What’s Beyond Our Comfort Zone? Maybe A Welcome Surprise

Comfort zones for most people extend well beyond billowy soft cotton tees or bed linens. Well beyond our physical body. And well beyond the walls we call home. As I ventured out for my first visit to a new hair salon – which demands that comfort is key – I got more and more prickly as I drove the six short miles. The scenery drastically changed, so did, well, everything.

But let’s back up. I love the city and proclaim to be an urban girl. I am, within limits. But I stepped outside my comfort zone when I got out of the car at this center city salon. It’s Aveda – a well known, upscale, organic, chi chi international chain that is fairly overpriced yet interestingly desirable.aveda

I started going to an Aveda salon by mistake, when I lived in the ‘burbs about 50 miles from our new digs. Back in the day, Aveda was just coming on the scene and everybody wanted its botanically-based products, especially those of us with an aversion to chemicals. While I welcomed that, when my longtime stylist said she was switching to Aveda I was naturally a bit hesitant. I’m a creature of habit and worry about change. But I trusted her, and after the first round I was hooked. It smelled better, looked better, even felt better. So I sucked up the cost every few weeks to ensure I didn’t sport any gray.  (And a quick side note – I feel very fortunate, this is a first-world situation I know.)you smell like aveda

Through the years and several moves I frequented the local Aveda salons nearest me, and grew accustomed to the the familiarity. My color formula transferred easily from place to place, I never really missed a beat. I was comfortable.

But now, out of the burbs – I’m actually embarrassed and ashamed to say – I had a little hesitancy as I drove through some unfamiliar-looking territory. I don’t pay much attention to lifestyle but sometimes it catches my eye. We live in such a different world now, pretty much nowhere is technically “safe.”

Whatever it is that knocks us out of our comfort zone – and it can be anything really – we notice. Our senses heighten, our posture straightens, our mind and heart may start racing, it’s really only natural, and admittedly happens to everyone.

perfet hairI drove around the block in circles at least four times looking for a parking space outside this new salon. I parked the car with hesitancy, went inside, and decided at that moment this place was not for me. Sure it was Aveda, but it didn’t feel the same. I couldn’t leave though, I would be charged for missing an appointment.

And here’s the crazy part. As the experience unfolded, much to my surprise, it was simply wonderful. The stylist and I were totally compatible and chatted as if we had known each other for years. The crew was just my speed, the expertise beyond compare. I felt completely at home in that Aveda salon. That’s a pretty big endorsement coming from a new but seasoned color client.

Life has a learning curve, and for some it may take years. When it comes to comfort we need to learn to stretch, because it may reveal something we never knew was there. Growth is pretty amazing. And good hair color definitely is too.

comfort zone is a beautiful place

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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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Take A Chance And Open The Door When Opportunity Knocks

moon dustWe can’t deny when life gives us opportunity after opportunity to evolve. It’s just do we listen, and if so, how do we proceed? That’s the theme of the day for a lot of people I know.

My artist friend called me in tears because she cannot stand one more day doing what she does for a living. It was her original calling, her passion, her purpose. And now more than 10 years in the creativity zone she is ready to strangle her entire business – or technically it’s strangling her.

Another friend – also productively exercising her innate talent, her passion-driven purpose – has finally reached the cliff’s edge on whether to teeter or leap. Burned out and feeling devalued, she’s tired of her depletion.

There are a couple more drained souls I know whose lives keep tapping them on the shoulder to consider other options – not just about work, but about all kinds of relevant aspects of their existence.

The question becomes how many opportunities (and we’ll call it opportunity) are we given by life to shift before we pay attention? When we are banging our heads against the wall with our jobs, our relationships, our circumstances, our inner demons – when do we take action to change our course? And more importantly, how.

candy landThat is the dilemma we face as humans. Life is hard, there’s no way around it, and sometimes feels like an obstacle course through Candy Land – that vintage children’s game. Instead of strategy you just play the game and the person who wins has the right colorful cards. Real life can so feel like that.

Every time I log onto the national blogging website that I gratefully was featured on twice, I see the same people getting their blogs premiered and introducing their freshly published books. It wears me out because I wonder how they actually live their life beyond knocking down their goals and stacking up their accomplishments. I can do a lot in a day but apparently not that.

LifeFortunately (or unfortunately, whichever applies,) nothing stays the same, ever – like the Game of Life. This one takes out some of the element of chance and lets players make choices, after spinning a wheel of course. It was more like checkers in its original form, and then was revamped through the years seven times. Even Life evolves.

changeIt’s navigating our external path while honoring our inner feelings that seems to trip us up. It’s not easy to take our “opportunities” seriously when the change they present is uncomfortable. We get the signs over and over but to make any change – especially a radical one like closing shop on a seasoned career – is so insanely hard. Our psyches and egos get in the way, our minds muddle our visions, our hopes, our dreams, our desires, it’s easy to be afraid, especially when the future isn’t tangible.

This is what it comes down to. How badly do we want to change our lives, and how uncomfortable are we willing to be to do it. It takes a whole lot of belief, courage, determination and self-dialogue to step out of our status-quo comfort zone and into the discomfort of we don’t yet know. It requires absolute trust in life and our path. It requires a whole lot of self-soothing when when we are up all night sweating what to do next.

We can start by honoring our feelings. Letting ourself off the hook. Lightening up. Laughing. Visualizing…Breathing. Really breathing. And paying attention to what beckons and calls. Because even though it’s real, it’s just the game of life.

 

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Yard Sale ~ A True Reflection Of Who I Am

It was over 100 degrees in the garage today when I was out there doing what I do best. Organizing.

Sir Husband and I began our great “Everything Must Go!” purge this past weekend, piling up years of paraphernalia, running to the town dump with 55-gallon bags of “why did I keep this,” dropping things off at the free-cycle area in our town.

yard sale signThen he announced it. “Let’s have a moving sale next weekend.”

Whoa. That’s a huge ordeal. Why can’t we just put everything we own on our beloved Facebook online yard sale like we have done the last couple of years? Because of course, it’s more fun to have a real sale, to sell all the nitty gritty.

We have a lot of pretty excellent nitty gritty. I am sure everyone thinks that about their stuff, but for us it’s true. Including some very nice furniture, we have things that people may actually want –  think Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, Williams Sonoma, LLBean. I can’t help it, although I am extremely frugal, I still like these types of home-style things.

So as I started to really think about a sale – items, prices, and how it might all go down, I’ve decided we are who we are no matter what. I would love to say that I don’t care about what I own or where it came from. And technically I don’t. But I am realizing we all have this innate self, who likes what it likes, who is drawn to a certain style, who operates with certain personal guidelines.

fb4e052f92c14afa5c8839318e4a0507Sir Husband said just throw the stuff on the lawn without even worrying about price stickers. I gasped at that thought. We will have signs and balloons to welcome the shoppers, tables displaying our things, the for-sale furniture arranged in the driveway, and a table of donuts until noon, at which point we will change to cookies.

I think they call that staging, like I did to sell my house. I can’t help it, that’s the “real me.” But in all honesty I wish I could change and not really care about any of this and live simply and free. Not just with my home items, but also in my life.

FullSizeRender-8While I was organizing the nitty gritty in the garage, our agent called to tell us we have more showings this week with our buyers. They want to come see the house again, which honestly I understand. But I thought we were done, the offers are signed. So my mind started racing about what I would have to do to change all the moving parts of my week, clean again, leave again, and work around someone else’s needs.

Everything in life is a negotiation and I struggle with saying no, or honoring what is best for me. But this is part of my innateness – I don’t exercise my boundaries well. There are a million reasons why, but it still goes back one thing – I’m just being myself.

Whether it’s shopping Pottery Barn clearance, staging a yard sale, or freaking out instead of saying no – no matter how hard I try I still like what I like and do what I do. There’s no deep philosophical meaning, it’s about accepting who we are and feeling comfortable with ourselves, regardless of who else is. At the end of the day we’re all we’ve got, and I’m ok with that.

 

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The Gap Between Reality And Relaxing Sometimes Can Feel Huge

FullSizeRenderWe take vacations to relax. But I failed at that last week when we were away, and I’m not alone. Why? Because we can’t always get away from ourselves. It took four days and a hand-in-hand barefoot stroll with my man on the surf-side dunes of the Cape to finally unwind. Relaxing wasn’t easy no matter how hard I tried.

I’ve caught myself a lot lately in the thick of a nervous-system buzz. It’s like a fast-moving electrical current that goes speeding through my body keeping me revved up even when I’m sitting down. It comes naturally, from a lifetime of trying to reach a better destination – only the destination in this case is comfort, contentment and peace.

The good news is, I’m shifting it. But until recently, for the last forever years I have been living in what we un-fondly refer to as The Gap. It’s not an easy place to live. gapIt’s that land between reality and desire. Despair and hope. Existence and belief. And it can be uncomfortable, even when we’re determined to come out of it.

The trouble is, when we live in the gap for a long time, we can get stuck there in a comfortable discomfort that keeps us treading water when we aren’t drowning or desperately swimming trying to get “there.” This almost-there land becomes our focus, all the while our nervous system maintains its buzz.

I know a few people living in the gap. It’s self-defined, but we know it when we’re in it. It can be when we’re in between jobs, or homes, or life circumstances. If only  fill in the blank …  When  fill in the blank … As soon as  fill in the blank … happens, I’ll be all set/good/happy/healthy/fine. It can be temporary, but I’ve spent most of my life trying to fill in those blanks.

Lately I’m realizing something huge that wise people already know. The destination is actually now.

jimcareyWe hear about living in the present moment, or peace and happiness come from the inside – there are a myriad of memes out there telling us how to feel good. They make sense in the moment and can feel like our Jacob’s ladder out of the gap. But it’s not until we recognize it that we can do it.

The to-do list is a perfect example. That list never ends, but I have continually believed if I get through my list all will be right with the world. Mundane tasks become massive priorities, so I stay revved-up as I’m running toward the finish line. I know I can make it…I can do it…I’m almost there…just one more thing…Keep.On.Going. It’s almost subconscious.

Workaholics live in that habitual space – in between here and there, then and tomorrow, busyness and bliss. The question is, when is it good enough? When are we satisfied? When can we relax? 

Call me crazy, but the answer is now. And we don’t even have to go on vacation.

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When It Comes To Our Stuff It’s The Treasures That Count

It was like a scene from a movie. Wife sends husband out for a basket of flowers for the front porch minutes before the team of house-selling people arrive. It was listing day. Wife gives explicit instructions for color, sun-exposure and price. But she forgets to say be sure they are alive. Husband followed the instructions so explicitly that he didn’t notice the FullSizeRenderflowers he brought home were half-dead.

I adore my husband. He is the love and light of my life. To me he’s the most amazing and sexiest man alive. And when he walked in with a basket of brownish, wilted flowers, I whimpered and welled up with tears. We were out of time.

In his defense, he stuck to the price guidelines but it turned out to be a case of you get what you pay for. “They just need some water,” he said as he peered into the pot.

I’ve been crying a lot lately. They aren’t bad tears, they are change tears, as we embark on homeanother major life transition involving moving for the seventh or eighth time in less than 10 years. A military wife I am not.

I thought I was over the crying last week when we headed to Cape Cod for a few days of rest before Sir Husband starts his new job. But no amount of Om’ing helped. We stopped in Boston and signed a lease on our new condo, and that’s when it all started. We are moving “home,” and I’m thrilled. But as we tripped down memory lane where I spent most of my adult years, buried emotions surfaced. Not memories exactly, but feelings. I had no idea they were in there.

Instead of dwelling on what was causing the flow of emotion and tears, I tried to just go with the flow…the tears, the feelings, the experience. Sir Husband’s parade was not dampened by my unplanned avalanche – he held my hand as we drove through my past and soon-again future and smiled. His joy embarking on this Divinely-guided venture was irrepressible.

Before we got to the Cape, we stopped for a night at a dear family friend’s house who I have not seen in years. As if no time had passed, we simply picked up where we left off, although I have a different husband and her daughter is all grown up. Seeing her was medicinal. Time has a funny way of reminding us of those things that truly matter – like friendship and memories and the blank canvas of our future.

After a lot of laughs and wine around her big dining room table, we got to the nitty gritty of moving boxeswhat Sir Husband and I have to do to get ourselves moved. We are downsizing yet again to a very small space near the big city – more than half our belongings must go. That’s part of the emotional shift – truly letting go of our stuff.

“Keep only the treasures, only those things that tell an important story,” my friend said. She recently did this herself. It’s harder to let go of memories and experience than it is to let go of things, she explained. It took some digesting, but I began to embrace the reality of what “stuff” really means.

It means essence ~ lifeblood ~ nucleus ~ spirit ~ essentialness ~ substance ~ and soul.

So everything’s negotiable, but the basket of flowers stays.

 

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When Going With The Flow At Light Speed Don’t Forget To Breathe

life struggleWow. Is looking at our life from the outside as exhausting as it is to live it? Because we are in a swirl-wind so speedy that we can barely catch our breath. Only this time it’s all good.

My life has always been a little swirly. We don’t sign up for the lives we have, or maybe we actually do. But I don’t have time to debate where our life stories originate. Right now I’m so busy rewriting ours, I’m having trouble keeping up.

I can’t say it ALL started when Sir Husband secured a new job last week, ALL is a very long time. I’m talking about the latest chapter, that is revealing each page as we go.

His new job is in Boston, so we decided to move back. That decision alone opened up Pandora’s box. Where will we live when we get there, and more importantly how will we pay? Massachusetts is way high up in its cost of living ranks.

After accepting that reality, the search for a home could begin. We aren’t going to buy off the bat, it’s happening way too fast. We have to sell the house we’re in now and he starts his new job next week. We began looking online at rentals in the towns we might want to live. Fortunately I lived there for decades, so I’m familiar with the land.

Here is where “go with the flow” has become our most valuable tool. We’ve struggled with this notion before, but sometimes it’s not a choice, which we’re learning now. Every hour stardustof every day it’s like we’re being hustled by Divine Powers That Be. Doors are opening quickly and things are falling into place. This concept of things aligning with ease is often referred to as “flow.”

Flow is when things go smoothly, when we’re swimming with the tides and the current carries us along without us efforting our cause, worrying or stressing out. And as busy and tiring as it may seem in the moment, flow is life-change for good.

We’ve had to let go and surrender ourselves to allowing it all to work out. That is a big deal, as humans we want to be in control, and we try with all our might. We hear a lot about surrendering, some call it “Let go and let God.” Whatever words make it feel right, it doesn’t change the facts. If you trust in the Divine, yourself and in life, it will likely work out really well.

This a new way to function for sure, because trusting for us takes work. But ironically because it’s all working out, we’re learning quickly to trust.

It’s hard not to smile when we’re feeling the flow, in spite of the breathless fatigue. There’s a happy invigoration that shows to the outside world. When a dear friend noticed our flow first hand she wasn’t sure what to say.

“How do I learn to be your friend when you’re happy and everything’s fine?”

That was the funniest thing I’ve heard in a while, but honestly she was right. For years our life’s swirl was negative, crazy and hard but our new status quo is flow. Sounds a lot like balance to me. Kind of like breathing in and then out. First we’re receptive, then we let go. As sure as our breath our life flows.

 

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Life Can Feel Like A Speeding Train When Changes Keep Coming So Fast

sanityA case of the nervous shakes came on quickly after a lengthy conversation with Time Warner Cable about decreasing our services to lower our bill. For nearly an hour I logically conversed with the agent, explaining we don’t need 200 channels or even 20, we just need high-speed internet. Then my iPhone crashed.

There is no logic where Time Warner is concerned, cutting back actually increases your bill, they’ve got you by the balls. While that may not sound very ladylike I am struggling with the facts. Nothing is easy or affordable with cable or even cell phones.

I’m working with that word “easy” as best as I possibly can. But some days/weeks/months/years leave you feeling life is like living on train tracks. Whether we are the train trying to pull a long load, or are tied to the tracks with a train coming at us, we feel the rumble and shake.

train track

Part of my nervous shakes are probably PTSD. We’re rounding the bend of life changes again, and the impact is once again huge. New job, moving, selling, shifting, the vortex of change persists. Especially with our house. It seems like we just bought it yesterday, and truthfully we sort of did. In spite of prevailing amnesia, I remember our recent moves well. IMG_1021

Due to job and status shifts, each time we’ve moved we’ve done so with the intention of positive change. That’s what most people do – move to improve their lives. But it comes with its own layers of impact, whether the situation is good or bad.

Let’s not forget it’s all about the journey, whether tied to the tracks or not. Life happens, jobs change, marriages rearrange, and the sacred sanctuary we call home isn’t always permanent. Or perfect for that matter.

Every house we’ve ever owned has come with its own circumstances, which contributed to the PTSD. After selling my forever house, the one I never would part, it was a series of ups and downs so steep it took me years to recover.the barn copy

First we bought a haunted old farm that apart from the ghosts fell to pieces when we moved in. The well went dry, the boiler blew up, windows fell out and more. It involved an ugly lawsuit and wasn’t a pretty scene.

After several more houses with plenty of intense repairs, we finally bought the one we’re in now and thought it would be fine. Nope. It was about to go into foreclosure so the owner let it decline. By decline I mean the chimney collapsed and the roof came apart only a few weeks after we moved in. She had precariously disguised a lot of issues and our inspector wasn’t too keen. Sucking it up and making oodles of improvements became our middle name.

This renovated train is about to depart its station, we’re listing the house next week. But I’m back to that word “easy” to quell more than the nervous shakes.

First I’ll start by forgetting Time Warner and just deal with our current plan. But more importantly I need to remember how to work with the status quo.

I once heard the phrase, Don’t try hard try easySo I’m getting on board that exact train, it knows the perfect way.

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