Life is Like A Garden, It Takes Some Work To Bloom

What do you want to do when you grow up?

fairyWriting a fairy tale blog was not my answer. Nor was being a writer. But I love it, and feel it deep in my soul. It just comes naturally, even when I have nothing significant to say.

I’ve come a long way since I started Where’s the Fairy Tale in 2009. It took me a while to grasp the reins, and through the years things changed. But I never lost my mission for my blog to grow and bloom. I want it to be relevant and helpful for readers who enjoy and relate to what I share.

I always thought about my blog fairy tale like a garden, lush and green, splattered with vibrant colors and magical fairies blinking and shining like lightening bugs.

So like a garden, I planted the seeds and tend to it every day. Eventually, just like when a tiny bud sprouts, I got a follower, my very first. Followers are a big deal for bloggers because that’s how a blog really grows. Then I got a few more, and a few more. It’s not a contest, but the more followers you have, the more abundant your blog garden.

fairy forest

The other day I read a blog post by a mutual follower, called Find Me in the Garden. She’s a sweet blogger, who at her young age has endured quite a lot. She likens gardening to life.

POSTED ON JUNE 27, 2016 BY BEAUTYBEYONDBONES

hepburn garden….I was scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday, and I came across a quote, allegedly by Miss Hepburn:

It goes like this:

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

And for whatever reason, that idea really stuck with me throughout the day. Maybe because I love flowers so much. Maybe because it was full of hope, but it succeeded in getting me thinking.

You see, gardens have a special spot in my heart. They’re meaningful. But not for what Audrey is musing about. For me, they mean something more. To plant a garden, and care for a garden, is to learn how to take care of a living thing. There is beauty in taking care of yourself. Gardening teaches one patience.

I think today, we’re so used to instant gratification. We post an Instagram photo and within the hour we get X number of likes. We order something on Amazon, and we can get it the following day. Cell phones, Facebook chat, FaceTime.

Patience is a dying art.

daisiesFlowers take time to bloom. To expand and anchor their roots. Have the buds open up. Drink the water. Soak up the sun. So too, do we.

Yes, the garden would give me hope for the following day; bating my breath for the day when the pink would pop through the tight bud. But it taught me the importance of gentleness. Gentleness with myself. With allowing myself to grow. To heal. To bloom.

And the thing about gardens is that they’re never finished. Seasons are constantly changing. What looks dead in the winter will find new life again in the spring. What a beautiful image of hope that is.

The thing about gardens is that they’re not just for the gardener to enjoy, but everyone who passes by. A garden makes an impact. Makes the world a brighter place.

Audrey, yes. Gardens remind us of hope for tomorrow. But they also teach us about the importance of caring for yourself. And allowing yourself to bloom. Because when we do, the world becomes a brighter place. And the beauty of the One who created these flowers can be seen by all who encounter it…

dig it

We have pivotal experiences and milestone moments that change our course, giving us room to grow and allowing us to bloom. For me, this is one of those times. In just a few hours we’re moving home – where I left to marry Sir Husband, where I return with him to my heartfelt roots, where I wanted to live when I grew up.

I won’t be online for for several days, but will be back soon.

I’m tending to my garden.

Our Personality Has Layers, It’s Just Which One Opts To Comes Out

This is me before selling my house.

snow white

 

This is me during selling my house.

snow white attack

Anybody have dual personalities….that can turn on a dime….and make people around you think you just channeled a hungry bear or you’ve simply lost your mind? Raise your hand.

I’ve been a little edgy lately, not to mention exhausted, hormonal, and still recovering from a scorching case of PTSD from my former life. TMI? Sorry, stress takes time to resolve. Then add real estate agents, buyers and lawyers with our impending move, and it can get quite kooky.

I’m so sorry, I am just not myself…I apologize for my upset – venting – language – tone…oops did I say that?  I say all this a lot.

While I like to consider myself a seasoned homeowner, selling a house and moving is a ginormous ordeal. And of course in the midst of all that, life still goes on. We still have all the regular things we manage everyday. I’ve finally hit the wall and can’t do another thing.

mood swing

But it’s all good, even when my body aches, the fatigue is deep, and the mood swings prevail. Hence the dual personalities, which I know on the flip side of this big change, will naturally level out. I don’t mean real dual personalities as in a psychological diagnosis. I mean the multiplicity of ourselves in different situations, especially under stress.

We all act out various aspects of ourselves as we face different roles each day. Our feelings shift, our moods shift, we kind of bob up and down given our circumstances. I don’t know how many times I have apologized to my good friend who is working on our real estate deal and told her, I can’t wait until this is all over and I go back to being myself.

multiple personalities

At least I’ve acknowledged that during this transition my personality is maxing out. Sometimes it’s calm and rational, sometimes emotional, and sometimes it’s crossed its own personal limits. I’m not sure if it’s conscious or subconscious, but this concept of multiple sides to ourself has been studied by experts for years.

Human brains, according to neuroscientists, do not reveal one particular self, but instead a whole lot of programmed responses that turn on when different situations call for it. Nature or nurture they do not know, they just know these different wirings turn on and off in our consciousness as we need them throughout each day. The key is being aware of how we respond.

Thank goodness.

On some level we already know all this. These responses are what get us through the nitty gritty of our day and eventually we recalibrate. Whether it’s big stuff or it’s small, we’re just being ourself in that very moment — although some of us are better at showing ourself than others. Or should I say ourselves.

 

quirky self

 

 

 

 

Closing Chapters Feels Good And Is Only Human

closureWhat is it about humans that we like to have closure? Of anything – a relationship, job, school year, sports season, even the holiday season. This sense of resolution or conclusion feels stabilizing.

Ahhhh….it’s over.

Imagine how life would be if all the stuff we enjoyed on TV, movies, sporting events or books, did not have a beginning, middle and end. No final score, no decisions, no happy or even sad ending. When I’m glued to a show that says “To be continued” at the end of the episode I get a little upset. We don’t need closure, we like it. We like to close the book, the season, the series, and even chapters in our life.

Sometimes we know it’s coming, sometimes we seek it, other times it hits us when we aren’t even trying. Like when standing in the middle of Walmart looking at trash cans. We’re moving soon and I wanted a new trash container for my bathroom when I realized the metal one we have is rusting. It started out as a no-brainer errand.

finishedI grabbed a reasonable facsimile and put it in my cart. At that moment I got an overwhelming sense of wanting to get out of the store, my house, my town, and our state. It felt urgent to be done with my life where we live. Today, right now, I just wanted to go – although we’re only three days away from leaving.

It’s been a long couple of months – Sir Husband got a new job clear out of the blue one state over, we sold our house the day it went on the market, found a new place to live that same week, we have been packing and hauling our things there every weekend, it’s been a whirlwind ordeal.

While it’s an all-good endeavor, it’s stressful nonetheless. The process of moving itself is huge so I haven’t had time to focus on the big-picture end result. That’s the other thing, humans are result-driven. We push toward the result of our actions. We want to see and feel goodness come from our hard work.

The readiness of moving hit me hard in that bathroom accessory aisle, so I paid for the trash can, left the store and headed home. I realized that was the last time I would probably ever be at that store, on that road, seeing that scenery that I had seen for the last three years. And it felt good. Closure.

Closure is a feeling. And when we get it, we feel better. Done. Like we’ve come full circle. It’s a way of thinking and feeling that usually means we can let go of whatever was driving us – either good or bad. It’s final, and opens our minds to new possibilities, options and paths.

Closure may just be one of the driving forces behind human adaptability.  Although it’s fairly safe to say most of us learn adapt, even when we don’t have it.

In the meantime…moving on.

moving on

When Life Feels Like A Marathon, Don’t Worry You Will Win

david1Ever run a marathon? I haven’t. My dad has – and starting at age 65. I don’t know how he does it, but I hope I have those genes.

Although I’ve never officially run, I feel like my whole life is a marathon that I don’t win. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t gunning for the finish line of something from my childhood days. Reading books, doing homework, a school project, cleaning up my room, doing the dishes, cleaning the house, running to class, running to work, meeting deadlines, fitting it all in…then when I had children the pace picked up even more.

I can do it, just get it done, shower, sleep, run run run. But the finish line is like that car commercial – where they keep moving the line until you end up at the dealership. My finish line is always just out of reach.

In the midst of a grocery shopping frenzy the other day I grabbed an eight pack of Coke Zero. I know diet soda isn’t healthy, but sometimes I treat myself. It sort-of tastes like old-fashioned Coke. When I saw the cans on an end-cap I was psyched, it saved me from running down the aisle. When you’re flying through the grocery, every minute counts.

IMG_2133As I put them in the refrigerator when I got home, one can caught my eye. It had a saying on it. All I do is win. I don’t usually pay attention to marketing slogans because I’m loyal to my brands regardless of what their ads say.

Remember the recent Coke campaign when each bottle had a different name on it, so we would be having a Coke with a friend? That was witty, although I didn’t really notice who I was drinking with when I poured my glass.

But this one was different. All I do is win. I liked it. No, I loved it. And that slogan did its job. I stopped for a minute and thought about what it really meant.

All I do is win. All I do is win? Wow, yes! (Play along,) All I do is win!

It’s actually a song, which I realized after I saw the little music notes around the words. So I googled the ad, and it shows a bunch of school kids winning a national science tournament. While the song plays “All I do is win win win,”  they are slow-mo jumping, high-fiving, kissing their medals…and of course drinking a Coke.

Every time I opened the refrigerator – maybe 50 times a day – I saw that can. All I do is win. I wouldn’t let anyone drink it – that can belonged to me. When I finally did open it I kept it, and positioned it above my sink where I can see it all the time. I’ve never been into pop-art but this is more than that. It makes me stop and think, and as I do, I smile. Wasn’t that an ad once too, have a Coke and a smile?

What the heck am I running for, or even running from? Life is not a marathon, but if it is,  I win.

 

Super Downsizing for This Move Started To Feel Personal

IMG_2770It’s not a mystery that a lot of people – myself included – have a thing for firemen. They’re awesome. So when I finally had to say goodbye to my grandfather’s antique extension ladder, it wasn’t as hard as it could have been because a fireman bought it.

I’ve had that solid metal ladder for decades. I never even thought about getting rid of it until we learned we had to super-downsize to fit into our tiny city condo. Not only do we not need a 25-foot ladder, apparently we don’t need anything.

So for the last few weeks we sold, donated or threw away literally almost all of our stuff. I thought I was a pro at purging, but little did I know that when you get rid of nearly everything you own it starts to feel personal. First you get rid of things you don’t want, then things you don’t need, then it gets a bit tricky.

I wanted the last of it – the stuff we hemmed and hawed on whether to store or sell – the stuff that felt like extensions of us – to go to good homes. I actually put that in the ad for the ladder, “want it to go to a good home.” When the fireman came and took it away, I decided I could live with that.

car loadedWe’re down to the bare minimum now, but the latest round of elimination was the hardest. Maybe we’ve been too busy to notice we’re dismantling our life. It became rote to go through the house, sort, pack, load up the car and drive on autopilot to the town transfer station where we separate our trash from donations from the free-swap areas there.

 

IMG_1642I always loved going to the dump and getting rid of things I don’t need. But when I turned in for the umpteenth time, I surprisingly felt upset. The struggle came at the free-swap section, where people put things they don’t want anymore. I reached for three big candles I had in the back seat. Faded and worn, they sat on a triple-teared iron candle holder everywhere I lived. Those candles quietly burned while I was watching TV, or nursing my babies, reading a book, or chatting with friends. For 20 years they were part of my life. Amazing they were still in tact.

I held them in my hands and was overcome with grief. I didn’t want to let them go, although I have new ones for the holder, that for some reason I haven’t used. They’re just candles, I had to talk myself through it. I put each one carefully on the free table, got back in the car and slowly drove away.

Our stuff is part of our life. Sometimes it’s not even things we pay attention to that end up being valuable. The backdrops in our world adding dimension and meaning we weren’t even aware of until they aren’t there.

We’re down to the wire, in a just a week we close the door on our house for the last time. When we look around we feel a little disoriented. The house echoes and seems empty. It even smells different. But we’ve crossed the threshold. We can’t move all our stuff, but we can still move all our memories. Now we’re ready to go.

worker fairies

 

 

When Your College Kid Drops A Bomb It’s Not A Piece of Cake

“Hey are you awake?” texted my son yesterday morning. “Can call you?”

I knew something was up, I paused, took a breath, and prepared for what I like to call, an incoming.

firework

From that moment on, the previous day’s birthday upset looked like a cakewalk. So my youngest wanted to hang out in his room on his 16th birthday. Whoopee. That’s not a big deal compared to what my middle son relayed as soon as I answered the phone.

MitchCollege27 copyThis one, who works for Apple and is Mr. College Poster Boy, lost his resident assistant gig. In other words, there went half his ride.

Nooooooo … 

Between his job at Apple and being an RA, his college costs were covered. But his over-achievement in all of his additional roles – student government, class representative, orientation leader, event team leader, let’s not forget a full course-load – his grades went down. So far down that he missed the GPA cut-off requirement by a fraction of a percent.

I’m adept at crisis management, God knows I’ve had enough practice to last perpetual lifetimes. But this one stung, deep in the gut, and in the pocketbook.

A mother is never off duty. She may think she is – that whole midlife change is supposed to bring freedom, a renewed sense of self, dancing around the house naked and having wild sex with her husband. It’s a myth.

It killed me to hear my son in distress. Although he had a week to absorb the fact that he had been laid off before he called his mom. So this one came out of the blue of course – but what else is new. I am good at handing incomings.

Over the years I’ve learned how to dodge their hits, and slow these stress missiles down. I can grab them in mid-air and juggle them until I diffuse their impact. That’s not to say it’s easy. Triaging crises no matter how big or how small eventually takes a toll.

awesome bubble

I spent the day working with him, explaining how to set up a budget, the costs of living off-campus, the costs of real life. He went to look at apartments while I was on the phone, he shared videos, and we talked about Plan Bs.

It’s hard to have him 10 hours away, we rarely see him and miss him so very much. I secretly hoped he might move home due to this change in course. You know – get his finances in order, and go to school in Boston, where we are about to live. That was his home once before, so it’s a familiar cushion.

There’s a lot to consider now – especially how to pay for everything without the RA safety net. But he thinks he has it under control, so this is the part where I have to stand by, watch and wince as he tries to work it out.

But it’s visceral. This incoming hit my mother-gut. I know this is a life lesson for him. He lost his ride. His path has changed. Our path has changed. The comfort-zone is gone. Life is different than I ever thought it would be…seems there’s always more to learn.

 

100828 Mitchell and deb bw_4891 copy

 

 

 

Even on His Birthday My Teen Won’t Leave His Room

tyler bday 007 copyBirthday season just opened in our house. We have three birthdays in just under a month, starting yesterday when the youngest turned 16.

I love to celebrate special occasions, especially birthdays, especially for those I birthed. I’m pretty sure I even celebrated in the delivery room as my kids were being born. I remember my doctor on the third child asked me why I was so smiley despite all the pain. Little did I know what that truly meant.

I spent my boy’s 16th birthday pretty much by myself. No cars and friends and cheer for him, he just hung out in his room. Like almost everyday, I can’t get my teenager out of his room and I don’t know what to do.

I have tried everything, but he won’t really come out except to go to school and eat, and it’s been going on for a couple years. Why am I waiting so long to speak up? Because I keep hoping it will change.

He isn’t hiding anything that we can tell, he’s got a fancy computer and spends all his time online. Introverted, totally tech, smart as a whip honors student, he’s not like me or his sibs. He opts out of interaction and seems perfectly happy. But it makes me really sad.

No matter what I do or say to try to help him, he pishaws and rolls his eyes. I realize this is teenager-speak, I’m not new to this. My other two 20-somethings seem to be fine, so I guess this will pass. But it’s worrisome nonetheless. He’s isolated and putting on weight, and even with encouragement from family and friends, it’s like trying to move a boulder. 26_23.jpg_24 copy

Nobody tells mothers that one day they will feel pain with their children like they did in the delivery room. Having children is as heartbreaking as it is joyful, and the teenage years are intense. All kinds of factors come into play – genes and environment, family status and stability, extended family, community – everything plays a role. So on some level I have to wonder where in all this I failed to help him be the best he could be.

Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe this is his best. Teenagers are still developing in their bodies and in the world. So I try to give him the benefit of the doubt instead of blaming myself. He’s not young anymore, not to mention he’s the size of an adult, unlike when he was two and I could control his life.

He has gone through a lot with our family trauma, problems and pain. But all I can do is keep showing him things are now really good, and role model every day.

So as I search for the answer to help my teen thrive, I keep repeating the old standbys – everybody is on their own journey…parents are only vessels, kids are individuals…don’t make him someone he isn’t…he has to want to change, nobody can do it for him…  But some days it’s really hard.

I guess one day he will come out of his room. In the meantime I’ll keep trying…and waiting…and trying…and hoping. This is parenthood.

 

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This Middle-Age Girl Can Still Fit In Her Wedding Dress

At what age do we stop worrying about our body image? Is it a universal socio-cultural issue, or is it strictly personal? Body image to me feels stressful, most days I feel fat. Ok ok. I’m not fat, I know that intellectually, and well, I guess physically. But I grew up chubby, with a Weight Watchers group leader mother and a stick-thin father and to this day have a skewed image of myself.

Poor Sir Husband is always trying to convince me that I’m thin and beautiful. I don’t believe him, he’s said that since we were teens. So when he asked me to try on my old wedding dress that we uncovered as we were sorting through boxes to move, I thought he was out of his mind. There’s no way that would fit me now. IMG_2792

I wore it a zillion years ago when I married Mr. Ex, had three babies who grew up since then, and I now have a bit of a midlife spread. Not sure why my hips are widening but apparently that’s normal, except for movie stars who age without any change to their girlish figures.

Sir Husband and I had spent the day finding a new setting for my engagement ring that for no reason fell apart, so we were in the marital mood when he asked me to try on the dress. I needed to do something with it anyway, I figured I’d donate it to a women’s shelter since we don’t have any girls in the family who would likely want to wear it. What the heck, I’ll humor him and put it on, or at least half-on because I’m sure it won’t fit. What have I got to lose (besides a few pounds of course.)

FullSizeRenderI stood in the middle of the living room and took off my skirt and top and stepped into the form-fitted cumbersome gown. I didn’t recall it feeling that itchy when I wore it the first time around. As I pulled it up I got more and more surprised. It was on, but there’s no way it will zip. Surprise, the thing zipped up although my curves were showing through.

This was totally a milestone moment. I think women secretly hope their wedding dress will fit years later, after babies and the wear and tear of life. I know I did. But I sure as heck couldn’t believe it. It must have been too big back then.

I immediately sent a text photo of me to Mr. Ex’s Mrs., who simply replied with “I hate you.” It was funny, I knew what she meant. But I sort of did feel proud.

FullSizeRender-2I am not shallow, but my whole life I never felt thin, my tummy’s little pooch was my nemesis – I could never wear a two-piece. This is all an internal issue, I know that now. But forever it caused me problems, in fact I was bulimic through my college years.

Eventually I recovered from that, and taking care of my body became a way of life. Apparently enough that my wedding dress still fit. Lately however the midlife spread is messing with my mind.

There’s nothing about our bodies that ever stays the same – the point that pop-culture never makes. It’s learning to be ok with ourselves every, single day, or at any milestone. If we love who we are no matter what, that is what shines through – our size has nothing to do with it. I know that for everyone else, but for me?

Maybe I’ll go have some cake.

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Father’s Day Is What You Make It, Even When It’s Tough

Here we are on Father’s Day weekend, a precarious holiday in our house. We simply do not have 11350476_1097027170311056_8666506750957732273_na traditional family situation. In fact, I’m not sure what traditional means anymore anyway, that is not wished for or imagined. It has taken a lot of years for us to come to terms with some of the facts of our life. And the only thing we have learned is that we simply have to accept the way things are.

When we become parents we don’t think about much beyond the happiness of having our own child and forming a happy family. Holidays take on new meaning. We establish traditions and dedicate ourselves to celebrating joyfully with our child.

Then life happens and suddenly we realize we have lost all control over how things turn out. Kids get older and move away. Parents get divorced. People pass. People change. Holidays change.

I wonder how Sir Husband’s children feel on the day that honors their dad when their mother has totally alienated them from him. They are starving for his love, and he for theirs.

I wonder how my children feel remembering a dad whose addiction ruled their lives until later when they were long gone.11015944_936861529658422_3739953528114582534_n

I wonder how children feel who have a step-dad. Or who lost their dad. Or who don’t even know who their dad may be. And what about dads whose child died?

My father lives far away, and while we get along, he’s busy in his own world. Sir Husband’s father isn’t alive. Even as adult children, we long for happy, meaningful holidays with family members – which isn’t always possible.

Anyone who intimately understands the name Dad has an individual perspective of this nationally recognized – although not universal – day.  And we’re sort of on our own to figure out how to feel.

How do we celebrate a holiday that brings so much pain, memories and grief to the surface, that rises up and imbues the air?

We opt to minimize the occasion with a card, an acknowledgement and then we get on with our day. Sure it’s easier when occasions feel good – but that’s the bittersweetness of life. We have to somehow put a neutralizing shield on our emotions which can be really hard to do.

11000562_938035466207695_8884132164395392603_nAcceptance – like holidays – means something different for everyone. It’s maybe one of the biggest feats in life. Learning to be ok or at least tolerate our discomfort takes a lot of hard work. There’s a whole lot in life that isn’t fair, and I mean downright doesn’t-make-any-sense-hurts-like-hell-isn’t fair. That’s the first thing to digest.

Somebody once said life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it. I hate to say it, but after coming through some impossible stuff, unfortunately it’s true. There are no set rules on how to accept and feel better, and it for us it took several years of ups and downs that seemed like life and death. But we were determined, and we persevered until we felt that shift into a better emotional spot.

Acceptance doesn’t take away the pain especially on holidays, but it dilutes it. The most important thing to do is to honor how we feel. If we can do that then move on, that’s when life gets real.

Happy Father’s Day.

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