So What Now?

So What Now?

A newly empty nest…

A job furloughed that may or may not open back up…

A dance studio where your favorite teacher left…

A church you no longer feel connected to…

A curriculum that doesn’t click with the kids…

Something that used to be your passion but now makes your eyelid twitch…

Seasons are a part of life. But sometimes knowing it’s the end of a season is the easy part.
The harder thing is trying to figure out what’s next, and to walk into it without fear or guilt. (in my life, guilt is the much bigger struggle)

In nature, season changes are usually gradual. (Unless it’s 2006 in Buffalo, when the Columbus Day storm graced us with 22 inches of snow that paralyzed the city and ended up causing our car to get totaled.) In Florida, we know that lovebugs are a sign that the temperatures are going to start shifting, and the rainy days are either coming in or going out (depending on if it’s May or September). In Buffalo, the beautiful fall foliage reminded us to get outside as much as we could before we started hibernating.

I wonder if we have similar hints in our lives, but we haven’t gotten as good at figuring them out.
For example…
Last spring I was feeling incredibly burned out. The dance studio where I ran the front desk was stressful (it was time to measure all the kids and start ordering costumes), the kids needed more from me with school, and my health was suffering. I was counting down the hours until spring break started.
Little did I know that Spring Break would last forever….

As the weeks dragged on living at home, I knew very clearly that the fall was going to look very different for our family. I knew my job at the front desk was over, my son realized he was only dancing because his sisters were, and my eldest daughter started getting more interested in drawing and acting than in dance.
And my middle daughter started taking private ballet classes through Zoom and found her passion…

I wish I had solid advice on this. I wish this wasn’t what I was still working on in my own world.
But the best I can suggest is this:
keep taking one day at a time. Spend time figuring out what direction you should be facing right now, and do that. Don’t try to figure out the ultimate destination. It just causes a ridiculous amount of stress.
I talked in my last post about how I knew my time as a photographer was behind me. I still haven’t figured out what my next venture is. For now, it’s focusing on the kids and making sure they’re getting the time and energy they need to for school and life. At some point I may find a new business idea or passion I want to run with, but today, right now, my job is to be there to help my kids with their math, to finish last year’s history curriculum, and to teach them their musical intervals.

 

Do you have more solid advice than I do? Does this resonate, either with life right now or in the past?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!
 
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Seasons

Seasons

When I was in school, I was torn between wanting to be a ballerina and wanting to pursue music.

I finally chose music because the clarinet was fully paid for (unlike ballet classes), and I knew my height was against me with my dancing. That, and by 9th grade it was pretty obvious I wasn’t really good enough to make a career out of dancing.

So I went to school for music education. Did very well in it, enjoyed how much my clarinet playing progressed, and landed a job teaching music in Istanbul, Turkey.

But I was teaching general music, and my real strength was instrumental music. I did teach two kids how to play the clarinet, and I got all the third graders playing recorder. 

After two years, I came back stateside and looked for a teaching job. Nothing really worked, so I got a couple part-time jobs. Tried again for the following school year and ALMOST got a job in South Carolina (part of my plan to get OUT OF THE SNOW), but that didn’t work either. 

And during all this time, I knew it wasn’t my passion anymore. So I hung up my “music teacher” hat, letting my mom say her daughter was a “retired teacher.” Nice to hear when you’re 25.

 

 

I got married and had the three kids. I knew before Jasmine was born that I wanted to homeschool them, but that’s another story for another time.

There’s a long, rambly story on how I got into photography, but I’ll save you all the details. Short version: I did, and ended up realizing I enjoyed shooting dance. So I started taking pictures for our studio in Buffalo, then our studio in Kissimmee, then a second studio in Kissimmee, then our last studio (again in Kissimmee). (seeing a trend here?)

But last year, I realized it was the opposite of a passion. I could feel it sucking the joy out of me. I knew that studio work wasn’t what I wanted to do, and so I hung up that hat.

 

Occasionally, I pull my clarinet out and play until my lips can’t handle anymore (about 5 minutes), but it’s very rare. 

I struggled with guilt about that. How could I abandon something I had worked SO hard at for SO long? 

But last weekend, a friend talked about how there are different seasons in our lives. 

Music was a season. Dance photography was a season. 

Just like the fact that we look like studio hoppers (but aren’t really), or that we aren’t the type to stay in one church our whole lives. I needed something from each place, and when the time is done there, I move on.

For someone who is deeply loyal, this was a hard lesson to really wrap my mind around. 

Ultimately, it isn’t about loyalty. It’s about recognizing when a season has come to its end and moving on with it.

Like moving out of Buffalo. I needed to live there, to meet people and to have experiences that could only happen there. But I no longer fit in that world (which I did NOT cry about!). 

So I will hold my head high as we venture into the unknown in this year of the unknown, confident that I’m going to learn new and valuable lessons in the next season of my life.

 

What are your thoughts on this? Do you find it easy to move from one thing to the next, are you a stick-with-it-until-the-end, or are you like me, with a constant tension between the two?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!
 
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Agreeing to Disagree

Agreeing to Disagree

A couple hours ago I posted a question on Facebook. 

Without mentioning specifics:
Do you consider that you and I agree on major topics, or disagree? (Masks, politics, religion, etc)

I was honestly curious to see how people would answer.

And I loved the feedback I got from it. A lot of “agrees,” some of which I think are right and others are not so much (because of who I used to be versus who I am now). But what made my heart happy was the ones who said we disagreed, but that our friendship was more valuable than having similar opinions.

 

And in all honesty, that’s why I asked the question.

 

For every single hot-button issue out there, I know someone who feels exactly the opposite way that I do. 

And not just “someone,” but someone I care for. Someone whose friendship really means something to me.

I find that to be really important.

Because now, every time I catch myself thinking, “How could people think __________?” I realize that a dear friend of mine holds that belief. And because I respect that person, knowing their decision was as well-thought-out and as emotionally involved as mine, I have to stop that line of thinking.

Immediately it changes to “okay, I can’t imagine seeing it that way, but clearly it’s more involved than I was letting myself imagine.”

 

ALL topics apply. When I get frustrated over people’s opinions of the importance of masks, or when I see a political ad. Whenever it gives me an emotion, good or bad, I remind myself that someone is having the exact opposite feeling to the same thing.

 

If you don’t have a friend who disagrees with you on major issues, I highly recommend that you change that. (though, I wouldn’t recommend finding one friend with 100% different views. That could be tough to find enough common ground to keep the friendship going). But dig deep. 

Caveat: I don’t TALK about these topics with any of them. But they know how I feel, and I know how they feel. Instead, we focus on the things we DO have in common, and silently but respectfully disagree on the other issues. I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to talking about hot-button issues with people who feel differently, so I am not going to tell you to go out and do something I would never have the guts to do. All I’m suggesting is the importance of caring for someone who feels differently, so you don’t start making “them” into some kind of monster in your mind. That’s when things become dangerous, and especially in a year with a Presidential election, it’s really easy to put everyone into a box: “Smart like me” or “dumb because they disagree.” 

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Wedding Memories

Wedding Memories

17 years ago, I said “I do.” 

 

But let me back up just a bit.

It was early 2003. I had been living stateside for 2 years, still trying to figure out what to do with my life. (I came back from 2 years living in Istanbul, Turkey for the first 2 years after college. Ask if you’d like to hear all about that experience!) 

I had tried online dating, which was disastrous. A phone call with an acknowledged racist…a creeper trying to get my phone number “so I can let the phone ring when I get home and you’ll know I made it safe.” 

Yeah, not exactly the kind of people I wanted to get to know better.

So when my mom told me about yet another personals site, I rolled my eyes. But since her dear friend had just celebrated her first anniversary with the man she met on this site, she had higher hopes than I did.

To honor her, I went along with her wishes.

 

 

 

  

 

 

I spent over an hour working through the long questions, all about what makes me tick and what I wanted for my life. Several family members sat in the dining room with me, helping me figure out how to answer it in a way that reflected reality.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I finished, typed in the parameters of the type of guy I was looking for….

and nothing.

Well, not quite nothing. There were 4 guys in a 60-mile radius. Two lived in Canada. (nothing against Canadians, but I didn’t want to have to keep crossing the border for a relationship) The other two were very clear “no”.

Sigh. 

What a waste of time.

I went to bed, frustrated at the lost hour of my life, knowing I was right and mom was wrong.

The next morning, I decided to try the search one more time. To make sure I wasn’t missing something in my parameters. 

And this time there was a fifth result!

A guy who seemed rather obsessed with motorcycles, but otherwise a guy who made me laugh and nod with agreement from his long, well-thought-out answers.

I wrote him a message.

 

And heard nothing.

It was nearly 36 hours before I got a response back. (turns out, his parents’ fridge had died, so they spent the weekend getting a new one and doing everything that goes along with that, so he didn’t get on his computer).

I saw the message the next morning, and was relieved and quite intrigued.

Here was a man who made me laugh. Hard. He was sincere. His parents had graduated from the same college I had, and their pictures were in my parents’ yearbook because three of them graduated the same year. Suddenly the 60-mile distance felt a lot less.

So we started writing. A lot. And often. Many, many long emails  back and forth the entire week. 

By the end of the week, we were both hooked. 

 

 

We had our first date scheduled for that Saturday (June 7, 2003). It was a marathon 13-hour date. Breakfast at Bob Evans, a picnic lunch at Letchworth State Park, a coffee at Leaf and Bean Coffee Shop, and home to meet my family and my crazy dog.

It was enough. We knew. Even though there were rocky parts of that date, it was obvious we wanted to get to know each other better.

By the end of the second week, we were planning our wedding. July 3rd, he proposed. September 5th, we walked down the aisle. 

When it’s right, it’s right!

Next installment: what “Happily Ever After” looks like. Well, what it looks like in our lives. I don’t think this is exactly what everyone wants, but it’s pretty perfect for us!

 

Finding peace

Finding peace

I didn’t plan to write about anything related to the coronavirus. 

But then I saw an article that I saw last week about the number of suicides during this period being higher than the number of virus-caused deaths.

And a conversation I had earlier a couple days before about how people are going out of their way to, well, get out of the way of others made me realize that I’m not the only one who feels incredibly isolated during this time.

I’m actively fighting it. I have one friend I’ve been getting together with weekly. (thank you, Leslie!) I’ve been talking on the phone to my mom. And I am an introvert who has never had a problem being alone.

But even I have struggled with feeling alone. Feeling stuck. 

 

Last summer, Seth Godin wrote a blog post that hit home, but not in the way you would expect. His goal was for people who are offended by other people. For me, though, I’m the opposite. If I think it’s a person, I have patience with them. But if it’s electronics, I get SO frustrated SO quickly.

Yesterday’s blog post almost didn’t happen. It was completely written, and then I clicked the wrong button and *poof* it was gone! 

Thankfully I know it’s never really gone, so with some patient poking around I found it again and brought it back. 

But now I’m having issues getting Mailchimp to work with this blog. I’m pretty tech-savvy, but it’s time to bring in Level Two Tech Support (which means sending a Hangouts message to my husband’s computer. JOSH!!!!!!)

What does all this have in common?

Wait, you think I’m supposed to have something planned when I write?

 Oh yeah, it does.

Peace.

I’m realizing that right now, we are all desperate for peace. For a feeling that life won’t fall apart in the next five minutes.

I’ll write in the future about the work I’m doing to get my adrenals back where they should be, and how much of a difference that’s making in my outlook on life. But right now, with them improving but not there yet, I understand all the people who deal with depression, anxiety, or just the general feeling of unrest.

This is a difficult time. We’re all hurting. We’re all trying to make sense of the half-truths and misleading news articles and polarizing views we’re being bombarded with. No matter where you fall on the issues (and please don’t tell me what those are! Chances are, I already know), you’re likely feeling the same way I am. Wishing we knew who we could honestly trust, and wishing all the untrustworthy people would stop muddying the waters.

 

My wish is that people could find ways to stop feeling so alone, and that we could all spend more time focusing on what we all have in common, rather than dwelling on the much smaller areas of disagreement. 

So if you’re like the guy in Seth Godin’s article and do better when you imagine it’s an inanimate object, or if you’re like me, pretending Alexa is human so I have more patience with her, it’s all about finding what makes us calm back down. Instead of focusing on where we differ (whether that’s about wearing or not wearing masks, taking a knee during the national anthem, choosing to vaccinate, eating a certain way…the list goes on and on), it brings me a lot more peace when I focus on how much we have in common. If I look at someone who chooses all the things that are the polar opposite of me, instead of thinking, “why would she choose that,” instead I choose to imagine that she put the same amount of thought into her decisions as I did. Because you know what? Whether she did or not, we both have to live with the consequences. 

And as soon as I do that, I have peace. 

If she chooses to feed her kids gluten wrapped in MSG deep-fried in trans-fats, what is that to me? I mean, really. Why should I feel like it’s my job to educate her? All it does is bring me stress to consider what her life could be (or, if I’m perfectly honest, what I think it should look like). 

“I am the one thing in life I can control”

My favorite line from Hamilton…the line I’m working on teaching my children…and the line I need to remember myself.

I can find peace during this crazy time by remembering that it’s me, and me alone, that I’m responsible for.

For you, that might mean wearing a mask any time you leave the house, knowing you’re doing your best to make sure no one contracts the virus from you.

…It might mean exactly the opposite: choosing to go mask-free, and instead smiling at the people you see in stores, helping them feel a little less alone during this time.

I’m really writing this as a way to keep myself accountable. Today has been a rough one, and I’ve been feeling like the world is out of control. Because it is! But I can control my actions, my responses, and the feelings I choose to hold onto. 

And today, right now, I choose the ones that will bring me peace.

How does this resonate with you? What have you done to find more peace during this crazy time?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!
 
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Coffee part 2

Coffee part 2

Have I told you how much I love coffee?

The sound of the coffee pot gurgling…

the smell…

that first sip…

 I love it all. (well, maybe not the coffee breath that follows)

Last August I realized I was feeling jittery and exhausted immediately after having my caffeinated coffee. I sighed, knowing what it meant. 

Thankfully I was already on my way to discovering how to make decaf taste *almost* as good as regular (last week’s post will catch you up if you missed it). But first I had to wean myself off of it. And then figure out where to go from there.

 

Today’s post will cover three things. These are what I’ve discovered personally. Most of it did come with some study, but not enough for me to take the time to find links. So sure, take it with a grain of salt, but more importantly, know that I stand behind what I’m writing because it worked for me!

1 (least fun): weaning off of caffeine

2 (more interesting): more effective times of the day to have caffeine

3 (best part): a way to enjoy caffeine without getting re-hooked

 

1. Weaning yourself off. 

I cut a small amount out of the amount of caffeine I was drinking each week.

The first week, I went from 2 large cups of full-caff to making the second cup half-caff. 

The second week, both cups were half-caff.

The third week, my second cup was decaf.

The fourth week, it was all decaf.

 This kept me from getting headaches (which I had had when I tried going cold-turkey in the past).

 

2. Most effective times to have caffeine

Our bodies have natural rhythms of higher and lower energy. I’m sure you’ve noticed how sometimes you’re dragging, and a few minutes later you can do a lot more. This is much more obvious late in the evening, but I notice it throughout the day. 

Obviously not having caffeine in the evening is a wise choice to help you sleep well. For me, I learned years ago that I couldn’t have caffeine after 3 p.m. or it would affect my brain when I tried to sleep. You’ll have to figure out exactly what your own cutoff is. 

But less obvious is that coffee first thing in the morning isn’t ideal! Our bodies are gradually increasing in energy over the first hour or two, so if you have caffeine while your body is increasing in energy, you won’t really notice it. The bigger problem, though, is that the caffeine will fade the same time your body’s natural energy fades, so the crash is much more pronounced. So when I have caffeine, I make it about 2 hours after I get up, when I can actually enjoy the increased energy it provides! 

This is not how our culture views coffee, but I’ve noticed a difference in my energy level since I changed my timing.

 

3. Enjoying caffeine without getting re-hooked

This is my favorite part, because I can enjoy high-octane french roast without worry that I’m going to have a headache when I stop again.

An article Josh found a few years ago gave this plan:

Take 6 weeks off of caffeine. (wean off gradually and then start the counting)

Then, go ahead and enjoy it as many as 5 days in a row, but then take at least 2 days off of it.

It works! This has been my philosophy for awhile now, and it really works. If I had a horrible night and really need the boost, I’ll enjoy my regular coffee, knowing it isn’t getting me hooked again. 

Oh, and the best part of all of this: because I’m no longer dependent on the stuff, it gives me far more of a boost when I do have it. (wow, I really should have started with that fact!) As a matter of fact, that’s why we originally did it: it wasn’t to avoid the withdrawal headaches, it was so that the caffeine actually did something. 

So there you have it! What do you think? I would love to hear if you decide to try some or all of this, and then you can let me know how it works for you! I’d love to hear your thoughts! [email protected]

 

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