2022, Where Are You?
As 2022 came to a close, I took some time to reflect on the last year. One thing I’ve embraced over the last 12 months is practicing gratitude and meditation daily (or almost daily). I almost can't believe the number of positive changes in my life. It's truly amazing! I’ve always been an optimistic person, but when you really begin to focus on what IS as opposed to what ISN’T, what you HAVE versus what you HAVEN’T, and what’s RIGHT instead of what’s WRONG, your life will change. I promise. It takes some practice, for sure, and I can certainly attest to the fact that focusing on the positive isn’t always easy. But whatever situation you’re in, you can choose to see the good or the bad. They’re both often present to some degree. And what you focus your energy on, is what will come back to you. This is important because this affects how you feel. Wouldn’t you rather feel good, than feel bad?
This weekend, I went through each month of photos on my phone to reflect and feel grateful for all the wonderful things that have happened, the amazing people in my life, and the goals I achieved. Every single month had great memories. So, instead of focusing on things that went wrong this past year, or where I failed, I contemplated all the things that went right.
I even made a highlight reel for 2022. My phone only let me pick 60 photos and that was tough! I had over 300 favorites JUST from 2022. So I narrowed it to the bare minimum to capture the essence of all of the fantastic memories I have from this past year.
Then, I wrote down a list of great moments in each month. I was overwhelmed with how many there actually were. I won’t bore you all with the details, but here’s my year ( and what gratitude can do) in a nutshell:
I enjoyed great food and great company over various brunches and dinners with friends in igloos, at wineries, on patios, and in speakeasys and swanky joints. I went to several wineries throughout the year both local and up north. I spent time in and on the water – from Great Lakes to small lakes, to pools and hot tubs. I celebrated many friends (including myself) turning 50. I went dancing and ax throwing, and enjoyed lots of local bands, and a last-minute invite to the Lizzo concert. I went out of my comfort zone to apply and interview for different jobs and was blown away when I was offered a position at a global company with a 41% salary increase! (Yeah, I’m still pinching myself…) I enjoyed boating, kayaking, and bonfires with friends and family. I hosted and attended parties all year – including my son’s graduation from high school! I experienced beautiful fall colors up north with old friends. And, I took my FIRST-ever trip to Las Vegas! Those 5 days were jam-packed with so much goodness I can’t even begin to tell you … plus, you know what they say about what happens in Vegas…hehe...
The thing is – there were a lot of challenges, too. The year certainly wasn’t all roses. I started a new job in a completely different industry that was challenging, stressful at times, and scary. I also missed my old work tribe terribly. My baby boy went off to college and this empty-nester mom has really felt his absence at times. Of course, there were other things that weren’t so great. But my point is, I think all the good far outweighed the bad. I am so very grateful for the year I had and am so very hopeful for the year ahead. When you begin to practice gratitude daily, your life will change. But the choice is yours. You can mope, whine, or be upset about all of the ‘bad things’ in your life, or you can look at all the good moments instead. I choose the latter.
The second part of this is that you also have to start speaking to yourself differently. You need to begin to use positive phrases, instead of negative ones. For example: People at your workplace or close to you have been getting sick and you have a big trip planned. Instead of saying “I hope I don’t get sick…. I hope I don’t get sick….” (See, you’re putting out negative energy, negative thoughts, worry, etc.) Instead, try saying: “I’m going to stay healthy for my trip.” It’s the smallest shift, but it packs a big punch. All the energy you put into the universe is impactful. And, all the little moments eventually add up to big ones.
My wish for all of you is simple. Say more "I love yous" to those you cherish. Be kind to others and to yourself. Embrace all of the wonderful moments of the past year, even the smallest ones, and be grateful for them. And, may that joy, no matter how small, grow exponentially for each of you throughout the new year. As my dad used to say, “Be good. Behave. Love you.”
Happy New Year!
Your Words Matter.
Some of you may know that I’m a pretty laid-back chick. I grew up in a large household with lots of people and we all had responsibilities. Commitments were kept, backtalk was unacceptable, rules were followed or there were prices to pay. But, it also taught me how to live with and get along with a lot of different personalities. It taught me how to resolve problems and to forgive those you love. It taught me not to sweat the small stuff, and to always give my best effort. The older I’ve gotten, the more accepting I’ve become. However, there are a few things in life I’m very particular about. One of these such things is language. I’m sure you’re thinking, well Duh, Jules! You ARE a writer. Of course, you’re particular about language. And sure, that’s part of it. But it’s more than that. Let me explain…
I was raised to speak politely to others, especially adults. That meant using proper English words, not slang, and always addressing adults as “Miss” “Mrs.” or “Mr.” in front of their surname. It also meant using “Please,” “Thank you,” “No, thank you,” and “You’re welcome,” and it also meant no swearing or calling people derogatory names, even in jest.
When I was a kid, did I call my brothers and sisters names? Sure. Did I spew names at the kids I ran around the neighborhood with? Sometimes. Did I ever call a classmate a name? Never to their face. Partly because of what was enforced in my home, and partly because I was too afraid I’d get in trouble! Haha. As I grew up, this became even more important to me, as I think name-calling is a ridiculously low form of insult and it’s extremely disrespectful. When I had children of my own, I realized just how important the language you use, and how you address people really is. Children are mirrors. They are copycats who will do as you do, say what you say, and will speak to you the way you speak to them.
You want to have polite kids with good manners? Treat them as such. Don’t call them names. Use please, thank you and you’re welcome when addressing them, and require the same of them. Being consistent with them is key. Reminding them to use manners often isn’t a bad thing.
Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed far too much rudeness, entitlement, or just plain sass, from not only teens but from adults. I’ve seen bosses speak rudely to their assistants, and then wonder why morale is low or work product is not as clean as it should be. I’ve seen kids and teens speak awful to their parents, demand things, or not take rules or direction seriously. It’s never too late to start using courtesy, and nicer language with the people around you.
So many people are fed up with this world and all the negativity, not to mention politics, the pandemic, Covid, lack of employees, and prices of everything from groceries to gas skyrocketing. Maybe instead of fueling the negativity with more negativity, maybe, just maybe we could try to make the world better by starting in our own little corner. Is it going to solve all the problems? No.
But will it maybe make your day, or your life, or the people in your life just a bit more pleasant? Absolutely. I guarantee you, it will absolutely bring more peace to your life.
Language has the power to take someone out at the knees, and it has the power to bring a smile or pure joy to someone’s day. How many times have you been aggravated when someone doesn’t reply to a text, or is unapologetic about something they did or said, or takes for granted something you’ve done or given to them? Now think about a situation that could’ve been better, had they been more courteous.
Here’s a simple example.
You go through the house picking up your teen’s dirty laundry, and you wash their clothes, fold them, and put them on their bed.
When they arrive home, they say, “God, why the hell did you put all these clothes on my bed!??”
I’d be fuming if that was said to me.
1. Where’s the thank you?
2. Did you just swear at me?
3. You ungrateful little@*&S%$*!
None of that energy is pleasant.
But, what if, instead of that, they said, “Thanks for doing my laundry! I was totally out of socks!”
Your mood would be completely different. The next course of your day would be completely different. So many small interactions like this happen throughout our day, and can build upon one another - either positively, or negatively. Stacking good things and good feelings, or stacking negative, bad things. If you had 10 negative or rude interactions a day, imagine how you’d feel by the end of it? (You probably don’t have to imagine it, as I’m quite sure you’ve experienced it. I know I sure have.)
So yes, language and courtesy can really change your world and make it a better place. Maybe the key to solving our bigger problems is starting out small and changing how we speak to the ones closest to us. Speak kindly to others. Use your manners and be courteous. Your words matter.
Change your world for the better and see how the world you live in changes.
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A Visit from St. Nicholas: 2021
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the home,
Devices were buzzing, with wifi passwords, and chrome.
The stockings were hung,
and soon filled with stuff;
Parents hoping the kids would think it’s enough.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While listening to the latest school shutdown from Feds.
Threats of campus gunmen, and officials throwing shade,
Fear of vaccines and Covid, with hopes these realities fade.
In the restaurants and shops there arose such a clatter,
We all pushed and shoved, not knowing what was the matter.
Not enough workers to help get the job done,
But still we needed our “stuff” to complete our fun.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did see?
Was the billowing flag of the land of the free.
Snow falling around the red, white, and blue,
Reminding me of the many freedoms we have, too.
Four walls and a roof, and food on the table.
Free education, and meals, for those with jobs less stable.
Many still hustling to make ends meet,
And still I Stand, with warm boots on my feet.
Healthy friends and family who lived through this year,
And gatherings with loved ones, both far and near.
Though times can be tough, and anxiety hard,
Be thankful for them, not amounts on the gift card.
So what if my meal out takes longer than desired?
Relax, slow down, don't get waitstaff fired.
To all the ones you love and hold dear, raise your glass of Christmas cheer!
Be joyous, and sing, and call them often!
It might just make your general mood soften.
"Hello, Family and Friends! Hello, Spouse or ‘Crush!’"
Hug them TIGHT! Kiss them FIERCE, until they all Blush!
As the hours tick by, with parties and the perfect gift find,
When you meet with up with obstacles, remember: Be Kind.
So up to the house you drive with your gifts,
With the car full of presents, forget family rifts.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
A bundle of joy he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon let me to know I had nothing to dread;
The coming year will be so great,
for you often, most always, have Choice over Fate;
He opened his bag and said, It’s not full of things or stuff,
Because what You carry Inside and share with others is Quite Enough.
Remember to love, be grateful and kind,
Indeed, those are the best gifts you’ll find!
Sweet memories will fill your mind and heart,
So much greater than what’s in your Amazon cart.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, gave a wink and wave
And away they all flew, faster than cops raiding a rave.
So take a deep breath, thank the stars for tonight,
Kiss your loved ones hard, and hold them tight.
Take a swig of the whiskey or wine or cheer,
Remember the people, not things, you hold dear.
And I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight--
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
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*Original poem by Clement Clarke Moore.
Everybody, Calm Down.
Ever wonder why it’s so easy to see the bad stuff first? To be quick to get angry, or impatient? Negative thinking -- it’s a slippery slope. There are a few things that I’ve learned to be true for most people:
I had a conversation recently with a store clerk that was the inspiration for this blog and the above three things I stated. I had gone into Gordon Food Service to buy candy and chips to pass out on Halloween. I was bummed when the items I wanted to purchase were all out of stock, but managed to find other options. When I went to check out, the cashier asked if I had found everything I needed. I answered honestly. “No,” I sighed. “But that’s okay, I found some other stuff that’ll work just as well. You guys were wiped out! But it’s all good.”
She smiled apologetically and replied, “You seem a bit like me. You just let stuff go and roll with it.”
I grinned, “Yeah, I try to. People get too upset over silly things.”
She agreed, “Oh, I know! I get yelled at by customers all the time! As if it’s my fault they can’t purchase a particular item, or that I can somehow fix it. I don’t want to come to work and get yelled at every day.”
I shook my head. “People have gotten a little crazy during this pandemic.” I felt like somehow I needed to apologize to her for all the crappy people she’s had to deal with. After all, she’s just trying to make a living and pay her bills, just the same as me.
So here’s my PSA for today in relation to the three numbered things above:
Calm down. Really. Just take a deep breath, and try to be patient and respectful. I’m sorry that you waited in line for 45 minutes in the McDonald’s drive-thru, but the two 18-year old kids working the entire restaurant, taking your order and making your food are working just as fast as they can. They didn’t sign up to be bullied or yelled at while they stand on their feet for six hours flipping burgers and making french fries. Instead, be thankful the place actually had staff come in to work so they could be open, so you could get your french fry fix. Or, leave and go somewhere else. Don’t take it out on the person trying to help you.
Try being thankful for what you DO have, versus what you don’t have, and put your energy to that. I guarantee, it will bring much more peace and happiness in your life. Trust me. Appreciate the good qualities about yourself, your daily life, your family and friends, and everything you have, versus everything you don’t have or don’t want. We all slip into that negative complaining mindset, but the important thing is to do a quick reset and pull yourself out of it. When a negative thought enters your mind, cancel it and replace it with something you can be happy about, thankful for, or something or someone that makes you smile or feel good. “Living your best life” doesn’t mean you have the best of everything… it means you appreciate and make the best of everything you have. Let’s spread some smiles and pay it forward with some good vibes, eh?
Happy THANKS GIVING, all! (intentional caps).
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A lesson on "Is There More?"
I’ve also always been an observer. As a quiet, shy child (It’s true, I know it’s hard to believe) I watched people and circumstances all the time. I took in my surroundings, never brave enough to act on things I wanted to say or do, except in my mind. I loved to draw, and I would look at the world around me and try to transcribe it onto paper.
As I became more comfortable in my own skin, had more life experiences, and, well, just grew up, I became more vocal and outgoing. But, still I paid attention and observed. I honed my drawing skills and my writing skills. I found a joy in storytelling that I never knew existed before. What I observed about people and the world around me has educated me, made me more compassionate, and, dare I say… wise.
As an adult, I’ve always been an upbeat, positive, personable person. An optimist at heart, I strive to find the good in most situations, and more often than not, choose happiness over sorrow or complaints. But, something began to gnaw at me from inside.
Is there more?
Since the pandemic, I’ve noticed an upswing in negativity all around me. In the media, on social media, argumentative commentary, depression, anxiety...it seemed like so many more people have become angry, bitter, sad, lonely, or just plain depressed. It’s been painful to see, and yes, I, too, have struggled with some bad days. However, that thing that began to gnaw at me, grew stronger.
I have come to believe that what goes around, comes around. Call it karma, kismet, the circle of life, or whatever else fits. I also truly believe that it is our mission to learn and grow as much as we can during our lifetime. To be better today than we were yesterday. Could I be doing more to achieve this? Become more? Be happier? More successful? More grateful and joyful?
Something I had heard about a long time ago was the Law of Attraction. I never knew much about it, other than that it basically means: that you will attract into your life whatever you focus on. Whatever you give your energy and attention to will come back to you.
I started to dig a little deeper into this concept.
Part of this law is the use of visualization. Now, to put it into terms we can understand, visualization has been a part of elite sports for a very long time. Al Oerter, a four-time Olympic discus champion, and the tennis star Billie Jean King were among those using it in the 1960s -- over 40 years ago! There are countless scientific studies analyzing this concept. In my younger “dance class” days, I often used this technique, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I just knew if I could “see” myself doing a quadruple pirouette, I could do it. And, I achieved this goal in a short time, with little physical practice. I went through the motions over and over in my head countless times and soon after, I managed the feat. With elite sports, studies have shown time and time again that mental training matters. Russian scientists conducted a study comparing the training schedules of four groups of Olympic athletes. Each group used a different combination of physical and mental training:
To further describe the law of attraction, generally, it means that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person's life. I had no idea if this was true, but my gut told me there was some truth to this. I was interested to try it out. Along the way, I learned some things. And, some of these thoughts and ideas have been around for CENTURIES. Not months. Not Decades. A really reallllllllly long time. One thing I’ve learned in my life? Theories don't stick around for long if there’s no validity to them.
Take a gander at this … Once upon a time, there was a man named Phineas Quimby. (Okay, as an author, I just LOVE that name...how perfect is it??) Early in his life, Phineas was diagnosed with tuberculosis and early 19th century medicine had no cure. “Quimby took to horse riding and noted that intense excitement temporarily relieved him from his affliction.” This method for relieving his pain and his seeming recovery prompted Phineas to pursue a study of "Mind over Body".[Although he never used the words "Law of Attraction", he explained this in a statement that captured the concept in the field of health:
“the trouble is in the mind, for the body is only the house for the mind to dwell in, and we put a value on it according to its worth. Therefore if your mind has been deceived by some invisible enemy into a belief, you have put it into the form of a disease, with or without your knowledge. By my theory or truth, I come in contact with your enemy and restore you to your health and happiness. This I do partly mentally and partly by talking till I correct the wrong impressions and establish the Truth, and the Truth is the cure.”
In 1897 (124 YEARS AGO), Ralph Trine wrote, “The law of attraction works universally on every plane of action, and we attract whatever we desire or expect. If we desire one thing and expect another, we become like houses divided against themselves, which are quickly brought to desolation. Determine resolutely to expect only what you desire, then you will attract only what you wish for.”
Let’s go back even farther. A lot farther. Thousands of years ago, there are verses from the Bible in the context of the Law of Attraction. An example is Mark 11:24: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
The law of attraction is the attractive, magnetic energy of the Universe that manifests through everyone and everything. After all, every single living thing is made up of energy. It is part of the creative power of the Universe. It draws to you people who think like you, and situations and circumstances that you repeatedly think about.
So I put it to the test. And in the first five days of doing some of these techniques, here’s what I experienced:
I experienced more smiles from others and received more compliments. I unexpectedly got a refund direct-deposited from the IRS and was able to pay off my upcoming vacation. A co-worker brought me flowers. My favorite person texted me all day long. My huge work event that I had been planning for weeks went off with great success. I genuinely felt happier throughout the day, like mini-moments of joy sprinkled throughout hectic days. I got two emails from two different managers complimenting my work and a job well done. I had more warm, friendly conversations with people. My books climbed in their rankings on Amazon. Neighbors visited and brought treats to share. My drives into work seemed to have less traffic and stops along the way. (There are 21 traffic lights on my commute to work.) Mind you, these occurrences were all in a matter of days. Five days to be precise.
There is a counterpoint I need to make as well. The law of attraction also suggests that Like attracts like. It means that people tend to attract people who are similar to them—but it also suggests that people's thoughts tend to attract similar results. Negative thinking is believed to attract negative experiences, while positive thinking is believed to result in desirable experiences.
If you follow me on social media, you probably have already realized that I rarely post anything negative or complain. That’s partly because it’s just my nature, but also because I try to put positive energy out. Everyone could use a dose of happy in their life. I'd rather add to those I care about, not subtract or take away any ounce of their joy. The world is full of enough of the Debbie Downers and Dementors (those creepy things from the Harry Potter series that simply suck the happiness and life out of you.)
Does the law of attraction work? In my opinion, yes. Is it perfect? No. Has it made a positive impact on me and those around me? I would say absolutely yes. Is it for you? I can’t say. But I can say this: I see you. People see you. You are Heard and Acknowledged. And if you are suffering, I wish you peace. I will always send you sunshine, and I hope you choose to receive it and that it may bring you a smile. In times such as these, I would hope we can start building each other up, instead of tearing each other down. Kindness and compassion matters, and even the smallest gestures can have the biggest impact on others. Stop putting yourself down or thinking you don’t make a difference or affect others. You do. I promise you, you do.
I feel like I should end this blog with “Namaste” or something, but I’m really not that zen, Lol. Instead, I’ll say: Rock on, you amazing person! Choose happiness, and appreciate, love .and focus on all the good things that are in your life, no matter how small.
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This Boot Was Made For Walkin'...
So, I was doing a typical thing a lot of us do: multi-tasking. I ran down my basement stairs to quickly switch the laundry (as I have soooo many times before), and, whoops, my foot slipped (as it has soooooo many times before.) But, this time was different. I was 3 steps from reaching the bottom. And Zwooop! (that’s a word) I went down. I crumpled onto my poor foot and heard the very LOUD CRACK on the carpeted, concrete basement floor. The pain was so immediate and fierce that I suddenly thought, “OH MY GOD, PLEASE DON’T BE BROKEN!” I was sure I’d see a bone popping out. As I twisted myself around to see my foot, I was pleasantly surprised to see skin intact. Whew.
Nearly in tears, I hobbled back up the stairs, took 4 ibuprofen, and grabbed the ice pack from the freezer. I swallowed the pain killers, propped my leg up, and put it on ice. Once I was stationary, it didn’t hurt so much. I had dinner in the crockpot and my mom and sister were coming over later. I really didn't want to cancel. Plus, it didn’t hurt that bad at the moment. No need to rush to urgent care just yet. I figured I’ll wait and see how it feels the next day.
Fast forward through dinner and a lovely visit... I stayed off my poor foot and went to bed. At some crazy hour in the early a.m., my bladder called and I nearly cried as I hobbled the FIVE feet to my bathroom. Climbing back to bed the pain was excruciating. I knew I needed more ibuprofen and I dreaded having to make my way back to the medicine cabinet to get it. But, it was a necessary evil and about 30 minutes later the meds kicked in and I blissfully fell asleep.
I woke as usual to get ready for work but there was a massive power outage. We were told the office was closed until noon. Seeing how swollen my foot had become, I thought, Okay, Jules, go to the urgent care. So, I limped to my car and drove the quarter-mile to the urgent care around the corner from my house. After X-rays and waiting a ridiculous amount of time, the results were in: “ chipped bone/fracture.” They put a splint on my foot, wrapped it, and told me to follow up with an orthopedic doc. By this point, my office was already shut down for the day due to the power outage, so I called to schedule an appointment. Please get me in today, please get me in today…
Wishes DO come true. I got a 2:00 appointment. Thankfully, my oldest was available to help me pick up my crutches. After a quick meal, we parted ways and I drove myself to the orthopedic doctor.
Where I waited…
OH! I got in a room! YAY!
... and waited ...
... and waited.
… and waited.
Finally, the doctor came in! He was very nice, and I knew they squeezed me into the schedule, so I wasn’t too upset that I had to wait for what felt like 17 hours. He gently peeled off my bandages and splint, examined my foot, and informed me….
“Well. I don’t think it’s a chipped bone. This area often has calcified cartilage.
BUT… if it IS chipped, the treatment is the same. We’re putting you in a boot today. The GOOD news is, you’ll be feeling much better in about 2-3 weeks! Which is when I want to see you again.
And, he walked out. Um. Okay, bye doc?
They were clearly WAYYYY busy. And, the office manager, Michelle, was my savior, as she kept checking on me. Normally, I’d have to go to the nearby medical supply place to get fitted for the boot, but upon her realizing that I had driven myself, she said, “Oh goodness. Let me see if I can have them come to you.” 10 minutes later, she popped her head back in and said, “They can come here. Are you okay just hanging out here?”
Nodding, I replied, “Yep! I’m good! Thank you!”
About 45 minutes later, Noah enters with the boot. (Lots of instruction, and pain.)
Me: "Soooo, am I supposed to walk on this? Or … do I use the crutches?”
Noah: "Well what did your doctor say?"
Me: "He didn’t."
Noah: "Oh! Let’s find out."
A lot of looking around for the doc, and some jibberjabber later… I was, in fact, supposed to WALK wearing this thing.
Wait. WHAT the actual WHAT. The med tech who had checked me in walked by and said, “Yes, you’re supposed to walk on it.”
Not gonna lie, I was a tad uncouth when I said this outloud, “It hurts like a mother fucker.” (and no, i didn’t edit that) because, ouuuucchhhh.
She just laughed and replied, “YUP.”
I hobble to the check out with MIchelle. It was nearly 5 p.m. by now. They gave me a temporary handicap sticker thingy... But, I have to go to the secretary of state to fill it. (Contemplating if it’s worth it...Meh. I can walk. Or not. I’ll just not go anywhere…)
As I’m checking out, Michelle again suddenly realizes, “WAIT! You drove here by yourself?!?? How are you going to drive home?”
Looking down at my leg and it’s new stormtrooper-looking fashion accessory, I sighed and answered, “Yeah, I didn’t realize I was going to leave here looking like Robocop. I’ll take the boot off.”
Suck it up. You won’t die, Jules.
And, I didn’t. I got home. And my kids stepped up. I’ve got rides to and from work set up, and friends offered to help with anything I needed. Yeah, this injury sucks. But, it could’ve been worse. It can ALWAYS be worse. And, my amazing family, friends, and co-workers jumped in to help me. They are awesome. I am a lucky human. Never be too proud to depend on others. Ask for help when you need it, and don’t sweat the small stuff like waiting a ridiculous amount of time in waiting rooms. People can surprise you and we shouldn’t always be in such a hurry. After all, I was hurrying down the stairs to ‘hurry’ and switch the laundry, and look where that got me? The universe gave me the not-so-subtle hint, “Slow. Down. Jules.” So, I’m taking it easy for a few weeks and am looking forward to dancing a jig when I’m officially done with this boot. Thank you so much for all of the well-wishes!
50 Thoughts on Being a Mom.
The other night, as my kids gradually made their way home, I pondered how quickly my life is changing. As a mom of three kids ages 20, 19, and 17, this past year has made me cherish my fleeting time with them. They’re becoming independent young adults, with social lives, school, and jobs. They don’t need me so much anymore, and soon they’ll be moving out and living their own dreams and adventures. It’s funny how the small (seemingly boring) moments are what I hold on to and cherish so much.
Grace was lounging on the couch with me, watching anime (I was scrolling facebook because she was watching it IN Japanese with English subtitles. Ew.) Then, Jane arrived home from work at 7:30, warmed up leftovers, and chatted with us while eating at the table. Tired, she said goodnight at 8, hugged me, and went down to her room to relax and read before bed. Around 8:30, Adrian strolled in the front door after his shift at the hardware store and was followed by Grace’s boyfriend, who joined us on the couch, while Ade reheated dinner and took the seat where Jane was minutes before. We all casually chatted for a while before they went their own ways for the evening. It’s amazing to me that after being a mom for 20 years, my heart somehow still grows with love for these nuggets with each passing week. How is that even possible?
I remember when Jane, my oldest, was born. I was just instantly over the moon in love. When Grace came along 18 months later, I wondered how I could love them both sooo much. I couldn’t possibly have room for more. But it was there. When Adrian came two years after, I knew without a doubt that this little boy would capture my heart and be destined for great things. He was meant to come into the world at that exact time.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I decided to reflect on thoughts I’ve had and what being a mom has taught me over the years.
Your kids will sometimes think you’re the biggest jerk. They will hate you some days and will say it to your face. It stings. There will be teary moments and screaming matches. Your kid will think that you’re old and embarrassing. But it won’t last. It won’t always be that way. Some things just take time. So give time, some time. In my experience, the good, great, and fantastic moments far outnumber the others. Infants and toddlers grow quickly and learn fast. The surly, sulky, hide-in-their-room years will pass. Make the best of your moments with them, because the moments will become far and few between in a blink of an eye. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Moms, Aunts, Grandmas, sisters, and even the Dads who are the “mom,” too! Enjoy your day and your loved ones!
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Tiny Perfect Things.
Personally, it’s been a rough week. Hell, as some of you may know, it’s been a rough month/5 weeks. Dark February brings up not-so-pleasant memories of 2020 and 2018, and throw in some other junk from this past week, and you have a cocktail of mad sadness and anxiety for Jules.
But. (insert intentional period for pro-longed pause for the reader...) But, life is really made up of SO many moments. Most of them are actually lovely small moments. Sure, there’s the big, momentous occasions -- a wedding, graduation, birth, promotion, etcetera. But, those are sporadic throughout your life. What really makes up our lives -- our happiness, our sorrows, are all the tiny moments. The big hug from my kid when he walks in the door. The good morning or good night text from one of my favorite people. My friend tagging me in a funny meme. Enjoying a cup of coffee with a neighbor. Watching WandaVision virtually with my friend across the country. Sitting by a bonfire with my kids. Getting a pedicure. Reading a good book. Girl talk over cocktails and cream puffs. Seeing my daughters names on the Dean's List from college. Walking at the park with an old friend. Those seconds, minutes, hours, and days often seem to pass uneventfully… but THOSE are the moments that make up the sum of our life, what we represent, how we’ve lived, and who we’ve loved.
Today, I was reflecting on just that. I had a rough 8 days. But, during those 8 days, I had some dear friends check in on me. They messaged. They popped into my office. They sent me a good morning text. Different friends, from different areas of my life. And, it struck me today, how much I truly cherish and love all of these individuals. They may not realize what a profound impact they have in my life, but profound it truly is.
They see and share my struggles. They offer condolences, advice, love, silly memes, jokes, or drinks. They pull me through these tough moments, and they CELEBRATE my victories with me. These connections and friendships - whether they are people I see every day at work, people I see once a month, or people I almost NEVER see due to distance or other circumstance, they are the true treasures and measure of my life: My kids. My co-workers. My long-time friends and my newer friends. These moments and conversations, and most importantly, the unwavering support and love that I feel and receive from these people (even if not always said) are priceless. I will gladly spend this world's most precious commodity -- time -- with each of you.
Thank you for being a part of my life.
“It’s true that we’re losing time every day, all the time, until the day it’s all gone. But you’re gaining it too. Every second - perfect moments. One after the other, until by the end, you have your whole life. You have everything. And it costs you everything.”
I think most people agree that 2020 has been pretty brutal. Even being the mostly-positive, happy-go-lucky gal that I am, I’ve had my fair share of struggles, anxiety, and depression. Nothing throws off my groove more than when I’m in a sour mood or sad. I was thinking today how I just want this year to be over, and thinking about all of the not-so-great stuff that’s happened, but then I paused to think about the other side of the coin.
Why am I wishing away time that is so precious? What am I in a hurry to get to? To be older? To have my kids be that much closer to moving out on their own? To be missing them? To be richer? To be happier? How many chances - or days left for that matter - will I get? Nobody knows. I can have the most important things now if I so choose to.
I still have many cherished loved ones in my life. I am healthy, I have a comfortable house, a newer car. I have food in my pantry and fridge. I have a job that I love and work with some amazing people. I can pay my bills every month (although, there’s never much leftover). My kids are healthy, kind young adults, who are excellent students and contributing members of society. Sure, I’ve had a lot of inconveniences and it feels like there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go -- especially as of late, but, honestly, life isn’t soooo bad.
I decided to chronicle all the crappy stuff I went through, in order to spin it and see the other side that wasn’t so bad. I’m doing this as a study to show a different perspective; to show how changing your point of view can lead to choosing happiness now, instead of wishing time away and hoping that things will be different. We can choose to make things different -- to change -- NOW.
January 2020. My personal life got turned upside-down and I left Facebook for quite a while.
Flip side: Damn. This one is really hard. January just really sucked. (Although, I released my 8th novel, and wrapped up a trilogy. So… there’s that.)
February. This was the month of tears for me as I dealt with the fallout from January. It has now gone down in my personal history as Dark February. I hope to never revisit it again.
Flip side: I worked on myself and went through some personal growth and paradigm shifts. I am proud of what I learned. I also had a memorable, tipsy night out dancing with friends.
March. The virus hit, a pandemic was declared, and I was furloughed. I never saw this coming back in December.
Flip side: I had a bite of one of the most amazing hamburgers I’ve ever eaten in my life, and started to make amends with someone very dear to me. Dark February Fall-out was slowly beginning to heal.
April. Everything was shut down and fear gripped America. Toilet paper and Lysol were impossible to find and for the first time that I can remember, grocery store shelves were emptied and bare, due to panic buying and supply chain issues. Don’t even get me started on the nightmare of filing for unemployment. Ugh.
Flip side: I learned to conserve stuff and not be so wasteful. I cooked more, spent more time outside, and decluttered my garage and basement. My neighbors started a group chat to help each other shop and pick up groceries. So many porch deliveries from friends saved me from going out, and eased the strain on my wallet. The CARES Act passed, and provided me additional unemployment funds, allowing me to not be so financially strapped.
May. More of the same. My daughter’s high school musical, senior prom, senior choir trip, and commencements were canceled.
Flip side: My daughter’s high school put on a drive-thru-socially-distanced graduation and had lots of different photography stations set up. The school did a really great job of making it special for the kids and their families. Balloons, cheering stations, and pictures on the football field...it was tear-jerker kind of day. I also became acutely aware of which people and friends were most important to me. When you can’t see the people you love, you realize how much you do love them and need them in your life.
June. We made the decision to post-pone Grace’s graduation party. Events were being canceled everywhere.
Flip side: There was a senior parade of cars, and my family all spread out along the route to with signs to cheer for Gracie as we drove by in our decorated car. She wore her cap and gown, smiled and waved at everyone, just like a Disney princess.
July. The extra unemployment money was due to end. I was extremely stressed wondering if my layoff would be permanent, whether I’d have health care, and how I was going to pay my bills. Oh. I also broke my nose. That was an experience I’ll never forget, and never wish to repeat.
Flip side: I was called back to work and was greatly relieved and happy to be back. My kids got to finally spend time with their dad, who is a nurse on the frontlines, and the world seemed to be getting back to a new, albeit different, “normal.” We also hosted a socially distance/appointment only grad party for Grace. My nose and face healed nicely. (Tho rumors surfaced that I either (a) got in a brawl; or (b) had plastic surgery on my nose/lips. Both of which were untrue, and had me smirking and rolling my eyes.)
August: Face-to-face schooling was on, but following new guidelines, and my 16-year-old son would be doing some remote learning which he was not too happy about. The huge book conference and signing that I attend every year was officially canceled.
Flip side: Because August is my birthday month, and I always try to fill it with 31 days of random acts of kindness. As ever, it was an amazing month of compassion, sweet gestures, and love. Also, I went to my first drive-in movie EVER. (The original Jurassic Park with the kiddos!)
September. Everyone around me was completely stressed about school shutting down, home learning, how to balance work, etcetera. I was losing my damn mind listening to it all, on top of the fact, that although my job seemed secure, this pandemic made me realize that no one was safe from the fallout. I was grateful for every paycheck and prayed I would work another week.
Flip side: My son was able to do in-person school… for a while. I participated in a few socially distanced small art fairs, and supplemented my income with art and book sales.
October: An upswing of positive cases of COVID-19 and Schools shut down and went to remote learning.
Flip side: Myself and my entire immediate family had so far managed to stay safe and healthy. Taking advantage of some places still being opened, I had a wonderful girls weekend trip to the wineries in St. Joseph. It was a much-needed escape with a small taste of the way life used to be. We dined outside, and masked up, but it was still a fantastic time. Halloween trick-or-treating went on as planned (although wayyyyy less kids out). And, I got to meet my daughter's new boyfriend.
November. The Governor declared another state of emergency, shutting down services, restaurants, and bars, and ordered people to work remotely if possible. EVERYTHING WAS CLOSED. AGAIN. And when we weren't being blasted with Corona news, the election and politics took over and everyone lost their mind. For real.
Flip side: My company made it possible for me to work remotely several days a week, which I am truly thankful for. We celebrated my daughter turning 20. (TWENTY?!?).
December: Anxiety was creeping back in, and I needed a break from social media and, for my own sanity, needed to take myself out of the equation for a while. I was worried what this month would bring and now that it’s finally on its last day, I can say it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. I still stress about staying healthy and working and providing for myself and my kids. And, there’s a few writing projects I’d like to move on and finish, but circumstances haven’t been ideal.
Flip side: The worry will always be there, somewhere in the back of my mind. But, I also know, that through all of the stress, sadness, discomfort, inconvenience, and difficulty that I’ve faced this past year, I know I will get through it. I know it will all be “okay,” in some manner or other. Some days I need that reminder. Some days are harder than others.
Through it all, we can choose to see the good things in all of the bad. Sure, this year has been a sh*t show for most of us. But, just like everything in life, there’s always another side to the story...to all of our stories.
In December, I decided I needed to take some time to figure out how I wanted the next year of my life to go. What rhythm and people I could find that would help bring balance back to my life. Certain relationships need to change. Some of my reactions and how I cope with some things need to change. There’s no better time to do it than now.
There are 3 phrases in my life that were coined in 2020 that I never want to re-visit.
1. Dark February
2. Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19)
3. Super Spreader
What and who will bring you sorrow? What and who will bring you joy? Start doing more to achieve the latter. Trials and tribulations are a part of life. But regardless of the stresses and sorrows you have been through, remember that there’s always a flip side, even if you don’t see it at first. There’s often always a choice. Albeit not one you always want to make, but sometimes one you need to make, for your health and/or eventual happiness.
Cheers, to the end of 2020; to never being a “super spreader”; to new beginnings; and to the plot twist you’ve been dreaming of.
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For quite some time now, I have believed that the Universe has a way of correcting itself. Call it karma, call it cosmic balance, call it something else… but whatever you call it, I feel like eventually, what goes around, comes around. And, although the “correction” or “counter-measure” may not happen when you want it to, or expect it, rest assured, it will. In my experience, it always does.
Let me give you an example of said balance in the Universe. The other day I opened my lower kitchen cupboard, and as I did so, my Pyrex glass measuring cup went tumbling out onto the floor, shattering into a zillion pieces. Of course, I had a slew of curse words, not only because I had to clean up the microscopic shards of glass that went EVERYWHERE, but also because that measuring cup is the most amazing thing EVER. Pyrex must have used like NASA spaceship glass on that model because it never got hot when warming things in the microwave. Even after boiling water for 5 minutes, the handle was cool to the touch. (And, go ahead and google that - Corning, the company who produces Pyrex, actually DID make heat resistance glass for NASA, including the window on Apollo 11.) Anyhow, it was late and I was in the middle of preparing dinner, so I cleaned up the glass and, in my hurry (and laziness) simply tossed it into the top of the trash can. Life went on, with me saddened over the loss of my 25-year-old amazing measuring cup.
The next day, my son was helping me clean out the garage and we carried all of the trash to the curb, as the following day was garbage pick-up day. Man, did it feel good to purge and get stuff organized before the cold weather hits! Monday came and let me tell ya, it was a typical “Shmonday.” Between work business and personal junk, it was just not a good day. But then, my friend texted and asked if I wanted to meet at the park to walk that evening. It was JUST what I needed to help my mood and mental state. We agreed to meet at 5 pm. I’d have to run home, change clothes, then hurry back out to meet her on time, but it was no problem as I leave work at 4.
Wouldn’t you know it, traffic sucked on the way home and I knew I was running late. Then, when I pulled onto my street, the garbage truck was literally parked RIGHT in front of my house, blocking my driveway and most of the street. After sitting for several minutes (what the HECK were those guys doing???) Finally, one of them flagged me over. I rolled down my window saying, “Sorry, I can’t pull forward. I’ll just wait because my driveway is being blocked.”
He quickly replied, “Oh sorry!” He gestured to the other guy at the truck. “Someone had broken glass in one of the bags and he cut his hand pretty badly.” I inwardly cringed. Oh fuck. That was me. I felt terrible knowing I played a part in his hand getting cut and bloodied.
Once the street was clear, I ran into my house, changed, and texted my friend an apology for being late and that I was on the way. (For the record, I also got stopped by an ambulance, a fire truck, and 3 police cars speeding to some emergency with their lights on.)
See? The Universe taught me! My anger and sloppy way of cleaning up my mess ended in a random stranger cutting his hand while trying to do his job and between that, the traffic, and police and fire vehicles, the universe also aptly made me late to meet my friend.
How many things happen in the world that we are the direct or indirect cause of? We really have no clue what the ripple effect of our actions, or lack thereof, may trigger. I bet it’s too numerous to count. When you think you don’t affect people, think again: you do. Our words, actions, sentiments… all have some kind of effect in the world and people around us, whether we see it or not.
How we treat people and situations, is a direct reflection of our character and our compassion. And, you may never know how much you’ve positively affected someone, or how much you’ve hurt them. Wouldn’t you rather err on the side of caution? (Also, it’s called not being a d*ck.)
Clean up the messes you make. Both literally and figuratively.
Keep balance in the universe. Or, for my Star Wars fans, “Bring balance to the force.”
If you don’t, the universe will find a way to balance the scales on its own, with potentially far worse consequences. Trust me.