Stop Shoulding Yourself

Good afternoon, Dear Reader. I bet you ask yourself, “When can I expect Denise to make a post?”. And the answer is, “There is no rhyme or reason to my schedule.” I’m all willy-nilly these days. I’ve been playing around with my analytics, though, and it seems that Tuesdays and Saturdays get the most traffic. Hmmm. Interesting.

I’m stepping into my space as the self-proclaimed logophile and asking you, Dear Reader, to examine the word “Should”. How often do you say this to yourself or allow others to say it to you? Here are some examples of how the word should have impacted me this week (and it is only Tuesday, FFS.)

  • “You should exercise more.”
  • “You should totally quit that job.”
  • “You should drink 128 ounces of water each day.”
  • “You should tell them you were the PTA President.”
  • “You shouldn’t borrow against your 401K.”
  • “You shouldn’t drink wine on Mondays.”

Should. Shouldn’t. What awful words. Why? For an elementary-level term, it’s full of judgment and conditions. I’ve grown weary of anyone who says to me, “You should (Fill in the blank)”. Should I? Should I really? Why? So you can feel better about passing your judgment on to me instead of worrying about what you should do? See what I did there.

As I age, I realized I’ve spent the better part of my life shoulding myself – not to mention listening to the other shoulders (should + ers, as in ‘people who use the word should’ not ‘shoulders’ like the body part. And yes. I think I just made that word up). I’m taking a stand this year, and I’m not gonna let such a little word hold so much meaning over me. I hope you’ll read on and join with me in blocking out the shoulds I tell myself and ignoring other people’s shoulds.

How?

Grab a drink. Settle in. I’m about to tell you.

I’ve placed all kinds of limits, expectations, judgments, and decision-making merit on myself in the past because of that little elementary-level word. I’m totally into embracing a new narrative this year, and I’m going to start with these five. Maybe some will resonate with you.

1) I should be further along by now. Um. Nope. I’m right on time. Case in point: I recently went back to work at a place I really enjoy, and I took a salary reduction. A few of my colleagues made some jokes at my expense about returning, and for a few days, I humored them. Then it got old. And I called them on it – in a sidebar conversation that included a few choice words resembling something like “Fuck you. You don’t know my story.” Here’s the thing: I’m right on track for my own path. You are, too. Stop telling yourself you should be further along by now.

2) I should do what makes them happy. Um. Nope. I don’t have to live up to others’ expectations. Not at work. Not at home. Not anywhere. I am not responsible for anyone else’s feelings or emotions. And while the recovering co-dependent in me sometimes thinks differently and even, at times, feels differently in my gut…my soul understands this ancient truth.

3) I should look more like them. Um. Nope. I don’t need to look like anyone else but myself. I work with many Millenials and Gen Z., And I have a full head of gray hair that I have colored to ‘fit in’ with the gang at work for years. But every one of those hairs on my head represents wisdom, experience, and a level of patience that I didn’t have when I was ‘their age.’ So yeah. I’m fluffy in some places. I’m going grey. I have laugh lines and forehead wrinkles. I’m embracing these things.

4) I should be working harder/longer. Um. Again, nope. I can listen to my body and take breaks when I need to. All those years of ‘wisdom and experience’ I mentioned above? It means I can sometimes do in 20 minutes what it takes a new person 40 minutes to do. I don’t believe that it’s my fault they are inexperienced and not as bright as me. (Wink wink) Right? Right. I also have learned to embrace a dirty kitchen if it means spending time with my child in the evening. I didn’t use to think this way. But life is short. Spend it with the people you love before they are gone. There will always be a kitchen to clean, trust me.

5) I shouldn’t be thinking about what I need. Um. (You know where I’m going with this…) Nope. It is not selfish to take care of myself, and therefore I will start asking myself, “What do you need, Babycakes?” more often. For example, I am an insomniac. It’s not easy for me to fall or stay asleep. I used to just roll over and embrace another sleepless night when snoring came – loudly – from the other side of the bed. I don’t do this anymore. I need my sleep, and if there are other bedrooms or sofas in which I can find that rest, you best believe I’ll be there. The same goes for anything I needed that I used to ignore. I will think about what I need because I count, too. Right? Right. And so do you.

So, Dear Reader, how have you been shoulding yourself these days? I can’t be the only one telling myself I should drink more water, drink less wine, exercise more, and rest. Spill it. I’m all ears.

Until then, here’s your song. I just spent the better part of 895 words telling you to ignore ‘should’. I still think, though, you should be dancing. Just sayin’.

If you love this or any of my other posts for that matter, feel free to share on all the socials. Please and thank you.

Five Harsh Truths

Good morning, Dear Reader! It’s a glorious day in the Ozarks. I’m sure it’s gonna get a bit warmer, but at this very moment, Mother Nature is hanging in there with an excellent 70-something temp that I adore. (Sidebar: Is there any place on Earth where it is in the 70’s all year long? If so, I want that. Unless it’s New Jersey, nobody wants that.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about our 2022 theme of letting go, and while this post today isn’t so much about ‘letting go’ of something, it does fit with the ability to let go of old beliefs. In the book Warrior Goddess Training, I was prompted to write a list of “Things I Know For Sure” at the end of a chapter. That’s harder than it seems, folks. But I encourage you to do it, too.

As I made my list, I realized there were themes – or categories – that each of the listed items fell into, and here is where I share those five categories with you.

Ready? Good. Grab a drink. Settle in.

Here are the five harsh truths about life I wish I had known earlier:

1) “Meaning” is up to you. If you feel like life is meaningless, or you’re wandering around with a lack of purpose…may I be blunt? It’s your own damn fault. Non-profit agencies do so much good work and they need volunteers. You can plug in to just about anything you want. For me? I realized I was ‘too plugged in’ and that my true meaning was tied directly to being a good mother in this season of my life. So, no volunteering for me for twelve months. I’m on Total Mom Duty (well, as much as a working a mom can be).

2) Forget perfect. Nothing, not a home, partner, job, car, school, etc, is perfect. The ‘perfect’ (fill in the blank) doesn’t exist. Concentrate on finding the (fill in the blank) with most of the qualities you like/want and accept the rest. The only exception is if ‘the rest’ is dangerous or costly. Like – you love the house, but the roof is about to collapse. You mostly like everything about your partner…but they are a drug dealer. See my point? Everyone loads the dishwasher differently (and don’t even get me started on laundry), so you must let go of the control. Do the dishes get clean? I mean, did your fight over whether the forks go in tongs up or tongs down really matter in the grand scheme of things? Yeah, um, no. Pick your battles. Same with work, a vehicle, friends, etc. Nothing is perfect.

3) Adapt Realism As A Mindset. Okay, Optimists and Faux-Positivity people…I’m talking to you. True, there’s no need to be a pessimistic asshat all the time, but it’s also important to not bury your head and ignore facts. Life isn’t a movie, you do need to have a plan, and sometimes you don’t get what you want no matter how badly you want it. Adapt an artist’s ambition but an engineer’s mindset. In other words: Hope for the best, and plan for the worse.

4) Life is a game. And friends…no one is playing fair. Find the games you want to play, learn the rules, and find a way to succeed at the games you’ve selected. I’ve learned this about my day job. Some folks thought I was crazy to take a salary reduction to return to a place I really love to work. And I might not have returned if I hadn’t let “Not my circus, not my monkey” permeate every cell in my body this year. Now I can shut out the drama because that drama does not belong to me. I am not here to fix the entire organization’s issues. I’m here to do {this much} in the grand scheme of it, and that’s all I’m doing.

5) Everything ends. Okay, here’s me being morbid, but here’s the facts: Everyone you love will die. Every job you love is going to change. People you enjoy working with will eventually find other places to go. The house you love will no longer serve you at some point. Your vehicle will become a rust-bucket death trap, and you’ll turn it out to pasture. Your children will fall in love, move out of state, or worse, assert their independence so that it feels like your heart might break every day over the choices they are making. I’m sorry. That’s just the plain old truth. The sooner you get this, the sooner you can trust the process.

But, there is hope. All those things may seem all ‘doom and gloom’-ish, but honestly, I feel as though having that mindset keeps me from forming unhealthy attachments to the outcome of anything. And isn’t that what we all really want in life…to have no attachment to the outcome and simply trust the process?

Yes. I know. It’s not easy. Why do you think it’s taken me this many years to get it? I feel you, Boo.

With that, here’s your song. I love this song. I don’t know if it’s the lyrics or its melody that I like. But here’s what I do know: It’s a song about accepting that this relationship must end. Its lyrics imply that time has proven over and over that this is simply not meant to be, and goodbyes need to be said and accepted. (Want a ‘country version’?) Leave it to me to love a break-up song. I mean, my favorite Christmas song is, literally, a break-up song. Clearly, I need to drink some Positivity Punch and get out more.

So, there you have it, folks. My 978 words of wisdom for you. If you loved it, then please – help a gal out and share on all the socials. Until we meet again, have a wonderful weekend.

A Life In Moderation

Good morning, Dear Reader! It’s a dark and stormy day here in the Ozarks. Yep. My favorite. The minute I heard the first clap of thunder, I was inspired. We should probably dive right in, then, huh?

Sorry if you miss the chit-chat. I’m trying to keep my posts to 1000-1200 words, and besides, I just figured you’ve got things to do.

So, grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s talk about personal connection (again), shall we?

Last night I took my son over to the new school he’ll attend this summer, and let’s just summarize it by saying this: We were both a little anxious, sad, and weepy. His old elementary school was good for him, and all the teachers/staff knew him. I was also pretty entrenched in the culture of that school, so, needless to say, we were both a bit apprehensive. I grew up in the same school (K-12) and never had to experience switching schools. I felt so bad as a tear fell from his little cheek while he shared he would miss all his friends. I, too, had friends at that school, so I get it. We were both trying to be brave, but I could sense just how much stress both of us were under, and it was un-fucking-comfortable. I, along with him, was feeling the desire to connect but also fighting the urge to isolate and process these emotions alone.

It got me thinking about so many things and aspects of life. Even pre-pandemic, I felt we were losing the ability to form genuine and meaningful connections. Still, I don’t trust many people these days. Frankly, if we are honest with each other, not many are trustworthy to begin with. So it is difficult to form connections when one is so suspicious. 

So, I’m taking you back a few years into my lessons from my Yin Yoga class (which I also miss). According to the Eight Limbs of Yoga, this lesson or practice called Brahmacharya is where we find ourselves this morning.

Brahmacharya is about the practice of moderation. Doing anything to excess in our lives—food, sex, work—typically leads to imbalances, leaving us with low energy and high frustration. Brahmacharya can help us find balance if we let it. Half the battle is knowing where we’re going into excess and why we’re doing it. Then we can make changes.

There are some very significant ways that our lack of connection leads to overconsumption and minimizes moderation. Here are some ways we can all practice Brahmacharya to live a more moderate lifestyle while combating fear and boredom:

1) Balance the sloth and work-a-holic in you. Okay, typically, I’m not prone to laziness – ask anyone who knows me. I work hard and stay really busy. I’m not much of a television consumer, although I can binge-watch with the best of them. I love to read and write, but honestly…I don’t rest enough. However, for the last two nights, I have crashed hard. This is a good indication that emotionally and physically, I’ve been way too keyed up. 

2) Living inside my telephone. In his song If It Takes A Lifetime, Jason Isbell croons about fighting the urge to live inside his telephone, and I have to say, “Yes. This is an issue.” Last night I ‘gave myself permission’ to doomscroll for five minutes before turning to a guided meditation and trying to tamp down the anxiety of the day. But, for all the apps designed to ‘connect us’ I’ve learned I just don’t like any of them. The revelation – and I’m checking my call log as we speak – is that even though I pick the damn thing up to see if I have any messages about 400 times a day (and trust me, there are messages), my actual ‘recent calls’ list indicates that I haven’t had a call lasting over two minutes in two weeks. And if I have, it’s because I initiated it. But, sure as shit, when faced with going out or staying in…I will choose to stay in 98% of the time. 

3) Overthinking. Okay, admittedly, I haven’t mastered finding moderation in this. Hell, I’m convinced that if you look ‘overthinking’ up in the dictionary, there’s just a photo of me – no definition. I’m an INTJ and a Virgo. I was born to overthink things. I’d like to say this is easy to stop doing – but it isn’t – so I’m asking you, Dear Reader, for some tips and tricks. How do you get out of the overthinking mode? I’m a thinker by nature, and I actually like this about myself. I am proud of my ability to think through a problem and come out the other side of it with several solutions. But, at times, overthinking can drive me temporarily mad, so I have to learn to practice Brahmacharya, especially on this one.

So – of course, I’m going to leave you with a song today. It seems a bit ‘religious’, but it’s really just me staying engulfed in my Mitch Rossell crush. Hope you like it. 

I will also leave you with some questions, and I’d love to hear from you.

How has this pandemic created imbalances in your life? 

Are there areas in your life where you can practice Brahmacharya and find moderation?

Can you digitally disconnect your life for a bit? How would you make a shift to connect with others if you weren’t simply able to scroll through your Facebook feed?

Stop storing. Start living.

Good morning, Dear Reader! The weather today is a bit dreary but I’m a writer. I like depressing days. Nonetheless, I’m settling into my new life and closing the chapter on several others. If you know anyone who wants to buy a spacious three bedroom two bathroom home that requires a bit of elbow grease, I know where you can find one a tad bit below market.

Me? I’ve either sold or given away all my shit and damn it feels good. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this kind of thing, but it is certainly one of the few times I’ve done it voluntarily. Years ago I was inspired by Adam Baker, who sold everything he owned to backpack with his family, but never really took it that far. Each year I re-watched the short documentary, I’m Fine, Thanks!  (And, if my new friend is reading this…I’m talking to you. If you were looking for confirmation to follow your dreams…you’ve come to the right place. Watch that film!) 

So. Grab a drink. Settle in. I’m feeling inspired and inspiring all at the same time.

In the documentary, one of the folks they interviewed says “I climbed the corporate ladder only to learn it was leaning against the wrong wall”, I felt that. I had changed careers in November last year and the opportunities for growth and earning were like none I’d ever experienced. But…I missed what I had done before. So, I left that position to return back to my old spot on my old team. It feels good when you finally realize you don’t need a lot to be happy, but when you aren’t happy you know it in your core. 

But, back to you and me and that drink. How did I decide what comes with me and what goes over to Goodwill? Here we go…

1) If I didn’t love it or use it regulary, it goes. At some point today I will relinquish some of my glass jars to my friend who has decided that she wants to “can things”. I know. This is a big move for me. Additionally, the cast iron skillet that I wrote about here, was returned back to its rightful owner – my ex-husband. I didn’t use it much the last few years and I’m not super crazy about the person who gifted it to me, so I figured, it can be his problem to solve, not mine.

2) I want a life of experiences, not stuff.  Does this item lend itself to that? Hiking boots, bicycles, camping gear. Five years ago I wouldn’t have been so keen on keeping these things. Now I am. But electronic devices? Unnecessary clothing? Ridiculous kitchen gadgets? Gone. 

3) I want to say “YES” more often. Imagine this if you will: Your home is organized and clean. Your social calendar is empty. It’s a beautiful day. Over coffee, your favorite person says “Get in the car. We are going to (insert whatever cool thing you’ve been waiting to do here)” and you can. Because you’ve simplified things so much that you can say “Yes” without guilt.

4) I want to be creative. Recently I’ve taken up learning to read tarot. I’m not great at it, but I do okay. Also, I’m working toward that bucket list item: Grow something I can eat. And finally…well…there’s my writing. Opening up some space allows me the opportunity to be more creative. Creativity comes in all sort of ways from quilting to canning food to writing to building the business of your dreams. Maybe you like whiskey and coming up with good drinks or trying out new brands is a thing for you now. My point: With less to tie you down, you can do the things you love to do.

So, if you’ve been looking at Winnebago’s online now just might be the time to sell your crap and live your life. I walk around my new space and it’s so…calm. Just the right amount of ‘stuff’ that I don’t feel homeless but not enough to consume a weekend cleaning and organizing. I’ve even thrown stuff in a Goodwill box as I’ve unpacked. Bird By Bird is how you and I can choose to move down this path of simplicity.

And so, for today, the sign goes in the yard and, hopefully, the house will be under contract by the end of the week. Fingers crossed. Send good vibes. Until then, here’s your song. It’s a bit older and was featured in 50 Shades of Grey so there’s that. I mean…not that I watched 50 Shades of Grey or anything.

SIlly. Of course, I watched it. What were you thinking? 

PS…If you liked this post, feel free to share it on all those social things. Please and thank you!

A Poorly Managed F*ck Budget

Good evening, Dear Reader. The quintessential Missouri summer has arrived, and my disdain for soupy air is suitable. It’s been so muggy out that even my cat is, like, “Yeah, um, no” opting to stay inside instead of killing moles. And this isn’t even hot weather. Can’t wait for July. And yes, in case you were wondering. That was sarcasm.

As I mentioned last post, I wondered if this – this writing thing – was something I could continue doing knowing only a few folks were reading. I decided to put out a ‘fleece’. For those not familiar with a ‘fleece’ in this context – it’s essentially a test of the Universe. Mine was simple: If I get twelve visitors, I’ll stay. So…here we are. You and I. Whiskey lovers and foul-mouthed friends, indeed, right?

My nine-year-old keeps telling me that fame and fortune come from having a YouTube channel, and while fame and fortune isn’t the end goal, I’ve been pondering this. WordPress also has a plug-in that can turn any blog into a podcast, and we all know how I loves me sum good podcasts. Of course, this would require me to have some kind of theme, and at the moment, I feel as though I’ve done an excellent job this year honing in on three specific topics: Being smart with money, reducing clutter, and being a somewhat responsible minimalist.

Um. Or not.

Speaking of that…gosh. The sale of this house has led me to realize that I absolutely suck at keeping purchases at bay. I have taken so much crap to the DAV Thrift Store over the last week, and I’m not yet done. Again, I ask you, how many magic markers does a grown woman need? My child has fewer toys than I do. And the number of weird kitchen gadgets? God. Where did these come from? I finally gave up and rehomed my Instapot. And what’s with this bread maker that found its way into my space when I am not really eating bread anymore? Sigh. Goofy, really.

Honestly? When something is missing in your life – and you can’t quite put your finger on what it is – it can be easy to try to fill the void. So last week, after my third trip to the donation center, at the stoplight by my favorite grocery store and Pineapple Whip, I asked myself: What the hell has been going on with you, Girl? The answer?

Grab a drink. Settle in. You’re gonna wanna hear this.

With every box I delivered, I felt freer. But I also questioned those other emotions bubbling to the surface (hello, INTJ much?). I felt something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. But then, right after dropping off box number eight, it was there – like a redneck at a fried food stand at a carnival – halter top and all…

Shame.

Shame in all sorts of shapes and sizes. As I handed off some pretty good shit to the teenager doing community service, I realized every bit of that box represented a total failure in managing my fuck budget. (Not sure what a fuck budget is? Click here.) All. This. Money. Wasted. And not just money…the time I wasted at work to pay for it. And the energy I’ve expended to maintain it. I could have spent time, money, and energy on an experience with my child. Time, money, and energy could have been spent building my own home, writing my book, or becoming healthy. Time, money, and energy spent could have allowed me to move to the coast and buy a corner bar where I serve good wine and halfway decent whiskey with tapas to underdressed vacationers. (Yeah, I dream of this life.)

So why? Why did I waste all this time, money, and energy? What happened? I think it’s what happens to most of us, if we are honest with ourselves…

Sigh.

Because I could.

Let’s explore further, shall we?

  1. My income increased this year. But I hung onto the scarcity mentality. Most people, when their income increases, spend more and I was no exception. However, I had been living paycheck to paycheck for so long, that the scarcity mentality had crept into my headspace, and was living there rent-free. I was buying used items at thrift stores that I really didn’t love but thought I needed and hanging on to other things ‘just in case’. For the record, ‘just in case’ rarely happens.
  2. I gained the COVID-20. I wasn’t happy with my body, and when momma ain’t happy, she shops. There were other things, too. I was in a relationship that wasn’t healthy. I was in a job that was unhealthy. I lived in a home with a relative that brought all my triggers to the surface – again, unhealthy. It was a trifecta, I guess. So, I’ve changed my eating habits, I’m getting more rest, and moving my body in a way that works for me. I’m no longer tolerating unhealthy relationships in any form or shape, and I’m setting boundaries. I’m settling into work I enjoy, and I’m relocating. (Fortunately, my new fella doesn’t mind a thick gal, so that pressure is off. These changes are for me.)
  3. I wasn’t mindful. Mindfulness teaches us to be responsible for our feelings and intentions and to be present. I’ve volunteered a lot, worked on fixing the house, and spent many hours simply doomscrolling. I have not, however, been mindful. So, back to my roots. Back to some meditation and breath work. Back to making intentional decisions. Back to protecting my time, my energy, and my money. Essentially, back to managing the Fuck Budget.

So, what about you? Do you look around and see some misplaced emotions? Are you filling voids with people, items, or activities that are not good for your soul? What can you do to combat these things? For me, being intentional is…well…intentional. (I don’t know how else to explain that. Sometimes, as a writer, I’m amazed by how badly I can explain these things.)

For what it is worth, May is Mental Health Awareness Month so here’s your song for the weekend. Keep swimming, kids. Just keep going.

Also, if you are reading this, feel free to share out on all the socials. And, also also [sic]…my fiction writing is moving to another site. So, I will keep you in the loop. (Hint: Pseudonym).

All the best, Lovely Reader. I wish you peace. I wish you joy. I wish you…above all else…love. For love is the greatest of them all.

Reflections of a Blogger

Good morning, Dear Reader! It is a glorious day in the Ozarks. I think summer has arrived with its 80+ degrees and sultry air. I’ve got some kind of virus – a cold or something non-COVID-ish. I’m coughing more than I’m sleeping and feeling like I need a nap every passing second. And the grass is green…and tall. Mowing the grass in temps like this with some viral-like crud in my lungs is always a pleasure. And, in case you are wondering, yes. That was sarcasm.

I’ve been pondering my existence here on the interwebs. Wondering if the time I put in to share my extreme wit and ideas on living a more simple life is worth the effort. It makes me smile when someone I barely know says they like my work, but am I making a difference? I try not to let the WordPress stats govern my self-esteem. Some days it’s hard, though.

Making a difference is important to me. I recently accepted a new job – one with a pay cut – to return to my non-profit roots. Making an impact, feeling like I’m improving someone’s life…well…it’s something that brings me joy. I shouldn’t be surprised that I missed it. Many years ago, I was forced to take the whole Strengths Finder test, and “Significance” was way up there on the strengths list for me. Funny, isn’t it? Just when my reign as PTA president is ending, I go back into a job that supports making the world a better place.

My fella and I were having a conversation over coffee the other day. I said to him, “I think this may sound weird…but I’m okay living a mediocre life.” Not that I’m okay with just simply existing, but my dreams aren’t grand. They don’t include purchasing a beach-side condo and jet-setting around the world. No, my goals are more like finding ways each day to have interesting conversations with strangers and sharing a glass of wine on the patio with my peeps. The dreams I have include being able to wake up in the morning, kiss my son on his forehead, and enjoy a nap during my lunch break. Sure, I want to do some fun stuff. But more importantly, I seek freedom and peace more than anything in the world. I’ve hung my hat on that dream for a few years now.

Read this blog from one of my favorite humans: https://www.alifeinprogress.ca/want-mediocre-life/

I like my freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom of my free time, and freedom to be who I am. I’m 50 now and more than happy to keep my simple, humble life for the remainder of my working days and leave the “schmoozing” to others more capable and brown-nosed than I. I will continue to be me and be a quiet voice behind the keyboard. The anniversary of my brother’s passing always makes me wonder: If I had made better choices the day I got the call to get on a plane to come home – if I hadn’t been so selfish and full of myself – would I have been able to say “Goodbye”? They say in every death, there is a ‘gift.’ I hope the ‘gift’ I received was to learn to appreciate the little things, love those who love me and let go of those who aren’t good for my soul.

So. Drop me a “like”. Share on social media. Let me know below what you long for as the years close in on you. I’m happy to find topics to help you through life, but only if you want me to do so. I suppose I’m looking for the affirmation to continue. Let me know…

Oh. And, here’s your song.

Stop Yelling At People

Good morning, Dear Reader. I know it’s Friday, and you were expecting a juicy, saucy section of my novel for Flash Fiction Friday. Honestly? I don’t have the energy right now.

It feels yucky out there, doesn’t it? I love the rain, but this constant cold drizzle-then-thunderstorm has gotten old. Amiright? But in all fairness to the rain and Mother Nature…that’s not what feels icky.

It’s all that other stuff.

The assault on women’s rights, the mess in Ukraine, the employee shortage, and the lack of human decency are working together to undermine my joy. The thing that irritates me is that people seem to be more worried about the Will Smith/Chris Rock/Johnny Depp bullshit than what really matters.

I was at Walmart pickup last night, and it took nearly one hour and fifteen minutes for the delivery dude to show up at my car with my eleven items. I could have purchased twice that amount in half the time had I shopped on my own. Right? But this poor kid shows up at my window, almost in tears, explaining that the lightning had blown their system, the computers were down, people were angry, and he said to me “Please don’t yell at me.”

Why on Earth would anyone yell at a man-boy who had been schlepping groceries all day in the rain so that our sorry asses didn’t have to get out of the comfort of our cars to do a simple task like grocery shop? If you have ever yelled at someone for something entirely beyond their control (like a waitress at the mercy of the kitchen), then shame on you. Really. You need to control yourself.

I just said to him, “I’m not going to yell at you. I’m just grateful for the hour of peace and quiet I just got to enjoy my music and play my game on my phone. Thank you for what you do.” And I meant every word of it.

But, back to us and this yucky world. Are you feeling it, too? Have people lost their ever-lovin’ mind out there? I think so, and I think that’s why I’ve been more reclusive than ever before. Now, mind you, Mercury is about to go retrograde, and we feel that. If you aren’t…you will. She’s not very nice when she’s traveling backward in the Universe. Here are some tips on how to survive a Mercury Retrograde.

While you are skipping that link about Mercury, read on. I’ve got some tips on how you can combat the yuckiness out there to share with you today.

So, grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s roll.

1) Laugh more often. My fella sends me silly videos throughout the week, and while some of them are super ridiculous, every one of them makes me laugh. I watch a lot of FB reels and giggle my way through the day. My favorites seem to be the ones of Family Feud, and I do love some Dusty Slay. Laughing is beneficial to fighting the blues. (Here’s one he sent me. Coffee still comes out my nose every time.)

2) Get out in nature. Of course, it’s been pouring down rain here since, oh, I don’t know, forever…but I carve out a few minutes to go outside during a downpour pause and breathe in the cool air. Just three deep breaths (Inhale to a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of eight) can dramatically stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (which was just a fancy way of saying, “It will calm you down”.) Try it.

3) Do something nice for someone else. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and since I’m the PTA president for twelve more days (who’s counting?), preparing and dropping off teacher gifts has been my lunch-hour gig. Not gonna lie…it’s been a slight pain in my ass…but the appreciation of the staff and teachers for the gifts we’ve given each day has made it all worthwhile. Yesterday I gathered up two of my favorite third-grade students and asked them to help me deliver gifts to classrooms. One was grumpy – it was recess, and he wanted to code some games (yes, this was my kid) – but the other one had a blast and asked if he could help again. Doing something nice for other people takes the focus off the blues and restores your faith in humanity.

4) Rest. I mean, truly rest. I’ve been hit with seasonal allergies, I’m in the middle of packing and preparing my home to sell, and we are wrapping up year-end school activities. It’s been…well…hard to rest. But I implore you to try. That means no multitasking and no guilt about sitting still. Rest is important. We all need it.

5) Eat better. Lately, I’ve been asking myself, “Am I being kind to my body when I eat this food?” Most of the time, the answer is no. I hate to play the ‘mom-card’ with you, but eating fruits and veggies is good for you. Do it more.

There are so many other things you can do to be kind to yourself and others. I could write pages of this stuff, but these are my favorite. What thoughts do you have about this, and what do you do to combat the blues?

As always, here’s a song. I love this guy. He’s local, and he’s a cutie. I’m, sadly, a groupie. My friends and I love to go watch him. I’m a sucker for a musician, not gonna lie, but this one is actually good.

Unplugging

Good afternoon, Dear Reader. I know, I know. I’m late to the party today, and I am armed with zero Flash Fiction words on a Friday. You can hop over to my poetry page if you really need to read something painful to your eyes.

My kiddo and I are headed out camping tonight. Last year I bought a car with a more extensive area in the back so we can car-camp. I received the blow-up bed thingamajig this week, so we plan to try it out. It isn’t the fire building or even the sleeping next to a stinky 9-year-old boy that has made me nervous. It’s the lack of internet service we may experience. My kid is totally addicted to his tablet. Although I’ve warned him that it will be limited, I’m not sure his little brain is quite comprehending the sheer vastness of this particular scenario. Well, he’s about to find out. It’s a good thing I’m packing Jenga and Connect Four. There are also some pretty good hiking trails, which I, seriously, just learned about this morning while reading this blog by How To Do The Ozarks.

This brings me to my point today. A digital detox is needed for both of us, and I plan to take full advantage of the situation this weekend. I might…yes…I might even lie to my kid and tell him there is absolutely no wifi/mobile data/internet available. I think, once he overcomes the initial shock, he might survive. 

Suppose you’ve been thinking the same thing – that you need a digital detox – and it’s been a while since you closed your computer and ditched your phone or other digital devices. In that case, I have some tips for you. Ready?

Good. Grab a drink and settle in. I’ve got five tips on how you can unplug and recharge this weekend.

1. Warn people.

Not only should you warn those who may be affected by your choice – like my poor child – but you should tell at least one important person that they won’t be able to reach you via FB messenger, email, etc. One friend only communicates via FB messenger and freaks out if she can’t get people. I can go days – weeks, even – without checking FB messenger, so I typically will just let her know ahead of time.

2. Hide your devices.

I don’t like being totally without my phone, but I can leave it in another room (or glovebox) if needed. My home computer hasn’t been on for days because I’m in front of a screen all day for work; I don’t want to do it when I get home. For me, television is not really an issue. I rarely watch it. It might be a bit harder to hide a 55″ flat screen, but do what you can to make it more difficult to veg. 

3. Go old school.

I have always journaled via pen on paper, so no worries there. I’m packing a crossword puzzle book this weekend and some paper/crayons. This should be interesting, right? I might also…gasp…pack an actual book with pages that turn. Wow, right? 

4. Relax.

The internet isn’t going anywhere, and you’ll be able to access it soon. Make a list of things you want to do for fun or necessary projects, and you’ll have the time if you back away from anything digital.

5. Plan your experience.

Try to get utterly disconnected if possible. I’m not gonna lie…getting away from Spotify for 48 hours will be challenging for me. But the quiet is essential, too. I have several life changes I need to consider, and the outside ‘noise’ and assault on my attention have made it difficult to think. As for killing time, there’s always rock throwing (in the lake, not at each other…), fires to build, S’Mores to eat, trails to hike. I haven’t really planned much except what we will eat and where we will sleep. Let’s see where the weekend takes us. 

I get it. You may not be camping this weekend. But you can still have a digital sabbatical. You can do all the above tips and then read a book. Or try a new recipe. Maybe take a walk or write a love letter. Here’s something…take a nap or go to the park and do nothing. 

I’m curious what you do when you ditch the digital slave-owners. Let me know in the comments. Until then, here’s your song for today. Nothing about today’s post, but I told you a few weeks ago that I really feel like songwriters never get the credit for anything. So this guy…Mitch Rossell…opened for a little-known artist named Garth Brooks last week at Razorback Stadium (WOO PIG….) with his little ol’ guitar and no backup band. Here’s another one of his I just love and bonus: Music Love Travel is featured. He’s recently released this song and is making a name for himself. However, many people don’t know that he wrote the last three songs that have made Garth a little bit of cash. (Listen to what Garth says about Mitch) So, yeah. There’s that. I love a good song…it’s poetry with flair. (And yeah, I might have a little crush.)

No. Not really.

Good afternoon, dear Reader! The sun is shining here in the Ozarks. Bird nests are littering my trees and squirrels are facing the wrath of my stealthy hunter, Ocelot the Cat. One, sadly, did not make it through the weekend. Run faster, little squirrels. Fat Ozzie is in da house.

I’ve been feeling a bit restless this week, folks. I wish I could blame it on the Moon…don’t we blame her for everything? But, alas, I cannot in good conscience blame the moon. The full moon was a week ago and the new moon isn’t close enough to create drama. But…hang on…YEP! Mercury goes retrograde in a few short weeks. Let’s just blame that, shall we?

The truth is all this angst is just me and the changes life has presented me with over the last few weeks. I’ve mentioned I’m moving. I’ve mentioned I’m wrapping up a good year of volunteer work. I’ve mentioned I’m decluttering like a mofo right now. What else has got me thinkin’?

Well, grab a drink. Settle in.

Today’s topic: How to win an argument.

It’s not really rocket science, so I don’t want you getting too terribly excited over my revelations. Here’s the bottom line:

Don’t accept 90% of the invitations you receive to bicker or argue with anyone.

Mentally, just hold up that hand and think to yourself “Not today, Satan. You don’t get to fuck with my mojo.” I like to think I’m getting much better at not arguing than in previous years. I, literally, ask myself this question about 200 times a day: “Is this a discussion I want to have right now?” Most of the time – because I’m not a huge fan of conflict anyway – the answer is ‘No. Not really’.

Here are some ways that came up this week:

  1. “We are all a bit autistic, aren’t we?” No. Not really. In fact, that’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Autism is a neurological disorder. You are autistic or you are not.
  2. “I just ordered 40 additional widgets without any approval, okay?” No. Not really. Someone has to pay for those and since you ordered them then I guess that person is you, right? That will be $600.
  3. “Don’t you think women and black people and those with disabilities are just looking for excuses to blame other people?” No. Not really. And I have nothing else to say because honestly, I still don’t have enough information to argue my point on this narrative.
  4. “People on food stamps are just lazy.” No. Not really. In fact, when I had to apply for government assistance so my kid could eat, I was working three jobs.
  5. “You are going to help me (fill in the blank with anything this person is absolutely capable of doing on their own), right?” No. Not really. But I will get you the phone numbers and you can take care of that yourself.

These days, I don’t even bother with ‘No. Not really.’ I just answer with “Hmmm” or “Huh”. When quizzed further, I might add “You make an interesting point” or “I’ve never really thought about it.” Why? Because. When someone can get you all riled up about something, then they have all the power. I learned this lesson the hard way during an argument about fucking hot dogs. If people can’t control their anger over something as simple as a weiner, then do you really want to have additional conversations with this person? I mean, it’s probably not going to get much better than that, right?

“But, Dear Writer,” you say. “My opinion is important and I need to verbalize it 24/7. Right?”

I mean, yes, of course, your opinion is important. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Do you need to verbalize it 24/7? No. Not really.

Here’s my advice to you when confronted with a dilemma to argue or walk away, dear Reader:

  1. Don’t accept every invitation. It’s not worth it. Some people love drama. Don’t be one of them.
  2. Keep scrolling. Your opinion is important to you but honestly, most other folks do not care. Swipe left, scroll up, delete, unfriend, whatever you need to do in order to stay at peace.
  3. Get comfortable agreeing that 2+2=5 for your own sanity. You can’t out-argue stupid, so don’t try.
  4. Say less. Not everyone needs an explanation. “Hmmm” can get you far in life – or at the very least, get you out of a conversation you do not want to have.
  5. Mind your own business. Who knows why people do what they do. If you are truly curious, then ask more questions. If you just want to argue a point about why your way is better than their way, then shush your word hole.
  6. Don’t blame a clown for acting like a clown. Ask yourself why you keep going to the circus. And stop attending the ringside event of defending your opinions to those who can’t think beyond their own red rubber nose.
  7. Invoke the 5/5 rule. Will this matter in five years? No? Okay. Then don’t waste another five minutes on it.
  8. Repeat after me: Not my circus, not my monkeys. Enough said.
  9. Have some grace. People come up with all kinds of crazy conclusions about things based on their life-experience. This includes you. This includes me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion – educated or not
  10. Embrace your inner gangsta. I’ve never met a real-life gangster, but I like to imagine that they really don’t give a shit about much. Turning 50 last year kinda turned me into a gangsta, of sorts. It was like “click”. My fuck-it switch transformed its ‘automatic setting’ from “We should talk about this” to “I have zero fucks left to give”. And that is amazing.

So, that’s it today. I feel a little less angsty now that I’ve realized I can find a silver lining in the midst of pre-Mercury retrograde weirdness vibes. Hope this helps.

Oh, and….here’s your song. That one is gonna stick in your brain. You’re welcome.

PS…if you loved this post and want to share it with others on all things social, then have at it. Please and thank you!

Get An Alignment

Good morning, dear Reader! I’m writing these a week in advance so if my weather forecasts and updates don’t actually coincide with the weather you see out your window, that’s why. Today I was blessed with yet another Missouri thunderstorm, the angry claps and cascades of water waking me from a pretty darn good slumber. What’s that Matchbox 20 song lyric? She only sleeps when it’s raining… Yeah. That pretty much sums it up. It’s dark. It’s stormy. It’s raining like a sumbitch. It’s fantastic. Just exactly what a melancholy writer needs to get motivated.

If you were here with us last week, you’d remember that I picked up a copy of Warrior Goddess Training and started it a few weeks back. You can read the first post here. I hope you have your ‘beverage’ ready because we are diving back into that book, and I plan to ask you a few hard questions.

So. Grab a drink. Settle in. You don’t want to miss this.

Last week’s post about self-abuse must have hit a chord with some of you because I had more views in one week than I’ve had all month. (Thank you, dear Reader, for sharing!) I’d love to think it’s because I am such an inspiring and eloquent writer, but I think I type “fuck” too much to stand up with the greats. Nonetheless…here we are. Together. That says something, I suppose.

Chapter two leads us into our thoughts about what is essential and what is not. The chapter is entitled Align with Life. I have to admit, the subject matter was not what I thought it was going to be, but still very thought-provoking.

Do you ever think that Life is just not fair? Do you believe that Life must follow a path or plan that you’ve predetermined (the bucks, the babe, the boat…) based on what you think is ‘normal’? Do you sit and wish your Life was different because it sucks right now and wasn’t supposed to be this way?

I used to think those things all the time. I don’t so much anymore, but I used to be pretty entangled with my self-abusing thoughts when I was going through my divorce. But as the author puts it: Life is perfectly imperfect, unpredictable, and unexplainable. When you fully adopt the mindset that Life is simply unfolding, you open yourself up to some pretty awesome experiences.

My fella and I talk about this a lot because the way our relationship transpired was a tab bit unexpected. Okay. A lot bit unexpected. We met in our senior year of high school. I thought he was cute; he thought I was cute. But we never went out. (Although, there is this ongoing mystery as to why, after 30 years, he still has my senior picture. Creepy or sentimental? You decide.) Anyway…fast forward to Spring 2018. He’s single, I’m almost single. We meet for lunch. He pays. But then…poof…after that one lunch, we just…parted ways. Fast forward to Winter 2021. He’s single; I’m definitely single. We go for a drive. He holds my hand. We have a beer in a little dive bar along with a good cheeseburger. Again, he pays. We’ve been together ever since. If you had told me thirty years ago…or even three years ago…that this guy would be the one to make my heart swoon, I would have most likely said, “You’re batshit crazy.”

But let me let you in on a secret…if I had been in the same headspace in 2021 as in 2018…we would not have even made it past a text message. I believe, like the author of Warrior Goddess Training, that the choices in our lives come down to two things:

1 ) Life is a constant decision: Do I live in Fear or Love?
2) Life is neither fair nor unfair. Life is a constantly moving force. Ride or die, folks. Ride or die.

If we live in fear, we either live as a punitive judge or a flattened victim. If you live in love, you realize that Life is unfolding exactly as it was designed, even in its most unpleasant moments. And yes, I do totally understand how overwhelming and unpleasant Life can get, and I’ve come out the other side realizing that every experience is an opportunity for growth. When we are truly aligned with Life, we accept that aging, death, sickness, natural disasters, accidents, awful human encounters…all of this…is meant to alter our course in Life; to teach us to adapt and be flexible. To help us to let go of an attachment to how our Life is supposed to go and simply allow others to be themselves and for us to be our true authentic selves.

Also, I think you understand that Life cannot be controlled by now (at least I hope you do). You can plan and prepare, but in the end, the only thing we have total control over is how we respond to Life’s twists and turns. I know two people who have lost their spouses in the last twelve months, and while they grieve, they haven’t let the grief stop them from moving on in their lives. I know another soul who lost a spouse over a decade ago and is still sitting in a chair, waiting for death to take her. You must own your response to Life’s curveballs. You don’t get to choose the outcome…you only get to choose how you react. Life is going to continue whether you are on board or not. So. Get. On. Board.

As you ‘get on board’, I’m leaving you with a song. I, thankfully, seem to be off my Taylor Swift kick but have reunited with Kenny Chesney. This is a Kenny hit, but I found this story about Travis Meadows and he’s actually the one who wrote the song. Travis Meadows (born 1965) is an American country music singer and songwriter. He has released four albums, as well as written songs for other country artists. I was gonna link to the Kenny Chesney version but I think our buddy Kenny has received a lot of credit, but the songwriters are often overlooked. Not today. Not on my watch. Read more about Mr. Meadows here. Breathe in. Breathe out. Call a friend if you need to.

Until next time…bottom’s up!

PS…If you loved this post, do all the sharing things on all the socials. Much obliged.