It Turns Out, I’m Kind of Awesome (and I’m guessing you are too)

I keep a list of journal/blog topics in a few different places for when an idea hits that I’d like to hash out a little bit but don’t have have the time/resources/mental space to do it right then. When I sat down to write today with nothing on my brain, but a goal to write words, I naturally went to my trusty list. As I read down the list, I found that exactly zero of the topics were speaking to me today. None of them. I tried grabbing the first one and just going with it, but after two paragraphs that I would not have accepted from my students when I taught 4th grade writing, I deleted it and went back to my list.

Eventually, I came to the realization that the reason none of them were sparking any kind of inspiration is that they’re all kind of heavy. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with heavy. In fact, some of my self-professed best work is on the heavy topics. They provide me with a way to process what’s going on in my head without the odd looks I get from my family when I make random comments out loud. But that’s not where I’m at today. Maybe it’s because it’s Friday. Maybe I feel good because I forced myself to work out this morning (damn you endorphins – you win again). Maybe it’s because I actually have a few things coming up in the near future that I’m excited about. Whatever the reason, I decided that today is a day to keep it light.

Here’s the challenge with that: where does one come up with a “light” writing prompt? I scoured the internet, and after reading list after list of deep prompts, I found a list of journal prompts for kids; and y’all – this might be my new go-to list. The prompt I decided to use as my jumping-off point was: What is your favorite thing about yourself? It felt a kind of big though; like if I’m going to choose something to call my favorite, it must really be great. What if I spent a ton of time coming up with my one favorite thing about myself only to realize tomorrow that I appreciate some other characteristic more? So I came up with a compromise and decided to just make a list of 5 things I love about myself.

  1. I have good ideas. I’m not talking change the world type ideas (though I like to think I have a few of those, too) – but day to day things. For example: one day my husband was lamenting (I’m being dramatic, but he was complaining pretty heavily) about the tire on a cart being broken when he needed to pick up branches from around our property. I proposed the idea of taking the front tires off the cart and just attaching it to the riding lawnmower. Guess what? It worked. He didn’t have to walk from pile to pile, and the busted tire wasn’t an issue.
  2. I’m funny. Don’t believe me? That’s fine. I would venture to guess that 90% of people who know me agree, and the 10% who don’t agree? Well, they’re entitled to their (wrong) opinion and probably have a more mature sense of humor. The important thing is that I think I’m funny.
  3. I’m brave. Sometimes by necessity, often by choice. I left a secure career that I didn’t hate and that provided a secure paycheck for absolute uncertainty. To some that may sound stupid, but two things can exist in the same space, and I choose to call it brave.
  4. I’m determined. I know what I want and I will get it. It may take a dozen left turns and four times as long as I would like, but I will make it happen.
  5. I’m evolving. One of the best (and sometimes worst) things about being a parent is watching the changes your child goes through as they grow up and the way your relationship with them evolve in tandem. I think once we hit “adulthood” (whenever exactly that is) though, we tend to think we’re done. I have found though, that I have grown and changed more in the last 10 years than I ever thought possible. As fascinating as watching my children become who they are becoming, I have been equally amazed watching my own evolution.

Coming up with this list was tough at first because the nagging voice of self-doubt is always just in the background questioning who I think I am to be tooting my own horn (but if I don’t toot it, who will?). As I kept thinking and typing though, it got easier. All I had to do was look at myself like I would look at someone else exactly like me – weird how much more encouraging we are to other people isn’t it? Anyway, I challenge you to try it. Come up with 5 things that you love about you. I’m sure you’ll find you’re at least as awesome as I’ve decided I am.

The Shed

About a year and a half ago, in September-ish 2020, the housing market in the area I live in went crazy. We’re talking houses with multiple offers 20% over asking price within 24 hours of being listed crazy. Unfortunately for my family, we are not prophets, and we sold our house about a month prior to this boom; thereby missing out on the insane profit that houses were suddenly fetching, as well as facing a weird situation where we couldn’t afford to buy a house equal to the one we had just sold because of the unexpected market shift. To call the whole experience frustrating would be a gross understatement. I’ll admit, our list of what we wanted in a new home was pretty specific: we did not want a new build (BTDT), we did not want an HOA (also BTDT), we wanted at least 1/2 acre of land, and it had to be in our current school district. We were looking to downsize from our previous house, but with my husband now working from home (thanks, Covid) and me exploring starting a business of my own, it had to have enough space to accommodate offices for both of us. Finally, after 8 months of renting and 10 failed offers, we ended up in a cute little farmhouse on 1/2 acre with enough projects to keep us busy for the next decade.

After 8 months of waiting, we finally moved into this little yellow collection of projects (but those trees!)

The house checked all the boxes, if barely. It’s definitely not a new build (it’s “newly updated” which is code for “don’t look too closely”), there is no HOA (this neighborhood would give an HOA board a nervous twitch), it’s on 1/2 acre, and it’s in our school district. It’s smaller than our old house and it has a separate office space for my husband. The only thing missing is a designated office space for me. Fortunately, there is a guest bedroom, and we only host guests a few times a year, so I set up my desk in the corner, and it works just fine as long as neither of my kids are home as the guest room shares walls with their bedrooms, and being the passionate gamers they are, it can get loud and somewhat distracting. It usually is an acceptable space though, and has served me well enough for the last 9 months.

I’m coming to a place that “well enough” isn’t really good enough anymore, though. My business plans need a space that isn’t confined to a corner of a bedroom where spirited shouts of a computer game from the wall behind me don’t rival those of the wall beside me. I want a place that is mine; a space that is quiet and calm and invites creativity. Luckily, among my 1/2 acre of projects there is… a shed.

So nice of them to paint it yellow to match the house

Words to currently describe this building are: small, dark, mildewy, wasp-filled (mostly dead – we’re working on it), and ugly.

I’m choosing to look past all that though, and see the potential for what it could be which is cozy, bright, inviting, and MINE. The more I’ve thought about it, the more excited I’ve gotten. This could not only be my perfect office space at the end, it could really be a great experience in the journey. I’ve told my family of my plans, and instructed them that this is something I want to do on my own terms; meaning I may need help, but make me ask for it (I struggle with that). And when I do ask, I don’t want someone to jump in and do it for me – guide me. If this is going to be my project, I want to have ownership in it. If it turns out amazing (in my head it already is), I want to allow myself to feel the pride that comes with it. If it turns out to be a flop, I want to learn the lesson in the failure and pull myself up and try again.

I’ll be posting updates on Facebook and Instagram under #operationmonyascastle and periodically, I’ll post about the process here. If you can’t tell, I’m crazy excited about this. People in my real life are going to be sick of me talking about it in a month, and I don’t even care. I have my tools, gloves, and safety glasses ready – demolition starts Saturday!

My Hello/Goodbye (or Goodbye/Hello) Experience

*Disclaimer: This is not a solicited post in any way. Pastor Steph and Jo Saxton don’t even know who I am (though I think we would be great friends if they did). This is simply a resource that I found a lot of value in and it would be selfish of me to keep it to myself.*

I’ve mentioned my views on the idea of New Year’s Resolutions before. It’s no secret that I’m not really a subscriber to the whole “new year, new you” mentality. If I’m asked to really break it down though, I think it’s more the messaging than the actual notion. I just have a hard time signing on to the idea that because the clock struck midnight on a given night, suddenly all our goals are more attainable. As if in that exact moment, we somehow collectively morph into completely new, more disciplined, more capable people, and THIS is going to be the year we drop that 20 pounds/write that book/quit that habit/travel more. Don’t get me wrong, as an optimist I love the intention; the universal hope that comes with wanting to leave every crummy part of the previous year behind and magically move into a bright and shiny new one. As someone who has previously set resolutions and repeatedly let myself down though, I’ve grown a little bit jaded to the concept.

All that said, I do appreciate the symbolism of ending an old year and beginning a new one as an opportunity for reflection and goal setting. It just requires a little different mindset (not to mention vocabulary) for me. For starters, the word resolution is out. If I ever start a sentence with the phrase “This year I resolve to,” just know that it will never happen. I have magically set myself up to fail with one word. I acknowledge this is a self-defeating attitude, but I stand by it. I need something a little less rigid. A little more practical. I stumbled across a resource put out by Lead Stories Media called Hello Goodbye, and it completely changed the way I looked at the old year out/new year in notion.

I have followed Pastor Steph and Jo Saxton online for a little while now, and while they have apparently gone through the Hello/Goodbye process many times over the course of several years, this was my first exposure to it. An extremely oversimplified explanation is that the resource walks you through a process beginning with meditating on scripture and really digging in to what God is calling you to say Goodbye to and leave behind, as well as what you are being invited to say Hello to. I’m not sure how long your average person spends on such a process, but I can say with a fair amount of confidence that it is not a thing you can hope to get through in one sitting. In my case, I spent an average of 2 hours/day for probably 6 days total (not in a row – there were some days I didn’t have the emotional capacity for such a thing – it got heavy at times). The takeaway here is that this is not a process to be taken lightly. While the specific details of my reflection are mine alone, I did want to share a summary of my 2021-2022 Hello/Goodbye.

In looking back at 2021, I am saying goodbye to those labels and identities that no longer describe or define me. I am saying goodbye to expectations I have previously placed on myself as a result of what I think others expect of me. I am saying goodbye to the fear of uncertainty knowing that certainty is a fallacy and fear hinders growth.

In looking forward to 2022, I am saying hello to the pursuit of a true calling over a job. I am saying hello to the belief that I am a creative being. I am saying hello to a deeper relationship with God and to being curious about my faith. I am saying hello to embracing community in all these spaces.

My prayer for the year ahead is that God will grant me the courage to embrace uncertainty and push beyond my comfort zone, for the confidence to believe that my dreams are worthy and achievable, and for guidance in figuring out the next steps necessary to move forward.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope it finds you with a renewed passion to dream.

New Year, Real Me

Here we are in the first few days 2022, and the resolution/goal setting/new year, new you mentality is running rampant. While that type of approach has proven to be ineffective for me to say the least (destructive would be a more accurate word), it works for some; and if that’s true for you, then let me assure you there is no shame here. You do you.

On the other end of the spectrum, is the new year, same me rhetoric. The idea that just because the calendar turned from December 31 to January 1, there is no reason to change anything but the page on the calendar (if you still use calendars with pages. I do). This outlook is also ok. After all, change can happen at any time you choose – no specific date or day necessary.

Somewhere in the middle, you have me. While I won’t be found with a list of specific things I will accomplish starting on January 1, I do have a list of things I would like to be curious about this year. And while I fully embrace the opportunity to make change at any time, I do like the symbolism of a new year – especially in these uncertain times.

One of the things I would like to embrace and be curious about this year is authenticity. I like to consider myself to be a mostly ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of person. Mostly. But while I like to think that I don’t go through life pretending to be something I’m not (anymore – I’ll admit to spending a lot of time trying), there are parts of me that I keep hidden in probably 99% of situations. These parts vary depending on who I am around, but the overarching truth is that I can’t think of one single person who fully knows me 100%. (My immediate family is probably pretty close, but I don’t even fart in front of them, so no – not 100%).

I wonder what it would look like to embrace my full self in all situations. To not sit quietly with my opinions because they might be unpopular (like my dislike of animal prints), or not keep my ideas to myself because they may come across as stupid (they’re actually often pretty good – it turns out you can repurpose meatloaf for spaghetti), or not be quiet about my spiritual beliefs because they might threaten the superior identity that many cling so tightly to (I don’t have a cheeky example for this one – the evil of supremacy in any form doesn’t leave a lot of room for humor).

Don’t get me wrong – I’m in no way implying going around calling people out for wearing leopard printed everything, or picking fights with anyone who looks sideways at my culinary recreations (because the leftovers aren’t going to eat themselves and there are only so many identical meals in a row that one can tolerate). But maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to allow myself to speak up from the proverbial (and sometimes literal) corner of the room when I hear something that I genuinely feel should be challenged, or defend something that I genuinely feel should be defended. So in the symbolism of a new year, I’d like to lean in to authenticity in all areas, in all situations. I’m curious about what we will all learn about me in the process.