Five Unexpected Ways Simplicity Provides Freedom

Good morning, Dear Reader! For all my complaining about the hot weather in the later months assigned to what we call ‘autumn’, I’m getting what I’m owed. Really. Freakin’. Cold. Weather. We went from summer to freezing our asses off in record time. Again – where is that one place that is between 50-70 degrees all year long?

Recently, I’ve been pondering the holidays. I’m faced with the challenge of coming up with something I ‘want’ because people ask. Truthfully, I don’t want anything that I couldn’t buy myself. And I haven’t bought it because I don’t want to clean it. Really. It’s true.

Some wait their entire lives for the feeling of contentment, and – I hope I don’t jinx it – I finally have it. I moved into a tiny home (not a tiny, tiny home…mine is 950 sq. ft) last August, and I could not be happier with the amount of space I have. I currently rent, and I realize the payments are steep, but it’s a good fit for us. At the same time, my kiddo finishes elementary school, where he started five years ago. He flourishes there, and I don’t want to be the person who yanks him out. So I’m doing my best to live in the “now”, which isn’t easy when others keep asking what’s next for us. 

I don’t fucking know, Karen. Mind your own business.

That said, about a week ago, some friends and I talked about getting together soon. One said, “We haven’t seen your new place! We should get together there!” and I don’t know what happened but…

A little bit of panic set in.

What if they think I’m poor because of how little I have? What if they feel they need to buy me stuff because I only have four glasses and two coffee mugs? What if they look in my bedroom, see my sparsely decorated room, and judge me for that? 

Wow. Right? I mean, I choose to live this way. So why am I so terrified of what others think? Because, y’all, despite all the memes about not giving a shit about what others think, not one of us is immune to society’s programming one hundred percent of the time. All of us, from time to time, feel vulnerable.

I asked a friend’s son a few weeks ago why he felt he needed such a fancy truck. Of course, he’s strapped for cash now that he bought a newer vehicle, and his reply was, “Chicks dig trucks. And good chicks dig nicer trucks.” I remember thinking, “Why would you want a snobby ‘chick’ like that?” But…didn’t I do the same thing when my closest friends asked to come over? Insecurity comes in all forms, I suppose.

Anyway, I’ve gotten over it and decided to invite people over. I told them to determine who has the best spine because that is who will be sitting on the floor. I don’t have room to seat more than five people. My dining table seats two. I have no room for overnight guests. And if you plan to shower, come on Mondays. I have four towels. Monday, they will all be clean.

Despite this, I told another friend that I’m maxed out on space I can physically and mentally handle. I work full-time, I’m a single parent, and I volunteer in my community. I have hobbies. I don’t want more rooms to clean and floor space to mop. 

Simplicity grounds me. I feel calm and peaceful when everything is in its place, yet still has a splash of that ‘lived in’ feel.

To me, simplicity offers five benefits I’ve desired for many years. I will always try to convince folks to live a simple lifestyle – and I have since 2011, when this blog first started. Of course, life gets messy sometimes with all it throws our way, so shouldn’t we rely on something ‘constant’ in those cases? Simplicity is my constant. 

So. Grab that drink. Settle in. I’m going to tell you about five ways simplicity benefits me – and you, should you accept this mission.

1. Less stress.

As I mentioned, I’m a busy gal. I don’t want to think about cleaning my house on my days off from work. My brain is often overloaded with my anxiety, so the less I have to look at, the calmer I am. I cannot function when things are messy. When I was a professional grant writer, my colleagues always knew when a deadline was approaching because I’d spend hours cleaning and reorganizing my office. I called it ‘pre-writing planning’. I had to do that before I could write. 

2. I save money.

I never set out to be a cheapskate, and I’m not one. Simplicity and rational minimalism are not really about frugality, although saving money seems to be a by-product of the lifestyle. Often, too, I can find things I need at thrift stores. I don’t buy other people’s junk for the sake of having more trash in my home. But when I can find a perfectly good Caphlone skillet for six bucks, and I need a skillet…I’m going to buy THAT skillet. I rarely go shopping as a pastime. Admittedly, during the COVID lockdown, I got pretty well-acquainted with my Amazon cart – a habit I’m still attempting to break. 

3. I’m pretty organized.

As I mentioned, I don’t function well in a messy space. The messiest area of my home is my desk. It always is, for which there is no excuse. But other than that, I pretty much know where everything I own is located. That’s not to say that I don’t have a junk drawer. I do. (And a few junk baskets, if I’m honest.) But ask me where that one little item is…and I most likely know where it resides. My car keys go in one place. My purse is in another. Backpacks, bandaids, extra bottles of Gatorade…all have a home. 

4. Less toys means more creativity.

Some people criticize the amount of time I let my kiddo spend on his tablet. But, it isn’t as though he’s just gaming all day. He’s creating games for other people. That’s different. In fact, that’s a skill set that can – and does – earn him a little bit of dough. I, too, have very few toys. This allows me to have more time to write. I enrolled in a 24 week front-end developer to gain marketable skills. After that, photography lessons. 

5. Simplicity provides space for what I truly value.

The most important person on the planet to me is my son. With less space and clutter to consume me, we can spend evenings together and take mini-roadtrips to see friends on the weekends. I can work on my own hobbies and I’m currently working through a 28-day challenge to keep my cleaning schedule intact. I am a bit stingy with my free time, but I do make time for those who are important.

So, my near-panic attack when my friend suggested coming over reinforced to me that my simple little life is okay. Of course, I’ve been living this lifestyle for a over a decade (with a few bumps in the road here and there). But, it is always good to reflect on the importance of it from time to time.

How about you, Dear Reader? What changes do you want to make to find simplicity in your little corner of the world? What do you already embrace as a practice? 

As always, here’s your song. I had no idea who Casey Abrams was until I found this little gem, but you can bet your bottom I’m going to be looking him up on Spotify this weekend. Enjoy your weekend, and try not to freeze to death.

Four Annoying Phrases To Use When You Finally Give Up

Good morning, Dear Reader. As has been my MO lately, I’m late in posting. I try to have something delivered to you by Friday mornings, but here’s the nugget I cling to: It’s Friday morning somewhere. That’s the silver lining.

The weather has indeed turned here in the Ozarks. At least for a few days. It’s a comfy 33-degree, mostly cloudy day. You know…my favorite. 

But today is a bit different. Usually, I find a nice little nook and read or knit when it gets this chilly, but I’m feeling a bit blah. I don’t usually feel a bit blah on days like this. I’m convinced my soul arrived on Earth somewhere north, like Seattle or Norway. I just like gloomy days, most of the time. But this last week – even when it was in the seventies – felt weird. I even saged my house because there was a ‘funk’ I couldn’t shake, and I hardly ever do that. I wonder if the act did anything more than make my son complain about the smell. The saving grace of the week was the full moon lunar eclipse. The week was both magical and intense.

I’ve always been a bit transparent in these posts – at least transparent enough for you to ask yourself, “Did she just say that? Is this for real?” Honestly? Most of my writing is rooted in non-fiction, but some posts are just for kicks. For example, (confession time), I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seriously told anyone – to their face – to go fuck themselves. Although, admittedly, on many occasions – sometimes daily – I have muttered it under my breath. I talk a big game, though, right? Anyway. Fooled you.

Here’s what I regularly say, despite how much some of you may hate some of these. Ready?

Well…grab that drink. Settle in. Let’s dive into my favorite colloquialisms today.

1) It is what it is. At least one of you just shuddered at that. Yes, this one is a bit overused in the Universe, but here’s what I think about that particular phrase. First, if a person is using it as a placeholder to excuse bad behavior, that’s not the point. I use it – and so do many of us – when we’ve finally reached a conclusion about something and have leaned into accepting something we have no control over. For example, today is my father’s birthday. I’d love to buy him a lemon bundt cake from Supreme Bakery like I always did and celebrate with him. But I can’t. Why? Because he’s dead. It is what it is.

2) Fuck it. This short little phase is the saltier, more ghetto version of “It is what it is.” I embraced this phrase last Tuesday under the full moon while writing my list of things to release. I was thinking about a never-ending battle I have with a certain someone and how I’ve spent nearly six years trying to control the situation and the person. At some point during the week, I realized this situation was never-fucking-ever going to change, and under the super big full moon…I finally accepted it. Then, I wrote a brief little statement about it, lit a match, dropped it into a bucket, and whispered, “I release this”. I watched it burn to ash, stood up, and said (not whispering) “Fuck it, ” which will now be my theme for 2023. It may be flawed logic, but here’s my favorite scene from Yellowstone and how Fuck It plays out appropriately.

3) Not my problem. This one takes on a few different forms depending on how much I’ve had to drink. I’ve used “Not my cross to bear”, “Can’t blame a clown for acting like a clown,” or “A snake will never be a bunny rabbit, so stop petting it”. However, my favorite and most quoted to-date version of ‘Not my problem is: “Not my circus, not my monkey”. While those all sound a bit different, the true meaning of each of those is: This is not my issue.

4) You do you, Boo. This one is relatively new on the vernacular scene, but I’ve been using it a lot lately. It started as a replacement for “Whatever” when I couldn’t understand why a person was behaving in a manner I believed odd or batshit crazy. I ain’t gonna lie. This one has been hard to embrace as a mantra. I’m a professional problem-solver by day, and systematically controlling a project while coming in within budget and under the deadline does not lend itself to ‘willy-nilly’ behavior. But here are a few revelations: People aren’t projects, and not everyone thinks or behaves like I do. I know, right? Shocker. But, one more thing about “You do you, Boo” I feel begs to be explained is that the phrase reassures the other person that you aren’t judging them. “Whatever” (most likely accompanied by an eye-roll) can be a bit snarky with a side of self-righteousness, don’t you agree? Additionally, saying “You do you, Boo” also helps me remember that I don’t need to fix anyone or control them or even understand them to love them.

You can buy that print here from sdesignsprints on Etsy

As we end today’s post together, Dear Reader, I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite songs by Ashley McBryde. Saying that Ashley McBryde is a badass is an understatement. She’s voluptuous, brave, tenacious, talented, and just a downright good human. (Yes. It’s true. I may have a girl crush.) Anyway, as I interpret it, this song is all of my well-worn phrases wrapped up in one little package. So, sing along tonight with your drink raised and make the best of the worst day. 

PS…Speaking of worst days and raising a glass: It’s eggnog season, and I think it’s important to mention that a shot of Skrewball PB whiskey over ice topped with a splash of eggnog is perfect for a night like tonight. You’re welcome.

Oh, and please share this post with all your peeps on all your social thingamajigs. 

Five Life Changing Truths To Inspire The New Year

Good evening, Dear Reader! November is upon us, and while I love cooler weather, I can’t shake the feeling that the end of the year is looming, and I still have a few goals to accomplish. However, making a list of small goals helped me get a bit out of my comfort zone. I got to experience a few really cool things that I would not, most likely, have branched out to do if it had not been for the personal accountability you provided. So, um, thanks. Check out all I accomplished in 2022 and take a peek at my 2023 Bucket List, which is still a work in progress.

I have so many topics swirling around in my brain tonight, and I’m not sure what I really want to share. I thought about a theme centered on No-vember, but so many other writers have done an excellent job explaining what to say “No” to this month that I feel like my message would really not do the idea any justice. I mean, “No Spend November” seems kinda like a no-brainer. Plus, do any of you really need to consider the benefits of owning fewer possessions after reading my posts over the past ten years? Less to clean, less debt, less to organize, less stress. 

So what to write about today when, frankly, I’m exhausted. I’m facing a few things personally, and I’m so drained mentally and physically; I’ll stick with what I do best: Plan ahead and think about the coming year. 

That said, I have some ideas for the new year as we stare it right square in the face for you. So…

Grab that drink. Settle in. 

Let us go over here in our comfy chairs to discuss the five truths to live by in the upcoming year.

1) Settle for the fact that sometimes there isn’t any closure. For about a year after my divorce, I behaved like a private investigator. I dug deep into every text message and email I had received from my ex, dissecting each one like a cadaver worm in an eighth grade biology class. I tried to piece together dates to form a timeline where all the lies made sense. I questioned and requestioned people. Then finally, I realized, who the fuck cares anymore? The facts were: He left. I was financially broke. And I was angry. The sooner we accept that we will not receive closure in every situation, the sooner we can create our own closure. Create my own closure? By how? Hmmm. Like this: Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Now exhale and softly whisper…“Fuck it”. And there you have it.  

2) Everyone on the planet is self-centered. Yes. You read that correctly. Most of what other people do is about them, not you. As it is written in The Four Agreements, stop taking things so personally. If they wanted to, they would, right? There’s this thing called the 51% Rule. The 51% Rule states, “You are always doing what you want to do.” For example…I want to lose weight. But I wanted to eat that cookie 51% more than I wanted to go for a walk (49%). See? Basic math. In most cases, we’ve all lost the ability to think beyond our own amygdala, and eveyone is operating by the 51% Rule. This leads me to…

3) You cannot change anyone. And if you are changing someone by wearing them down…that’s not “change”; that’s manipulation bordering on bullying. Shame on you. I’ve heard it said that people will not change until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of changing. Read that again: (Insert His/Her Name Here) will not change until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of changing. 

4) Be realistic about the big things. I am wary of anyone who doesn’t have a Plan B in most cases. Here’s the thing about ‘big things’: They always take longer to accomplish than you ever thought they would. It always costs more money than you expect. Personal growth is always more painful and terrifying than ever imagined. Be realistic and always have a Plan B. Repeat after me: “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” 

5) Some people won’t apologize because they can’t. They either don’t accept they are wrong or can’t cognitively grasp that their actions hurt you. It’s up to you to decide whether to admit if you are okay with their inability to say “I’m sorry” or walk away. Because, as we’ve already covered, they aren’t going to change. Plus, there’s an art to apologizing correctly, and most people need to learn how to do it. I encourage you to learn how to say “sorry” correctly and then, once mastered, listen carefully to so-called apologies. Then, when you start tuning in, you’ll know where you stand – and how to better gauge how emotionally mature someone is. 

I’ve done my best to sum up what I plan to do and accept as truth over the next twelve months enough to leave you as I always do. Funny story: I had talked to someone about taking my blog to the ‘next level’ and the feedback was that I’d need to clean up my language a bit to move through the blog-o-sphere successfully. So. Um. I’m going to just let this thing grow organically, and with that, I’m going to leave you with this song.

If you liked these tips, share away. Apparently that’s the only way I’m going to get famous 🙂 Smooch!

Five Thoughts About Self-Love We All Need To Embrace

Good morning, Dear Reader! Although I’ve been up since 2:23 a.m., I am running late on this post. Forgive me. I’ve been putting labels on my spice jars. It’s what I do when I can’t sleep. I’m still determining what I would do without that label-maker, but, as a minimalist and an insomniac, I’m running out of things to label. 

We, dear Reader, are quickly approaching the end of the year. I only have a few more weeks to convince you that simplicity isn’t “something you do” but rather more closely aligned with “someone you are”. That is not to say, “You are simple”. But instead, the act of embracing simplicity makes life more simple. Sigh. I can’t find my words today. I hope you get what I’m trying to relay. (SOS. Send coffee.)

I’ve looked back on many of my posts over the past year, and a great amount center on self-love. So today, I’d like to wrap up that concept with five thoughts on loving yourself and why it’s essential.

Most of us grew up believing that anything that looks like ‘self-love’ is selfish and we should avoid being selfish. But I no longer agree with this, and here’s why:

Loving yourself means you can be a better human. But…let me be clear about something. I believe you can be less than 100% into the whole self-love thing, AND you can love another person. Do you know what I mean? So many people cling to that old adage, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself.” 

{Cough} Bullshit.

I’ve loved my son more than the air I breathe since the day he arrived on this planet, and I struggled with loving myself for many of those years. So, um, yeah. You can love others while you work on yourself. 

You may ask, “What does it even mean for me to love myself?” Don’t worry. I’ve got five thoughts to share with you on that. 

So, grab that drink and settle in. Let’s get started, shall we?

1) Caring for yourself, and knowing that caring for you, is just as important (if not more!) than the care you provide to others. Since I battle insomnia, I know that there are times I require a nap during the day. If I don’t get adequate sleep, I will screw stuff up at work. I’m pro-nap on days like today, even when others need things for me. You may need to call off work and take a ‘sick day’ when you aren’t sick and go to the movies. If you read the employee handbook, I betcha it outlines how many sick days you earn. It doesn’t list the items that qualify as ‘sick days’. (Gasp! My father just rolled over in his grave because I suggested you take off work when you aren’t even sick. Sorry Daddy-O.)

2) It means being willing to set and maintain boundaries even if you sometimes feel guilty about it. I love my son’s school, and for two years, I served on the board of the PTA. I gave a lot of time and money to these efforts. However, I stepped back last year and set some boundaries around my time and money. It breaks my heart when there is a need at the school, but I have decided to give my money elsewhere for the 2022-23 school year. If you, like me, are a people pleaser, this can be a significant step in the self-love arena.

3) It means honoring your own wants and needs. I know you all think I’m the most direct and crass person on the planet, but honestly, there was a time that I would eat food I didn’t like just because I was afraid to speak up and say, “I don’t want to go to that restaurant.” These days? Well, I’m not spending time with my family for Thanksgiving. My kid is with his other half of DNA, I’m off work, and I’d really like some downtime with no dishes to wash or people to please. So, guilt be damned. Honor those wants and needs.

4) It means accepting yourself as you are…not waiting until you are (fill in the blank). Someone sent me a link to an MLM program yesterday with the subject line “Stop hating your body,” and I remember thinking, “I don’t hate my body.” Sure, I’d like to lose some weight. I want to make more money. I want to be entirely out of debt. But waiting until those things are accomplished to accept me? Hogwash. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself – get some help if you can’t think of anything – and pull that out every time you wade into negative water.

5) It means noticing your unhelpful thought patterns and working on them so you can improve how you feel about your life. For example, mid-Summer, I realized I was agreeing to things I didn’t really want at the moment because I feared the reaction of others. In fact, this irrational fear of others’ reactions actually lent itself to unhappy choices in several areas of my life. I invite you to work hard to get to the bottom of some of your limiting beliefs or unhelpful thought patterns. Once you see them for what they really are, you’ll begin to notice how unhelpful they are. Those thoughts probably create opportunities for you to shrink back, and not live your best life. 

That’s it for today, Reader. I’ve got a nap to plan. Also, I’ve been digging around Spotify all damn morning trying to find a song that fits with the theme today; alas, I just can’t find that perfect song. So, how about I give you a link to one of my favorites? This Mitch Rossell song may be new to you. But he isn’t new to the music scene. In fact, he’s written a ton of songs for Garth Brooks and if you listen closely, Trisha Yearwood provides a lot of background vocals on his songs. She even makes a cameo in this video (Bonus song!) He opened for GB in April in Arkansas, and I fell in love. (Okay, not love. Remember, I no longer fall in love with musicians as I mentioned in this post last week.) But, ain’t gonna lie. There’s something about a man and an acoustic guitar that makes me swoon. Sigh. Enjoy!

As always, if someone needs to read this, share it on all those social thingys. I’d appreciate it. And as all the YouTubers say, “Don’t forget to subscribe,” so you don’t miss a post.

Three Simple Ways To Reframe Life

Good evening, Dear Reader! It was a beautiful day to snuggle under the covers with a good book, but I had to work. I plan to indulge this weekend, but until then, I just wanted to chat with you. 

On Wednesday before bed, my son asked me if I’d get something from his backpack ‘that was really cool’. So I grabbed his bag, and inside I found a mid-sized squishy ball. (My son is autistic, and he likes squishy things). I thought, “That is a cool ball. Wonder where he got that?”. So I asked him how he became the purveyor of such a remarkable object. He devised an elaborate story centered on wheelin’ and dealin’. He ended his narrative by asking for $2 to pay the previous owner. While I was impressed by his creativity (he’s quite the storyteller, that one), something in my gut whispered, “Lies! Lies! It’s all a bunch of lies!”

I looked at him through narrowed eyes and said…

“I’m going to ask you again where you got this ball, and if you lie to me, you will be in more trouble than if you tell me the truth.”

His eyes widened. He looked down, and his lower lip quivered. Then he looked me dead in the eye.

“I took it.”

“Took it from whom?” I calmly asked.

“From the gym teacher.”

I looked at my little thief and said, “Thank you for telling me the truth. Enjoy that ball tonight because tomorrow you’ll return it.” I kissed him on the forehead and left the room. I then located his PE teacher on Facebook and messaged him to let him know that we needed to meet with him in the morning. I didn’t mention why. 

Long story short: My son returned the ball. He apologized. The coach explained why things should not be taken from the school. He even offered to let my kid borrow the ball, informing him that it needed to be arranged in advance because other kids needed it for gym class. 

No one yelled at him. I had given prior directions on the proper way to apologize. His PE teacher informed him of the expectations for borrowing the ball. There are consequences to match the infraction. I think all of this is appropriate. I mean, the kid already felt terrible. Why shame him?

This brings me to today’s post. As adults, we constantly rehash our past mistakes and try hard to be better adults by obsessing over what we do wrong. We, essentially, shame ourselves every single day. Here’s an idea: How about we don’t do that anymore? Let’s consider stopping and shrugging while we whisper, “That no longer serves me. Think I’ll do something different.” 

I’ve got three simple ways to navigate life for you this morning that will help reframe how you’ve always done things. Frankly, they are so simple I’m wondering why it’s taken me nearly 51 years to embrace them.

Grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s go.

1) Your strength comes from knowing your weaknesses. I’m not too fond of job interviews. “Tell us your greatest strength. Tell us your greatest weakness.” Well, Karen, I’ve learned that sometimes my weaknesses can be my greatest strengths. I can be hyper-focused which makes me a good problem-solver. Office chit-chat bores me, so I finish my work and meet deadlines. When you understand your weaknesses, they can become a source of strength. 

2) Accepting your flaws makes you beautiful. I love the television shows that take a frumpy middle-aged mom (um…yeah) and give her wardrobe an overhaul, essentially turning a frog into a princess. I have flaws. We all do. But I am learning to appreciate mine. For example, since learning I am susceptible to others’ energy, I’ve learned to set better boundaries. Because I set better boundaries, I’ve become a calmer and kinder person. Instead of thinking, “God. Why can’t I be more gregarious and outgoing?”, I’ve accepted that I don’t really like people much. I’ve become more selective about where I spend my time and energy. I’m also carrying a few extra pounds – which some people may consider a flaw – but that makes me a good candidate for a “cheeseburger and a beer” date. I hear most men appreciate that. You, like me, are flawed…and you’re beautiful. 

3) Your mistakes equal wisdom. My friends and I went to hear a local favorite, Isaac Kenneth, sing his sultry lyrics. The topic of dating musicians came up somehow. My friend said, “I wanted to be a musician when I grew up.” I scoffed and replied, “You can’t be both a musician and a grown-up.” Which got a little chuckle…but still. My experience with loving a musician led me to realize that they are a lot like expensive cars: Fun to look at…but really pricey to maintain. Now, not all musicians are bad. I’m sure there are hard-working, kind musicians who aren’t prone to infidelity out in the world…somewhere. But falling madly in love with a musician is a mistake I made once and am not willing to make again. You may have learned that taking a job just because it pays well may not be the right path for you. Or maybe you’ve learned that when your child comes up with a creative story that seems a bit unbelievable…it’s because it’s not truthful. Perhaps you’ve learned that one too many arguments rehashing the same exact thing means nothing is really going to change. So, repeat this: I made the best decision possible with the information I had at the time. Then ask yourself how you can choose something different if faced with that same dilemma again. A mistake is just that… A Miss Take. Take a different route next time. The new path is where wisdom meets the road.

And with that, my friend, I leave you with a song. This upbeat 1994 song by Des’ree encourages you to dig deep and discover your true self. It promotes bravery, serenity, and honesty. I think that if you consider my three tips, you’ll become bolder, tougher, stronger, and cooler. She’s right, though, about one thing: Love will save the day. But that starts with self-love.

Dear Reader, if you liked this post, share it on all those social thingys. Please and thank you.

Three Surprising Ways Road Trips Resemble Relationships

Good evening, Dear Reader! I just want to say that tomorrow is a beautiful day to get a colonoscopy (consider this your PSA if you are over 50). I’m headed over to do just that in the morning, and {insert sarcasm} I am so incredibly excited…about the large pizza and frozen custard I’m going to get as soon as it is over. I’ve been doing all the prep stuff for the last two days – the clear liquid diet, the delicious gallon of prep-juice they make you drink, and doing my best to stay close to home just in case I…um…well. Yeah. Anyway – I just want to tell you, Dear Reader: If you ever thought I was completely full of shit, I assure youI. Am. Not. At least, not anymore.

Now, all of that is out of the way. Let’s kick off the weekend early because of, well you know, by setting up today’s post. 

Last Saturday I found myself with an infrequent day of bliss. All my ‘people’ had other commitments, and I had none. So I jumped in my car and headed out to finalize one of my 2022 Bucket List items. I located the Sandy Creek covered bridge near Hillsboro, MO, along with a lovely state park. This completes my goal of seeing all four covered bridges in Missouri. (Watch out, Arkansas. You are next.) Before heading out, though, I had the wherewithal to pack some car-camping stuff and used the HipCamp app to locate a place to sleep. Hummingbird Hollow is a lovely private (primitive) camping site at an animal rescue sanctuary. And, it just so happened that it was the night before the full moon. When I stepped out of my car at 2:30 a.m. into the pitch black night to potty, the Hunter’s Moon (literally) was breathtaking. Or maybe it was the 32* weather that took my breath away. {Shrug}. Nonetheless, it was exceptionally awe-inspiring.

(I wasn’t drinking and driving. I was in for the night.)

I say all that to finally get to my point of today’s post. So, if you are ready, let’s go over my musings and how I realized that road trips and relationships have a lot in common.

Grab that drink. Settle in. Try to follow along. Here are three surprising ways road trips are like relationships.

1) Hazard lights are vital to your safety. If you’ve ever traveled east on I-44 through the Show-Me State, you’ll get this reference immediately. Once, my fella and I were traveling to the home of Mark Twain and rounded the corner on the interstate to find ourselves face-first in a traffic jam. He, the experienced transportation guy, immediately punched his hazard light button, and I remember thinking…“Oh yeah. Those.” Up until that point, I thought those things were just for when you were stranded on the side of the road. Well, I experienced the same thing on I-44 last Saturday. I topped a hill just east of Conway and realized traffic was at a stop. I hit my hazards and held my breath and watched, via my rearview mirror, while a Prime Trucking, Inc. semi-truck nearly ended my life. (Sorry, Mom. These are the things I don’t tell you.) I was slightly shaken by this and exited at the World’s Largest Gift Store to regain my composure. But, I thought about that near-miss all day. I sat on my bumper, resting for a bit and sipping my coffee at the bridge, and something occurred to me. Several times in my life, my internal hazard lights begged to warn me about some of the relationships I was in. Some only required a slowdown, and some were downright dangerous. It would have been nice if I had remembered my internal hazard lights in those cases, listened to my gut, and exited the relationship immediately.

2) Nothing fun happens on the interstate. After said near-miss, and a purchase of fudge in Uranus (I. Am. Not. Kidding.) I exited just past Rolla (hoping to run into the infamous Joshua Rogers) and decided to take Highway 8 towards Potosi and then north on Highway 21. First, let me just say: Both of these roads feel a little like a drunk toddler designed them, but if you can stomach switchbacks, there are a lot of fascinating sites to see along the way. The same goes for relationships. You gotta mix up the stuff sometimes. Frankly, getting out of my normal routine for a fancy, expensive dinner takes effort on my part. I know this. If you haven’t guessed, I’m more of a backyard-firepit-grilled-steak-two-shots-of-Scotch-via-lawn-chair kind of gal, preferably dressed in my “mom clothes” while I listen to Alan Jackson sing about what time it is somewhere (bonus song!). But every once in a while, a nice dinner out where I am required to wear a dress and put on perfume, or a trip to the beach for the holidays instead of watching Home Alone and Elf for the forty-millionth time, is nice. More than nice, really. Possibly necessary. So – get off that relationship interstate and have a little fun, for goodness sake. You may discover something about yourself and the person you love that surprises you.

3) Use a map, but reserve the right to take a detour. When I turned 18, I wanted to drive to Rockford, IL to see my friend, Ryan. My mom was nervous, but my dad handed me a road atlas, highlighted my route with a yellow marker, gave me $50, and said, “You’ll go North or East. On the way home, you’ll come West or South. And for God’s sake…stay out of East St. Louis”. To this very day, I always have a Rand McNally Road Atlas in my car. I have a $50 bill tucked away in a secret spot. And, I do my best to stay out of scary spaces (although some rural Ozarks counties are just as spooky as East STL). My point? Every relationship requires goals. Planning for the future together is essential and possibly life-saving. But I always reserve the right to live in the moment and throw caution to the wind. I may want to take a side road here and there or slow things down a bit. Let’s suppose you know a thing or two about generalized anxiety disorder. In that case, you know that anxious people are hyper-focused on the future. And…90% of what we worry about never comes to fruition. So, I try not to get too ahead of myself in life and in relationships. It’s just more fun that way. 

So, with that I leave you with a fourth bonus analogy: Sometimes the road…and that relationship…gets bumpy. Hang on and stay the course. As always, I leave you with a fun little song today. Send me good vibes, and let me know your relationship advice. Or, drop a comment below and tell me about your favorite road trip. I’m always in the mood for ideas. (Saturday, off to Eureka Springs, AR to meet James Dean, the author of my favorite children’s book, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. Read my post about that book here.)

As always, if you liked this and thought to yourself, “All my friends need to read this!” then do all that social stuff that makes us all famous and paranoid.   

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge – Hillsboro MO

It’s A Wonderful World

Good evening, Dear Reader! I’m trying something new…posting in the evening for a bit, to see if that changes the stats. I’m all about those stats, you know. (Wink. Wink. I don’t give a shit about stats.)

We are in the beginning stages of ‘Fall’ here in the Ozarks, and I could not be more thrilled. I find it offensive that Dunkin’ Donuts has ‘cold brew pumpkin spice’ on the menu. Pumpkin-Spice-Anything ain’t supposed to be served cold. Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, Dawg? Hand me a hot PS latte with cinnamon sprinkles, and leave me alone with a book. Please.

Nonetheless, it isn’t entirely freezing, so my body and soul are pleased. Remember, I only like the weather when it’s between 45 and 75 degrees. Anything outside that range makes me grumpy.

That said, I seem to be evolving a bit since moving into my tiny home, and it got me thinking this might be a good blog post for you folks. So, since Target seems to be marketing Hallo-Thanks-Mas as all one big long holiday, here are my quick tips (before we get into the good stuff) for not going into debt in the next 85 days: 

1) Don’t buy shit you don’t need.
2) Don’t buy them shit they don’t need.
3) Don’t tell kids there’s a Santa when you are the one who worked your ass off all year to buy that Nintendo.

There. A Simple Holiday Summation by Denise. Boom.

Now…about that evolutionary thing I mentioned before. 

Grab a drink and settle in. I think you might like this.

I’ve been happy for nearly an entire year. I know, right? The last nine years have been challenging to say the least, but around this time last year, I started waking up to the fact that some things were not working in my life and clearly, I was the only one who was going to change that. So, as I wrote in this post last week, I set out to make some changes and here we are, a year later. So. Um. Yes. {Cracks knuckles}:  I am full of joy. 

If you don’t know me personally or have just recently started reading my creepy online diary you may not realize the significance of this. But let’s just say…it’s been years – years – since I felt the way I felt true joy. 

What did I do to achieve 98% bliss? So. Many. Little. Things. Which all, in turn, helped me evolve into the person I want to be. I’m still making some tweaks here and there, picking up some interests, and dumping things that no longer serve me, but yeah. Finally, things are good.

Here are my takeaways from the last few years. I hope they speak to you in some way:

1) Don’t get too attached to an outcome. I’m tenacious. I’ve got ‘grit’. I believe in myself. I will keep trying long after something has served me. But over the last year, I learned that it is okay to get to the top of a mountain (i.e., achieve a goal) and think, “Hmmm. That’s pretty, but it isn’t spectacular.” Instead of being frustrated by the wasted time and energy, be grateful for the opportunity to learn. That doesn’t lessen the experience.

2) Be okay with saying you aren’t okay. In October 2020, I started posting videos via Facebook urging people to reach out to their friends and shed some light on mental unwellness. People were feeling the impact of COVID fatigue at that point, and no one was paying any attention. I was, essentially, telling people I wasn’t doing so hot myself, and it was okay to admit it. The videos are gone, as is the Facebook page (at least I hope so), but the message is still essential. (On that note: Call someone today. This is the time of year when people act like they are okay but then wind up taking enough Klonopin to kill men half their size. Do not text them. Call them. {Steps off the soapbox}).

3) Find a community of like-minded people. Whether you want to learn outdoor survival skills, want to make lifestyle changes, or find yourself facing the death of a loved one, there is a lot to be said about finding a support group. Support groups aren’t just for those who are suffering, though. I joined many online car-camping groups and felt supported by the members. I know I can reach out at any time. I even slept in a stranger’s driveway when I traveled to Minnesota this summer that I ‘met’ in a FB group called “Roadtrip Her.” While some of my close in-person friends are like, “You wanna what?” these crazy-ass car campers are like, “You go, Girl! That bed looks awesome!” and “Don’t forget the bear spray!” 

4) Put yourself out there. Helping others is the best thing you can do for yourself so put yourself out there. Read to a little kidTake food to older adults. Sign up to do taxes for the low-to-middle income folks in your communityBe a designated driver. I don’t care; just do something that takes the focus off yourself and your sad little life (I say that in love.) I volunteer at my son’s school. I give money to class projects. I do ‘data clean up’ for an organization in Delaware late at night. I love organizing sock drives and watching kids’ eyes light up at book fairs. I like clean data. I enjoy the feeling I get when I help kids go on field trips when I know their parents struggle to buy groceries (Ahem, I was one of those parents not so long ago). Volunteering leaves little time for you to think only of yourself.

5) Choose the right tribe. I wrote about my tribe last year in this post but it’s important to remember that your tribe doesn’t have to be big to be mighty. Additionally, if your status is “in a relationship”, remember this nugget: The partner you choose for your journey makes all the difference in the world. I’ve been married twice, and I can tell you this: I have never in my entire life felt so unsupported as I did in both marriages. We all need folks in our lives who support us, believe in us, and know when to kick us in the ass if we need it. Spend time with the people who straighten your crown, not those who tell you that dress would look better if you lost ten pounds. Do not spend one more minute with anyone who doesn’t even really like you.

So, in summary, evolution isn’t always pleasant, but it is always worth it. As is my nature, I’m leaving you with this little ol’ song, because if you really look around, the world is a beautiful place – you just gotta change the view occasionally. 

PS…If you liked this and thought others might, too, feel free to share on all the social thingamajigs.

How To Change A lot In A Year

Good morning, Dear Reader! The temps here in the Ozarks are glorious, to say the least. I love the upper fifties in the mornings as it climbs to the upper seventies in the afternoon. My Little has taken to wearing shorts with a sweatshirt – just like I did when I was his age. And as I watch him exit the vehicle each morning dressed like a little hoodlum, I get nostalgic for more leisurely days.

Speaking of nostalgia, I peeked at my notes and blogs from last year, and it got me thinking about how much can change in 365 days. This time, a year ago, I was planning to leave a job, was pretty sure a relationship / friendship was about to end for good, and couldn’t stand that my ex-husband was breathing air. I felt trapped by my living situation, and my insomnia was so bad, I was barely clocking forty hours of rest at the most over a week.

Fast forward and I’m back working at the place I had been planning to leave, perfectly fine that the friendship came to an end, in a relationship with a pretty swell human, on decent terms with the other half of my son’s DNA, and living in a lovely small home with my kiddo and two cats. Although I’ve been awake since 2:30 a.m., sleepless nights are not as common, and for all of this…I am grateful.

All that said, I think I’ve found a magic formula for making one’s life completely different over the course of a year. I worked with a life coach last fall and made a list of the things I’d like to see change. I also started doing things to manifest or propel those changes. And this is where we are going to dive in today. You ready?

Great. Then grab that drink. Settle in.

Here are six things that can help change your life in just a year.

1) Stop complaining and appreciate how lucky you are. Listen up. If you are healthy, have a roof over your head, funds for good food, and a halfway decent form of transportation, then you are better off than two-thirds of the world. Here in America, things seem rough right now…but I promise you…they could be much much worse. I have two special people in my life facing down the wrong end of a health-crisis barrel. All of this nonsense we think is bothersome becomes less critical when that kind of call comes in.

2) Embrace loneliness and reinvent yourself. Last fall, I let go of someone who was not good for me. And maybe, truth told, I wasn’t good for them either. No matter whose story you choose to believe, I embraced being single, and I learned a ton about myself. I learned my ‘career’ wasn’t all that important to me as long as I had a job I liked and could pay my bills. I learned I liked camping in my car. I learned I enjoyed riding my bike, and most of all, I learned I really was (am?) a good parent.

3) Say goodbye to people who don’t bring positivity to your life. It’s hard to admit that some people suck the life out of you, especially when you’ve invested so much of your fuck budget into them but the harsh reality is if they aren’t adding to your life, they are subtracting. Hardly anyone close to you is neutral. I let go of several folks last fall. Some just faded from view, while others required deliberate acts of complete no contact. Either way, you’ll find that they are barely even a memory in a year’s time and you are much happier.

4) Throw off the television and set some internet controls. I wasn’t much of a television watcher unless you count the mild obsessions that come and go. I like two or three shows, but the television is off more than it is on in this home and has always been that way. But I overhauled my social media intake and started turning off my phone at 9 p.m. on weekdays. The one thing I will admit that has lessened my anxiety is that I rarely watch the news at all. Instead, in the mornings, I’ll turn on Spotify for Daily Drive, which is a mix of news and music, and that’s how I know there’s a hurricane in Florida at the moment. (Sending you good vibes, Florida. You know who you are.)

5) Pick one skill you want to cultivate and put all your energy into it. If you dig deep, you might realize you are hard-pressed to even come up with a skill you desire. That, my friend, is a good indication that you are entirely out of touch with yourself, so I suggest making ‘getting to know thyself’ your skill. This one is tough because I like/want to do many things. But last year, I decided my ‘skill’ was more of a life lesson I wanted to finally learn. So, I decided to cultivate learning to set – and adhere to – boundaries and let go of what no longer serves me. I’ve done an excellent job at laying the foundation on this one. So, this year? Meh. I don’t know. Photography, maybe?

6) Fall forward and learn from every mistake you make. Repeat after me: I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time. Make this your mantra so that you don’t continue to beat yourself up when you make a mistake. When you fail, you can say “Yep. That didn’t quite work out as I planned. What did I learn from this?” and you can move the heck on. I was thinking recently about the phrase “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and I’ve concluded that it isn’t entirely accurate. What doesn’t kill you can still sting a little…alot?…for a long time. How you dress the wound, however, is up to you.

With that, I’ll leave you with a song today. It follows my post from last week because I still believe in the power of connection. “Better Together” is a song by Jack Johnson about the importance of togetherness and how it can help improve everything. The song reminds us that we are all in this together and can find strength in numbers. It’s a song about hope and resilience, a perfect reminder that no matter what life throws our way, we can always find a way to get through it.

Which of my six suggestions sounds like something you can employ immediately? Do you think all six apply to you, and can you put them all in play? Drop me a line in the comments. And, if you think others might like this, please consider sharing it on all the social thingys. Peace out.

Build the fire. Invite the neighbor.

Good morning, Dear Reader. The Universe heard my cries and finally answered my prayers. Yes. Fall weather has arrived, for now, and I’m going to enjoy these sixty degree temperatures for the next few days. How? By cramming as much pumpkin spice crap into my body as humanly possible before Mother Nature screams “Psych!” and drops another ninety degree day in my lap. I don’t even really like pumpkins. Or spice. But I’m not about to let that stop me from pretending we might actually have Autumn in our midst. So I’m over here, hoarding all the flannel and cinnamon oil while I can, before the outdoors decides to act menopausal and drop a hot flash on us.  

Now that I’ve given you a weather report, how about we start today? I’ve got 1456 words in me just waiting to spew out. So…

Grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s start the weekend off with a light topic, shall we? 

{Cracks knuckles}

September is National Suicide Prevention month. That said, I get really irritated by the number of well-meaning Suicide Prevention memes passed around on social media by people who won’t even answer their phones when their family calls for fear they might have to listen to someone talk about their divorce or opioid-addicted child again. I’m all for setting boundaries and protecting your energy sphere and all that jazz but come on. Sometimes folks just need to know that someone anywhere will pick up when they reach out. People are hurting.

I think that’s why people don’t reach out. And why suicide has become the second leading cause of death for people under the age of twenty in the United States. Because they fear voice mail. I know I do at times.

So, now that we aren’t on lockdown, can we all agree to stop being scared of each other and learn to be connected again? Even I, the introvert with generalized anxiety disorder, enjoy having an Old Fashion with people I like. In fact, last weekend, my fella and I hosted a Whiskey and Wine tasting at his house, and it was so great to feel a connection with so many who came. One couple said it was their first invitation in over a year. A year. Damn. That’s heartbreaking.

My point today is that we all need connection, whether we admit it or not. What I’m thinking today isn’t so much about my utter disdain for social media – it’s about how to take some simple steps to build genuine connections. And I’m also not considering ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ to be anything near connection. I’m talking about connection. You have to actively make that happen

Yeah. I know, right? You have to do some work. But don’t worry. I’m going to give you some tips. I hope some of them stick.

  1. Set a time and place. This whole “We should get together soon” bullshit is for the birds. Be a leader. Plan the party. Or, if parties aren’t your thing, ask one person over for a glass of whatever. I made an effort a few weeks ago to ask two people I barely know to go have pizza with me. It was great. They both said so. Make a date and get some people together.  
  2.  Make the effort. This is so hard for me. I put so much effort into everything else I do that putting effort into building connections is not a pastime I’m excited to embark upon. I recently told my son that we will have “No Tablet Tuesdays” because I realized he grew an entire inch, and I was so busy I didn’t even notice. And by busy, I mean I was trying to get through five seasons of Outlander. So. Um. Yeah. My child is the most important person in my life. It’s time I act like it. 
  3. Connect in the present. We all have a person in our life who lives in the past. They bring up how they almost won Star Search back in 1996 and how the band members were ‘so tight’. Others bring up a conversation that happened three decades ago. But hello. We live here now. It is 2022. Obama…and Trump…are no longer presidents. It’s time to forgive and forget. It’s time to connect in the present moment. Yes, the past may have been the catapult to the relationship today. Still, one person is trying to grow and develop. At the same time, the other keeps bringing up the high school cheerleading competition. Have you ever been in a relationship where you feel like you can’t move on because you are stuck in a historical vortex? It’s impossible to feel connected in that scenario. And frankly, it’s boring.
  4.  Connect on a deeper level. I’m not a hyper-fan of Brene Brown, but I do like some of her stuff. To her point, I cannot stress enough the importance of being vulnerable. Although I’m not vulnerable with everyone in my circle, I still think connecting with empathy and past experiences is essential. I’m an INTJ, so if I click on a level like this with people, I’m pretty much connected for life. Be okay with saying “I have struggled with my weight all my life.” Or “My boyfriend and I just broke up.” Or, for reals, “My dad died nearly twelve years ago. I miss him every single day.” 
  5. Connect to a Higher Purpose. Have you ever heard the phrase “Don’t hide your light under a bushel”? It means…people need what you have to offer in terms of your time and talent. My friend, Machell, feels her calling is to feed people and give them handmade quilts. I’ve been the recipient of this kindness many times. I guaran-damn-tee it is her calling. My fella, the ex-cop? Well, he’s the protector. He checks all the doors and windows and reminds me to put my car in the garage at night. He never lets me drive when I’ve been drinking and never runs a red light when my child or I am in the car. Everyone on the planet has a talent. Maybe you can’t make a quilt…but you can buy a cupcake to share, right? Then do that. {Ahem. Chocolate with white buttercream.} You don’t have to be a minister or a nun to care for those around you. Even I have a superpower. What is it?, you ask. Finding just the right song and texting it to people when they need it the most. 

And, on that note (eh, eh…) I want to share this little ditty with you (click that link, dammit. You won’t be sorry.) I somehow stumbled upon it one day and three of my favorite people came to mind instantly. We tend to think that to ‘connect’, we must do it BIG. Plan the party. Be the keynote speaker. Bake all the things. But honestly, if you connect with just one person on a deep level, you’ll probably do more good for the Universe than if you ran for public office. My friend, Andrea, and I connect over memes about anxiety. Whatever works, right? Finding those who let you be who you are at your core…and love you anyway…is pure bliss. So, yes, our little party last weekend was fabulous. But I’m also just as happy to crack open a bottle of Jameson and sit around a campfire with two or three good folks. Call me and we’ll get together.

I’m curious if you are feeling disconnected or if you plan to try any of these suggestions to make some changes in your life. Also, how do you find a connection with others? Comment below. And, if you liked this post, feel free to share it.

True and…um…true.

Good morning, Dear Reader! There’s a spring in my step because…wait for it…IT. IS. 68*. RIGHT. NOW. Sure, it’s rainy, but I don’t mind the rain. As a brooding writer, this is the perfect weather to contemplate my true crime novel. (What true crime novel?!? Sigh. There is no true crime novel. That’s why I’m contemplating it, Silly.)

Actually, don’t you worry. My brain is on overdrive. I’m thinking about things that can be the same today. Sometimes we try to make the world fit into this little black and white box, or we believe that something must be either true or false. If something is not right, then it must be wrong. Right?

Mmmm…

I’m not so sure about that.

I’m over here in my tiny, uncluttered home (sparse is more accurate), and I’ve had a lot of time to process the quirky things that come into my brain. I haven’t plugged in a television yet, so I’m literally working from sun up to sun down. More accurately, ‘son’ up to ‘son’ down. (I love that little human and he wears me out sometimes.)

I’m also without whiskey or wine over here, but I’ll join you with a cup of coffee – black – this morning if you’d like.

Go on. Grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s go over a few things, shall we?

More specifically, let’s talk about things that can be equally true. Not true or false. Not correct or incorrect; right or wrong; yes or no….you get the picture. Ready to dive in? Good. Here we go.

1) You are resilient and you need a break. I know you pride yourself on the fact that you are the ‘strong’ one. The person who has overcome. The gal who laughs at adversity. The man who doesn’t let his hurt-side show. But it’s okay to need a break. I take them all the time. Solo road trips. Babysitters. Lunch breaks on the patio. It’s okay to put yourself first.

2) You gave your all and needed to back out. There are times when you think moving forward is all you want to do…and then you get there, and you think, “Holy shit. I’m not ready for this.” It’s not always pleasant to be in that position, and others may not understand. Some may even be hurt. While I don’t enjoy hurting others, I’ve learned that ignoring my well-being for others’ feelings is counterproductive. I was PTA president for a year and a half. I was all in, but now I’m barely visible. I took a job last fall that paid a shit-ton, and six months later, I resigned. It’s okay to say, ‘Whoa, Nelly. Slow your roll.” Ya feel me?

3) You are independent and still need others. Read that one again. I admire an independent soul. There’s less babysitting to be done with folks like that. In fact, I reckon I’m one of those people. But that doesn’t stop me from asking for help when I genuinely need it. I didn’t use to…and I’m not saying it’s easy…but I can do it if I need to do it. So can you.

4) Others have it worse, and your own pain is still valid. Oh. My. God. I cannot tell you how much I hate the phrase “Practice gratitude. So many others have it worse than you.” First, yes. Practice gratitude. But that other part? Also true…BUT that kind of thinking completely invalidates the pain of your experience. Here’s a secret: Life can still suck in a first-world country. Shit happens. People die. Jobs disappear. Relationships fail. Houses burn down (literally and metaphorically). Acknowledge that it hurt or that you’re scared. Own it. It’s okay. Yes. Others may have it worse, but you are still allowed to break.

5) You were sure and things changed. This one. My goodness. Last Spring, I agreed to do something, but I had to back out just four months later. I thought I was ready. I wasn’t. You gotta understand that you don’t owe anyone anything except the truth. If you can’t be honest and vulnerable about the fact that you made a mistake, moved too fast, or thought you wanted the blue one when you really needed the green one, then you’ll continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Repeat after me: I made the best decision I could at the time with the information I had at my disposal.

Today, short but sweet, right? {Shrug}. It’s the weekend. I wanted to touch base without overwhelming you. But, alas, I did dig up a great song for you this weekend. (Pssst…that’s a hyperlink. It will take you right to the song. Go on. Click it.) After all these years, this is one of those songs that makes me stop and listen anytime. To me, this song is about our own contradictory nature. Perfect for today, me thinks. He basically is saying “I can’t ask for help…but can you just hang out with me for a little bit and love me through my dark days?” Of course, your interpretation of this song is welcome. I’m curious. What do you think he’s saying?

PS…if this post was all you ever wanted it to be and you can’t get over how awe-inspiring it is (scoffs), please feel free to share it like glitter all over the interwebs. Please and thank you.