Zip Line Through the Jungle- Check!

While we were in Puerto Rico, I was sure to knock off a bucket list item:

103. Zip line through the Jungle ✓

There are few zip line adventure companies that allow children along for the ride. In the San Juan area of Puerto Rico, we could only find one. Our son is seven and many require a minimum age of ten years old.

Tropical Adventures in Dorado, a short drive from San Juan, has an accessible course that allows anyone from “six years old, to healthy seventy year olds.”

The views of the Rainforest as we were zip lining were absolutely breathtaking.

view from our ziplining trip in Puerto RicoTobias is afraid of heights, so I was really worried about this excursion before the trip. Continue reading

How one Paper Changed the Course of my Life

I still have a few more posts to write about our trip to Puerto Rico, but I think I’ll hop off the subject for today, and get a little vulnerable.

A little under six years ago, I was in a real rut when I decided to get radically interested in happiness.

Yes, happiness.

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D.I.-whY?

“Why do you do it yourself? Why not buy it instead?”

“Yeah. What’s your why?”

During Monarch Workshop, I was asked this, and I started overflowing with answers to the question. I thought I’d share some of my reasoning.

I’ve been a maker for as long as I remember.

When I was a child going through chemotherapy, I spent much of my time in the local children’s hospital, where they had a well-stocked toyland of a playroom on every single floor. Every time I was recovering from my latest treatment, all I wanted to do there was use their canvas and paints, and I could care less about any of the other toys.

The women before me were makers.

My Granny owned a business selling her pies. My Meemaw taught me how to embroider when I was five. One year, when our mother asked what we wanted to be for Halloween, my sister aInswered, “a princess on a pony,” and I, “a flower in a pot,” and that’s precisely what we were.

I have expensive taste.

Good design isn’t cheap. By the time lower-end manufacturers catch on to trends, their attempts at creating something “just as good” often falls short of the mark. (Not to mention that you have to consider HOW things are made cheap to begin with.) With a few tweaks and a fraction of the cost, I can get the look for less without breaking the bank. And who doesn’t love that?

I want to reduce my environmental footprint.

I’ve got serious guilt issues when it comes to throwing things away. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a whole lot, so I always wanted to keep what I did. It’s like the old ladies that survived the depression and hide money everywhere, I guess. When I was older and learned about how our consumerist culture is affecting the planet, it gave me fuel to my thrift-and-adjust or change-don’t-toss ways of life.

It is all mine.

Don’t you love the feeling when someone compliments something you’re wearing or something in your home? When you’ve got an awesome story about a great deal you got on it, it’s even better. But putting your BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS (or, more often than not, just a little bit of effort) into something and getting kudos without the other person knowing? Knowing that they can’t go out and buy it? Golden.

It’s the climb.

Cue Miley Cyrus when she was still a doe-eyed teenager. Yeah, it takes more time than heading to Target and making it happen. I find making things fun, though. Like prefer-it-over-a-Saturday-night-rager fun. Not that I’m invited to those anyway, I’m a cool mom, but not that kind of cool mom.

Pride.

I could finish projects a lot more quickly than I do. And it’s not because of piled up housework, responsibilities as a wife and mom. It’s not because of procrastination, or because I’m second guessing my creative choices. Though the latter plays a role in the time frame I start a project, what slows me down during the process is the roughly one hundred or so times I step back, admire what I’m doing, and get overwhelmingly excited about what I’ll be looking at upon completion. It’s the pause, the thought, “This is going to be so awesome,” the bask, then resuming.

 

I’ve heard of people saying before that their hobbies are like breath, they can’t live without it. It’s not that way for me–I can live without being a maker. I just wouldn’t chose to.

Why do you DIY? Leave your answer below in the comments.

Why do people Do it themselves when they can buy it in a store

 

New House Project Plans

I’ve been a shopping, cleaning, box opening, credit card swiping fool for the last couple of weeks, but I finally cleaned up and cleared boxes enough to share some progress pictures.

I have so many DIYs in store for this house, and my little head was going to burst if I didn’t go ahead and map some things out. The first room(s) I have cleaned up are the living/dining room combo and the kitchen. We have an open floor plan for these rooms, so they’re pretty much one space. (The way I figure, it’s only a different room if you can’t see its mess from where you are. hah!)

In my previous post about the new house in Connecticut, I showed you how the home we bought is a completely blank slate. We received the keys two weeks ago from this afternoon, so don’t expect any magic to have happened. In fact, it looks less like my Scandinavian + colorful  intentions, and more like a crummy apartment in need of therapy. In due time!

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The 3 Best Comebacks for Snarky Moms

Moms are conditioned to put their guard up, beginning in the early days of pregnancy. From the first signs of a baby bump, all-knowing and well-seasoned mothers and grandmothers are more than happy to delve out advice for what worked for them, and are unaware of the critical glances they give as you state that you’re doing the opposite. We’re all self conscious of whether or not we’re doing the right thing by our children, so when someone challenges it by taking a different route, panic ensues, and defense mode leads to rude expressions and disapproving comments.

I get it, it’s a nerve-wracking job to take on. Just when you’ve convinced yourself that something isn’t a big deal, there’s a Dr. Freud or a Dr. Sears to let you know that you’re potentially ruining your kids’ psyches. Whoops!

Here’s the thing: parenting isn’t a competition. Here’s another: you’re not right, and neither is the other person–there’s no right way to do it. And something we all need to be reminded of: Your [honest and truthful] best is good enough.

Not everyone has been reminded of those things, so when you come across someone that’s being snarky, here are some of my favorite comebacks: Continue reading

Yesterday, Tobias turned 6.

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He woke up to laughter and balloons above his bed, dressed quickly, then worried as I cautioned him that we may be late for school, only for me to make a sudden left before our usual turn for the doughnut shop. With chocolate milk in hand, he closed his eyes, made a wish, and blew out his candles on a strawberry iced doughnut with sprinkles. This, all before the school day began. When I picked him up early, his classmates sang him the birthday song, along with “Cha! Cha! Cha!s” and smeared cupcake icing on their faces-much to his teacher’s dismay. We headed straight for the movies as he opened his present from me: a book and a game, both revolved around his self-professed future occupation, architecture. 

Despite traffic, we made it to the movie on time, threw on our 3D glasses and watched Rio 2. We were the only ones in the theater, and we took advantage of this by laughing obnoxiously, doing our version of Latin dancing to the songs, and me telling him in a non-hushed voice about how when he’s older, we’ll go to Rio de Janeiro and have all the fun. We made our way to Sky Zone when the movie ended, then to a pizza buffet for dinner. We ended our night later than usual, but still made time for a quick Skype conversation with Mark, his new book being read aloud, and for him to tell me about the buildings he’ll design “one day.”

Tobias’ birthday reminded me of how things have changed in his years here on earth. He came into this world the child of a marijuana-dealing-by-day, line-cook-by-night father, and a lost, teenage and broken mother. I remember that first night that I held him in my arms–my tired family had all run to IHOP for a celebratory meal–I assume his dad was with them, or somewhere off lighting a joint near hospital grounds. He left to do just that while I was in labor-the same thing he did in the middle of our wedding reception. It was all very typical.

I held Tobias in front of me, looking at his pale face with his top eyelids kissing their bottoms. An overwhelming sense of loneliness washed over me in that moment, and I realized that this is just as things were going to be going forward. Me and him, and I’d figure it out. Just the two of us. 

Fast forward six years. SIX WHOLE YEARS, a lot of moving into different places to live, one home, a handful of different jobs, two universities, one graduation, one career, a divorce, and an engagement. After all of that, I now feel like he has the stable, focused childhood that I always wanted for myself, and when it was too late, for my children. He’s in the advanced learning group at school, is confident in his abilities, participates in after school activities, and makes friends easily. He has a dad climbing the corporate ladder, a mom who is able to work from home, and an alternate life when he visits his father on weekends in the country with his maybe-soon-to-be-maybe-not stepmother, their tumultuous relationship, and a little brother. He never has to go without material possessions other than for learning’s sake, and, more importantly, he’s always surrounded with tons of love.

Despite that, I can’t help but feel like I haven’t figured things out like I thought I would that night. On the outside, I have an active lifestyle, a career, a home and friends and a happy family. But I’m still so lost. And I’m still, in all honesty, very lonely. I know it comes along with being a young mom and always feeling different from your peers–or rather, unsure of who your peers are anymore. It also comes with working from home: it’s just as much work to get out and be in the company of others when you’re not crammed into an office with people every day. This struggle with balance doesn’t seem to ever let up, and I’m learning it probably isn’t just me who feels this way. 

In this six years, I’ve realized that the whole “figure-it-out” thing is something that I was too young at the time to put into real perspective–similar to how I thought that my ex husband’s marijuana selling was a sign of entrepreneurship, and I somehow had decided he would have translatable skills in the long run. (Very naive. Very hopeful. Very 19.) I’ve found that “figuring it out”, when it comes to parenting, is a constant, deliberate set of actions-not a box you can check at the end of some period of time. And it’s okay, because mothers all over the world are struggling with up-and-down feelings of doubt, and they’re doing just fine too. The kids are alright–and so are their mothers. We’re kicking ourselves along the way, because we always feel like we could have been better. Next time, just ask the kids. They’ll tell you the truth: You’re the best mom in their whole world.

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all.

Spreading Smiles

I was stoked when I inherited Mark’s convertible after he bought a hybrid car. The weather was the best it had been all year, and rollin’ with the top down was an invigorating reminder of how great things have gotten.

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Then, after a couple of days of hearing a popping sound, a small piece broke off right when I was heading out of the driveway for paddle board yoga. I couldn’t help but feel guilty-I had just had the car for a week or two and already I screwed it up. This is why we can’t have nice things. I told Mark anyway, and he began to nag immediately about taking it to the dealer for a quote.

We took it all right. On top of having a TERRIBLE experience with that dealership’s service department, we learned that convertible top + fixes due to lack of routine maintenance would be higher than we were willing to pay. (I would go into detail about the dreadful experience, but this isn’t that type of blog. If I wanted to complain on the web I’d be an avid Yelper. I’m not.) Suddenly, we found ourselves car shopping for the second time in one month. 

A few hours later, I drove off the lot in a brand new Mini Convertible. I ADORE it. Just looking at the showroom of the dealership, it’s like the car was branded just for me. And it’s TINY. I’M TINY. Perfect. 

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The best part about it isn’t that, though. It’s not about how the BMW manufactured go cart for everyday use has the smoothest handling of any car I’ve been behind the wheel of, either. My favorite thing about the car is the way it brings smiles to people’s faces. People just love seeing the toylike motorcar zipping around town. It is, after all, a little ridiculous looking. 

I was sitting at a stoplight today when I made eye contact with someone who was panhandling. He was situated on a grocery cart that had been upended onto it’s side in the median, looking down and off onto the ground in the distance. The corners of his eyes and lips were tilted downward slightly more than his gaze, in a predictable manner. I instinctively looked inward to the car to see if I had any food, though I knew that I’ve been taking care of keeping the vehicle clean, then turned back and gave him a half-shrug with a half smile. 

His whole aura changed, and he stood up and started walking toward me. I was concerned–I thought the half-shrug-half-smile combo was THE symbol for “Sorry that I can’t help you, I would if I could.” My nervousness increased because I couldn’t roll my window down with tint still settling, and I didn’t want to come off as rude to another human being. He came right up, but when I didn’t roll the windows, he mouthed, “IIIIITS CUUUTE.” In that drawn-out way you would to anyone who’s new to lip reading. He then began to laugh, and started to say something, so I opened the door. I apologized and explained to him about the tint. He shrugged it off and said,

“It’s like if you ran out of gas, you could just pick it up and carry it to the station!”

We both laughed and the turning arrow turned green, so I drove off. And I know its lame but I just thought it was pretty amazing that for a second, someone whose troubles are likely beyond anything I’ll experience in my own life were completely forgotten and replaced with “your car is so small that…” jokes. 

Now, I know I’m not changing the world, and my new car purchase is selfish and far from philanthropic. But it sure is nice to spread some joy around here, if only for a moment.

New Beginnings

I keep giving myself reasons as to why I haven’t been working on a personal blog. All the time. I have this idea that it needs to have some kind of thrilling strategy behind it, and if not it won’t be good enough or well written or–well, you get it. 

But I don’t need a strategy. This blog, nor any personal blog, has to be written for the masses or for a specific group of people. It doesn’t have to have a theme and I don’t have to keep up with multiple blogs in order to segregate readers. I don’t have to do any of that to reach my goals. I don’t have a target demographic, I just want to write about something other than my clients and their businesses. I want to write for writing sake.

The Good ol’ Days

Whether you consider it pre-social media or social media in it’s infancy, the early days of blogging were different. I don’t need to go into how Facebook makes us unhappy or what it’s doing to our relationships, I’m sure you’ve read plenty of content about that and still give into the vice. What I loved about that era of the internet was how raw people were. They literally had their diary on the internet for everyone to read, judge, and do as they pleased with it.There wasn’t a concern for sugarcoating their lives, maintaining an image, or highlighting the most interesting parts. They just wrote. People could read it or not and bloggers weren’t refreshing the page often to see if anyone left a comment.

It wasn’t about the amount of people who were reading, if they were reading, or even the person who wrote the content. It was about the message. It was about the story. It was about the potential to be heard in ways the generations prior couldn’t be heard.

What’s changed?

We all remember the rules of early internet: “Don’t tell them your real name!” “Never let anyone know any personal information about you: your school, work, or address!” When America went online, we were all afraid of the ways that these strangers on the web could manipulate us with only our first and last names. We hid behind screen names like “coolgurl117300” and “Xxsk8er4everxX,” because we were afraid of what was unknown about people we hadn’t met in person (because IRL wasn’t even a thing yet. DUH.).

Now that Facebook is our drug of choice, we’re attached to our names. Our new facade, however, is the choice we make every time we answer the question, “What’s on your mind?” with how we would really answer, “How would you like to portray yourself?” Instead of being authentic and hiding behind a different name, we see people all day who are being inauthentic and hiding behind a personal brand. We’ve eradicated all fear of strangers knowing where we are, but stigma has grown about family members, friends, colleagues, etc. knowing just who we are.

What the heck am I getting at?

I know I’m not being completely original here. (The internet in this era also has a way of reminding you how unoriginal you are. Humbling.) We complain about the nature of social media all the time, then we still, without a thought, check our pages frequently. I’m not trying to change the world.

I just want to write. Without proving a damn thing. This will be my space for that, consider yourself warned.