Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Return to Love, and the Little Things

Three years ago, as you can see below, I wrote about how I was returning to blogging after a self-imposed hiatus (a/k/a I just stopped writing and posting).Woo hoo! Look at me!

So where have I been since then?

I wanted to become more professional, so I thought that meant I needed to (1) purchase a domain name, because a blog that included “” in the title would never be taking seriously; (2) pay to have my domain and blog hosted by a cool company; and (3) spend money on a theme so that I could spend hours (months) trying to create my own website. Surely, all of that would lead to increased page views, followers, sponsored posts and companies giving me money to put their name on my blog. I’d be able to quit my job, soon my husband would too, I’d rack up the Instagram followers and I’d be “famous”!

So I did that. I purchased “WakeUpCreate”, paid Blue Host to host the site and spent some money to buy a cute little theme to make it look simple, yet appealing. Here’s the one thing I didn’t do though: Write. I think in the three years I had the site, I wrote about 6 “serious” blog posts or essays. I don’t know why I wasn’t more motivated, but something about it wasn’t right.

Long story short, I believe I was so into what I was hoping the end result would be – the sponsored posts, the huge page hits, the full-time career – that once I got the site up, the reality that it was going to be a lot of work hit, and I froze. I worried about what my “brand” was or what I was actually going to write about that people would find interesting. I'm not an expert on any one thing or really, anything at all, but I am curious about a whole lot of things. Beauty, food, health, sustainable living, vegetarian/veganism, minimalism, intention and flow, inspiring other people, etc… But really, who is going to come to me to read about whatever is in my head? That thinking had me frozen because I wanted to make a good impression.

The problem is I had forgotten why I started this little blog in the first place, which was really just to give a glimpse into my normal, everyday life. It’s not flashy. It’s not thrilling. I’m not a food blogger, I don’t DIY, and at 43 I’m still trying to figure out my style, both in fashion and home decor.  I also don’t have this crazy life with kids in all these activities, running here and there, doing this and that, and trying to juggle it all, which seems to be what makes a successful “mommy blog”. My life is “normal”, boring perhaps, and hardly worthy of Instagram stories.

But I suspect that’s the problem. I have such a skewed view (as I assume do so many of us) of what makes someone’s life “Instagram worthy” that I forget to just live mine and let people care or not care. So many times I think about posting on Instagram’s stories but I’m so worried that the people who see it are going to think it’s dumb and boring and that they will then think I’m dumb and boring, so most of the time I just don't. But whatever. No more. I'll post what I want, follow along if you’d like.

I guess the real point of this post is to announce that is no more. Instead, I'll be back here on Love and the Little Things, blogging for free about the little things that make up this normal little life of mine, including the random thoughts in my head or whatever I feel like at the time. Right now I’m just excited to stop focusing on those big goals of a professional blog and just enjoy my time getting back to writing about love and the little things that make up a life.

*A little side note: There were some blogs/essays that I wrote on “Wake Up. Create.” that I plan to repost here.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes!

Out of the mouths of babes! It's funny how your kids can melt your heart and break your heart all in a mater of moments.
Sunday night, after returning from a weekend at the lake with friends, I wasn’t feeling very productive. Once I put away our clothes and other items, and showered both children, I took my place on the couch and found a live stream of Justin Timberlake’s Iceland concert and watched it on my phone. A short time later, I had both kids sitting beside me, squeezing in to watch, too.

My five year old has mentioned a few times recently that, when he grows up, he wants to be a singer. So as he sat watching I told him, "If you really want to be a singer, and if you want to sing pop music, you should pay attention to Justin Timberlake." Because not only is he an amazing talent and an amazing performer, but, I believe, he’s truly a genuine, good guy -- something I think is few and far between with mainstream entertainers these days.

He sat and watched for a few seconds, then asked me if I could teach him how to sing, which made me smile. But a few seconds later, he broke my heart. He sat up, looked all serious at me, and said, “So you grew up to be…nothing?” 

Oh. My. Gosh. My sweet little boy is calling me out, and breaking my heart. 

As I stared at his once sweet little face, my wonderful daughter piped up almost immediately in my defense. “She’s not nothing! She works. She sits, and types, and prints…” 

Quiet dear, you’re not helping here.

Now I get that he’s just five, and he pretty much doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And it probably wouldn’t have hit so hard if it’s not something I have thought about myself. Growing up, from about the age of 6 until I was about 30 and reality sat in, I too had dreamed of being a singer. It wasn't just a dream, I KNEW it was going to happen because I wanted it so much. I mean, I would write songs, I bought a keyboard and a drum machine, I would practice constantly by “performing” shows to no one in my living room, or the backyard, or the porch, I sang in school..and that's all it takes, right? 

Oh sure, maybe I could have actually performed for people, really learned to actually play the keyboard and drum machine, and the guitar I eventually got as a gift. (*Side Note: I may not have learned how to create my own songs on that drum machine, but I did learn to copy others songs! To this day, if you hook it up, I'll bet you it will still play along with Debbie Gibson’s “Shake Your Love” or The Party’s “Free”!!) I could have tried to be heard by anyone and everyone that would listen. Instead, apparently, I assumed people would just be able to tell that I had what it took and that it’s what I wanted to do and sign me up! I even moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where my dad lived, because at the time I was such a huge fan of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, that I just knew I’d go up there and be discovered.  Um…yeah. That didn’t happen.

Instead I moved back home to Lincoln, got a job in retail, fell in love, got married, moved to Kansas City, had kids, and the rest is history.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that my life hasn’t turned out pretty great, and I do believe I’m where God meant for me to be. As it turns out, I don’t really have the greatest voice or the looks to be a singer, and without at least one of those, your chances are slim.

The reason what he said broke my heart was that he’s kind of right. No, I didn’t grow up to be nothing, but have I truly followed my passion?

Over the years my dreams have changed. Once I finally decided to give up on the singing career, I found a new passion in the form of writing. Specifically, writing about NASCAR, and I had dreams of working in public relations for a driver or team. I started writing for a NASCAR website and got some amazing opportunities – from getting track credentials and working in the media center covering the races, to interviewing drivers both on the phone and in person at the track. I really loved it, and I thought I was pretty good at it. I even pursued some side writing gigs, but eventually I realized that the work involved – having to start from the ground up and fighting those with the degrees, connections, etc. – was just going to be too difficult. So I “gave up” this dream for a new one – the dream of being a mom.

Really, I just gave up out of fear of rejection and struggle, and while I really did want to start having a family, being a mom was just an excuse.

After the kids, I discovered a few other passions. Things that I became interested in, but just never got off the ground. There was the cupcake shop I wanted to open (before I realized the whole world had the same idea), the party planning company I wanted to start, and the endless online searching for inspiration of what I was supposed to be doing with my life.

Then I bought a “fancy” camera to better capture my kids as they grew up, and that changed everything! I started dreaming about being a photographer and started trying to soak up all the education I could. Of course, suddenly it seemed that everywhere I turned, people were buying cameras and calling themselves photographers, and I realized this was going to be harder than I thought. I started trying to figure out my niche, and discovered that while I enjoyed the idea of taking pictures of families and kids, what really got me excited was food and lifestyle photography. But about the time I started getting really excited about it, my daughter started having some problems at school with concentration and productivity, and I kind of put it all aside.

But now that things are better, maybe this innocent little comment from my sweet little five year old is just wanted I needed to kick myself in the butt and move forward in pursuing what could be my true calling. I want to be a photographer, but I also really, really want to write. What I need to do now is more of both, and figure out how to combine them in a way that is soul fulfilling and financially supportive. 

I am constantly telling my kids they need to follow their dreams, dream big, go for it! But am I practicing what I preach? Do I want to be the kind of mom where, years from now, my kids say I did “nothing”? Or do I want to be the kind of mom my kids can look at as an example of how you can do and be anything, if you just work for it and never give up?

I'll choose the latter, thank you.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

While The Kids Are Away...

After eight days away, my kids returned home last night from a week at Gramma's house. With the exception of the four days I spent in New York City and the weekend where I dropped them off at Gramma's house while I went to my friend's lake house, this is the first time I have been without both kids for much longer than a work day.
Is it wrong to say that I have really enjoyed this time!?!
After eight years, I'd forgotten what it felt like to have no one to care for but you. To go out when you please, come home when you please, run around the house naked if you please.. (Okay, that last one never actually happened, but it could have, if we wanted.)
We've taken full advantage of having no kids around to tend to. Saturday morning we got up early, without having to rush kids along, and visited the City Market in downtown Kansas City. With no kids to keep an eye on as we paraded through the crowds, and no whining about being bored or tired of walking as we perused the produce, it was an enjoyable morning "date".
Later that evening, after a nap and some shopping for me, and some World Cup action for him, we went out to celebrate our 17th anniversary -- which was actually the Saturday before (June 21st). Brief storms earlier in the day made it a gorgeous evening to sit on the back deck of Gordon Biersch at he Power & Light District, people watch (at least five bachelorette parties arrived at P&L, and one 80's themed party -- not quite sure the reason for it), and enjoying some one-on-one time, just us...something I don't think we really have had since our 15th anniversary day out. The food was delicious, and, in what I think is a first, we both had wine with our dinner! Not beer or cocktails, but I had sangria and he had a riesling. We were awfully fancy and adult that night!

We followed that up with something I don't know that we've ever done -- drinks at a different location!  Okay, so by we I mean he drove me to Houlihan's and ordered nothing while I ordered the mini-martini flight -- Hibiscus, Blueberry, and, the whole reason I went there, Key Lime Pie! So. Good! And so worth every extra calorie I consumed that night! The evening ended with some good conversation at our friend's house until about midnight.

Sunday was a lazy morning, and afternoon, with more World Cup soccer and another nap, and then dinner at a bar and grill in Liberty that we decided to check out. We skipped the wine and went right for the beer, with me getting my favorite local -- Boulevard Wheat! That was followed by a nice, leisurely stroll around the Liberty Square, which included some weird, random "we don't have any kids for a week" selfies, and a trip to Target!

I even enjoyed the freedom during the work week, with dinner and drinks with a neighbor Monday night, taking Tuesday off work and having lunch with my "bestie" and her youngest (followed by a trip to Sam's Club), a three-hour happy hour with some co-workers and my hubby at O'Dowd's on the Plaza Wednesday after work, and then dinner at a local pizza place (and another Boulevard Wheat) Thursday night, followed by grill shopping! Good times!

Friday --the 4th of July -- I spent the morning by myself, antique shopping in the West Bottoms, just west of downtown. The first weekend of every month, the 10 or so antique shops in the West Bottoms open their doors and crowds of people go shopping! It was the first time I've experienced it and even although none of my friends could join me, I refused to let that stop me, and made the trip by myself. It was neat, but I do admit it would have been a lot more fun with friends!

And Friday night was the first holiday we've spent without the kids. While they enjoyed a block party with their cousins, we went to my friend's annual 4th of July party/40th Birthday Party and enjoyed good food, good beer (yes, Boulevard Wheat again), great company, lots of laughs (including butt flops on the trampoline), and watched the other kids shoot off fireworks. I must admit, it was nice not having to keep track of our little ones, or worry about them eating, or whining, or fighting....we let all the other parents do that.

I won't deny it, and I'm sure it makes me a bad momma, but I had mixed feelings as we drove to pick them up.  I missed my kiddos and have been anxious to get them back and really get this summer going -- since it seems to be going so fast and I feel like we haven't done anything "summery". But I've also enjoyed the time they were away.

I've enjoyed the quiet, not having to play mediator or fuss at kids to brush their teeth, pick up their toys, or go to bed. I've liked being able to just go anywhere without having to bring the kids or worry about them being home. But most importantly, I've enjoyed reconnecting with my husband. Our marriage hasn't always been perfect. Heck, it's not perfect now. But there are times when I wonder what would happen if the kids weren't around? Most of our conversations and dealings tend to be around the kids, would we have anything to talk about if the kids weren't around? Would we ONLY talk about the kids? Would we run out of things to say or do after one or two days? Would we get on each other's nerves and retreat to our separate hangouts for most of the time?

To my surprise, it wasn't what I "feared". We spent a lot of time together, the kids were only a part of the conversation for a small amount of time, and we actually had a lot of fun. Just us. We were goofy. We were spontaneous (ok, sort of spontaneous). Having the opportunity to reconnect was priceless!

If anything, this was a reminder that we need to take more time for just us. No kids. Spend the money on a babysitter or trade off with friends for a date night. Because they are young now, but they are growing quickly. It wont be long before they are spending more time out with friends than at home with us. Then it's just us.

So while I think I'm going to miss the quiet house and "freedom" of not having kids, I know I need to enjoy it while it's here. I need to remember that the great moments outweigh the stress and enjoy both the big and little moments. I want to yell less. Stress less. Play more. Have fun. And love the little things.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rest in Peace, Justin Reynolds

In January 2009, at just 30 years old, Justin Reynolds was diagnosed with cancer. After chemo, radiation, and surgeries, he went into remission, but two years later, the cancer had returned. Given two years to live, Justin refused to accept that as the final answer. He was accepted by the Mayo Clinic for a risky procedure that could prolong his life, and while there were multiple risks involved, Justin went through with the treatment. Unfortunately, 18 months later, after an inspiring, brave five year battle, Justin passed away very early this morning. He was just 36 years old.

I got to know Justin several years ago through my brother and sister-in-law. He was a co-worker, good friend and a member of their wedding party. I haven't seen him in several years, but have been following his journey for a while through his Caring Bridge Journal and on Facebook. He has been an inspiration to me in that time.

With everything he went through, all the pain, procedures, therapies, doctor’s visits, and every diagnosis, he maintained a positive, upbeat attitude, always smiling, living life to the fullest, even when the odds were against him.

I have seen many tributes to Justin recently, every one of them describing a man who was loved, loved others, made their lives so much richer, and lived life fully. I agree with them all.

What Justin has done for me is inspired me to keep fighting, never accept defeat, to always smile, to live every day with intention, to make sure those who are important to me know how much they are loved, and to remember that every single day we get to be on this earth is truly a gift.

I will honor him by remembering and doing all of those things.  

God definitely blessed us all with you, Justin!

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Dishwasher is on Timeout

It has now been over a week since we've run the dishwasher. The dishes are clean, so no worries, but I've been doing it the old fashion way. By hand!

It's amazing how many dishes a family of four can use in just a couple of days. And when the dishwasher gets full, the sink and surrounding counters usually get filled up to. With spring coming and the bug population beginning to come out of hiding (like the dang ants that came for a visit a couple of weeks ago), I refuse to give them any incentive to come into my house. Plus, the dishwasher is noisy, and annoying, and it seems like it has to run every other night.

So last weekend I decided I was going to challenge myself, to see how long I could go without running the dishwasher, doing the dishes by hand.

It's sad, and probably shows that I'm getting old, but it's actually been kind of fun.

As soon as the kids or I are done eating or drinking, I wash.

As soon as I discover my husband has put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, I pull them out, and I wash.

Not sure how long this will last, but I'm proud of one week. And it also means we haven't run out of any silverware in at least a week.