July 30, 2018

Loss is a River

Loss is a river that flows inside you, making its way as only water can, with unrelenting pressure that keeps it always moving on its journey. When a barrier presents itself, the river creates new paths and channels that weren't there before.

To live with loss is to learn how to navigate these waters.

Sometimes you sit quietly by the river's banks and lose yourself in thoughts of something altogether lovely, even while the pain it carries keeps rushing past. You hear the sound of the water and maybe even feel a splash or two on your arms and face, but remain at a distance.

Then there are times when the water calls to you. So you kick off your shoes and peel off your socks, leaving them in a heap in the grass while you step carefully into the shallows. The cold sensation feels invigorating for a moment, but the sharp rocks hiding in the murky riverbed bruise your tender feet.

Other times, the sheer force of the loss you feel causes the river to burst from its banks and spread over the adjacent land or floodplain.

No stranger to this occurrence, the floodplain is low lying ground which exists solely for this purpose...waiting to catch the flood and the debris it carries with it.

Floodplains are not made of just one material, but instead all kinds of different things that have been carried from where they began, which is often an indeterminable source, and deposited after having traveled a long journey.

The loss we feel doesn't play by any rules, especially not social constructs of time and space. The river can be millions upon millions of years old and travel hundreds of miles. And it can carve out a gorge right through your very being that rivals the Grand Canyon.

But life finds a way to go on. And the river flows. Sometimes it's a mighty rushing force. Other times just a trickle across a dry and dusty riverbed.

July 25, 2018

Simple Ideas for a DIY Shark Party

Sharks are basically the rock stars of the ocean world. Brooding and mysterious. Elusive and unpredictable. And what a dedicated fan base! In honor of Shark Week, which is basically like a national holiday, I've got some fun and simple ideas for a DIY shark party!

For some simple treats, how about blue jelly beans and fish shaped candies? These look great in small paper cups, for a bite-sized serving (get it, BITE?).

Or what about a candy made from sharks' favorite water? Salt water taffy of course! Served up in some cute cups topped with these shark party favors is simple and fun!

Sandy Toes & Popsicles shared this awesome Shark Bark, which seems like it would be pretty simple to make. What a cute idea! Get full recipe here.

Other food ideas include "Seaweed Dip" (spinach dip) with blue corn chips, which look a little like shark fins or cheese wedges aka shark teeth (both inspired by Craftiness is Not Optional).

And of course you need a signature drink for any good shark party! I got inspired by the Suburban Soapbox with this Shark Attack Cocktail....kid friendly and delicious! You could also pick up a cheap glass fishbowl (I found one at Hobby Lobby for less than $10) and use that to serve your punch!

Want to make your own DIY party treat bags? I whipped these up in just a few minutes using scraps of paper and a glue stick. The bags are from a local craft store and you could get gray or another shade of blue if you prefer.

I hope these ideas inspired you to throw a 'fin'tastic shark party of your own!

July 11, 2018

Simple Ways to Be Happy

Are you happy? Like truly happy? There's a big difference between feeling happy on a particular day and having a general feeling of happiness all the time. 

The good news is that even if you find yourself feeling less than happy, there are always things you can do to increase this feeling. 

I recently read a book called "The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World's Happiest People," written by Meik Wiking. Wiking also wrote a book about hygge the Danish phenomenon of coziness. The book was a great little read, with lots of simple and practical tips that I felt like I could do. 

Here are my suggestions for a few simple ways to be happy: 

Make Something

Creativity is closely tied to happiness for me because I just feel happier when I am creating. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece of art or writing. Just a little simple Pinterest-inspired craft can really go a long way towards making me feel happier. 

There's something about exercising this creativity muscle that gives me a lot of joy. 

Some of the projects I've done recently include custom canvas tote bags decorated with iron on glitter letters and Sharpie pens, as well as some little art canvases that feature a few of my favorite quotes. 

You don't have to do anything with the things you make. You don't even have to show them to anyone. Give it a try! 

Do Something for Someone Else 

When I'm feeling blue, a surefire way to feel happier is by doing something for someone else. This past year, I've been trying to get more involved in my community and looking for ways to do something for my neighbors. 

This search for a place to give back led me to Girls Inc., a mentoring organization that I volunteered with during the 2017/2018 school year. Just one hour a week allowed me to spend time with some amazing 3rd, 4th and 5th grade young ladies. 

We did arts & crafts, chatted about life and got to know each other. This was truly one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a place to get involved. 

Another local organization I have gotten to know is Sunshine Industries & The Arc Knoxville. The Arc Knox County is a non-profit organization that offers programs and services for people with intellectual disabilities in Knox County. 

They were gracious to invite me to do a craft project with them and I had so much fun, I have already made plans to go back! 

Eat Something Delicious

Did you know there are foods that claim to make you feel happier? I'm not sure if I fully believe it, but I never said no to something delicious so I'm willing to give it a try. 

This article lists several foods to eat for increased happiness, and includes dark chocolate, coconut and Greek yogurt. 

I decided to combine these to create a little happiness parfait....even if there's no scientific proof, it tastes great! 

Using ingredients from Trader Joe's, I made a greek yogurt parfait with dark chocolate pudding and included a bit of coconut granola, shredded coconut and raspberries. 

Tasty and easy to make! 

Happiness is relative, meaning that it looks different for each of us. Sometimes happiness is being surrounded by the ones we love and other times it is a peaceful quiet with tea and good book. I hope whatever makes you happy is plentiful in your life right now! 

July 4, 2018

Free to Be You & Me

"Freedom lies in being bold." -- Robert Frost

What does freedom mean to you? There are so many freedoms we take for granted, but for me the biggest area of struggle when it comes to freedom is being myself.

Do you feel free to be yourself all the time? If the is answer is yes, I'm jealous. Oh I have moments where I can be myself. Times spent with certain people who give me permission to let my little weird flag fly. But like Cookie Monster says about his favorite treat, for me freedom is a "sometimes food." I only let myself indulge in it when the conditions are just right.

And then I wonder if I even know who 'myself' is anyway. While there are things we all share as humans, I've always felt like I was just a bit different than the rest. And definitely not in a "I'm so much better than the rest" kind of way, just in an "I feel like the rest doesn't always get me" sort of way.

For example, did you know my favorite show to watch as a kid was one where a lady taught cursive writing on a big chalkboard? I can still hear her voice as she instructed viewers to "close the loop" on certain letters.

Something else you might not know about me is that I have gone through many periods of obsession about different topics, reading as many books as I could to learn as much as I could. Some of these topics include but are not limited to: Elvis, the Holocaust, and being in the mafia.

It wasn't hard for me to make friends as a kid, but often I found myself going along with the crowd or doing things to try and fit in. The dearest friends I've made over the years, who were like little beacons of light dropped out of the darkness, are the ones I didn't have to compromise myself with.

Even if they didn't always understand my little oddities, they just let me be. But life happens and we've found ourselves flung to opposite sides of the country, or at least 100 miles away. And my friends who live close by are also dear to me but we don't always get to see each other as often as I'd like.

And now it feels oh so much harder to make friends as an adult.

I have some wonderful friends in my world, but you can always use a couple more, right? I shared this on Instagram, which felt really scary and vulnerable, but apparently others feel this way because it sparked a conversation.

I definitely feel free to be myself with my husband, thank goodness. I can't imagine trying to keep up that sort of a charade 24/7. And I think he feels free to be himself with me. But I'm sure there are people who think they know us, or some version of us. And they'd probably be surprised by what they don't know.

Like how after our most beautiful, magical wedding that we'd waited more than a decade for, we had the hardest year of our relationship on record. Our second year was only somewhat better because we were committed to seeing it through, with the help of an amazing counselor who is part of the reason we're still in it to win it today -- for real.

I've heard friends make snide or belittling comments about someone they know who is "in therapy." Like you're some sort of failure if you need to seek help. Total BS.

Our couples' therapy helped us start learning about who we are and maybe more importantly, how to start communicating in healthier ways....which we DID NOT learn from our parents (sorry mom & dad). They didn't learn it from their parents either so it's totally not their fault. We don't always get it right, but who cares? It's a work in progress.

I also see an individual counselor who has helped me look at all sorts of things to try and figure out who I am and who I want to be. A big theme that keeps coming up is this desire I have to be in a community, whatever that looks like. And this is what got me thinking about friends, and connection, and authenticity in the first place. So I'm trying to be more connected. To make more of an effort to get together with the friends I already have as well as seeking a few new ones.

As part of that effort, last night I invited a dear friend to join me for a swim at our neighborhood pool. I've really tried to get more involved in my community this past year or so and that includes in my neighborhood. Joining the pool last summer helped us meet some neighbors so we decided to join again this summer.

My pal and I were swimming and chatting with a neighbor lady who shared with us that a couple weeks prior she had lost her son to suicide. I think she just needed someone to talk to so we tried to be good listeners while I sobbed silently under my sunglasses.

She said he always felt like he didn't belong. That he could never quite find his place to fit. But that at his memorial service, nearly 200 people attended and shared how much he meant to them. "If only he had known how much he was loved," she said.

She said she felt like telling his story was a way to honor his life and also a way to possibly help someone else who might be in pain. And I think she's right about this. So I'm telling you. He was only 36. An age that used to sound ancient but now that I am here, feels like practically still a kid.

There's so much I don't know. So many things I haven't even begun to fathom. But this is something I do know for sure. We were each created with something beautiful to add to the world. And even though I believe there's life after this one, when that beauty is gone from this world, it's such a loss. To all of us. I've already been thinking about this a lot after Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I wanted to write something about it but really didn't know what I wanted to say.

I hope you feel free today. Free from pain and self-hate. Free from loneliness and isolation. And free to be your most beautiful self. The one you were created to be.