AN EARLY TREE- SOME OPEN SPACES

I caught a little flack yesterday for putting up my Christmas tree early. Even from the Dude. And thats ok. I know it was all in jest. But its more than a tree this year. So much more.

In 17 years I have never spent a Holiday away from my children. Never. For 20 years Ive been a wife through the Holidays. Ive never decorated a tree alone. There’s so many things Ive never done alone. This has been a year of many firsts for me. More than I can count. Scary, exhilarating, anxiety-ridden, joyful, painful firsts. My Mom is spending Thanksgiving with my sister. My kids are spending Thanksgiving with their Dad. I was prepared to spend the day alone- well- with the Cowboys of course. Dude wasn’t having it and insisted I go to Houston with him. Im grateful for that. But I could’ve done it alone. Im a lot stronger than many think. Than I think.
I had a rough week. I needed a Christmas tree. I don’t care that its only November 16th. I needed the tree. And I needed to buy it alone. Despite the crazy lady in the Walmart parking lot telling me I was emitting toxins into the planet- it was nice to go get my little plastic tree alone. I missed my kids. I always miss my kids. Even when they are right in front of me. They are my heart.
So I got my tree home and assembled it alone (all 6 feet of it) pre lit and everything. You know- rocket science and shit. Then I realized all of my ornaments were at my old house. I started messing with the “branches”. To try to fill in the very empty looking spots. You know that Charlie Brown/fake tree/plastic/aluminum showing look…..ya- not so Christmas-y. I must’ve rearranged and moved branches for an hour trying to fill in all of the open spaces. So it looked more like a tree and less like a weed. And I sat down and stared at it. No matter what I did, or rearranged,  or tried to fix or fill….there was just some open spots. Some empty spots. I cried. And I decided it was ok. Its ok to see some of the wires, the aluminum pole, the “fakeness”, the flaws. Its really really really ok. Makes my tree exactly what it is- MY tree. Some holes cannot be filled. And aren’t meant to be.
So I know its early. I know we haven’t celebrated the holiday where we stole America from the Native Americans yet. I know. But I don’t care. And though I’m not exactly one to care what others think…this one is for the “newly” single people at the Holidays. For those who lost someone this year. Or last year. Or 11 years ago. For those going through divorce or break ups. For those with children away at college for the first time. For those that are celebrating their Holidays so very differently this year than they ever have before. You do YOU baby! Screw the masses. Screw the opinions. Screw the way its “supposed to be”.
You see- there’s no WRONG way to do things. There’s just not. And it took me my whole life to realize people try to tell you there is. But we all have our own way. And sometimes things change. So I put up and decorated my Christmas tree on November 16th this year. Maybe next year I’ll do it on Halloween. Maybe in 2019 I’ll do it on December 24th. Maybe one day I wont do a tree at all. And all of that…..ALL OF THAT…is perfectly ok. 🙂
Well Ive been afraid of changing,
Cuz I built my life around you.
But time makes you bolder, children get older
And Im getting older…. too.
     S.N. “Landslide”
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2017- A YEAR IN PICTURES

2017 began with the knowledge that my marriage would end. Id known it. But its a helluva way to start a year. Theres only about 6 weeks left in this year. And its been a week of reflection for me. To say Ive walked through every emotion that exists more than a few times would be an understatement. I was trying to think of just ONE word to describe 2017. The word that continues to come to mind is “rebirth”. And though it sounds new and fresh and happy….and it can be…..rebirth is preceded by some painful shit. And at 45, not many of us have come this far with no pain. I am no exception.
My divorce became real and then my grandmother died in March. On what would’ve been my parent’s 45th wedding anniversary. She was my Dad’s mother. She was my Nanny. She made me chocolate chip cookies and dresses and quilts and came to all of my football games to watch me cheer and taught me to sew and came to see me in college when a boy broke my heart. The hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was tell her that her child was dead. That my Dad had been killed in an accident. No parent should outlive a child. Its not ok. At any age. I miss her. I miss Pawpa. I miss my Dad. And sometimes I feel like they are somewhere without me.
In April I got to go to the Dominican Republic with my Beachbody friends. I don’t know that there’s words for that trip. Theres something about being on a beach a million miles away that cleanses you a little. Had a few good cries and many great laughs there. And I’ll never EVER forget that trip.
My friend’s 11 year old son took his life shortly after my grandmother died. I was there when Carson was born. I felt numb for several days. And then I began to walk. And I walked  11 miles a day for 11 days and didn’t stop. I walked 121 miles. Because I felt so unbelievably sad and distressed and lost and helpless that I just didn’t know what else to do. And if the year was a birthing process- Id say the physical pain of those 11 days and the mental cleansing that accompanied it were the hardest parts. Being alone with your own thoughts and no music for that many hours insists upon some serious self reflection. And guilt and shame and regret and sadness and joy and happiness and loss and all of it. All. of. It.
In June I met someone who has no idea how they changed my life. And though they were only there for a brief bit- it mattered.
July brought New Orleans. Amazing. Patrick is from there. I’ve been a million times. That city means more to me than I can say. The memories, the food, the music, the smells and sounds and rawness. What a cathartic trip- to return new, to a place that was old. Thank you, Donna.
I moved out and got a rent home in August and that was HUGE and scary and I don’t think Ive ever cried tears of happiness and sadness so much together in my life. I can’t even describe what its like to be so happy and have my kids here & laughing and leaving the toilet seat down and buying my own favorite foods and looking out the back window to see a mountain. I also can’t describe how quiet it is sometimes and how much silence can pierce. When the kids are gone and Im alone and ALONE. I remember aching for silence when they were very young. Needing some solace. I like the quiet. Until I don’t. Ironic.
And I met a dude. Not meaning to. AT ALL. Last thing I ever wanted was to meet someone. Good grief. Horrible timing. I don’t think there could be one more person to tell me to take it slow, be alone, do “me” for awhile, concentrate on myself and wallow in the solitude. Funny thing is…..I’ve been doing all of that for YEARS. Just no one knew it. You can be surrounded by people and feel very alone. So I’ll listen to the advice like I do with everything else…..with one ear closed. And I’ll do whats right for me and my heart and that is all. Because good lord people- life is fucking short. Very short. Be happy when you can. “Enjoy the wave” 😉 Even if your wave moves “too fast” for some.
I slept in a hay field in Nebraska to watch a total solar eclipse in August. It was the absolute coolest thing Ive ever seen in my life. Hands down. No words can capture it.
In September I spent 3 days backpacking through the Snowy Range of Wyoming. I slept in a tent and caught fish and cooked them for dinner. I lit a fire and climbed boulders and had no cell service for over 3 days and it was fucking awesome!! I’d do it again tomorrow if I could. Id do it every day if I could. I am so very much stronger than I ever thought I was. More capable. More resilient.
In September I also stood front row at the Zac Brown concert in Dallas. Thank you again, Donna. Fucking BAD ASS!! Seriously. BAD ASS!!
In October I made the FINAL decision that I was going to buy land and pursue building my own home. Scared shitless once again. This journey will NOT be easy or without obstacles. But I guess nothing worthwhile really is.
I learned to rock climb this year. I learned to fly fish, backpack, set up my own cable, how to dig a septic tank. I fed llamas and shook hands with Zac Brown. I buried my grandma and ended a marriage and walked 121 miles in 11 days and cried and laughed and met a guy. I learned some lessons about true friendship and judgement. I got two new tattoos. One to honor a boy. One to honor a journey. I found who I am. Im learning to be ok with her. I got a friend back, I watched a football team go undefeated, I saw some mountains I’d never seen and went on some VERY special drives ;). Im going to Houston for Thanksgiving. With the Dude. I will miss my kids more than there are words for as Ive NEVER EVER spent a Holiday away from them. And so it goes.
I don’t know what 2018 holds. And I like it that way. I know 2017 was hard. And sad and amazing and full of tears and laughter and friends and new beginnings and forgiveness. And being on the downslope to 50 is a good place to be. I love more. I have more patience. Im slightly more mature and working through the remainder of my shit that I need to work through. I am always grateful for good things. Its harder to be thankful for hard things. But I am. What a year. What a trip around the sun. Here’s to whats been and what will be. Thank you for the lessons and the gifts, 2017.
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WHAT KIND OF MOM ARE YOU

I’ve been extremely lucky in the parent department. Two people who were 19 years old certainly didn’t face great odds in 1972 when they found out they were pregnant. And despite all the things that should’ve gone wrong….some things went right. And Gary & Karen made it. And they had me and married and 5 and 7 years later had a few other rugrats. I grew up in very close proximity to my two sets of grandparents. We all lived in C-Town. I cannot think of a better childhood than the one I had. I am so acutely aware of how lucky I am. My parents stayed married. My grandparents stayed married. I wanted for nothing. There was never abuse or addiction or neglect or anything bad. My parents were not perfect. None are. But they were darn close.
In the course of a divorce there are so many feelings I can’t even begin to explain. A LOT of you know. Some of you don’t. I wouldn’t wish divorce on ANYONE. EVER. It fucking sucks. Shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, sadness, worry, stress, disappointment….among a million other feelings have encompassed me in the past 2 years. And being such a public person and not sharing my journey was weird. But I chose to remain private about it. Out of respect for everyone involved. And I cannot say enough what a great person Patrick is. And a great Dad. I hit the lottery there too. And perhaps in the midst of all of the “falling apart” I felt so shameful I didn’t want to talk about it. Speaking about it made it real. Very few people knew what was actually happening. I shut out a lot of people. Including my Mom. I regret that.
My Mom is pretty amazing. The love of her life died at the age of 53. After 33 years together. And she held it together better than most would. I would be lying if I said I had the perfect relationship with my Mom. It was tense in High School. It was tense recently. I am horrible at calling people. I hate the phone. HATE. So I don’t return phone calls and I don’t stay in touch like I should and I am not the best daughter. My sister, Kelly, gets that award. Rightfully so.
Sometimes the people we are closest to are the ones we hurt the most. Because we feel comfortable being an asshole to them. We know they HAVE to love us and forgive us. I cannot say I would go back and do the divorce differently. As my second Mom, Lynda, often said “don’t be shoulda on yourself”. Meaning- don’t look back with regret. You did the very best you could at that moment with what you had. Maybe I wouldn’t have shut people out. But its the only way I knew to survive. Admitting you failed at a marriage is fucking horrible. Its shameful. It feels awful, And there’s nothing anyone could ever say to you to make you feel worse than you already do. And traveling alone was all I knew to do.
Becoming a Mom was the best thing that ever EVER happened to me. I had so very many miscarriages that I never thought Id be able to be a Mom. So Im grateful. Beyond words. And grateful I had children with the man I did. I, like most Moms probably, beat myself up daily for not being a better Mom. For making mistakes. Cussing too much. Laughing at dick jokes they make. Blaring mysoginistic rap music. Forgetting to pick them up. Not making cookies. Not “looking my age”. But more than any of that I regret that I took a family from them. My heart is broken for that. It will never mend. It will never be ok. I will always and forever feel like I failed a little as a Mom. The decisions I made to end a marriage (a long time ago) took YEARS to make and I hurt and struggled and ached over what to do. Nothing about it was easy.
I shut out my sister and my Mom and those closest to me during a very difficult time. And for that I apologize. I wish I could fix a lot of things. I wish I could take back some things I said. I wish I was a better human sometimes. I make mistakes. I am so unbelievably grateful for my grandmothers, my Mom and my sister. There have never been 4 better Moms. Never. I come from a strong line of women. Who feel deeply and think too much and come across as brick houses but have hearts of butter. I literally almost cry every time I look at my daughter. Every time. I know she makes fun of me for it. But there is no love like that for a child. It has taken me 45 years to realize its ok to be me. To be happy. To be the kind of Mom I am. Its ok. And I hope and pray and wish for my girl that she will be her own kind of woman someday. And her own kind of Mom if she chooses to be one.
I cant promise I wont feel guilt any longer or regret or shame. Im human. I can almost guarantee it. I can guarantee Ill fuck up on occasion. I can hope, though, with all Ive been through….that I can forgive myself. That I can apologize. That I can be ok with being me. Learning to forgive myself has proven to be one of the hardest things Ive had to do. Here’s to all the Moms. The ones who do it right. The ones who do it “wrong”. The ones who struggle. The ones who cuss. The ones who knew the moment that first child was born that their hearts no longer belonged to themselves. May you love and forgive yourself. And live. LIVE.
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A HOME FOR MY NEW STEPPING STONE. MY OWN DIRT.

I am not the girl I used to be. I am older. I am wiser. I am calmer. I am peaceful. I am more. I need and want less. And am happy with little. Never was it ever about THINGS.
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I wrote a blog last week about my Dad’s 65th Birthday. I didn’t post it. It was too difficult to. It was about how he’d finally be retiring and getting to do the things he always wanted to do. How he’d ride his Harley more, FEDEX his UPS uniforms back to the company (LOL) and visit Colorado more. He was a good saver. He and my Mom planned for 33 years before he died. They had a savings account and he contributed a lot to retirement so he could LIVE someday. The way he wanted to. And the fact that at 53 he left the Earth and never got to retire, never got to ride more, travel more, LIVE more, kinda crushes me.
For many MANY years I’ve had a dream to have a little home in the mountains. Further into the mountains I mean. No cement. The dream has evolved and changed over the years. I truly thought I’d go with a husband. I thought there’d be 25th and 50th Wedding Anniversaries. I thought a lot of things. Letting go of what you thought would be is very difficult. Very. Life has certainly NOT turned out the way I expected it would. Many MANY things are vastly different than I anticipated. So for about a second and a half I was resolved to the fact that I’d rent a little place for the rest of my life. I moved into this rent house with the help of only 3 girlfriends. The 4 of us managed to move all of my furniture and things. Just us. My friends ROCK. And I love this house. Its fun and old and quirky. But its not mine. I don’t own it.
And sometimes when my kids are gone. At school. Or with their Dad. I just sit in the big kitchen and cry. Sometimes the tears are happy. There are moments Im proud of myself for being brave enough to leave a situation I needed to leave. For showing my daughter what happy means. For installing curtains alone and finding a $25 garage sale table and carrying it into this house with my own arms. There’s times the tears are sad. And I mourn a lost life. I mourn where I THOUGHT I’d be. Im sad for things that ended and things I couldn’t fix and for my kids. And I mourn that I own nothing but my Jeep. I felt homeless while sitting in a home. I felt after 20 years of home ownership that Id LOST all Id worked for. And then I realized something. I don’t have to give up my dream. It just might look a little different.
So in sitting with my finances and current situation and analyzing (to death) how I can afford to live on my own I found a solution. I can buy some mountain land and build a tiny home. And be debt free. No mortgage, no rent, very VERY low utilities. And what that means is FREEDOM. I can still travel, hike, backpack across America, whatever the hell I want. So its not a 3 bedroom mountain home with a large family room and huge fireplace anymore. Its not expensive flooring and fixtures and mudrooms and TONS of land. Not anymore. Its small. Very small. Its not super fancy. But its MINE. And its all I can think about. Ive always been the “spouse who signs on the line next to the buyer” when we’ve bought homes before. Ive never even bought a car alone. The thought of a home. Some land. Some space. Some mountain views and a porch to drink my coffee on while I watch deer and wildlife walk by…..it takes my breath away. It makes me cry. Because all the THINGS in the world cannot make me feel as peaceful and full as the security of a little tiny house and a majestic view that is all mine.
Its the beginning of this journey for me….trying to find land, getting a tiny home built that I can pay for out right. Just the beginning. And Id be lying if I said Im not scared shitless. But I spent 2 hours yesterday researching septic tank installation on a mountain. And how you can own llamas on private property. And how much a snow plow cover for the front of my Jeep would cost. And it made me more happy than any visit to any spa, any pedicure, any stay in a fancy hotel has ever made me feel. We all dream differently. And that’s ok. Dreams can change, evolve, grow, be put off, or in my case……be put on fast forward.
My Dad fully expected to see 65 years old. He fully expected to retire and have money and live out the dream he wanted to. He made it to 53. Im 45 now. Im not promised 65. Im not promised TOMORROW. So Im not going to wait. And its going to be frustrating and time consuming and I know Ill run into obstacles. But the new stepping stone my friend, Christine, made for me, is going to have a home. It’s going to go in dirt that is mine. I just cannot put it in someone else’s dirt. There’s dreams to make come true. And I’ll crawl, walk, run to make them happen. I can’t leave my stepping stone with no place to call home.
“And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
I know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly
Rocky mountain high”
         John Denver
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ROADS

I’d had this image of what Robert Frost meant when he wrote the poem. What I WANTED it to mean. He was a rebel. The one who went against the grain. Did his own thing. Fought the man. The establishment. Kicked convention to the curb. Parted ways with social norms and flipped them off on his way out. I wanted it to be this. And then I read the poem. I mean Id read it before many times. But yesterday I REALLY read it. Not from an angst teenager’s view or that of a young adult wanting to change the world. This time I read it from a 45 year old’s point of view. And its funny what you hear, what you see, what you learn……when you REALLY listen.

 

Its no secret Ive chosen to live my life a little unconventionally. I’ve been all about being different and unique and original and not following the crowd. Ive made a point to point out Im not conservative or religious in anyway because that is exactly what people expect when they see a blonde woman from Dallas. I’ve raised my kids to NEVER accept what is told to them as fact. To research and learn for themselves. To never follow a crowd. To blaze your own path and never stop fighting for what you believe in. And in my head Robert Frost’s poem embodied all of that. All of the bravery it takes to go down an unfamiliar path and buck the system. Until I REALLY read it again.

 

Saturday I went rock climbing with Dude and a few people I’d never met before. As usual I jumped in the car and said “lets go” with absolutely no clue where we were going. I rarely know where Im going anymore. I just go. It was a beautiful, familiar drive. The Aspen trees are stunning. The oranges and yellows and lime greens just pepper the mountain side and it looks like a painting. I love mountain driving in the Fall. Sometimes when we rock climb the walk from where we park the car to where we actually climb rocks is very short. Sometimes its far. And carrying a backpack full of supplies, water, ropes, etc….its not super easy climbing uphill with all that weight on your back at high altitudes. This was a trek. We had to walk pretty damn far from the car to the rock face. And it was all uphill. And rocky. And at places a little scary. But the hike started on a road before it ventured off into barely worn woods.

 

Climbing has become something very emotional for me. I don’t quite yet know why. But I cry every single time I do it. Maybe because its scary as shit. Maybe because its frustrating. Maybe because Im an old dog trying to learn new tricks. Maybe just because it symbolizes moving on. And it helps me purge. I don’t know. But I had a rough go of it the weekend before. And so these 2 climbs I did Saturday were awesome. Successful. I actually topped a 5.9. For those with no clue what that means….doesn’t matter…I climbed a step higher in difficulty than I ever had before. Pretty cool. The views were probably the best views Ive seen on any of the climbs Ive been on. Crazy amazing beautiful. Id make the hike in JUST for the views. Truly. The climbing is just icing.

 

So the walk out was better than the walk in. I felt accomplished. I felt proud. I felt happy. I don’t know if most 45 year old Moms are scaling the sides of mountains but they should be. And we navigated the brush and unmarked path down until we hit the main road. And one of the girls walking with us mentioned taking the road less traveled as we pushed through. I smiled and thought of that poem I love so much. It was an incredibly good drive home. I wont forget that drive. Ever. 😉

 

When I got home I pulled the poem up online to read. And something caught my attention. The title. My entire fucking life Id thought the title was “The Road Less Traveled”. Perhaps because thats what I wanted it to be. Its not, you know. Frost titled it “The Road Not Taken”. Its peppered with regret. Its peppered with the angst that he had to make a decision. That it wasn’t so easy to take the path he chose. He struggled with it. He even says in line 2 “And sorry I could not travel both”. He was sorry he had to choose. He was sorry he couldn’t have both lives, travel both paths. At the end of the poem he talks about leaving that other path for another day but knowing in his head that day would probably never come and he doubted he’d ever come back to travel the other path. I cried. Surprise. The poem was about the road he DIDN”T take.

 

I think when you make difficult choices in life people don’t see the pain that goes behind those decisions. When you live a big, bold, crazy, adventurous life out loud. When you’re happy. When you find the path you wanted and you get to be yourself finally. The world sees the happy. The world sees it and thinks how easy it must’ve been to choose the life you have. They don’t know you lamented for years. They don’t know you prayed and cried and didn’t sleep for months. They don’t know you made huge mistakes and have regrets and begged life to let you take both paths. You desperately tried to find a way to live both lives. To make everyone happy. To make it all ok. You fought to NOT be you so you wouldn’t ruffle feathers. You tried and struggled and hurt and decisions were never made lightly.

 

That road I chose. This road I chose. I walk it big and slowly and stop and smell every rose. Because there was another road. I could’ve chosen. It wasn’t a bad road. It wasn’t any LESS than the path I did choose. It just wasn’t MY road. It doesn’t mean I don’t wonder. I don’t feel sad. I don’t contemplate what might’ve been. Sometimes choices are simple. Sometimes hard. Sometimes painful. That Road Not Taken will always be there. It just wasn’t  MY road. But it deserves the title. Because. Because it will always ALWAYS make me appreciate even more, the road I DID choose.

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BiG DREAMS, SMALL HOUSES AND A DECLARATION

I love the city. I love being in it. The noise, smells, people, shops lined in a row so I can go in every single one and look at things. I love the loudness of it and the idea that I can get bread, coffee and a new jacket all on the same block. God it’s so cool. You can walk everywhere and its electric and eclectic and full of life. I always thought I’d want to live in the middle of a city once my kids were grown. And when I dreamed that it seemed a million years away. Now….not so much.
My daughter will be 18 years old next summer. And then she goes to college the next Fall. I always thought my dreams were FAR AWAY and I had a long time to plan it all out. I woke up one day and I was looking at a 45 year old woman about to be an empty nester in 2 years. Holy shit. My dreams have evolved over the years. As probably everyone’s have. I think I used to want a pool and a big closet and a thousand pair of shoes and a Porsche. That was a good dream. For the girl I was. I am not her anymore. I don’t want a thousand pair of shoes. Or a big closet. Or a pool. But I’d damn sure take an old classic Porsche convertible.
Moving to Colorado was something that changed everything in my life. Including what I dreamed about. I realized I love being outside WAY more than I like being inside. I like dirt trails more than streets. I like mountain views more than skyscrapers. I like quiet. And space. And a big huge beautiful open blue sky. I prefer to wear hiking shoes most of the time to heels. I wear less makeup now than when I was 35. So very weird. I never would have guessed. I still love the city. Visiting it. Shopping. On occasion. I still love being around people. Coffee in a shop on a patio. The noise. The electricity.
But my heart and soul just belong in the mountains. I find so much peace there. I am calm, have no anxiety, less worry, I feel at home and at ease and un judged on a mountain. On a trail. I feel no guilt. No shame. No need to please. No desire to check social media. No pull to be the most successful or the richest or the favorite or the top producing anything while up there.
So my dream isn’t 10 years away anymore. Yours isn’t either. Mine is around the corner. And I plan to make it happen. 45 years flew by. In the blink of an eye. I wont wake up at 55 years old and still be “planning” for the future. My Dad didn’t get to be 55. A lot of people don’t. We woke up one day and said “let’s move to Colorado”….so we did. Period. I want that house in the mountains. So I will make it happen. Thats all there is to that. Dreams are only dreams unless you make them happen. There is no reason and no excuse and no dilemma and no obstacle too big to stop you from doing what you want to do. You can be scared. You can be broke. You can have responsibilities. You can have a job, kids, older parents, bills, whatever. Its all an excuse. I had all of those things when I left Texas. I can’t imagine if I’d let any of that stop me.
You live and learn man. You learn life is short. VERY short. Too short for huge closets and dealing with 1,000 pair of shoes. Too short to be unhappy. Too short to work your ass off for someone else. Too short to not MAKE your dreams come true. Many pregnancy losses changed me. My Dad’s death changed me. Brain rot changed me. Moving changed me. Colorado changed me. Getting older changed me. Divorce changed me. And though most of it was so incredibly painful, so hard to go through, so lonely, so devastating, so hurtful….Im truly not sure anymore that I would change any of it. It makes me cry writing that. Because I wouldn’t wish a motorcycle accident, a brain disease, or a divorce on ANYONE. Being human means you get afflicted with a heart, and feelings, and the ability to love. It means you get hurt, you get sad, you get disappointed, you get devastated.  It also means- you GET to be happy, you GET to experience sadness and devastation and love and all of the butterflies and all of the good and all of the beautiful. And I wouldn’t trade the good things to avoid the bad.
I’ve seen parts of the world I never dreamed I would. Ive met amazing friends. Ive been to late night secret concerts. Ive climbed rocks and mountains. Ive delivered 2 humans. Ive been married and loved and called Mom. Ive felt pride and joy and accomplishment. Ive seen a total solar eclipse. I understand loss. I empathize better. I am all that I am, because of my experiences. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
I see more mountains, less traffic, more dirt and a tiny house in my future.
“…It turned my whole world around, and I kinda like it..”
        Not Ready To Make Nice, The Dixie Chicks
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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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