Life Begins Anew


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Artwork by Marshall Ramsey

As I’ve spent months in silence here, Easter morning seemed like the perfect time for rebirth in all things, even writing.

My skills are rusty, no doubt. Even the formatting here at WordPress has changed in my long absence. But I have missed the platform on which to release this part of myself into the world.

So much has changed in these many months. Not just MY world, but THE World. And the significance of renewal, hope, and victory over many types of darkness is front and center in my mind this morning.

I’ve spent many early Easter mornings in churches. When I became part of the Episcopal faith and began practicing the observance of Lent, Easter took on a new meaning for me.

It seems as though most of the world has had it’s own experience with a type of Lenten season this year. Self-denial, almsgiving, and a time of deeper reflection on what is and isn’t “essential” for our day-to-day lives.

I always come out of Lent feeling utterly and completely refreshed. The inner growth experienced on a personal level is priceless, as the discomfort it brings often leaves me no choice but to dig deeper, try HARDER, the lessons learned taking root and lasting well beyond Easter morning.

It is my prayer that the whole Earth retains the lessons we are learning every day. That we keep trying to be kinder, closer, learning from one another and clinging to our small, but not-so-small everyday blessings, long after the threat we face has begun to dissipate.

We will still disagree on many things. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we realized, finally, that what connects us all to one other is so much greater than what divides us?

That is my Easter prayer today. I addition to celebrating the reason for my own personal hope today, and the personal hope of millions of others, I pray we hold fast and firmly to the lessons of darkness, so we may all, one day, stand in the Light, together.

Almost home


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I’ve been getting a lot of flack from people about my long absence from WordPress.

It was never my intention to take a 3+ month hiatus, and I shudder to think how this post will read…. I should probably just post a disclaimer to *watch for rust.

But I’ve said before, and I still mean it, that even when I’m not publishing, I’m always writing. The problem is, those writings are, and remain, in my head and nowhere else. Over time, they become lost altogether (due to limited space, not overcrowding 😜) and that, my friends, is how you go 3 months without publishing a blog post.

Now that I’ve gotten my excuses out of the way, let me say what I came here to say.

Just over 4 months ago, we were looking at this:

Now, we are looking at this:

As of yesterday, the ceilings were being painted, kicking off what I have been told will be 2 to 3 weeks of paint work.

We have officially reached the point of hurry up and wait on this project, but the end is nearly in sight. And it will most certainly be worth the wait.

As I sat here this morning, savoring my coffee, I was looking through Pinterest and Google images, as I’ve done hundreds of times in the last year, trying to find specific pictures – this time, of my particular backsplash selection in a real kitchen somewhere. So I can see it.

I can’t find any photos.

In fact, I had to even order a sample of it this tile because there was not one in the store.

And as I contemplated that this morning, I realized that I’ve probably been missing dozens of opportunities to share with you, my reader (readers? Still have some? Yes? No? – well whatever) some very valuable, metaphorical lessons that I have learned throughout this building experience.

I will be 38 this year. I have some select friends and family both that seem to truly enjoy getting older, and appreciate the part of aging that allows you to be more fully yourself. More real. Less concerned with trivial stuff.

I think I’m getting better about that as well. I hope to mellow into a fantastic older woman that gives zero effs about meaningless garbage and focuses her efforts on gratitude, life’s simple pleasures, and maybe baking. And her dogs.

Bearing that goal in mind, I decided to abandon my Google search for tile photos this morning, coming to this conclusion on it, and all matters pertaining to the completion of our forever home:

Just the fact that we are in the final stages of building the house we have talked about for almost 15 years is, and should be, enough to give me warm fuzzies every day for the rest of my life.

Yes, I want it to look nice for company. Yes, I want people to appreciate the things that make it beautiful, because it is the fruition of long-held dreams and personal sacrifice and hard work by me and my husband.

But if other people don’t like it – it is absolutely and infinitely O.K.A.Y.

Joanna Gaines I am not, but that’s fine because she won’t be living with me and will never be a guest of mine.

My point is, and it flowed much better in my head this morning, is that my life has become so much like the interior of the new house. It’s unfinished. But, by contrast, the house soon will be. Me – I will always be a work in progress.

But the similarity is this: I stopped myself from trying to find photos of that tile this morning because I realized, I didn’t need to see it. I picked it because I really liked it and I will be happy with it for that reason, and that reason alone. Just like every paint color I chose. Just like every tiny decision that went into this project.

Likewise, I am becoming more and more comfortable in who I am. I don’t feel obligated to other people. I say “no”. I don’t push myself to keep up with trends and I’m going to get better about giving away the best parts of myself and bringing the leftovers to the ones that matter the most.

Lately, that has been the case entirely too much.

Once the tile is on the wall, it may clash hideously with the countertops and cabinets. Or it might set them both off beautifully. But I believe the latter. And I trust myself.

I’m learning to do that, more and more.

And it feels really, really good.

The Necessity of Detachment


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Without getting too deep down a black hole this morning, I want to try and put down some thoughts about detachment, and how it has saved my life, and my sanity.

I grew up very, very concerned with how I was viewed by others. I don’t know, for certain, what led to this mentality. I know that I was raised more…..conservatively than a lot of kids I knew. Being homeschooled in the 1980s was not “normal” and I remember a lot of strange looks and misguided ideas about what “homeschooled” meant.

I was also a very, very skinny kid. And people CONSTANTLY pointed it out. I know that those comments are part of the reason why I struggle with physically loving myself, and has led to some pretty difficult struggles with disordered eating.

In addition to my less than traditional upbringing and my waif-like adolescent body, I was always told how “mature” I was for my age. People always thought I was older than what I was, and I aways got along better with people older than myself. And along the way, I developed the idea that I had some sort of “above average” potential I HAD to live up to, lest people become disappointed in me.

So, all of that being said, I spent a good portion of my early life feeling very much like an “outsider”. I valued friends that appeared to accept me as I was and I was extremely close to cousins that were also raised in simliar ways as me. But feeling like an “outsider” also made me feel like I was always being judged for something, so the approval of other people became very important to me.

As I’ve gotten older, and through some pretty intensive therapy and good medication, I’ve learned how to “detach”. Not from my emotions or passion or love, but from the weight of other peoples’ opinions, and, likewise, my expectations of other people.

It can be so easy in life to focus on the ways other people disappoint us. And we can drag ourselves down with the heaviness of not having their approval, or even just their general support. But once we learn that our happiness does not have to be tied up with all of that, a newfound freedom can be enjoyed.

Detachment isn’t about cutting people out of your life, and it’s not about avoidance, it is simply about recognizing that you, and you alone, control what you let interfere with your happiness.

Sometimes the relationships are so toxic or unhealthy, yes, complete removal from the situation is necessary. But often, it’s more about mental fitness than physical distance. And it can be hard to achieve this level of fitness without a therapist or the centering effects that the right medication can offer, especially since anxiety can play such a huge role in our ability to healthily detach from that which hurts us. But it can be done.

I don’t really have an overreaching point to this post, except as an encouragement to those who feel smothered by the opinions of others.

To you, I just want to say this:

Their opinions do not matter. Most people live in ignorance of our deepest internal struggles and dreams. In order to have peace, we must remember that they cannot know what we don’t tell them, and when we do tell them, we cannot hold the responsibility of what they do with that information.

Learning to detach from the opinions and expectations of others is an ongoing, lifelong lesson for some of us.

So, be kind. If you don’t struggle with this, someone you love probably does. And you may never know how unkind and insensitive you may sound to them, and the lasting damage it can cause.

And if you, yourself, struggle as I have, be kind to yourself. Give grace to others in their ignorance. And remember that you, not them, are in control and responsible for your happiness and pursuit of it.

From the ground up


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This week, the concrete was poured. The first real, permanent material began to take shape on our new home.

It was exciting. A little surreal, too. It’s always that way for me when a long-held dream or goal is becoming reality.

The foundation of a home is obviously of extreme importance. And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about more than cement, and about the bigger foundations that have been laid for us by those who have gone before.

I wouldn’t have this new home place if my dad hadn’t deeded it to me. And he wouldn’t have what he has without his father before him, etc. etc.

It’s not always our parents that give us these foundations, but often so.

Saturday was my only living grandmother’s 88th birthday. Despite the fact that she is blind in one eye, suffers from severe asthma, and had a mother that passed away with Alzheimer’s, my Mawmaw remains relatively healthy. My sister and I both marveled that we were sitting there – me in my late 30s, her in her early 40s, visiting with a woman that still knows who we are, is up to date on current events, but can also still remember events clearly from her past (even though she intertwines those at times, unknowingly, with events from the books she reads).

My other grandparents have been gone for quite some time now, but their impact remains. Not just in my own remembrances of interactions with them, but in who they gave me in my own parents, and how their influences helped to shape me into who I am now.

At almost 16, it feels a little late to bring my daughter into a new home and hope that she will feel like it IS home. But then I remember that my sister was older than my daughter when we left her childhood home to move to Mississippi. And I have no doubt that she holds our parents’ home in her heart as a soft place to fall.

I hope there is time for Reagan to grasp the rich heritage that surrounds her when we move in to this new space.

As for me, my life began, and will end, within a few miles of the same geographic area. I have traveled some and lived other places, but I have never felt the peace I do on the country road that now leads to it’s newest driveway. It’s latest foundation. It’s rebel daughter finding her home where it had been all along: right beneath her feet, surrounded with the love of unshakable force, built upon the foundations of generations.

Seasonal appreciation


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Very rarely does life flow freely, smoothly, uninterrupted.

We try things. We fail. We get back up.

We love, we win, we lose, we pour out our hearts, and we have them filled.

The sun rises, and it sets again. And the days between are where we live.

Some things come naturally. Others, test our very souls.

But all of it makes us. All of it goes into the finished product that is who we become.

Some seasons, like a Mississippi summer, seem to have no end to their oppression and stifled breaths. Others, like spring, are filled with hope and renewal. Beginnings.

Both are valuable.

It can be so difficult to appreciate the current season. Especially those that seem never-ending.

The calendar means nothing in the south. A cool spell in November might be mixed with days hot enough to make the devil cry. But it doesn’t mean those days are here to stay.

I have to remind myself of these truths often.

In 37 years, I’ve experienced a lot of seasons. Each different from the last, with one constant: they are forever changing.

We don’t wait for the comfort of a new season. We learn to find peace in the one we’re living.

I picked up a book to start this week. A $2 bargain from the secondhand store. In it, someone had written an inscription for a friend that was going through a difficult time. The book was given as a distraction and a comfort for someone walking a difficult journey.

I wonder if Iris read the book. I wonder if the thought that went into the gift was appreciated.

I wonder how her season ended.

I thought about how precious our words can be, especially in difficult seasons. How a little understanding can go a long way. How the ties that bind us aren’t the cool, refreshing autumn mornings, or the promise of rebirth in spring.


It’s what happens in those days that feel never-ending. Smothering. That’s where we are tested both inwardly, and outward.

What will we allow ourselves to receive, but what will we give? Especially when it takes everything in us to do so.

The giver of the book had an equal part to play, after all. For through her thoughtfulness, the words of this story now belong to me.

Never underestimate what you are able to give, especially in the hard seasons.

You never know who will need those gifts during their own stifling summer.

Let them be


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She is entering her sophomore year of high school next week. A driver’s license is in the not-so-distant future. Maybe a job, as well.

With every passing day, I watch her continue to change. Those changes are more subtle now than when she was small and every new experience seemed to bring dramatic growth and differences within her.

In many ways, I feel like all of my parenting thus far was to get us to this point: a place where she could navigate the changes coming her way independently, while also knowing she had a soft place to fall.

I used to push her. I know her potential and I know her talents. My biggest fear was that they would be wasted.

But I came to a realization at some point that those types of fears were pointless. My job is not to impose my dreams for her on her. But to simply help navigate her through the decisions that she has ahead. She is most certainly an extension of myself, but she is not me. And I have to understand and treat her like an individual.

If I haven’t done anything else right, I know my daughter. I really know her. I listen. And I try to parent her in a way that allows her to grow. Not in my expectations for her, but the ones she has for herself.

I’ll admit, she’s been an easy kid for the majority of her upbringing. Strong-willed, prone to anxiety, but she’s not defiant or disrespectful. She is strong. And capable. And the only thing that stands in her way are the obstacles of her own mind.

As parents, we need to know our kids. Not just know what we want to be true for them, but really know them. Their dreams. Their fears. Their needs. Protecting them from what could hurt them while also giving them the space they need to become.

At some point, we have to believe that what we’ve tried to do as parents will be enough. We have to let them begin to lean into their own lives.

What WE begin to do at that point may seem like letting go, or a relinquishment of control, but it’s more about an understanding. And with my daughter now 15, I’m fast approaching this point in my parenting journey.

I know, from personal experience, that by the time I was 15, I was DESPERATE to make my own choices. Now, I was a know-it-all, so I was infinitely more stubborn than my child who, though she could argue with a stump, still leans on me for support.

But she wants the freedom to make choices about her future. And to impose my will on her would only serve one purpose: resentment.

I made a lot of mistakes in my adolescence. But I am who I am today because of those decisions. I see how they ultimately shaped my life, eventually for the better. And I can live with them, have peace with them, because I made them. No one made them for me.

When I decided to get married at 17, my parents were, understandably, not a fan of the idea. But they knew that I’d need a place to come back to, so they treated me like I wouldn’t fail, even though they probably knew in the back of their minds what would inevitably happen.

They had so many opportunities to say “I told you so.” when my first marriage ended in divorce. They could have been bitter and frustrated with me. But they showed me grace before the fall, and grace afterward.

And that is what we have to do. We have to love and support our children, even through the decisions that we may want to make for them, and make sure they know that we believe in them, no matter what. Because, ultimately, it’s not their decisions that matter as much as the relationship we’ve built with them.

My daughter could and likely will live an entirely different life than I have. In many ways, I hope so! But, no matter what, I simply want to know that she knows that I have her back.

We should expect excellence from them, but recognize that excellence for each individual looks as different as their own unique goals and desires.

How boring would the world be if our children were only copycat versions of ourselves? How much would they, and we, miss, if we didn’t let them spread their wings and challenge themselves in ways uniquely their own to attempt?

I am not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination. And I don’t let my teenager do whatever she wants. I do, however, believe that she has the tools to become an incredible adult. I’ve spent 15 years showing her how to use them.

And it’s almost time to let her try for herself.

Humility lessons


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I’m 37 years old. Sometimes, that feels every bit the 13,000+ days of it. Other times, I feel like I’ve just begun to really live my life as me.

A little over a year ago, I had a mental breakdown of sorts. At the time, I was very much living in my own head, and not in the world itself.

Not making excuses, but I do know now that so much of what I was experiencing was physically related to my body being in a state of utter and complete chaos.

My hormones were crazy out of whack, my thyroid was losing function, and y’all, I’m going to be brutally honest here: I was as close to suicidal as I’ve ever been. And I’m not exaggerating in the least.

Everything, EVERYTHING was making me paranoid, insecure, unhappy, angry, and profoundly, profoundly depressed.

I did and said so many things over the course of those few months that I regret. Even with the physical reasons beyond my control, I wish I could have handled them differently. Gotten help sooner. Recognized that the problem was me, and not others.

For the last few months, I have felt a “coming into my own”, mentally speaking.

Not that I’m “stable” or “normal”. How do you even describe that, anyway?

But I do feel so much better. I don’t live at the same level of chronic mental, emotional and physical pain as before. And I’m learning how to recognize when the problem is me. When to take a step, or several steps, back from a situation and assess my own responsibility within it.

Medication, therapy practices, spiritual practices, and the unconditional love of those closest to me have helped me move from a place of existing, to a place of living. And it is truly a humbling experience.

May I suggest, if you are struggling today, that you reach out in love and humility to those who can lift you up?

Help is always there. Sometimes we just have to fight like hell to get exactly what we need to heal.

Don’t give up. Don’t ever, ever give up.

Life itself is waiting on the other side.

Out of retirement


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So, after nearly a year off of Facebook, I reactivated my account in March so I could start selling some items and eventually get our house on the market.

Then my dad ran for a local public office and I thought I might better stick around to help promote his candidacy.

And now it’s August. And I’m still there. (My dad lost, by the way.)

I said I was only going back to sell stuff….but then I remembered how much I missed engaging with people that I rarely get to see. I missed getting inspired or laughing at some of my stupid friends who share nothing but nonsense. I missed the banter my husband and I enjoyed on each other’s posts.

And then, on Wednesday, ICE started raiding several plants and factories in my state and people did on Facebook what they always do when something like that happens: they showed their asses.

And I came REALLLLLLLLLLY close to showing mine.

I don’t know…..I think maybe my meds just have gotten me to a very “nofucksgiven” state of mind, because I ended up engaging with a racist on a post. A racist I KNOW. And have a history with. And it took a lot of self restraint to not get super petty with some of the smart ass comments that were swirling in my brain and being typed then deleted, typed then deleted, typed, typed, typed………then deleted.

But the point is, I was able to check myself.

Withdraw. Before my mouth got out of hand in a way that was not productive.

I couldn’t have done that before my hiatus from Facebook. I DIDN’T do that before my hiatus. I pretty much let loose any condescending superiority I felt in my self-righteous opinions, and God help you if you came up on me in the comments.

After one of those incidents (of which there were many), I would stew about them for dayyyyys.

Not just about the subject matter and what was said to ME, but I would stew about my own words. Be angry for not just shutting up and going about my business. For letting the ignorance of others drive me insane.

I got called out one night by a friend. Privately, she admonished my most recent rant. I cried into my pillow that night, so unhappy with myself. So unhappy with a lot in my life that had NOTHING to do with anything or anyone on Facebook. Broken parts of myself were beginning to cut through the surface of my soul. And I needed to step back.

So I did.

And for that year of no Facebook, my real, in-person relationships deepened. I found myself less distracted. I read more. Wrote more.

It was an all around good decision.

Yesterday, when I had my flashback to a familiar behavior, but was able to stop short of becoming a true ass in the exchange, I had to stop and think, “Do I really want to go back to this platform?”

And I decided I do.

Because I’ve learned how to be me, and not fear it. I had some mild anxiety inducing heart palpitations during my exchange with the racist yesterday, but I think it was mainly from trying not to unleash about 20 years worth of anger on somebody who, is not only a racist, but has said some truly hurtful things to many, many people in my family.

But I didn’t unleash them. In fact, I told him the truth. I told him that I pitied him, for all the hatred he carried in his heart, and that I would continue to pray for him.

And I will.

And I’ll continue to pray for me.

And I’ll continue to speak up about things that I’m passionate about.

I’m 37 years old. The time for a popularity contest is over. At this point, any information I share or exchange I have is in the hopes that people will realize they aren’t alone in their beliefs or their struggles, and maybe my coming out of the shadows will help them be a little braver.

Or maybe some know-it-all will start rethinking their POV on some issues (I DO make the occasional good point.) And I used to be that know-it-all. Probably still come across as one, but perception? I can’t really help that. I swear I know I don’t know everything.

But I’m going to share what I DO know.

I’m out of retirement, baby.

New views


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Somehow, I blinked and it had been a week since we moved into our rental house, and even longer since I’ve had the energy to write.

Last weekend, amidst the scorching July temperatures and stifling humidity, we, with the help of my SIL and BIL, transferred everything from one house to another without incident or injury.

The rental house is an old home, belonging to the grandmother of our landlady, who is now a grandmother herself. She and her husband lived in the house when their children were small, and they added on to it during that time.

In actuality, the rental is larger than the house we just sold. But mainly because you could fit 3 of my former living rooms into the master bedroom addition that the owners built during their time here.

I have to say, it’s a little “trippy” living somewhere else, especially something as ancient as this house, but I think we are all making the adjustment well. Hubs and I have been too busy at work not to – we’re just too tired to care. And the house itself has been kept up very well.

In fact, I was feeling rather trepidatious when we first came to look at it to see if it would suit our needs. But I was pleasantly surprised at just how well-maintained it was and how much space is actually in it.

I remember thinking that the living room and Reagan’s room would be a tight fit for the furniture, but spaces are so deceiving when they are empty, and it turns out I was mistaken. Everything fits without being suffocating.

The rental is about 2 miles from our former home. I say “former”, because the actual sale went through on Wednesday, 2 days earlier than planned. Finally, we are d.o.n.e. with the home-selling process and can begin to look forward to the home-BUILDING process.

Convenience-wise, this little house was quite a Godsend. We were faced with the prospect of having to either move WAYYY further out from where we are building and where Reagan is homeschooled OR having to move into town – which probably would have been extremely stressful for all of us since we are used to our privacy and the quiet.

I’m learning to cook on a gas stove and we are ALL adjusting rather quickly to the new normal of having two, count ’em, TWO bathrooms.

There is a concrete “porch” of sorts on the front of the house, which is built on a conventional foundation, so said porch is actually a bit high off the ground.

I have decided to refer to it as “the balcony”. Here was my view from it this morning:

Not too shabby. My great sunset views are gone now, but the sunrise view will more than suffice.

It seems appropriate anyway, now, to have the best view of days beginning instead of days ending.

When we first met with our builder in December to see if we could even afford to build a house, I remember telling my husband after the meeting that it felt like we were on Step 1 of about 5,892.

Today, 7 months later, it feels like we have made it to at least step 25. Ha!

Seriously though, I do feel like some of the hardest parts are now behind us. The packing up, the leaving, the sale process, the getting settled somewhere temporarily while we work on the build – all of these things took MONTHS, and were so involved. I’m glad that my husband and I have picked out the majority of the finishes we want in the new house because I could go without seeing the inside of a Lowe’s or Home Depot for at LEAST the rest of the year.

While we prepare for the building phase, life still goes on. Another school year begins soon, and there are many things happening in our professional and family lives. So, with that in mind, we are taking another week or so to catch our breath.

Then the fun begins.

I can’t wait to smell the sawdust.

But in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the view I have.

It looks promising.