A 45 YEAR OLD OIL CHANGE

45 years. Almost half a century. Damn. I remember adults saying “time flies” when I was in my teens but it is so very true. TIME FLIES. I was 16 and got my license and had no wrinkles and no cellulite and I could see well and hear well and move fast. I could flip in circles, upside down, jump, and climb to the top of pyramids at cheer. I was 27 and carried a human being in my uterus. I gave birth. I nursed those babies. From my own body. I was 42 and climbed Pikes Peak. It hurt. It was hard. But I did it.

I turn 45 years old tomorrow. And it is absolutely amazing. All of it. 2017 has been a year. A crazy, sad, tragic, happy, wonderful year. My grandmother died this year. My cheer team went to Nationals this year. And did VERY well. I went to the Dominican Republic this year. I rocked New Orleans this year. My marriage ended this year. I moved to a new home this year. I met a dude this year. I learned to climb really scary, high rocks and mountains this year. I slept in a tent in the middle of Wyoming this year. I slept in a Nebraska field and saw the total solar eclipse this year. I learned how to fly fish this year. I stood front row at a Zac Brown concert this year. I got my 4th tattoo this year. I found me this year.
One of the strange things about turning 45 is that my Dad died when he was 53. And its weird. Its weird to be so close to the age we lost him. Its very very weird.
Im scheduling an oil change for my Jeep. For tomorrow. For my birthday. I know its silly but Ive never done that. My Dad changed my oil when I was younger. My husband always got it done when I was married. So at 45 years old Im taking my car to get an oil change for the first time in my life. Part of me feels ridiculous about that. I can climb mountains. I can move myself to a new house. I can do anything. But this stupid oil change thing has me a little flustered. And I get that its not about the oil change. I never liked change before. I hated it in fact. I liked my little circle of comfort I lived in. I liked things staying the same. I don’t anymore. I like change. It means Im breathing. It means Im living. It means Im growing. And every single thing in my life changed this year. All of it. And it was sad and weird and surreal and scary and absolutely awesome.
Funny- the older I get the more I know that I don’t know crap. Kind of ironic because when I was 22 I knew it all. I don’t know what Im doing. I don’t know where Im going. I don’t know how Ill get there. I don’t know where I’ll be in 2 years. Truly. I don’t know. And I love it. I love not knowing.
What I DO know for sure at 45 is that 45 is better than 25. Or 35. That I love my kids more than I ever thought I could love anything. That I love myself. That LOVE always wins. That aluminum foil can’t go in the microwave. That working out is freaking awesome. That climbing a mountain is my church. That God loves me JUST the way I am. That good friends are priceless. That music is life. That real men are amazing. AMAZING ;). That cookies are always ALWAYS a good idea. That football is Heaven. That divorce isn’t always and doesn’t have to be ugly. That Im a tough broad. That RULES are stupid after you’re an adult. That I don’t like average. And that Im happy. HAPPY. Very very happy.
Now Im going to get an oil change. By myself. And it might be the best damn birthday present ever.
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YOU’RE ALLOWED TO

Can I leave my kids for a few days to go to a concert? Can I miss work one day because Im sick? Is it ok to end a marriage? Can I tell someone “no” just because I don’t want to do it? Can I drive up a mountain alone to hike when I should be working? Can I NOT donate to the jar at the grocery store for this week’s charity? Can I wear blue shoes with black pants? Can I forgive myself?
YES. Yes I damn sure can. Because Im a grown ass woman and the power is mine. My life is MY life. It doesn’t belong to my kids or my ex husband or my Mom or the church or my cheer team or the guy Im dating. My tomorrow doesn’t always get decided by external forces. It gets decided by ME. And I will not “go to some hell” or rot away or have bad Karma or answer to someone who doesn’t like my decisions. I wont. You wont. You can stop believing you will. Its the absolute hardest fucking lesson Ive ever learned in my life……that I’M ALLOWED TO.
I spent 30 years worried about what everyone else thought. That each decision I made was being judged. That people would think bad things of me. And guess what….they did. And they do. And you know what happens when others have opinions of you, when others judge you, when others don’t agree with the decisions you make? ABSO FUCKING LUTELY NOTHING! Nothing.
There’s things that will HAPPEN in your life that you can’t control. Deaths, losses, tragedies, disappointments, things. There’s so very much you CANNOT control. But you know what? Theres a few wonderful things YOU get to decide. So YOU decide them. Wear the crazy shoes to work, change your middle name to “Badass”, climb a mountain on a Tuesday, quit that shit job, travel more, sleep outside, let your kids skip a day of school just cuz, rent a convertible, stay up all night long giggling uncontrollably with friends ;).
Thank you Donna for the most unbelievable weekend. Front row at a live concert is fucking cool. Whataburger at midnight is awesome. Staying up all night with my friends laughing about inappropriate things is super cool. 5 am flight however….not so awesome….. LOL.
YOU are allowed to. I am allowed to. Quit asking permission in your head. Quit worrying what everyone thinks. Quit obsessing over your hair, your cellulite, your outfit matching, how clean your damn house is (no one who loves you cares). I turn 45 years old this Thursday. Ive never felt happier honestly. And its hard not to believe thats truly because Im free of the need to be approved of. I love my kids, my friends, my job, my wrinkles, my age spots and my life. And Im allowed to!!!!
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WHAT’S IN A NAME

In High School there were so many “Jennifers” that I don’t think anyone really ever called me that. All of my friends, and I mean all of them, called me “Ellis.” Except Lauren. She’s always called me “Jen”. I like that. Even the boyfriends I had called me “Ellis”. I liked it. I loved it. I love that name. My sister named her first born “Ellis”. Its a good name. Simple. But with a lot of history. There are no more Ellis’. My brother was the last. He doesn’t plan to have children so that last name (at least in our family) will end.
In 1997 I went in to do my paperwork after I got married. I got a new social security card and they gave me the opportunity to choose my name. I chose to drop my birth name of “Jennifer Renee Ellis” and legally change my name to “Jennifer Ellis Nugent”. I wanted to take my husband’s name but my heart could not let go of “Ellis.”
And tomorrow I have to make another decision about my name. Legal papers have to be signed. I have to decide what my name will be. Legally. And its eating up my insides. For 20+ years I’ve been Jennifer Nugent. For almost as long as I was Jennifer Ellis, Ive been Jennifer Nugent.  Its my kids’ last name. It has a history. It means a lot to me. 20 years of idiots asking me “are you related to Ted?” Twenty years of identity. Twenty years of seeing it in writing, of practicing writing it before we married, twenty years of seeing it, being it, being her, being 1 of 2. Then 1 of 4. And you can see pictures on social media and my happiness and my smile now….but KNOW that the mourning and the grief are real. And hurt. And I hurt.
And its “just a name”. And most women keep the married name for the kids. And as I need to decide in less that 24 hours….I sit here completely unsure of what I’ll do. My heart is broken. It may not look like it. But rest assured it is. For what might’ve been. For who I was. For who I lost. For a name, that if I choose not to write, is suddenly gone. Can it be THAT simple?
I have a tattoo on my wrist of an “E” written in my Dad’s handwriting. Its for “Ellis”. I got it few years after he died. To remember. But I didn’t need a tattoo to remember him. Or who I was. Or who I am. Or what being an Ellis means. And I know I don’t need a legal piece of paper to tell me who I am. I don’t need a name to define me. But the symbolism of it all is real. And whatever I decide tomorrow I will remember my second Mom, Lynda’s words: “You make the right decision in the moment for who and what you are right then. Dont regret the decisions you make. You do the best you can in the moment you are in.”
I am Jenny. I am Jennifer. I am Jen. I am Jennifer Renee Ellis. I am Ellis. I am Jennifer Ellis Nugent. And nothing will ever change any of that. Ever. I am all of her. And always will be.
Here’s to grace and forgiveness in decisions.
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URGENCY, ALTITUDE & ENDINGS

I’ve certainly acclimated to living at just under 8,000 feet. The altitude really never bothers me at all unless I try to run. And I don’t run. Ever. If I do…there’s a bear or a cop and things are about to get bad. Something happens to me, however, when I get to about 10,200 feet. Every single time. Its like that particular elevation is my breaking point. My lungs start to hurt a little and its hard to breathe and it feels like an elephant is standing on my chest and I gasp with urgency a bit. Slightly anxious I’ll not be able to breathe. And I can’t move as fast above 10,200 feet. So my breath is racing and my heart is going a million miles an hour but I physically can’t move as fast as I can below that altitude.

 

I feel like I have been living above 10,200 feet for many years now. Full of urgency and anxiety. Trying to move fast to keep up. And I just can’t.  I just can’t.

I grew up in the suburbs. With two married parents and two sets of married grandparents just miles away. Sundays we all went to church and had lunch at my Nanny & Pawpas. I went to a great suburban High School. Had great friends. Had a wonderful childhood and no complaints about any of it. It was pretty perfect. And I assumed I would do all of the same. The kids, the suburbs, the lunches on Sundays with MY parents. Its what I wanted. Its what I got. And it was beautiful. All of it. Until it wasn’t. And that’s the part nobody wants to hear I guess. That it’s not always beautiful.
I’ve met a handful of people who’ve been in amazing marriages. And boy are they lucky and blessed and work hard at it and all the planets aligned and life or God or fate or whatever you believe in melded two people together perfectly. But MOST of the marriages Ive seen have not been perfect. Some last. Some don’t. Some last waaaaay beyond the time that they should have in my opinion. Some end badly. Some end amicably. Some fizzle. Some blow up. Marriage is not easy. And the funny thing about it is that every single solitary person that is married has a different definition of what marriage is to them. To some its religious. To some its just a legal contract. To some its an equal partnership. To some they believe one partner should have more “power” in the relationship. My marriage was something totally different to me than anyone else’s is to them. And I don’t have any right to judge YOUR marriage or beliefs anymore than others have a right to judge mine. But we do. We do.

I posted some pictures on Facebook yesterday of my adventure in Wyoming with Dave. I got QUITE a few private messages immediately. Most had the best of intentions. The ones that made me laugh a little asked “hey…I see you cuddled up with some dude…is everything good with your husband?” And the asshole in me wanted to say “well of course- we are great- I just vacation with other men.” But I know people mean well. I know some of it is just curiosity. I live a life OUT LOUD and have been “reprimanded” on several occasions for things Ive said, done, posted. People judge. Its what they do. And people ask. And its ok.
People mean well also when they “warn” you to be careful. Or say “maybe you’re moving too fast”. Or “have you even thought of your children?” The meanest thing anyone has said to me recently was “have you thought about your kids?” Seriously? No. Not at all. It took years of miscarriages and trying so damn hard to have these kids that I adore and would die for that I just momentarily forgot about them while making some life decisions that would affect them forever. OOOOPS. Crap. I forgot about those 2 people that leave dirty dishes everywhere, fuss at me, slam doors, ask for money constantly, hug me without warning, tell me its all ok, encourage me, KNOW me. They are ALL I consider when making decisions. And they know that.
I think when a relationship or marriage comes to an end publicly its such a shock to everyone around that they don’t realize it is FAR from a shock to those living in it. Issues have been going on for YEARS sometimes. YEARS. There is no judgment, guilt, shame that anyone could bestow upon me that would ever, EVER compare to the guilt and shame and judgement Ive placed on myself over the past few years. What happens within the walls of a home are most often not known to others. As it should be. I feel extremely lucky to have had the man that is the father of my children, who was my husband for 20 years, my friend, the man who got me through my Dad’s death. He is a pretty fucking amazing person. And Dad.
I also feel extremely lucky to have found me over the past few years. Alone. Who I am. What I need and want and what makes ME happy. And far too many people stay in situations that they are unhappy in because they think its the right thing to do. And maybe it is…FOR THEM. No judgement. None. I love marriage. I love love. I don’t see the end of a 20 year marriage as a failure. I never will. Those two people eating cheese on my couch are the two greatest successes WE ever created and without that marriage I wouldn’t have them. Id do it all again. All of it. The good, bad, sad, happy, joyous, painful, beautiful…all of it. I refuse to live with regret. I also refuse to live paralyzed and unable to breathe and gasping for breath and anxious and full of a feeling of urgency to keep up with the Joneses and be someone Im not.
And that may not sit well with some. Thats ok. I don’t aim to be liked by everyone. Ill be 45 years old in a few weeks. And I feel more me than I have in a very very very very long time. When my Dad died on that highway 11 years ago I think my marriage died. I think my dreams died. I think part of me died. And admitting that has been the hardest thing Ive ever done in my life next to burying him. It took a decade but I have new dreams now. Grief is a funny thing. It sure doesn’t care how long its been or what other shit is going on in your life. It doesn’t care. Just like the mountain doesn’t care. You climb to 11,000 feet and its one giant “FUCK YOU”. She doesn’t give two shits about whether you can breath. Just like life. When I hit the 10,500 foot point on the mountain in Wyoming this past Sunday I just squatted and bawled. Hysterically and uncontrollably cried. The beauty was overwhelming. Divorce is overwhelming. Being a Mom is overwhelming. Owning a business is overwhelming. Life can be fucking overwhelming. But I didn’t have to stay at 10,500 feet. I didn’t have to. So I didn’t.
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TOTALITY

There was a guy in High School we called a “stoner”. In the late 80’s we put everyone in a “group”. You know…like Breakfast Club. I was a cheerleader. (Eye roll). So I didn’t really talk to many stoners. And he was smart. And he got good grades. And I never SAW him do drugs its just obviously fact when the label gets assigned……right? He’s not on Facebook now. I don’t know what happened to him. I don’t even remember his last name. And Im an asshole for that. I don’t think he did drugs. But so fucking what if he did. I should’ve talked to him then. I shouldn’t have AssUMED shit. But don’t we all. We are given a limited bit of information about someone- what we can see, what is posted on social media, what it looks like in pictures….and we AssUME. Human nature.
I’ve gone through a transformation and big life change over the past few years. And as a “public figure” (that makes me laugh) and someone who shares “everything” on social media it’s tricky. Because I’m just fine sharing all of my shit. I don’t care. I would’ve been writing about it for a long, long time. Because Im a writer and I know my sharing about my crap tastic days and my wonderful days helps other people. But here’s the thing——its not just MY story. When you have other people in your life…kids, partners, a spouse….it’s THEIR story too. Its THEIR shit too. So exposing all of that because its THERAPEUTIC for me or its just what I do might be a little selfish when the other parties in my life don’t want their shit hung out for all the public to see. And I completely and “TOTALLY” respect that.
The consequences of sharing just SOME of your life publicly is that people get to assume the rest. And I accept that. Its ok. Its what we do. Its how I treated that “stoner” all those years ago. I AssUMED. I thought I knew. But I didn’t. I didn’t have access to the whole story of his life. Nor should I have unless he chose to share it with me. And he didn’t. And I don’t blame him. I wish he had. I wish Id been mature enough not to AssUME. I wish Id seen the TOTALITY of his story. I wish we could all see the TOTALITY of each others’ stories. We just might be a little more forgiving, a little more understanding, and a little less judgmental. But its not that way. And I accept that.
I laid in an 80 acre hay field in Nebraska yesterday and watched the total eclipse. It was honestly the most AMAZING thing Ive ever seen in my life. And as I laid there I thought about how powerful that sun is. That we see it in its TOTALITY each day. In all its glory. Shining as bright and powerful as it always has. With nothing to hide. Doing its job, warming the planet and keeping my ass alive everyday. And this one day…this one period of 2 something minutes…she hid behind the moon. She got to rest. Even for just a brief few moments. And then that circle of gases became visible around the edges- crazy beautiful. All of that light seeping out of the sides. And it hit me….she’s not resting, she’s not dimmer, she’s not hiding at all…she’s still shining as bright as she ever has, powerful as ever, doing her job, being completely vulnerable and not hiding a thing. We just couldn’t see all of her. And that’s on US. (Ok its a little bit the moon’s fault too I guess). 😉
I see her more today than any other day in my lifetime. I know there’s more to the story. I know she shows her TOTAL self no matter what others think they know. And thats a lesson I can learn. And how others interpret what they see is not about me at all. Its about them.
So I’ll continue to show my totality. With respect to the others in my life for their privacy. I’ll share MY story. And hope that those reading & watching know theres always more to it. Isn’t there always more to it? Always. More than we see. More than we think we know. More than whats visible. I love life. I plan to live every single second of it with beauty and love and vigor and a gypsy spirit. And I pledge to not AssUME I know anything at all.
Happy is good place to be. Happy. Me. In all TOTALITY…..ME.
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11 YEARS

11 years. Its a long time. I miss you. You’d think it would get better. They say time heals all wounds. I don’t know who “they” are but “they” are wrong. Some wounds split you wide open and you bleed for a long time and you put some stitches in it and a bandage over it and move on. But there’s always a scar. And your skin is never EVER the same as it was before. Accepting that I will NEVER be who I was before has been a long journey. Its hard to admit that your death affected every aspect of my life. The way I parent, the way I don’t trust, the way I hide, the way I run. The way I laugh, my marriage, where I live, how I look at life, my friendships, how I travel….everything….EVERY SINGLE THING.

So I fought to be her for a long time. To remain that girl I was when you walked the Earth. I fought to be a perfect Mom & wife & friend & decorator & have a nice house & matching throw pillows & all of it. It took almost a decade to accept something very very hard to accept. She died when you died. SHE died when you died, Dad. And I hated you for that. I hated you for dying on that highway and taking all of us with you. Because you did. You took who I was with you. And finding me again has been a long journey. I’ve hurt people. Ive hurt me. Ive failed at things. Ive failed at a lot of things. Ive not been the best I could be. Ive made mistakes. Blaming you has been easy. Or blaming God or the Universe or the deer that jumped in front of your motorcycle 11 years ago tomorrow. But in the past year I realized something….its all on me. I accept that I made mistakes. I caused hurt. I hurt me. I lost me. I did that. Me.
I am impossibly imperfect and hypocritical and selfish and mean at times and impatient and too competitive and cold. You know what else I am? Im funny and kind and a deep thinker and unselfish and a good Mom and a friend who tries and a great business woman and a good hiker and a good writer and a sock collector and I can even be warm and nurturing at times. And I love hard. And its all ok. ALL of it. Every bit of who I am is ok. It has taken a very very long time to know that. To my core.
You were not a saint. Far from it. And sometimes we posthumously paint those we love with a brush that makes them seem that they were. You weren’t. You cussed a lot. You were impatient. Sometimes you drank too much. You had a short temper. You were very hard headed. You hurt Mom’s feelings a few times. You wanted things done your way always. You were also unbelievably kind and loyal and reliable and hard working and funny and adventurous and an amazing Dad. ALL of that. ALL of that is ok.
When you died I realized I don’t get to control everything. And life can hand you some shit. Some real bad ugly awful shit. I now know, its not about the SHIT. Its about the way you REACT to the shit. Sometimes I react badly. Sometimes I react in a way I am very proud of. I am human. I like rap music and crazy socks and getting my nails done. I can be vain. I love to travel. I love to read. I love my hammock. I love wearing dresses to parties and getting all fancy. I love yoga pants and solitude on a mountain. I love my kids more than they will ever know until they are parents. Im good at business. Im bad at tech. I love life. More than I ever realized before you died on that road. My friends mean the world to me. I wish I knew how to show them that more.
Of all the things that happened the week you died I’ll remember forever the lady who drove from a truck stop way up north to attend your funeral. A single older mom who worked crazy shifts to support her kids. A lady who you over tipped many many times so she could get her kids Christmas gifts. A lady we’d have never ever known about had you not died. And maybe in the end thats all its about. That you sat in a diner you may not have even loved to tip a lady extra so she could afford gifts. Maybe life is as simple as that. And assholes like me try to complicate it too much.
I went rock climbing yesterday. You’d be proud of me. I got very frustrated at one point (or 10) and was stuck in one spot. I cussed. I even slapped the rock. As if it was the rock’s fault that I was stuck. That I was too impatient to stop, breath & re look at my options. There was a route you were supposed to stick to. Certain moves you make to follow the line so you can ascend like everyone else does. I couldn’t  get my fingers placed the way you were supposed to so you could follow the line. And then I smiled because hanging there in mid air, frustrated as SHIT that I couldn’t do it like everyone else, I realized there’s not just ONE way to do things. There’s not. There’s all different paths and roads and I don’t have to follow other people’s paths. I don’t have to do it the way other people do it. And if I fuck up…then hey….THATS on me. But I can say I did it my way. They way I knew. The way that worked for me……maybe, just maybe, I was THIS girl all along.
Love you, Dad. Miss you. I’ll have a beer tomorrow alone in the driveway. Tradition. Thank you.
“I took my love, I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring it down”   ~ Stevie Nicks, Landslide
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DEAR DAD; SEASONS

I miss you. In a few weeks it’ll be 11 years since you died and I honestly CANNOT believe that. There are moments it feels like yesterday. There are moments its raw and makes my gut hurt. There’s days I don’t think of you until around noon and that feels weird. Makes me feel guilty. I know it shouldn’t. But it does. I wanted to tell you about Summit. And some other shit.
When you died I had to tell your Mom. I had to tell my 82 year old grandmother, 11 years ago, that her son was dead. It is and will remain one of the hardest things Ive ever done. And I was mad at you for it. And I know that makes absolutely no sense at all. Its pretty fucked up actually. But it is what it is. It is what I felt. Im not mad anymore. Im not mad at you. For dying. Nanny died on your wedding anniversary a few months ago. I guess you know that now. You are all gone now. Pawpa is gone. You are gone. Nanny is gone. Your sister is all thats left of your first family. I miss all of you. I miss Nanny most right now. Give me an hour. Ill miss you more.
I feel old lately. Maybe its stress. Lot of shit going on. You know. Maddie is 17. What the fuck. How did THAT happen? We are looking at colleges this summer. Shit. SHIT. Andy is funny. And talented. He drew an incredible penis on his math final and was suspended for a day. It was creative, though…..so there’s that. Im mad they don’t have you. Im mad at someone about that. Dont really know who. They are INCREDIBLE people. But they’d have been all the better if you’d been around. Andy reminds me so much of you its ridiculous.
It was my 4th Beachbody Summit. I just got back late last night. As always it was emotional and amazing. My “little business” is starting to make some differences I never expected. Financially Im growing, Im adding team members, Im actually smarter than people think at this CEO thing. Who knew?…..Im bull-shittin’….I knew. And YOU knew. Im a smart cookie. Time to own that I guess.  A few people Ive never met recognized me. It was so surreal. I looked around and behind me like “who are you talking to?” You’ll get a kick outta the fact that the “Too Short” tape you made fun of in my car tape deck in the late 80’s has something to do wth my success. You said “rap is just a phase”. Turns out you were a tad wrong about that. And my fitness company is called “Too Short Fitness.” So take that! ;)-
Its hard to process all that happened at Summit but of all the things that happened ONE will remain my favorite. One touched my heart like no other. One made me break down into tears. Someone (a fellow coach) said that because of my 121 mile hike for Carson that she felt called to speak to her son about mental health. I wont reveal the details. They aren’t mine to reveal. But she told me I made a difference and thats everything. THATS EVERYTHING.
Its been a shit year, Dad, I aint gonna sugar coat it. Sometimes I feel brave and tough and warrior like. Sometimes I crawl in bed and cry. And I guess thats ok. Seasons in life, right? Seasons. And this particular season may be hard but its leading somewhere and I KNOW that. I trust that.
I miss you. More now than 11 years ago. When people compliment my sense of humor I credit you. I credit you for loving music, liking beer, being impatient, loving love, being able to truly SATURATE myself into special moments, and my drive. And I credit and blame you for that “never satisfied” thing I have. I’ll keep rockin n rollin. Keep raising Hell, Dad. Its about the moments, right? Just the moments.
Turn up, tune in, rock out, speak up, and love your friends- LOVE your friends. And TELL them that. No regrets.
Here’s to the Seasons.
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EMBRACING THE I DONT KNOWS & MOVING FORWARD

I’ve heard it called a mid life crisis. I pictured a 50 year old man with a bit of a gut, a receding hairline he’s trying to save, and a sports car he shouldn’t have bought. I pictured him flirting with younger women and making a fool of himself. I pictured a cheesy shirt and some jewelry he shouldn’t be wearing and a dirty martini. Its what I pictured. What crept up and slapped me square in the face was what it really is. Not so much a crisis as a stage of life. A transition. A skin shedding. A wing spreading. A death and a rebirth….and most shocking of all….not a HIM at all.

Admitting Im in a “transitional phase” (as the experts like to call it) is humbling, embarrassing, cathartic, cleansing, funny, and disappointing all at once. Im only 44 years old. Ill be 45 in a few months but I don’t think theres an actuall time stamp on when this shit happens to you. You can be 38. You can be 58. Its not exactly about an age but more about whats going on in your life. And whats going on in my life? Ha. Great question. Wish I had an answer for that. Since the age of I don’t even recall Ive pretty much had my shit together. I knew I wanted to be married, have a family, have a home, plant roots and be a Mom. In 24 months my oldest leaves for college. My youngest will be doing online school so it matters not where he lives. So it goes without saying I’ve given some thought to what this means.
For the first time in forever the NEXT place I go, live, stay, adventure….it wont matter how good the school district is or what the property values are or how far of a commute it is to work or school or grocery stores. It wont matter that a great preschool is nearby. It wont matter if its within 30 minutes of soccer fields or tumbling gyms or indoor bounce houses or any of that. ANY of that. It was so very difficult for me to become a Mom. I had MANY miscarriages. The one in the 5th month was the worst. And the most painful. I thought Id never get to be a Mom. So when I became one I was ecstatic and grateful and thought I’d found the identity I’d needed. Wanted. A name to call me- MOM. I have loved every damn second. The tantrums, diapers, potty training, first day of Kindergarten, sleepless nights, swim lessons, soccer games, all of it. All. Of. It. How crazy privileged I’ve been to get to do this parent thing. Some don’t get to.
There’s been a grieving in me for things that wont ever be. I wont ever live near my parents and they wont make every game my kid cheers at and there wont be weekly Sunday dinners with cousins and large family gatherings and accepting that has been hard. And sad. And cathartic. And DECIDING that I get to decide what life looks like now, whats normal, whats ok….took time.
I think we all go through this whole “transitional phase”. Maybe some just slide by it almost unnoticed. Maybe some don’t even blink at it. Maybe some are so happy to be getting on to the next phase of life that its a happy time. Maybe some are sad. Maybe some feel they are losing some purpose and identity as their kids leave. And maybe a few are like me- kind of flailing. Flapping their wings and trying to fly away while keeping one foot in the nest with the kids. Trying to figure out if this is what being “grown up” means. Trying to find what and who you are at this next phase.
Its a strange thing getting older. I feel more confident, sexy, smart, sure footed and calm than I ever did when I was actually younger and prettier and had less wrinkles and was rocking a pair of shorts. Maybe God gives you the nicer body and face when you’re younger to make up for the idiocy that engulfs your brain. I would NOT trade the things I know for the younger body. Not in a million years.
The type A in me wants to know what happens next. Where will I be? Where will I live? Who will be in my life? How will love look? Is it a cabin on a mountain, secluded, just me and the mountains to hike. An occasional trip to the local pub to grab a beer and a conversation. Will it be a little cottage on a beach and days spent running in the sand (ok walking) and a suntan and waves and walks into town for good food. Will it be a condo downtown near all the “stuff” and I can walk to coffee and shops and see people all the time. Honestly any of those sound amazing. As long as there’s no fences. NO FENCES. Not knowing is scary. Not having kids here all the time is scary. Not knowing what life holds is scary. But its also fucking amazing. So just like the day I became a Mom- scared shitless, not knowing what the hell was in front of me, how Id screw this kid up, how Id get through it all…..I get to look ahead at a new phase and be scared shitless….and excited..and anxious…and not know. So I’ll flap my wings a little, test them out, I’ll laugh and I’ll cry and I’ll pray and I’ll dance in my socks and I’ll put one foot in front of the other…..because backwards is no place to go.
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INDECISIVE

Im tired. Im very tired. Im tired of being “ok”. Of having it “all together”. Of being the wife of the dude with brain rot that is strong and works her business and leads a team and coaches cheer and stays in shape and makes people laugh and parents two kids. Im tired.

Truth is…Im not really ok. I have not exactly been ok since my 121 mile hike. My personal life is a mess. I have some job decisions to make and trying to figure out whether to follow my head or heart is hard. There’s 17 girls depending on me. My son wants to do online school. 90 minute classes are hard people. For a kid with severe ADHD. While your honor kid walked the stage…my son struggled just to sit still in class. We will find a school for him. But damnit its hard. Its hard to be his Mom.
My daughter has an autoimmune disease that leaves her in tears most nights. She cried last night for a few hours. In pain. And I can’t fix it. I have an autoimmune disorder as well. I think most people forget that. Or don’t know it. But I hurt. All the time. ALL. THE. TIME.
If one more dirty old man messages me about what he wants to do with my “fit little body” I may lose it. Im a fitness coach. Its my job. Fuck you if you can’t respect that.
Some days I wanna get in my Jeep and drive over the mountain and not come back. A LOT of days.
The guilt I feel is overwhelming. Completely and totally overwhelming. Guilt over wanting to run. Guilt over being a shitty parent. Guilt over not doing my job to the best of my ability. Guilt over my Dad dying. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
I have tried to fit in to every mold of what I should be. A mom, wife, suburban soccer parent. I’ve tried. I’ve tried. Because its what you’re “supposed” to be. And every single ounce of my fiber just can’t do it. I can’t BE what Im “supposed” to be. I can only be me or I’ll suffocate. And the guilt that follows that is heavy.
Ive always been a very decisive person. ALWAYS. I make a decision, right or wrong, and do it. I love decisiveness. Its mature. Its solid. Its not annoying. I like it. Ive made many wrong decisions but I don’t care. It was a decision. In my business I tell my coaches to stop thinking so much and just DO. A bad decision is better than no decision. But for the first time in my entire life Im indecisive. Im stuck. Im unsure. And I do not like it. I have so so so many decisions to make and I have felt paralyzed by that.
I walked 121 miles. Because my dear friend’s 11 year old son died. And its all I could do. And I was walking to and from and for and I thought 121 miles would bring some answers for me too. But this brain of mine isn’t quiet and it brought up more questions than answers. And it pissed me off. And I have writer’s block. And I have decisions to make and I have to step up. And Im tired.
I guess it means Im human. And Im not really ok with that. A friend from High School posted the other day that the people that grew up where we grew up are “different”, “special”. And we are. And I want to be superhuman. I want to be all of the things. Mom, friend, fit, happy, decisive, leader, coach. All of the things. The one thing I didn’t count on was being human. So I will sit with that. I will accept that sometimes the answer is “I don’t know.” And that has to be enough. I will accept that the answers will come…..in time. The decisions will be made…eventually. And that maybe its God’s way of saying “slow the fuck down, it’s ok weirdo…you don’t HAVE to do everything.”
A hike has always brought me answers. Writing has always come easy. I could always read the fine print.
Hikes bring more questions now. Writing is harder. And I had to get readers to see close up.
Shit changes. And maybe thats what has me frazzled. Funny thing getting older. You realize that the older you get….the less you know. And I have always known and still do….its not about the destination at all. Accepting, embracing, holding, crying, laughing and learning from EACH LITTLE STEP ON THIS JOURNEY.
So Ill sit here in my new pineapple knee socks and not make any decisions today and thats ok. Its really, really, really ok.
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121 MILES. A WALK FOR CARSON. A WALK BACK TO ME.

I remember the dumbest thing anyone said to me after my Dad was killed was “everything happens for a reason”. I cannot express how stupid and shitty that is to hear when you’ve lost someone. And the day my friend called to tell me her 11 year old son had died I remember hoping no one would say that shit to her. Because there is no reason. No reason. No reason. You cannot give me a reason for a boy who’s 11 years old to die. You can’t. You wont. There isn’t one. The truth is, at 44, what I don’t know is much greater than what I do know but I know this….shitty awful things happen. They just do. There doesn’t need to be a reason or an explanation or a lesson learned from every event. Sometimes we are dealt some almost unbearable tragedies. And there is nothing you can do, say, pray for, create, offer that can make it hurt any less. Walking through grief can be one of the loneliest, heart wrenching, physically and mentally painful things you’ll ever do. I just didn’t want her to walk alone.

There’s was nothing I could say. In fact, my friend comforted me as I cried on the phone when she told me. I felt like Id been stabbed in the gut. I cannot begin to imagine how she felt, how she feels, how she’ll feel every second of every day forever. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some very very special friends in my life. April is one of them. I love her. I love her heart. I love how smart she is and witty and kind and that she can do 20 things perfectly at once without getting rattled. I have always admired her for that. I can barely do 2 things at once….moderately. So that next day when I woke up with swollen eyes and my gut hurting, I wondered what the fuck I was supposed to do to help. There is nothing I can do to make it better. And I thought about the walk through grief. All who’ve experienced a great loss have taken that walk.
Its a walk you take alone. Its a walk you cry on. Its a walk you laugh on. Its a walk you sometimes run on and sometimes stand still on. Its a walk you can’t escape, can’t hide from, can’t go around or avoid. Its a long, winding, crooked, relentless walk. And it never ever ever ever ends. There wont be a day 6 years from now or 26 years from now she wont be on the walk. There wont be. And the first 11 days of that walk are almost no different than the 8,456th day of that walk. But maybe I just thought if I could walk for 11 days I may be able to somehow take a little of it for her. Somehow. That maybe my steps would ease her’s just a tiny bit. Maybe not. I don’t know. But I had to walk.
I don’t think I thought about how far 11 miles was. Its far. Its far at sea level let alone 7,600+ feet altitude where I live. Its far and its long and when you don’t have enough battery left on your phone to play music its quiet. Very very very quiet. I thought about the quiet she will hear. Quiet can be so beautiful sometimes and so very painful at others. I had about 44 hours of hiking time. Most of it alone. Just me. Sometimes music. I sang, talked to goats, ran from goats, ran from turkeys, watched a lot of birds, rabbits, squirrels and deer.
One day I saw a deer jump a fence someone had around their house and eat all of their newly planted petunias. I stood still for 10 minutes and watched the deer. She looked at me every few minutes to see what I was doing. Probably thinking “dumbasses think a fence can stop us”. She ate all if those petunias, then gracefully leapt over the fence like it was nothing and left.
One day a herd of deer just stood in front of me. They didn’t move. I slowed my pace, took little steps hoping they’d move. They didn’t. They didn’t give a shit about me or my walk or my blisters or my hip pain. I walked around them.
One day on the Santa Fe Trail I was alone, no music. Lots of space and time between me seeing anyone at all. A teenage boy came riding past on his bike. He put his hand out, slapped mine in a high five and said “keep on keepin on”. He had red hair. Like Carson’s. That made me smile.
One day I huddled under a tree alone with hail pelting my head. I started to cry then I just got pissed. Seriously….WTF.
One day I walked up to the backside of a farm with goats and donkeys (local residents of Palmer Lake will know what Im talking about). I wanted to pet the goat. The goat did not want to be pet. Asshole turned on me, ran at me, head butted me. And like a bigger asshole I screamed, ran and tried to reason with him. Goats don’t like me. Lesson learned.
One day with no music I decided to sing. Thank God no one could hear me. I decided I’d just sing some of my favorite songs to pass the time. But Ill be damned if I just couldn’t think of any lyrics. Except for one song. “Silent Night”. I have no earthly idea why the hell I’d remember all the words to a Christmas Carol and not an N.W.A. song or Eminem song. But I belted out all the verses to “Silent Night” about 3 times in a row. Then I listened to the words carefully. And I cried.
The first mile was the hardest. The last mile was the easiest. I don’t have enough words to thank everyone who sent me messages and texts and called me and hiked with me. No words. All the gratitude my heart can muster to you all.
So many hours and so much to think about and so many revelations I could never write them all down. Love is such a funny thing. Some of us avoid it. Or try to. We think if we don’t love we wont hurt. Maybe thats true. Maybe walking alone is part of life. You gotta learn to walk alone sometimes. And when friends can’t, you need to walk for them. Carry it for them. You avoid seeing hurt when you walk alone. You avoid getting disappointed in others. In boys. In love. You avoid connection that can lead to heartbreak. You avoid a lot of pain. But God….you sure fucking miss a lot too. You can try to walk off regret, love, heartache, pain, grief. You can walk to something. Or from something. Or maybe you just walk because you can. And its absolutely all you CAN do. It doesn’t all have to make sense. And there doesn’t have to be a reason. There really doesn’t.
I find my church on a mountain. I take my tears and leave them there. It is magical place. A place I return to as often as I can. Maybe I walked for Carson. Maybe I walked for April. Maybe I walked because I was sad. Or angry. Maybe I walked for selfish reasons. Maybe I walked back to me. Maybe thats all it was. I don’t think things always have to be complicated or explained. Or deep or meaningful or make sense. Sometimes maybe you just walk. Because you can. But I know this…a hike is never ever JUST a hike.
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