole, a space that only they can fill. It hurts. Grief washes over those left behind in waves until eventually the gaping hole becomes a raw, festering open wound that never heals.
Reader, if you are living with depression, MDD, or bipolar II with depression, please know that voice in your head is a liar. You are not a burden. You are not a pain in the ass. Your life has value. I know my words do not fix your broken heart. I know they cannot lift the weight of your depression. We all fight our internal demons and invisible illnesses. You are not alone. Relief is coming. Depression is a liar. Love is the truth. You are loved. You are needed. You are the light in someone’s life. You are the reason someone in the world has hope. So if you are reading this and thinking that the only way to stop the endless pain of depression is to end your life call 1-800-273-8255 and help will be there because you are worth fighting for.
If you are reading this and you are not suicidal and you don’t have depression then I hope my words have helped you to understand that mental illness is a real illness. It is not a selfish mindset. It is not a bad lifestyle choice. Its a disease. It is a biological disease like heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension. Its nothing to be ashamed of. It is a disease that requires medication, therapy, and support from family and friends. If you know someone has depression, anxiety, or any other kind of mental illness and you haven’t heard from them or seen them in awhile, check in on them. Ask how they are doing. Remind them that they are worth fighting for.