Road trips, bridges, and love.

Good morning, Dear Reader. I’m closing out a big weekend of self-care like I haven’t had in a very long time. Friday night started with indulging in Season 3 of the Netflix hit, You. And Saturday, as I promised in my last post, I hit the road about 8 am Saturday in 16-degree temps to start completing one of my 2022 bucket list items: See all four of the covered bridges in Missouri. Today is Sunday, and I’m closing the weekend with a pedicure, a massage, and (fingers crossed) hugs from two of my favorite humans.

Thanks, “What The Forecast” app.

The road trip kicked off perfectly. After dropping $50 worth of petro into the subbie, I set out with my thermos of coffee with cream, road atlas, ice scraper, and a small cooler of snacks. This trip did not disappoint in many ways.

Sadly, not a Milk Dud in sight.

First, no one was out – except about a dozen of Missouri’s Highway Patrol Officers. The sky was clear, and although it was cold, the weather was great.

Secondly, Dollar General’s were not in short supply, and we all know how much I loves me sum DG. I hit two of them just for the sheer fun of it.

Lastly, breakfast was terrific. Road trip breakfast rules really need their own post, but suffice it to say, I was all set after a bit of ‘the Trucker’s skillet’ in Mountain Grove. My belly was full and I wasn’t planning on any more significant stops.

I headed east from my hometown and braved Hwy 60 E to Hwy 34 N. That was “fun”. Hwy 34 is the kind of road most definitely designed by a drunk toddler and is littered with tiny country homes proudly displaying the confederate flag. In addition, the inhabitants of these rural counties clearly have not received the memo (or TPS reports or whatever) stating that Trump lost the last election, as witnessed by the tremendous amount of Trump/Pence 2020 signs still present in just about every single yard. In other words, it was the kind of trip that made me a bit uneasy without a former law enforcement officer and his 9 mm Glock 19 as I drove around in my little liberal-hippie foreign car, if you know what I mean. Oh well. It wasn’t like I was planning to buy a home there. I was just off to see a bridge. And I did. And it was lovely. And I have three more to go.

Of course, you didn’t come here to read about my little road trip, but it is a nice little setup for today because, for the journey, I prepared a bunch of new playlists. And that windshield time and those tunes brought up so much emotion that I couldn’t help but form multiple blog posts in my brain as I listened to the likes of Ben Rector, Depeche Mode, Taylor Swift, and the Drive-By Truckers. Yes – my taste in music is a bit eclectic, but that’s what keeps y’all guessin’, now dudn’t it? (Take that accent, Shannon County.)

So what were you thinking about? you ask. Well, grab a drink. Settle in. I’m about to share.

The topic today is LOVE. More specifically…falling and being…in it.

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

–Maya Angelou

Yes, I know. I know. I had sworn this topic (and feeling) off in August 2020. But it just keeps gnawing at me, and here’s a little secret: I’m a bit of a romantic (despite my hostility toward Valentine’s Day.) Plus, over three days, I’ve had three conversations with three different people who have, well, been a little square with me about my fear of falling in love again. I pondered the take-aways from each conversation and thought maybe we could rest here on the topic together today. Is that okay? (I hope you nodded your head ‘cuz I’m going there.) Ready? Got that drink? Here’s the advice I’ve received lately. I hope it helps you today, Dear Reader.

1) Might as well be all in. If I must cite my source, I have Amanda to thank for this one. Her point was: If you are all in, you can’t have one foot in and one foot out. If you are going to be in love, then love unabashedly! If you commit to being ALL IN, you might be surprised by how much the Universe responds to that. And by ‘you,’ I mean ‘me .’ But it might apply to you—[Shrug].

2) Stop thinking in terms of the ‘Worse case scenario.’ This one comes from a friend who has experience in the area of failed relationships, and yet remains positive. This dude isn’t a stranger to the ‘love gone wrong’ scene. He simply doesn’t dwell on it as I do. I don’t remember his exact words, per se, but I do remember he said, “You’re kinda jaded…” blah, blah, blah. I took a deep breath (as I tend to do when people call me on my shit….) but instead of getting defensive…I agreed with him. I also asked him to replace ‘jaded’ with ‘cautiously optimistic’ and promised to stop quoting Taylor Swift (“It’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames .”)

3) Red is bad. Green is good. Thank Miranda for this nugget. And we are talking about flags here with the red and green references. To be clear: flaws and imperfection are entirely different from red flags. But I’ve spent so much time in therapy making sure I know how to recognize red flags that I haven’t paid enough attention to the green flags right in front of me. What are green flags? In my recent experience, green flags = chairs that get pulled out, coats that get held when you are slipping them on, doors held open, texts to let you know he’s home safely, inclusion in decisions, out-of-the-blue calls to remind you that you are beautiful…I could go on. The world is enveloped in a mist of green these days. And it is so fucking refreshing.

4) Don’t be around anyone who makes you believe you are hard to love. In August, my therapist said this, and it’s just now sinking in. I was with someone for years who constantly asked me, “What is wrong with you?” (enunciating each word while dramatically rolling his eyes). The sad part is, I started to believe that there must be so many things wrong with me or he wouldn’t be asking me that all the time. Right? Wrong. If someone ever does this to you, please take my advice based on the hundreds of dollars I spent on therapy. Put on your shoes. Walk out. Call an Uber if you have to, but get the fuck out of there. It. Does. Not. Get. Better.

5) The key to long-lasting love is finding someone whose crazy matches your crazy. I used ‘crazy’ lightly here. I have a son on the autism spectrum, and I’ve become tolerant of particular quirks. This tolerance has proven to be a great trait in a mother and as a dating woman. So what if, when you pack an overnight bag, you pack everything in threes? Okay [Shrug]. You only like a specific type of bacon. Okay. You only buy black underwear. Okay. You have one side of the couch that is your favorite, and I can see you twitch a little when I sit there. Okay. It’s an oversized couch. I can sit in another spot. Trust me…you haven’t even scraped the surface for me on ‘weird quirks’. Again, after all the money spent in therapy, I would hope that I’ve learned the difference between quirky and fucking batshit crazy. Batshit crazy is leaving bullets on a washing machine while sending text messages about shots to the brain and placing recording devices around the home while secretly putting location tracking apps on cells phones. So, yeah, no. Check the locks three times, and wash your laundry daily. Your quirks aren’t crazy to me. In fact…your quirks don’t even phase me. I find them endearing.

So, bringing it back to love and the point of all of this. You can live your life afraid of falling back in love – all the while missing out on some great people & experiences- or you can be all in. Hey! Here’s a novel idea for you: You can be both afraid and open simultaneously. After all, to quote Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in the movie Bounce, “It’s not brave if you aren’t scared“. So…jump in with both feet or get off the damn diving board. Ain’t nobody got time for your wishy-washy bullshit. (Again…by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’.)

I’m leaving you today with another Taylor Swift song. (Trust me, no one wants me out of the phase more than I). BUT I heard it today, and admittedly, it was the platform of today’s post. It’s one of those songs that spoke to me, and I remember thinking, “My God. That’s me in that song.” (“I’ve been spending the last eight months thinking all love ever does is break…burn…and end…”) Except for me…it wasn’t a cafe on a Wednesday…more like a bar & grill on a Saturday…but you’ll catch the reference if you try hard enough.

Peace out, Dear Reader. I leave you with a few questions to ponder: Was ‘the one who got away’ actually a blessing in disguise? Are you ready for the past to be in the past? Are you prepared to step out of your comfort zone and be all in? Do tell. I really want you to know I’m rooting for you.

And remember, if you liked this blog and think others might, too, then share the love on social media. Please and thank you!

Cold Weather, Melancholia, and Taylor Swift

It’s finally cold, Dear Reader, here in the Ozarks. I mean, not cold by the standards of some. I receive updates via text message from my friends in Massachusetts and upper Illinois and trust me, they are freezing their asses off up there. But for me…for SOMO…it is cold. Very. Very. Cold.

I’m not crazy about the cold. Truth is, I’m not crazy about the heat, either. Where can I live so that I’m within a temperature range of 45-75 degrees all year long? Riddle me that, Dear Reader.

I get cranky when I can’t get outside. About three months ago, I turned my bedroom walk-in closet into my work-from-home office, displacing all my clothing and shoes. And while I do love having my little dedicated ‘space’, I’m, literally, in one room of my house for two-thirds of the day on most days. It can be a bit stifling – especially when I can’t get out of the house because it’s freakin’ cold.

I keep thinking about a post I made a few months back about changing our perspective and how even the slightest change can make a big difference. I’ve been in a funk for almost two solid days, and I’m trying to determine how I can drag myself out of it, or at a bare minimum, stop swearing under my breath each time an email comes in, or a text from my ex is received. As I’ve mentioned several times, I’m not an expert on this stuff – I’m merely a semi-infamous blogger – but I do wonder about those who seem happy all the time. I mean…what the fuck is wrong with them?

I’m kidding, of course. I like happy people. I just want them happy…over there…when I’m cranky. And, I am truly grumpy today. I thought we were getting over this pandemic thing, little by little, and then they shut down the schools yesterday. My investment accounts are trending in the wrong direction, and I’m gaining weight. I’m kinda over this COVID thing. How about you?

Anyway, I feel I need to offer you some advice – especially if you feel like I’m feeling and you’ve read this far into the post.

So. Grab a drink. Settle in. Together, we will climb the wall of crabbiness to find our bliss on the other side. I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to try the following:

1) Embrace the funk. Shit happens, right? This era of toxic positivity drives me bonkers. Transparently, I question the integrity of those who are peppy all the time. I mean, I’m not going to pack my bags and move into Funkville, but I will embrace it and practice some self-care whilst in its midst. Warm tea, Riopy YouTube channel, maybe a few Milkduds, and a hot bath tonight. I am not going to drink alcohol, watch anything starring Jake Gyllenhall, nor am I going to log into my investment accounts today.

2) Get out of a rut. I’m in my bedroom/office 80% of my day and night, as I mentioned. I have the weekend sans child, and therefore, I’m going on a road trip. My 2022 bucket list includes seeing all the covered bridges in Missouri. I plan to pack a little cooler, put on my gifted blue Make-A-Wish stocking cap and mittens, load up on coffee and sour cream & onion Pringles, and get out of the house this weekend – despite the temps – to find one of them. I’m amazed at how little I’ve seen of the state I’ve called ‘home’ for nearly 40 years of my life. I’ve lived in some beautiful places – western Mass being right up there at the top – but Missouri is also beautiful. And I have the time, so I should use it.

3) Move more. I have got to get my body moving. I hate the gym, so once the temperature reaches 45 today, I will bundle up and get out of here for 20 minutes. I’ll stretch tonight after I meditate – after that hot bath.

4) Manage exposure to social media and news. I was already tipping the edge of pissiness yesterday when I received the email about my son’s school closing for the remainder of the week due to the surge in pandemic-related illness. I joked with a friend that I was getting out of my bad mood by watching a documentary about serial killers. Whatever, right? You do you, but I’m not taking the bait and clicking that link to the article on Linkedin. And I am not watching the news.

5) Create something. I’m a nerd and have started painting rocks. It’s a real-life cult thing to do. I also took an introductory embroidery class last weekend at my favorite little local store owned by one of my favorite humans, The Local Bevy, so there’s an option. I also ordered a Paint By Numbers canvas that arrived last week. My point is: I plan to stay away from spreadsheets and books about analytics. I plan to stop reading books on how to be a better writer, mother, and friend. My brain is tired, and even though I’m not the most creative person on the planet, my soul craves simplicity and quietness. I plan to honor this.

So, how about you, Dear Reader? What are your tips for thwarting melancholia? How do you get out of a funk? Do tell….because I’m this sly [ ] of taking a Xanax and crawling back into bed today. The good news? Most funks are short-lived. A couple bad days here and there is really nothing to be too concerned about. When the bad days or negative feelings seem to be lasting longer and longer I hope you’ll reach out. I’m not an expert on depression or seasonal affective disorder, but I do understand them and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee and listen.

I’m going against my nature here and giving you a not-so-very upbeat song. I cannot explain my infatuation with this song – which I find sad and haunting both simultaneously. I really can’t decide if I love it or hate it, but I can tell you this: I listen to it a lot. Truth time? It kinda breaks my heart. There is something heartbreaking about it, and I can’t put my finger on it. I’m overly worried about her scarf, and I wish the bastard would just give it back already. If I dig deep…it probably is a bit triggering. I mean, why did he have to tear her down and be mean when really all he needed to do is own the fact that he just didn’t want to be in a relationship with her anymore? Who knows. Maybe I’m overthinking this. It is a Taylor Swift song, after all. How deep can it really be?

PS…if you’re new here and want to know why I included a song at the end of this post, it’s a thing I do. You can read about it here.

PSS…if you are a fan of social media and you liked this post, feel free to share it with any of your friends who aren’t offended by the word “F*ck”.

Live Your Best Life

Good morning, Dear Readers. The last 48 hours have been challenging for me; how about you? I was irritated by the weather and being forced inside by cold temperatures was frustrating. I wanted to be outside throwing rocks in Pomme De Terre lake or at a bare minimum, simply walking the trails of Lake Springfield. In other words, I have been a tad bit crabby for two days because I was forced to be a grown-up when I just wanted to play in my new car. My son is at his dad’s this weekend, and I usually try to stay super busy on those days, but the cold weather wasn’t conducive to car camping and only led to too much wine consumption and Ben Affleck movies. Ben Affleck. Man. A tortured soul with too much talent. I can relate – wink, wink.

Anyway, we take a quick break today from the Bad Money Habits series to check in about authenticity. Today, I attended an online event hosted by some friends out of Kansas City about being more authentic in relationships. Halfway through, it struck me that the number one fear I have in ALL my relationships stems from my hesitation to be 100% authentic. I learned today I’m not alone. It seemed as though most of the folks in a class were afraid of this very thing, too. Most shared that by being authentic, they had been hurt. I can see that. Me, too. But, at the end of the day, isn’t being inauthentic more hurtful? After all, who are we really lying to when we aren’t our true selves? Them? Nope. Ourselves. Those other people can’t help it if they fall for, and consequently, end up hurting, a version of us that really doesn’t exist. Right? It struck me, as others shared, just how much we all desire to be recognized and loved for our authentic self…but have been so (and this word is a bit extreme but…) abused by others when we try to be just that. Do you know what my takeaway was from today, Dear Reader?

Fuck it. Yep. Fuck it.

Time to show up and be real. Time to live your best life, Friends. Life is short. Seize the day. I was so inauthentic for so long that I attracted into my life people who can’t be authentic one tiny little bit. It’s safe to say that my inability to be true to myself brought people of like mind to me, and I am absolutely done with all of that bullshit. It’s time to tell you an ugly truth…

Yes. I like this Taylor Swift song and listen to it multiple times a day. There. I said it out loud.

I also like cheeseburgers, and dive bars a crap-ton more than putting on pantyhose to please the masses at the fancy restaurants. I prefer cotton pajama pants and a men’s XXL t-shirt to lace and thongs, and I damn sure like expensive whiskey more than expensive wine. I like living on the edge more than living in comfort. I like trusting other people and knowing they have my back more than trusting myself and hoping I don’t chicken out. I am free to admit I’m scared and I’ve stopped being concerned with who will laugh at me. And I am both fierce and soft every minute of every day.

This leads us here today, Dear Reader. A blog post that formed during a conversation with my best friend when I asked, “How soon did you know that Bill was the one?” (For those of you unaware of Bill…you can get up to speed here.) Like most conversations about Bill, this one induced tears. I just cannot, even after six months, keep myself together when we talk about him.

Some background: Bill was a remarkable human being. I can only hope that when I no longer walk this Earth people talk about me the way they talk about Bill. He was amazing to so many people, but here’s who Bill was to me:

He was both a father figure and the ‘perfect guy’. As my girl friend says “He was not perfect but he was perfect to me.” I believe her. After he passed away, I wanted nothing more than to find someone like him and find the kind of love he and my friend shared. He was a man who would say, to my face, “What the fuck were you thinking?” and immediately follow it up with something like “You are so much better than this.” He was both a cheerleader and an offensive coach. He was a soldier and a guardian simultaneously. Disappointing Bill was disappointing to me.

Dang. I miss him.

So today, after a tough emotional day, I called his wife, my best friend. And I cried. I said, “I know he was your husband and I feel weird even saying this but…fuck, I miss him. I am so angry that he didn’t get to see me get my shit together.”

She replied, “He sees you. Rest in that.” I have weird beliefs around the paranormal so, yeah, I believe he sees me…but it would be nice to see him wink at me and give me a thumbs up when I show him the results of my target practice at the shooting range. I went recently and when my ‘instructor’ wasn’t listening I whispered “Hey, Bill…turns out I’m a pretty good at this.” I’m almost certain I heard him reply “I knew you would be, Silly.” The day just got better and better after that.

So, as we set our intentions today – our minds off of our ridiculous lousy money habits – can we agree to focus on the kick-ass hero Bill was in all of our lives? Trust me. Even if you didn’t know Bill Culley…he was rooting for you. I promise.

Today, can we agree to live our best lives as I imagine Bill did every day?

Okay then. Grab a drink and settle in. Let us all channel my dear friend Bill Culley and decide to live in ways of which he would be proud. After all, the man fought in several wars to enjoy this freedom of speech we have. And, after talking tonight with his widow, I think I have an idea of what Bill would do. He’d kick some fucking ass – he wouldn’t mope around all day.

So. Got that drink? Good. Here we go.

1) Know that you are your only competition. I can compete against others at work, and I can compete against others in the blog-o-sphere. The truth is, I am my only competition. No one is living this life that you are living. No one else has experienced loss the way you have. No one has experienced fear and powered through the way you have. Everyone’s experiences are a tad bit different. You only need to be concerned with being a better version of yourself than the one who showed up yesterday. Did you fuck up yesterday? Okay then. Do better today. Bill didn’t dwell on the past. He lived in the present.

2) Avoid negative people. Life is too fucking short to spend it with people who criticize you regularly. You need to act like the cheerleading squad of your life lost its funding. You are your own cheerleader. If other people can’t at least raise a pom-pom once in a while, cut them from the squad. I have one person in my life who loves – absolutely loves – it when my life is not operating at 100%. Do you know the phrase “Misery loves company”? That’s her. So, my advice? Stop. Going. To. The. Circus.

3) Go after what you want. If you don’t go after what you want, you will definitely never get it. Additionally, if you don’t even know what you want, you will be on the edge of disappointment every second of every day. Until recently I couldn’t figure out why the men I dated were all so disappointing. It turns out…it wasn’t them. It was me. I was dating people that didn’t check any of the boxes. Make a list of what you want (This is true for anything, really. A job, a home, a relationship, in yourself) and STOP. FUCKING. SETTLING. Who is to blame here? Them? NO. You are to blame. Make a list. When presented with new opportunities, see if the boxes are being checked. End of story.

4) Don’t fear failure. People, people, people…(sigh)…If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. Please, for the love of all things good and holy, stop seeing failure as an end. Yes, it’s okay to say “I quit,” but it isn’t an option to simply give up. Quitting and giving up are two completely different things. Quitting means, essentially, ‘to leave’. Giving up means that you’ve stopped trying.

5) Our habits decide our future. I recently decided to do a 30-day detox and let some folks know that I wanted them to NOT offer me any wine for a while. (I do this occasionally to clear my head and show my liver a little love.) I mean, nothin’ against wine or alcoholic beverages in the least. I want to be the captain of my ship, and I get to decide my future. Do I drink when I’m alone…or do I write? Do I drink wine, or do I go to the gym? You might be better at the “Just say no” lifestyle. Me? Wine begets slothfulness and frankly, both are pretty enticing. You get to choose how the day goes, despite how the past week has been. Your habits define your future. So…Ice cream or broccoli? Another episode of Yellowstone or another chapter of that motivational book? (The correct answer is…YELLOWSTONE!) Another night of meaningless sex…or waiting for the Universe to give you the one person who checks all the boxes? Shrug. (I have no attachment to the outcome of your life. I’m just a blogger.) Wink

Am I rambling? Maybe. It’s been a day of non-stop Taylor Swift songs (I’m really worried about her scarf. Damn, Jake, give it back for Pete’s sake.) and I haven’t stayed busy enough to keep the thoughts from swirling. And I’m okay admitting to you: I merely occupied space on the planet today. I contributed 0% to the greater good. (Wait. I took my glass to recycle, though. Redeemable?) I wanted to be/do more today, but I wasn’t/didn’t and I’m okay telling you that…because I’m fucking authentic. Wink.

Nonetheless, all that said, I think my friend – Mr. William Culley – is looking down at all of us and saying, “Hey, dumbass…get your shit together.” I, for one, don’t want to let him down. How about you?

Here’s your song today, Dear Reader. (Don’t worry…it’s not T.S.) Go on and live your best life. Be authentic. Do the best you can 100% of the time – even if you aren’t doing a thing. I do not doubt that you can get up. You can dust off. You can move on. Remember our motto this year, Love: Chin up. Tits out. You got this.