Corna-Cation

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been MIA from the blog for a bit because I had two mini corona-cations back to back. It was sort of a last minute decision not to blog during that time because I wanted to be fully present for both trips.  I am calling them corona-cations because they were very different from our usual trips due to the many precautions that we had to take to keep everyone as safe as possible.  Masks, hand-sanitizer, and social distancing became normal part of both trips.  We did not go to any restaurants or any other adventures because we didn’t feel like that was safe. Despite the extra precautions, both trips for me were still a great success and a wonderful time was had by all. 

First, I spent 4 glorious days in the Outer Banks with 8 of my very best friends.  We have been doing this annual beach trip for, I think, nine years now.  This year’s trip got postponed due to the shutdown for COVID-19, but I am happy to report that it finally happened. We tried to all social distance as much as we could with 9 people in one house sharing beds, but I wasn’t too concerned since I knew everyone had been pretty isolated prior to the trip.  We didn’t share our usual hugs with everyone, and we tried not to drink or eat after each other.   We also did not go anywhere except to the beach and back.  A few of us got up early each morning and made our way to the beach so that we could secure a large socially distanced area for all of us to hang all day.  There were surprisingly more people on the beach than we are typically used to so getting a spot early was key.  We put up our cabana and spread our bags and chairs wide so that new beachgoers knew to stay away from us.  Most people were respectful of each other and everyone was trying hard to maintain distance as much as possible.  We pretty much spent our entire days at the beach since we couldn’t really go anywhere else.  We packed our own lunches and plenty of drinks and snacks to last us through the whole day.  I don’t think that we have ever spent that much time just talking and hanging out on the beach before.  We usually only spend a few hours a day at the beach mixed in with shopping and dining out the rest of the time.  Since we couldn’t do that this year, we just stayed at the beach all day.  We had really good weather, calm waters, and overall great conversations. It was glorious.  Each evening, we headed back to the house in shifts to start showers, and then we took turns cooking dinner each night because we weren’t comfortable with going to a restaurant. After dinner each night, we played crazy games that resulted in so many laughs that there were tears rolling down our faces.  While this trip wasn’t like any of our others, it was exactly what we all needed.  All we really cared about was spending time together and having fun which we did beyond measure.  

After that trip, I can home for two days before the whole family packed up and made the long drive to South Carolina to visit our family, who we haven’t seen since Christmas.  It was very alarming to us to see the difference in safety measures the closer we got to South Carolina as we made stops along the way on the 10-hour trip.  During our initial bathroom stops, everyone we passed was wearing a mask and walking far away from each other. Then, the closer we got to our destination, we encountered tons of people without masks who didn’t seem to make any effort to not walk close to you.  It was a bit scary to us to see that because it is such a sharp contrast from what we have been living the past few months at home.  It was quite interesting to see how the different states are handling things and showed why there is now a spike in COVID cases in many of those states that have been more lenient with their restrictions.  I feel like I was personally more nervous on this trip than I was on my beach trip.  I am not sure if that was because the restrictions were way less down there and, therefore, more concerning to me or if it was because I was around my parents, father-in-law, and my grandparents who are all at a greater risk than we are due to age and pre-existing conditions. I would feel so horrible knowing that we exposed one of them to this horrible virus if one of them were to get sick.  I guess it is probably a combination of both that made me more nervous, but it definitely made me extra cautious.  Before we even left for the trip, I questioned if it were the right thing to do to go down there, but we felt like we should make the trip to see our family when we have the opportunity since it doesn’t happen very often.  I am glad that we went because spending time with family is so important.  My kids got to spend time with their cousins at the lake tubing and having a blast, and we all got to spend time with our loved ones celebrating Independence Day. There were no big fireworks displays this year and no huge BBQs, but we enjoyed a small family gathering for lunch instead. 

While both trips were changed by the new norm, both of them turned out to be more than we expected. We all got just what we needed out of them. I strongly believe that nothing is more important that spending time with the people we love.  Maybe things will never get back to the old norm, but we will continue to adapt and make the most out of what we are given.  I am aware that some of you may think that we shouldn’t be going anywhere at all, and maybe you are right. However, I think that we did the best we could to protect ourselves and those that we came into contact with. I also believe that we have to continue with our lives as much as possible and make the most of the cards we have been dealt in these crazy times. I think as long as you are careful and are smart about what you are doing, there is nothing wrong with taking a mini corona-cation. I am happy with both of mine and am counting down the days for the next ones whenever they may be and whatever they may look like. 

Anchored,

Giving Up Control

La Luz Necklace/Moxie Hoops/Crew Neck Tee (This color tee is no longer available.)

I really thought that the summer was going to drag on since we are still pretty much stuck in the house with not much to do, but it is actually going by pretty fast.  We are nearing the end of June already and things are rolling right along.  I am struggling a bit this week because I am conflicted.  My annual girls’ beach weekend that was postponed in May is finally here, and I CANNOT wait.  I know you guys are probably sick of hearing about it already, but I can’t really express how much this weekend means to me each year and how much I love spending time with my tribe.  My conflict comes because this weekend is also cheer tryouts for my girls.  While I know that my husband can handle it, I’m still struggling with not being here for them.  I think part of that comes from just being a mom, but I also think some of it has to do with the fact that my husband has been deployed for so much of our marriage.  I have always had the responsibility of doing these types of things with the girls on my own.  I’m not used to letting him take on this kind of tasks with the girls.  There is nothing wrong with it, and like I said, he can handle it.  It’s just different for me.  In the past I would have had to miss out on my girls’ trip or beg my mom to make the long drive to help because I didn’t have any other choice.  Even though it has been two years since he last deployed, I think that the adjustment of having him here to help is something that is going to take a while for me to get used too.  He has done shore duties before where he didn’t deploy for a couple of years at a time, but he was always still traveling a lot and not home very much.  Now that he has reached the point in his career that he is no longer going to deploy and only take a few short trips here and there, I am learning to rely on his help more and more.  Just yesterday, I scheduled an appointment for myself not thinking much of it.  I was pleasantly surprised when my husband got home and mentioned trying to work around his schedule so that he could go with me.  It honestly never occurred to me that he would go with me.  Again, I am just used to doing it all on my own.  I was really touched that he thought he should go and that he was going to make the effort.  He has rarely been able to do things like that before.  Of course, I don’t need him to go, but the thought was very touching to me and really meant a lot.

This is a dilemma that I think all military wives face.  We get used to doing things on our own.  We hardly ever ask for help, and we somehow make it all work.  It is a sacrifice that most of us gladly make for our families so that our spouses can protect and defend our country.  It’s not easy and sometimes we feel like breaking, but we manage the best we can.  Some of the strongest, most courageous women I know are military spouses.  You would think that we would all welcome the day when our spouse is home to help, but it isn’t that simple.  When you have lived this life for a long time like I have doing things on your own and in your own way, it is hard to not only willingly accept help, but it is also hard to give up control.  It is not that I want control of everything. Trust me, I don’t.  It just that it has always been me doing it all alone. That is what I a used to.  For example, the past two years, both of my girls (one in cheer and one in gymnastics) had conflicting competition schedules.  Before my youngest became involved in cheer, I was always traveling with my oldest for all of her gymnastics competitions all the time dragging my youngest with us.  My husband was rarely home during competition season.  When my youngest started cheer two years ago, it quickly became apparent that my husband and I were going to have to split up because I clearly couldn’t be at two places at once, and he was here now to help.  It just worked out that he traveled for gymnastics since my oldest didn’t need a lot of help, and I traveled for cheer to do hair and makeup.  It was extremely hard for me not to be with my oldest and to miss out on so many of her competitions.  I did not like it that he got to go, and I didn’t.  I had been the one with her for so many years that it was hard for me to share it and give up control of traveling with her. While I was happy that he finally got to see her compete every competition, I was super jealous that I didn’t.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with my youngest to see her compete too.  It was that I really wanted to be with both. I wanted to split myself in half like I have been doing for years and be with both. I don’t know how I would have managed it all if he still was deploying, but I would have figured out a way to make it work.  

While I am learning to let go of control of a lot of things and learning to accept help, I have to admit that it isn’t easy.  Doing it all was my way of life for 18 years. That’s a long time.  It’s hard to break habits that have been going on for that long.  It is even harder for me to ask for and accept help.  I am beyond grateful that my husband is here to share the load and that my stress and anxiety levels are lower than they have ever been. Plus he finally gets to be fully present in our kids lives. Despite it being two years now, it is clear that I am still getting used to this new stage in our lives.  I have to undo 18 years of thinking and acting, and that isn’t going to happen overnight.  This weekend will be amazing and hard for me all at once.  I usually don’t call home much when I am on my trip, but this time I am requesting frequent updates and details from all three on tryouts so that I feel like I am there too. I am not going to let it damper my time with my tribe, but a small part of me will be feeling like I am missing out and that I am skipping out on my duties as a mom.

Anchored and Learning to Let Go,

  

Mid-Year Renewal

I was just sitting here thinking about the fact that we have pretty much made it halfway through 2020.  This is definitely a year for the history books and one that will be talked about for generations to come.  This year has not gone like any of us have planned.  I know I started the year out with my new word of the year, RELENTLESS.  I wanted to be relentless in my actions and my emotions.  I wanted to be relentless in my work and in my self-growth, not giving up and not stopping.  I wasn’t going to let things stand in my way.  The forced slow down sort of made me lose sight of the word and why I chose it in the first place.   It was hard to be relentless in action when I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything.   I felt discouraged and maybe a little lost in the midst of it all.  There was a time when I felt like I was at a standstill and my work, my own self-growth, and my emotions were going nowhere.  I felt like I wasn’t living the word that I had committed to.  I felt like I was failing miserably because I was letting the shut down and stay at home order affect me in negative ways.  That’s when God stepped in and gave me a kick in the pants yet again.  He reminded me of the reasons that I chose the word in the first place.  He reminded me of the areas that I said I wanted to be relentless in and prompted me to go back and read that post from January where I chose my word.   

Here is a recap of what I said then.

I want to be relentless just like God is in his love for us. I want to be relentless in all I do.  I want to be so focused that nothing can stop me.    I want to be RELENTLESS IN LOVE—love for my family, my friends, and every person I come across. I want to be RELENTLESS IN FAITH—ever growing in my relationship with Christ.  I want to be RELENTLESS IN WORK—fighting for injustice and making a global impact with the work I do with Trades of Hope. I want to be RELENTLESS IN DREAMS—doing everything in my power to make all of my dreams come true. I want to be RELENTLESS IN GROWTH—continuing to work on growing and becoming the best version of myself.  I want to be RELENTLESS IN JOY—seeking joy and choosing joy in everything I do.

Allison Clark January 7, 2020

God made me realize that I could still be living out my word even while I was stuck at home with nothing to do, but it would just look a little different than I had originally thought. My priorities shifted a bit, and I realized that I needed to be relentless in different areas of my life too.  Things that had been pushed to the side for so long were suddenly at the forefront of my mind.  I could still be relentless in love, faith, work, dreams, and growth but in different ways.  I made up my mind to get back on track and make myself be relentless.  

RELENTLESS IN JOY

At first it was hard to see joy in this whole drastic change in our lives.  It was hard to see the good when there was so much fear and misinformation going around.  However, I started to choose to see the good in everything that was going on in the world.  I chose to focus on all the positives that have come from this instead of the negatives.  Yes, I still got annoyed and sad when things got canceled or with the schooling situation, but I chose not to dwell on those things.  I chose to be relentless in choosing joy every single day.  I wake up every morning and tell myself that today is going to be a good day. Then I make myself proclaim at least one thing that I am grateful for in the midst of the chaos. It just sets me up for a joy filled day.

RELENTLESS IN WORK

I initially felt like my Trades of Hope business and my blog were suffering with the pandemic.  Vendor events got canceled and I was struggling with asking people to buy products and host parties with me when so many people were struggling financially.  I was also struggling with writing this blog.  It was difficult to think of things to write about other than the pandemic when there was nothing going on in my life.  I felt guilty when I skipped a day of writing because I felt like I was letting myself down.  When I got my wakeup call from God, I realized that I had something to offer others, something that could and would bring hope to others.  I chose to participate in a challenge to spread hope live every single night for the month of April.  I went live on my Facebook page and just shared joy and hope to whoever chose to watch for 30 days straight.  That really ignited a new fire in me for my work to empower women and to make a difference in the world.  It gave me the longing to continue to write posts and share my life with the world, but it also made me realize that it was ok to not write a post every day.  It was ok for me to skip days when I had nothing to say.  I wasn’t letting myself down by doing that. Instead, I used those days when I had nothing to write to focus more on my Trades of Hope business.  When that happened, I started getting tons of feedback about my work and I started booking parties out of the blue.  It was amazing to see the shift just by changing my mindset.  

RELENTLESS IN FAITH

The thought of not being able to go to church for worship was difficult for me.  I wasn’t sure that viewing our service online was going to fill my cup like going to church usually did for me.  Boy was I wrong.  I have gotten as much if not more from our online services.  We have not yet skipped a service since the shutdown occurred and that would not have been the case if life had carried on as normal.  We tend to miss out on going to church a lot because of travel with our kids’s sports.  I think this is probably the longest stretch of time that we haven’t missed a Sunday in years.  My cup is overflowing for sure and my relationship with Christ is only growing.

RELENTLESS IN LOVE

This is the one where my priorities have probably shifted the most.  It is easy for me to be relentless in my love for my family, friends, and others I meet.  What I have learned, though, is that it is much harder for me to be relentless in love for myself, and that is an area that I need to work on.  As I have shared over and over again, I tend to have this negative talk in my head about how I am not good enough, and I am not worthy enough.  I am working to correct this, but it is very difficult for me.  I also don’t spend enough time on self-care because I don’t make myself a priority. Now that I have all the time in the world, I have realized that I needed to be relentless with my time in the future.  I needed to be relentless in taking time for myself for self-care.  I needed to be relentless in creating a schedule that doesn’t run me into the ground and wear me out, but instead to create a schedule that offers time for recharging daily. I need to make time for me to love on myself. This one is certainly going to continue to be a work in progress, but it is one that I need to focus on because it is so important.  

RELENTLESS IN GROWTH

I am pretty sure that this is the only one that has remained a constant for me.  All of the change and realizations from above are a part of my growth.  It is a part of me discovering what is important to me and how I view the world and myself.  Growing as person and in who I want to be is a job that I will never retire from.  I strongly believe that you can never stop growing and learning and becoming a better version of yourself piece by piece.  

I have no clue where the rest of this year is going to take me. I have no idea of what the future holds. The one thing I do know is that I am not going to loose sight of my word again. For my mid-year renewal, I am recommitting to being RELENTLESS.

Anchored and Relentless,

Worthy of Being Chosen

Chosen.  That is such a loaded word.  By simple definition it means being selected as the best or most appropriate.  It is a word that came up two different times for me already this morning which has caused me to do a lot of reflecting.  It first appeared during my daily devotion where I was reading about how we are each individually chosen by God for a purpose.  Then it came up again when I watched a Trades of Hope training video talking about how we have been chosen to make a difference in the world.  I have been thinking about times in my life when I was chosen for who I am.  Going back to the simple definition of the word, I immediately start to think about those times that I was chosen but didn’t feel like I deserved it because it didn’t feel like I was the “best or most appropriate.”  An example that comes to mind is from a few years ago. I was chosen as my school’s teacher of the year and then chosen a few months later as the city-wide teacher of the year out of over 40 other individuals who were the best of the best.  While that was probably one of the biggest honors I have ever been chosen for, I have never felt like I deserved it.  I have had the privilege of working with some of the most incredible teachers in the world over my career, and I always felt like many of them deserved to be chosen way more than I did.  I am certainly nothing special.  You see how my mind immediately goes to comparison?  I have to remind myself all the time not to do that.  

I think many of us feel undeserving a lot of times and often find that we are comparing ourselves to others.  I know I do.  In fact, I am not sure there is a time in my life that I was chosen for something or by someone that I didn’t have those feelings of doubt and unworthiness. Why do we do that? Why do we not feel worthy of being chosen or that someone else is better or more deserving than us?  I wish I knew the answer to that.  As much as I get on here and write about struggles and how to fix them, sometimes I need to remind myself to take my own advice.  God placed the word chosen on my heart today. I don’t know if that is because it is something I need to reflect on for myself or if it is a message one of you needs to hear, but I feel like it is probably a little bit of both.   

One way that was suggested to me years ago to help to turn the narrative around in my head is to use positive affirmations.  We have to turn the negative feelings and thoughts of unworthiness into a positive statement that needs to be repeated over and over again out loud to ourselves.  In the case of the example I used above, I need to tell myself that I was chosen as the teacher of the year because I worked hard and was passionate about my students and their needs. I was chosen because I was worthy of the honor.  By turning the negative thought into a positive, I am able to change the narrative in my head.  The more you tell yourself you are worthy, the more likely you are to believe it.  Post those affirmations around your house or your office if you have to.  Speak them out loud daily. You have to really commit to the affirmations for them to work, or the negative thoughts will leave you at a standstill.  They won’t allow you to grow, learn, and change unless you reverse them to positives.  Wouldn’t you rather tell yourself that you are worthy of being chosen rather than telling yourself you aren’t? Sadly, that is exactly what we all do, though.

Another way to change the narrative in your head is to stop comparing yourself to others. This is probably one of the hardest things for me (and likely many of you) to do. It is hard not to see someone else as more valuable or more deserving than you, but I’m here to tell you that comparison steals your joy.  It will rob you of happiness and take away the value of being the one who was chosen.  No one is you but you, and you are the only one that you should be comparing yourself to. Are you better today than you were yesterday? That is what truly matters and is the only kind of comparisons you should be making when it comes to your self-worth.  You are unique and special.  You were chosen for whatever is making you feel unworthy because of who you are.  You. Not anyone else. Whenever those thoughts of comparison start to creep in, immediately put a stop to them by repeating your affirmations. Tell yourself that Sally isn’t really better than you. She is just different.  She has her own unique strengths and those are different than your strengths. One is not better than the other, just different.

Always remember, you were and are chosen because of who you are.  You alone are worthy.  Whether it is that you are chosen by your spouse, chosen to be the mom of your children, chosen to be a leader at work, chosen to win an award, or whatever else you are chosen for, YOU ARE WORTHY.  You were selected as the “best or most appropriate” because you deserved it.  Tell yourself that every single day because it is the truth. 

Anchored,

Speak Up

I will admit that I have been hesitant to write this post today because I am not sure that I have the right words to say, but I do feel like it is my duty as a Christian to speak up.  What is happening in our world right now hurts my heart in so many ways.  My heart aches for all of my friends who are black.  I won’t even say that I can imagine how you are feeling right now because I know that I can’t.  I cannot even begin to fathom what it is like to be automatically judged by everyone because of the color of my skin.  I have never experienced it and likely never will.  Seeing my friends pouring out their hearts on social media in anguish and fear makes me sick.  It has to stop. 

I was raised to know and love Jesus Christ.  Because of that I grew up knowing that God called us to love above all else.  The song “Jesus Loves Me” was sung to me many times by my grandmother when I was little.  I can still hear her voice singing it right now.  She would tell me that Jesus loves us all “red, yellow, black, and white” and that we are all “precious in his sight” just like the song says. I believed her then and still do now that I am grown and she is gone.  In God’s eyes, we are all equal, but in this world here on Earth we aren’t.  We never have been.  What is happening right now is proof of that.  We are not living out God’s word in real life.  The golden rule is to love your neighbor as yourself, and I can’t say that any of us are truly following that rule.  We may love those neighbors that look just like us, but do we really love those that don’t?  If we did, these senseless killings would not be occurring at such an alarming rate.  People wouldn’t feel the need to riot to have their voices heard. Men wouldn’t be afraid of being harmed while on a run in their neighborhood. Mothers of boys who are black wouldn’t be scared to death to raise their sons in this world filled with hate.  We are not following the golden rule.  We are all guilty whether we believe we are or not.  It’s the hard truth of our world, and it is sickening. 

I strongly believe that God also calls us to fight against the injustices of the world.  I know that my God, the God of love, hates injustice.  He desires for us to put an end to it and speak out against it.  We can no longer remain silent and ignore what is happing right in front of our faces. One race should not be treated any differently than any other, but that is what has happened over and over again.  I don’t have all the answers on how to fix it, but I know that it starts with love in its purest form, the love of Jesus Christ. Without it, this hatred will never end.  As another popular song says, He is the “Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, and Light in the Darkness.”  I truly believe that. If anyone can bring about change, it is Him. I pray with all my heart that we can come together as one nation and make real change happen. It starts with more Jesus, more love, more peace, and more justice.

To all of my friends in the black community who are hurting, I am sorry.  I am sorry for every wrong that has ever been done to you because of the color or your skin.  I am sorry for all the fear you have had to live with every day that I can never understand. I want to you to know that I am blessed to know you and to call you my friend.  You are loved by me, but most importantly, you are loved by God. You are strong.  You are held. You belong.  You are a child of God. That above all else is the message I want you to hear.  I am standing with you and for you, and I will do my part to try to create real change.  

Anchored,

Pandemic Roller Coaster

Does anyone else feel like you have been on the longest roller coaster ride ever? It’s almost like I got on this ride back in March and have yet to get off. Sometimes the highs are so high and the lows are so low that I can barely hang on.  All of the twists and turns along the way have me spinning in circles.  It’s this roller coaster of emotions that we have been on since this whole pandemic started.  Oh, and by the way, I don’t even like roller coasters! In fact, they make me sick and dizzy, and I try to avoid them at all costs.  I sure am ready to get off!

You know how many roller coasters start out with a slow, steady climb upwards? That is how this whole thing started.  We suddenly jumped on this ride and started to slowly make that climb.  We were all in a little of bit of disbelief and denial of what was coming ahead. We kept hearing bits and pieces about this new virus on the news, but we didn’t really think it would affect us. Then schools were abruptly canceled, and people had to take off work. Maybe there would be few bumps and twists, but our initial anticipation was that this could be fun. We would enjoy a few unexpected days off of work and school and then things would get back to normal. Little did we know that we were about to reach the top and be hurdled downward.

Unfortunately, we eventually got to the top of that slow, steady climb into the sky and were teetering on the edge looking down.  The fear was starting to creep in. We were about to make a huge plunge into the darkness, and the ride looked like it was going to be longer and wilder than we had ever imagined.  Schools were canceled for the rest of the year. Stay at home orders were put into place. Thoughts were swarming around in our heads that this couldn’t really be happening in 2020.  It couldn’t possibly be real life.  We were afraid of all the things they were saying on the news.  People were becoming infected at alarming rates, hospitals were filling up, and people were dying.  We decided at the top that we didn’t really want to be on this ride because what lay ahead didn’t seem so fun anymore. We wanted to get off as fast as possible.   

Usually when you get past that initial plunge in the ride, you get to the fun and exciting parts of the roller coaster.  This is the part most people enjoy. It is when the hands come up and you are flying carefree through the sky.  This Pandemic Roller Coaster was no different.  Once we got over our fear and settled in to this new normal, we started to have fun.  We realized that this ride, although unexpected, was one we all needed and we accepted it.  It caused us to slow down and appreciate the ride.  We got to spend time with our families that we typically never had.  We got to take a break from the craziness of our everyday lives.  We were truly enjoying the ourselves.  Yes, there were some sharp curves initially with people having to figure out childcare for their kids, how to manage teleworking, and the lack of toilet paper and certain foods. However, there was so much good that was happening that was outweighing the bad initally. We were laughing and smiling in ways that we hadn’t in years.  We were stepping up to help our fellow neighbors. We were exercising and spending time outside.  We were doing the things we normally didn’t have time for like household projects, movie nights, games, puzzles, and more. We were having incredible drive by birthday celebrations and the community really rallied together. 

It really was incredibly fun for a while, but then the ride turned upside down and sideways and that made some of us angry, some filled with anxiety, and some maybe even depressed.  Balancing it all became really hard and we were overwhelmed.  People started losing their jobs. The economy plunged downward. Some were worried about how they were going to put food on the table.  Businesses were trying to keep from going under.  Distance learning started, and parents were having to figure out how to balance work and homeschooling. Kids were struggling to keep up with their lessons. Teachers were barely keeping their heads out of the water.  We were struggling to keep it all together.  We started missing our old lives. We were missing things that we used to do and our friends and extended families. We were longing for things to get back to normal, but there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. We were exhausted and just wanted the ride to be over. 

Then, the ride eventually slowed down.  We got into the grove of it all. There started to be talk of reopening, and we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We have again been filled with a little fear, but we were excited at the same time to start to get back to whatever the new normal is going to be.  Some of you are further along in this part of the ride than others.  Where I live, we are still under a stay at home order and have not yet started phase 1 of reopening.  Others of you are getting ready to head into phase 2 already.  I am seeing social media posts of happy and relieved people who have been able to get their hair done and their nails done.  I am seeing people heading back to work and businesses reopening the best they can with restrictions.  I could be wrong, but it looks like this crazy roller coaster is coming to some sort of end.  I’m not sure any of us will ever be the same once we get off or that we really want to be.  Sometimes when you get off of a rough roller coaster, it takes you some time to feel steady on your feet.  We all may be a little wobbly and dizzy at first, but I really think that we are going to land on our feet again eventually.  I truly believe that this Pandemic Roller Coaster was designed by God to give us a wakeup call.  No matter how long it lasts, if there are more hills to climb, or we end upside down again, I firmly believe that God has ultimate control and will lead us down the right track.  We will come out stronger and better all-around on the other side. We will eventually get off this ride. My hope is that we will look back on the Pandemic Roller Coaster ride and remember all that we overcame and know that we are stronger than we ever imagined. I hope that we have learned whatever it was that God wanted to teach us. I know for me that lesson was to slow down and value the important things. I have learned to let go of the trivial things in my life. I just pray that it is a lesson that sticks! Whatever your lesson may be, I hope you find it and are better for it. I believe the end is near, my friends. Just keep that belt buckled and keep holding on for a little longer. We’ve got this!

Anchored in for the ride,

The End of a Chapter

I actually wrote this post last week, but I wasn’t ready to share it with the world yet.  It is something very personal for me. It may be a little long, but I couldn’t leave any of it out.  Writing for me is often like therapy and it helps me to get things out and to reminisce, so here it goes…

As I sit here to write this morning, I am filled with so many emotions.  My heart is hurting a little, and I am not sure how to deal with all of the things I am feeling.  Today, my oldest daughter will be participating in her last Junior Olympic gymnastics practice.  She has made the decision to walk away from her gymnastics career after all these years.  I know that it was a very hard decision for her and one that she was hesitant to share with us, her coaches, and her teammates.  We have known for a while that her heart just didn’t seem to be in it anymore.  Her body has grown and changed, and injuries and illness have set her back in the last year.  When she first admitted to us that she was thinking about walking away, my husband and I both were shocked as she has never wavered in her love and commitment for the sport.  We honestly didn’t think she would ever follow through. We thought that she would change her mind.  I think that maybe she would have had we not had this long break from real practice.  The 2-hour conditioning workouts as a result of the pandemic have not allowed her to do the parts of the sport that she really loves and, unfortunately, resulted in sealing the deal. It breaks my heart that her career ended this way.  

My daughter was born 3 weeks early weighing only 4 pounds and 8 ounces.  Her small size led to low muscle tone when she was younger.  Because of this, she was delayed in a lot of gross motor skills.  She was delayed in sitting up, pulling up, and walking.  She never really learned to crawl.  Instead she learned how to roll to get where she wanted to go.  Not long after her first birthday, her pediatrician suggested that we enroll her into a parent and tot gymnastics/activity class as well as have her evaluated for physical therapy as a way to improve her muscle tone and gain some strength.  We signed her up for her first class at a place called Rolly Pollies and for the PT evaluation around the same time.  Between the time she was evaluated by the physical therapist and the time she was supposed to start actually getting physical therapy, she began pulling up and walking.  It was only a matter of weeks and she was on the go and never looked back.  I have always atributed it to that gymnastics class.  She loved it so much that she wanted to do everything, so she made herself walk and climb.  She ended up never having to do physical therapy.  Of course, that class at Rolly Pollies was not a real gymnastics class.  It was basically just climbing, hanging, jumping, and playing back then, but I really do believe that is when her deep love for the sport began. 

When she was two and a half, we moved and left that sweet little gym that started it all.  At our new home, we enrolled her in a gymnastics/dance class at The Little Gym.  She would do 30 minutes of gymnastics and 30 minutes of tap and ballet all in one class.  It became pretty clear early on that dance just wasn’t her thing despite me trying really hard to make her love it. (I was a dancer back in the day.)  She would much rather be hanging on the bars and doing summersaults over dance any day.  Eventually we stopped the dance and just did an hour of gymnastics a week which she loved.  When she was around 4 years old, it became apparent that she had outgrown The Little Gym and really needed a real gymnastics class. That is when we enrolled her in her first class at a real gym.  At this point she was still just doing an hour class once a week in the smaller gym upstairs.  However, she loved watching the “big girls” downstairs in the big gym and longed to be out there with them.  Her dream finally came true when she was 6 years old and we received a letter in the mail saying that she had been chosen to be a part of the gym’s pre-team program.  Back in the day the pre-team program was basically level 2 and 3 without the competitions. They just did a little competition at the gym that was more of a showcase of their routines than a real competition.  Her love for the sport continued to grow. After two years on the pre-team, she finally made it to the real team. She entered the Junior Olympic sport as a level 3 gymnast. Even then, we had no idea where it would lead her nor any clue as to how our lives would quickly revolve around the sport.  She suddenly went from that one hour a week recreational class to 16 hours a week of training, and finally got to compete in her very first competition.  The rest is history.  

So many people tried to talk her out of the sport over the years because it ruled her life, but she never thought about quitting once until now.  That is how much she loved it.  She was committed. Over the years, she has trained under 3 different gymnastics programs due to our many moves, spent up to 25 hours a week at practice, learned from several different coaches and coaching styles, traveled all over the country to compete, made countless friends, and moved up to level 8 while training as a level 9 before deciding she was done.  I really think that her decision has been harder for me than it has for her.  Maybe that is because she had been thinking about it for a while before she told us, and I just wasn’t prepared.  Her whole life and identity has been wrapped up in gymnastics, and she has always been known as “the gymnast”. It is hard for me to imagine her as anything else.  I don’t want to think about her growing up and moving on. Had I known that the last time I saw her compete was going to be the last time ever, I would have savored that moment so much more.  I hate that her last season was cut in half by this stupid virus.  I hate that it forced her into the decision to walk away.  I hate that her last time with her teammates and coaches was over a dumb computer screen.  I loved watching her do the thing she loved more than anything for all these years, and I’m going to miss it and know that she is too.  Gymnastics has consumed so much of our life for the last 15 years.  It’s hard to imagine life without it.  I love all that this sport has taught her and the experiences she has had because it has made her into the person that she is today. 

Despite how sad this decision makes me, I am also more proud of her than I have ever been.  I know it was not easy for her, and it took courage to come to this decision.  I am also proud of her for stepping way out of her comfort zone and making the decision to try a new sport.  To start something new as a 16-year-old isn’t easy, but she has made the decision to join her sister in the cheer world.  I think she chose it because it gives her the best of both worlds.  She gets the thrill and excitement of something new, but still gets to tumble and use some of her gymnastic skills and strength.  She still plans to compete on her high school gymnastics team so she isn’t fully giving up the sport, but it will never be the same. 

As this chapter of her life comes to an end, I want to take the opportunity to thank all of the people in the world of gymnastics that have had such an important impact on her life, as well as ours.  To all of her coaches, thank you for devoting your time and energy into her and helping to raise her.  The lessons you have all taught her will carry her through many years to come. To my fellow gym moms, I don’t know how I would have gotten through some of those years without you.  Thank you for keeping me sane during all those beam routines and new skills.  To all of her fellow gymnasts, thank you for supporting her, cheering her own, and lifting her up during those tough practices.  I know she will cherish your friendships for life. I pray that you will all remain a part of our lives in the coming years as we embark on our new journey.  

While this may be the sad end of one chapter, we are starting to look forward to whatever this new chapter holds. Stay tuned…

Anchored in New Beginnings,

The New Normal

Mask/Revive Necklace (currently on sale)/Garden Hoop Earrings

I went on an adventure this morning! Can you guess what it was? Ha ha! I went on an adventure to the orthodontist with my oldest!! You may think that isn’t very adventurous, but in this day and time, it was! This was the first time that I have driven anywhere in weeks or been anywhere other than to and from the grocery store.  When we have gone to the store, my husband has been driving, so getting behind the wheel after weeks of not driving was very strange.  Our trips to the grocery store are also super rushed to get in and out as fast as possible and with as little interaction with other people as possible.  We try to do the self-check-out if we can to avoid contact with anyone else.  The orthodontist was different in that we got to actually look at people and talk to them.  I have to say that to get to interact with someone other than my family was very refreshing.  Our orthodontist is super cool and so amazing that we have formed a relationship with her. We have seen her every 4-6 weeks for almost 2 years.  It was like getting to talk to a friend in person! It was great! This was also the first time that my daughter has gone anywhere in public since this whole thing started. You wouldn’t think she would be excited to go to the orthodontist, but she was because it was somewhere other than the house.  It was such a surreal experience for both of us and a sign of what life will be like in the near future. It was evidence of our new normal.

When the orthodontist called me yesterday to reschedule our appointment that was canceled from last month, she informed me of the new procedures for coming into the office.  (Side note…It was the actual orthodontist who called me both to cancel the appointment last month and to reschedule this month.  She makes the calls and not a receptionist, which also shows how amazing she is.) Anyway, she told me to go online to read about the safety measures they are taking and to fill out a consent form, which basically said that I knew the risks of coming in for a visit.  She also told me that when we arrived, we were to call the office from the parking lot, and they would tell us when we could come inside.  When I called from my car this morning when we got there, they asked me a bunch of questions about whether anyone in our family was sick, if we had been outside of the state or country, and if we had come into contact with anyone that had tested positive for the coronavirus. Of course, my answer to all of those was no.  Once that was done, we were told to come to the door, and someone would meet us there.  My daughter and I were both wearing masks as requested.  At the door, a technician took our temperature before we were allowed to enter the office.  Then I was ushered back to a stool near the chair my daughter would be in while they took her to a sink where she had to rinse her mouth with mouthwash while they timed it for a full minute. Whenever they weren’t doing something with her mouth, my daughter was asked to put her mask back on.  Everyone who worked in the office had on a mask that was hooked to buttons sewn into thick, cloth headbands that covered their ears.  They each had on protective glasses and a visor with a face shield. They also had gloves that they were changing frequently.  I think we were the first patient of the day as I heard the orthodontist tell someone to make sure she wiped all surfaces and unoccupied chairs every 30-45 minutes throughout the day.  They were doing a great job of staggering patients and keeping everyone far apart.  While it was crazy to see all of the precautions they were taking, it made me feel at ease and not worried about our safety.  I so enjoyed chatting with everyone even though it was hard to hear and understand each other a few times from our muffled voices behind our masks.  

As I was sitting there while they worked on my daughter’s mouth, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is going to be how we navigate the world from now own.  Will it always be like this? Will this level of precaution really become the new norm? Will we ever be allowed to go places without masks on and bathing in hand-sanitizer when we get back to the car? Will we ever go back to the old normal? I honestly hope that we will be able to meet in the middle somewhere.  I pray that we won’t have to wear masks and stay 6 feet apart for the rest of our lives.  Yes, some level of precaution and handwashing is great, but I just want to be able to go out without the suffocating feeling of a mask.  I want to be able to give my friends a hug when I see them.  I want to be able to carry on a conversation with someone and be able to see them smile. I want my kids to go back to school.  I want us all to be able to go places without fear. Whatever the new normal will be, I hope it isn’t as strict as what I witnessed today. It certainly was an adventure that I had never been on before and not one I want to get used to.  

Anchored in Trying to Figure Out the New Normal,

Never Have I Ever

We have almost hit the two-month mark since school was canceled and we began this whole social distancing thing.  Our life has taken a drastic turn and bears no resemblance to the life we had prior to the start of the pandemic.  None of us can even begin to fathom what life will look like when it is over either.  Our governor announced an extension to the current stay home order through the end of next week with the hope that phase 1 of reopening will begin then.  I still have my doubts about that actually happening, but I guess we will just have to wait and see. As I look back over the past 7 weeks, I realize that I have been forced to do things that I have never even thought about before.  I started making a list of those things in my head and it quickly added up.  

Never have I ever stalked websites for grocery pick up times until now. 

I have actually never used a grocery pick-up or delivery service because I have never really needed too.  Now that I really want/need to use it, I cannot get a time slot. Apparently, you have to be up at midnight when times are released to grab a slot, and I haven’t been willing to do that…YET!  

Never have I ever gone grocery shopping at 7:00 AM until now.

Since I can’t get any grocery pick-up or delivery times around here, we have had to figure out alternatives. We have found that 7:00 AM is the best time to go for the least number of people and when most items are in stock.  My husband even goes with me now which is also very new. I think date night has turned into grocery shopping during the early morning hours, and I’m not very happy about that!

Never have I ever worn a face mask until now. 

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory and probably a first for most of us. I have learned that I can’t wear my glasses when wearing a face mask if I want to be able to see at all. I have also learned that it makes me feel quite claustrophobic.

Never have I ever gone days without eye makeup until now.

Yes, you heard that right.  Yes, I even recently wrote a post about how I don’t do that.  Unfortunately, I have been having an issue with my eye lids lately where one of them is very swollen.  I am fairly certain that it is caused by my allergies which are unusually bad right now, but I can’t seem to get rid of it.  It’s clearly not that easy to just run to the eye doctor to get it checked out either.  My solution has been to go without eye makeup since I am obviously not going anywhere or seeing anyone right now. It is killing me daily to not put it on, but I feel like it is the only way to get this dumb swelling to go away.  Thankfully, it seems to be working as the swelling is much less today. I can assure you that if it weren’t for social distancing, though, I would still be wearing eye makeup no matter how giant my eyelid became.

Never have I ever cooked so much in my life until now.

Our life prior to the pandemic was so hectic that I very rarely had time to cook dinner. I cooked 2 (maybe 3 on a good week) times a week.  The rest of the time was either fend for yourself, drive-throughs, or out to eat. Now I am cooking 5-6 times a week with take-out only when I can’t stand to cook another night, or I’ve run out of ideas of things to make. On the plus side, we are eating healthier and are saving so much money.    

Never have I ever been a social media guru until now.

My director at Trades of Hope challenged us all to go live on social media every day in the month of April to spread a little hope around since we aren’t able to do that in person anymore.  This was WAAAAY out of my comfort zone, but I was determined to do it.  I can proudly say that I went live on Facebook on my personal page every single night in April!!! That’s 30 days straight of live videos! Some nights I rambled on about nothing, and some nights I got really personal.  It was a great learning experience for me, and I think I may even start doing some live videos on my blog social media pages. Obviously, I won’t be doing that while I have to go without eye makeup. Stay tuned…

Never have I ever cut someone’s hair until now.

This is probably the most shocking of all the things I have been forced to do.  My husband has been trying to talk me into learning to cut his hair for our entire marriage, and I have always refused.  However, we have finally gotten to the point where I had no other choice.  I did not want to do it and was so afraid of screwing it up and having to shave his whole head.  He made me watch YouTube videos to teach me how to do a fade or whatever his military cut is called.  I was sweating profusely the entire time, but I did it.  There are some parts that don’t look that great, but for the most part it turned out okay. I don’t think this will become a regular occurrence, though. I’m definitely not that good!

I am sure that there are many other firsts that I just can’t think of right now, and there are likely more to still come before this is all over.  I have clearly stepped way out of my comfort zone on some things, but I overcame every single one of them. I am proud of myself for that.  As uncomfortable as some things have been, I think I am going to come out better on the other side of this.  

Anchored,

Fashion Revolution Week

Yesterday marked the start of Fashion Revolution Week.  Until a few days ago, I had never even heard of it, and I am guessing that many of you haven’t heard of it either.  It was brought to my attention through my work with Trades of Hope. Fashion Revolution Week takes place at the end of April each year around the time of the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, which housed several garment factories for many of the largest global fashion brands. Over 1,100 of the 5,000 people inside died, while an additional 2,500 were injured.  It marks the 4th largest industrial disaster in history and the start of the Fashion Revolution, one of the largest fashion movements in the world.  This week is meant to bring about change in the fashion industry.  It is a movement calling for a cleaner, safer, fairer, and more transparent fashion industry.  Brands need to be more open about where and how their products are made.  There are so many human rights violations when it comes to fashion, and that needs to change.  Women make up the majority of those who make our clothes and accessories.  Many of them are forced to work in sweatshops for 12-14 hours at a time under horrible conditions and for very little pay.   They are not making enough money to support themselves let alone their families. They are treated poorly all so that clothes can be made in the fastest amount of time and for as cheap as possible. This is what we call fast fashion…getting the product out as quickly as possible to the public.  This is also how many companies are able to sell their products at discounted prices, which is what many consumers demand.  This is not just a problem in other countries, either.  It also happens right here in the United States.  Fashion Revolution Week is a way to bring awareness to this fast fashion model and how wrong it is.  It is bringing awareness for the need to make a change.

There is an alternative to fast fashion.  Fashion Revolution Week is a demand for more slow fashion.  What is slow fashion you ask? Slow fashion brands are ones that empower the people who work for them by providing clean and safe environments in which to work and also providing a fair and living wage.  A living wage means that they earn enough money to provide for themselves and their families and with enough money to also include healthcare and education. Women are not forced to work unimaginable hours under horrible conditions in the slow fashion business model. Many times, brands that are slow fashion will sell out of products.  This is because women are not forced to knock out as many shirts as they possibly can in a 14-hour day while their fingers bleed or they are suffering from exhaustion because they haven’t had a break in 14 hours.  We as consumers need to change our demand and how we shop so that those fast fashion businesses are forced to make a change. The revolution starts with us. I can assure you that every piece of clothing I own or buy is not all from slow fashion brands or brands that are transparent in how their products are produced. However, I am becoming more and more aware and educated, and I am trying to make better decisions when it comes to things I purchase. That is all I ask of all of you. Let the things we purchase be a representation of the kind of world we want to see.  Demand change by being the change. Ask who makes your clothes and accessories and under what conditions they are made to become more educated. Choose to shop smarter and with a purpose. Take a stand for the women who are forced to work in sweatshops. Fight for her with her. 

To learn more about the Fashion Revolution, you can visit fashionrevolution.org.

Anchored,