WHATEVS…

Sierra's online journal

What If….: Quarantine Edition May 5, 2020

(Day 11: Something you always think “What if…” about)

“We are the sum total of our experiences.” -BJ Neblett

We’ve all done it. Slipped down that rabbit hole where we question our past decision and dream about how life may have been different if only…. But I realized long ago that life as I know it life as I knew it pre-pandemic is pretty awesome. And if I were to go back and alter any single decision from my past, it could’ve changed the trajectory of my life in a way that would’ve led me to Not Here. So are there experiences that I wish I’d handled differently? Absolutely. But I refuse to waste any time regretting the experiences that have made me me.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of us have also invested time into thinking about our futures and all their possibilities. Guilty as charged! What if I wrote that book? What if I changed careers? What if we had another baby? What if we moved to a new town? Dreaming about a future even brighter and more fulfilling than my (pre-pandemic) present is exciting. It used to leave me with a heady confidence, a sort of the world is my oyster sort of vibrancy. Nowhere to go but up!

And then Covid-19 happened. And the first few weeks felt….unusual? But bearable still. Working remotely? I can get used to this. Home schooling? I’ve always wanted to try that. Stores and restaurants and theaters and seemingly everything else under the sun is closed? Think of the money we’ll save by staying home!

And over the next few weeks, my optimism started to wane a bit. Getting my school-loving smarty-pants to buckle down and get her work done comes with a fight every day. She misses her teacher. Hell, I miss her teacher. And the PTO. And dropping in for library time with her class on Wednesday mornings. Dance class on Zoom is a welcomed distraction for her, but it’s just not the same as giggling in the back room before ballet or chasing her friends around in an impromptu game of tag between jazz and tap. Cranking the volume on the TV for family movie night is all well and fine but really can’t compare to the big screen. Dance competitions? Canceled. Spring soccer season? Canceled. Dance recital? Not looking good.

I waited as long as possible before breaking the news to her about the fact that we can’t throw a party for her birthday just yet. She listened excitedly as I laid out the plan which includes a car parade instead of a party for now and the promise of a big bash as soon as we’re able. Like this summer. I could practically see the images in her mind of water balloon fights and sprinkler play and all the water activities she asks for every May but is told that it’s too cold to have at her birthday party. Like every other covid-19 related blow, she took that news in stride in such a way that I was both in awe and insanely jealous of her resilience. And I thought, what if she loves celebrating her birthday later? What if this is a blessing in disguise? 

Over the past few weeks, my what if-ing has taken a darker turn. What if things never go back to how they were? What if I don’t have a job to return to? What if our country plunges into another Great Depression? What if the stores never restock and we’re faced with food and supply shortages? My anxiety has been spiraling more than usual. I cry. Often. I worry and stress and let my brain create every imaginable worst-case-scenario.

Today’s announcement from the Governor of Connecticut was not unexpected in the least, though that didn’t make reading it any easier. Schools will remain closed state-wide for the remainder of the academic year; we’ll continue with distance learning. The last shred of hope I had that my girl could finish her first grade year in class with her teacher was ripped from me. No field trip, no field day, no assemblies. (Side note: I can’t imagine what the parents of seniors are feeling!!) Nope. When my girl returns to school, she’ll be a second grader. Entering a new classroom with a new teacher and a new batch of friends. Everything familiar from early March will be gone. What if we can’t even go back in September? What if she falls behind? What if she can’t cope with this blow? 

I reached out to my husband at work, which I find myself doing when the day feels too heavy to lift. And he did what he does every time. He reminded me that this isn’t going to last forever. That things will start to return to (closer to) normal over time. That we’ll get through this, together. He suggested I take some time for self-care, which I haven’t really been doing at all lately. He told me to pause. To be in the moment. And to not think about the next thing on the list or the next thing to be missed. And he’s right. There are too many unknowns at this time. What if-ing is futile because no one knows what things will look like when businesses reopen, when kids go back to school, when covid-19 is a blip in the history book.

So today, what if what I’m doing is enough? What if the fact that my kid’s school work is done and she’s still smiling is all I need to allow myself some me time? What if I don’t vacuum the house or fold the laundry? What if we order dinner so I don’t have to cook and the kitchen stays clean just for one day? What if I just breathe and not try to posit what the future beyond today holds? What if I lay all my worries and stress down? What if this, right here, is what I’m meant to be doing? 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Musings of [don’t you dare call me] a Millennial April 27, 2020

(Day 10: Write about something for which you feel strongly.)

 

By definition, Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996. So by definition, I am a millennial. But don’t you DARE lump me into that category. I’ve always felt pretty strongly that I’m more of a gen-x’er at heart. And that feels more and more true the older I get. And I’ve come to terms with the sad reality that that’s what’s happening. I’m getting older. In fact, it has already begun to happen. I am old. 

I’d like to pause here and acknowledge that when 50-year-old me (or even-older-than-that-me) looks back to these musings of 37-year-old me, I’ll laugh and laugh. I’ll shake my head derisively and think, “If only you knew….” in the same way that I reminisce about how fat high-school-me thought I was or about how self-assured about parenting 30-year-old-me thought I was. I get it. My understanding of this phenomenon called aging will change over time. It’ll evolve with me. But today, right now, this is very real. I’m. Freakin’. Old. 

It happened around day 8 of this lockdown. I was leaning into the bathroom mirror, maybe to daub at some tears, maybe to wipe away some errant Nutella…. You know, typical quarantine stuff. And there it was. A glittery strand of silver sprouting from my temple. My first silver hair. Silver. Not gray. Because I sparkle, obviously. It was the final nail in the coffin of my youth. No denying it. 

How can I be so sure? Well, as I said, the lone silver strand was the final undeniable straw. Prior to that, though, there were a string of indicators that when considered individually, seemed unusual at best. A fluke. Nothing worth mentioning. Some were pretty nuanced. Others were harder to ignore.  But taken in total, they all point to one conclusion; OLD.

 

Ma’am

woman paying with credit card

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This was among the first signs that I noticed. It probably began with some pock-faced teen-aged cashier at the grocery store and surely elicited an eye roll from me when I recounted the story to my husband. “Can you believe it? She called me ‘ma’am!'” But over time, it became more common to hear. So much so that now being called “miss” feels uncomfortable, almost patronizing. As if I’m some white-haired grandmother and they’re just trying to make me feel good about myself.

 

Attraction

You could argue that I’ve always had an appreciation for men who are perhaps slightly too old for me. So looking back, I can see how this change actually began long before the first “ma’am” was uttered in my direction. But it didn’t full-on hit me until circa 2010 when I discovered The Gilmore Girls on Netflix. It was that series that I credit with my epiphany that I’d entered a “sweet spot.” You know the spot. It’s when you think, “Rory’s boyfriend Dean is dreamy” but also “Damn, Luke is hot!” and suddenly realize that men almost young enough to be your son AND men almost old enough to be your dad are equally attractive. Tell me I’m not alone.

 

Slang

I distinctly remember a conversation with my husband that took place about nine years. We were getting ready for my nephew’s sixteenth birthday party when, in passing, I referred to us as his “young, hip aunt and uncle.” My husband chuckled and told me that by merely using the words “young and hip” I’ve proven that I’m anything but. I argued the point without a whole lot of conviction at the time because I didn’t yet know how much was at stake. He was right. I just didn’t know it then. Since that night, my nephews have opened me a whole world of new slang that, if I’m honest, I have no idea what any of it means. Squad. Life. Say less. No cap. On fleek. Are they even speaking English sometimes?

 

Spending

In my youth, splurge buys included things like weekend excursions or a new car. When the bills were paid and money was left over, I’d pony up for concert tickets or hit the casino. Hubby and I would throw a party or satisfy some whim. But over time, extra money began being filtered into adult (read: boring) things. A new dishwasher. Replacing the roof. Preschool tuition. Our parties began to involve less alcohol and more pinatas and goody bags full of useless junk that other old people like us find ways to slowly discard without their kids noticing. The real eye opener for me was when my husband and I picked out our new washer and dryer last Christmas…and were actually excited for what we knew Santa would be delivering.  

 

Age spots

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Do you see it?!

A couple of years ago, I noticed a birthmark on my left hand. It’s one tiny circle of skin that’s just a tad darker than the rest of my hand. “Hmm. That’s strange. I don’t remember that being there before,” I thought. Then I considered the fact that maybe it was dirt. But scrubbing didn’t get rid of it. So maybe it’s a stain of some sort. But weeks later it was still there. That’s when I came to terms that it’s an age spot. My first. And to date, still my only. 

 

Too young for you

I enjoy a good meme as much as anyone. And I’ll openly admit that I watched Jersey Shore when it hit MTV. So when the “she’s too young for you bro” memes began, I was fully on board. They were hilarious. Pauly D’s exasperated face and block letters insisting that “she’s too young for you bro” if she doesn’t know what X is. And X was lots of things. The original Nintendo console. A screen shot from Limewire. A picture of “Tom” from MySpace. The lyrics to the opening of Fresh Prince. But recently, X has started to become things that I’ve never seen before. (I’m lookin’ at YOU, Roblox and Fortnite.) This begs the question, Am I too young, bro? Turns out, no. But when you’re too old to get the “too young for you bro” references…then what? What kind of world is this?!  

 

Musical Taste

woman with headphones listening music

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I recently wrote a blog post about some of my favorite songs. And while working on that post, it drove home a point that until then I’d only let rattle around in the back of my mind. As I age, my musical taste continues to change. Sometimes drastically. I went from a CD wallet full of discs marked as explicit to Spotify playlists leaning heavily toward country, folk, and instrumental. Foxy Brown has been replaced with Kacey Musgraves, DMX with Ray Lamontagne. 

 

All kidding aside, having lost my mother when she was just 48 years old, I’ve always placed high regard to the following quote, source unknown: “Do not regret growing older. It’s a privilege denied to many.” So I’m going to take my age spot and my one silver hair and all the changes I’ve noticed in my personality and tastes and I’m going to embrace it all. Aging is a beautiful thing and I can’t wait to see the person I become. 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

 

Opened Doors April 20, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 3:08 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
(Day 9: Post words of wisdom that speak to you.)
“When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open.” – Bob Marley 
Today is the one-month anniversary of the signing of Governor Lamont’s “stay at home” order in Connecticut so suffice it to say there are lots of closed doors lately.
Literally.
Movie theaters. Restaurants. Casinos. Amusement parks. Schools. All closed. There are no concerts, proms, beauty appointments. We can’t visit our family members, hug our friends, or step foot inside “non-essential” retail locations.
But today, rather than focusing on all the doors that are closed, I’m going to take a moment to appreciate the metaphorical doors that have opened for me, thanks to this pandemic.

people wearing face mask for protection

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I have a renewed appreciation for essential workers, especially those in healthcare.
This one’s important because while I’m worried about my work hours having been cut and whether or not I’ll have a job to go back to, so many others are putting on their uniforms and marching in to their jobs, where they face potential exposure daily. I couldn’t do what they do. But they’re there, doing what’s necessary to keep us moving forward. Taking tiny steps toward normalcy for us all again. And in the meantime, I’m going to focus on the blessing that is staying home and safe with my girl.
Never again will I have this opportunity to bond with my daughter on this level. 

My Two Kids

My two babies

Speaking of my girl, it’s not lost on me that this time with her is precious. And please don’t think that means this time has been all Pinterest-worthy craft projects and Montessori-inspired “distance learning.” There have been plenty of times when all I have the strength to do is slap some chicken nuggets and a Netflix cartoon in front of her so I can get a moment of solitude. Some days there are power struggles and, let’s be real, I don’t always win them. I yell more than I should. I often count the hours until her bedtime. But you know what else? We read together more now than ever. I get the chance to see first-hand (better than any report card could ever demonstrate to me) her strengths and weaknesses, academically. I’ve been able to teach her new things like navigating online apps to access school content and I’m in the beginning stages of a presentation to answer her repeated “Where do babies come from?” question. Not having to leave the house for her school or my work has afforded us more time to play games, laugh, talk, and just enjoy each other. At first, it was easy for me to not see past this “closed door.” I mourned the loss of her spring soccer and dance competition seasons. I was sad for her that she’d be “missing out” on having a birthday party or finishing the first grade IN school with her teacher and friends. But when I look past all that, I’ve realized that she is truly thriving through all this. Other than brief moments of pouting over the lack of a (non-canine) sibling to play with, she has loved every minute of all this mommy-and-me time. She’s going to look back on this pandemic fondly, of that I’m sure.

 

brown paper bag

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

It has forced me to reconsider how we stock our fridge and pantry.
We are so fortunate to be living in a time and in a country where the infrastructure already existed to facilitate changes like “curbside pickup” at stores, Door Dashing take-out to our front porch, and having grocery items delivered to our homes. Before all this, our family typically did a Costco run once or twice per month and I went to the grocery store on Sundays for what we’d need for the week. Beyond that, my husband would schlep to the store for whatever I’d forgotten and/or whatever we decided on a whim that we “needed” at 11pm on a weeknight. Now, though, stocking our house takes a bit more planning. To stay out of stores, we order groceries for delivery. And lots of you are doing the same because the typical one- or two-day delivery from Stop & Shop now takes about 14 days from reservation to delivery day. It takes a bit more pre-planning to make sure we don’t forget items and we think harder about what we “need” before taking a jaunt to the store for something, and never past 8pm since most essential businesses are closed after that. We cook more, order out less, and are more mindful of what we actually need to get by for a couple of weeks. And that’s something I hope to continue even after COVID-19 is nothing more than a mention in the history books.

 

My new schedule allows more hobby time.

background book stack books close up

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At 2pm on a Monday afternoon a month ago, I’d be just punching back in after my lunch break. Maybe I’d be submitting payroll or on a conference call with a client. Maybe I’d be elbows deep in title transfers or planning an agenda for our staff meeting. But right now? I’m sitting in a camp chair with my laptop on my lap, blogging while watching my daughter play in her sandbox. This past month has afforded me more time for writing, more time to tackle my to-be-read pile of books, more time for binge-watching trashy reality TV on Hulu. I bake more. I relax more. I smile more. Instead of rushing home from work to whisk my girl off to whatever extra-curricular she has on her agenda and then home to get her ready for bed only to rinse and repeat the next day, we can breathe. Everything outside the walls of our home has been paused. And that has given us an unprecedented opportunity to pursue true happiness rather than obligations.

 

white printer paper with be kind text on plants

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

This is my chance to reassess and reinvent my life.
When this “stay at home” order is lifted (or even relaxed) and life starts to return to normal, I hope to not just revert to the way things were. This pause has taught me to not take the little things for granted; an over-booked weekend of soccer games and kids birthday parties, a night out with friends, stopping by to see my dad “just because.” There’s a whole list of things that I can’t wait to do again the minute I’m able. And every last one of them are things I never really appreciated doing before all this. I hope to be kinder to strangers, more patient with my loved ones, and more resolute in the pursuit of my own happiness. And I sincerely hope I’m not the only one.

 

So today, I urge you to stop what you’re doing. Put the worry and doubt aside. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do or where you can’t go. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and for your kids. Sit out in the sunshine and breathe some fresh air. Pause. And see things from a different perspective. Look at all those open doors!

joy painting brush

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30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Living Like Me April 19, 2020

(Day 8: Share something you struggle with)

One of the many positive things I’ve seen come out of this ongoing pandemic is that many people—including several of my personal friends—have opened up about their struggles with mental health. Suddenly, talking about anxiety and depression is okay for those who are living with it. And some people are feeling it for the first time. And even those lucky enough to have no idea what it’s like first-hand seem to have a good understanding of that now’s the time to check in with the people. To ask how they’re doing. To offer moments of levity. To spread cheer. To make sure friends know that they’re there to listen if anyone needs to talk. And that’s a powerful thing.

white and brown wooden tiles

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I’ve always been pretty open about describing myself as “an anxious person.” But I’ve never really owned the title. So here goes. I struggle with anxiety and depression.

What’s that mean, though? Well, it means that at any given moment, I am consciously working at keeping my thoughts and emotions in check. Picture it like the Whack-a-Mole carnival game. An ugly thought pops up? BAM! Not today. A niggling worry rears its head? POW! Not today. I wield my mallet and keep all the negativity at bay. And most days, I’m successful at that. I’m able to live what others would call a “normal” life. Yes, on the good days, I can make myself believe that I’m a good mom, a good wife, a good person in general. I do the right things, say the right things, and blend in.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for a good day to turn bad. It often doesn’t even take any outside influence. Sometimes it’s as simple as forgetting to constantly remind myself that life is good, that I don’t need to worry so much, that I’m a good person. Other times, I don’t forget but rather am just too exhausted from constantly battling my own thoughts and simply can’t anymore. I put my mallet down and watch the moles pop up all over the place, feeling overwhelmed. And that’s when I snap or cry or stress out for what seems like no reason. Times like these, I withdraw. If I can isolate myself physically, I do. If I can’t, I try to “stay in my own bubble” by avoiding conversation and personal interactions. When this happens, I worry what “they” are thinking. I convince myself of what “normal” me knows are lies. They think I’m rude. They think I’m stupid. They don’t want to be around me. 

adult alone anxious black and white

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In the really bad moments, those lies about what others are thinking spiral out of control until they have solidified into facts. I’m a terrible mom. My husband should leave me. I can’t do anything right. Getting out of bed is a chore. Carrying out everyday tasks feels insurmountable. I don’t want to even try. I think life for everyone would be better if I weren’t in it.

Living with anxiety and depression has taught me a ton, not only about myself but about the world (and people!) around me. First, I’ve learned that these feelings are part of what makes me ME. It wasn’t until my first panic attack that it even occurred to me that not everyone feels like I do. It happened a little over ten years ago and landed me in the ER with uncontrollable shaking, an abnormally low body temperature, and the overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t warm up. They checked my vitals, ran their tests, and referred me back to my primary care physician for a follow-up. Nothing was physically wrong. I’d had an anxiety attack.

My doctor, in turn, referred me to a psychiatrist who, I was told, I’d have to meet with in order to obtain a prescription for anxiety medication. I told her I didn’t want medication. I just wanted to never feel that way again. She handed me a script and told me to bring it to the pharmacy to be filled, that it would tide me over until I could meet with the psychiatrist. Numbly, I followed her directions and when the pharmacist handed me that paper bag holding that amber bottle, she asked if I had any questions. And I did. I explained that my doctor had handed the script to me with no directions or explanation. What is it? When do I take it? The pharmacist read the label and told me, “Says here, three times per day by mouth.” And I was sent on my way. I took one in the car on the way home and within minutes was high as a kite. My husband read the bottle and gave me a shocked look. She had prescribed me a controlled substance intended to be taken “as needed.” But her instructions were to take it three times daily. And she had given me three refills. All before I even met with a psychiatrist.

My meeting with the psychiatrist came about a month later. He asked lots of questions, starting with the medication my doctor had given me and whether or not I felt it was working. I admitted that I had only taken a few of the pills; certainly not three times daily and I hadn’t had any need to order a refill. He asked about my life and how I’ve been feeling. We chatted for about a half hour during which time he offered me a prescription for a daily medication that would “take the edge off.” I declined. How I felt was normal to me. I didn’t want to not feel like me.

I’ve learned to cope with the feelings, to stay on top of them most times. And I’ve learned what to expect when I need a break from all the coping. I’ve learned how best to care for myself without negatively impacting those around me. I’ve learned who I can count on, to call at any hour of day or night to talk me off the ledge. I’ve learned how to fill my cup with the things that bring “good” with them and how to shield myself from the factors that most often lead to the “bad.” I’ve learned that I’m one of millions of people who live this way. I’ve learned that even at my lowest, I’m never alone.

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

 

(Only) 10 Songs I Love April 16, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 5:10 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’m not musically inclined. My singing voice is reserved for the shower, the car, or any time/place that no one else can hear me. I’ve never learned to play an instrument and can’t read sheet music. But I’m a music lover, for sure. A song can change my mood in an instant. It can conjure up a memory and transport me to another time. I use music to keep myself going, to fall asleep, to unwind, and for a million other reasons throughout every day.

In his heyday, my dad was bassist in a band. When I was a kid, he fed me a steady diet of classic rock and blues…Rolling Stones, the Beatles, J Geils Band, BB King, a little Elvis Presley. I attended my first concert (Bon Jovi) when I was about 5 years old. I remember wearing Cabbage Patch Kid earmuffs to muffle the sound and feeling like queen of the world wearing my concert t-shirt to kindergarten the next day. My mom was a country fan through and through to the point that I still joke that Kris Kristofferson may be my biological dad. But she listened to a other genres, too. Growing up, I heard a lot of Carly Simon. Meatloaf. Cher.
Much to my parents’ chagrin, I developed a taste for hip hop and reggae in my early teen years. It took some coaxing to get their permission to attend rap concerts with friends in those years, but I managed it a handful of times. At one show, I met Lil Wayne, who was walking around the audience selling his “mix tape.” (Yeah. I’m that old.) But I never really abandoned my musical upbringing, either, which has left me with an appreciation for a little bit of everything, my go-to playlists changing every few years or so.
In high school, I listened to a lot of hip hop…DMX, Jay-Z, Ja Rule, Li’l Kim, Missy Elliot, 2Pac, Nas, and who could forget Ma$e? (Answer: Probably everyone has forgotten Ma$e. Let’s be real.) But there was also some alt-rock mixed in…311, Everclear, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins. I remember a dirty dancing contest at a friend’s birthday party set to Closer by Nine Inch Nails, which I not only rocked but won. Then my college years were defined by the likes of Dave Matthews, Five For Fighting, Alanis Morissette, and Fiona Apple. I kept Maxwell’s cover of This Woman’s Work on steady rotation along with the City High album. In adulthood, my music has slowed down considerably, especially as the world of hip hop has devolved into absurdity. Now, I tend more towards country and “singer-songwriter” type of music. But ultimately, I’m still all over the place in my taste.

So the task of picking just 10 songs that I love is a tall order. But here goes. I’ve gone ahead and included a Spotify link for each song in case you want to give anything a listen. Please do!

No Woman, No Cry – cover by Fugees
Don’t get me wrong. I love me some Bob Marley. But when it comes to No Woman, No Cry, it’s GOT to be the Fugees cover. (Blasphemy, I know.) This one takes me back to the late 90s. I’m 15, playing Tetris on Nintendo in my bedroom. The old-style Nintendo that you have to blow into the console to get it to play correctly, because again, I’m that old. This song’s on repeat. My window is open and the volume on my stereo is cranked high. I’ve got no real responsibilities other than school and want nothing more than for the boy across the street to notice me.

Here We Go Again – Ray Charles & Norah Jones
This one takes me back to Willie Nelson’s 70th birthday party in 2003. The stage (and audience!) was star-studded. I’m sitting to the right of my then boyfriend (now husband) who has “that guy with the eyebrows from The O.C.” and his wife on his left. It bothered me the whole show that I couldn’t think of his name; Peter Gallagher. My parents are sitting front row and my mom keeps turning around to taunt Kris Kristofferson’s wife Lisa about the fact that she’s got a better seat. Performances included Bill Clinton (yes, THAT Bill Clinton) on the sax, Shania Twain, Wyclef Jean, ZZ Top…the list goes on. But the stand-out in my mind from that night was Ray Charles and Norah Jones.

Anna Begins – Counting Crows
I’m not really sure why but this song always makes me cry. This one’s on my list because of the lyrics. It’s a love story. And I’m a sucker for a good love story.

“If it’s love,” she said, “then we’re going to have to think about the consequences.” She can’t stop shaking. I can’t stop touching her and this time, when kindness falls like rain, it washes her away. And Anna begins to change her mind. “These seconds when I’m shaking leave me shuddering for days,” she says. And I’m not ready for this sort of thing.

I’ve since read that Adam Duritz wrote this song for/about a woman he met while vacationing in Greece and the fact that it’s a TRUE love story seals the deal even more for me.

Give It All To You – Luke Wade
I fell in love with Luke Wade’s music back when he was on Pharell’s team of Season 7 of The Voice. Since then, he’s toured in our area a handful of times and my husband and I have never missed a local-ish show. This song is among my favorites for several reasons but the most important reason has nothing to do with the song itself. It started when I came across Luke’s cover of Work Song. I hadn’t heard Hosier’s original at the time but was telling my husband about how romantic the lyrics were. (C’mon. He sings about crawling out of his grave to go home to his woman. That’s the ultimate in romance, no? No? Just me? Weird.) Anyway, weeks later, my husband serenaded me with Give It All To You. When he was done, he smiled proudly and I stared at him in confusion. He insisted, “You said it was the ultimate romantic song.” Realizing what had happened, I broke it to hubby that, though I appreciated the gesture, he’d learned and performed the wrong song. But since that night, this one holds a soft spot for me.

Greatest Love Story – LANCO
I know what you’re thinking. (Great…ANOTHER love story.) But this one makes the list because it reminds me of my daughter. Hubby and I took her to her first concert (Chris Young) when she was five years old. He had two opening performers for that tour: LANCO and Kane Brown. She loved the whole experience of being at a live performance and she fell in love with this song that night. Since then, she’s learned every lyric and often asks for it when we’re driving in the car or having karaoke night at my sister’s. And, yeah, it’s also a love story. Duh.

Caress Me Down – Sublime
Caution: NSFW. Sublime is some feel-good music, isn’t it? A little reggae-ish. A little Spanish. A little something else. “Ungh!” I can’t help but turn this one way up when it comes on. And it always makes me smile. Bonus Track: While we’re talking about Sublime, I’d be remiss to not mention Aimee Allen’s cover of Santeria. You’re welcome.

Yele – Wyclef Jean
Wyclef is my man. And the Carnival had several songs on it that I loved. But my favorite is hands down Yele. I don’t know what it’s about because the song isn’t in English. I’m not even 100% sure what language it IS, though I’m guessing Creole because he’s Haitian. What I do know is that I can sing along to every word and it evokes emotions that transcends language.

Moonshine – Erick Baker
My first introduction to Erick Baker was Unbroken Promise, which inspired a whole chapter of a book I’m writing. After playing that one on repeat for a while, I started to look more into his other work. I’ve since found that he was on the rise to semi-success in music when he gave up touring to save his marriage. Which makes me love him even more. He’s a good husband, a good father, and his music is pretty great, too. Moonshine is a feel-good song that makes me want to belt out every word with the car windows down. If this one doesn’t put you in a good mood, I’m not sure what will.

I wanna drink a little moonshine in the sunshine of a Summer day.
I wanna paint myself some blue skies to cover up the grays.
Cause everybody needs a good time every once in awhile.
A bad day that ends with a smile.
And some white light to wash all our troubles away.

Justice – Citizen Cope
When Cope tours in our area, hubby and I always buy tickets. Always. He began his musical career as a songwriter and eventually got talked into performing his own music, despite crippling stage fright. (In fact, to this day, he often opens shows with his eyes closed to avoid seeing the audience.) He’s got a unique sound, lyrics that can be interpreted many ways by many people, and is such an overall “chill” person. And the audience members at his shows are a reflection of that eclectic vibe. I’ve listened to podcast interviews and the Facebook Live “Q&A” sessions he does for fans and I’ve noticed that he NEVER talks about what his songs are about or what inspired him to write any given track. He leaves it all up to interpretation.

Drunk Girls in Bathroom Lines – Heidi Raye
This song single-handedly embodies an entire universal experience in a 3-minute ditty. My husband, who is a country fan, haaaaaaates this song because he says it’s annoying. But I can’t get enough of it. Maybe he needed to be there. In the line for the women’s room at a bar or a concert. It’s quite possibly the place that women are nicest and chattiest to each other. We’re all in a good mood. We’re all out, having fun. We’re all friends while waiting to pee. We’ve all made “BFF’s we’ll never see again.”

If you’ve stuck it out this long, I commend you. It means you probably love music as much as I do. Feel free to connect with me on Spotify and send me a song recommendation or two. I’ll never turn down a chance to discover some new tunes.

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

A Map to My Heart April 13, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 12:13 pm
Tags: , , , ,

What’s the way to my heart? Hmmm. I haven’t really had any reason to give this topic much thought in a long, long, looooong time because my heart already belongs to the hubs. But how did HE win it? And how has he managed to keep it all these years? THAT I can answer.

1) Be able to hold a conversation.

I like humor. I like logic. I like organizing and listing. I like daydreaming. Some of my favorite times are after our girl’s in bed and we’re up talking about our days or future plans.

2) Try to understand my anxiety.

It doesn’t always make sense, even to me. I often can’t tell you why I feel it or what will make it dissapate. But he always listens and tries his best to reason with me without judging.

3) Kick ass at parenting.

There’s no rule book or instruction manual. We’re all just winging it, doing our best to raise kids who are well-adjusted members of society. I’m so thankful that for the most part, he and I are on the same page when it comes to how best to raise our girl. And when we’re not, we’re always able to find a happy medium. Every day, no matter what, I’m a thousand percent certain that our girl has the type of father who will show her by example how a man should treat the people he loves.

4) Do the “boy jobs.”

Look. I was raised by two loving parents who didn’t really put much emphasis on gender roles. My sister and I were taught to be independent, to never rely on a man. So it took me a long time to feel good about giving up control of anything, even in my relationship. But once I did, it was like a weight was lifted off me. I’m still self sufficient in most things but see no harm in splitting responsibilities, either. Equal partners. Except for when it comes to killing spiders or cleaning up dog vomit. Those are boy jobs, for sure.

5) Never give up or walk away.

I’m often hard to handle. I can be irritable, grumpy, hard to live with. I sometimes try to isolate myself. But he’s held onto my heart all these years because he doesn’t give up on me. He’s patient, he pushes me to open up when all I want to do is disappear inside my own head, he often knows what I need even when I don’t.

 

Oh, the Places I’ll Go: Quarantine Edition April 10, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 2:49 pm
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(Day 5 – List five places you want to visit.)

I can’t be the only one dreaming up a to-do list for when COVID-19 is no longer a threat, businesses reopen, travel bans are lifted, and life can return to normal. Thinking about all the places I want to visit helps me stay optimistic, with an eye toward the future and normalcy. And had I been asked to list five places I’d like to visit a month ago, it would’ve been vacation destinations. But here we are. And here’s my list.

1) My daughter’s school.

She loves it and because of that, I love it. The teachers, the staff… They’re all missed deeply. Before all this, I joined her class for library time at least twice monthly, volunteered at every school event, and attended every PTO meeting. The truth is, I may be missing her school more than she is right now.

2) The movie theater.

We’ve had “family movie night” once per week since social distancing began. In fact, we’re having one tonight. (Hello, “Trolls: World Tour.”) It involves microwave popcorn, candy, pajamas, and blankets as the four of us (our black lab counts!) snuggle on the couch. We enjoy it, sure. But man, do I miss the experience of going to the theater. Never again will I complain about overpriced concessions or sticky floors.

3) Someone’s house.

Anyone’s house. My dad’s, my sister’s, my friends’. I want to have a party. Or go to a party. Or a hundred parties. Invite everyone. Hug everyone. Talk to people face to face.

4) Date night.

Like the rest of the country, I’ve been feeling more frazzled than usual lately. And when I feel like this, the solution is often to book a babysitter and enjoy a night out with the hubs. But now? We can’t have a sitter over. And even if we could, there’s no place to go. I miss dining out and escape rooms and the casino and concerts and paint night and bowling and the theater and all the things we like to do on dates.

5) The grocery store.

Sure, they’re still open. But we’re trying like hell to stay away. I haven’t been into any stores since mid-March but I’ve heard there have been many changes. I don’t want to have to wear a mask or wait in line for my turn to shop. I don’t want to hope the shelves are stocked. I want to interact with the cashier without a plexiglass panel between us. I want to shop leisurely and with my husband and daughter. If I forget something, I want to be able to pop in randomly or send my husband at 11pm. Instead, we’re shopping for two weeks at a time by delivery service. Hoping we’re choosing enough to last. Hoping it’ll all arrive and not be out of stock.

I’m doing my best to stay positive by limiting media consumption, getting a daily dose of vitamin D from outside time, and staying somewhat on a schedule in terms of sleeping and eating. I have faith that we’ll get through this and when we do, I’ll not take for granted all these little things. Because I realize now that these little things are actually pretty big.

 

My MomFriendAunt is Better Than Yours April 9, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 8:13 am
Tags: , ,

(Day 4: Write about someone who inspires you.)

Growing up, my mom’s best friend was always a presence in my life. But it wasn’t until after my mom passed away that I really came appreciated the human being she is.

From the moment my mom’s diagnosis came until she took her final breath roughly three months later, her best friend was one of only four people she allowed to visit her. She was a huge support for our whole family during that emotionally charged time and I know she was a comfort to my mom, as well. She stood beside us in the receiving line at mom’s services and continued to be an incredible support to us in the days (and months and years) after.

It took me a while after my mom passed to realize that calling her “my mom’s best friend” was still true but no longer made sense. Instead, I started calling her “my friend.” And soon after, I dubbed her my “MomFriendAunt” because she’s like all of those roles in one for me.

She’s the one I reach out to when I’m having an “I just want my mommy” moment or when life feels too overwhelming to handle. She’s who I want to call when something exciting happens or I’ve got good news to share. I can say absolutely anything to her and know that the feedback she’ll give will be genuine, said with love, and have my best interest at heart. She listens without judgment, offers advice when warranted, and just… Gets me.

Late night text conversations, “girls weekends,” dinner dates with my daughter and her grandson, celebrations, and hanging out just because. She’s always there for me. I consider her family and feel fortunate to have her in my life.

But I’m certain I’m not the only one who can say all these things about her. I’ve seen the relationship she has with her adult children, extended family, and friends. She’s given so much to so many; she’s truly the most selfless person I know. And she often struggles with putting herself first and believing all the good stuff about herself. My one wish is that someday, somehow, she finally sees how extraordinary she is and just how much she means to so many.

I love you always, Frankie. Thank you for being you.

Photo credit: Not sure…I swiped it from her Facebook profile

 

Pet Peeves: Quarantine Edition April 8, 2020

If you’d asked me to list my top three pet peeves a month ago, you’d have gotten a very different list. But this is where I’m at now…

1) Feeling both overwhelmed AND bored. At the same time. At all times.

My day begins with three hours of working remotely. And most days, that’s not enough time to get the job done, which leaves me feeling…spazzy… for several hours after. And during that time, I also encourage my girl to start her school work, which she’s not always able (read: willing) to do without guidance. So when I’m done working, an hour or two or three of being a teacher begins.

I prepare eleventy bajillion snacks and meals daily. And pick up twice as many toys/messes.

I do my best to keep my girl connected to school, teams, and friends…. Taught her how to use Microsoft Teams, encourage her to video chat with friends, got her tablet set up with the various apps—and there seems to be a new one added at least weekly—our district is relying on for “distance learning,” and staying on top of all the email updates from teachers and coaches. Which reminds me. I still have to Venmo her dance teacher for the Zoom dance classes.

And when all this is done, we’ve got HOURS left in our day to decompress, though it never seems to be enough time.

At 8pm, we head outside for “bell time.” (Town-wide, people are encouraged to ring bells or otherwise make noise from 8:00 to 8:02 as a show of solidarity in this social distancing era.) And while we play our musical instruments, for lack of bells, my girl dances and I silently think, “One day closer to normalcy.”

After our girl is in bed, it’s time for dishes, laundry, picking up toys (again), and cuddling up with hubby on the couch. By this time of night, I’m ready for a giant glass of wine as a remedy for the anxiety that’s built up all day.

Rinse and repeat.

2) Having to repeat myself.

Here’s a smattering of the phrases I catch myself uttering multiple times per day, every day day…

– “Just because we’re home doesn’t mean you don’t have to brush your hair.”

– “I said ONE snack.”

– “No, it’s not lunch time. You JUST finished breakfast!”

– “3:00 is NOT dinnertime.”

– “Turn off the tablet!”

– “C’mon, we have to get this school packet done before we go outside.”

– “If you want to play outside, you need to put on actual clothes. Not pajamas.”

3) People who don’t stay home.

I’m following the rules. Other than outdoor time in our yard and walks around the block, my girl and I have left the house exactly once in the past three weeks. And that was to take part in a birthday parade for my cousin’s twins, which didn’t require us to get out of the car. Hubby goes to work and occasionally the grocery store. That’s it. If everyone did the same, we’d all be able to get back to life as we knew it sooner.

 

Everybody Counts April 6, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 12:36 am
Tags: , ,

(Day 2: Something Someone Told Me About Myself)

In all the craziness of the ongoing pandemic, it’s easy to forget that it’s a census year for the US. Easy to forget until the repeated postcards and reminder letters start piling up, that is. So last week, I finally buckled down and committed to filling out the required information online.

I fired up my laptop, navigated to my2020census.gov, plugged in my access code, and got started. And everything was moving along well for a total of about 60 seconds before I reached the question about my ethnicity.

Easy. White. I’m white. Check. And click next.

ERROR. White isn’t enough. I also must enter my origin. I stare blankly at my screen for a moment, contemplating typing in my standard answer: “European mutt.” But something tells me the federal government wouldn’t be amused with that response so instead I type “unknown.”

ERROR. Not acceptable. I apparently must enter ACTUAL origins. And then the panic started to creep in. I don’t know my origins. What do I put? How will I be counted? Will I be penalized if I’m unable to complete my census? What do people who were adopted enter here?

So I did all I could think of doing. I texted my dad: “Trying to do my census stuff and I don’t know my race. White isn’t good enough. They need to know my ancestry and won’t accept ‘unknown.’ HELP!”

And help came. In an abundance. Complete with color commentary:

“Well, your father was Irish, Scottish, with a touch of English, and your mother was Irish, French, with a touch of German. That’s what I’d tell them. Born under a bad sign, and if not for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all. My maternal grandmother was half French, with 12.5% Canadian Indian. My maternal grandfather was just Irish. My paternal grandfather was Scottish, and my paternal grandmother was Irish. Diabetic bitch. With lotsa alcohol. Both sides, and stubborn as the day is long. Plus tell them, opinionated as hell. Self-righteous sons of bitches, too.”

I back-spaced on “unknown” and considered entering “self-righteous sons of bitches” but instead typed: Irish, Scottish, English, French, German.

There. I’ve been counted.

30-Day Writing Challenge