Never Say Never

I have come to realize recently that my thirties are basically for me to question everything I have ever been taught or believed. They are a time for me to really dig in to the nitty-gritty of life and figure out who I really am as a person. Since I pretty much took a blind leap from childhood into the deep end of adulthood, and then spent the next 10 or so years treading water and trying to catch my breath, I have decided that it is indeed just fine for me to take however long I need to actually figure out me.

I would like nothing more than to pay it forward, all of these words of wisdom I have so painstakingly learned as legit, undeniable truths. You’re welcome.

Water, wine, bread. It doesn’t have to be in that particular order or even that particular combination, but please, just please, do not try to be a hero, and out drink everyone around you, especially on an empty stomach. This rule applies to college (or highschool, let’s be honest) aged kids all the way through, well everyone, it applies to everyone. Gone are the days where you can get drunk, throw up, embarrass yourself in front of a handful of people, and show your face again on Monday. Friends, your friends are Snapchatting your ass, singing the Bohemian Rhapsody while barely being able to stand up straight. Do yourself a favor, hydrate. Balance that booze out with some water so that you can have a chance of not sleeping with your head in the toilet. And for the love of all that is holy, eat bread, while drinking. Even communion wine is served with a cracker, and Jesus knows best. No Keto or Atkins or GlutenFreePaleoBullshit can stand a chance against a belly full of tequila. And for the love of God, if you listen to nothing else, put down your phone.  Drunk you really should not be texting, trust me, I know from experience. Luckily, I just get really freaking nice, and tell people I love them, but honestly that’s almost worse, people think I’m dying, seriously.

Yes, it gets worse. Adulting is pretty much the equivalent of doing back to back Ironmans for the rest of your life. I know that’s not entirely true, some of you did that whole, “I went to college and partied for four years,” thing. Or the, “I took a Gap Year, and backpacked through Europe,” thing. But let’s be honest, that’s not really adulting, now is it? I’m talking about the paying your own bills, “Oops, I guess we are eating dinner in the dark because I forgot to pay the electric bill, because I haven’t even had the time to eat or shower in 48 hours, because this kid is sucking the life out of me,” thing. Or the desperate need to socialize, “I made plans with my friends but now I am too tired to physically put on a bra, so I am going to pretend I’m sick,” thing.  It literally gets so bad that when everyone around you has the flu and you are taking care of them, you pray to God that your immune system goes MIA so that you too can just be fussed over for a few days and not have to make excuses for not getting out of bed, or changing your clothes.

But you don’t get the flu. You just throw out your back so that you can barely walk and it feels like the lower portion of your body is made up of razor blades that are slowly but surely slicing through your spine, but you still have to take care of everyone that does have the flu. Yeah, adulting sucks, that bad. When you think that you have finally survived the stage that you are currently in, and you triumphantly pour yourself that well deserved adult beverage, because you can, remember…

Water, Wine, Bread, because it’s about to get worse, promise.

 You are going to become your mother, deal with it. I can hear the cackling from down the hill, even just as this thought was taking shape in my mind, my mother is living it up, dancing around the fire pit, and screaming into the heavens, “I told you so!!!!”

Out of spite, I’ll keep it short.

You can spend your whole life thinking that you are an individual, or that God, “broke the mold,” when He made you, or that you are, “just unique,” and that’s sweet and all, but it’s a load of crap, really. One day you are going to open your mouth, and your mother is going to come flying out. One day you are going to look in the mirror and not recognize your face as your own but you are going to see her. One day, someone will tell you, you are beautiful, and what will pop in your head will be, “So basically you would have a thing for my mom, thanks.”

I can no longer think that I am creative because, I am just so me, or that I write because we all have our own little things. Nope, I am creative because she is, and I write because she does. And to make it worse, my Grandmother wrote too, and my brother does as well. Gross.

We have to take the good with the bad. It could be worse, I guess.

Never say never. Being the thick-headed, stubborn little brat that I am, I had to learn this one over and over and over again. Thirty-six year old me wants to laugh in the face of twenty year old me. I want to grab her by the shoulders and shake her until her frizzy hair comes flying out of her head and scream in her face, “You know nothing!!!” I won’t of course, mostly because it is physically impossible, but also because I am sure fifty-eight year old me will probably want to bitch slap thirty-six year old me right across the face. We know nothing.

Sure as the years pile up against us we learn little things here and there, and we are able to reflect back on how wise we have become. We get comfy in our own skin eventually, and start to think that we have some form of control in this life.

We don’t. And if you dare to use the word never, you should pretty much start planning for it to happen, like immediately.

“We will NEVER follow my family and move to Georgia.” -Did it, got the t-shirt.

“We will NEVER buy a brand new vehicle.”- Signed along the dotted line, with a smile.

“We will NEVER get another animal until all the kids are gone and we can just live for ourselves.”- Enter Goats. Not one goat, two goats. And with the plan of at least one more, and the possibility of future baby goats.

The thing is, we only know what we want and what we believe in our current circumstances. And we only know and believe it because we are comfortable with it. One day your whole life may turn upside down and you will have the opportunity to reevaluate everything. You will have this awakening of sorts, and sit back and say, “Is this me? Is this who I want to be? Is this what I believe?”

“Could I dare take on my past NEVERS and possibly be happy?”

The answer is yes. You can, and you should. We change, all the time. We have the right and the responsibility to question things, even if that means questioning ourselves.

goatI went from being a free-spirited teenager, who only cared about boys and theatre, to a wife and a mother with a completely closed mind and judgy heart, to this weird nomady creature who questions literally everything. Even though I still feel like I am seventeen. I still listen to the same music I have since the mid-nineties, and some of my closest friends are those that knew and loved one-dimensional, rebellious me, with black makeup and stripey tights, I’m just not her anymore. Who knows, maybe she will circle back again. But until then, the current me is just trying to figure out how to live my best life, right now.

And honestly, right now my best life is covered in baby goats…

Even though I said, NEVER.

 

 

 

 

 

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One Year Later

As we close in on our one year mark since we chose the road less traveled, I have been all but forced to reflect on all that has happened during the course of this journey. As we pulled away from our old house, I was filled with optimism and hope. I could see the future before me and it was full of peace and discovery.

Little did I know that this would all but break me. That I would be pushed to my limits as a wife, as a mother, and as a human being.

After my initial breakdown of “WHATTHEHELLHAVEWEDONE,” I was able to level out a bit and find humor in the happenings of this mountain. People would always ask me how I was doing or how I was adjusting, and my answer would consistently be an honest, “I’m okay about 80% of the time.”

Then my cats disappeared, and reality crept a little closer. They were here one moment and then taken from us right outside our door. We knew that there were greater scarier creatures, too close for comfort and there was nothing we could do about it. I felt their loss for all of about five minutes before I realized it was just the beginning of things that were not okay and I did the only thing I knew how to do. I turned it off. I stopped feeling.

The summer months brought plenty of traffic to our cabins and we were busy enough for me to not worry about all the dark little clouds floating around in my head. We found adventure on the river, and a breath of relief when our friends would come to visit. I was ok about 60% of the time.

Through the fall and the beginning of winter, I found joy in the crisp brisk air outdoors. I chose to find a new me hiding somewhere in the woods. I started putting me first and focusing on the things that made me feel whole again. I was ok 100% of the time.

100% of the time I was off of this mountain, on my own, and hiking in the woods, that is.

By the time the holidays were over and we were deep in the heart of winter, I was okay 0% of the time. The New Year brought its own set of challenges and something inside me broke. The only thing I felt was regret. Well, regret and hate. I hated this place. I hated my husband for bringing us here, and I hated myself for letting him. I regretted being a supportive wife. I regreted not having my own opinion on things. I regreted everything. EVERYTHING.

All I could think about was how I needed my friends, my old friends. The ones that know me, know me. The ones that I could crawl into bed with and be honest with. The ones that I could actually breathe the words to, “I am not ok.”

I needed sunshine, and to be warm. I needed a break, and for the first time really, I didn’t feel guilty saying that.

Thankfully, my mother had been putting off a trip to Florida for several years. My Grandparents both passed over four years ago and she had been unable to make the trip by herself to finally put their remains in their final resting place. When I burst into tears while texting my wifey just because I missed her so much, we decided to fast forward our little jaunt to Florida and headed out the very next weekend.

Now if I’m being honest, and let’s be honest, I’m only honest when I’m writing, I knew this would be a crying trip. I needed catharsis, and I was actively seeking it by going to Florida. I had held and held and held for too long and I honestly felt I was at a turning point. I could either help myself and figure my shit out, or ignore everything and become a bitter angry woman who was ready to bolt at any given moment. Thankfully, I chose the former.

My mother and I left at about 5:30 in the morning on a Friday, and after a quick ten hours of singing at the top of our lungs, we were parting ways, she went straight to our beach hotel and I drove straight to my wifes (not everyone can be your BFF, she is my wife, every woman needs a wife). It took about five minutes of me being with her, for me to verbally vomit all of my deepest darkest secrets and feelings and insecurities. She let me say everything I needed to say and only chimed in at pausing points. We drank, I held her baby, I cried a bit, and we had a slumber party on her couch. The following day, when we had to part ways, I was already feeling better. I ran around a bit, visiting other old friends that always welcome my surprise drop in visits, and my “Hey, I know its 8:30 in the morning on a Saturday but I am down the street and stopping by,” texts.

Just writing that makes me realize how much I suck as a friend. Sorry, Kristin.

Saturday evening was spent with my ex-wife/ back and better than ever BFF. Basically she called me out on all of my bullshit and we drank until I needed someone to take my phone away. We had dinner with my mother and Facebook stalked one of my husbands ex-girlfriends. We took a bunch of stupid selfies and I passed out to the sound of her snoring (sweetly) in my ear. But before that, I went to take a shower in the hotel, and dismissed them with a “carry on with out me” wave, and noted how nice it was to just be around people who know me and just love me without me even having to try. I didn’t have to think about how I looked, or what I said, or if they accidentally saw me naked, or if they know that I sleep-eat desert in the middle of the night if I take a PM medicine. I was just comfortable, and loved, and I felt it.

On Sunday we had Leslie Knope approved hotel waffles and parted ways. I dropped by unannounced again (sorry Kristin, again) to a super/stupid bowl party and then went on to have dinner and a sleepover with my mistress (it’s not what you think, seriously). And so part two of the verbal vomit began. This was basically a competition of “WHOCANTALKTHELOUDESTANDTHEFASTEST,” filled by some gasps and uh-huhs and awwwwws.

Monday, I cried all day. I cried in the empty mansion of my mistress as I tried to wrap my head around saying good-bye to all of my dear sweet friends. I unexpectedly cried at my Grandmothers grave (on her birthday). I cried at my brothers grave, even though he died before I was even born. I cried after I layed my Grandparents ashes in their final resting place. I cried when I hugged my wifey goodbye for the final time. I cried and I cried and I cried.

And I don’t really cry, like ever.

But still, I wasn’t really okay, but honestly, no one was. After four days with my closest friends, I realized we were all a freaking disaster. I don’t know if its our age, or just the stage of life we are in, but literally everyone I talked to was kind of a hot mess. None of us are really okay. We are learning who we really are, we are making choices we may regret, we are living with choices we wish we could change and we are holding on by a thread. But it’s okay. As long as we can admit that we need help, or a break, or a minute to breathe, as long as we can honestly come to one another and say, “I am not okay,” we will be okay.

It wasn’t until I was back at our hotel for the final night and I was reflecting back on the weekends events, tucked in bed with a bottle of wine, that I allowed myself to let everything go and miss home.IMG_20180216_182807 I started texting my husband and my kiddos and realized that even though some of my heart will always be in Florida, most of my heart will always be wherever they are. It doesn’t matter if we are in the city or the woods, in the mountains or on the beach, my forever people are my family, and I always have to choose them.

Because…

“….the woods are lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep.”

I have promises to keep.

 

Lost

Over the last several months, I have been doing the thing in the nature. You know, the embracing my inner hippie, hiking, roughing it thing. The thing that I was kind of forced into because we moved into the middle of nowhere and I had to embrace and change and test myself, or ignore and slowly but surely die inside. Anyway, I have been growing as a human and doing my part to find a new, happy, adventurous me, and posting it all obnoxiously to my Facebook page. Say what you will, but I hike in makeup and earrings for a reason and my #humblebrags actually worked for good instead of evil.

A little over a month ago, a dear friend of mine messaged me in a panic. Her twenty-something year old daughter had gone hiking with her friend the day before and hadn’t returned. She had an idea of where they went but not an exact location.  She was asking everyone that was willing to help, to go out to various trails, and search. Since I had been so showy and sharey of my recent adventures, she knew I would be willing to put some boots on the ground and do my part.

Except, it was a Sunday morning and I was happily drinking coffee in bed. The day was supposed to be completely wretched with rain and plummeting temperatures. Hiking sounded like a terrible idea. But how exactly do you say no to a mother with a missing child?

I am a complete garbage human, so I was wracking my brain for all the reasons to not have to go, but I made the mistake of telling my husband and he basically flew into action, ready to jump in the car, drive for two hours, and save the day.

As we were walking out the door with all of our hiking gear and our youngest child, the hubs grabbed the air horn, just in case. Thankfully he didn’t see me roll my eyes behind his back. Honestly all I could think was, “What is the point?”

Now in my defense, I wasn’t thinking, “What is the point, they are obviously going to die out there.” It was more along the lines of, “I am sure they are fine and will find their way back and how are we actually going to locate two lost girls somewhere in the vast nature of North Georgia?”

On our way out, we stopped to say hello to a neighbor that we had only met one time (and by we, I obviously mean I stopped the car and my husband went to talk to him because I hate extoverting) and in that 5 minutes somehow the neighbor offered his airhorn to help with the search, just in case. (Insert eye roll here)

We headed in the general direction of the particular trail she asked us to scour and because I didn’t Google map it from the beginning, it took us almost an hour longer than it should have. We also had to stop at McDonald’s because my son desperately needed a cheeseburger to survive the day.

When we were 7 miles from the trailhead, our arrival time was still saying that we were over 45 minutes away which made no sense whatsoever. Until of course we came upon a gravel and extremely bumpy road of continuous switchbacks. It was treacherous.  I looked at my husband with that silent, “Are we seriously doing this,” stink-eye, and we carried on. The next road we turned onto had a sign that said “Road closed from January to March,” it was December 17th. We slowly crept along sliding on ice patches and snow and pulled over at a waterfall to reevaluate once again. I called my friend to see if anything had changed and she was crying and talking to the police and said she would have to talk to me later. So, not good news.

I was staring at the road ahead of us and seriously doubting whether we would make it to the trailhead alive when a very rugged off-road Jeep covered in mud pulled up beside us. My husband being the guy that will literally talk to anyone, approached the Jeep and talked to a handful of teenagers about the road conditions and why we happened to be there in the first place. The guys said that the road was awful and they weren’t sure if we would make it up, but offered to take him to the trailhead themselves.

I of course, was hesitant, because, you know, stranger danger, but then the guys said that they did see a red car at the top but no humans anywhere in sight. I pulled up a Facebook post of the car that the girls were driving and they all agreed that it could be the same one. That was enough for my husband to jump in the Jeep and take off while my son and I stayed behind to wait in the car. Yes I the hiker, stayed behind while my husband left to rescue my friends kid.

Garbage. Human.

In my defense, we didn’t all fit in the Jeep and my son was definitely not dressed appropriately for the conditions, but still.

I was expecting to wait for about twenty minutes. They would get to the top of the mountain, take a good look around and return empty-handed. But over an hour passed without them returning and I was starting to panic a bit. I checked Facebook about every 43 seconds to see if there were any updates, and of course, nothing good was being reported, just desperation.

After a few unsuccessful attempts to reach my husband, I called him one last time to beg him to wrap it up so that we could get home and maybe feel our toes again sometime this century.  This time he picked up. He was out of breath, so naturally I thought he was dying.

“I have them,” he said.

Disbelief flooded me. I thought for sure he was mistaken.

“You have the girls? The right girls?”

“Yes, positive ID. I have them.”

And then he hung up.

With no other information I was hesitant to call my friend in case somehow he was wrong, but I knew as a mother, every second for her was torture not knowing if her daughter was safe, so I made the call. I told her that the girls had been found and were safe but that I hadn’t personally seen them so not to call off the search just yet. It turned out that she was close by. She had headed to the same trail she told us to go to but turned around because of the road and was planning to hike up the mountain if she had to, to find the girls. I told her I thought she could make it to the waterfall and to turn back and come meet us there. Within minutes we were together waiting for the return of everyone.

About twenty minutes passed before we were all reunited. The girls were found wet, freezing and starving. They had wandered off the trail and hadn’t been able to find their way back. They had survived the night because they happened to have a lighter on them and were able to build a fire, and slept with their two dogs piled on top of them. They had no food or water.

If we hadn’t taken the long way to get there, or if my son didn’t so desperately need a cheeseburger, we wouldn’t have arrived when we did, at the same time those boys were passing by in the Jeep. If they hadn’t stopped and been willing to drive my husband back to the trail, we would never have made it to the top. And if my husband didn’t listen to that little voice inside him that said to grab the air horn, this story would have ended differently.

Because that’s what found them after all, that stupid air horn. The one that I rolled my eyes at. The one that the neighbor confirmed we should have. The one that my husband turned back for once he was in the Jeep. Three times, it came up three times.

When the Jeep full of friendly strangers and my persistent husband reached the abandoned car, it was unlocked and the girls stuff was inside. They found their IDs, they knew they were in the right spot. So they searched and searched and searched. They all split up in different directions yelling the girls names. And when they were defeated and giving up because it seemed hopeless and the weather was getting unbearable, my husband blew the air horn, and the girls finally heard them. They heard a distant yell and he blew it again and again and again until they finally found them. 25443289_1729730320430395_5438267262212795135_n

None of us can take any credit for what happened, we couldn’t have manipulated the circumstances that brought those girls home that night. And when it seemed like God had turned His head and ignored everyone’s crying pleas, He was there all along.

In the details.

 

CHEERS

Guess what time it is? Time for reflection, anticipation, regrets and promises. We are just days away from a new year, and for the first time, I am so ready to say good-bye to this current shit storm, and am looking forward to the next.

I have always given a big fat eye roll to all that were bidding adieu to the passing year. As if the calendar actually matters. As if the ticking of the clock and the dropping of the ball could wash away all the sins and injustices of our lives. We kiss our loved ones, breathe a sigh of relief because we survived the last 365 days, and we believe that when we wake up in the morning everything will be just fine!

And it totally will! We will wake up, rested, refreshed, reset, and move on with our day. And it totally won’t! Our problems don’t come and go at the stroke of midnight, we aren’t Cinderella, sigh.

This has been my most trying year. My life has been rocky, my marriage has been rocky, and my children have been rocky AF! People that I love have died. People that I love have almost died. My animals have died (not the ones that I could do without either, those chickens are indestructible.)  Money sucks (I know, join the freaking club) and everything, literally everything is breaking. And even with all of that, I am still waiting for the OTHER shoe to drop.

It’s just been one of those years where everything that could go wrong, has.

In fact, if I could describe the feeling of this year with one word it would be…

Drowning.

I feel like the last 364 days have been me holding my breath, treading water, sinking, and kicking as hard as I can while gasping for air. And I really need a break. I need dry land. I need to kiss the ground of the beach after the battle for shore. I need sanctuary, a haven.

However, I know that no clock will bring me peace. I won’t breathe a sigh of relief at midnight. There is no magic number of days that I will have to endure this stage of my life before the pendulum finally starts to swing back up. I know that every day is just a continuous climb to the top of this mountain, and every day faces new challenges, and tomorrow may be even more difficult than today.

I had fully anticipated this last year to be spectacular. We were moving, we were going to grow and get closer as a family. We were going to have new adventures and new animals and all of our dreams were going to come true. That didn’t really happen, like, at all. The bad definitely out weighed the good.

But there was still good. There were moments this year that I wouldn’t trade for anything. There are people in my life this year that weren’t there before, people I didn’t even know that I missed that showed back up completely unannounced, people who I am just so thankful for. I am doing things that I never thought that I would, I am growing as a person and finding the things that ignite my heart and soul. So I am not going to write off the entire year and wish it never happened. I am going to be thankful that I had another year at all.

I am going to be thankful that I am still breathing. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all that matters? If we can just survive, isn’t that what counts?  We aren’t promised a privileged life or even just a life without suffering. We aren’t even promised tomorrow. What we are promised is that we can handle our life. Even if that means that God must think we are a complete bad ass because the shit keeps on piling up.

WE. CAN. HANDLE. IT.

We have to believe that we are given the children that we have, because we can handle them. We have to believe that we have been given the marriage that we have, because we can work through the challenges. And we have to believe that when everything falls apart and we just can’t handle one more moment, that we have been given the people in our lives to help carry the weight for us.

There are people who have been placed in my life, that I didn’t want or choose, that would drop everything at a moments notice to help me if I needed them. And there are people that I would crawl over broken glass for if they so much as breathed that they needed my help.

I fully anticipate this next year to be amazing. Even though nothing is actually going to change overnight.  I am going to wake up on January 1st with the same set of problems I went to bed with the night before, I am still going to have an amazing year.

I am going to climb an insane amount of mountains, and read a stupid amount of books. I am going to continue to work on my body and learn to love it at the same time. I am going to continue to do the amazing things that I am doing because I started them months ago. I didn’t wait until after the holidays were over, or for New Years Day, I made my choices and I started them THAT day, because that was the moment I had control of.

I won’t be making promises I can’t keep. I am not going to give up coffee, or start sleeping normal human hours. I am not going to try to do anything that makes me less me. I don’t need any “New Year, New Me” goals to make life harder than it actually is. I need to love and accept myself for the crazy, psychotic, amazing, complicated, disaster of a person that I am.

If I want to change something about myself or give up something or learn something new, I am not going to pull out my calendar and see when the right time will be that I can fit it into my messy life. I am going to just do it, then. In the moment I am in. And if I fail, I won’t wait until Monday or February or Summertime or after the holidays or next New Years to start again, I will just start again, then.

So lets grab our booze and toast to a New Year and know that it means nothing more than that we are still alive. Lets stop pretending that it will fix everything. Lets stop pretending, we will be better, our lives will be better, our bodies will be better. Lets stop pretending the clock has any power at all. Whatever power is out there belongs  to us to take control of whenever and wherever we want.

Stop pretending!

Pretending is for children.

And children can’t drink.

CHEERS!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Bah-hum-blog

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35

IMG_20171208_171020_770If you are reading this, it’s official. I’m 36, and I never thought I would be. I am writing this three days before my birthday, tempting fate, dangling a pork chop in front of the wolf. But still, it’s just three days.

If your reading this, it means I may be a little crazy, but then again, aren’t we all.

I tend to always cry on my birthdays, and I am SO not a crier. But for whatever reason, it makes me sad. I don’t know if it’s the whole getting older thing, or if it’s how each year seems to go by faster and faster, or if it’s remembering all of the things that I wanted to do but never did. I try to prepare myself, but every year at least at some point during the day, I end up locked in my room, in bed, hiding from the world. Boo freaking hoo.

Last year was particularly dark. 35 was my magic number. It had been a long time coming, and as much as I tried to ignore it, not talk about it, pretend it never happened, it was here. I was 35, and I was going to die.

This is the part where you can judge me, or call me crazy, trust me it’s fine, I judge me too.  You see, several years ago, I was lying in bed next to my husband, he was gaming, I was reading. I heard an audible voice. Yes, it was in my head, my husband didn’t hear him, but I heard him.

“You are going to die when you are 35.”

What. The. F*ck.

Only moments after he announced my fate, and I tried to dismiss him did I recognize him. He didn’t lie before, so why would he lie now.

I was sitting in church, almost 13 years ago, not paying attention to whatever was going on around me, and he spoke, in my head. I heard him.

“You are pregnant. It’s a boy.”

What. The. F*ck.

I had no reason to think I was pregnant, I had a nine month old baby I was still solely nursing. We were up to our eyeballs with children it seemed, so we definitely were not taking any risks that would end up with me knocked up again. Why would something like that pop into my head, why would I imagine it?

I didn’t imagine it? I heard him, 13 years ago. And 13 years ago, he was right.

So all those years later when I heard him again, what was I supposed to think?

My first instinct was to talk about it, so I took the risk of sounding a little nuts and told my husband. His response was, “Oh, great.” And then we never spoke of it again. To be clear, I don’t blame him for his response, it was a ridiculous thing to say out loud anyway, and I don’t blame him for not remembering it either. If the shoe were on the other foot, I probably would never have given that conversation another thought either.

After that though, I never dared to breathe those words again. I almost told my very good friend a few times because I knew if anyone would be able to talk me off the ledge, she would. But I just couldn’t. I believe our words have power and if you are just going to throw words out into the universe, you better mean them, and be willing to watch as things unfold because of them.

So for years, I waited. Sometimes I wouldn’t think about it for months at a time, I didn’t have to, I wasn’t 35, yet. But then there were times where I wrote my children letters, so that they could know how much I loved them even after I was gone. And time passed, and the end of my life approached.

Last December, we were in mid-move. I turned 35 knowing I was about to move to the top of a mountain, in the nature, with all the monsters that live deep in the forest. The stage was being set for my finale. I thought of everything that could possibly go wrong, how painful everything could possibly be, and I decided that for the better part of the year I would just stay inside. I would conveniently develop agoraphobia and then once I turned 36, come clean as to why I was suddenly cured. It seemed like a fair plan.

But, it wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t realistic, and life had to just continue on. Then something happened that I wasn’t expecting.

Acceptance. If this was the year I was going to die, so be it. I had no control of it anyway. I decided to not tempt fate and jump out of airplanes or anything, but I did just live. I even joked with myself whenever I was doing the things that scared me, “So this is how I die. It’s a little anticlimactic, haha.”

This year didn’t kill me, but it changed me. It broke me little by little and I let it.

This year put me in a place so far out of my comfort zone, it was like we were planets away. It made me realize that I am capable of change and discomfort and I can adjust and thrive along the way.

This year took my Grandfather, someone who wanted nothing to do with me. It forced me to deal with deep-rooted family hurt and provided healing in the most unexpected ways.

This year killed my cats. It brought tragedy in doses small enough to recover from, and prepared us for a life we weren’t used to. It gave me thicker skin, when it comes to the world we live in.

This year brought brain cancer to someone I was a kid with and it made me feel things I had completely built walls against. Compassion, grief, sadness, empathy. Basically the things that make you nice. His cancer made me nice, so there’s that.

It also made me realize that life is just not fair, and that tomorrow is never a guarantee. I watched him thrive after being beaten down, after a voice told him he wouldn’t survive the year. He chose to not roll over and die, he chose to live.

It reminded me that I could do the same. I didn’t have to listen to a voice that told me I was going to die. Whether it be a doctor or demon or just some crazy part of my sub-conscience, I didn’t have to listen to a voice that said die.

I had to listen to the voice that told me to live.

So, I will not be sitting in my room, crying on my birthday this year. I will be dressed like an elf, hiking with my friends, celebrating me and being thankful for my life.

I won’t worry about tomorrow or when I will actually die. I could die when I am 36 or 106. I won’t be sitting around waiting, because…

The years don’t actually matter if the days don’t actually count.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#bitchfest

What is it about humans that are drawn to things that are bad for us? Why do we choose the road less traveled? And seriously, why do we make things as hard as possible for ourselves? No other animal does this. Well maybe they do, I don’t know, nor do I care. What I do care about is how completely insane I feel most of the time. #batshitcrazy

First of all, why do we have children? Go ahead and grab your pitchforks, I dare you to find me. I took the road less traveled remember? We live in the woods, on a mountain. But more on that later. Children, why? Other animals have their babies, feed them for a while and then disappear when they are looking the other way. Humans on the other hand, have babies, worship them blindly and give up the rest of their lives for those little versions of ourselves that literally count the days until they can get away from us. We meet all of their needs and most of their wants for the first 18 or so years of their lives, then we reluctantly let them go and spend the rest of our lives thinking about them, missing them, and giving them anything we possibly can that they still may need. They ignore us, hold grudges and blame us for every little thing that ever goes wrong in their very small world. Do you think cats carry their litter of kittens and dream about how they will grow to find the perfect mate and have babies of their own someday. Do they forever leave food in their dishes in case their babies come home hungry one day? Do cats go over every single moment of their time with their kittens wondering how to make sure they know that they are the single most important creature in the entire world? I don’t think so. #iwanttobeacat

Second of all, why do we have friends? I mean I get the whole companionship thing, I get why we need a partner in our lives. Animals do the same thing, some of them at least, even mate for life, but humans need friendship. We not only need someone who swears to be with us and only us for the rest of our lives, but we also need contact with other humans that we are not bound to forever. In fact, our partners just aren’t enough most of the time, we require more. We voluntarily share our lives with humans that have nothing to do with our family circles. And then we mourn the loss of their presence, we miss people that we signed up to not live with. We carry their burdens for them, we worry about them, we love them, and completely by choice. Sure some animals travel in packs much like girls do when they venture to the restroom, but animals do it for protection, for survival. Do dogs lose sleep over the fact that their little dog bestie is seriously ill? Do they pace back and forth and pray with every breath while the dog they were puppies with is in labor. Probably not. #dogsaresmarterthanhumans

Third of all, why do we need more? We seek better jobs, better money, better stuff, better cars, better houses. We need more, things. Of course we need to provide for ourselves and our families. We need houses because we can’t rough it in the nature, we need cars because God forbid we use our feet. We have to buy food because obviously we aren’t going to find nourishment outside of the grocery store. But we are never content with necessity. We want more. We want what someone else has. We want to dream big and actually, eventually, live the dream. We live in cities and want nature and turn everything we know upside down to get there. And then we drive back and forth, and back and forth, to the cities that we so badly needed to get away from.  Do bears spend all of their lives fishing for other bears and then find a way to feed themselves? Or, do they see their neighbor bears hidey hole and realize that theirs isn’t quite as good and then wander around all winter looking for something better. Again, no. #istillwishbearswerefriendly

And lastly, why do we choose everything else over health and safety? We eat poison everyday that we know can actually kill us because, OMG it is the best thing ever. We pour liquid down our throats that can change us into a terrible version of ourselves just so that we don’t have to feel, quite as much. We smoke because that seven minutes of our lives that we give up every time we finish a cigarette doesn’t matter quite as much as our nerves do at that very moment. We fry our brains with cellphones because we traded convenance for potential cancer. Seriously though, even chickens (and I have very little respect for chickens at this point) have better self-preservation instincts than we do. What chicken would leave its coup at night for ice cream when it has been properly nourished all day? Would a chicken ever walk towards the fire to breathe in smoke so that it could feel something else in its lungs besides the fresh clean air? Still no. The only thing chickens do to willingly put themselves at risk is when those mother cluckers crow outside my window at 5:30 in the freaking morning. #icecreamisbetterthanchickens

I have realized recently that I pretty much chose a life that is extremely difficult and inconvenient. Sometimes, maybe today, I just want to cry. In fact sometimes, maybe today, I cry in the shower because it’s the only few moments of privacy I get anymore. I fight with my kids, I worry about and miss my friends, and I live in the nature and therefore spend most of my time in the car driving out of the nature. The only things I do for myself are eating right (pretty much the most inconvenient food plan as possible), and hiking (pretty much the most inconvenient form of exercise and me time known to man). Right now, I feel like I could rip someones throat out, it’s just too much. #iwishiwereavampire

I do know, however, that these were my choices. I can’t even blame all this horse shit on my husband, we did this together and I’m not going to pretend that I don’t know that. These feelings of frustration and insanity will pass. Maybe not completely, life is really freaking hard right now, but I do have a sneaking suspicion I may feel better in three to five days, because…

#pmsbitches

 

 

 

 

Into the Woods

“Boots on the ground, 8am,” she said.  I stared at my phone for a few moments thinking there’s no way in the world that’s not a typo. I waited for her to correct herself until finally I realized she was serious. In my world 8am does not involve hiking, it involves sleeping. Even on the days when it’s my turn to take the kiddos to school and after a solid hour roundtrip of driving, my bed calls to me, and I answer. No, mornings just don’t work for me. She would understand, I’m sure.

Except, if mornings weren’t my excuse, something else would be. It’s hard trying something new, but I decided a while ago that when Fall arrived and all the slithery things were back in their hidey holes, I would go.

I could always feel the draw of the outside. I loved the idea of it but hated the reality of it. Florida was just not for me, it was swampy and humid and flat and the only adventure I could picture involved water moccasins or alligators. Georgia was better but it still didn’t call to me. I was perfectly content to sit at home with a bottle, yes bottle, of red wine and a good book.

But Tennessee.

Maybe it’s because we landed right where we started. We are just miles away from the place where my husband and I first became an us. We are surrounded by the same river, the same mountains, and the same adventures that started it all. Maybe it’s because I am finally sick enough of not doing the things that scare me. Maybe I decided that if I wasn’t going to crawl in a hole and die here, I would have to try really freaking hard and actually learn to fall in love with this place.

For whatever reason, and I suspect it’s a little bit of everything, I agreed to go with my crazy new friend, into the woods.

Before we even left her house, I slipped and fell right on my ass. Her dogs came to console me and I thought how this could be a foreshadowing of events to come. What if I fall when we are way in the middle of nowhere but instead of Labradors I’m met by wolves, or mountain lions, or bears? Yes, I err on the dramatic side, but it could happen. It could. 

Luckily, along with all my dramatic flare, I am also quite stubborn and decided to continue on. About three steps into the trail I had a coughing fit and peed my pants. I had been sick for the past few weeks but luckily, being accustomed to my weak pelvic floor from three babies ruining my body, I was prepared for such events. It’s not glamorous but it is humorous.

We hiked four miles that day, climbing a rocky and somewhat steep (at times) mountain. It awakened something inside me that I had only hoped was there. It wasn’t easy at all but it wasn’t impossible either, and at the end of the trail I felt a peace and a calm that I hadn’t felt in a long time. But beyond the sense of accomplishment and the need for food (right now) there was the desire for more.

We saw things that day that I would never have seen if we didn’t pursue them. There was something about having to work for the beauty of nature that had me captivated. It was something just out of reach but waiting patiently to be found. IMG_20171024_180856

And so it began, this new me, seeking instead of waiting. Searching instead of hiding. Loving instead of loathing. This new me that wants to find all the trails, see all the waterfalls, climb all the mountains.

Except though, sometimes, the mountains aren’t outside at all.

Our lives are full of mountains that we are forced to face, and we can embrace them and climb them or we can stay safely in the valleys that we are used to. We get so comfortable in our lives, in our marriage,  or with our children, that when something larger than life comes along that we can’t quite see our way around, we can tend to bury our heads a little and try to ignore them.

What happens when our marriage changes? The conversation runs a little dry. The excitement fades, or we just change into a different version of ourselves, and the two of us don’t make quite as much sense as we used to? What happens when we have to fight really hard or just pretend like everything is fine, as always.

What about when our kids don’t resemble at all, the perfect tiny humans that we are so accustomed to? When one day they become something that is just out of our reach. They don’t come to us willingly with their deepest darkest hurts. Do we believe them when they say, “I’m fine,” thinking that if they truly needed us, they would let us know?

We could stay in that comfortable place and pretend like everything is just fine, even though we know deep deep down that it’s totally not. We could turn away from the giants in front of us because we are too afraid to deal with the fact that sometimes life is just not okay. Or, we could pursue the unknown?

We have in fact been given the capability of enduring anything that life throws at us. Yeah, it takes courage to climb into the depths of Hell for our children, but they are our children. We are the ones that were chosen for our particular child because we are the ones equipped to be their parents.

It takes strength and perseverance to muscle through the not so glamorous seasons of marriage, and even though we didn’t quite know what “for better or worse” actually meant at the time, we still signed up to try.

We have the choice to climb. We may fall, and bleed, and cry (and pee) to get to the top, but whether we choose to or not…

The mountains are there anyway.

 

 

 

The Season

IMG_20171025_145458The leaves are changing around here. Something that I appreciate so much having lived in Florida most of my life. I always longed for seasons. October would come around and you could just feel that something was supposed to happen. The air would crisp and the winds would blow and we would sit outside and go, “Ah, Fall.”

We would put on our sweaters in the morning and wear our fuzzy socks and shiver while the car warmed up. By around noon, we were stripping off the layers, and by around 2 o’clock, we would be back to shorts and flip-flops. Countless holidays were spent sipping apple cider or hot cocoa, inside with the air-conditioner blasting. I don’t care how much you love the holidays, it’s just not right to be sweating on Christmas morning.

In the eight months that we have lived here, we have seen just about all the seasons. We saw the dusting of snow upon our mountain while the wood burning stove kept us cozy and warm at the tail end of Winter. We watched everything come back to life almost overnight, new colors and flowers changing before our eyes in the Spring. We heard the vibrance of life all around us when Summer came. The mountain was alive, the river was alive and the humans were in adventure mode. Now the leaves are turning yellow, orange, and red, and the crispness in the air lasts throughout Fall.

It’s been beautiful, and I love it.

And I hate it.

With the Winter, everything was gray, and damp, and dead. I wondered if I would ever feel my toes again. I dreaded going outside for even a moment. In the Spring, the bugs came out. Everything seemed a little swarmy. Once the ground warmed up we learned that the woods were literally crawling with ticks and there weren’t enough chickens in the world to keep them at bay. There was also so much pollen I couldn’t really breathe for three solid months. When people asked how I was adjusting to our new life, my response was almost always, “I’m allergic to Tennessee.”

Summer came with heat. Oh God, it was so freaking hot. The only relief we found was in the river. With the river came the nature and all the scary slimy things.

Then, we were warned about bears, and mountain lions, and wild boar, and coyotes, that were all seen way too close to our little mountain nook of the forest. And seriously, the snakes. People freaking loved to tell me about the snakes. They’re everywhere. Under rocks, in trees, in carports, slithering across the gravel, everywhere. I needed Summer so badly, and then so badly, I needed it to go the hell away.

Fall is amazing, right now. But that will only last for about two weeks. The air is perfect, the leaves are spectacular, and we crave all things pumpkin, all the time. Then those leaves will actually fall.  It will rain and get even colder and we will be stuck with all the decomposing mess to clean up. The pumpkins will rot, and all the joy of the new season will rot away with them.

It kind of reminds me of marriage. Every new phase is so exciting. And then the excitement wears off and we are stuck with a reality that we weren’t really prepared for.

Being a newlywed was exciting, sure. I somehow made this person agree to spend the rest of his life with me, and we didn’t have to answer to anyone but each other, and we could adult however we wanted. Then I realized that with all the guilt free sex, and getting to come home to him waiting for me every night, also came with having to share a bathroom with a boy, and having to adjust my sleeping patterns because even though I had never even shared a room with someone before, I now had to share a bed.  The personal space that I never knew I needed was gone, for good.

With my lack of personal space came babies. Babies! The most spectacular gift I could receive. The love I never knew I could feel. The knowledge that I would literally crawl over broken glass for this little creature, and that surely no one else on the entire earth had ever created such a perfect child. Until of course I hadn’t slept, showered, or eaten for 48 hours. Then I started to dream about the past, when my body was my own, I slept for 10 uninterrupted hours, and I didn’t worry about every freaking thing.  EVERY. FREAKING. THING.

Through out the stages of parenthood, we learned that there is basically nothing we wouldn’t do for our children. They are the reason our heart beats and we wouldn’t trade them for the world. Still, we miss being just married. We love the phase we are in, mourn the past, and look forward to the time when our lives might resemble something a little more our own.

Then one day, all of the kids will be gone. We won’t be handing out money every five seconds, or driving them all over Gods creation. We won’t be yelling at them to “keep it down” or “stop fighting with your sister” or “clean up before I throw everything you own in the garbage.”

We will be, kind of newlyweds again, having to learn how to live together alone. It will be quiet, and I will own a white couch and the floors will be clean. It will be all the things I dream about now, and from what I hear, I’m going to hate it. I’m going to wish I could turn back time and go back to the previous season in life, where there were huge loud teenagers that ate everything in the house and left their laundry on the floor.

The kids that we would try to sneak away from so that we could be alone together, will be the same kids that we call and beg to come home for the weekend so that they can eat our food and we can feel less alone.

When we finally adjust to life being just the two of us, and we embrace the freedom of being independent of most responsibilities, when we get the chance to just adventure and enjoy being together, our babies will have babies and we will never want to be away from them.

Seasons are a blessing and a curse. They are so long and so short at the same time. We crave the change and then mourn the loss of the familiar. We adjust and then they change again. The only thing we can do, is love the now and try to prepare for the future.

I have to love the messy house and taxi cab phase now because even though it drives me crazy on a daily basis, it will be over soon and I won’t be able to go back. I have to prepare for the season of being alone again with my husband so that it doesn’t completely catch us off guard. I have to love these kids and be there for them in what ever way they need so that when the season comes that I ask them to come home, they will want to.

We have to love the season we are in and appreciate it while it’s here, because even though nothing beats those few perfect weeks of fall…

Winter is coming.

 

 

 

Mountains are the new Xanax

IMG_20170920_191634I can lose sleep over just about anything. As my husband lies next to me practically dead to the world with his hand splayed across any bare skin of mine he can find, and the dog is curled up somewhere between my rear and the back of my knees, and the cat is curled between my arm and my torso with his head bent back so that he can be nose to nose with me, I can lie there for hours upon hours, with my mind racing. Sometimes it’s justified but most of the time I can’t even pinpoint what is wrong.

I have tried everything to sleep. Melatonin, lavender, white noise, sleep masks, ear plugs, TV, no TV, magnesium, warm baths, turkey sandwiches, hot tea, and so on. But, insomnia is a bitch, and that bitch and I are tight.

For the most part, I don’t mind. I have learned to just accept being tired most of the time. I love to read, so that helps, and in the summertime there is Big Brother After Dark so at least I am distracted. What I do mind is when my heart is beating out of my chest in the middle of the night for no apparent reason whatsoever. This used to be such a common occurrence.  I would rub myself down with essential oils, drink a large glass of water and even take a shower, but in the end, the answer was always the same.

Xanax.

I am certainly no pill popper, I love doing things the natural way.  But I also have a crippling fear of flying so I tend to have a few Xanax lying around from having to travel.

I realized recently that I haven’t had any heart-beating-out-of-my-chest episodes in quite some time. I still don’t sleep like a normal human being, but even being in the middle of the nature with my spidey senses on high alert to all the scary creatures lurking around, my anxiety level has pretty much hit an all time low.

There is something about the pace of mountain life, how everything just slows down or stops completely. You realize that not many of the things that make us crazy in this life actually matter. Do I have to go to the store today? Do I need to watch that video? Must I clean that right now? Does my kid have to have something to do outside of the house almost every night of the week? The answer is almost always no.  But, should I sit outside with a cup of coffee and look at the many changing faces of the mountain? Could I possibly ignore the stupid dishes and play Mario with my kids? Should I skip cleaning the cabin and sit in the jacuzzi with my husband instead? Can my kids just go outside? The answer is almost always yes.

Simply put, mountains are the new Xanax, and I am not the first one to realize it. In fact, I’m late to my own party. While I have been concerned about making things perfect and making sure that we have enough exciting things to do and see, others come here and breathe a sigh of relief that they are away from the noise, the technology, and the race of life that no one actually wins.

We had a mountain full of hurricane evacuees this last week. People that spent the better part of 24 hours just trying to get to safety without running out of gas. They arrived frazzled and exhausted, stressed out beyond what they thought they were capable of. We put food and water and wine in each of their cabins to help them relax the first night. After a good long nights sleep, we met everyone for dinner at our favorite place. Every single guest showed up. They were rested, refreshed and light-hearted. While the news played in the background of Irma reaching land, we drank beer and played cornhole. They told stories of home and the horror that was I-75, all with a smile on their face because they were safe and comfortable and they couldn’t really ask for a better place of refuge than the mountains of Tennessee.

What has taken me months to figure out has taken others just minutes. They come here, rest up, and get outside. I warn them of all the things that crawl and slither, and they look at me like I have four heads. They don’t mourn the loss of Netflix for the weekend, they purchase two hundred-dollar boots and hike, literally, all the trails. They talk about when they will be back before they have even finished unpacking to begin with. And while I have been saying that this place may actually kill me, they say things like, “I could just die here.”

I know that living here is indeed different from just vacationing here, after all, that is how all of this started, a vacation. But somewhere along the way I lost sight of what made me love this place to begin with. It’s taken countless guests and friends to remind me.

The reason for choosing this new life was… a new life. Not the old one. Not the crazy rat race or the comforts of familiarity, but of peace and serenity and adventure.

I have seen more demon snakes in the last few weeks than probably the last several years of my life combined. And though that means yes, this place is literally crawling with them, it also means I have actually been outside to see them. I may still drive around in my four-wheeler in flip-flops and a polka dot pencil skirt, but I’ve also been out therein the woods, with the nature in real shoes and a camera, ready to see it all.

And while I will never get used to the spiders the size of Aragog, and I will never stop thinking that all snakes are the literal Devil and that they spend all their time plotting my death, I will get used to the fact that this place has awakened my soul and given me rest. Maybe not sleep, but rest.

Sleep is overrated. No one can sleep through the alarm cocks anyway.