Thursday, July 04, 2013

New Blog URL

Well, I did it. I started a new blog over on WordPress.com. I still feel like this is a bit experimental. I'm so used to blogging here at Blogger, and ya know, change is hard.

Here's the new URL: http://jamehring.wordpress.com

If you have the blog delivered via email, you'll have to re-subscribe to the new one. 

I'd love your feedback!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Moving This Blog -- A Survey

Dear readers, I have pretty much decided I'm moving this blog over to WordPress and I wanted to get some feedback from you before I move it.

I have been blogging on the Blogger platform since 2004, and it's been a great ride. But all of my professional work is over on WordPress, so I know from experience that WordPress is a more robust platform -- and if I continue to grow this blog, I need to be working on a platform that can grow with it.

I won't dump you. I'll make sure there is a link to the new blog right here in a post.

The content will be the same on the new blog. Unless I get my act together and streamline the content like I've been planning to for years. And then I'm hoping it will be better.

I'm also considering implementing a newsletter for those of you who are interested in digging in a little deeper with me. I'm working on creating a few workshops (local and virtual), so look for an invitation to sign up for updates about that over at the new blog.

Blogging Habits

Some of you have expressed interest in knowing how I blog so often when I have a full-time job AND freelance work AND I'm growing a new company.

First, let me tell you once again how important writing is to me. It's how I process everything. The fact that you guys actually read this stuff, well it's a special treat.

Second, I don't limit myself in terms of blog-writing practices. I take each day, one at a time. Here are some common ways I write/post blogs (keeping in mind I use the schedule option on Blogger to make posts to go live when I want them to):

1) Write in the morning before my work day starts
2) Write a little bit throughout the day during breaks and my lunch hour
3) Write the post after the day job ends, and before I start my other work
4) Write posts in advance and schedule them to go live in the future
5) If I'm on the road, I can even email posts to my blog

I don't recommend being willy-nilly like this with a professional or business blog. Consistency rules in those realms. But this isn't a professional blog -- so I throw the rules right out the window. Blogging this way fits with my lifestyle.

But if you need that rigid schedule to write your blog, more power to you. I do love me some scheduling! I swear by Google Calendar for appointments and the Franklin Covey system for my daily tasks, and my professional blogging tasks are ALWAYS on those schedules.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Joy of Nature

I actually started this blog yesterday, but never finished it because we had some surprise guests.

I started taking a walk around the lake every morning before work a couple of weeks ago, and I'm absolutely addicted.

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time volunteering at a nature reserve in south Denver. I worked with the rangers to lead kids' programs, lead bird-watching hikes, teach classes at the nature center, that kind of thing. I thought I was going to be a ranger when I grew up. Most of you know my story about going to college for Environmental Studies, right? If not, read it here. Needless to say, I did not become a ranger when I grew up.

It was during that time in college that I somehow forgot how much I enjoyed nature.

I still went camping and hiking and all of that throughout my adult years -- but that fascination for how the natural world functions was lost.

These recent morning walks have reawakened my appreciation for the glorious machine that is nature. Walking at the same time every morning, I notice the sun as it shifts position in the sky as the season progresses. I have watched with fascination how the ducks and geese take care of their babies, and how the ducklings and goslings grow into adults a little bit more every day. I was stunned at the volume a bullfrog is able to produce as it bellows. I sat at the shore this morning and watched the minnows skitter about in the shallows.

I really believe how I'm feeling about spending time in nature has everything to do with frequency and repetition. Since I'm going to the lake every day, I am noticing how nature changes. It's so different than going on a hike once every few weeks, trying different trails every time. At the lake, I am seeing the same families of ducks every day. I'm hearing the same bullfrog. I'm watching the sun ascend from the same point of view. And everything is changing every day.

It's radical. It's wonderful. And it's changing my heart for the better.

So back to why I didn't post this yesterday. Jeremy's parents came up for a lovely surprise visit. We all went out to dinner, and then I went straight to Bible study from there -- so while I started this post, I didn't finish it until this morning. That's a great reason to miss a day of blogging, in my opinion.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Anniversary Dinner and Tale of Two Cities

We finally had our anniversary dinner last night. We drove into Boulder (during rush hour -- BAD idea) and ate dinner at Jill's Restaurant. It's part of the St. Julien hotel in downtown Boulder, and it is both charming and posh. Their white cheddar truffle mac & cheese is mouth-watering, and their Scottish salmon melted in my mouth. Mmmmm.

Boulder makes me happy. For all it's quirkiness, for all it's crowded roads and funky residents, something about that town makes my heart flutter. Maybe it's the friendliness. You don't encounter many rude people in Boulder.

And the people there are so varied. You have hipsters and hippies, Internet millionaires and people who make their money panhandling, artists and accountants, students and retirees. And you encounter all of these characters wherever you go. The city is not split up into sections, really.

Denver, on the other hand, is very sectioned. And many of those sections are just dirty and nasty, and you couldn't pay me enough to walk through them alone. The types and classes of people don't mingle.

We live smack dab between Denver and Boulder. Pretty much equidistant, as the crow flies. After spending Tuesday evening in Denver and paying $16 for 4 hours of parking, paying $1.75 for 2 hours of parking in Boulder last night was laughable. Boulder is a really wealthy city -- but other than property costs, they don't gauge the public nearly as bad as neighboring Denver does.

Denver is extending their rail system from Union Station downtown to 162nd up in Northglenn/Thornton over the next 10 years. The track they plan to use is just on the western edge of our neighborhood. Jeremy thinks we'll be here to see it happen -- I don't. But if we are still here when there's a train that'll take us into Denver on the cheap, maybe I'll feel differently about that city. But for now, if you ask me to choose between going into Denver and going into Boulder for any particular reason, I'll choose Boulder in a heartbeat.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Holy Cannoli -- Goal Met in 24 Hours

You all are amazing. We hit the Angel Eyes fundraising goal in just a little over 24 hours after I first posted the page here. Admittedly, I just randomly picked an amount -- because like I said, this is more about a memorial for Scarlett than raising funds. But the money you donate helps Angel Eyes put on this event every year, and supports their counseling system (and I can't imagine anyone losing a child and not having access to counseling!!!) and funds their research into this mysterious horror of children dying in their sleep.

I sometimes sit around and theorize with my friend who also lost her first child. We wonder how this could possibly be part of God's plan. She waxes about old souls not needing much more time on this earth before they are able to stay in nirvana/heaven forever. I wonder if sometimes angels are born in human bodies, sent to teach us lessons we could not learn otherwise, and then at the end of their teaching they return home.

But no matter how spiritually or pragmatically you explain the event, losing a child is horrible, it's traumatic, it turns your world upside down and disproves everything you ever believed about how this life works. You are suddenly thrust out of childhood, where the world revolves around you and nothing bad ever really happens, and into adulthood where you are looking death right in the eyes and yelling "I'm not afraid of you!"

I'm not afraid of death. It's merely a gateway between this world and the next. It's a parting of the veil that separates me and my daughter. And while I plan on making the most out of the time I have here, I stopped being afraid of death on February 23, 2012.

That gives a person a level of freedom that most people can't understand. Death holds no sway over me. I used to be afraid I'd get cancer (because it runs in my family). I've ended up in the hospital for some bizarre stuff, and I used to be afraid that the next bizarre situation would take my life. Sometimes even turbulence on an airplane made me fear death. None of that makes me shiver in fear anymore. When my time comes, it comes. I have no say in it. But I do believe I have a say in where I go afterward.

My daughter is in heaven. I have no doubt about that. No one little iota of doubt. And where she is is where I'm going. No matter what I have to do to get there.

The Bible says that you just need to believe in Christ and you are saved. Done deal. It also says that while you might not be rewarded here on this earth for your good works, you will be rewarded in heaven for them. There is only one reward that matters to me. So I'll live a good life, and do what I can to improve things while I'm here, because if I am rewarded by being with my daughter again, it's worth any sacrifice.

I've been told that a lot of people give up when they lose someone they love. I don't know what that looks like, though. I don't know how to give up -- it's not in my nature. So I asked my counselor what she meant when she told me that many people give up in my circumstance. She said that they give in to depression, they walk out of their jobs, abandon their families, start drinking -- there are many ways people give up. I asked Jeremy the same question, and he said, "If I were to give up, I'd be living on the streets." Thank goodness he never gave up.

I guess the point of this whole rambling spiel is Thank you. Thank you for supporting an organization that helps people not give up. Thank you for showing your support for us, and memorializing our daughter. And thank you for never giving up.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Neil Gaiman Signing Event

I need to start this post off with this awesome quote from Mastin Kipp of The Daily Love, because it just made my day. "What we love about other people is a part of us that we haven’t yet discovered." Isn't that just lovely?

Jeremy arranged for his mom and I to go to a Neil Gaiman book signing with him last night. And by "arranged," I mean that two weeks ago he went into downtown Denver at 7am to wait in line for hours to get copies of Gaiman's newest book and tickets to his signing. There were a limited number of tickets, and this is Gaiman's last book tour ever.

Then Jeremy took care of all the timing and logistics of actually getting us to the book signing, which was a feat in and of itself. 

Gaiman did not disappoint. He spoke for about 45 minutes, and read from The Ocean at the End of the Lane for about 15 of those minutes. He was witty and entertaining and I could have listened to him talk all night. We were all cracking up in the audience.

There were a thousand tickets to get books signed -- and we had numbers 161, 162 and 164. So after Gaiman was done talking, we waited for about an hour for our numbers to be called. But we weren't complaining. We'd been warned that his signings could go into the wee hours of the morning. How the man's hand is still functional, I'll never know.

Jeremy was wearing the t-shirt I bought him as an anniversary gift. It is a Walking Dead t-shirt, with "Beware, I bite" on the front -- then you can flip it up in front of your face and there's a zombie face on the inside of the shirt, so it's like a mask. Neil Gaiman complimented Jeremy on the shirt. Jeremy and I were both a little giddy. I almost told Gaiman that there was a zombie mask on the inside of the shirt -- but I wasn't sure if Jeremy was wearing an undershirt. And I'm glad I didn't, because he wasn't. LOL



Janet has some more pictures from the event on her phone, so I may update this post later with those.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Angel Walk

I really thought I could do this. I really thought I could hold it together. But creating this fundraising page was the hardest thing I've had to do in a long time. Writing about my daughter's death, then digging through photos of her to add to the page -- I haven't stopped crying.

So forgive this post. It's not my best writing. But I need to get this out there right now. Like ripping off a band-aid. Maybe it'll be easier to share this using other mediums after I post it here.

We are doing the annual Angel Walk in Clement Park in honor of Scarlett. We would love it if you would walk with us. We are odd ones out, even at an event like this. Scarlett was older than most of the other kids who are being remembered, and most of the other families have other children, or at least went on to have more. This is one of the reasons your physical presence is so powerful to us. You, our friends and family, buffer us more than you can imagine.

But if you can't walk with us, you can donate here on this fundraising page: https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/jessicamehring/angel-walk-2013. I created this page more for you than for us. Many of you expressed an interest in joining us last year, but were unable to make it -- so this is a way to participate without actually walking.

Thank you all.



Monday, June 24, 2013

On the Road Again

I've been out of town for the most part of two and a half days.

On Saturday I went down to Colorado Springs for the day for a hair appointment, a Thirty-One party and a meeting. I hate that I have to cram so much into my trips down there, but we can't afford (time- or money-wise) to drive down there all the time. So I squeeze as much in as I can!

Jeremy's job turned out to be another one of those scams. On his first day, they had him awake for 22 hours, driving for 10 hours, and they paid him minimum wage. We talked about it Saturday night when I got home, and decided it wasn't worth it. So, back to the drawing board.

It continues to blow my mind what some companies are able to get away with, while good companies are getting screwed by lawyers encouraging employees to pursue ridiculous and unfounded law suits.

Anyway.

Sunday we went up to Estes Park. My parents rented a cabin, as they do almost every year, so we joined them for a night. It was crowded with three dogs (our two and my brother's one), but it was lovely.

My parents and I went on a walk around Lake Estes while Jeremy and Drew went fishing on the river behind the cabin. No luck with the fish. But it was nice to see Jeremy relaxing outdoors.

Elk in the meadow near the cabin

My dad and I standing on some rocks at the edge of Lake Estes. The wind was bananas.
 
The view from the deck of the cabin. That's the Big Thomson River, and if you pan right you'd see Long's Peak.


Today, back to the grind. Tonight, a meeting and a project proposal. Woohoo!

Friday, June 21, 2013

5th Wedding Anniversary

I wonder sometimes if big companies realize how detrimental their customer service is to their business. As in, if you have bad customer service, you will lose business. Can you tell I was on the phone with Comcast all morning? UGH. Time wasters.

But the day got better. Because it's our fifth wedding anniversary. A day that reminds Jeremy and I of all we've been through together, all we've overcome, and the absolute delight of having a true partner.

My office smells divine right now. Jeremy bought me these giant lilies that are emitting a heady scent -- almost like jasmine.


We had reservations at the restaurant at Boulder's St. Julien hotel tonight. They have live music and outdoor seating, so it would have been a real "date." But we canceled the reservations and we're rescheduling for next week. Jeremy is in training for his new job, and it doesn't look like he'll be getting home in time to make it to Boulder for dinner. But no big deal. I've never been a stickler for celebrating on the exact day.

For one of his anniversary gifts, I gave Jeremy a photo collage printed on canvas. He's been wanting to create a collage from his underwater photos forever, but it's expensive to do it well. I got a really good deal on a 16x20 canvas with shipping, so I knew it would be the perfect gift. He spent some time yesterday picking photos, then the company will be printing his canvas and Jeremy be getting his new wall art in about two weeks. You should see how excited he is. :)

One of the gifts he gave me was this Four Pillars statuette. I can't do it justice with a photo. It's made of four pillars -- one tall, two medium and one short -- that fit together. Each pillar has a sculpture on top relating to marriage, and then when you pull the pillar out, there is engraving on the inward-facing side that has beautifully-scripted text talking about spiritual strengths like love, gratitude and honesty. It's stunning.

It would have been nice to go out to dinner tonight. But you know what? I don't need that. I'm happy just to be married to Jeremy.

EDITED:

Friends on Facebook were insisting I post photos of the Four Pillars statuette. So here goes. Like I said, photos don't do it justice. And actually, to correct what I wrote before, it's more accurate to say the writing on the back is about love/marriage/partnership strengths rather than spiritual strengths.




Thursday, June 20, 2013

Crazy Jumpy Puppy

I took Hero with me on my walk this morning. It's been a few weeks since he's been on a walk, and some of his manners have deteriorated. He's lucky he's cute.

Hero wants to say hi to every person, dog, bird and blowing leaf. It's all friendly, so it doesn't cause me too much stress -- unlike one of our old dogs who wanted to check everything out to make sure it wasn't going to hurt her, or us. Friendly curiosity and protective/aggressive curiosity are two very different things.



But still, Hero needs to learn how to ignore things more. And I'm working on it with him. Until he's got that down pat, it's difficult to let people stop and pet him. But he's just SO happy to meet people, and people that stop to see him are SO happy to run their hands through his fur, I indulge them.

For the most part, it's dog lovers who stop us to see the "cute puppy." And when I say dog lovers, I mean people who don't mind a 25-lb mutt jumping on them, and in fact encourage it. Hero is REALLY good about not jumping -- but when he's out on a walk and a new person walks up to him, he still gets over-excited. Then he forgets the rules. And I have no problem reminding him of the rules, but it's difficult to have a conversation with another person while at the same time giving commands to a puppy.

I came across one of those dog lovers today. A young lady who explained to me that she recently moved here, and couldn't take her dog with her (her sister took it in). But now that she's settled here, she's getting an Aussie puppy. And Hero can jump on her all he wants! Yeah, not helping the situation. LOL.

I can't help but wonder what that conversation looked like from the outside. Probably like this:

Yeah, we got him from the Colorado HERO OFF! Aussie Rescue. He's a sweetie, OFF! HERO, SIT YOUR BUTT DOWN! but boy does he have a lot of energy. HERO CHILL! We're working on the jumping.

I bet it's pretty comical to an eavesdropper.

Anyway, our walk was lovely this morning. The weather was perfect, as it is almost every morning in the summer here, before the heat sets in. We even saw a Great Blue Heron sitting on a rock in the lake.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jobs and Perspectives

I purposefully don't blog on Sundays. It's my day off. Unless I've got something that I can't wait until Monday to write. But when I miss blogging during the week, it's usually because the day got away from me.

Yesterday definitely got away from me. But no complaints. Because I have a job. And some people don't right now.

Speaking of jobs, Jeremy starts training for his new job this week. It's an on-call driving job, so we're not sure how it's going to go. I'm both excited and worried. I'm excited because a driving job is what he's really been hoping for, but worried because on-call means no set schedule. And it's a 24-hour-a-day operation, so he will be getting calls to drive in the middle of the night sometimes. I'm concerned about his sleep.

But we're approaching this as we approach everything. As an opportunity. This could be the perfect job for him. Or it could end up not working out. Either way, we'll be okay.

On Monday night in my weekly Bible study, I found myself getting very angry and judgmental with a woman who talked about "having the rug pulled out from under her" last year. I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say that she looked like she led a rather dramatic life. I didn't ask her what pulled the rug out from under her, because I was afraid I'd throttle her if she gave me a silly answer. I was thinking the whole time, You don't know what having the rug pulled out even means.

Last night I was talking to Jeremy as he was cooking us dinner. I confessed this whole scene to him, and told him I was conscious of how judgmental I was being, and it took all my strength to reel myself back to a place of love with this woman. He told me, "A lot of people live like teenagers do. Every little thing is the end of the world. With what you and I have been through, we understand that there are worse things in life."

Smart man, that Jeremy.

Everyone that knows us got a big dose of perspective last year. But no one more than us. It's really the only gift from that terrible tragedy. We all had the veil pulled back, and we saw the world clearly for the first time.

I'm not saying that I wish this woman would see real tragedy and get some perspective. But I do need to be more patient with people like her. For her, "having the rug pulled out" was the end of the world. For Jeremy and I, it would be just one more thing we have the power to get through together.

People remark all the time how impressed they are that we didn't split up after we lost our daughter. Even my therapist has told me she's amazed that we're as strong as we are. But there is no way either one of us would have survived after February 23, 2012, if we had not been there for each other. If one of us had turned our back on the other... I just don't think I would have even been able to keep breathing. And some days, just breathing in and out was all I could do.

Maybe the woman on Monday doesn't have anyone she can count on, for one reason or another. Maybe I would be just like her if I had never met Jeremy. I know better than to judge, and I need to work harder on seeing through eyes of love in all circumstances.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Miracle Morning and Father's Day

Ugh. Working in corporate America is just painful some days. I used to want to grow in my corporate career, but anymore I just want to hang on to my job. I see what my poor manager has to go through and ugh, No thank you.

I started a new practice this morning called the Miracle Morning. It's my type-A way of both focusing on my personal development and getting back to waking early. I still wake earlier than I ever have in my life -- but I slipped back by about a half hour this past winter, when getting up early meant no sunlight. I need my sunlight. I want to get back to having at least an hour before I have to go to work. I've had about a half hour in the mornings for the last few months, and it's just not enough.

I tried (unofficially) to start my new morning routine yesterday. I woke up a little earlier than I usually do on a weekend day, and went for a walk. But my stupid broken toe made it so painful, I don't think walking is in the cards for me on a regular basis. So this morning I did yoga with a DVD in the living room. Other than realizing that we desperately need to vacuum more often, it was a nice start to my day. From there, I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat out on the deck to pray, meditate and journal. All in all, I felt awesome when my work day started.

Unfortunately that didn't last long as my team got some bad news. But hey. At least I had an hour where life was peachy. I'll take it.

So Father's Day was yesterday. I imagine it was just as painful and confusing to Jeremy as Mother's Day is to me. So I tried to start his day out on a positive note. I made him breakfast in bed, and even went to Dairy Queen to get him a Moolatte. He seemed to enjoy it.

We spent the rest of the day at a barbecue at my parents' house. Drew got there about an hour after we did, because he went to visit his son. Have I mentioned lately how much I love my little nephew? And how crazy proud I am of my brother as a dad?


Kim, Drew's ex/Nicky's mom, even got drew a beautiful pocket-watch. She had Nicky's birth date and the phrase "Never enough" (as in never enough time with this little man) engraved on the watch. My heart just melted when I saw how happy Drew was when he was showing us the pictures from his morning with his son, and beaming about his pocket-watch. Every single moment he has with Nicky is precious -- not just because he only gets to see him once a week, but because Nicky's medical condition is so bizarre that no one has any idea how long he'll be with us.

I think we women forget that most men have as much of a need for a relationship with their children as we do. In our culture it can be so easy to dismiss the male role in a family when relationships get difficult. And there are a lot of reasons for that. But look at that picture above. Drew isn't a rare dad -- he's a good dad. And this picture is a reminder of how much we need to respect those fathers who do step up.

Jeremy was a great dad, too. And he's going to be a great dad again someday. I try not to look at this in-between time as our forever state, but rather a temporary state that can change at any time.

Because the only constant in life is change.

This is all temporary. All the pain, all the trials, all the frustration. It's temporary.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Art Day with the Kirby!

My most awesome friend Kirby, of Kirby Ink, and I had an art date today. We set the date like two months ago, and I've been eagerly anticipating it because she was going to teach me how to make FELTIES!

We spent all afternoon making these li'l cuties. The blue, crazy-looking one is mine, of course. The back side is blue, green and  yellow tie-dye.




Friday, June 14, 2013

Alexandra Franzen Just Made Me Famous

There's nothing quite like waking up and seeing that someone wrote about you online. You read the post with shaky hands, hoping that it's all nice words.

Ironically, the article that was written about me was about nice words.

I adore what Alexandra Franzen does. I love her writing, I love her energy, and I love the direction she's taken her business. She's an absolute inspiration to me.

So when I signed up for her newsletter and received a different downloadable PDF than the one that was mentioned on her website, I hesitated. Part of me didn't want to bother her. But the other part of me loves her writing SO much, I felt like I was really missing out on something if I didn't get the PDF that she promised to send her subscribers.

The part of me that wanted to read her stuff won out.

So I wrote her a very nice, very upbeat email asking if by any chance she could send me the PDF that was mentioned on her website. I started it out by telling her how much I adore her and her work, I went on to ask very politely about the PDF I thought I was supposed to receive, and I wrapped it up with a big, fat THANK YOU.

Apparently the art of please and thank you has not lost its effect in this gimme-now culture. It affected Alexandra enough that she wrote about it for MindBodyGreen. Check it out!

Yeah, I'm the "first woman."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prayers for the Victims

Colorado Springs continued to burn today. I've been holding my breath, hoping that none of our friends would lose their homes -- but first thing this morning, I found out a friend with three kids lost her home to the Black Forest fire.

Yes, fire is nature's cleansing agent. Yes, with the bark beetle infestation from a few years ago leaving swaths of dead trees, and the drought and winds brought on by climate change, Colorado is ripe for a cleansing. But you don't expect that in residential areas. You expect that in the mountains.  This is a shock to all of us. And even if it were in an expected area, it's still horrifying.

My prayers will continue to go out to the people affected by these fires. I hope nature can do its cleansing with no loss of life. I hope homes can be rebuilt quickly, and while physical memorabilia may be lost, I hope true memories will continue to live on in people's hearts and minds.

If we learned one thing after our own tragedy last year, it's that life goes on -- but for those affected firsthand, it goes on in a completely different way. In fact, I can honestly say that it feels more like a new life, a different life. One that you have to learn how to navigate. You watch the people around you dry their tears and get back to normal, while you are still trying to figure out what your new normal is.

For those affected by the fires, it will be a long time before that new normal starts to emerge. So my prayer is that in the meantime, in the hallway between the closed door and the open window, that they receive all the love and care they need. And I pray most of all that their hope remains alive.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Crazy Lists and Colorado Springs Burning

I'm having one of those days where I've got a million different projects on my plate and in my head -- a million things to keep track of, that are not related. It's easy to get lost in the mire.

So I write lists. I write a lot of lists. I write lists of tasks for each business, then each project within each business. I write lists of personal tasks -- errands I absolutely have to run myself (I have NO problem delegating errands to Jeremy), bills that need paying, books that need reading (remember, I'm attending one Bible study and leading another right now). I write grocery lists, checklists, chore lists, gift lists, phone call lists.

And then I prioritize.

Within each grouping, which tasks are revenue-generating? Bump up the ones that are. Which tasks have deadlines? Bump up the ones that do. Which deadlines are looming closest? Bump up the tasks that have the nearest deadlines.

And then I focus.

One task at a time. THIS is the hardest part for me. Especially with certain things like managing websites, researching topics for articles, or really just researching in general. I have a tendency to follow rabbit trails.

So I keep coming back to my lists. I keep coming back to my priorities. And eventually everything gets done. It doesn't always get done without stress, but it always gets done.

I've been called "tenacious" in job reviews, because I keep following up with people until things get done. In my previous day-job role, I was one of the few people that could get our IT people to actually do things -- I think because I kept harassing them until they were so sick of hearing from me they just gave in and did it. But I confess right here and now that work ethic is a very small part of that. The BIG part is I wanted to check those items off my list, and I couldn't until they were DONE.

So there's my big secret to getting things done. Lists.

On a completely different topic, I need to mention the Black Forest fire here. This blog is a dumping ground for my brain, sure, but it also serves as a historical record for me. I have this blog printed up in a hardbound book every year. So when I get old and my memory starts fading, I can read about my life. Or maybe my kids will read about my life. Or maybe this blog will put them to sleep at night. Whatever -- I need to note what's happening in the world sometimes.

So Colorado Springs is on fire. Again. This time last year was the Waldo Canyon fire. That was the first time that a wildfire spread into the city limits. And now one year later, Black Forest (a north-east neighborhood that is heavily forested) is burning down. I haven't been on Facebook in a while, but the last I read, 100 homes were gutted by the flames. This series of aerial photos from the Denver Post tells the story better than I can at 90 miles away.

The reason I care about Colorado Springs, for those of you who don't know me very well, is many-fold. I lived there for a total of 6 years. That's where Jeremy and I met and married. All of Jeremy's immediate family and much of his extended family lives there. We have many, many friends there. And our daughter is buried there. So all in all, pieces of our heart forever reside in Colorado Springs. I am praying hard for the city and its people.

The smoke finally reached us here in Northglenn at about 4pm today. I think we've been upwind of it since it started yesterday. But now the haze is crawling north. Blue skies to the north of our house and white skies to the south.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, Colorado Springs. You're in our hearts, you're on our minds, and we hope the fire is contained quickly.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Icky, Pretty Gym

I got a tour and tried a hot yoga class at a local big-box gym today. I can't remember the last time I felt that out of place.

The gym itself was absolutely gorgeous, with every amenity you could think of. It's an expensive membership, but I can see you get what you pay for.

Still, it pretty much sucked. The sales guy who was giving me the tour insisted I get to the yoga class 20 minutes early or I wouldn't get a spot. He cut the tour short to make sure I got there that early. There was already a line -- and 10 minutes later when I entered the room, between all the people in line in front of me and all the people who were camping out from the previous class, I still had trouble finding a spot to put my mat. By the time class started, we were packed in like sardines. I had maybe three inches on all sides of my mat. Not only is this a giant pet peeve of mine, it's not SAFE. It's easy to whack your neighbor in the head when you're that close!

The class itself was fantastic. I'm going to be sore for a week. But it wasn't enough for me to want to go back.

The people at the gym -- that was my biggest issue, I think. All the women seemed to be college-age hardbodies or young, yuppie moms. Very cliquish. Lots of kids running around. And the men seemed to be all lifting-obsessed twenty-somethings. Needless to say I did not make any friends. And that says a LOT about the place -- because if you know me you know I always make friends.

So I'm going to give it another try later in the day sometime this week. I typically work out at lunchtime, but I'll see what it's like at the end of the work day. Maybe I'll change my mind. But probably not.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Cool Being Totally Uncool

Eesh. On the tail of yesterday's post about how uncool I am because I don't curse, I was in a position to be even more uncool last night. You know, one of those situations where doing the right thing was not the popular choice.

I joke about how uncool I am, but I'm actually really happy about it. I've come into my own. It doesn't matter what other people think about me anymore. I'm a Christian, I'm a geek, and I'm a pesceterian who is addicted to sugar.

Part of that "owning my uncoolness" is from age. Part of that is from some of the trauma I've endured. But the biggest part is -- and yes this is very uncool -- God. When I finally reached out and grabbed His hand, the opinions of this world stopped mattering. Keeping my eye on Him, and thus keeping my eye on where my daughter is right now, gives me such clarity.

It doesn't hurt that a lot of the people I spend time with are Christians who will quickly remind me that persecution is part of the package. Craig Groeschel just did a sermon about getting used to being made fun of if you're a Christian. Maybe that's one of the reasons it took me so long to even consider that spiritual path. When I was younger, though I was outwardly confident, I was inwardly insecure -- which meant that purposefully putting myself into a position to be made fun of was not an option.

I know several of you readers love this blog, but roll your eyes when I start talking about God. But then some of you love it when I talk about God and roll your eyes when I talk about work. I can't please everyone. But I can love you all, just as you are.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Cursing as a Business Model

At the risk of sounding uncool, I have to admit that I really don't like the new "You can tell I'm an empowered, authentic woman because I curse" business model I have been seeing so much of lately.

And those women would tell me, "Well then you're not my ideal customer." And I would agree.

When I read a blog post, watch a YouTube video, or see a homepage that is full of curse words, I get turned off. I suppose that's the point, though. They don't want to work with people who get turned off by gratuitous swearing. And I don't want to work with a woman who uses f*ck in every other sentence. So if that's their purpose, it's working. I guess that makes them authentic after all.

Empowered, though? I don't think you need to curse to be empowered. I'm empowered, and I don't generally curse. (Jeremy may disagree. I do tend to curse more when I'm talking to him. He's a bad influence. Or maybe subconsciously I'm cursing at him. LOL)

But I am seeing more and more and more of this. Like it's this big trend. And it's sending a message that you're only a cool, empowered, authentic woman if you curse.

Some women seem to know where the line is between stating, Hey, I curse regularly and if you work with me you'll have to deal with that, and using cursing as a business model. Marie Forleo, who I ADORE, is pretty up front that she swears and she's not going to change that to suit a customer -- but she's not in your face about it. For example, no obvious curse words on her websites and she generally uses replacement words (e.g. "freakin") in her blog posts. You do hear her cursing a little bit when she speaks in podcasts, videos, and that kind of thing. I can deal with that. It's not obtrusive.

So I'm sending my own authentic message. You won't find curse words on any of my websites. I won't curse when I'm speaking with a client. And if I am worked up enough to include a curse word here in this blog, it will be bl**ped out.

I am so uncool, I know.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Office Politics, Etc.

I'm half watching this show right now called Does Someone Have to Go? It's a reality show where employees have to get together and decide who gets fired. It's a terribly realistic look at office politics, actually. Ick.

Sadly I got sucked into a lot of that during certain times in my career. And I wasn't innocent -- I participated. I think a combination of just straight-up not wanting to be involved in that drama anymore, and becoming a telecommuter is what pulled me out of it. And I never want to go back. I am happy being at a place in my career where there is very little office politics.

Jeremy is traveling right now. So it's just me and the mutts. And the cat. But he kind of counts as a mutt. I keep myself busy when Jeremy is gone. So I'm spending time cleaning the house, getting ahead on some work, making coffee dates with girlfriends, and doing some shopping.

I even took Hero to the park tonight and threw the ball for him for a while. It was his first time off-leash, and he did great. I'm careful about letting our dogs off-leash, because I HATE it when people's loose dogs run up to me and my leashed dogs. Our two dogs are easygoing, but Jeremy and I both have had dogs in the past who have responded aggressively to other dogs running up on them. So I have no tolerance for people who don't keep control of their pets.

I met with a girlfriend from church today, and ran an idea by her of doing a writing workshop for the women's ministry. She seemed really excited about it -- which is giving me the energy I need to move forward with this idea. I have some things to learn before I can effectively do something like this, but I feel in my heart it's something I should pursue.

I guess we'll see what comes of that. :)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Superhero Day

Yesterday was a superhero day.

I mean, I felt like a superhero. I kind of was a superhero. I love being a superhero. Apparently I love typing the word superhero too.

So before my day-job workday even began, I knew it was going to be a good day. After I got up and brushed my teeth, I walked down to the kitchen to make some coffee -- and halfway down the stairs I hear, "Woo woo woooorrroo!" That's Hero speak for "Mama's here!" Uh, but we lock Hero in his kennel at night. So why was he sitting at the bottom of the stairs talking to me? I figured Jeremy would explain when he woke up, since he's the one that always puts the pups to bed at night (turns out he just forgot to lock the kennel door). I walked around the house looking for accidents or destruction, and didn't find anything. This dog is 7 months old, and he didn't pee or poop or chew anything. Holy canoli.

So after I let the pups outside, I made myself some coffee and settled in at the kitchen table with my sketchbook. I spent some time doodling using instructions from the newly-public-domain Loomis guidebooks on how to draw. Too fun.

Then, still before my day job started, I got some work done as a pinch-hitter on a copywriting project so my partner could enjoy her vacation.

Work is a little slow in general right now, so I'm taking the opportunity to brush up on some skills and further my education. I had a great phone conversation with a speaking and presentation coach named Regina Dalesio during my lunch hour. I'm hoping to get into one of her programs soon. And yes, she's a fellow B-School grad. I tell you, B-School has been invaluable in terms of resources.

The neighbor dogs were unusually quiet yesterday afternoon, and the weather was unusually perfect (not too hot, cool breeze), so I took advantage with a 15 minute break out on the back patio. The pups joined me. There's a greenbelt behind our house, and people sometimes walk back there to connect to the trail that leads to the lake. I was halfway napping in an Adirondack chair when I heard the west neighbor dogs go bonkers, then the east neighbor dogs. I cracked my eyes open to see a guy walking his dog on the greenbelt, and the dog was RIGHT up against our fence. Both Tyr and Hero ran to the fence and greeted the dog -- but they never made a sound. Alllll the dogs around us were losing their minds, but our dogs were friendly and quiet. I couldn't have been a prouder doggie mama.


I've mentioned before how much I've learned from my B-School classmates via the private Facebook page. And in return, I always try to answer other people's questions when I can. One of my classmates was trying to figure out why her website looked like it was in Russian -- and after about 2 min of looking at her source code, I was able to identify the problem for her. Another classmate asked how people handled clients flaking out in the middle of a project, and I shared with her some of the clauses and details I have in my own freelance contract to protect me when that happens (because it DOES happen -- too much to not legally protect yourself up front). She was able to update her own contract with some new language for future projects. I love spreading the knowledge wealth!

What else made me a superhero? I trended on Bitly!!! This weekend I created a video highlighting some interesting inbound marketing stats, which I then used in two separate blog posts for Horizon Peak and GlobalWrites. GlobalWrites uses Bitly URLs when posting blogs to social media, and JoAnn was watching the stats after the GlobalWrites post went live on Facebook -- and Bitly had a big "congratulations" popup because our video was getting so many clicks so quickly that the post was officially trending. I wanted to break out the champagne, but alas, I don't think my manager would appreciate me being buzzed on the job.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Steampunk Novel

I'm reading my first steampunk novel, Martian War. And I'm seriously wondering why it took me so long to discover this genre.

Well, I guess part of it is I didn't realize it was a novel genre. I was familiar with the aesthetic, and with the concept in comic books and movies. But I didn't realize people wrote steampunk books.

It's hitting my love of history and taking me on a journey of fantasy and a bit of science fiction. It's taking the historical world I know and love (and my bachelor's degree in history) and presenting a whole new way of looking at it. And the visuals, WOW. I admit, I am a dialogue-driven reader. I skim over long stretches of description. But in this book, I am so completely caught up in the world being described.

It's also making me want to refresh my memory about some historical figures and classic fiction novels. H.G. Wells, T.H. Huxley, Jane Robbins, and Percival Lowell are some of the main real historical characters in the book, and there are historical fictional characters at play as well: Dr. Griffin (The Invisible Man) and Dr. Moreau (as in The Island of Doctor Moreau). I know of these people/characters, but I realize I don't know nearly enough about them.

I can't remember the last time I fell in love with a new genre of books. I've read the same types of books for most of my life, though getting heavier into memoirs and literary fiction and less invested in fantasy fiction as I grew older. Discovering a new genre makes me absolutely giddy!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Yoga Time and Charity Compromise

I broke my toe in a weird place. Which is actually beneficial. I broke the bone on the inside part of my right little toe. So as long as the toe isn't being pressed inward, there's not a ton of pain. Still some swelling, still some tenderness when I walk, but the pain is minimal.

The most annoying part is I have to be very careful about sitting cross-legged. I love to sit this way -- in fact, one of the most important aspects of a good office chair to me is the ability to sit cross-legged while I work. But now I have to make sure my broken toe is off of the edge of the chair so there's no pressure on it. Which also means I can't shift positions very much. Which means I get stiff sitting in this chair all day.

So I'm going to yoga today. And no, I don't want to hear any hoopla about it. I know my limits and I'll take it easy. But my body cannot go on without yoga. I'm missing out on long walks in the spring weather, so darn it, I'm going to yoga! (As my podiatrist told me when I broke the top of my foot a few years back, "Just don't jump around on it." There is not much jumping in yoga.)

On another note...

Jeremy and I have always had a hard time agreeing about charities. I'm generally pretty trusting, though I do my research before giving anyone money or time. Jeremy, on the other hand, thinks all charities are schemes out to rip you off. So he refuses to give and I refuse to not give, and we get in a pickle.

This weekend we finally found a good compromise.

We both stay up to speed on the art and publishing industries, so between the two of us we are always aware of lots of opportunities to help creatives. Whether it's a local artist creating a children's art program, a favorite illustrator who is self-publishing a gratitude journal, or a comic creator looking for help to get a new series off the ground, we are face-to-face with lots of opportunities to give to people who are doing things that touch our hearts.

I think sometimes people forget how much creativity means to the world. Our ability to express ourselves through art is one of the most unique attributes of being human. No matter where you live in the world, no matter if you're a man or woman, no matter what ethnicity you are or your lifestyle orientation, art affects our lives. It gives people an outlet, and it brings beauty into a sometimes ugly world.

So we tweaked our finances to set aside a small fund each month to donate to artistic projects/events. We're taking turns choosing the projects we donate to. Some projects may require we save up for a few months before giving, but others we can just give our small monthly amount. We can't give much right now, but we can give something.

It's not like we're providing clean water to orphans in Africa. But we're doing something that we think matters. And we're not fighting about it. So win-win.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Denver Comic Con 2013

Denver Comic Con is this weekend. Hence my radio silence.

This is the second year of its existence. And it's a pretty amazing event -- for all its problems. Last year, its inaugural year, the convention organizers were unprepared for the massive response to the event. It's understandable, though. Something that has never been done in Denver before, it's impossible to know how it's going to turn out.

So this year they rented a larger exhibition hall in the Denver Convention Center. But sadly, that's about all they did in regards to preparation. They didn't have their badges printed on time, so Jeremy and I went to the kickoff party at Mile High Comics on Thursday night and were unable to pick them up as the organizers had promised we could. When they opened the doors at the convention on Friday afternoon, the line was several blocks long -- they had everyone in one single line going in through one single door. People who had purchased their tickets in advance were in the same line as the people who needed to purchase tickets. We later found out that it was the convention center staff that was at fault -- they didn't have enough security to cover more than one door. For 50,000 people. Shame on the convention center for that! It was so bad, people were waiting for 3 hours to get in, WITH pre-purchased tickets, and it ended up all over the news.

We were able to get in quickly because Jeremy had a VIP pass and they allowed me to piggyback on his VIP line (THANK YOU FRIENDLY CON STAFF-PERSON! Next year we'll both be buying VIP passes.) If they hadn't allowed me to do that... well, I think I would have demanded my money back. Because originally they told us we had to wait in line to get Jeremy's VIP pass (my name was on the ticket, so I had to be with him), and then we would have to go back out and wait in the regular line (that was taking about 3 hours) to pick up my pass. Ooh I would have blown a fuse if that had happened.

The convention itself has been amazing. The artists, writers and comic-related vendors and presenters are world-class. Jeremy always stays on the floor the whole time and I spend most of my time in the panels. This con was no different. The panel schedule is so full, I had to really pick and choose what I wanted to go to (versus other cons we've been to where there wasn't more than one or two options every hour). The panel topics are fascinating and the presenters are really interesting. Some of the panels are like art/writing classes, some talk about how to break into various entertainment-related industries, some teach you about costuming or art-related technology, and some are just opportunities for the public to pick the brains of famous artists and writers. I tend to stay away from the celebrity panels. Sorry, I am not that into actors.

Unfortunately, the con staff nearly ruined the panels for me. There was no line organization, and very little door management. In one panel, there were a bunch of teenagers (obviously being sponsored by an organization of some kind, as they all had green shirts on) who were so crazy rude. Talking, laughing, texting, running in and out of the room, they were obnoxious. After that, I sat up front in all the panels so I didn't have to see that crap if it happened again. I felt bad for the speakers. A con staff person should have been in that room managing the situation.

This morning the fire marshal (so we heard) was only letting small groups of people in at a time. So even though I had a badge already, I had to stand in line for about 45 minutes to be let in. With a broken toe, I wasn't too thrilled with that. And again, the con staff didn't tell us what was going on. There was no communication. You couldn't even tell where to get in line -- Jeremy found the right place because he's psychic. (I'm only half kidding about the psychic bit -- he really has a sixth sense in crowds, whereas I get overwhelmed and everything blends together.) Jeremy had his VIP pass, though, so I insisted he go in without me. With a VIP pass, there was no waiting for anything. Totally worth the money, and we're definitely getting one for both of us next year.

There have been a lot of complaints for the last 6 months about how disorganized the con organizers have been in creating this event. And the disorganization didn't get any better when the event actually happened. Even so, the convention itself is amazing and it obviously struck a chord with Denver because tickets have sold out every day. So we both hope these are just growing pains and next year they will take these lessons and put on a much better event.

I chit-chatted with a few girls in line this morning, and one of them told me that the convention center had reached the capacity of the exhibition hall at 56,000 people on Friday. And when Jeremy was hanging out with Doug TenNapel (creator of Earthworm Jim) today, Doug said that in his experience, cons that evoke this kind of response from a city typically double in attendance each year for the first few years. So they're looking at around 100,000 people attending Denver Comic Con next year. WOW. I really hope they keep doing this and just get better at organizing and supporting the event.

Galactus just got off the lightrail (dude had GIANT stilts under his costume)

Superman statue in the convention center

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Am Not Cheeky

I'm not cheeky. It's been a long road to this confession, but there it is.

Part of my job is to keep up on the competition. That means paying a ton of attention to what other copywriters and digital marketers are doing. This isn't a job for the insecure, I tell you. It's easy to compare yourself to others and end up thinking you've got it completely wrong.

There are a ton of people out there selling services exactly like mine. And one thing I keep seeing over and over are the cheeky and irreverent styles of branding. Women who use foul language, writers who turn phrases so their "about" page is a comedy sketch, even manifestos stating these people will not work with negative clients as they only promote positive energy in their businesses. It's all clever, it's all attention grabbing, and it's all not me.

I'm all pro. I'm reliable. I'm responsive. I'm crisp and clear and inspirational. I don't swear (usually), I'm not that funny, and I don't feel the need to set rules about my clients' personalities.

Maybe that makes me stick out in this sea of cheekiness. I hope it does.

It also makes me wonder if I'm doing it right -- because I'm not a typical writer or marketer.

But you know what? I didn't get to where I'm at by holding onto insecurity. I'm good at what I do. Good enough that people not only pay me for it, they refer people to me. Most of my business is referrals, and that is something to be proud of.

I've worked with "typical" creative types a ton in my career. I don't have a lot of patience for them, if you want the truth. Once someone starts getting flaky on me, I find someone else to do the job. Over time, this has enabled me to surround myself with more "unusual creatives" -- creative people who are also organized and reliable. They're a rare breed, and one I happily cultivate in my life.

I might not be cheeky, but I am a rare breed. And that's nothing to be insecure about.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Honest Feelings

Gabrielle Bernstein is another one of those web personalities that I love to follow. She recently posted a vlog (video blog) about not using personal development techniques to hide or bury your true feelings. In other words, throwing affirmations at a problem doesn't help you solve the underlying issue -- so deal with your feelings, let your real self come to the surface and work through your problems as they arise.

This is powerful advice. I often hear things like, "How did you stay so positive after such a big tragedy?" and, "You seem so stable! I wouldn't be nearly as functional as you if I had lost my child." Usually I respond with thanks, and acknowledgment that it is constant work, constant prayer, constant acceptance of my situation -- and a lot of writing and talk therapy. But I am also always very honest about my feelings. I still miss her every single minute of every day. I'm still sad a lot. I still have a hard time being around kids, and an especially hard time when I hear babies crying.

At first this honesty was to assure people I'm not a robot -- and that I'm not hiding my feelings only to lash out later on. But I found it was also very healing. The compound statement of "I am hurting but I will be okay" is a powerful mixture of honesty and positive thinking.

Here is a direct link to Gabby's video if you'd like to see what I'm going on about -- http://youtu.be/lb9fBUFdXJQ -- or I have also embedded it here for you.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Santa Fe Trip

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I've been in Santa Fe for the last four days. My mom and I do a girls' trip every Memorial Day weekend, and we usually end up in Santa Fe or Taos.

I am absolutely in love with Santa Fe. The culture, the hiking, the restaurants, the shopping, the friendly locals -- it's always a great vacation.

I managed to break my toe on Sunday morning, which put the kibosh on hiking around Bandelier National Monument. But other than that, we got to do most of what we wanted to do.

We arrived Friday afternoon and got checked into the Eldorado Hotel downtown. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening around the Plaza. We toured the St Francis Cathedral, which is one of the most beautiful (and recognizable) buildings in town, then we got some coffee and a fruit tart from a French bakery nearby and sat in the park for a little while. Three of the museums on the Plaza had free admission starting at 5pm, so we made our way to the one we hadn't been to before -- the Santa Fe Art Museum. After the museum, we went back to the hotel and had happy hour drinks and appetizers for dinner while we listened to the live music. We wrapped up the evening with a dip in the pool and hot tub on the roof of the hotel.









The park square in the center of the Plaza

East Sculpture Garden at the Santa Fe Art Museum



Saturday morning we were up bright and early to head to Pasqual's for breakfast. Pasqual's is a tiny little cafe near the Plaza that is so popular, there is always a wait. Even though we got there before they opened, we still had to stand in line -- and we were still the second to last table seated! It was worth getting up early for, though, definitely.

After a hearty breakfast, we headed up into Hyde Park for a gentle 2-mile hike. The weather was perfect, there was a slight breeze and there were no bugs. It was heavenly.



From there we made our way to the Railyard to explore the farmers market and neighboring art market. I splurged on some organic body sprays and a honey face cream from one of the herbalists there, and my mom bought us handmade lavender sachets. There was a Monsanto protest going on there, which was interesting. Oh, and how could I forget the street dancers?! A bunch of kids who couldn't be more than 15 years old, breakdancing and doing choreographed hip-hop dancing in the middle of the market. Amazing.



Dinner Saturday night was at La Fonda. WOW. Delicious food, and some of the best service I've ever had.

Sunday morning I tripped in the hotel room and broke my toe. I heard the bone snap, and didn't feel any pain for about 90 seconds, so I knew right away it was broken. Obviously after that I couldn't do nearly as much walking as I would have liked. But I could still drive, so we headed out to Estrella del Norte vineyard for some wine tasting. Again the weather was absolutely perfect, so after we tasted 6 different wines, we sat out in the garden for a while.



That night we had dinner and drinks at Ortega's, out on the balcony overlooking the Plaza. It was the perfect last night in Santa Fe.




Thursday, May 23, 2013

Polite Kids at Walmart (I KNOW!)

Jeremy and I had to go to Walmart last night for curtains for my office window (ICK, I know). You'll remember that the blinds fell on my head about a month ago -- and since that window faces south, it was long past time to get something up there. When you're on a budget, sometimes you have to go to Wal-hell.

But we actually had a pleasant surprise at our least favorite store on the planet. A woman and her three children were shopping around the same area as we were -- and the kids were POLITE. One was running by us at one point, and nowhere near actually bumping into us, but he still said, "Excuse me!"

Wow.  Right?

The woman and her kids happened to get into the same checkout line as us. And I took the opportunity to tell her that she had very polite children. I hope that made her night.

And totally off-topic, here, but I am taking the opportunity to share another B-School resource with you guys. I found out about Alexandra Franzen from one of my classmates, and I have just fallen in love with her work. Check out her shop for great scripts.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Shining a Light on the Shadow Self

I've followed Jennifer Louden's work for about 9 years, and I read every blog post she puts out. One that she put out this morning was a video talking about confidence versus experience. Something she said really hit home for me.

She said that the Internet lends itself to "rah rah, hooray, life is awesome and perfect" mentality, and doesn't necessarily reflect the reality of life. That is, if you spend a lot of time on the Internet (like I do, for my jobs), you're not always seeing the ups and downs that are part of real life. You're not seeing the "shadow side."

I try to be as honest here in this blog as I can muster, but I admit I do fall into that trap of wanting to always appear that I've got my stuff together. Mostly this comes from a place of love -- I want to uplift all my readers, not depress them.

I find that when I write a "down day" post, as I like to call them, I feel guilty about it. Sometimes I'm even tempted to delete them, or at least give a warning before people read it. But those posts get more responses from my readers than all of my other uplifting posts combined. And I know why -- it's because you're seeing what you think is the real me.

The uplifting posts are the real me. I promise. But yes, the sad and discouraged posts are the real me, too. As a human being, I'm multidimensional. We all are. And I'm blessed to have this blog as a space to express every dimension, and blessed to have readers who are curious and open-minded about each one -- from my "rah rah yayyyy!" self to my shadow self.

In my younger years, I used my shadow self as an excuse for bad behavior, or at least an excuse to make bad decisions. Older and wiser, now, I use my shadow self as impetus to shine the light. When the shadow emerges, I turn on the floodlights.

This is different than exploring the shadow self, as many therapists will encourage people to do. Spending time looking at your dark side has its purpose -- but it doesn't necessarily move you forward or change your life. You have to shine the light on the darkness to dispel it.

For me this means self-talk and meditation. Both involve addressing the shadow, but only to the point where I can see the underlying cause and change my patterns. Some examples...

When I found out someone close to me was pregnant unexpectedly, it of course brought up a ton of emotions in me. Especially because I found out this information as Jeremy and I were driving to visit our daughter's grave. But I looked that shadow in the face and told it that this situation has nothing to do with me. Her blessing doesn't diminish the blessings I have coming. And you know what? I'm okay.

I have a hard time striding the line between encouraging people and enabling them. This is part of my shadow self as well. You would think encouragement is always a good thing -- but actually too much can have the effect of stunting someone's growth. Rather than beat myself up over this, I am looking at the underlying cause, letting it sit gently and quietly inside my mind as I meditate and seeing what solutions come to me. Silence is a solution that has come to me recently. Loving silence.

I go through times when my physical energy is almost nonexistent. When going on a walk, or going to a yoga class or making myself a healthy meal are exhausting to even think about -- even though I know they'll make me feel better. I have always thought it was caused by a vitamin/chemical deficiency of some kind, or a dietary need that wasn't being met. I'd like to see a holistic doctor to see if we can identify the underlying cause so we can stop it from happening. But we are a one-income family right now, and $300 is too much for an initial holistic doctor visit that may not even help. This makes me feel angry and discouraged. But when I look at this shadow, and when I shine a light on it, I see that these low energy days are very much outweighed by days when I feel good. And though we are on a tight budget right now, we won't always be. Jeremy will get a job, I'll get a raise, Horizon Peak will take off like a rocket -- something will happen to change our situation. Because change is the only constant in life.

Recognizing you have a shadow self and dwelling in the shadow self are two different things. It's tempting to dwell. It's tempting to obsess, to feel like you have to fix yourself. But our only responsibility in this life is to shine our light, to come from a place of love -- self-love as well as love of others.

Where can you shine a light on yourself today?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Good Dream Can Be a Bad Thing

Warning before you go any further. This is a sad post.

I dreamed about Scarlett last night. I had taken her to church with me, and her kids' group was teaching her how to swim (yes, there was a pool at the church). I was so impressed at how well she was swimming when I went to pick her up after I was done with whatever I was doing. I got caught up talking to some of the other ladies at church as we were walking out, and Scarlett wandered off. I never found her before I woke up.

My heart felt like it was going to swallow me whole when I woke up. I didn't get much sleep after that. I was terrified of dreaming about her again.

There's a scene in the latest Spiderman movie where Aunt May is giving the eulogy at Uncle Ben's funeral, and she says she would give anything for one more moment with him. Then later she breaks down when she's alone with Peter, and she says that was a lie -- that she couldn't have just one more moment with him, because it would never be enough. That's exactly how I feel.

One moment with her, even in a dream, is too much to bear. It's not enough. I wake up panicking because part of me wants to go back into that dream forever and forget the real world, and the other part of me never wants to sleep again because seeing her is just too painful. Dreaming of her is like putting my aching hand on a hot stove -- the burn takes my mind off of the ache, but the burn is so much more painful.

Friends have asked me if I ever feel her presence in our house. There's no clear way to answer that. Her energy, her memory, permeates every atom of every corner of my entire life -- but I don't see her ghost walking around. Of course, I refuse to open my mind to the possibility. The idea of her being trapped here on earth as a ghost is horrifying. She's in heaven, waiting for me, and that's where I want to picture her. I am not looking for her in the shadows here. Imagine how hard it would be for me to move forward in my life if I was always looking for her here.

I have a different perspective on life now, after this great loss. I see myself as a soul with a body, not a body with a soul. My life spans from universe beginning to universe end, with my earthly life just a short blip on that timeline. When this earthly life is done, my spirit continues -- and I will be with her again. That is what keeps me going. Knowing I'll be with her again. Some days that's the only thing that keeps me from crumbling.

I am a child of God, put here for a reason. She was a child of God too, put here for a different reason. Our paths were different lengths, but they lead to the same place.

My counselor believes, and I agree, that I'm in a learning phase right now. There are lessons I must learn in order to move forward. I want more children, but I'm struggling with feeling like that is second best. I want Scarlett. But since I can't have her, I'll take having more children as a consolation prize. And since that isn't happening, I often feel like Scarlett was it for me. So I hold that gift close to my heart and worship it.

Idolatry is a quick way to hell on earth. When you worship anything here in this earthly life, it becomes the barrier between you and God's best. I see myself doing that, using Scarlett as a barrier. Putting her on a pedestal and thinking nothing will ever be as good as her.

Do you see how dangerous these thought patterns are? This is why I read the Bible, and meditate, and spend time with godly women, and write, and see a therapist. Because human nature can twist the most beautiful thing into a path to hell on earth, and these things are powerful ways of keeping myself on the right path.

Even just writing all of this out, admitting to the world that I struggle with idolizing my deceased daughter, feels like a step forward. Shining light on the darkness.

After all, the only thing that can disperse darkness is turning on a light.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Grandma's Mutt and Drizzly Day

My parents had a barbecue yesterday, so Jeremy, the mutts and I went to Castle Pines for the day. It's been TOO long since we've spent a day down there -- so nice to catch up and hang out. My parents and I took Hero for a long walk while Jeremy and Tyr stayed back with my brothers. Hero was so great on his walk, I was a proud mama. And he has really bonded with my mom, which I think is adorable. He's definitely a grandma's boy.

Today Jeremy and I were soooo tired. We're not sure what's going on. Neither of us feel like we're getting sick, but we're both flat-out exhausted. I wonder if it's allergies. We took it easy today, and even got some take-out from Qdoba for dinner so we didn't have to cook.

It's been drizzly all day here in north Denver. Beautiful. I was able to get out for a walk around the lake between bouts of rain, though. I took a nap at lunch rather than go to yoga -- yeah, I was that tired.

Horizon Peak is moving forward more every day. Thanks to B-School and my fellow classmates (resources in and of themselves), I was able to do a lot of research very quickly. This enabled me to get going in the right direction a lot faster than I would have without those resources. Part of that "right direction" means possibly partnering with another local business to handle a portion of my clients' needs. This is so exciting! A new business and a new partnership with some brilliant people. Life is good.

I'm still picking away at a few writing projects, too. Some freelance work through GlobalWrites, and a few ebook projects of my own.

Still, I feel like there's something missing in my work world. Like I should be doing something more... I dunno... spiritual? Feminine? Creative/artistic? I'm trying to figure out where that feeling is coming from.

I'm heading to Santa Fe next weekend for my annual girls' trip with my mom. I know that's going to inspire me. Maybe that's just what I need to discover what that feeling is all about. In the meantime, I'm trying to listen more. God is always whispering... I just don't listen nearly as much as I should.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Learning to Love

One of the reasons I like to go to church on Saturday night is so I can watch Oprah's Super Soul Sunday on Sunday morning. Is that sad? LOL

One of the shows this morning is made of clips from an old Oprah episode, about couples who are on the brink of divorce. When Oprah first interviewed the therapist who is working with these couples, one of the things he talked about is how we bring our childhood wounds into our marriages. And in fact we choose partners who bring up old pain so we have the chance to work through it.

I admit I thought that was a bunch of hooey.

But as he's working with these distraught couples, I see what he's saying. Once you discover details about their childhoods, it's obvious how that is impacting their marriages. Wow, crazy.

Jeremy and I both had pretty normal childhoods. We both have siblings, and both sets of parents are still married. There was no abuse, no big family secrets. But as children we were very, very different. Jeremy matured quickly, and because he worked for his family business from a very early age, he had to learn how to put on an air of confidence that he didn't necessarily always feel inside. I, on the other hand, matured verrrry slowly. I was a very naive girl and didn't really know who I was until I was at least 25. I hid my insecurities from my peers by being overly independent.

If you know us personally, that last paragraph just made you go, "Oh wow, I totally get them now." Right???

I had to learn how to depend on Jeremy, and make him feel like he was the most important person in the world. He had to learn how to see through my independence and proactively help me even when I didn't ask for it.

This didn't come naturally. This was the result of a lot of hard work and a lot of learning to love each other for who we really are.

As I told my friend Angie the other day, "It's about loving each other even when we want to strangle each other."

The loss we endured last year could have torn us apart. But because we had already learned these marriage lessons, we were each other's safe place. We could open up to one another and tell each other how we were truly feeling, without worrying that the other would abandon the marriage. We could cry and know that the other person would just hold us -- without feeling obligation to verbalize the hurt. Jeremy understood when I threw myself into work, and I understood when he needed some time to decide what he was going to do now that he wasn't a stay-at-home dad anymore. Our home was a safe space to process the tragedy.

I read something on Facebook last night that talked about how "falling in love" was a wonderful thing -- but it never lasts. After the hormones fade and the butterflies quiet, you have to learn how to love the one you've chosen. Is it easy? HECK no. Learning to love someone means sacrificing your pride and letting go of control, and that isn't easy for anyone.

But is it worth it?

HECK yes.

Just imagine what I would be writing here, a year after our daughter died, if we hadn't learned to love each other this way.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Owie, Alarm and Twisted Tree

Thursday was just painful. The migraine came back, and nothing helped. I tried everything -- ibuprofen, Excedrin Migraine, extra caffeine, bready food, meditating with a rice-stuffed eye mask on my eyes -- all the stuff that usually makes a difference just didn't touch it.

But I had a coffee date with one of my favorite ladies (my former piano teacher), so at least for that hour I was happily distracted.

I went to bed relatively early -- but at 3:45am, our smoke alarms started going off. I woke up Jeremy (yes, I had to wake him up) and we went looking for the smoke. No smoke. Turns out it was a low battery in one of the Comcast-installed smoke alarms that went with our Xfinity Home Security system. The system went into full fire-alert mode -- no low-battery chirping, just full-on alarm. Do you really need me to go any further into HOW ANNOYED we were? I didn't think so.

Thanks to the migraine (aka ice-pick in my left eyeball), and my racing heart, I had a hard time getting back to sleep. So I slept until 8am Friday morning and went straight to work. No art journaling or anything for me Friday morning. Sad face.

But I did go to my favorite Vinyasa yoga class at lunchtime. And the teacher said I had amazing alignment in Twisted Tree pose. So that made me smile. I make a good twisted tree.

Today is the grand opening of the new park across the open space from our house. Sounds pretty cool. Free boat rides, even. We might have to check it out if I can get far enough along in this freelance project.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Strength and Spirit

My cousin posted a picture this morning that hit me in the gut. The picture was of a framed newspaper article that hangs on his home office wall -- and the subject of the article is our grandfather.

I think my grandfather was in his 40s when he was in that plane crash. I think my math is correct, there -- but I'm sure my family members will correct me quickly if it's not. He was a brilliant business man, who built his construction business up from nothing when he got out of the army. He had 7 children with my grandmother. And when he was in that plane crash, not only did he break his back, but he lost his business to a scheming partner and had to start all over again.

But from his wheelchair, he did start that business all over again, and he did build it back up to the level of success he had enjoyed prior to the accident. The newspaper article talks about how "his back may have been broken, but his spirit was not."

Sounds pretty amazing, right?

But here's the truth.

The truth was that he was a brilliant businessman -- but he was harsh and cold with his family. My grandmother raised all 7 children very much on her own, and then also took care of an 8th human being when my grandfather became paraplegic. My grandfather's spirit may not have been broken, but it wasn't a kind spirit. My memories of him include being at my grandparents' house in San Jose when I was little, and crying because I had skinned my knee, and my grandfather bellowing with that terrifyingly deep voice from across the house, "Shut that kid up!" And my poor mother rushing to my aid, trying to comfort me while simultaneously trying to calm my crying so her father wouldn't get any more upset.

The newspaper article made him out to be this ray of hope -- this man who should have died, rising from the ashes of his plane crash.

I remember it very differently. Hope isn't a word I'd choose to describe him. Stubborn strength and endurance, sure.

And it got me thinking about my own situation. The tragedy I endured last year, and how it could have killed me. I could have just stayed in bed and died after that. But I rose from the ashes. I rise a little more every day.

And I don't think I got that strength from my grandfather.

I got that strength from my parents.

From my mother, a sensitive soul who had to learn how to put on spiritual armor to survive in her childhood home. From my father, who lost his mother to cancer when he was in his early twenties, then lost his only sibling, and finally lost his father who was the last family my dad had.

They both lost a grandchild last year -- but they stayed strong and kind for me. They gave me shoulders to cry on, they made funeral arrangements on our behalf, and they made sure I always knew I wasn't alone in anything I was going through.

They might not ever get that newspaper article. But I don't need one to remind me how strong they are. Their spirits are etched into my heart.