#Write31Days (Even if you can’t #Write3Days)

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I can’t believe we’re just a day away from October. Basically, Christmas is next week and then we’ll be saying goodbye to 2016 and welcoming 2017. What in the actual heck? But I’m saying all that to say, apparently I took the summer off from blogging. It wasn’t intentional, but it happened. Work. Kids. Life. Pool. Beach. Dating.  You understand. Writing just didn’t make the cut. But I miss it. And every October, I know what else is coming: (besides Christmas) The #Write31Days Challenge. It’s exactly what it sounds like it is- A challenge to write and post a blog every day for 31 days. (#HoldMe) Would I do it this year? Could I do it this year? Could I do it and be successful?

Every year, I have all the same fears and feelings.  I WANT to do it. But I’m afraid of failing. And like most of you, I don’t like to do things I don’t think I’ll succeed at. It’s kind of a sucky way to live- to have standards for yourself in certain areas that are so inflexible and unforgiving you’d rather not try at all than try and fail. (And yet in other areas, my behavior can best be described as unchaperoned toddler at a birthday party. I’m complicated. What can I say?)

If there’s one thing I do know, it’s that I am consistently inconsistent. But this year, there’s a new challenge within the #Write31Days Challenge: 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes. WHAAAATTT? Write just 5 minutes every day from a schedule of writing prompts and post it. Five minutes. Every day. And then click “Publish”.  I [am pretty sure I] can handle this. A huge, beautiful thank you to my author and blogger friend of all things Creative and Free, Christina Hubbard, for sending along some encouragement in the form of a totally AMAZING and inspirational video from Ryan Leaks. Leaks chronicles his tryout experience for the NBA Phoenix Suns and what he learned from it. He uses the phrase “chasing failure” and the way chasing failure changes your perspective and the difference it makes in your attitude. Says Leaks, “Chasing failure took me further than chasing success ever did.” (Wow. Reread that y’all.)

Click HERE to watch Chasing Failure 

 

(Hey wait. DON’T skip the video! If you skipped it, go back! Seriously. It’s worth the 15 minutes.  Plus when I tweeted about it @RyanLeaks, he favorited my tweet. So now we’re basically BFFs.)

Over the years, many of you have told me you also love to write. That you’d love to start a blog. Or write a book. But you don’t really know where to start and you’re not sure you’re good enough or anyone would want to read what you write.

Would you consider participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes privately, as a possible jumping off point for more future writing, or just to give your writing muscles a little workout?

Maybe it’s not writing for you. Maybe you need to chase failure in another area of your life you’ve been afraid to explore. A hobby. A different job or career path. Making healthy lifestyle changes. Whatever it is, do it. Time will pass anyway and a year from now, you’ll wish you had already started.

Even for a commitment-phobe like me, I’m committed to 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes. I’m sweating through my clothes as I type that. But I’ve already accepted that with only 5 minutes to churn something out, there will be pieces I hate and pieces I’m totally disappointed in and pieces I’m kind of embarrassed to publish, but that’s part of the the whole process. Perfectionism is the number one enemy of progress. For the #Write31Days Challenge, done is better than perfect.  I’ve also already accepted that I may miss a day or two and that’s cool. (It’s not like there are trophies or prize money or new dresses or beer involved. Seriously. Get a grip.)

My #Write31Days Challenge will not be posted to Facebook every day. Because that would be annoying. If you’d like to check them out, you’ll have to visit Write31Days.com where all the participating writers have linked up.

If you’re feeling inspired, let me know if you’re going to give this thing a try– or what it is in your life you need to start chasing failure for.

Here are the topics Christina has provided and I’ll be adding the live link to each topic day by day~

Day 1~ Walk                                                                           Day 8~ Muddle

Day 2~ Paint                                                                           Day 9~ Post-It

Day 3~ Wardrobe                                                                 Day 10~ Unknown

Day 4~ Brew                                                                          Day 11~ Thanks

Day 5~ Silence                                                                      Day 12~ Sky

Day 6~ You                                                                            Day 13~ Aware

Day 7~ Five Minute Friday Prompt                               Day 14~ Five Minute Friday Prompt


Day 15~ Move                                                                       Day 22~ Off

Day 16~ Little                                                                       Day 23~ Blowout

Day 17~ Study                                                                       Day 24~Global

Day 18~Neighbor                                                                 Day 25~ Sign

Day 19~Notice                                                                      Day 26~ Confront

Day 20~ Weekend                                                               Day 27~Bouquet

Day 21~Five Minute Friday Prompt                            Day 28~ Five Minute Friday Prompt

Day 29~ Date

Day 30~ Cut

Day 31~Only

 

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What Kind of Story Would You Have Written?

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All-American girl grows up in a happy, traditional household with a postcard-perfect childhood.  She graduates from high school. Goes to college. Falls in love. Marries the man of her dreams. Has three babies, the career she always dreamed of and lives happily ever after.

I’ve been working on a writing project. And I keep thinking how much easier it would be to write this story if everything had just gone according to plan. Not that I had a Formal Life Plan, but I think all of us imagine how we’d like things to go.

But if things had gone according to plan, I’m not so sure I’d have anything to write about.

“Once upon a time there was girl who lived the exact life she imagined. The end.”

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And really, who wants to read about that? Who wants to read about someone’s life going exactly as they thought it would? It’s sort of anti-climatic, isn’t it? Where’s the meaning?   The struggle? The bravery? The victory?

Because instead, it went something like this:

All-American girl grows up in a spiritually split household, which leaned heavily on strict Word of Faith and Evangelical beliefs. Lots of struggle ensues. Girl graduates from high school. Goes to college. Gets pregnant. Has a baby. Gets married. Has another baby. Is widowed. Gets remarried. Has another baby. Gets divorced. (Does NOT have another baby). Dates. Struggles to figure out faith and love and relationships. Breaks a few bones.  And hearts, along the way– including her own. And THEN…

Then what? What happens next? 

You have to admit, the second version makes for a much more interesting story. I want to know what happens! (Ohhhhh I seriously want to know what happens!) I want to know details! I want to know the ins and outs and in-betweens! The first version actually sounds a little BO-RING.

Which on some days would be sweet relief, wouldn’t it?


Overcoming obstacles gives life meaning.

Searching for love. More than once.

Or twice.

Battling fear.

Pushing past insecurities.

Finding and losing… and finding… Faith and God.

Discovering and living out your true identity over and over again.

Wrestling with beliefs and traditions and mindsets that have just always been.

Building family and community and an authentic tribe of people you love and who love you back. And who like you, too

These are things that make life, well… alive. These are the things that create a great story. One worth reading about. (And writing about) And as it turns out, they’re also the things that make a great life. Living through the ups and downs of life has a way of reminding us that life is fragile. And special. And magical. And worthwhile.

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If we could write our own stories, most of us would leave out the most difficult parts. I know I would. And I think about this for my kids, too. l want life to be easy for them. But it’s not. It won’t be. It isn’t for any of us. But it can still be beautiful. It is still beautiful. I know this now. Easy would not make a better story- or a better life.

An easy life would be absent of the deepest, most beautiful parts.

What has your life been like? Did it go as planned? Was there one HUGE, completely unexpected plot twist in your life? Or a hundred little ones? Tell me, please. I’d love to hear about it.

Starting Over on a Tuesday

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Yesterday was the first official Monday of the New Year. And it started out bright and early and shiny with so much promise. There was coffee. There was meditation and journaling. There was all sorts of positivity and optimism and good feelings. All kinds of regrouping and restarting. Ahhhh. A New day. New week. New Year.

And then it happened. Later on in the day, it happened. I totally lost my shit with someone. And I’m not telling you this because I’m proud of it. I’m telling you this because SERIOUSLY? It was Monday! Monday, January 5th! The new start! The fresh week! The Do Over! The Reset! I should’ve still been basking in the after glow of New Year’s resolutions and inspiration! Still full of hope! And I was! Until then.

But it was Yucky. It was like an Ugly Cry- Jesus, Excuse Me for a Minute, I’ll be Right Back- kind of moment. There may have been a foot stomp or two and a door slammed or so. You know the type. Yeah. One of those.  Happy Effin’ New Year. Blah blah blah. Bite me.


But luckily. Luckily, I had read this little gem of an article earlier on when I was still in my right mind. It was all about pausing in the midst of a total train wreck moment and deciding to say thank you. I know. I know it sounds totally whacked. But when I stepped away from the mess I had just been standing in and collected myself, I sat still for a few minutes and did it. With a few tears running down my face, I said to God and to the Universe, “Thank you.”

And at first, it was weird. Because, seriously, what was I thankful for? That I hadn’t just committed complete Harikari  in my own home? But Kate, the kick ass Life Coach and author of the article over at Your Courageous Life, had said this~

“What can shift in those seconds when you are in it, and deep, and you start saying “Thank you” is that you are paving a way to say that all is not lost–that there is something divine about this experience–there is something to be gained.”

And indeed, there WAS something to be gained. Besides composure. It was a very fast, very clear moment of self-awareness. I immediately was thankful that I could see exactly what the trigger point for me was. And exactly where I still have work to do in 2015. And 16. And probably 2017, 18, 34, and 52.

And in defense of my trampled little self-aware heart, the trigger was someone hurting someone I love. Which somehow makes me feel a teeny bit more justified about my fit. I don’t get worked up over traffic. Or long check-out lines. Or someone being late. But hurt someone I love and I will rip the bow out of my hair, clutch the pearls from my neck and go all Beer-drinking- Buffalo girl on you in two seconds flat. But still. It’s something I want to learn to handle better.

Which leads me to this: While I love a new year and a new start and fresh, clean slate as much as the next person, the truth is, every day is a Do Over. Thank God, every single day is a Do Over. Turning off the alarm every morning is like hitting a reset button. No need to wait for January. Or Monday. Or Spring. Or whatever it is. God knew exactly what He was doing when He divided the sunshine and moonlight into manageable blocks of time called Day and Night. He totally knew we would need time to regroup in between. Time to say, “Help.” Time to say, “Thank you.” And the continual promise of a Do Over every single day.

So here it is, Tuesday. And I’m starting over. Again.

This Is The Year

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2014, I want to both kick your ass and kiss you gently on the forehead. Like every year that has gone before you, you were the best of times and the worst of times. I love you and I hate you. I want you to stay over, but I also sort of want you to leave. In the beginning, I wanted nothing more than to sweep you off your feet, but by now? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. You were half empty and half full. Too much and not enough. I was glad to see you come but now I’m glad to see you go. Sayonara, Sweetie.

2015, you don’t even know me yet Doll, but I’m just going to say upfront that any hard and fast resolutions I make today would just be the December hangover from sugar and alcohol talking.

So let’s be realistic:

This is the year I will eat the cookie and buy the shoes.

 This is the year I will save the calories and the money.

 This is the year I will get more sleep because rest is good for the body, mind, and spirit.

This is the year I’ll decide to sleep when I’m dead. Life is happening NOW and I don’t want to miss it.

This is the year I will read more and watch less so that I’m feeding my brain and soul with intellectual and emotional goodness.

This is the year I will watch more and read less to give my brain and soul a break from so much processing.

This is the year I will eat less and move more. Restraint is a virtue.

This is the year I will eat more and move less. I don’t want to look back and wish I had eaten something totally decadent. Screw restraint.

This is the year I will stick to a regular workout schedule and be in the best shape of my life.

This is the year I will just enjoy and accept my body and stop trying so hard to make it something it’s not.

This is the year I will get up early to seize the day. Carpe Diem and all that crap!

This is the year I will stay in bed longer and savor the simple luxury of lounging in bed with coffee. It’s the little things.

This is the year I will stop buying so many new clothes and just wear what I have.

This is the year I will apologize more easily and often.

This is the year I will stop apologizing for things I have no reason to be sorry for.

This is the year I will forgive and forget.

This is the year I will forgive and remember lessons learned to save myself from future heartbreak.

This is the year I will stop taking everything so seriously.

This is the year I will start to take things more seriously.

This is the year I will stop making the same dumb mistakes over and over again.

This is the year I will say yes to community and no to isolation.

This is the year I will accept my introversion and honor who I really am.

This is the year I will go with the flow and embrace spontaneity as a lifestyle.

This is the year I will plan more carefully so that my life looks and feels exactly the way I want it to.

This is the year I will start saving money for a rainy day.

This is the year I will spend my money like I stole it. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

This is the year I will say yes more often so that I’m fully participating in life.

This is the year I will say no more often and not feel bad about it.

This is the year I will speak my truth, even if I’m the only one who understands it.

This is the year I will keep my silence and guard my words.

This is the year I will laugh more and cry less.

This is the year I will feel whatever I want to, whenever I want to, without apology or explanation.

This is the year I will let go of all the grief and heartache and loss so that I can make space for true love.

This is the year I will keep showing up.

I will be brave enough to just keep showing up.

2015, I’ve got this.

It’s the Little Things that Make a Wonderful Life

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“What if you woke up one day and it turned out your whole life was only a dream?”

My older daughter Casey shared this quote with me the other day. She read it somewhere recently and it really spoke to her.

As she and I went back and forth about the craziness of this concept and how it would feel and what it would be like, what struck me the most was this: She said she’d be devastated. Because– and I quote, “I have a pretty damn good life.”

Woah.

I was not expecting that.

I was not expecting that, given our family history– her father’s death when she was just a baby, my recent divorce and all of the preceding circumstances, and some of her own personal struggles in the past– I just wasn’t expecting to hear that she loves her life so much.

On sleepless nights, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about everything I haven’t been able to give my kids (read: an intact happy family) and the variety of loss they’ve experienced in their lives. I think as parents, especially, we tend to think it’s all much more complicated than it really is. And although at times my kids do feel the rough edges of brokenness rub up against them, it’s not how they define themselves or how they view their lives as a whole. There are tons of little things that give them so much happiness and make them feel loved.

And as it turns out, it’s the little things that make life wonderful, even when the very big things don’t measure up.

My daughter’s remark got me thinking. There are really only a few things any us of need to feel like it’s a pretty wonderful life after all. And the more people I talk to, the more I’m convinced that especially during the Christmas season, we cannot be reminded of this enough.

So what exactly makes the short list?  

Love that makes us feel secure

Feeling accepted for who we really are

A passion that lights us up

Lots of laughter

Being surrounded by people who genuinely like us

These are the things that make a wonderful life. It isn’t about creating an atmosphere of perfection. We never could anyway. It’s about tons of love, grace, and laughter. It’s about really connecting with each other. It’s about pursuing things that speak to our souls and set our hearts on fire. It’s about friends that feel like family and family that feels like friends.

George Bailey would’ve lassoed the moon for Mary. But even that was too much.

Mary toasted her friends simply by wishing them this~

“Bread. That this house may never know hunger.

Salt. That life may always have flavor.”

To which George added, “And wine! That joy and prosperity may reign forever!”

And in the end, it’s the bread, salt, and wine of life. The little things that make it wonderful, even when the big things may not be perfect.

Cheers to the little things~

And cheers to a truly wonderful life.

It’s Thursday and This is What I’m Reading: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

 

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“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either”


A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, chronicles the process of two movie producers working with author Donald Miller to turn his best-selling memoir, Blue Like Jazz, into a film. The producers keep looking for ways to make the movie more exciting, because the reality is, Don’s life is actually pretty boring and directionless. It’s missing the essential elements of a good story: Overcoming hardship and suffering, living with meaning and purpose. Miller goes on a quest to change his story. He finds his father, chases true love, and sets out for adventure– changing his life from boring reality to meaningful narrative.

The idea of our lives unfolding as a story is not a new concept. But with self-deprecating humor and deep vulnerability about his internal life, Miller strikes a completely fresh chord. His usual conversational tone is what makes this book so relatable and makes living a better story seem so doable.

One of my favorites parts of the book was when Don and a friend are having coffee. His  friend is lamenting over the troubles he and his wife are having with their teenage daughter and the poor dating choices she’s made. Don casually comments to his friend that his daughter needs a better story~

“He thought about the story his daughter was living and the role she was playing inside that story. He realized he hadn’t provided a better role for his daughter. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family. And so his daughter had chosen another story, a story in which she was wanted, even if she was only being used. In the absence of a family story, she’d chosen a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence…”

The father goes on to make dramatic changes in their family story, taking them to Mexico to volunteer at an orphanage. It changes his daughter’s entire perspective on life. It gives her story the meaning it had been missing. “No girl who plays the role of a hero dates a guy who uses her. She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while.”


If you only read one book this year (which is like, ridiculous and I’m so unhappy with you if that’s true), I want it to be A Million Miles in A Thousand Years. 

This is what I thought:

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives and I waste a lot of time waiting for “someday”.  Someday is a myth that keeps you on the sidelines of your life. Someday is never going to come. 
Living a better story starts now. Today. With whatever chapter I’m in. Today’s choices write tomorrow’s chapters.

This
is what I felt:

“A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.”

I’m afraid I’m telling the people around me that Target and clothes and coffee and beer and Pinterest are important.  And none of these things are bad, but they have no lasting meaning. They don’t provide purpose. I don’t want to be the Volvo guy. If a camera crew were to follow me around and document my days, they would keep asking, “When do we get to the part where you actually DO something? You already fixed your hair and curled your eyelashes. Your clothes are fine. You don’t need another purse. Your house looks cute. We’ve had all the coffee we can hold. WHEN ARE WE GOING TO DO SOMETHING? And put that damn book down. LET’S GO.”

You get the point.

“Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”

This is what I’m going to do now:

“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you’re going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.”

I’m going to complete Storyline, which is a module that helps people map out their lives so that their daily schedule supports their life theme and priorities. In short, it helps people live a better story– the whole point of this gig. (Yes. It’s another Donald Miller thing. I really like the way this guy does life.)

I’m going to try to live more wholeheartedly and mindfully so that more of my time is being spent on things that matter. I’m going to set some specific goals for 2015– harder things that will keep adding more direction to my life and support the theme of my story. And whenever possible, I’m going to enlist my kids in it all, so that their own lives become intentionally written chapters– building blocks for epic life stories.


If we were to read about your life on the inside of a book jacket, what would it say? What’s your story about? If you’re not sure, then odds are, no one else knows either…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bedtime, Wet Towels, and 9/11

clock-cute-fashion-girl-heart-pink-Favim.com-77191Every single night, I know it’s coming. Jammies are on. Teeth are brushed and flossed. Sister nonsense and shenanigans have fizzled out… It’s bedtime. And as the littlest one is climbing the ladder up to her loft bed, she’s already asking, in that uncertain and pleading tone, “Are you coming up?”

Big sigh. Am I coming up? I should. I definitely should. I know I should. But it’s 9:07. Already seven minutes past bedtime. And I’m just so freakin’ tired. But she asks again. And I can’t say no. Some nights I do. But most nights I don’t. Because time. Because childhood. Because I want to smush her with love. Because the ticking clock of life. Because guilt. Because. Because. Because.

Gah. It’s a lot. Isn’t it? This constant pressure to make every moment count. To be present. To be our best selves. To not miss a moment. To cherish every moment. To not disappoint our kids and ourselves and all of the people who only WISH they were tucking in children…Etc. Etc. Etc. Do you hear what I’m saying? It. Is. A. Lot.


After my first husband died, I went through this phase of loss where you think of all the things you’d do differently. If only you could go back. If only you had another chance. I used to think to myself, if I could only go back, I’d never bitch about wet towels on the floor again. He used to leave them everywhere and it drove me nuts. And in the disillusioned hindsight and rose colored glasses of grief, I actually thought if I could do it over again, I wouldn’t complain about wet towels. But as the years went by and my grief had dulled to a lower level of heartache, I revisited those thoughts. And now I disagree. I think I would. I’m afraid to say I think I would still probably bitch about wet towels.

Because here’s the thing: We’re still human. We can’t help it. We try. We do our best. But it seems we still cannot escape the dailyness of life that creates a rut that pretty much keeps us right where we’re at. We still get tired. We still get aggravated. We still feel stressed or depressed or disinterested. We are still selfish and self-centered and we forget. We just forget. Because we’re human. And honestly, in some ways, I think it’s okay.

It’s not entirely realistic or even enjoyable to live every present moment under the auspice of the Lifetime Ticking Clock.

A few weeks ago, I was driving the same littlest one to school, and as we were happily singing along to the radio, (because you know you have to be making good memories every second of the day, right? Kidding. Kidding) the jerk driver behind me didn’t care for my driving and pulled way up close and shouted, “Asshole!” And listen– my driving wouldn’t win any prizes— seriously. And I admit that. But I think screaming A-hole at me was a bit extreme. (And because I’m me, my feelings always get a little hurt by rude drivers. C’mon. I’m a lot of things. But not THAT.) And on top of it all, DIDN’T YOU SEE THE LITTLE GIRL SITTING HERE???

And as crazy as this sounds (and I know it sounds crazy), what I really wanted to yell back was, “Don’t you remember 9/11?!!! Did you forget?? That we’re all neighbors and Americans and supposed to be good to each other???”

Jerk probably took his flag down already, too.

But of course he did. Of course he forgot. Because he’s human. And because for whatever reason, we just can’t sustain that level of awareness long enough. Oh sure, some of us can, for some things. But not most of us. And not for everything. And so it seems we somehow always just ease back into being ourselves. Doing the best we know how and hoping it’s enough. Making tiny strides out of the ruts when we can. When we remember. Let it be enough, I think to myself. Please, let it be enough.