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.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Spring Saturday

It's been a long winter, and its not quite ready to let go, but it was a GORGEOUS spring day today. Almost summer like.

61 degrees when I woke up this morning, so I knew exactly where I was going to spend at least some of my morning -- my happy place!

But it was short lived, because we had to get out to Brendan's first ever soccer game.

Considering it was his first time ever, in any kind of organized sport, I was happy with his performance. It's always fun to see a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds running after the ball. Unfortunately, one of the three kids that he was grouped with seems to really enjoy the ball, so since my boy isn't very aggressive, he didn't get a chance to kick it much. But it was fun watching him out there, and he had fun, which is the MOST important!

After the game, we headed to the Shoal Creek Living History Museum for their Easter activities. There was an Easter egg "hunt" were the kids earned some treats, some old time games, including sack races and stilts, a few crafts, and we watched the blacksmith make nails, as well as taking a look inside of some of the old buildings -- including the jail.

Following THAT was lunch at Burger King, birthday present shopping at Target, and what was supposed to be a little time at home to relax (but turned into a mad rush to pick up the house when I found out my sister-in-law and brother-in-law were coming over to visit), before we headed out for our evening entertainment.

Grilled chicken and asparagus (hot dogs for the kids) was on the menu at my co-worker/friends house, for a girls night with kids. Both kids had fun playing with the other kids, and once the sun went down and the movie was turned on, the adults were able to finally enjoy some time on the deck with a beer.

It was a crazy day, but unfortunately, next Saturday will be worse! Church Easter egg hunts and crafts in the morning, then the boy's second soccer game, then a birthday party for a dear friend's daughter, then ANOTHER birthday party for a classmate of Brendan' least those parties are going to be extremely relaxing and fun! Better try to relax this week in preparation...

Monday, April 7, 2014

If You Miss A Day...

If you miss a day (or three) in a blog challenge (that you have set up yourself with yourself), but nobody actually reads your blog, do you REALLY miss a day??

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Little Home Decorating

We have lived in our house for about 7 1/2 years. When we bought it, I was so excited about being able to finally decorate my home as I wanted, after all of those years of living in my mom's house and then apartments. 

When we moved, I thought the first thing I would do is paint and decorate the baby's room. Even though she was already 9 months old, it was something I couldn't do in our previous living arrangement, so I was pumped!

But upon further inspection, the room she was going to be in was already decorated with blue and yellow paint and a Peter Rabbit border, so we decided to just leave it until it was time to upgrade to a more mature room.

When we moved in, the only room that wasn't white was the bathroom. It was lavender and not my favorite. Since I already didn't like it, and it was the smallest and probably easiest room to paint, it's the first room I tackled. And it was obvious I didn't have painting experience.  

After that, it was our bedroom. A dark green, and I still love it.

Following that, when I was pregnant with my son and knew my daughter was going to move to the spare room, I painted it light green with white trim. Then finally painted over the blue and yellow room with blue and darker blue.

The kitchen was next -- yellow to brighten it up.

The living room, hallway and entry way remain white. Not even a pretty white, but a dirty "I've been here forever" white. But the ceilings are vaulted and we'd have to hire someone to paint it, which will happen eventually. So for now, it is what it is. 

But something had to be done. I've had the same black and white frames hanging above the couch since we moved in, and the same black and white photos since my son was about 6 months. I've changed a couple of the photos in the frames on the wall occassionally, but its really looked the same for almost 7 years. 

That all changed last weekend. I've been longing to do something in there -- add color somehow (I've had the same orange curtains, brown couch and tan chair and ottoman since we moved in). So, for my birthday, my mom pitched in on a new bench/storage solution for the living room -- bright yellow, and I love it! 

[Picture to be added later, when I actually go home and take one.]
It is currently sitting by my chair, which probably wont be its finally resting place, but it still sticks out. I needed something yellow to put somewhere so it wasn't the only yellow in the room. I looked for throw pillows which I couldn't find (although I think I've found some online, I just need to pick), so then I started to look at something for the wall.

A trip to Hobby Lobby on Friday was all I needed. Three trips, two separate Hobby Lobbys, and about 18 hours later, I had purchased three pictures for my living room walls, an "EAT" sign for the kitchen, and the happiest additions to my kitchen shelf. 

First, the kitchen. For some reason, I have recently been drawn to the ideas of roosters in the kitchen. Well let me tell you, if you want roosters, you MUST go to Hobby Lobby. They have an entire FLOCK of roosters, but these three guys were the ones that crowed to me the loudest.

Meet Big Red, Penny, and Chickie (although I think Emily changed the name of the yellow one to something else but I can't remember)

 Then there is the picture I bought for the top of the stairs. I just love inspiring quotes, and I loved the color, and the birds. I know it's not yellow, which was the whole point of this, but it makes me happy and I decided that is more important then being all matchy-matchy.
Before and After
"Live Laugh Love"

Then there is the picture that is now displayed beside my window. I picked it because the moment I read it, it brought back memories of my Grandma singing that song all the time when we were kids. Once again, the colors may not go with anything, but it makes me happy and brings back wonderful memories.
Before and After
"i love you a bushel & a peck and a hug around the neck"

Then there is the granddaddy of them all, my big yellow flower, picture thing that I was unsure of at first, but now I just love!
There is still much I want to do. Need new curtains, I want to create a frame/picture wall somewhere, with a bunch of the photographs I've taken the last couple of years, maybe a rug to cover some of the carpet...  I just wish I had a better eye for all of this stuff! Thank God for blogs and Pinterest!

And I've Already Blown It

Well isn't it funny how yesterday was just day TWO of my April Blog Challenge and I already blew it?!?!

I'm really not shocked. It's not a habit for me and yesterday was crazy at work, exhausted by the time I got home, then storms approaching in the head wasn't in the game.

But that's okay, because this apology totally makes up for it, right?!? That along with my promise to do so much better going forward.

And to REALLY make up for it, I'm preparing a really long blog post for sometime this week or early next! Cool, right? I'm really trying to make my posts shorter and more to the point, but this one I'm writing is totally coming from my heart and I think it would do it injustice to shorten it for the sake of easy reading.

So for now, my one "oops" has been made and from here on out its blog, blog, blog...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My April Blog Challenge

I can't believe that it's April already. Time seems to be flying by so much faster now. 

"Time flies when you're having fun!" Isn't that what they say?  If so, I guess it's a good thing that life feels like it's moving at a quicker pace, because it must mean I'm having fun. Right? Well, I am.

But with the pace quickening, I'm having an even harder time collecting my thoughts and putting together an action plan. I have so much I want to accomplish this year -- my last year in my 30's! I want it to be a year of personal growth - physically, spiritually, emotionally, everything.

I plan on giving myself little challenges throughout the year, to keep my self on track.

One is my attempt to go all of April without soda. It will be hard, I have no doubt. I wouldn't say I'm addicted, but I do like my Diet Pepsi. However, there is so much out there about how bad aspartame is, and there is no way I can go back to regular soda, so I'm trying this at least through April. If I go longer, I will be happy.

The other is my April blog challenge -- posting at least one thing on the blog every day in April. It might be short, it might be long, it may be just pictures, it might just be a quote or something my kids said or did that day that made me smile, and it may just be me complaining about my Diet Pepsi withdrawals. The goal is to have a least one posting every day in April.

To go along with that, I also want to (although I'm not putting that much pressure on myself to make it a challenge), read at least one blog post from someone else every day and comment on it. My blog isn't exciting and I know that. And I don't get much traffic. I'm sure there are plenty of things that I'm not doing to maximize that part of it, but I'm still learning. 

However, I see that I have some page views, but I have no idea if people are actually reading, or if they care when they are, because nobody is leaving any comments. Then I realize I'm the same way. I have blogs that I visit often but never comment. That needs to change because I know how I feel the few times I do get comments. It's so nice to know that what you are saying resonates with someone, or not. So even it's just to say "nicely written," my goal is to comment on every blog post I read.

So with is my April 1st blog.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Learning to Adapt

What follows is another blog I wrote on my “Me Day” over a week ago, that I was proud to have finished but then forgot to post. Enjoy!

So I’m sitting here at a booth at Panera, pretending to be important. I have my lap top, so I’m sure people think I’m doing something significant, right?

Well, I am.

See, today is “Me Day.”  Maybe that sounds a little self-centered, but it is the day after my birthday and I took the day off for me. My husband is at home with the kids since they are on spring break, watching basketball, and I’m out and about.

The thing about Me Days, for me at least, is that they are always more “exciting” leading up to them then they are actually are. I’ve been giddily looking forward to this day for two weeks. I’ve been trying to think of all the things I’m going to pack into the eight hours I have. Sadly, when I woke up this morning (which was about an hour later than I planned), and finally got dressed and out of the house (which was about 2 ½ hours later than I had planned), I had no real clue what I was going to do.

I think part of my problem is that I want things to be perfect. I get these ideas in my head and have a hard time letting myself enjoy it when things don’t go exactly right.

The one thing I knew I wanted to do was take my laptop to Panera, grab breakfast and coffee, and write. Uninterrupted by kids, television, internet and my own ADHD, and just write. So as I finally pulled into the Panera parking lot and noticed the “massive” amount of cars in the parking lot – which meant a “massive” amount of people taking up the tables (it was about 10:30), my heart sank and I felt deflated.

The ONE thing I was looking forward to the most was not going to be able to happen because there was no way I was going to find a seat where I could comfortably sit, whip out the lap top, and write. So I decided to go to another location, hoping that it wouldn’t be quite as busy.

And of course it was. But there was a difference in my attitude from just 45 minutes later (I made a stop for some shopping on the way). I added a new word to my list of words for 39.


So my long held plans of sitting at Panera and writing on my lap top might not happen. I had to adapt. It wasn’t going to alter the course of my life…or even my day. It was a planned one hour chunk of time, so why was I going to get so upset and let it affect my entire day?  So I can’t pull out the computer. I have a Kindle – I could read. I had a notebook I could actually PHYSICALLY write out my thoughts! So as I pulled into another busy parking lot, I grabbed my lap top, but I also grabbed my Kindle, my paper, my pen, tucked it all into my computer bag, and decided I was going to just go in and ADAPT my plans to fit the situation.

Turns out, my timing was perfect. I arrived right before the lunch crowd, found an empty booth, and here I am. Writing ON MY LAP TOP (I worried for nothing), looking all important, and feeling a ting of guilt for taking up a booth just to write. But not enough to stop me from writing two short blogs and enjoying my Me Day!
Here’s to what I am determined to make an amazing 39th year

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not Quite 40 -- Yet!

It’s funny. About a week and a half ago (Friday, March 21st to be exact), I took the day off for a “Me Day” in celebration of my 39th birthday, and one of the biggest items on my to do list (like, bold, in red, double-underlined big) was to have breakfast (which ended up being lunch) at Panera and do some blog writing. And I did it. I wrote two actually, and was really proud of myself for it. However, here it is eight days later and I haven’t posted what I wrote. So while they may not be AS timely, there was no way I was going to waste all that writing inspiration, so what follows were my thoughts as they flowed the day after my 39th birthday:
Yesterday I turned 39 – or as I like to call it, my “I’m not yet 40” birthday. But the countdown is now on.

I’m not afraid of turning 40. Actually, I’m quite excited about it. I’m ready to embrace it. Because 39 is going to be an amazing year. I know it!

This is the year I plan to turn things around. My health, my spirit, my soul… I want to be authentically me.

I feel like I’ve spent a long time trying to be what I think people want. Trying to make people want to be my friend or in my life by changing things about me to make myself what I perceive to be more likeable, or relatable, or whatever it is that makes a person popular. Or whatever it is.

I’ve spent way too much of the last few years feeling sorry for myself. Wishing I could be the kind of person that people just WANT to be friends with. The kind that just draws people to them like a moth to a flame. (That’s not cliché right?) Then, when I’m sad or depressed because I’m sitting at home alone looking at Facebook pictures of friends out having a good time, I tell myself, and try to convince myself, that friends are overrated, friendships aren’t as important as my family, and I don’t need it.

Truth is, I DO NEED friendships. I treasure friendships. I like people. I like relationships. I like going out with the girls, no kids. I like going out with the girls AND kids. Trying to tell myself I don’t is just crazy.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and books that preach being authentic. Being real. Cultivating relationships. And it may seem very tree hugger or Oprah-like, but it’s all so, so true. 

So that is why I am making 39 the year I “Oprahfy” my life.

Say what?

I want to be healthier by watching what I eat, eating less processed food, getting more exercise through workout and activity, and relaxing and relieving my stress as much as possible. Yeah, I have an idea of what I’d like to weight when it’s over, but I’m not making that the focus.

Along with my physical health I want to work on my spiritual health and growth. I didn’t grow up in a religious or church-going house, and while I’ve always felt spiritual and believed in God, I never really felt it necessary to go any further. But recently, thanks in BIG part to my visit to Hillsong NYC back in May, I really want to examine my faith and find out more. Recently I’ve had some questions. I want better figure out where I stand, what I believe… Music has always been huge for me, and I’m listening to a lot of Christian Music and loving all that I’m discovering. It’s helping immensely.

I also want to expand my mind. I’ve spent so much of my life, the last few years especially, watching TV and mindlessly browsing social media. A lot of times it’s because, by the end of the day, I’m just too exhausted to do much else. Also, the lives on TV and on the internet seem much more exciting than mine. But recently I’ve been reading a lot more, trying to use my time for personal growth and not just mindless entertainment (although I still adore mindless entertainment and watching TV – it just can’t be ALL I do anymore).

I also want to live a more simple life. Reading “Notes from a Blue Bike” has completely inspired a new way of thinking for me. It’s what inspired my new mantra, “Life is about relationships and experiences.” It’s why I want to travel more, take more adventures with the family, get rid of all the clutter and crap we have been hoarding in our house, and just be more authentic. I’m finding a thrill and excitement about the future when I read books or blogs like that, and I’m constantly trying to figure out how to incorporate some of those ideas into my life while still being me, and our family being (here’s that word again) authentic.

There are a lot of things I’m trying to remember this year:

Be brave

Be bold

Be Me

Learn to Adapt – when something doesn’t go exactly as planned (activities with the kids, Christmas etc.) adapt to the situation and make it work, make it fun, and make to an experience anyway.

There are no rules – There isn’t one right way to parent. There isn’t one right way to decorate, to dress, to dream… Do what feels right to me, what’s right for my family, and make sure I’m AUTHENTIC

Life is about relationships and experiences. This is self-explanatory. In the end, the relationships we have and the memories we’ve made are all we have. The stuff we accumulate is great and can add to both our relationships and experiences, but most of it is a temporary “high.” The most important things are how you treat people, how you spend time with your loved ones, that you DO spend time with your loved ones, and that you enjoy life. We’re only here once, and only for a little while. Like the words from on my favorite songs by Francesca Battistelli, “It’s your life, what’cha gonna do?”

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nobody should feel invisible

We’ve all done it. Driving down the street, stopped at a light, and to our right, a person holding a sign.

“Homeless. Anything will help.”
“Lost my job. Need food.”
And so, and so on…

I’ve seen people stop and give money or food. But then there are so many who, like me, are skeptical and give nothing. We’ve all heard it.

“If you give them money, they’re just going to use it to buy drugs, or cigarettes, or alcohol.”

And I’m sure that’s true in some cases. There are those who use panhandling to make a living. There is a guy here in Kansas City that has been doing it forever. He wears a Chiefs jacket and pretty much harasses and insults people who don’t give him money. I’ve heard that he actually has a decent home and lives well enough, but makes his money panhandling. How sad. And people like that make it harder on those who really need the help.

And sure, there is a chance that the people you give your money to are going to squander it on alcohol or cigarettes…but what if they don’t? What if they really use it for food? Or for a place to stay? What if it is the only thing keeping them alive?

I’ve thought about it a lot. I’ve driven by people on the street. I’ve passed them as I walk through the Plaza or downtown. Sometimes I smile and say I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash, and usually that is the truth. I don’t carry cash most of the time. But if I had it, I usually still shake my head and keep on walking.

But most of the time, I try not to look at them. Especially if I’m in my car. I stare straight ahead or fiddle with the radio and the window is usually up. And I try not to smile, because I don’t want them to feel bad that I’m having a good day while they are standing on the street, hot or cold, dirty, hungry, looking for a little bit of light in the darkness that they live in. I also don’t want them to see that as an invitation to approach me. And if I’m walking down the street and pass them and I’m with somebody, it’s even easier to pretend I don’t see them.

It’s sad that I’m like this, and I know I’m not alone. It’s easier to pretend we don’t see them, so they won’t try to talk to us, or so we won’t feel so guilty when we see the pain and loneliness in their eyes but don’t do anything, and just go on about our lives.

I feel for these people. I wish I could help. I wish I had some spare change to give them, or a snack of some kind lying around in my car. But I don’t, so I pretend to ignore them and cruise right on by. Feeling that twinge of guilt…for about a minute, until a great song comes on the radio and I start singing along, while wondering what we’re going to have for dinner.

But something hit me today, all because of a small quote I read on my Facebook feed from HuffPost Good News. It read:

“Here is a man who most likely spends every day getting ignored by people who are trying not to make eye contact with him so that they don’t feel bad not giving him money.”

And then it hit me. Without even reading the article, it hit me what I’ve been doing wrong this whole time. One of the worst feelings as a human, in my opinion, is to be ignored. To have people act like you don’t exist. To feel like you just fade into the scenery and mean nothing. I’ve experienced that to some extent – we probably all have at some point in our lives.

These people are already going through so much. Most are wondering when their next meal will be, where they are going to stay the night, if they will have to defend themselves from someone trying to take what little they might have. I can’t even imagine what kind of pain they are already feeling.

But then to add to it by ignoring them, pretending they are not there, and making them feel even less than human is even sadder.  I think I always told myself that it was better to just look away and not make eye contact. That I was doing it for them, not for me. The truth is it was probably ONLY to save myself from the guilt of not having anything to give, or not wanting to give anything if I did have it. I don’t know that they truly needed, they could be playing on people’s emotions and then using the money for alcohol, or cigarettes, or even fancy electronics. Why should I give my money to someone who might not be what they say they are?

But does it really matter?

What if they ARE what they say they are?
What if they truly have no food, no place to stay, and no one to turn to?
What if the smile you give them is their only proof that day that they do exist and they aren’t invisible or less than?
What if the one bag of kid’s fruit snacks in your purse is the only food they will eat all day?
What if one “Hello, how are you?” is the reason they don’t just finally give up on themselves?
Isn’t all of that worth the “risk” of saying hello and giving $5.00 to someone who has a small home, lives on food stamps, and uses your money to buy the party beer that night?
And even if you have nothing to give them, don’t you think a smile and recognition might just be better than nothing?

We aren’t rich, we don’t have a huge disposable income that we can blow on just anything, but God has provided us with so much more than we deserve! We have a huge, loving support system of family and friends; we have a wonderful church family; we have the physical and mental capability to earn a living, provide for our families, and enjoy our lives.

Some may argue that they’ve done this to themselves with the choices that they’ve made, and there are some who even choose to live on the streets. That all may be true. But we’ve all made bad choices with bad consequences. But not everyone has the same resources to bounce back from those choices. Not everybody has a support system of family and friends who can help us get back on our feet.

So what does all of this mean? For me, it means I will no longer pretend that they aren’t there. I will no longer avoid looking at them just to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

It’s not about me, it’s about them. It’s about making people feel like they matter; that they are just as important as anyone else. Nobody should be made to feel like they just fade into the background. Nobody should feel alone or unwanted. This world is lonely enough, why are we making it more so? I know that a smile, or a little money or food won’t change their lives, but it could make their day just a little bit brighter. Even if it’s just for that moment.

So please, the next time you see someone asking for change, or holding up a sign asking for help, please don’t just ignore them. If a smile and hello is all you have, then give it to them. It could mean more than you will ever know.

*The article referred to is about a homeless man in Colorado, standing on the street corner, who saved the life of a woman who had a seizure and passed out in the front seat of her car, and possibly several others. You can read it here: Homeless man risked life