Captured in the Moment

Lessons in the Stream of Life


Leave a comment

Clearing cobwebs and clutter, Part 1

IMG_0736About this time last year, my husband and I set a plan in motion to downsize and simplify our life. It seemed simple in theory – just get rid of everything we don’t want or need, list the house, move somewhere new, and live happily ever after in our new, neat-as-a-pin, cozy digs.

I suppose life works that way to get us moving – a sort of unintended blinder like most of us have when we decide to have kids. If someone told us the whole truth and nothing but the truth of how it’s really going to be, we might just hit the NO button and stay snug in our comfort zone or move on to the next bright idea. One thing’s for sure, change is seldom what we think it’s going to be – at least in the beginning.

Let me paint you a picture. For eight years, we lived in a 3,100 square foot home with two young sons, a dog, and all of the stuff that comes with that. Believing the boys needed more space, we moved up in the world to a 6,000 square foot home. I had so much storage space that about half of it was empty, and I had good intentions of keeping it that way. It was nice to have a little wiggle room and space for entertaining our large family at the holidays. I never imagined we could actually fill it up. After all, I prided myself on being neat and free of hoarding tendencies. Eight years later, we were full up!

What’s that they say about about pride? Oh yeah – it comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). And fall I did!

Once the decision to downsize was etched in stone, it became clear that strangers would now be browsing through our home while we weren’t looking. They would be opening closets, drawers, attics and garages in an attempt to decide if our place was the answer to their prayers. I was horrified to see that we were indeed occupying a large territory of our home with STUFF. Even worse, the stuff was stuffed anywhere it would fit. I had even gone so far as to neatly organize all the stuff in pretty boxes, but I’d long ago forgetten what was even in them.

And so the process of clearing the cobwebs and uncluttering began. From April until August, I dived headfirst into the task of letting go so that my house would be suitable for showing once it debuted on the MLS. I greeted each day in workout clothes and flip flops, no makeup, and with lots of determination. With the exception of the friends that would drop in to make sure I was still alive and eating, I was for all intents and purposes AWOL from the world.

I tossed trash, donated clothes and household goods, and sold a lot of items to bank for the new things I would need in the next home. I felt great about my work and was all set to make a smooth, painless move when the time came. I felt gloriously unfettered, but I would soon learn that the freedom I felt was only temporary.

Lacking a place to go when your house sells earlier than expected introduces all kinds of new panic. We weren’t ready. Our new dream home had yet to materialize. It was a bit of a shock after so many years of home ownership to finally conclude that our best choice was to lease rather than to rush into a purchase of something we didn’t love. We firmly established that we would not store anything except for holiday decorations and the contents of our garage, so we sold our large-scale furniture and filled the bed of a large junk removal truck before finally moving into our new 2,500 square foot townhouse bungalow with our boxes of keeper stuff and a U-Haul truck containing our remaining furniture.

I seriously felt like we’d come over with little more than the clothes on our back, so it was another shock when the boxes piled in and filled up more than two-thirds of new place. Clearly, all of this stuff that we couldn’t live without was not going to fit in the dozen or so cabinets and handful of drawers that the new place offered. There was no attic, two less spaces in the garage, two less bedrooms, no office. I’m pretty sure I wanted to sit in the floor and have a good cry. How could I have so significantly missed the mark?

Round three of divesting began with a renewed commitment to succeed…

 


Leave a comment

Let’s get real

DSC_8312My friend, Barbie Armenta, and I have had regular discussions lately about our struggle to uncover our authentic selves from the facade that we have somehow constructed over the course of our lives. She’s recently launched a personal coaching business (you can check her out at rightcombination.net), and I’ve helped her with a project. Lucky me – I’m getting the benefit of her training in casual conversation, but it’s really made me think.

I can’t say I’ve been aware that I wasn’t being true to myself all this time. I mean there was no conscious effort to become an imposter. It was a slow and silent concession I made that was likely the result of striving to survive in a world of perceived perfection where I unwittingly tried to be who I thought I was supposed to be. Add the need to protect myself from the criticism that might come my way should I let my true self shine, and you have the perfect recipe for “posing”! True selves are quirky and prone to fall outside the mainstream and threaten a humiliating lack of “likes” on our Facebook or Instagram feeds. Keeping it between the lines and blending in is just so much easier – at least for a while.

With maturity, flying under the radar and blending in become unsatisfying and at some point feel like a flat-out lie. It’s exhausting to pretend when everything in you is busting out to just be real. It’s like wearing your Spanx too long. Sooner or later, your muffin top wants to spill over the top and gasp for breath.

So, I’m taking a stand. In 2016, I’m on a mission to get over myself and the fear of being rejected for living out loud and just being who I am. At 55, I’ve already wasted so much time, and I’m worried that it’s running out! With an average life expectancy of a little over 81 years, if I started today (and made it to 81), I would only have a little over 25 years left to pack in all the things the real me has wanted to do and be for all this time! I’d better hurry.

The decision feels like I’ve stripped down and am preparing to run through the world naked. I’m petrified, but I can hardly wait to discover what is on the other side. No doubt portions of the journey will be painful, but overall I am hoping for the liberating joy of being the person that God created me to be in the first place.

Here’s to skinned knees, bruises, and a full heart! I’ll let you know how it goes.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Brene’ Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are


1 Comment

I have something to tell you…

Andrew & DogsThe fabric of our family was torn when my oldest nephew lost his battle with mental illness, depression and alcoholism and took his life as the days of January came to a close. Our loss is fresh – our hearts are laid open and overshadowed with grief on a daily basis. I trust that it will ease as the days pass, but in the meantime I’m searching for a silver lining in a very dark cloud. I’m unwilling to believe that Andrew’s death will leave us with nothing more than a heavy heart and a profound guilt that we might have done something to change his path.

I know if I linger in my sadness, I will be swallowed up in the darkness, but I also know he would be devastated for any of us to get lost in the awful place that took the light from his eyes and left him hopeless. So, I’m asking myself what he would want me to take away from this loss in these days following his death. He and I spent a lot of our time together pondering the essence of life and happiness.

Lately I feel moved to connect and reconnect with the people I care about. Somehow I feel he’s urging me to have no regrets as I move forward. He’s inviting me to get real and share thoughts and feelings with the important people in my life before it’s too late.

And so, I have something to tell you…you know who you are, I hope.

I’m sorry that I’ve let the busyness of life overtake me for so long. I never meant to get lost in it and lose my ties with you. Nor did I mean to make you feel like you were less important to me. I am beginning to understand that commitment to the things of this world has limits, and relationship priorities should trump all else.

I love you with all my heart and soul. You are my family. You are my friend. I wish I’d told you more often. I promise I will say it more in the days to come.

You give my life texture, richness and meaning. Without you, I am less me. We are interwoven as intricately as any tapestry through our relationship and our experiences.

You challenge me to be a better person even when you don’t know it or I’m not willing to admit it.

I’m so proud of you for all of your accomplishments and the person you are.

I forgive you and myself for the things we’ve said or done that have come between us. I no longer wish to hold on to the petty things that divide us. I relinquish my need to be right for my need to have you in my life.

There is more to be said – more than I can cover in the text of this post. I promise you I will say it as we move forward.

Andrew, if you can hear me or see this, I love you. I have always loved you, and I am grateful that we connected so deeply over the past few years. I wish I could have helped you more and told you one last time just how precious you are to me. You have made my life deeper, wider, more colorful, fun, understanding, and loving by being in it.

If there are guardian angels out there, I trust that you are watching over your flock of family and friends and guiding us through the pain of living life without your smile and your goofy laugh. It’s the picture I hold and the sound I hear when I think of you…our beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy. We miss you.

In memory of our lunches, our yoga sessions and the hours of philosophical discussions, I leave with the words of one of our favorite authors:

“Your time on this earth is a gift to be used wisely. Don’t squander your words or your thoughts. Consider that even the simplest actions you take for your lives matter beyond measure…and they matter forever.” ~ Andy Andrews


Leave a comment

#TBT

Debra Caffey Vines HS VikettesI love the #tbt (Throwback Thursday) posts on Instagram and Facebook. Without fail, they can transport me back in time and make me smile. Sometimes I even laugh out loud over the memories that rise to the surface. I love seeing other people’s photos and stories as well. Somehow, I feel I know them just a little better than I did before.

Recently, I posted up photos of myself and a few of the drill team girls from my sophomore year at what was Vines High School in Plano, Texas from back in 1976. It brought a lot of people to the surface that I haven’t heard from in years, and we all enjoyed a bit of reminiscing. I also posted a photo of my husband from his high school days. Because the boys resemble him so much, early photos of him get lots of comments from friends old and new. It’s a great connection, however brief.

Anyway, it made me start thinking…mostly about our sons who have grown to adulthood knowing us only as Mom and Dad. Considering that we were in our 30’s before they were born, there is a good chunk of our life that we’ve never really shared with them.

Do they know that their dad was an exceptional high school athlete? Do they know that he was a leader among his college peers? Do they know that when I look at them, I sometimes see the boy I met in college? Do they know what an awesome, loving father he was when they were babies? Do they know he once thought he aspired to become a doctor?

What about me? Do they know how much I have always loved music? Do they know I was on the drill team in high school? Do they know I love to write? Do they know what I dreamed of being before I was their mom?

Overwhelmingly, I would answer no to those questions. Certainly, they’ve heard a few stories, but they’ve only had glimpses. I am feeling a gentle prodding to reach out to them. I keep coming back around to the importance of sharing those stories now, before it’s too late, not only for the entertainment value but for the tie that binds…that invisible thread of likeness that runs through us and links us together as family.

It’s too late to sit around telling the stories now that our sons are grown and gone from home, but I’ve opted to forgo chastising myself for getting lost in the daily grind of living. Instead, now that I have a little more opportunity on my hands, I’m thinking I’m overdue to put a few of those photos and their stories on paper for them. I’ve decided to start sharing them by letter and email…really doing it “old school”, as they say. Perhaps they are too young to fully appreciate them now, but down the road…well, it might just open up a door of understanding on who we were in our youth, who we became, and the shadows of us that live in them today, both good and bad, I’m sure! . I’m excited! I think it could be the most fun project I’ve launched in a while, and even if they don’t admit it now, I think my sons will be glad I took the time to do it one day.


Leave a comment

Big Diversions Come in Small Packages

ipad import 62014 2182 - CopyGetting the doing part done has proven a bit more of a challenge than I thought it would be. The month of May began with me relaxing on the beach with a friend in Galveston. Little more than a text message, poor communication, and one kid’s return from college later, I had derailed into old patterns faster than a speeding bullet. My youngest son, Blake, arrived home with his new puppy, Daisy, in the early hours of a Saturday morning, and by Monday, I had already turned down a path that wasn’t on my map a few days earlier. Big diversions come in small packages.

Before I get much further, let me clarify that I’m not blaming or justifying my actions in any way. I made a choice. I had every intention of making my son be the responsible party for his new bundle of fur and energy, but the truth is that he was no more ready to parent Daisy than he was a new baby. And, when he got a job and was gone all the time, the caretaker in me stepped up to the plate. Before I knew it, I was raising Daisy, not so much for him, but for her. She was in our home now, and I saw that she was very smart. I wanted her to grow into a “good” dog, and I also had a home and my sanity to protect! Puppies are puppies, and she was a puppy with a capital p.

I dove into my role as Nana to Daisy, and like young mothers who find themselves overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for a newborn or toddler, I slipped into early mornings, play dates at the dog park, games of fetch, and any number of other activities that would result in sweet Daisy’s exhaustion and sleep. I gave up morning showers, makeup, and styling my hair knowing that all such efforts were wasted energy when I would only be returning to play outdoors to sweat it all off again. My baseball tan returned as dog park tan, and shadows of an old self lived again. Ponytails, flip-flops, and workout clothes were my uniform, and at day’s end, I was ready to hand off the puppy to anyone that would take her so that I could get a break. I had all the markers of young motherhood, but at 53 it came off looking like I was just a slacker. I am sure my friends and family were beginning to wonder about the changes in me.

Anyway, the months passed, and I gave them up to the care, training, and love of Daisy. Sometimes I hoped that Blake would decide he’d made a mistake so I could keep her when he returned to school. But, in my heart of hearts, I knew that in spite of our bond, she was clearly his dog. It was as if she knew that he was the one that had saved her from an uncertain future. Her joy when he walked into a room was palpable. She wagged her tail so hard that her bottom swayed with it causing her to waddle as she met him on the front steps of our living area for cuddles and kisses. I knew she loved me, but she loved him more.

In mid-August I moved my boy and his dog back to school in Mississippi to figure out their new life together. It’s been tough on all of us, but each day it gets better. Always reflecting, I look back on the summer now and understand that Daisy came into our lives as much for me as she did for Blake. Only he will ever know her significance in his life, but for myself, I am beginning to see that she taught me about the need for reasonable boundaries when it comes to giving myself up to the needs of others. She taught me that sometimes I have to say no, sometimes I have to put myself first, and that “getting the doing part done” will only come when I understand these things. Who would have ever thought that such profound lessons would come in the guise of a 9-pound ball of black fur?

 


Leave a comment

You’ve Got the Talking Part Done

Pink Flamingo WMSo, with all the introspection comes the grand schemes and dreams of my “second life”.  There are so many things on the bucket list that I make myself dizzy sometimes (Pinterest doesn’t help)!  Needless to say, I need to pare down the list.  Sometimes talking it out is my best method of elimination, and often my spouse gets to be the lucky recipient of all my confusion.  He’s pretty patient; pretends he’s listening; nods in all the right places; and throws in a challenge question from time to time.  But, he is consistent in ending the conversation with words that always put things in perspective for me.  Granted, I’m frequently unappreciative of his style, but in the end, his now-familiar comments are usually a catalyst for me to move forward…”You’ve got the talking part done.”  What wife doesn’t long to hear these sweet words of encouragement?

Nevertheless, this one sentence highlights my propensity to get overwhelmed by choices and dares me to do something…anything that will move me off of dead center.  In the past, I’ve made excuses about being too busy, but that doesn’t even hold water with me anymore.  And, let’s face it, there’s a lot of fear built into the equation as well.  It’s been a while since I put myself out into the world to be judged by the opinions of others, a fate I prefer to avoid.  But, there’s no doubt that it’s time for change, and I’m overdue for a bit of toughening up!  Old dreams are resurfacing, and I’m wanting to follow their call.  It’s exciting on one hand, but mostly I’m scared out of my mind.  Still, the echo of his words niggle at my brain, and I can feel a shift taking place.  Sometimes I even hear his other words of wisdom surface…”I’m 50 now, and I don’t care.”  I’m thinking I shouldn’t either!

My spouse pushes me to be more and to be better than I am, and he always gives me permission to fly.  It’s a blessing I’ve never really appreciated or understood, but as I I feel the courage to rise toward action, I am grateful for the unconditional love and support he gives.  I’m glad to know he will be there cheering me on (and reminding me when I’m stuck) as I discover myself in this new chapter of our life where the “doing part gets done.”


1 Comment

Moving Forward

I’m spending a lot of time these days looking inward and getting to know myself again.  Like it or not, it is the fallout many women face when the kids go off to college, and “momming” is no longer a part of our daily job description.  It happens regardless of whether we are stay-at-home or working moms.  I have to chuckle at myself sometimes.  Who in her right mind really misses doing all that laundry, volunteer work, sporting events, etc.?  What we really miss is the connection with our kids, and we flop around like fish out of water trying to figure out how to do this next phase of our relationship.

Sometimes I feel sorry for my oldest son, Matt.  Poor guy, he’s always been the guinea pig.  I’m pretty sure I owe him an apology.  I just hope he can forgive me and offers me special dispensation for doing the best I could with what I had during his raising years.  Lacking the desired parent manual, I panicked when he left home for college all the way in Arizona.  I suddenly feared that I hadn’t done enough to prepare him for “real” life.  I remember crying the first day I dropped him off at middle school.  The world have gotten a little bigger and a little meaner overnight, and I felt awful for having failed to let him know that he might be bullied or that his shoes would be stolen during gym one day.  The day we turned our back to leave him in a city 1200 miles away, I crumbled feeling the weight of failure all over again.  There were so many things we had never talked about.  While it was likely that he would never be faced with most of them, I wanted to write a life manual with all of the things I’d ever learned or watch someone else learn so that he could reference it in a pinch!  I wanted him to study it to be prepared for all of the what-ifs in life.  Crazy mom!

In May, he wraps up his four years of college education, and I’m so proud of how well he has welcomed and accepted the responsibility of this transition to adulthood that this time offers.  He’s learned a couple of tough lessons, and so have I.  But as this spring rolls around, I am keenly aware that it is time for me to step fully back in order to let us both move forward into the next chapter of our life.  I’ve finally begun to understand that I have no power to protect my sons in spite of my best efforts.  I am acknowledging that we did a good job of raising them, and that the rest is in God’s hands.

I’m sure Matt will be miffed that Blake is the beneficiary of this new mom.  Like everything else, Blake always gets the good stuff a little sooner in life than Matt did!  I guess that’s the price us oldest children pay (I’m and oldest also).  It’s tough to make this step, but I know that it is the only healthy option that allows us to grow a new relationship and propels me forward to be my new self.  It’s the renewal and rebirth that spring brings…