Except for you, you are the only thing holding you back. I hear this in my head when I read quotes like this, and I wonder, Is this 100% true? Maybe I’m the only thing keeping me from reaching my goals and fulfilling my dreams, obtaining love, happiness, contentment, spiritual well-being, and all of life’s creature comforts? Well, first of all, that’s a slightly extensive list, and I tend to overthink things. The quote above is motivational and, in the most simple terms, accurate. If I do what I think this quote is suggesting, “let go and let God,” which means letting go of all of the negative stuff in my life that’s blocking me like fear, anxiety, loneliness, and self-doubt and hand it over to him/her to hold while pursuing my purpose; I have the motivation and confidence to start over, draw a line in the sand and approach life from a new perspective. If I overthink letting go and starting over and what in the universe could stop me, my head spins. I don’t mean to be a negative Nellie, Karen, and let’s not forget Dick (it’s not just the women who annoy us people), but there are a few realistic items that would hold me back from letting go and starting over or make it pretty darn hard:
• losing the funding provided by my hard-working husband so that I can work a flexible job and write for virtually no money at all! (not everyone has that!).
• I have an eternal need to say precisely what I think all of the time. (Admittedly, I don’t always pick up on social cues and have a knack for taking things a bit too far. Even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, which includes doing good deeds and standing up for my rights and the rights of others; it never ends well).
• My anxiety and how socially awkward I feel inside when in an office environment or in a crowd of people socializing where I feel like I have to say anything and everything so there’s no dead air floating around. (I usually say something random and inappropriate and hear people say, “oh Jeri” in a tsk, tsk kind of way, not a surprising kind of way, and if they don’t say it, I see it in their eyes). Disclaimer: This usually leaves me with an uneasy feeling when departing people, and I’m never quite sure if we’re still friends or ever were.
• My children and husband. I wouldn’t let them go to start over. In fact, if we’re talking about things in the universe that could stop us, I would most likely jump in front of a rapidly moving meteor for them, and just like my previously mentioned habit of taking a stand for people and myself, I’m reasonably sure the meteor thing wouldn’t end well).
What I’m saying, I guess, is that looking at that beautiful sentiment above while heartwarming and encouraging makes me feel a bit prickly depending on what I’m considering letting go of and what I’m starting over. I am also confirming the fact that I totally overthink things.
Let’s get real for a minute. Living with someone with mental illness can be challenging. And though I state in most of my bios that I write about mental illness, I have skirted the issue. You see, talking about Mental Illness is one thing but admitting that you have a mental illness is quite another (I didn’t even put 2 and 2 together until about four months ago that this is what my label is, in my mind, only those crazy people over there are the ones with mental illness, what I have is a debilitating panic disorder and stuff; that’s not mental illness). I like to think of myself as an enigma, mentally and medically unique (which I’m actually not if you compare me to other people who have actual mental illness, and my doctor once said, “you’re a medical enigma”). When I was little, my mom told me I was faking my mental illness. Some kids fake having a cold or fever, and once when our middle daughter was seven, she pretended to throw up by mixing weet•bix, yogurt, and something green with water and splashed it all over her bed then called me in and said she couldn’t go to school because she threw up, which would have worked had her sister in the top bunk not witnessed her Julia Childs like skill of producing spew on-demand and called her out on it. Anyway, no, I didn’t fake for years the mental illness-induced psychosomatic stomach pains that left me in the fetal position for days on end, feeling like my insides were going to explode. We determined that I had issues of this kind after my dad had left, and I ended up in the hospital for a few nights at the age of 8, where they tested me for sinister stomach problems that only a pro could fake so well. I got to drink a pink barium milkshake and take a ride on a rotating table that rocked back and forth while an X-ray took photos of the nasty contents of my drink making its way through my intestines. There was no indication of appendicitis, gallstones, or a blockage (my mom would have been happy with this diagnosis as she attributed every illness to the fact that “you probably have to poop!”). After two days of wheelchair races, eating chocolate pudding, and being petrified when it was time for lights out in the children’s hospital ward, my mom picked me up. She was happy to see me but annoyed at the money wasted to find out I only had a urinary tract infection.
In all honesty, I have never felt like I have been faking anything. Whatever each one of us has going on in our mind or body is genuine, whether anyone else can understand it or not. My husband says I am like a thoroughbred. I am tough, powerful, and beautiful, but I injure easily. When I imagine what it would be like to be married to me, I think it must be hard living with someone like me; I understand because I know and have lived with others who have mental issues or have battled with addiction or abuse. Paul is a trooper of the highest honor. When we first started going out, I remember discussing the kind of people he had dated in his past. He gave me a quick rundown and highlighted the crazy girl he had gone out with who was from OHIO. he said, “that chick was a psycho. Come to think of it; I have dated a couple of whackos from there. I don’t know why it seems like the messed-up ones are from Ohio, at least in my experience.” Then he asked me where I was born. I said, OHIO. As a result of this conversation, every time Paul would spend the night, I told him the medication I took in the morning was a prescription vitamin to replace some stuff in my body that I was low on. What I was saying in code was that I had a prescription that I took to replace chemicals that were missing in my brain. I had to tell him the real deal at some point but waited until he was sufficiently in love with me before I fessed up. He took it pretty well. He hadn’t experienced anything strange, yet so we were all good. As time went on, he learned about my acute panic disorder, anxiety, depression, recent recovery from anorexia (it was too severe yet), and obsessive nature. He always seemed to sail right through my episodes, and after a while, we learned to work through the tough stuff together.
Paul and I have been together for 28 years, and as long as I’m taking my medication, I might have one or two episodes total in an entire year. Looking back, we have had some big adventures on the wild Jeri ride. Earlier this evening, we were sitting on the couch, and I said, “you must feel traumatized every time one of my weird and scary episodes rears its head.” We never know what kind of glitch my body or mind will have when I have an attack. I felt for the crap he has had to work through with me over the decades and admire his patience. Not many people outside of my children, husband, mother, and a couple of siblings have witnessed these terrifying moments, and if they have, they had no idea what was happening. Paul thought about what I said then revealed a tiny secret to me that I was unaware of that helps him get through these moments in our life. He said, “no, I don’t feel traumatized; I feel fine. I truly forget everything, the next day, I wake up, and it’s like nothing ever happened.” I was honestly surprised and almost felt let off the hook a bit, “oh, so you’re like Dory, you know HI I’M DORY, the loveable fish with short term memory loss from Finding Nemo Dory?” “Yeah, exactly. I think that’s why you and I have lasted so long.” Thank God for Paul’s poor memory due to his adversity to drama, or I would be a childless crazy cat lady living in a cardboard box in the woods somewhere singing Memory from Cats over and over again like a warped record.
Lately, I’ve been blogging, and there are several days where I sit in silence, just rattling around inside my head digging up memories or imagining the future coming up with things to write. Some days it flows easily, and others, I feel mentally drained. I’m writing in a 31-day blog challenge, and at the moment, I have missed 4 out of 22 days. I’m not going to punish myself for the missed days or fret because I didn’t do it perfectly. I’m just going to carry on and do my best.
I have been struggling with what to post and what to keep for my memoir. There is some very personal stuff that could help others out there but also so emotional. I’m not sure I want to be that exposed on the World Wide Web. I’m sensitive to my family and whether they’ll be prepared for the things I’ve written. I’m finding it hard to speak my truth without shocking or potentially hurting those I love; It feels selfish. Most of my Blog posts are witty or light-hearted and, at times, informational, but now that I am in a secure routine in my writing, I feel I have more profound items I want to share. It’s hard to know what space to do this in.
I experimented on Facebook. Seeing that I’m new to blogging and trying to understand what my audience likes to read best, I’m still unsure what stories attract my readers. In my experiment, I tried to see if I could make a post go viral in two ways. (there are proven methods, I know. My problem is that I don’t know what they are yet! HELP NEEDED!!!)
1. PPC (pay per click) advertising (I put $50 towards a story post that had gotten the most attention 1x per month).
2. Asked 100 of my Facebook friends and family to share my story on their FB timeline (not all 100 people shared, I understand putting a story written by someone you know personally on your feed is a big ask).
That said, I found that neither method made my post go viral. My post had almost the same amount of views both ways. I was surprised to see an unpaid boost in readers of my blog, with just 13 out of the 100 people I asked to share my Facebook page post kindly giving me a hand. BY THE WAY, THANK YOU!
Let’s be realistic; there is the scary thought that my writing is just crap and not “viral” worthy. I have to push that thought out of my mind, though, and write on! My blog is still in it’s infancy (only 2 months old). Following my passion and the joy I get from it shouldn’t be measured by statistics. Maybe I’m just documenting my life to leave behind for my family and generations to follow (maybe by the time I’m dead and gone, my children and husband will care to read my blog, seriously).
All is not lost, though. Things are ever-changing in the online space, and as a blogger, I’m still learning. Gaining knowledge from this experiment is a win because even small gains are growth. Feedback from those in the know is always appreciated.
What are your thoughts on this? How do you find your viral sweet spot? What gets your followers excited? Please comment and share.
If there is anything, I know way too much about its singing. I am an expert in the area of vocal training; even though, at the moment, I am not in the best vocal shape. To be honest, I am a bit rusty because I haven’t practiced what I am about to share with you daily. But this is not about me; it’s about you. So you want to sing! Before you decide to quit your job to go on the road and sell out Madison Square Garden 10 times over, you need to learn some basics. The first and most important thing you need to work on as a budding vocal master is your stance, posture, and breathing. Here are three things I do when I start a voice lesson with my students.
• Loosen up: Place your knees shoulder-width apart and bend them slightly. Loosen your hips and rock them side to side. Relax your torso. Shake off the tension of the day and kind of bounce lightly from the knees. Relaxation is necessary so that you can expand your muscles as needed to create sound.
• Stand tall: Now that you’re relaxed, I want you to look in a full-length mirror (if you have one) and look at your posture. Without tensing up your body, stand tall (don’t lock your knees or tighten your gluteus Maximus, or for you smaller people minimus, lol). Stand tall as you look in the mirror and picture a string running out the top of your head. Pull it up with your hand. Keep your body soft and lift your chest, keep your shoulders down, tuck your butt under and still keep your knees slightly bent. This stance is necessary for support when you’re singing.
• Breathe like a baby: Standing in the correct position, place the palms of your hands on your belly, just below your belly button. You are going to take a breath, but not the kind of breath that you take into your chest that raises your pecks. You are going to take a deep diaphragm engaging breath. Drop your jaw slightly and breathe in as if you are giving a big sigh. You should feel no tension in your body with this breath, and your lower abdomen should expand. (If you lifted your chest, you didn’t do it right). Picture watching a baby breathe. If the standing method is not working for you, lay on your back. Place your hands on your lower abdomen and take in a sighing breath. Your chest will be still, and your hands will rise and fall with each breath. Remember the sleeping baby? When you watch them breathe, their stomach is actively going up and down. Connect with the lower part of your belly; this is where you want your air to land. Getting this down before you go any further is vital because your breath is what supports your sound.
That’s all I’m going to give you for now. Practice this for a week and watch this space for the next steps. Comment or IM me with questions; I’m happy to help you troubleshoot these basics. Remember trying something new or fine-tuning an old skill and breaking bad habits takes time. Do the best you can, have fun, relax and be gentle with yourself and you’ll be singing before you know it. Who knows, someday you may be the next up-and-coming Facebook karaoke superstar!
If I had a theme song, what would it be? Boy, that’s a hard one for someone who loves music as much as I do to answer, especially if you’re asking me to choose just one. My theme song would have to be a music mash-up. I would pick a song that might say I light up the room when I enter it, only because that’s what my mom used to tell me. I loved that woman. If my theme song were to honor how she thought of me, I would choose the song I played the piano and sang in my first solo performance at Naples Park Elementary School in my 4th-grade choir class by Debbie Boone, “You light up my life.”
Or maybe my theme song is what I hear in my head as I perform my duties as a mother. I shout out orders to my captain/husband while leading and keeping my little soldiers in line like Wonder Woman in 1984, fighting the war to end all wars. Picture me walking down the hallway slamming the doors on my children’s messy bedrooms and kicking toys, school books, and clothes out of my path, turning my back on the evil mess. I walk in slow motion shaking my head with a cocky grin followed by a pyrotechnic explosion erupting in a blaze at the end of the hallway behind me! That theme song would be by Hans Zimmer composed for “Wonder Woman 1984”.
My theme song could also show my tender side—the side of me where I love deeply, wholeheartedly, and with lifelong devotion. My husband is a happy lovable teddy bear but not big on saying constant sappy I love you’s. I’ve grown accustomed to his minimalist expression of the L-word, but every once in a while, I pull out the big guns and play the song that we did our first wedding dance, too, to see if I can get some mushiness out of the man. Now that I think of it, maybe this is more of a theme song for our marriage, not me. Anyway, honey, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?”
Then there are those times when I want to be with the girls, my sisters, nieces, and friends. This domestic Goddess still contains a lot of party energy that rarely gets tapped into these days. When I get to let my hair down and jettison some of what’s left in this pent-up party tank, I dance like no one is looking (or at least I hope no one’s looking). Yeah, that’s right, one glass of wine or two gin and tonics, and I’m a madwoman dancing on the lowest coffee table I can find (because I just can’t hop up on a bar as I used to and I would be doing this in a living room at this point because I can’t stay awake long enough to reach the rowdy wee small hours of the morning at a raging night club where you would actually see people dancing on a real bar). Come on, just picture me all punked out and off my face tearing it up to my fun side theme song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cindy Lauper, or better yet, “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse (RIP). (It’s hard to imagine, but this really happens, maybe once every ten years).
And finally, there’s my day-to-day Jeri theme song, one that keeps me going, boosts my confidence, and reminds me that I am all that I need to be for me and no more. The song that I can sing scream and cry out all at once, and it awakens any part of me that may feel weak or need a helping hand. Yes, this is my newfound anthem and real-life theme song. I love the chorus,
“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ’em out I am brave, I am bruised I am who I’m meant to be, this is me Look out ’cause here I come And I’m marching on to the beat I drum I’m not scared to be seen I make no apologies, this is me”
Yep, the song that suits me and my life most at the moment is “This is me” sung by Keala Settle and The Greatest Showman Ensemble. And on that powerful note, I drop the mic, and I’m out.
You can find my music mash-up songs on YouTube by clicking the bottom links.
I never even knew there was a National Pack Rat day until today, May 17th. I am not a Pack Rat. Most of the time, you’ll find me throwing out or giving away the contents of my home regularly. I don’t shop for knick•knacks or Bric-à-Brac, and I usually “make do, use it up, or do without,” so I don’t know why I constantly have so much stuff to give away. Piles of stuff and things seem to grow over time in my house. I remember when my girls were in elementary school. Their rooms would get so messy you couldn’t see the floor at times. I wanted to freak out at the sight of it. Looking at the clutter just confused the heck out of me. I would collect everything off the floor, filling up one or two black trash bags, THE BIG ONES! The girls could buy items out of the bags back by doing odd jobs around the house, or the contents would go to charity. Most of the time, it went to charity. They didn’t care about the stuff. The weird thing is that I would hardly take them shopping for anything, and in 3 months, the toys and clothes in their room would again rise like dough and overflow out the door. If I weren’t trying to throw stuff out, I would tidy and tuck things away over and over again. I can’t think straight if the house is cluttered. Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., psychologist and author of “High Octane Women says, “Messy homes and workspaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed.” it’s so true! I didn’t realize this was even a thing until eight years ago when I heard another mom talking about how confused she felt when her house was a mess. Have you experienced this? Your house is dirty, and at the same time, there is tension, and you can’t think straight? Do you find it easier to organize your thoughts, relax and get things done efficiently when everything is in its place? I do, that is me to a tee. Thank God getting rid of clutter stress is just a house clean away. Yes, I’m pretty sure I have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), among other issues. My husband and kids know when I start losing my patients that they should either clear the area so I can go full white tornado on my living space and scrub like Mister Cleans evil stepmother or grab a vacuum, mop, and duster and start working with me. Either way, there will be no relaxing when mom has messy, crazy brain.
On top of wanting things clean, I’ve never really been a collector. Having less means there is less to dust, wash and put away. I’ve gotten used to a minimalist life. When I started moving countries, I learn not to hold onto material things. Whatever you have in one country, you can probably get in the other. There’s also the fact that it’s costly to ship items from one country to another, so it’s better to sell what you have where you are and buy something new later. I developed the habit of getting rid of clutter after moving from the US to Germany and then the US to NZ and back twice! After you do this a few times, you learn to buy only the essentials. In the back of my mind, I’m always wondering when I’m going to pick up and move again. Moving is not a plan; it’s just a learned behavior, ingrained in me over time. This house, which I hope is our final destination for a VERY LONG TIME, is my 26th house in 53 years. No, I am not a military brat; my constant moving was due to opportunities and circumstances in my life that either couldn’t be passed up or avoided. The first time I moved, I was seven years old. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to stay in one house for decades and collect things; that just hasn’t been my MO. No, what happens with my things every time we have moved is that boxes and rubber-made bins get left all over the world, hoping that someday someone will be able to retrieve them. It’s like I leave tiny Jeri time capsules everywhere I go.
Some things have been important for me to save, like my children’s baby crib and the matching sleigh bed and dresser. Those are in my shed waiting for my girls to have babies so I can put the furniture in the guestroom and the girls can snuggle up in that little bit of nostalgia from when they were young. I would also never lose track of my books! I have some of the most amazing books that I’ve been collecting since about 16 yrs old. I’d say I’m more of a bookworm than a pack rat. Besides the baby furniture and books, I must have my photos. I have pictures coming out of my ears, online, in albums and boxes, and on external hard drives and memory sticks. I have photos all over the place, and they have traveled all around the world with me. If our house were on fire, it would be fair to say that I would be lugging giant plastic bins of books and photos out of the flaming destruction while simultaneously grabbing my children, husband, and dogs, of course.
So National Pack Rat day is not a day I celebrate. But hey, let’s celebrate the collectors and hoarders out there. Someone has to hold on to all of that stuff so that some life form 2000 year’s from now can dig up our happy meal toys, Tervis tumblers, and plastic patio furniture to gain a clear understanding of our culture. I like to think that my house or one of my rubber-made bins will be found several layers under the earth’s surface by some great archaeologist. He’ll carefully open the bin and find my dusty old books and a photo or two and think, “Wow, that woman had very little clutter in her life; she must have been one of the more level-headed clear thinkers of her community.” No, that’s not really a deep-seated hope of mine. The reality is I just function better with less stuff.
Last week I suggested and shared some links to technical blogging tools that I use. I said, “use these tools to amplify your writing voice and build your audience.” I suggested that you start with one blog account and take it slow. And also noted that “taking it slow is better than doing nothing at all.” While having and knowing how to use all of the gadgets, platforms, and software available for blogging is handy, it’s not everything. The list of links I provided is a vehicle for distributing our stories to the public (and your mom, face it, your mom is always the first to comment on your work). Those blogging and posting tools are necessary, but I want to talk to you about another critical component to being a blog writer, so let’s talk about our writing and what we use to get the written word from our brains to paper or screen with authenticity.
Before I can take my written thoughts and throw them up on the World Wide Web or into the cloud, I have to access some essential tools in my possession. These basic yet necessary and powerful tools took me a long time to learn how to use, maybe longer than learning to use the online tools and platforms I have shared with you. Over time I have fine-tuned these essential tools and discovered that having a clear understanding of this component of my writing is imperative when telling my story.
If you are an artist, singer, writer, or chasing any form of creative endeavor; you have probably searched high and low for that one thing that will make you relevant, pull people in, keep them hooked and give them the desire to share your creative genius with everyone they know. I have honestly spent years reading about how other successful people have found their voice. I have followed their journeys to see where that magic moment happened, that defined them, made them unique, and set them apart from us ordinary folk. What set them on the road to success? Through all of my searching, I found that no two stories are the same. The successful people we look up to and model ourselves after come from varying backgrounds. Some lived in cars with their family and desperation drove them, some had been in the right place at the right time, some were born in the spotlight and chose to carry on a family legacy, and some had greatness thrust upon them (yes, some of those that we look up to found success by accident). But what if all of these individual universes made up of complex stories flavored with personal experience, perception, beliefs, and unique environments use the same tools to accomplish their goals?
I believe they do, and I think I’ve finally discovered what they are in me, and you have got them in you too. I think we can all express ourselves authentically. You have had these tools and have been developing them since the day you were born. You don’t have to go out and buy them, and you can’t download them on your computer or phone as an app.
These special tools are our HEARING, HEART, and HONESTY. Let’s call them the 3 H’s. Remembering to pay attention and use these internal tools intentionally is not always easy. Sometimes I forget to tap into the 3 H’s and write a fluff story that falls flat. It takes time and practice to implement the 3 H’s. And because I make myself write every day, no matter what, I’m not always going to hit it out of the park.
Here’s what happens when I implement the 3 H’s:
When I HEAR or listen in silence, what I hear comes through clearly. It is important to me to listen to my inner voice. I also listen to the voices of those around me (discerningly). Being still and learning to listen patiently helps me understand the world around me and allows me to paint a distinct picture of where I and others fit in my stories. If I only listen to MY voice, I fear I will become very one-dimensional.
When I open my HEART, I tap into authentic emotions. I show my vulnerability and, by doing so, set myself free. Writing from my heart allows me to share my ideas, dreams, compassion, anger, desires, fears, pain, and joy with humanity. Being able to speak from my heart, I believe, makes me relatable to others. We all feel something whether we play our cards close to our chest or put our crazy out on the front porch. I speak from my heart and have seen firsthand how it has helped others open up, face, and share their emotions. I believe this is what pulls people in and gets them hooked, and because it has come from deep in my soul, I feel good knowing I’m not just bullshitting people, which brings me to the 3rd H.
When I am HONEST with myself about my past, present, and goals or dreams set for the future, I can share my truth. My truth is my voice. Finding my voice as a writer has been the most challenging thing for me to do (it’s an evolving process). In the past, I had trouble writing in my voice because I was afraid of offending someone or revealing too much of myself; doing this caused me to write inconsistently or not at all. After a while, writing felt like a chore because I wasn’t honestly putting on paper what I wanted to say. I found my honesty by setting a timer for 10 minutes a day and just writing the first thing that came to my mind. (If you decide to practice this, DO NOT stop to think about what you are writing, just let whatever flows into your mind flow out. Also, please DO NOT go back and correct or read it for a week) doing this helped me to loosen up and freed me from my inhibitions. When I read what I wrote in my 10 minute “stream of consciousness” sessions a week later, I saw honesty and authenticity instead of fabricated thought.
So there they are, the tools that I find the most valuable in my life as a blog writer who is also working on a memoir and dabbling with some short fiction ideas. Focus on the 3 H’s; meditate, silently observe, ask questions, try not to talk for a change (if you’re a talker). Open your heart and share it with others (it may get broken, use that shit). Be honest; always be honest. The older I get, the more I realize that life is too short for BS, fake people, being stuck in toxic relationships, letting others control me, and constantly smiling through the pain. Instead, smile because you feel empowered over having just shared your truth with someone. Remember the saying, “the truth will set you free”? Well, it does.
Use the 3 H’s above, and once you’ve put your words into writing, grab the handy links below, turn up your voice and touch others’ lives. I believe there is no failing in writing. The act of documenting your life is one of creating a legacy that will be here when we are long gone. Did the cavemen or Egyptians worry about the pictorial stories or hieroglyphics they carved into stone and left for generations to come? (I don’t actually know, but I say NO!) If I’m sharing my truth, history, or dreams, I know It can’t be wrong. So come on! Let’s WRITE!
Comprehensive list of the channels, tools, and accounts I have adopted (please comment kindly, follow, like, or subscribe to any or all of my channels, and by all means SHARE!!!, the point of this is that we’re working to tell our stories and to be seen and heard):
• Anchor https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episodes (this is the tool I use for creating excellent Podcasts where I read and record my blog for friends and family who don’t like to or have the time to read). Anchor is easy to use and allows you to record from your phone or computer. I sit in my closet and record, so there’s no background noise. Anchor then distributes my Podcast to their affiliates:
• THERE ARE MANY, MANY MORE CHANNELS ANCHOR PODCASTS ARE DISTRIBUTED!
• YouTube https://youtu.be/iIzuHRTaMt0 (I had to use a tool that turns audio into a video format to be posted on YouTube. YouTube doesn’t allow audio-only posting. I recommend Wavve; it’s easy to use and free. (FREE IS GOOD!) https://wavve.co
• Grammerly.com for editing and correcting text before posting a blog (if you don’t have a trusted proofreader, this is a MUST!!! Even this excellent tool doesn’t replace the sharpness of a trained human editors eye)
My daughter and I headed out to grab something sweet at the same place I had always taken her and her sisters for a special treat after school. We pulled up to the drive-through, and I rolled down my window. It was 92 degrees out and the humidity 74%, so the wind swept through the car and felt just like the gush of hot air you feel on your face when you open an oven door. We needed a cooling pick me up.
“Welcome to McDonalds. Can I take your order?” Said the voice over the intercom.
“Can I please have two hot fudge Sundays?”
The voice gave us our total and told us to pull up to the first window.
Zoe sat in the passenger seat, taking odd selfies and snapping them to her friends. I paid, then passed a Sunday over to Zoe and put mine in the drink holder between the seats.
We drove to the beach and parked right up against the edge of the sea oats so we could look through them at the rolling waves while we ate. A McDonalds Sunday, a simple, cheap dessert with soft serve vanilla ice cream (not even the best quality ice cream at that), and warm hot fudge hit the spot nicely on this blazing hot afternoon.
This dessert is one of my favorites, and trust me, I’ve tried many. I‘ve had authentic Tiramisu in Italy, homemade Pavlova in New Zealand, and the best Gingerbread in Germany, so I know a thing or two about great desserts. The MacDonalds Sunday is a favorite for us because it carries with it memories of youth, my three girls and me carving out joyful moments at the end of a hard day’s work and making the best of the difficult times we had once experienced. If there was a day in our life when we were struggling with money and the cabinets were almost bare, we could still find enough change around the house to get McDonald’s Sundays. I’d gather the loose change in my pocket after scouring the drawers, couch, and innards of my piggy bank, then yell for the girls to get in the car. I would say, “come on, let’s go get some ice cream at Mackers,” and the girls would light up with excitement. Those Sundays taste the exact same no matter what McDonald’s you visit anywhere in the world. It has never been the top-notch ingredients that made us love those cheap little ice cream treats, but the moments we shared while enjoying them in the car together.
I used to rollerblade daily. Everywhere, for miles, in flat Florida or down the steep Tennessee hills. I was addicted to rollerblading and running for years. I learned to rollerblade when I was 23 and stopped after I had my first child 22 years ago (I did rollerblade 10 miles one time since then in 2012, I don’t know how I did it).
Lately, I have been dying to run and get back into rollerblading. I have missed the charge I got out of both activities as a fit young woman. I also miss the body I had (pre-babies 22 years ago). My body didn’t quite bounce back after children, and no matter how much I have worked out or dieted, I have never been thin again. At this point, I don’t care if I’m skinny; I just want to have fun, fly across the pavement with the wind blowing through my hair, feel young and be fit again.
For this past Mother’s Day, our 15 yr old daughter and my lovely husband gifted me with Zetrablade Elite W Rollerblades! We drove 1 hr to the only store close to us that had my size and bought those with a full array of padding. I also looked for ski poles, but the store was out of stock. (My daughter didn’t want me to work back into blading with ski poles anyway. She said, “once a ski poler, always a ski polar.” She may be right).
We found an excellent park on the waterfront with a mile loop of smooth pavement. I suited up and prepared to wow my family with my rollerblade skills. I always bragged about how I used to jump things and do extreme downhill blading with no fear. I put on my new wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads, and finally, my rollerblades. The moment of truth had arrived. I stood up and immediately felt beads of sweat begin to roll off of my face. I hadn’t even moved yet. I looked at my family with an awkward smile and said, “I got this, it’s ok, hold on, hold on.” It turned out the “truth” at that moment was that I was no longer fearless. I suddenly became aware of how tall I was on the rollerblades and how far away the ground was. All I could hear in my head was my heartbeat and “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” I was acutely in tune with my new 53 yr old body and the weight of it and thought, “man, this is not going to fall well!” I WASNT EVEN ON THE PAVEMENT YET! I toddled across the grass in slow motion, and my sweet daughter cheered me on with positive affirmation, “you can do it, mom. Just take your time.” I had to skate. My whole Mother’s day was building up to this very moment.
I mumbled nervously as I reached the edge of the sidewalk and carefully positioned myself to place my left foot on the concrete and push off the grass with the right foot. I thought, “shit, just do it!” I pushed off and, to my surprise, glided a few feet across the pavement. I literally went 3 feet and was shaking so badly I thought I would fall apart. I was now sweating buckets, on the verge of puking, and almost burst into tears. My husband said, “are you ok, honey?” NO! I WASN’T OK! But I wasn’t going to let him know that.
I said, “oh yeah, just a little shaky’” and held my hand out so he could see that I was a wreck. There was no turning back, though; I made myself do it. I Ski plowed, in and out along the pavement, pushed off my right back foot to keep moving slowly forward along the mile-long concrete track, and promised myself that no matter how terrible this felt, I wasn’t going to give in. I stepped off the pavement from time to time along the path and walked through the grass. OMG, my inner thighs were killing me, and I think I had engaged my glutes; I mean really engaged them for the first time in years, maybe decades. I fell one time; forward and landed on my wrist guards and padding. To my great surprise, it was very cushy and didn’t hurt at all! A group of 40-50-year-old women walked by and cheered me on, “way to go, there’s no way you’d ever get me on a pair of those again; you’re a brave woman!” My sweet girl said, “Hey, they gave you mom creds!” I looked behind me to see that I had gone a half-mile. I was doing it. I was still alive and in one piece. I realized that I might be able to recapture a bit of my youth after all. I finished the mile path and passed the car. I did it all again! I went another mile. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, that I was skating and really doing it.
I showered the nervous sweat of the day off of me when we got home that evening. My legs and inner thighs were so sore, and I knew I would be feeling it in the morning. I was so proud of what I had accomplished. My family showered me with tons of hugs and kisses all evening. I think they were proud of me too, and it felt good.
I have advice for any of you out there who want to recapture your youth with something as daring as rollerblading. Here are five tips for rollerblading over 50:
1. Suit up! Wear every pad available (if I had a pillow, I would have duck taped that to my backside, seriously don’t be afraid to do that).
2. Wear a helmet! (I didn’t, and my sisters saw me in photos and gave me hell for not doing so)
3. Take it slow and know that a tiny step is larger than not taking any steps at all. (Take the first step, push off that grass and ride across the pavement like you own it, and also pray).
4. Focus and breathe! You have to breathe; if you don’t, you’ll get dizzy and pass out, at which point you will crash to the pavement with all of your weight and probably get hurt. (Again, SUIT UP! PUT ON EVERY PAD THEY MAKE!)
5. Make a promise to yourself to put your rollerblades on at least three times a week. (Push yourself; remember how you learned when you were younger. Your mom told you to take that stuff outside because you left rollerblade marks all over her clean floor, but you were hooked. You would wear them to bed if you could, but they’re hard to roll over in and harder to go to the bathroom in the dark in, so you didn’t, but you still did it in the house and got good at it because you were obsessive about it). Be consistent like that.
6. Have fun, make fun of yourself, be gentle with yourself, and don’t forget to take Advil and ice those sore muscles at bedtime. It’s day two that hurts the worst.
My children have inspired me to grow as a person, caregiver, friend, healer, disciplinarian, and nurturer. Thank you.
I put off having kids until my early 30’s. I was scared to become a parent. I was afraid I wouldn’t do it right. It always amazed me that you had to get a driver’s license to drive a car or operate heavy machinery not to harm yourself or anyone else. Still, any idiot could have a child and totally destroy a new untarnished soul or have the means to crush their hearts with little to no training. Not everyone has role models to mirror their parenting skills after. Not everyone grows up with two parents; some children have no parents. In my eyes, parents were complex, broken, sad, confused, sometimes scary people who loved you fiercely or chose to ignore your very existence. Sometimes parents may be your best friend and forgot they’re supposed to be parenting, sometimes the child has to be the parent, and that’s what I had to do from time to time.
I watched my mom struggle, love, escape, evolve, regret, search for joy and find herself as a parent. Torn, she made her children a priority and tried to define herself, cutting out a patch of freedom from her burden of parenthood with limited means and no real support. My example of love came from someone who desperately wanted to be loved but struggled to show it. She had no model to go off of herself. She wanted to be close but felt confined and smothered by the clinging nature of those who needed her or depended on her. She wanted to be fun and was but didn’t know where to draw the line. She wanted to be the mother everyone could talk to and adore and at the same time needed someone she could lean on and talk to, and in her world, that was hard to find. The family was important to her, and keeping relatives close was imperative. My mom took pride in keeping in touch with her siblings and needed to feel that never-ending connection. My mom’s parents had died well before she was out of her teens, and she craved that bond; having it strengthened her and gave her a sense of home and belonging. Mom and I made the journey to be with her siblings several times in my childhood; It was paramount that we have those family connections. Whether there was family around or not, my mom was lonely, and watching the pain she struggled with made me uneasy and unsure about becoming a parent myself. It seemed to bring her more sadness than joy. And my dad was no parent to me; he just plain left.
I didn’t have babies around me growing up. I didn’t have a lot of cousins, nephews, and nieces, or minor siblings to hold. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was petrified. Would I be a good mom? I wasn’t ready. Paul and I had gone to a picnic, and there was a newborn there. The glowing mother asked me if I wanted to hold him to practice a bit. She gently put her baby in my arms, and though I seemed comfortable and cooed Into the sweet baby’s face, every fiber of my being was screaming to give the baby back. I was afraid I would drop it, break it, or squish it. No good could come from holding that tiny miracle. I smiled, said thank you, and handed him over almost as quickly as she placed him in my arms. Paul took a turn next. He is the baby whisperer. The minute my husband touched that baby boy, it relaxed, having been crying from the jostling of being passed around like a hot potato between his mother and me. Paul made faces at him, and he rocked him gently in his hands. Paul was secure and comfortable, and the child felt safe in his arms, you could tell. A smile crossed my face as I watched this and listened to the mothers surrounding us saying what an amazing father Paul was going to be. Inside I was crushed, though, I couldn’t pretend to love holding that baby, and I felt jealous that Paul had more ability to nurture a little soul than I had in the tip of my pinky finger.
Later, Paul and I drove home in silence. I broke out in tearful sobs and said, “I can’t do it! I can’t have this baby; I don’t even know how to hold one. I’m going to mess everything up. There’s no way I can do this perfectly.” Paul listened as I freaked out and declared impending doom on our baby due to my lack of ability to mother. I couldn’t imagine ever holding a child and feeling at ease like Paul did that evening at the picnic. I had anxiety over the possibility that it would all fall apart, and I, without the proper training and a parenting license, would crash and burn, killing everyone along for the ride. Paul reached across the car and put his hand on mine. He spoke gently in an attempt to calm my nerves. “Jeri, when you hold your baby, it will be easy. You’re carrying the baby now inside you, and it’s safe, and your both fine.” he said, “you don’t have to know how to do it all right now; motherly instinct will kick in.” I didn’t feel immediately better, but there was truth in his logic, which gave me comfort. He gave me hope that somewhere in the fiber of my womanhood, I would understand my role as a mother when the time came. I played his words over and over again as we made our way home and locked them in my heart as my pregnancy progressed, hoping that I would instinctually fold my newborn child in my loving arms and it would feel natural, meant to be, and beautiful. Maybe my mom had the same fear I had before the birth of her children. Perhaps she always just wanted to do it right but, in the end, did what she could. She was an unlicensed driver carrying her kids on her journey over every bump, dip, and pothole in the road. She stayed true to her role as a mother with the skills she had acquired, not skills that someone had taught her. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.
As I realized this about my mom, I decided to educate myself on parenting and childbirth. I felt that the most significant and crucial step in becoming a good parent was to be true to who I was and be sure of myself so that it was clear to my baby or babies that they were planned and loved from the moment we realized we wanted them to conception and birth. My next step was to surround myself with solid parenting role models. I found them at church, at the Park where I volunteered, and in my women’s writing group. I gobbled up the wisdom of seemingly healthy moms and dads who came across my path. I prayed that God would guide me, and I leaned on Paul. He knew how to do this.
It was Paul who one day, while sitting at a stoplight on Westend Ave in Nashville, TN said to me, “it’s time for us to have a baby” I was shocked at the suggestion. We had been together for 5 yrs and married for 2 of them. “I’m not ready; I’m still working on my music career,” I said nervously.
Paul shrugged and let out a frustrated sigh, “You’re always going to be working on that! It’s time; I want to have a baby.”
Begrudgingly I said ok and started processing the idea the only way I knew how; I set a firm date on my calendar. If it was in writing, I couldn’t back out. I think I still have the calendar with the date in it.
On the official “day to get pregnant,” I went to a girls’ luncheon. I naively told my girlfriends, “I’m supposed to get pregnant today.” they looked at me in surprise and offered me good luck, fertility, support, advice, and lots of food as if I was already eating for two. When I walked into our old brownstone apartment that afternoon, I felt like a nervous virginal bride entering territory that was mysterious and frightening. I shook as I entered my bedroom, knowing Paul was in bed. I had the feeling a big part of me was about to be sacrificed and offered up to the God of fertility and life. I laid down and found that Paul was sound asleep. I nudged him and said, “hey are you having a nap?” he said, “ yeah, I had a couple of beers this afternoon.” Already I was worried that this was a bad day to get pregnant. What if the beer tainted our unborn child? I was a confused mess, but a plan is a plan. I laid there next to Paul and tried to quiet my mind. I, too, dozed off after a while, and when we woke up, I reminded him of our commitment for that day and made good on it. We had made love a million times before, but this was different; we were now on a mission to bring new life Into the world. It changed the way I approached Paul and the way I saw sex between us. It was now not just a physical act of love and release but a spiritual right of passage. Like so many others, we were attempting to join the ranks of parenthood.
We didn’t get pregnant right away, but it wasn’t too long after we began trying that my breast became sore, and I felt a shift in my hormones that caused me anxiety and made me glow. We had taken a vacation with my mother, the childhood road trip we had taken to visit my mother’s siblings and hometown so many times before. Paul and I continued our efforts to get pregnant in every place along our journey on that trip. We discussed getting pregnant with the family members we visited. We made love in a tent, bed and breakfast, hotel room, aunt and uncles houses, and finally under a waterfall in Shenandoah national park. There that day, in the trees among the rocks with the smell of earth and moss all around us, there was a magic that touched us. We knew something special had just happened, and we even documented it with a selfie, well before the cellphone selfie had become a thing. The next day we packed the car to return home to Nashville. I was tired, moody, and my breasts felt tender.
I had all the signs of being pregnant. I took a store-bought pregnancy test, and it came out positive (I saved it and still have it in a ziplock baggie in my hope chest). Our baby journey had begun, and the road ahead was unfamiliar. We were about to become unlicensed parents, and it was all at once exciting and scary. Admittedly I was apprehensive at the start. Having the first baby seemed impossible, and there was no way I would have predicted that Paul and I would have three beautiful girls or how much they would mean to me. Paul was right; my motherly instinct did kick in. I have gotten so lost in my children that I can’t remember what it’s like not to be a mom/mum, and that’s ok. I am happy to give myself to them fully in the short time we have together. Snuggling them is my happy place (whether they’re 2 or 22). They are my everything, inspiration, pride, joy, and love, and I wouldn’t trade being their mother and all of the lessons we’ve taught each other for the world.
I don’t work a 9-5 job. I lost my admin position in March of 2020 when COVID 19 hit the world. I spent a great deal of time over the last year reevaluating myself and what I wanted for my future. I wasn’t sure when the world would heal from the effects of the pandemic, and I needed to make some decisions for myself that gave me peace and lifted me out of a long bout of depression I had been in and couldn’t seem to shake. I had been looking for another job as an admin assistant for upper management. However, that position was never one that made me happy and left me feeling empty. I dreaded working for another power-tripping company owner or organization leader. What I wanted to do was follow my passion and dreams, not help someone else with theirs. I’m sure many people have rethought their goals and aspirations since the onset of covid, and after my isolation-induced struggle with my emotions, I decided to look out for myself first for a change.
My best friend and husband had been encouraging me to go public with my writing for years. I considered the idea for several months while I stayed still and watched how people had changed their approach to life; as a result of covid, I decided to follow suit. So again, I don’t work a 9-5 job. I don’t work, I write. I write when I’m inspired, no matter what day it is. To help supplement income, I take odd jobs shopping for people or delivering packages to them from a platform that allows me to make my own schedule. I make what I need each week in my own time with no boss, and I take a break or knock off for the day when I get the urge to jot down another story. It doesn’t matter to me if I write on the weekend or during the week. In fact, I’m lying in bed right now at 10:30 pm on a Saturday, writing this while my husband snores next to me.
My life has changed since March 2020, for the better. My goals and focus aren’t about what title I can have or how much money I make annually. Those things look so superficial to me now. Don’t get me wrong. I respect those who have found a title, money, and happiness in the corporate world (as long as it’s true happiness); it’s just not for me. I feel free, and my life has balance and meaning. I am fortunate that my husband supports me in my efforts financially. I know not everyone with a dream has someone like him in their corner. I am a writer, and I write because it is my voice. It’s what gives me authenticity. I hope everyone can carve out enough time to find that deep within themselves.
I started seriously building my online presence and blog space in early March 2021. Seeing that this is early May, I don’t have a lot of stats to go off to show proven success with the methods I have researched and applied. This doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m doing, though. I have worked as a successful social media marketer over the last ten years and have kind of figured it out for myself. Writing a blog without formal education is hit and miss at first (so I take tips from other successful bloggers). The key is to constantly research, listen to those who have proven success, and continuously fine-tune. One year in, I may have a whole different idea for my blogging methods.
I started with a blank slate and built WordPress and Blogger account pages. If you google those, you should be able to find them. WordPress even has an easy-to-use app for iPhone that allows you to create and post content on the move. I LOVE IT! We all know that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” so It made sense to me to put my blog content up online in as many forms as possible without creating a digital monster I would spend too much time feeding. You don’t want to have so many accounts that you don’t have time to focus on your primary goal, which is WRITING YOUR BLOG!
Time will tell if the tools I am currently using will be the most effective in building my audience and monetizing my efforts. Please click the links I provide below to see what I have created in various spaces, even if you don’t stop to read the stories.
My main webpage is https://jerisbraindumpblog.com (this is a WordPress site). Anytime I post a story there, the widgets I use within the site builder push my posts to social media channels I have chosen to link to WordPress. Doing this saves a lot of time and is very handy. Another great feature of WordPress is that there is a community of other bloggers who live on that platform where we connect. We all follow, comment, and share each other’s material which is essential when building your audience. On top of my website, I have a podcast and utilize Youtube. Learning how to do all of this took a great deal of research and study, and you may notice here and there that I’m still in the trial and error stage, so be gentle.
Below I have created a list of the channels, tools, and accounts I have adopted (please comment, follow, like, or subscribe to any or all of my channels, the point of this is that we’re working to tell our stories and to be seen and heard):
• Anchor https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episodes (this is the tool I use for creating excellent Podcasts where I read and record my blog for friends and family who don’t like to or have the time to read). Anchor is easy to use and allows you to record from your phone or computer. I sit in my closet and record, so there’s no background noise. Anchor then distributes my Podcast to their affiliates:
• THERE ARE MANY, MANY MORE CHANNELS ANCHOR PODCASTS ARE DISTRIBUTED!
• YouTube https://youtu.be/iIzuHRTaMt0 (I had to use a tool that turns audio into a video format to be posted on YouTube. YouTube doesn’t allow audio-only posting. I recommend Wavve; it’s easy to use and free. (FREE IS GOOD!) https://wavve.co
I hope you find this helpful. Use the tools provided to amplify your writing voice and build your audience. You don’t have to do all this, so don’t get overwhelmed. Start with one of the blog accounts. Take it slowly; that’s better than doing nothing at all. So get going! BLOG!
I had many music teachers who touched my life and influenced me but none more so than Merrill Jerome Edwards. Jerome was my marching, symphonic, and jazz band director, instrumental studies teacher, church choir director, role model, and at one point, my rock.
I remember my freshman year, sitting in the back of the band room on the last row with my clarinet, which I didn’t play very well (hence the last row). I was in marching band only because I wanted to be the lead singer for the high school jazz band, which I had spent three years in middle school preparing for with my then band director Harold Moyer (also a dedicated teacher who introduced me to the whole idea of singing with a jazz band or any band for that matter). You see, if you weren’t in the marching band, you couldn’t be in the jazz band, so there I was, one of the last chair clarinet players (a small price to pay for high school stardom).
Mr. Edwards quite frankly scared me! He was an ex-marine who had the features of our school mascot, the Golden Eagle. His steel-blue piercing eyes were deep-set on either side of his strong nose, his head set atop squared-off shoulders, a flat top military haircut, and high forehead. When he spoke, his voice boomed and rattled the bass drums lined up at the back of the room. He took his position as the Golden Eagle Marching band leader very seriously and expected his students to take pride in their involvement and do the same. Mr. Edwards disciplined us to through a military demerit system displayed on the wall behind the music chalkboard. If you were late, demerit, if you talked when he talked, demerit, if your uniform was in disarray when it came time to perform, demerit. Mr. Edwards wasn’t just there to bark orders and give demerits, though; he inspired us with his cheesy whit and stories of overcoming adversity, having integrity, and showing initiative. He detested apathy and spelled out the damaging long-term effects of being apathetic to his class regularly; as you can imagine, he was dealing with 13-18-year-old students who were in their most apathetic stage of life.
Mr. Edwards nurtured with strength and always laid it on the line. My first encounters with him included auditioning for the jazz band (I was the lead singer for four years) and asking if I could go to his office to purchase new reeds or cork grease for my instrument. Every time I approached to speak to him up on his conductor’s riser, I felt intimidated. I had no father figure at home, and men were bad in my mind. He would look down at me as I asked him my question and say, “look me in the eyes when you talk to me, Jeri Moore.” My eyes would have rolled out of my head before I’d have the nerve to follow that simple order. He said, “no one will ever take you seriously if you don’t look them in the eye.” It took me a good year and a half before I could stand eye to eye with him and feel confident. He was strengthening me, and I didn’t even know it.
It was clear very early in my freshman year that I had to drop my marching band instrument and twirl a baton to stay in the marching band to stay in jazz band. We live in Florida, and I don’t know who thought WOOL marching band uniforms in 90-degree heat with 78 percent humidity was a good idea, but we had to wear them, and it was murder. On top of the smothering comfort of the uniform, I was and still am very allergic to wool. As a result, I passed out at one of the first football games we marched in, and my body swelled all over. Of course, we didn’t know I was allergic to wool because I never had to wear it growing up in the Deep South. We needed a solution to this problem, or I would have to quit the band. Mr. Edwards quickly introduced me to Arianne Crawford, the captain of the majorette squad, who gave me express lessons on how to twirl, chose an audition song with me, and taught me a routine. By the end of the marching season, I was ready to try out and made the squad, never having to put on that nasty hot navy blue uniform again. My teacher’s tenacity taught me to overcome problems if I could come up with a solution. Not always something taught in school. I was also encouraged to use my common sense. Mr. Edwards made me accountable in many ways. For instance, by having to be in the marching band and on the majorette squad to be in the jazz band, my teacher developed this network of projects and people I had to report to who made me take ownership of the function I was there to perform. He was very clever.
I needed the discipline I received from being a part of Mr. Edwards classes. I grew up in a household with a single mother, and as the youngest child of 5, my siblings had moved on in their own lives, and there was not a great deal of continuity and stability at home. Things were pretty fluid and inconsistent when it came to parental discipline during my high school years, and I needed just the kind of strict leadership Mr. Edwards had to offer. The lessons I learned as his student are valuable ones I have used repeatedly as a college student, employee, lead singer in pop bands, mother, and wife.
There was a point in my high school years when Mr. Edwards became more than the formative figure of leadership and musical power in my life. Around the end of my 10th-grade year, and as I got to know his sons in the youth group at our local church where we all attended youth choir with him as our leader, he became Jerome or Burr. (I’m not sure if we ever called him Burr to his face or not, but we thought it was funny either way). Jerome became a person who joked with us between songs and conducted our music sessions more casually. He made me feel welcome and treated me with respect as a musician while praising my abilities and encouraging me to solo often. I appreciated this so much. It was one thing to have applause from an audience or praise from your mom or family for your accomplishments but, it meant everything and had so much more value from a respected musician in the community who just happened to be somewhat of a father figure. I can’t imagine how many people felt this way about this man. He has touched so many lives throughout his career, and I know many of them admired him. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Edwards was not a perfect person; everyone has their flaws, but he cared about his students, and he knew how to get the most out of us, and that was his superpower.
The defining moment in our student-teacher friendship came when I was in a moment of crisis. I struggled with some weighty boy issues and was doing everything I could to keep it to myself. Jerome could see I was hurting, though. My emotion came through when I sang or as I played the piano, and he could see me sinking into myself in class. I’m not sure if anyone else noticed me silently begging for a lifeline or not at that point. Still, he pulled me aside after class one day and let me know I wasn’t alone, that he would stand by me if I ever needed an adult to confide in, and assured me I would be ok. Our conversation wasn’t prolific, and his actions weren’t superb; he simply gave me a moment of assurance and safety. He said, “I see you, I got you,” in the only way Burr knew how and that gave me strength.
I was gifted with a voice but got lost in the shuffle of home and out-of-control teen issues. This teacher, bandleader, father and faith leader was an adult who seemed never changing, stable, and someone that I could trust. For as long as I can remember, he believed in me not just as a student who could be a success someday but as a human being. He could see the good in me even when I didn’t feel good enough. And in those times when I wasn’t good enough, Mr. Edwards, Jerome, Burr inspired me to be better, not because it mattered what others thought of me but because having integrity was essential and it mattered what I thought of me.
So, I dedicate this story to Merrill Jerome Edwards and hope that my words will reach and touch him the way his presence in my life reached me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I dedicate this story to my dear friend Susi who, like me, has become an expert international mover. (She may even do it better than me). And also, my friend Mindy who once had a self-storage company in her basement but didn’t know it.
DISCLAIMER: Moving is stressful for the entire family. Moving across town or to another state has its difficulties but let me assure you, moving overseas is not for the faint-hearted. There will be fighting, yelling, tears and frustration even in the best circumstances, trust me! Never take relocating lightly, and make sure your marriage is strong and YOU pack your parachute before you jump out of the plane.
We packed our bags for a six-month stay in NZ and arrived there from Nashville on October 20, 2002. I will never forget that date because it was a day that changed the course of my life, marriage, and the amount of time I had left to share with my family and longtime friends. If you are in a bi-continental marriage, you will understand and maybe even relate to this story. My husband and I primarily decided to go to NZ on an extended visit to make memories with his mother, who had dementia. Paul had been away from his homeland and family in NZ for about ten years, and I had encouraged him to take this bold adventure with our children and me. My husband needed to connect and spend time with his mom toward the end of her life, and it would also give me a chance to know his family better. What I didn’t realize is that I was about to become an expert in international moving on a budget.
Since we were only going to be away for six months, we rented out our house in Nashville furnished. We even left our cats in the care of our renter, who thankfully was very loving and kind to them. While preparing our three-bedroom house for our departure, we placed all of the personal items we wanted to keep safe in one of the bedrooms and put a lock on the door. The next step was to take the oversized items in our house that we didn’t want our renter to access and put them in storage. We were fortunate to have a friend with an enormous basement who let us store it all there for six months at no cost. If you don’t have a friend like this, I suggest finding an inexpensive U-Store-It place. They used to cost $125 a month for a 12 x 12 back as far as 2014, but I’m not sure what the price for one is now; you’ll have to make some calls. We then packed for our flights (yes, you read that right, FLIGHTS). We were allowed one large suitcase and one carry-on each. We ended up taking eight bags in total since there were 4 of us traveling. We needed to take as much as we could for our six-month stay in Auckland. We packed the girls’ favorite blankets (or silkies as they called them), toys, and a variety of clothes.
Auckland NZ can have four seasons in one day, and we weren’t sure what to take or not take, so we took it all (this wasn’t necessary). You will be wise always to check the weather patterns of your destination. Knowing what you need will help you to pack the correct items and leave unnecessary stuff behind. We took three flights and traveled 29 hours to Auckland, with one 8 hour layover in LA and two toddlers in tow. (CRAZY!) Oh yeah, speaking of crazy, if you take prescription medication, make sure you talk to your Dr. before traveling for an extended period and ask if you can pick up extra pills to take with you. Sometimes they will let you get up to 3 months worth of prescriptions filled for your time away.
Personal Note: (this whole how-to blog is actually a personal note). My husband’s family welcomed us with open arms and had thoroughly planned for our visit. They found us a house to rent down the road from his sister, and the whole family had worked very hard to make it feel like a home for our six-month stay. It was furnished with odds and ends that everyone in the family had donated, and the kitchen was stocked right down to cleaning products and trash bags. The refrigerator was full of food, there was a loaner car in the garage, and they even put up a crib in the baby’s room. Bear in mind; not everyone has such a smooth transition when moving for a short time 9,000 miles from one home to another (you will have to source all of this in preparation for your arrival at your destination). I, on the other hand, am incredibly blessed with awesome in-laws (these are some special people). We were and will always be so very thankful for the way they rallied together for us.
Four months into our visit, someone decided we would now MOVE to NZ. Like most big coordinating jobs in our married life, the responsibility fell on me to make most (no actually all) of the arrangements. To make a move like this a success, here are some of the tasks I completed. Personal Note: not all International moves fall into place the way ours did (and even at that, it was rough).
First, we had to sell our house (the house my babies came home to when they were born). As luck would have it, a friend of mine had mentioned wanting to buy our house someday, and the same week we had decided to make this move, someone had offered to buy her small home. She was looking to move to a more significant place with her husband and two toddlers. She made a few phone calls; I made a few phone calls; we called each other back and abracadabra; both houses were sold. I booked flights back to Nashville, where we were for ten days closing the deal on the house and preparing everything for our final departure from the US.
Personal Note: Things to think about if you need to leave your two toddlers in another country with people you hardly know. At the same time, you “wrap it up” in your home country (of course, my husband knew the people, they were his family): Any time you take a long trip overseas and have children your leaving behind, you should always make sure your Will is in order. Yes, your Will. There’s a lot to consider while shuffling stuff and things from one continent to another, and while people are some of those things, there is always the possibility that the worst could happen, so be prepared. In our Will, we made provisions and left instructions on what to do with our children should we get hit by a bus, crushed under a moving piano, and the unspeakable died in a plane crash. We also left medicine behind for the kids and a long list of dos and don’ts for those caring for our precious babies while we were taking this nerve-wracking journey. On your list of do’s and don’ts, make sure you leave Dr’s phone numbers, note any allergies, suggestions for soothing your upset children, favorite bedtime stories and lullabies, and instructions to kiss and hug them every 3 seconds (ok, ignore that last bit). If multiple people are caring for your littlies in your absence, make sure you supply everyone with a calendar and a list of phone numbers so they can easily coordinate handoff and support one another. Lastly, make sure you leave your travel itinerary with the caregivers along with your overseas contact numbers and emergency contacts in case they need to reach you urgently, and you are temporarily off the grid having a nervous breakdown because you’re insane and have agreed to make such a rash move! (Again, ignore that last bit).
Once we arrived in Nashville, it was time to get organized and move overseas on a budget. My husband’s way of moving on a said budget is just to get rid of everything, and that is almost what we did. Personal Note: if you have an attachment to stuff and things, you won’t after trying the Paul Brunton method of packing for overseas moving, It is the cure for the worst of hoarders, and I highly recommend it if you have no feelings and place no sentimental value on anything. Personal Note: If the saying, “he who dies with the most toys wins,” is accurate, we’re not even in the game because we keep giving our things away. (on a serious note, we decided as a couple that family and relationships were worth more than being stationary and collecting STUFF, don’t get me wrong, though, stuff is fun to have). Here is the proven Paul Brunton method:
• Have a yard sale or just let everyone walk through your house, making offers on everything in it and then sell it to them because this is a one-day-only sale.
• At sundown, start giving everything away, dressers, beds, artwork, etc. (my husband would have had to pry my books and CDs out of my cold dead hands though, those babies were coming with me!)
• Take apart all children’s tables and chairs, small bikes, and scooters and, wrap them in linens and towels you want to take overseas. Put this stuff in luggage to be checked on. Seriously we have actually done this. We learned really fast that this kind of stuff in NZ is expensive, and again we were trying to do this on a budget.
• Take anything that doesn’t fit in the luggage or has not been taken away for free to Goodwill. Yes, kiss it all goodbye and be thankful for your friend who still has some things in her basement that were only supposed to be there for six months. (She stored our most precious items for 12 years in total, that is one patient and loving friend).
• (This last one was partially my idea. If you only have an hour to get to the airport and have packed everything but the clothes hanging in your closet, and time is moving so fast you can’t see straight, try this method). Take all of the dresses, coats, etc., that are on plastic hangers, or any hangers for that matter, fold a stack of them in half and shove them in your suitcase. You will need a couple of people to sit on the bag to zip it shut, seeing that there is now a tiny bike and the entire contents of your closet inside. Taking your clothes on the hangers works wonders because when you reach your destination, you open your suitcase and hang your clothes right up! Also, if you have waged war against plastic, like me, you will be helping the environment because you are continuing to use what you already have if your hangers are indeed plastic. “Make do use it up, or do without!” (My kids hate when I say that).
Personal Note: be conscious of what you’re giving away. On one of our overseas moves (because we did this twice), my husband gave a box full of what he thought was random books to a charity, who then passed it to a church, who then put said books in their spring carnival sale and discovered that my 60 yr old family bible and all 3 of my children’s baby books were there, complete with newborn handprints and photos of ultrasounds! Lucky for my husband (who is still breathing), someone found our name on Facebook, messaged me, and after some arranging reunited us with said NOT random books. (Remember the DISCLAIMER at the beginning of this story? Yelling, tears, frustration, not for the faint-hearted, secure marriage, I think you understand).
After we took care of our stuff and signed away our house, we kissed my American family and friends goodbye. I had no idea when I would see any of them again (make sure you have several packs of tissues in your purse or backpack; I prefer a backpack). When we got back to NZ, we were so happy to see our two baby girls we decided to make a 3rd one. We have moved many times over the years. Sometimes more than I would like to look back on, and here are the main takeaways for me:
• Unless you’re moving to a third world country, you don’t have to pack and take the kitchen sink (however, if you are moving to a third world country, you may need the kitchen sink and more)
• Remember, there’s no (I) in moving, oh wait, yes there is, anyway moving overseas as a family is brutal and its a team effort, make sure you’re thinking of the WE, not the ME while going through these significant life changes.
• IF you’re a control freak, are about to move overseas, and still want your husband to love you, consider trying hard not to be a control freak, and don’t forget those advanced medication refills I told you about earlier.
• And finally, remember that change is scary for everyone involved. You will leave family, friends, and jobs (and a stray cat or two) but try to focus on one day at a time. You will build new relationships and grow from this worldly adventure. Try to embrace the change as a family and be gentle with each other. Remember that old saying, “it’s the journey, not the destination.”
• Oh, and try not to leave things in your best girlfriend’s basement for six months to 12 years! IF you do, however, and you are fortunate enough to keep being friends with her, you now owe her your life and eternal love.
I hope you found my experience helpful. If you have any questions about moving overseas, send me a Twitter message. Please do not send me marketing material, or your luggage will go missing next time you fly (I can’t really make luggage disappear, I’m just putting it out there). And watch out for my next story on dealing with immigration in a new country. Of course, this will be my limited expertise between the US and NZ, but it’s all I’ve got.
Lately, I’ve felt like the whole world has opened up. Not because I won the lottery or found out that secretly I’m the air to a small country in the middle of nowhere. No, not because of that. I feel this way because I have finally found myself. I have found my voice and that one true purpose. Making this statement is colossal, right?! I know that every human being out there at some point in their life has wondered why the hell they are here. I have for years. It didn’t click for me until recently at the age of 53. It was an accident that I found my purpose. I had hit my lowest point in life and thrown my hands in the air in defeat, swore never to leave my bed again, and then my purpose found me.
The life I’ve lived has shaped my purpose. I am the youngest of five kids, and by nature and according to Alfred Adler’s Birth Order Theory, I am a textbook 5th or last child. I’m a risk-taker, outgoing, creative, self-centered (but come on, who isn’t), competitive, bored easily, like to be pampered, like to be pampered, like to be pampered, (oh yeah, I like to be pampered), and have a sense of humor, did I say I like to be pampered? There is also a bit about being financially irresponsible, but that’s not me. I am that person who was journaling paper budgets six months in advance in those black-bound school journals before you could use digital budgeting tools like PocketGuard or Mint. I am the organizer in our house, the cleaner, fixer, mover, shaker, and disciplinarian. At the beginning of my relationship with Paul, we had a sleepover at my mom’s place (if that’s what you want to call it); I walked past the bathroom door as he had just opened it on his way out. I stood back and watched him silently go through my bathroom drawers. I would say that was creepy, but It was entertaining to watch the horror on his face over finding my hair ties, bobby pins, hair clips, and barrettes all separated and placed neatly into individual little Tupperware containers. I held my laughter in as he lifted one of the containers from the drawer, examined my severe organization, and let out an audible “holy shit!” Yeah, no, I think the creepy one in that scenario was me. Paul is still with me after 28 years and brings in the cash while I write, mother, obsessively rearrange our kitchen cabinet contents, wage war against plastic, and manage our finances and the house. He enriches our lives by sharing silly antics with our daughters, drumming up raucous play sessions, imposing his cool dude presence, and cleaning up the kitchen after I cook nightly. We are a well-suited match. He doesn’t worry much. There was a time when that was detrimental to our relationship because I obsessively stress enough for all 5 of us and got frustrated that his head was empty while mine was racing with thoughts (that green-eyed monster, jealousy is ugly).
Being a worrier, I find it hard to let go of things. Worrying less gets better as I get older because I don’t have the energy anymore. Worrying involves digging up a lot of information stored in our being. Humans process thoughts over and over again deep into their subconscious, where conclusions are formulated in a REM state; which I can never achieve because I’m too busy laying awake worrying and counting the number of popcorn bubbles on our stucco ceiling or naming all of the shapes I can see in the little bumpy plaster splatters. So worry is not really my only actual problem; there’s also insomnia; I’ve had that for as long as I could remember. I’m like Buffy the Vampire slayer, only older, puffier, and brunettish, only in the sense that she was a vampire, and they come out at night. I am a night dweller too, and I’m in no way scared of the light of the sun, but I do like to sleep in, so don’t ever invite me to catch a sunrise, please. If you wake me up anywhere before 7:30 or 11:30 am, I just can’t. Oh, I’m exaggerating, 9:30 am. If I didn’t take citalopram and journal, relieving myself with a brain dump, I would never close my eyes (hey, if I do a plug for Citalopram, do I get a kickback like my Dr’s? Come on, big Pharma, throw me a bone!). I usually fall asleep at about 2 am and then wake up late. I lay in bed reading, talking to our girls in NZ on FaceTime, or writing in the notes on my iPhone. At one point in time, I traced our entire family tree back to the 1400s, hiding under my covers. It’s a wonder my poor husband doesn’t have sleep issues because there is always a little glow of phone light coming from my side of the bed. I hold off on looking at social media until the early hours of the morning, 8:00 am. You early risers probably think I’m pathetic; I know, I can feel the way you’re eyeing the page, all judgie like. Just because Ben Franklin said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” doesn’t mean me and those like me are doomed to be broken, starving artists with limited intelligence and foolish banter till the day we die.
I make sense of my world by putting it into words and taking photos. I am creative. Most creatives have some quirky issues and are sometimes highly intelligent (I’m not saying I’m a genius or anything, but I am smarter than the average bear). People like me aren’t savvy in the conventional; you test well on national standards tests way, but in a more creative thinking outside of the box way. I wasn’t a standard student, and I wasn’t academically gifted. My teachers recognized my gift as a singer early on, and they tailored my school schedule to nurture my talents. I had voice and dance lessons after school, and by the end of high school, I had four music classes out of 7 a day. I would even get pulled out of academic courses to work on creative projects. I was fortunate to have a middle school and high school in tune and sympathetic to my needs. Big shout out to Gulfview Middle School and Naples High School. Best schools ever! 💙💛🦅
Even though I was encouraged to sing and be the captain of the majorette squad, I missed out in the English lit area. All of the brainy kids were in the classes that would have nurtured my desire to be a writer. I was fortunate to be put in Mr. Glancy’s class my senior year, he taught the advanced English lit classes, and he inspired me to read and love it. He had the cool factor and was skilled at getting inside the student’s heads. He could see I was a bit of an oddball but didn’t dismiss me. No, he sat me at the front of the room to sleep with my head on my backpack and made me wake up and engage. I’m thankful for that.
As I look back at all of the journaling I have done in my stack of notebooks and online, I realize that I have been a natural-born writer all along. I worked so hard at my singing career, but my silent true passion was always right at my fingertips. When I gave up hope during the isolation of covid, the only safe place to turn was inward, and that spilled out of my fingers onto paper and up to the cloud. I have been feverishly writing since that morning in March 2021 when I woke up and frantically searched the house for every one of my old journals and online diaries. I was desperate to speak my mind and didn’t want to burden others with my issues, beliefs, and ideas. I did what came naturally to me and wrote about the pain and confusion I felt. Over the weeks that followed, my dear husband noticed a calmness in me. My writing was healing me, lifting me, and giving me purpose. He has been so happy for me, and I have felt such relief and been much easier to be around (I’ve even started laughing at myself again). My lost feeling hadn’t started during COVID; in fact, the more I dive into my memories and document my journey, I find that I was wandering longer than I or anyone else knew. I know who and what I am now; I have a voice that I am not afraid to use. I’ve found a space I can be my authentic self in, and while doing it, I can share my words and help others find themselves hopefully (or I may just confuse you even further than you are now).
The world has indeed opened up as my mind has opened, as I’ve let go of my fear of failing and worry over being perfect. I’ve learned to take care of myself first now. I understand that taking care of Jeri gives me the strength to be there for others and still know when I need to back off. Yes, I am a writer, blogger, wordsmith, and expert through my life experiences. I am excited to be alive again and looking forward to seeing how my words touch others and continue to heal me. I am at peace knowing that one true purpose has finally found me.
Hey God. How’s it going? That’s a loaded question. You’re probably pulling your hair out these days between COVID 19, Global Warming, racial and identity issues, mass shootings, and politics. All though some of that stuff is the same old same old. I don’t know how you do it; I really have trouble wrapping my head around all of it at once. Like, who’s idea was it to have snow in Texas this winter? Sorry, yours, totally your call, of course. I get it you probably have heaps on your mind and a lot to unload; I’m here if you need an ear. Man! (Or woman, not sure), you’ve got to be frustrated with us. If you do decide you want to talk, please send me a word or come to me in a dream though, I’m not sure if I can handle something on a grandiose scale at the moment. Yeah, if you want to send me a sign, can you hold back on the stigmata, trial through fire, and natural disasters for just a tick? Have you noticed the communication between you and me has been chaotic and sporadic lately? Me too; I have to apologize for my part in that. So again, I’m open whenever you can fit me in for a face-to-face. Oooo no, maybe not a face-to-face that would take a great deal of arranging on my part, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I mean, what would I wear? You know that’s not something I usually worry about, but I’ve gotten used to dressing for this Covid lifestyle, which is basically not getting dressed at all. I’m sure you saw that I’ve just cut my bangs/fringe in the middle of the night, so I’m not presentable enough for such a committed undertaking with THE GREAT I AM. I would also have to take a leave of absence from my family, and just like traveling to NZ from the US, I’ll have to mask and shield my face for a perpetually long trip, and that may be more than I can bear at the moment. Anyway, let’s just schedule an impromptu conversation if you don’t mind?
So yes, our communication has been strained. I’ve been saying my prayers regularly and daily like now I’m talking to you, so that’s promising. I’ve just felt like we’ve been growing apart. I know you reach out to me, and believe me, I am uber thankful that you took the time to send that yellow and black butterfly that kept following me around the other day while I was gardening. Those little reminders that you’re there mean a lot to me. And I’m sure we can PrayerTime, and I can pick up your book and read it any time of day, all day long, but something is missing.
I know, I know, I asked you how you are, and now I’m making it all about me, typical. I have to get this off my chest, though, if you don’t mind me going first. Just gently and painlessly stop me when you’ve heard enough. I want to say this separation anxiety has come on and has been getting stronger since the start of COVID; because we’ve been blaming everything else on that, but it started well before COVID. I’m sure you remember when you gave me that job as the admin to the pastor and middle school youth leader at a local church. Right? Anyway, truth be told, that place scarred me. I mean brutally wounded my faith. Not my faith in you; nothing could ever do that. I may get pissed off at you at times or frustrated because you keep giving me what I need in your time, not when I wish for it (as if your some genie in a bottle passing out ponies, Porsches, and worry-free lives), but besides that, we’re tight! On my soul, you’re stuck with me for eternity, I hope (maybe I shouldn’t say on my soul I’m sure its totally inappropriate to say that to you because if you even detect a hint of deceit in this story, you can take it, can I get an Amen?!).
Don’t get me wrong, you did the right thing by placing me at the church (I know I don’t have to tell you right from wrong), and I’m thankful for the experience and lessons I took from being in that space for three years. But geez, my faith in people was almost shattered. People I thought were good faithful ones with a holy mission really let me down. I asked to work in that very environment, and you answered my prayer (thank you). I know I don’t always hear you with a discerning ear, but I’m sure you’ve told me repeatedly not to put my faith in man but in you alone, and I did work hard to abide by that. I genuinely believe that given the benefit of the doubt, most fellow humans have redeeming qualities. I knew going into that job that churches embrace broken people (I’m one myself), and let’s face it, if you are sick, you go to a hospital for a cure; and if you are broken, you go to a church for healing. I totally understood what I was working with, but I was out of my depth; even a few church leaders kept telling me they thought we were under spiritual warfare. I didn’t believe in that kind of religious hocus pocus, but after what I witnessed, I wonder. Your book warns that the dark one will use the most unsuspecting people to do his bidding, and you could see him at work there. I felt like a scout leader among a crowd of kids who were working feverishly to earn their seven deadly sin badges. The gossip, judging, and manipulation were mind-boggling. Hey, you know better than anybody that I am far from perfect and on that journey of self-discovery, and we both know that no one gets it right 100% of the time.
I faithfully tried to serve you and my community; you probably hear that from everyone because it’s all relative to an individual’s understanding of faith, right? And ex-church admins that I’ve met over the years have all had similar stories saying they’ve come out of their roles with a few spiritual and social wounds, so I shouldn’t feel too terrible. Now, this is where you and I start to become distanced from each other. I know you are a forgiving God, and so we too are supposed to forgive others. It’s hard, though, because I’m human. Those people we put our trust in to lead us faithfully, pastors, priests, church boards, and bishops, high profile faithful and broken people, supporting other faithful and broken people can annihilate a whole congregation of believers with their actions and words when left unchecked. It has become abundantly clear to me that politics and religion are not a good combination; however, at the heart of any faith organization, those two elements are the very lifeblood that keeps it running. One can’t exist without the other. I had to leave your house, though, because (again not because of you) because I don’t understand why with all of the true believers that did have good intentions in that church, your sacred temple felt so out of control and appeared to be one big bipolar cluster flock? There were so many people praying for the church’s mission and for you to swoop in and save us, all of us. Maybe it’s because anything you put in our human hands is bound to get screwed up; just look at what we’re doing to your planet, and oh my God, (yes, you) look what we did to your son. I have had a lot to reconcile since I left my job at the church, and I know you are still walking beside me, always inspiring me. I’m not sure how to deal with my lack of desire to attend a brick-and-mortar church or get too close to a congregation of people again. I’m sure there are plenty of your followers that feel this way. I’ve got my bible and my constant conversation with you, and for now, that’s all I think I need. You will be the judge of that, though.
Anyway, I know this is a long letter, please be patient with me. You know Zoe, our 15 yr old daughter; well, It seems you’ve been working on her heart because we haven’t been to church since Christmas, and we had also skipped Easter Sunday. She literally asked us if we would take her to church this weekend, out of the blue, while I was typing this letter to you! I don’t know why I am even slightly amazed at that. I’m trying to listen to what you want for my family and me with my ears, eyes, and gut. I’m trying to be faithful to you and serve (probably not enough; it’s been hard to connect during COVID) while being broken, hurt, and still gun shy. I know you know my heart; you made it. I know you hear my prayers, even if I am not sure what to pray, and don’t pray out loud. I know that your door is always open to me, and likewise, you are always welcome in my home. I am evolving, learning, praying, watching, and hoping this uneasy feeling I have been feeling about us growing apart will subside. But at the moment, I can’t go back to church; I hope you’ll forgive me. So, like I said when I started this letter to you, I’m waiting for a time when we can reconnect, and you’ll send me a word on how we should do that. I’m hoping that you and your good book are enough until you lead me to a place where I will meet like-minded people (yes, I know, like me, they will be broken. But maybe we can be that way together in a healthy way). Just let me know when you’re ready to talk; I’ll keep an ear out for you. And since you’re everywhere (not just in a church) and know all things, I know you will find me and pray you will reassure me that this strange new path I’m exploring is ok.
I made good on my commitment to daily writing like a racehorse out of the gate at the end of March. I have ideas and memories swirling in my head constantly, and only writing can silence them. I don’t mind; I’m totally used to it now. I began posting to all of my newly created social media pages and got excited when I found that my stories truly touched others and put a smile on their faces. But writers beware; the engagement and tracking of social media can stir up unnecessary mental noise and throw your creative flow off track.
I love looking at statistics, and who doesn’t want to validate being loved by new followers, likes, shares, and retweets. Tread carefully when balancing the noise that comes from sharing your stuff online and nurturing your creative flow. It’s time-consuming and distracting. As a new blogger, it didn’t take me long to figure this out, but some of you may get caught in the echoing loop, and I’m here to give you a virtual smack in the face and tell you to SNAP OUT OF IT!
Always remember this; the first rule of write club is: you don’t talk about write club (save your words and put them on paper). The second rule of write club is: you do not talk about write club! (no, seriously, don’t tell everyone your story as you’re formulating your ideas, write that shit down, or you will lose your drive to push through the process and complete anything). It’s a mental struggle and personal fight, so adapting my point to one of the most famous quotes from one of my fave movies, Fight Club, seems fitting.
So step by step, this is how it should go (of course, this is my opinion and experience):
🖊 Write daily (create a space for this, write at the same time every day so that there is a scheduled commitment. If you are sparked with an idea or feel a strong urge to write outside of that time slot, then do it. That extra creative burst on top of your daily writing time will be icing on the cake.)
🖥 Spend about 30 minutes to 1 hour on research and social media development AFTER WRITING! (I can’t stress this enough, the virtual world is noisy, and once the voices and opinions of everyone you come across online start creeping into your day, it’s hard to turn it off. Yes, sometimes reading or listening to other stuff will spark you, so make a note of it, move on and go back to write about it, or stop trolling right that minute and throw down your new idea in total).
🎥 If you create and post podcasts of your material, choose one day a week to sit in your closet rearranging your shoes in the dark and recording. Yes, I do that.
⏰ Pick a specific time of day and week to post across all of your channels, respond to comments, and boost your presence. Of course, the more media you are on, the more time-consuming this is. Before I struck my balance, which I’m still working on fine-tuning, I was looking at my post results daily, a couple of times a day. It’s exciting to see the responses and watch your numbers go up, right!? Now I look at them every three days. I had to decide whether I was working on showing my ability to build a successful social media presence as a social media marketer or whether I am a writer, just sharing my words. I chose writer. I had to define in my mind the fact that the written word means more to me than all of my clicks of validation. Again be careful and don’t get lost in the minutia of your online presence.
🧘🏻♀️Trust that you will make headway if you keep writing. Don’t push it. Sometimes you’ll write, and your piece will sit. Just let it marinate before you frantically throw it up on some online platform. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Writing is a bunch of, “hurry, I need to write this down before I lose my train of thought,” and then wait, and that’s ok! We all end up there. Listen to my man Dr. Seuss’s wise words pinched from our family’s favorite story, Oh the Places You’ll Go!
📚 “The Waiting Place…for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for your hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite the or waiting for the wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting around perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig that curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.” wait, where was I again? See what I mean? Don’t get distracted.
🥺 Finally, don’t put too much stock in your numbers and comments. Writing is your passion, not being a social media star. Remember that finding your writing voice is an ever-evolving process, and for those brave enough to share their ideas, lives, and secrets, any negative social media chatter can quickly put out your creative fire. I get it; creatives are a sensitive breed. If you find you’re getting negativity when you post, turn it off, troubleshoot, run your pieces by someone you trust before posting (EDIT, EDIT, EDIT!!! Grammar and punctuation people is essential!!). Most of all, don’t worry about whether you’re the popular kid at school or not, don’t obsess over follows and numbers. Just write!!!!!
These are guidelines I use for myself and tips for writers who want to go public. Let’s face it, bearing your soul online is scary. Just don’t expect too much from it. Don’t forget your one desire to be a writer. Don’t forget why you do it. For me, it’s therapy, a release, and a way to quiet my mind. I hope that my words will inspire, help and heal others. I breathe a sigh of relief for having cleared some space in my head every time I complete a story. So, figure out what your writing does for you? What is your writers’ purpose? Stay true to it. No one wants to read half-hearted bullshit, so TURN OFF THE NOISE, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and dive in. Sometimes you may amaze yourself with what comes out, and other times it may just be shit. Don’t worry about it either way. Do what you love and write. ♥️
Today I got my new MacBook Air! I am so excited. I kind of went online and bought it for myself, in silver for our Silver 25th Wedding Anniversary! So It’s from me to me, from Paul. He knew about it, well he knew after I bought it. I called him and said, “hey were you thinking of buying me a MacBook Air for our anniversary? It is, after all, the perfect gift since I have been writing so much lately!” My dear husband stumbled over his words a bit and wasn’t sure if he had said he would or not. No, he didn’t, never, not once, actually he didn’t even know I wanted one. I pulled the stop lever on his confused train of thought and exclaimed, “surprise, well you DID! I am so excited! I just ordered it! Thank you so much!” And THAT, my ladies and gentlemen, is how you get it done!
So, I dedicate this little blip of a story about my new MacBook Air to my amazingly understanding and patient, although sometimes oblivious and loving best friend and husband of 25 years, Paul Anthony Brunton. I can’t imagine life without you, well I can, but I don’t want to. You are the PB to my J, the cherry on top, the gravy on my potatoes, blah, blah, blah…. I love you plain and simple, even when I don’t.
Did I say you’re still pretty hot for a 56 yr old man? Well, you happen to be trending right now. Dad bods are so in. With those brown, gold, grey curly locks of hair, dreamy blue eyes, and that sexy, now almost American, but still a slight bit New Zealand accent, you still do it for me. Also, did I tell you how proud I am of you?
You are an amazing dad; your daughters love you more than Harry Styles, Chemistry, Running, Ice Cream, and their friend groups, but not more than me. Sorry, I can’t say that; I would lose street cred. However, I know the truth, and they secretly love you most! AND, did I tell you I adore your hardworking, dedicated nature? You amaze me. No matter what happens in our lives, you always find a way to provide for us and enjoy it while doing so. You hardly ever complain. AND you have really been killing it lately, and good on you! It’s about freaking time; all of your hard work in life should pay off.
Being married to you has been like one never-ending 25 yr long rollercoaster ride. Thank God I love rollercoasters!! Oh, Hey, remember we took that trip to Atlanta and went to Six flags after our wedding just to ride all of the rollercoasters? Well, I suppose that set the tone for the years to come. It was a blast, scary, exhilarating, gave me a tremendous headache, and I think once made you puke or almost puke (no, that was the motion master 360). The best part of the rollercoaster rides is that I had you to hold on to for dear life as we dropped from 0-60 in a blink. Our hearts raced, and I thought I would have a heart attack (funny that a person with an acute panic disorder loves roller coasters), and our stomachs would rise to our throats as the bottom fell out. As we rode through the more intense twists and turns, we would scream, and towards the end of the day, we just felt numb by our one-millionth ride as we fell into a breakneck pace along the winding track. We rode those steal beasts for the thrill similar to the thrill of being newly married and all of the years to follow. Yes, this marriage of ours, the Brunton Coaster or Kiwi Rooter, has given me moments where time would stand still, and I wanted to freeze those forever (hence my obsession with photography and why I have always had a camera in my hand). Our wild ride has caused me panic, pain, and at times I’ve wanted to kill you and hated you, but let’s be honest, what married couple doesn’t experience that? You married me for my passion, and baby, you got it, all of it. You married every range of emotion known to man. One minute I needed you so badly I thought I would die without you, and the next wanted to run as far away from you as I could. Yet here we are, in love, happy to boot with so much good to show for our journey together.
Paul, ma man, I am looking forward to another 25 wonderful years with you, God willing. Though time has battered us a bit, and we may not be the babes we used to be, I see you, I mean YOU, just as I did the day I took your giant hand and promised to love you forever. I’m thankful for you, and I think there’s a pretty awesome ride waiting for us ahead. Happy Anniversary!
PS. A MacBook Air and Rollercoaster have nothing in common. Except for the fact that they excite me and have cogs, gears, stuff, and things. ♥️
I dedicate this story to all those talented hairstylists who spend hours on their feet making us pretty, listening, and acting with great enthusiasm, as if they care about the never-ending verbal puking of stories we spill on them.
Something kept tickling my face as I slept, and it was starting to annoy me. Since I had to pee anyway, I decided to go in the bathroom and investigate. I walked in and looked in the mirror with tired eyes and stared at my bangs/fringe. It had begun growing down over my eyes and was getting super annoying. I made an unconscious decision to cut it. I opened the bathroom drawer and rummaged around for the elementary school craft scissors I had seen in there at some point in time. I’m not sure if the middle of the night is the best time to decide to cut your hair. I leaned forward into the mirror. I couldn’t see because I didn’t have my contacts in or glasses on. I tried to copy the line that my excellent hairdresser had cut previously. I sleepily snipped and snipped and, when I thought I was done, pulled the drain plug out of the drain, washed all the hair down, and went back to bed. I laid there for about 10 minutes and kept feeling a tickle on my cheek. I got back up and walked into the bathroom again.
My feet were rhythmically patting their way across the tile in time to my sound sleeping husband’s snoring. I pulled out the scissors again and snipped a little bit more, and thought, “yes, this looks much better, and that tickle is finally gone.” it was probably 3 a.m. when I fell asleep. My alarm went off, and I pulled myself to the bathroom, groggy, as any middle-of-the-night hairstylist would be. I flicked on the light and squinted at the mirror. “Oh, man, who cut my hair? Dang it! I thought I dreamt that!” I have a new crisp cut fringe. I’m pretty sure my hairdresser Nathaly is going to be pretty impressed with my cutting skills. Sometimes I have a hard time determining reality from my dreams. Often, I dream In color, and it’s pretty vivid. A few incredible times, I’ve had smell-a-vision and could feel being run over by a train. I lived, of course, in real life, that is, but didn’t do so hot in my dream. Since my recent endeavor was not a dream, I’ll have to live with my trainwreck of a haircut for a bit. Oh well, this too shall pass or grow out fast.
When I had the first Covid vaccination, I wasn’t nervous at all. And since I was a good girl and took my vaccine bravely, I treated myself to dinner at mellow mushroom afterward. I walked over to the restaurant and had dinner by myself, and as I sat there realized I was starting to feel drunk. No, I wasn’t drinking. My head started tingling like crazy, and I began to feel a bit achy. It wasn’t anything horrible it just made me a little nervous. The whole head-tingling thing was unexpected, and I was wondering if I was going to start seeing unicorns farting glitter next. At home, I hopped in bed and hunkered down for the night, hoping that no more symptoms would come on, I was happy when I woke up the following day, and the only issues I had were a pretty sore arm and intense headache. I always have those, though, so that was no big deal.
So today, I go for my second Covid Vaccination. I decided to get the Pfizer one because that’s the one they offered, not the one I researched and actually decided to get, that’s the one I showed up, and they had available for me. So that’s the one I got, get it? They say that the second vaccine kicks your ass. I Felt pretty off with the first one, so I hope that the second one isn’t that times 10; watch the space.
He looked down at me from the trees over his long heavy bill. His iridescent blue, bronze feathers shimmered in the suns glow as they lay smoothly on his slender frame. He blinked his round black dotted white eyes slowly and cocked his head to the side. He appeared to be sizing something up. I had decided to eat outside in the crisp, breezy, fresh air. The sound of our old rusty tin can wind chimes sang its way to my ears and merged with the sound of me crunching granola from my cereal bowl. The morning birds perched with silent indifference among a smattering of leaves still hanging from the trees following the last cold snap. The Grackle above was probably up well before me collecting his wormy breakfast, but from the way he was staring at me and my bowl filled with wholesome nutty cereal and creamy oat milk, I had a feeling he wasn’t quite full. Unlike his winged mates, his presence was hard to ignore. His growing raucous chatter made me uneasy, so I put my hand over my bowl then covered my head with my arm as he abruptly flew from his perch. He swooped downward, and I jumped up from the patio chair, spilling the nutty contents of my bowl all over my feet. My sandles made a squishy flip flop sound as I made a run for It. Soft granola slid between my toes, and I slipped on their rubber soles. My morning coffee had kicked in, and I suddenly had caffeine jitters that shook me like a can in a hardware store paint mixer. I looked over my shoulder as I grabbed the door handle and flung the door open wide, forgetting that the dogs were scratching earlier, desperate to get out and be with me.
The cocky little Grackle landed in what was left of my granola and began pecking the sunflower seeds from the gooey pile spread across the concrete patio. Though this all happened quickly, time slowed for a split second as the Grackle blinked up at me while swallowing the tiny seeds, and then suddenly, our black lab exploded out the open door and tore past me, barking and growling. The birds perched in the trees above abruptly flew off in one giant panicked swarm. Then without hesitation and a single huge chomp and gulp, the Grackle was gone. I could hardly believe my eyes. Everyone was hungry for breakfast, it seems. In shocked disbelief, I stood there with my mouth hanging open then promptly scolded Buddy. He licked his lips as he sat down heavily in the mess that still lay on the ground, looking up at me proudly. I, in turn, looked at him with grossed-out disgust. I cleaned up and put the dogs back in the house, then sat down on the patio and attempted to find peace while processing what had just happened—what a bizarre turn of events. As I began to ease back into my day, I found what had just occurred both disturbing and simultaneously funny. I chuckled as the thought occurred to me that we should never underestimate the power of breakfast, that all-important first meal of the day. This was an unusual thought, but what the heck? This was an unusual morning.
Every once in a blue moon, one of my close friends or the child of a close friend will fall in love and decide to get married. Yaay them. I love love, being in love, falling in love, and all that good stuff. It’s well, in a word lovely! Before I relay this story, a small disclaimer: If you’re looking for some literature with deep meaning here, don’t. This entire piece is jibberish, but I felt a bout of verbal puking coming on again this morning and had to dump it. Also, while reading this, remember I was not born with a filter, and I’m pretty sure my brain was put together by Mr. Potatoe Head.
So my story, when someone who is bright-eyed and in love asks me what it’s like to be married, I look at them square in the eye and give them the God’s honest truth. I say, “Do you have a favorite sandwich?” The usual response is, “wait, what?” And then I say, “I need you to picture your favorite sandwich. The best one you’ve ever had. Ok, now, the way I see it, being married is like eating the same sandwich every single day. Of course, you better make sure you really like that sandwich! You will choose your sandwich and eat that SAME sandwich every day of your life, every day until the day you die.” People usually stare blankly at me, looking for more. Some may even think I’m having an aneurysm. That’s when I say, “and that’s what it’s like to be married.”
This morning, my dear old friend Bryan and I talked about marriage (not about us getting married, we’re both already happily married or living with other people), and of course, I shared my sandwich theory with him. His response to the repetitive sandwich eating theory was, “well, the cool thing about sandwiches is that you can change the toppings; you’ve got spicy mustard, mayo, lettuce…”
“WHOA WHOA WHOA.” I had to stop him right there. “NO, YOU CAN NOT CHANGE THE SANDWICH! The sandwich doesn’t change! You eat that exact same freaking sandwich forever!”
“But I’m sure you can cut the crust off….” he replied. To which I emphatically corrected him, having had decades of life experience under my belt, “NO! THE SANDWICH NEVER CHANGES; THE SANDWICH IS ALWAYS THE SAME!!” “Fine, you can change the way you eat the sandwich, the plate, paper towel, or cutting board you eat it off of, but I’m sorry there is no changing the sandwich,” at least in my experience.
Bryan has some definite feelings about marriage, and now that I had left no doubt in his mind that I am indeed “one sandwich short of a picnic,” he changed the subject.
Sadly this wasn’t the end of this train of thought for me. I hung up the phone, got up, and made my decaf espresso, which is a total oxymoron in itself. Who drinks decaf espresso to wake up!? I do. Anyway, while I was frothing my oat milk, yeah, that’s right, oat milk (my coffee alone is a clue to the twisted entanglement that is my mind), I took the sandwich theory to a whole new level. The startling similarity between marriage and that sandwich began to become clearer and clearer to me.
Mortified, I realized that I’ve been cheating people with my advice. If it wasn’t enough that the singular sandwich theory could put someone off the thought of marital bliss on its own, it occurred to me that I had forgotten to share the many complications that come with caring for the same sandwich for eternity. The sandwich will get stale, soggy, and even worse, moldy! And what happens if someone sees you eating your sandwich and gets food envy? What if one horrible day you think your sandwich is safely sitting in the fridge with a sticky note on it saying, “Don’t touch Jeri’s sandwich!” and some nitwit pretends they didn’t see the note, flicks the little sticky piece of paper off of your beloved and takes it for themselves? And then what if your someone who doesn’t even like sandwiches? No, now that is just too much to think about.
This is a moment of hysterical excitement!!! My youngest daughter and I have not seen my two oldest girls since November 2019, and we just jumped through every border closure hoop you possibly can to enter the country as citizens and returning residents, and WE ARE THERE!!! I am screaming, crying, and laughing inside all at the same time. I told our middle daughter over the phone just a minute ago that we will be there in a couple of months to see her, and I couldn’t even complete sentences. I was like, and oh my God, because and can you believe it…NOT COMPLEATING SENTENCES HYSTERICALLY HAPPY!!!! I’m going to have to spellcheck the hell out of this when I’m done and before I post because I’m not sure I’m even typing in an audible language!!! Thank God for #Grammerly
It will have been 18 months since I hugged Sabrina and Molly last, and Zoë will be freaking out to be with her two older sisters again. The time with them will be one month. Before we can hug them, we do have to be locked down in managed isolation for 14 days upon arrival; with brain piercing Covid tests every three days!!! BUT WHO CARES! (Well, I do a little bit) but really, WHO CARES? I GET TO HUG MY BABIES!!!!
We spent ten days in our home in COVID quarantine. Our 15 yr old tested positive for Covid. She had been sick off and on for about two weeks with a sore throat, slight trouble breathing when she was running, fever, and on Thursday before we went into lockdown, she had a massive migraine. She kept telling me she didn’t feel well, and I told her it was probably everything but COVID. Im not sure why I couldn’t put two and two together. I pulled her out of school and prayed she had not passed it on to anyone else. We made a quick life adjustment to lock down as a family. She went back to online schooling, and hubby set to work from home and got a lot done. I did little projects (as you do), cleaning out closets, cleaning off bookshelves, and doing my usual tidying, cooking, and enjoying shopping online for food. Whenever the boredom got to be too much, Zoë and Paul would grab the Razor scooter and ride around the house in a blaze of speed from one room to the other. We have had time to catch up with people on the phone or FaceTime. Our two oldest girls keep calling us from their haven overseas, saying, “you guys have to get out of there; it’s a mess” Yes, it’s a mess, but to me, it’s home and where their Dad makes the money that keeps us running smoothly.
My husband is a New Zealander, A Kiwi. And I grew up in Florida. We have sent our two oldest daughters to live there to go to university and be with extended family. New Zealand is an excellent example of a community that comes together to get things done. They have the system of fighting COVID down pat. I’m so thankful the girls (Sabrina and Molly) are there safe and able to live everyday lives, except the odd lockdown for 3 to 7 days if Covid does pop up in a household. For the most part, New Zealand is fully open, and stress levels are low. The girls are in their second year of University and working part-time jobs. Our oldest is modeling, and they are both going out with friends, thriving and living normal college girl lives. Best of all, people in NZ are getting close to each other and making happy memories together. They have a quality of life that is fulfilling. God knows when we will get back to that here in America without it being interrupted. Some people here are anxious and angry over the entire aspect of Covid. It will be nice to strive for and have inner peace without the fear of “The Rona” looming someday.
All of us are dying to get back to living our everyday lives. Covid has messed everybody up. From not working a regular job to hugging people, socializing, traveling, going to parties, having people for dinner, and celebrating holidays, it’s been insane. The lack of activity and connectedness is causing us to forget how life used to be. We’ve been doing this for a year, and we wonder when it’s going to end. Covid is no hoax, and the harsh and terrible reality is that at this point, over 525,000 people have died. There isn’t a person alive who has a conscience or heart that can diminish that tragic fact without showing disrespect for the dead and those who loved them.
We see the light at the end of the tunnel, though. The Covid vaccine has been rolled out for everyone over the age of 16 in Florida!!! Yaaaaa hoooo!! We have movement in a positive direction! If more people are vaccinated, and we all follow CDC guidelines for reducing the spread of the virus by simply wearing our new favorite accessory, the face mask, we will decrease the chances of variants developing. Several studies say variants can render the vaccines ineffective. We are working towards life becoming normal again; it will be sometime before we lose face protection, touch each other and get cozy the way we used to.
While in quarantine, I looked at some of the research talking about children born during Covid and how they may be emotionally detached. They’re saying that school-aged children who have not been attending school physically and are online learning are going to become “the lost generation.” That sounds so sad to me. I think of the song American Pie and the prophetic lyric that says, “…oh, and there we were all in one place a generation lost in space”. Our young won’t know how to connect like we used to connect pre-Covid, be as expressive, and maybe Covid kids won’t be as emotional. Is the world becoming a colder place? What if we’re turning into one big nonfeeling AI (artificial intelligence) society and the popular kids are Siri, Alexa and Google!?
At the end of our ten-day quarantine, Paul and I got Covid tested. We arrived at the medical center, gave them our phone number, and then we went back and sat in our car and waited for an hour and a half. During that time, they called us on my cell and did a telephone check-in; it was all pretty interesting, well organized, and touch-free.
On the morning we drove to the testing center, I panicked that we had to get tested at all. I said, “I’d rather get Covid than get one of those long plastic swabs stuck up my nose and into my brain.” Zoe and Paul laughed and tried to tell me that it tickled, and at one point, Zoe said, “it actually feels pretty good.” Suspiciously I replied, “oh ok, right”! The wait was silent and, for me, unbearable. We sat there looking at our phones to pass the time. Then mine rang, and I jumped a little bit.
We checked in, and a nurse took our vitals. Another nurse was peeling the plastic wrapper of a swab. As he came near me, I blurted out, “I’m so nervous, I think I’m gonna throw up”! He didn’t even flinch. Nobody assured me that it would be okay or that it wouldn’t hurt. They just smiled at me awkwardly, leaving me feeling more uneasy. I visualized myself lying on the table being probed by aliens in a dark room, floating somewhere out in the unknown universe. Was I going to walk out of there with my brain still intact? I pictured it being stabbed like a marshmallow and pulled out through my nostril. When I saw our 15 yr old get her Covid test ten days before, they didn’t use the long swab you see on TV. They used a fat short one that went up your nose just a little bit. I hoped to get that test! Zoë made getting it look so easy.
Low and behold, the short fat swab was what I got too; I was elated!! I was happy I was going to get to keep my brain. As the nurses walked out of the room, I said, “Oh, thank you, God! I’d been praying for that test”. They looked at me like I was crazy if they only knew.
Paul and I were taken to another room to wait for the results. I started thinking about the whole procedure and how it felt. I looked at Paul and whispered, “does it sound weird that I think that felt really good“? “I mean, it actually felt nice.” TMI disclaimer: I’m one of those people that will take a piece of toilet paper and wind it up really, really long and thin, then clean the inside of their nose till it “shines like the top of the Chrysler building.” Yeah, I’m that person you hung out with in school who would ask you ten times a day, “is there anything in my nose, in my teeth, or on the back of my pants”!!
When I was little, I watched police shows, and they would always tell their informants to “keep your ear to the ground and keep your nose clean” that was cop talk. Seeing that my television partially raised me, I used to think it was essential to keep your nose clean. It was doing the right thing. Hence my delight over the thorough nasal scrub. I felt like the nurse administering my Covid test was doing me a favor. I left there relieved, happy, and clean as a whistle. Our tests came back negative; we were clear to leave quarantine. All and all, the time went by pretty fast once the days started running Into one another. But we were disease-free. Ahhhhhh, I and my household could breathe easy, in more ways than one.