Catching Up During COVID

90176651_10157977219579929_2890431231210553344_n

If that picture doesn’t tell a story, I don’t know what will.

This is what COVID looks like to the Kirkseys. Lots and lots of margaritas!

No, but seriously… things have been a little crazy. You would think that with all of the extra time I had, that I would take the time to blog more. On the contrary. If I really think about it, I’ve spent most of March – August just staring at the wall.

I was beginning to feel like 2020 was a bust. As I was sitting down to write a catch-up post, I decided to go back and seek out inspiration from photos. Maybe, just maybe, something happened that would be worth sharing.

What I found was certainly anything but a bust. This year hasn’t been half bad. I could explain, but I would rather show you:

86738692_10157897878849929_6093658642756665344_n

For one thing – I turned 47. Who would have thunk it? (As they say!) There is no ifs, ands, or buts about it – I am middle aged. I was unsure how to celebrate my birthday, since we weren’t going anywhere for it. (Normally we travel, but I had some work travel coming up, so we opted to stay home.) I decided, sort of at the last minute, to gather at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Americus for queso & margaritas. I had just gotten a terrible cold and was trying to recover and this appeared to be the best alternative. I made a list of my favorite people in Americus and we met up for a late, Sunday afternoon happy hour! And boy did we have some laughs!

86794915_10157897877304929_5672956794998095872_n

It started out fairly tame. In the picture above you see my co-worker Courtney, then Haley (works with me also,) and next to me is Nichole (she is the publish/editor of the Americus Times Recorder,) and across from her is Kim (VP with PharmaCentra,) and then RT (Pastor for Plains UMC.)

86684088_10157897878079929_4097944892590784512_n

Then the laughs started. And we laughed….

86653865_10157897878254929_264783363703832576_n

And laughed….

86615282_10157897878429929_4479619837114449920_n

And laughed some more! Maybe it was the two huge fishbowl margaritas or maybe it was just good company!

86633257_10157897877519929_2964999856403251200_n

That’s Barry & Laura with the Mattie Stepanik Foundation. Jeni, Rachel,  Qaijuan & Michael were there also! We had a really good time just celebrating life. It felt good to be surrounded by fun people. (Which if you remember was one of my New Years Resolutions!)

The night before, Tim & I celebrated Valentine’s Day by attending a Billy Joel Tribute concert at Lake Blackshear Resort.

86699227_10157895293704929_5109492510653153280_n

The concert tickets included a Prime Rib dinner. We had such a lovely time just relaxing with each other.

86500928_10157895293844929_8501700480383057920_n

86472181_10157895294069929_8732574948435951616_n

86489323_10157895293574929_1190368933618647040_n

During this time, we heard about this “virus” over in China and were not overly concerned yet. Who knew how quickly I lives would change!

The very next weekend was the Women’s Wine & Chocolate Walk in Americus. My friend Kim & I decided to pal around together and enjoy the event. Basically you go to various businesses downtown, taste Georgia wines paired with chocolate and shop!

87254882_10157914815409929_7020851329304100864_n

87228448_10157914814774929_4866854827256184832_n

87151248_10157914817084929_7911136820711129088_n

87132106_10157914814059929_6779503587794878464_n

85243865_10157914816989929_5829178482269093888_n

Needless to say, after a bazillion glasses of wine, a few sips of champagne, a bourbon drink, a few shots of tequila, and of course, a margarita – I was toasty!

87104936_10157914816284929_5910312012218368000_n

85229826_10157914815624929_1532051685302599680_n

85221094_10157914817319929_870472931824631808_n

What’s crazy is… this is last real event I attended in 2020. The last time we openly went out without masks. Who knew what was on the horizon? 2020 kicked off pretty darn okay.

The next week I headed to Valdosta for a work conference.

87983494_10157924650174929_5091047009096302592_n

87974765_10157924651114929_8751767860201652224_n

87936657_10157924650924929_2015063720295661568_n

We got a little FAM tour of Valdosta – which included Wake boarding.

87874828_10157919494359929_5850834712397873152_o

It is always a good time to see my tourism besties.

87390145_10157923523934929_7245782730850435072_n

What is so crazy, is that I was so, so, so sick on this trip. I was suffering with some serious ear issues, but somehow, soldiered on.

87287454_10157920570044929_2114581230690238464_n

I mean, there WAS a party bus involved.

88010352_10157920572714929_3752769499271528448_n

And that was the end of normal.

Because the very NEXT weekend I had to head to Savannah for another work thing. And this is when we knew about outbreaks of COVID. I remember being afraid to touch anything.

89597777_10157957173189929_1117931492673060864_o

Well… I wasn’t afraid of everything. 😉

89394056_10157950825494929_4727069086473781248_n

At the function I had to attend, I met a wide cast of characters! Forest Gump.

89311292_10157950826319929_6241148395226923008_n

A pirate

88445882_10157950826499929_3251335477667561472_n

And Juliette Gordon Low among others.

I even ate at my favorite – Bernie’s twice! I ate all of the shrimp! We stayed at a gorgeous and super haunted Hotel – the 1790 Inn.

There is so much more about that trip, but honestly, it feels like a million years ago.

Because when we got back to Plains, schools were shut-down, locals began dying, and everyone went into a panic. The great toilet paper & lysol shortage of the century!

After a few weeks, even my job had us quarantined at home. It was the best of times… it was the worst of times.

I’ll share a little more of my journey over the next few days. I have to admit, it is refreshing to see that the year wasn’t a total bust. There was a little “normal.” Just a little.

And that little has made all the difference.

Devotions: Sacred Connections

1c1d8ad716f4437a479c603f1c2d7dfd

I got to thinking this morning about the absolute joy my pets brings me and how spending time with them each day brings such a sense of peace to my soul.

Truly.

I am the proud owner of three precious cats and one rambunctious dog. My relationship is completely different with each one; just like with people I know.

Salvatore is my cuddle muffin. His eyes follow me across a room and when he sees the coast is clear (and sometimes doesn’t care if it is and will make a way,) he will curl up in my arms for tummy rubs. His fur is some of the softest you will ever touch and his purrs are incredibly soothing. Some scientific research claims a cat’s purr has healing properties for the bones. Not sure if that is legit, but I can definitely imagine how that works. Cats really are magical creatures.

My Zen Kitty is completely different. He does not enjoy being held, but when he does (and it is rare,) wants to spend time with me, he sits in the most awkward places and purrs very loudly. One thing I love about him is how sleek and beautiful he is. He is a black cat and seems to have an air of mystery about him. Plus, his coat smells like cotton candy.

Jolene was this sweet little runt of a kitty found under our cabin, back when we lived out in the woods. She is dainty and sweet and does this terrific little circle dance on her hind legs when you walk past her. We call her our circus kitty for this little trick. She is sort of a combination of personalities – a little skittish and playful and sometimes a cuddle bug. Her aura just exudes kindness.

Then there is my 6-month-old German Shepherd, Dorian. What a joy he is and I am eternally grateful for that void he has filled. I no longer feel lonely or sad or unloved – EVER. (Not that I am, just sometimes we all get a little blue, but he has surely pushed all of that away.) He is full of life and energy and cuddles and kisses. We are bonded, very strongly, and I am better for it.

When I think of the magical, healing power of encountering animals, the image of St. Francis of Assisi always comes to mind. There is a story about Francis walking with his friends and he came across a flock of birds, but they were all different kinds. Instead of continuing on his journey, he stopped and followed the birds. Thinking they would fly off if he approached and spoke to them, he cautiously started preaching the gospel and praying for them. Instead of scattering, they stayed and watched him. Later, he asked his friends why didn’t we all pray with our animals and from that day forward was considered the Patron Saint of Animals and Animal Lovers.

He is also famous for saying, “Preach the gospel at all times; and if necessary, use words.” The love I feel when my animals look up at me with their trusting eyes remind me that God is very real and that their love for me and my need to have them in my life is a very real gift from God.

Lord, please watch over my pets as we go about our day. Grant me the patience and compassion to always put their needs above my own, for I am the center of their world. May we learn to love others as much as we love our pets. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN. 

Thankful

1820dcc1c1d590019ed316a77d1d4f4a

No doubt we are ALL feeling the pain. There is not one single person ON THIS EARTH not experiencing anxiety & confusion. COVID-19 is sweeping across the world and we are all a little lost and slightly depressed.

But you know what….

We are all in this together!

When was the last time you could honestly say that? I don’t think there was a time. Maybe for America after 9-11, but never the world and never like this.

Many of you are self-quarantining. Some of your jobs have sent you home. The kids are home. Not me. I work for a city government and we are all required to report to work. Granted, we are supposed to stay 6-feet away from each other, and for the most part we are doing that, but let’s be honest, it isn’t easy.

As I was sitting here in my office, I took a moment and watched one of the priests from The Catholic Show, pray the rosary. I listened along and held my little clay cross, realizing I have no idea where my actual rosary is. (Note to self: Figure that out!)

Then I got excited about all of the live videos groups sharing their special places. It is literally so inspiring!

I’ll share a few of my favorites:

You can stream The French Chef (Julia Child) on Amazon Prime or through your PBS Membership Add-On Service.

Virtual Farms are all the rage. I got to visit a Dairy Farm just yesterday!

Ever wanted to visit theVatican and see the Sistine Chapel? Totally possible!

And I even have some creative friends sharing their talents!

Whatever you do to pass the time, make sure you take some moments to send out good intentions and enrich your mind. When was the last time any of us got a chance to do that?

And with that, I made a list of all of the things I am most thankful for during this pause in life:

  1. I love to read. I spent a little time Sunday night downloading a few wonderful books to begin reading this weekend. I wanted to be transported to some beautiful places and I found an author I think I will binge read during this crisis: Fiona Valpy. The first book I plan to tackle is the Dress Maker’s Gift. Followed by the Beekeeper’s Promise and then Sea of Memories. Sounds lovely, right?

2. I’m also going to take some time to binge watch my silly reality shows I love so much. I love The Real Housewives franchise, and I hope to get all caught up in their fabulousity.

3. I love to color. I have a bazillion adult coloring books and tons of great color pencils and gel pens. Might be a nice way to therapeutically pass the time!

4. I love to cook and read recipes. MORE time to research yummy new recipes for this Spring & Summer.

5. We need to plant some seeds in our garden, it is a perfect time to get outside and do just that.

6. Yoga. I need to stretch. I need to unwind. Here is a great way to get it together.

7. Snuggle time with my cats.

8. Quality time with my guy.

9. Plenty of time to reorganize.

10. And finally, less spending.

Before I go, I wanted to share some uplifting videos with you. Maybe you are bored and need a laugh or want to learn something or maybe you just need something new to try out.

Enjoy!

Here is one of my favorite songs and some beautiful imagery to go with it.

How to be happy every day:

A little meditation:

Inspiration to declutter!

Some delicious Summer Recipes

I am a HUGE fan of Lindsey Stirling. This song always makes me happy:

OMG – If you have not watched Fall On Me… you are missing out.

This song also makes me happy – You Say!

How about Gregory Hines & Baryshnikov? Be still my beating heart

I’ll leave you with this one! What would you add?

Seeking Peace

This year’s word is supposed to be intentional. 

in·ten·tion·al
/inˈten(t)SH(ə)n(ə)l/
adjective
done on purpose; deliberate.

Today I started pondering why?

I think it is because I have been operating on Auto-Pilot since Birmingham. Seriously.

As I do a little more work on myself, I realize that my 30s did a number on me. I really believe I was traumatized from losing the job. It felt like the ultimate in failure. Through no fault of my own, I found myself scratching and clawing to pull myself out of that dark hole I found myself in for 9 months. And then the downward spiral with my marriage, moving home to live with my parents…

It was all too much. I was so lost. So sad. I just kept going. Because that is what I do. I endure, I press forward, and I reinvent.

Here we are, 9 years later, and I think my muscles are trying to unwind from all of the tension from having to hold myself together. I had to push to get my life back on track.

Now, when anyone threatens to take that control away from me, I feel angry. Really, really angry.

I realize that now.

Auto-pilot is my coping mechanism. I think my subconscious is afraid to pull back the curtain and feel again.

It feels too dangerous.

I haven’t formed any meaningful relationships in years. I haven’t really tried anything new. I take that back, I do… but they are always far enough away to keep it safe.

While deep-diving into my soul, I’m learned there is a big hole left there, a hole where things that were so important, so valuable, were ripped away.

I covered the hole with a blanket, warm & safe. I started to fill the hole in and as I realized I would have to feel again, I stopped and just covered it up. I ran on auto-pilot.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

2020 is intentional.

What do I hope to gain from all of this intentionality? Deeper relationships, new experiences, and peace. Above all – Peace.

Embracing the Suck

I started off strong. Like really, really, REALLY strong.

I didn’t allow negative thoughts to control me.

I practiced patience.

I was intentional.

I was authentic.

I got worn down…

Oh Happy New Year.

**PS – I wrote this really fast, please excuse typos**

84955292_192078095529150_8177912924686254080_n

Well, just one week did it. One week out of six or seven can’t be all that bad. The pic above sort of shows the hole being poked into my balloon… a water balloon, that is.

Let’s go back, because it appears we are about 3 months behind. So much for my keeping a daily blog again.

Now how did things turn out with all of the “stuff” I was dealing with. Well…

I stayed so busy that NO ONE had time to even side eye me. (If they did, I didn’t get to see it.)

78888686_153842922686001_3649789858689318912_nFirst things first, the Holiday Season happened. Which means, I had to make an appearance at 23 different events (business and personal!) It wore me out and yes, I ended up with my first really bad cold of the year, but it was December!) The pic above is of Tim and I (the last weekend in November, I THINK,) at the Plains Christmas Party. Our job was to officially switch the light on when they said, “Let there be light!” Our yearly “Parks & Rec” moment was complete without a hitch!

When it came to work, we had a few events to get through – including the fact that I was asked to emcee the Americus Christmas Parade. I did get a pic with the jolly old guy. 🙂 All of the work related stuff came and went and honestly, it was beautiful. I was in such a funk though, that I don’t even remember enjoying it. If you remember, 2019 was shaping up to just be awful! My Dad had a heart attack, was undergoing cancer treatment, and he and mom were at each others’ throats. It was all just too much.

78554683_153760576027569_3894762020020420608_nTim and I did take one Saturday to pic out a Christmas tree. We went to a tree farm that a coworker owns in Ellaville and we found a very tall tree, perfect for my Living Room. It wasn’t quite fluffy enough on the bottom, but it did what it needed to do!

We did have our first face-to-face with the ex at Cotton’s dance recital. Luckily, I have a torn MCL (that is not the lucky part,) but it did give me the opportunity to sit on the end of a very long row for the recital and I was at the opposite end of HER. We got there, we sat through the recital and we left. Easy breezy. Cotton even came to spend the night a couple of times over the holidays.

74209736_158435305560096_6585348040696004608_oSpeaking of the holidays, early in December I got the chance to head home and visit with my friend, Steven. He is the Tourism Director for the Visit Macon CVB and he wanted to show off all of the new things happening in my hometown. It gave me a great excuse to go home. And go I did…

78699757_158389918897968_939017659226259456_n

The best news ever, he invited my Tourism BFF from Statesboro and we got the VIP treatment.

78486999_158231268913833_4655575876908351488_n
Here we are stuck in the Hay House elevator!

79961387_158233252246968_3002954757275910144_n

We got to tour the Christmas lights down Poplar & Third in Downtown Macon. It was absolutely gorgeous! I definitely plan to head down next year to see the concert on the opening night. I believe it would totally get me into the Christmas spirit!

79858031_158232635580363_2475413334581575680_n
When you head to my little hometown, Mint Juleps are necessary on the front porch. #SoBougie
79131670_158233002246993_3665678016459046912_n
I got to eat one heck of an amazing steak at the Downtown Grill in the Alley.

79779918_158231352247158_3819663103805620224_n

There were so many beautiful trees to see all over town. Becky and I got to ooh and ahh over the Christmas decor at the Hay House.

I got to visit with some many good friends that are making things happen back home and it filled my love tank just a little bit more.

80198211_162301181840175_7696560404926824448_o

My friend Mary Therese came down to share her book series with the Friends of Jimmy Carter National Historic Site Executive Director (and friend,) Kim Fuller. I love when I can connect amazing people/projects and the right contacts together to make something amazing happen! Plus, it is always good to have time to sit and chat with a friend.

78845572_158230872247206_7633793636898963456_n

Like I mentioned before, I was struggling to keep a bad cold at bay and took about an hour to stop by Telisa’s Float Robins for some Halotherapy time. Cleared my sinuses right up!

78672189_156387549098205_3212514178812084224_n

I attempted to have a Meowy Catmas, but the damn weather down here was like Spring for most of the holiday season.

79101127_160264392043854_5445762426723106816_n
Salvatore is always the star at our parties

Then there was our 2nd Annual Kirksey Christmas Party! The next few pics will be some of the highlights!

80389976_160263338710626_5482220518608207872_n
Tonya came down from Macon and as always, was the life of the party!

80061954_160263012043992_514239062870065152_n

79869821_160264195377207_8043618991081521152_n

79543307_160263138710646_5566945775088304128_n

79524747_160264315377195_526667031777378304_n

79513625_160262402044053_1360910157818626048_n

79390093_160262482044045_1557755432481587200_n

79350556_160262788710681_8537394695154696192_n

79318734_160262355377391_3604982054028050432_n

79303335_160262645377362_248696628121174016_n

79159324_160262852044008_8790243439959605248_n
Arielle came down from Macon also with John!

79228728_160262698710690_1746866832549085184_n

79009088_160263625377264_6415394591360417792_n

The event included a very competitive Dirty Santa game! The right people came this time. I think last year, it was more of a “Hey, let’s snoop through her house. We don’t know this chick.” This time it was people who actually are trying to get to know me better.

73211016_160263492043944_4290838286240317440_n

Our guests even got creative with their gifts. Someone bought a ton of scratch off lottery tickets and framed it!

84401814_187984795938480_8426071840081838080_n

I did actually take 2 weeks off from work – it ended up being 17 days. Heck, I probably could have used 17 more. But it was exactly what I needed to kick start my 2020 off right. While home, I snuggled a whole bunch with the babies.

81929050_168688434534783_6056622602892345344_o

80874589_162893278447632_5774830863753674752_n

80680624_165328824870744_2739257496311955456_n

80337423_165076164896010_2582327225336463360_n

80270444_165515304852096_2477153994632331264_n

80079723_165334631536830_4375267262991433728_o

I promise Jolene got snuggles, she just didn’t end up staying still long enough to get a pic of her.

My parents came down on Christmas eve and spend the night with us. We had everyone (yes, everyone) over for Christmas Eve dinner. My mom & I prepared the typical traditional Christmas dinner: Ham, Mashed potatoes, green beans, etc. Tim’s mom and sister and niece came over. My niece was in Florida with her dad and my sister stayed home to take care of my parent’s animals.

80586294_165076084896018_2872658570640359424_n

80390219_165076228229337_9058690638400192512_n

It was interesting how my in-laws just weren’t used to our banter. I could tell. We are all kind of snarky and quick witted with a wicked sense of humor. They are a lot more literal. I would say some type of little teasing remark to my dad or mom and strange looks would come across their faces. Eh.. whatever.

Christmas came and went at the Kirksey’s house. I did end up with some super cool paintings from my family as gifts. When you are the daughter of artists, it is always fantastic to get something no one else in the world would have!

80433630_164650988271861_2162162330094272512_n

I almost forgot to share: my SIL and stepdaughter performed at their church’s function:

80500967_160910981979195_2203929439643893760_n

At the end of the day, it was good to see my mom relax and have a little fun:

80522128_165076311562662_2854735818143039488_n

And my dad to do the same:

80509065_164949614908665_2381901004510593024_o

My parents had a really hard year and there was more to come with a aeortic valve replacement. But we all got through it.

80216717_165328734870753_7399231239342784512_n

New Year’s Eve came and went like the bitch it was. I could not WAIT for 2019 to just go back to the hole it crawled out of. We had some pretty awesome options for New Year’s: My friends in Savannah said, “Come on down.” Our friends up in Nashville said, “Come on up.” My friends in Macon said, “We miss you, spend it with us.” But with the way we were all feeling, we chose to stick closer to home. We stopped by the Plains New Year’s Eve party. I think it was a really good idea, but we did not really know anyone there. So we stayed about 30 minutes and left.

We came back home, popped the bubbly, wrote down our wishes and what we wanted to leave in 2019 and threw those in the fire. Then I pulled up the NYC NYE count down and we celebrated. THE END 2019. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

I spent the next week just exploring French cuisine and reading and heading to Physical Therapy 3 x a week.

I decompressed a little more by stopping by Float Robins and getting a 90 minute massage, 45 minute halo therapy, and 90 minute float. It did the trick!

81642741_166359011434392_2286583843282485248_n

I did a little shopping with an Amazon gift card I got from my MIL. I also found out I lost 5 pounds from Weight Watchers. To lose 5 pounds over the holidays is a miracle in itself!

Needless to say, it was a good break. I got back to work and hit the ground running. I planned out my tourism retreat, I decided to put in a relaxation station at the visitor center, and I registered for a few conferences. I even got to post a new job for my department.

85067305_191772185559741_8713071841247232000_o
One of my first big lands of 2020. A feature in Macon Magazine. Score!
85018666_192758258794467_4407283787461820416_n
Doing something good: Raising awareness that Heart Disease is the #1 Killer of Everyone by wearing red on National Wear Red Day. Something that has been near and dear to my heart for about 15 years.
84430107_188861739184119_4125460952759926784_o
I purged my closet and gave my clothes to a local church helping those in need.
84329530_193764745360485_2833176916268154880_n
Again, I volunteered for the Heart Walk – because I felt passionate enough about heart disease and what all my family has endured and what I am hoping to keep at bay.
84189336_193203038749989_6517834431862931456_n
I’ve been intentional and authentic with my friendships. Developing new ones and treasuring the old ones.
83873858_2802655036445560_3461997855395282944_o
I’ve been trying to invoke the spirit of Wonder Woman on the daily. Embracing the gifts God have me.

83867737_187973512606275_9146676522382262272_o

83684971_10157840180314929_7691248784512122880_n
I like to collect interesting people. MT is one of those people. Plus, she is one of my bestest friends.
83659722_176652500405043_7582587632341745664_n
Made more time for my family.
83491161_185090292894597_3882212799891374080_n
Proving you can do it all. As I took this pic, my father was under going surgery and I had to lead a retreat. It was hard, but it happened!
82213932_172696890800604_3522344589740474368_n
Continuing to eat healthier.

83411068_184839732919653_4479569031946305536_o

And finally…. adulting is hard. I have such amazing intentions, but I get so busy and side tracked. My writing was a way to take stock in all that I have accomplished. Things are okay. I am striving to reach my new goals for 2020:

  1. Create true connection with people
  2. Be authentically me
  3. Avoid toxic relationships
  4. Read more
  5. Give of my time and talents, even when I would rather be lazy
  6. Embrace the suck. (Bloom where you are planted.)
  7. Make healthier choices
  8. Meditate/Devotionals
  9. Create
  10. LIVE your life

How are you doing? Make sure to let me know how your New Year is!

What’s in a Decade

You guys – It is the end of a decade.

Seriously.

As I was making my 2019 Year In Review slide show of my life, I began to think of all of the slide shows I have made over the years. Specifically, this decade.

Hoboy.

Want to travel down memory lane with me…. Have mercy.

That was 2009. I lived a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LIFE. I lived in Birmingham, traveled quite a bit, and was married to the Egyptian.

Let’s keep going….

Still in Birmingham…. Let’s keep going…

Now we have moved into some challenging territory. Shaky marriage… about to be let go from my job… getting ready to rebuild my life back in Georgia…

Then I moved….

Then the rebuild came:

And FINALLY…. the tides began to turn…

To HANDS DOWN the BEST Summer of my adult life…

To a whole new world!

To many wonderful adventures:

To a challenging year health wise, but still good stuff!

To 2019 – One decade later!

Amazing how I have change – both physically, spiritually and emotionally! I have been married and divorce to being remarried. I have moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Macon, Georgia to Preston, Georgia to Plains, Georgia. I have worked for the American Heart Association, Tubman Museum, Cannonball House, and City of Americus. I wrote over 32 articles and was published in Birmingham Magazine, B Metro Magazine, Macon Magazine, and the 11th Hour. I join a handful of boards, helped create a Day Surgery program for the working poor, and even won the Georgia Commissioner’s award for Outstanding Leadership in Promoting Tourism. I’ve become a step mom and Glamma. I’ve made more new friends than I can count.

Life really is sweet… bitter sweet sometimes, but always a treat!

Even Wonder Woman Has A Breaking Point

I’m super resilient. Like… really, really resilient.

Life has thrown me sh*t balls over the years and somehow I keep kicking. I get knocked down, only to rise from the ashes. Over and over and over again.

I don’t think I am resilient because it is some innate talent or gift. I really don’t think I ever had the choice to be anything but. What else am I going to do? Crumble? Who the hell would pick up the pieces?

Sure, I have a supportive husband and a handful of awesome friends, but they have their own sh*t to deal with. Of course, my family is there – but they are beyond stretched thin. I have no choice but to take care of me.

Well… I have not been doing the best job of that lately and it surprises me more than anyone else. When times get hard, and they get hard for everyone at some point, I may wallow in self pity for a day or two, but after a good cry in a super hot bath tub and a long prayer to God, I am able to pull it together. Not this time. Or at least not since the summer.

Things were getting progressively negative around these parts. From the contention with Tim’s family, to being so far away from my own (especially as my Dad battled Prostate Cancer,) to  working in a job that often goes unnoticed or appreciated, to living in a community that seems (now that the honeymoon phase is over) to be so damn bitter, to just wanting so bad to connect and finding few to do that with.

UGH.

I’m tired just typing all of that.

And it goes on and on and on…

I tore my MCL which has put a HUGE damper on my exercising. I’m now in Physical Therapy to correct the issue and man oh man… it is challenging. I had a broken tooth removed and I am recovering from that AND my Dad had a heart attack last week and is recovering at home with a stent. That alone is a lot of deal with.

Look, I get it – I am blessed beyond measure. Do NOT for one moment think I do not see that. I have accomplished my goals (professionally and personally,) I am “successful” in the simplest of terms. I have some really amazing people in my life (just NOT nearby,) and my family and I are in a good place. My husband is my very best friend and is super supportive (considering all of the mess we have to navigate with his family.) My house is adorable, my health is fairly good… yes, yes… I have a LOT.

I’m just in an emotional rut. And this is foreign territory.

I have always been of the mindset that if you can plan something, set some type of goal, that having that “something” to look forward to could change your chemistry. I find that I am in a much happier place when I focus my energy on new endeavors. With the holidays just around the corner, there are a lot of opportunities to do just that! Especially when you work in a field like I do. I haven’t organized my holiday calendar yet, but I am pretty sure I have close to 17 events to attend. That is not a bad thing, since I LOVE this time of year.

Which brings me to the season. THANK GOD (literally,) that there is a Christmas. The hopefulness of the season is a gentle reminder that there can be good in this wretched world and the promises God has made for us. I have to hold onto those truths in order to navigate this funk I have been swimming in.

Luckily, I am taking the week of Thanksgiving off from work. Besides physical therapy and a dental appointment to refill a filling and get my teeth cleaned, I am good to do whatever I want. I plan to schedule some time in Warner Robins to float (sensory deprivation) and perhaps a massage. I want to sort of reset my battery and… pull my sh*t together.

I just need a minute to get it together.

My brain is scattered and I can’t focus. Life is just flying by at warp speed and I am standing there in a daze

71887199_10157583738614929_5204213680744431616_n

or fake laughing to make you think all is okay.

And it is actually okay. I’m just not feeling it.

I’ve got some work to do on me and I hope wrapping this decade up will be the end of these insane transitions.

Until next time…

 

Be Still My Beating Heart (JK)

Lord Have Mercy.

My Dad had a heart attack three days ago. If that doesn’t stop you in your tracks, I don’t know what will.

I apparently have a torn MCL and have started physical therapy (3 days a week.) Talk about STOPPING you in your tracks.

AND – I had a tooth pulled.

I’m tired.

Which is why, I’ve been quiet on the blog front this week.

I have lots to cover and lots to share, but you will have to wait a few more days.

Just trying to keep a float with life. I AM taking a week vacation the week of Thanksgiving and I plan to really throw myself back into the blogging world.

But for now- keep my family in your thoughts and prayers!

Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet & Watch

I married a Methodist this time. Not a Muslim or a Baptist or even a Jew. A Methodist.

You would think this would make us fairly equally yoked. (Christian termed for basically sharing the same beliefs.) We are both Christian and both of our church services have an order to activities.

You knew I was Catholic, right?

When I moved down here, I thought for certain I would find a Catholic church to get involved in and all would be well. Tim didn’t seem too concerned, until he actually attended mass with me. Once we exited the sanctuary he said, “What just happened?”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

For a South Georgia Methodist, his little head was blown. He said, “There was a lot of up and down. Why can’t I take communion? What’s the deal with the incense? I’m so confused.” And so it went…

To be a good sport I went with him and his mom to her church in the tiny town of Preston. There were probably 20 people in the congregation, none overly friendly. (I thought small Protestant churches were supposed to be friendly?) It was Easter Sunday and their Pastor (a woman,) gave the sermon. She stumbled, she mumbled, and I felt there was something lacking. No problem – small church, new pastor, a nice training ground.

I didn’t feel a spiritual connection.

Then I decided to try out the local Catholic church in Americus. Smallish congregation, very diverse, so much so that I am pretty sure that day I was one of the few English speaking gathered, and a really interesting priest. Then the music started. It sounded like a folk concert and probably the single, worst choir I have ever experienced. God bless ’em. Probably not my cup of tea.

At this point, I’m starting to get worried. Would I find my way? We visited an Episcopalian church in Americus. Beautiful building, decent service, semi-friendly people… but it was Episcopalian. As a Catholic, I just couldn’t. I kept thinking back to King Henry the VIII and all of the ruckus he caused with the church.. blah, blah, blah. (Yeah.. I can be so petty sometimes.) 😉

We attended yet another Episcopalian church, this time in Albany. Really nice people, decent service, but lord have mercy – They were hard selling us. You could smell the desperation to have a youngish couple join. Yeah, we never went back.

After we got into our new house in Plains, about one week later we got a request for our first visitor. (I didn’t even have my paintings up on the wall yet.) That visitor was a certain Super Power.

No seriously.

A Nobel laureate also.

Former President Jimmy Carter came over. (He lives 3 houses down.)

14500728_10154531230419929_5987056697063446429_o

I thought this was a “welcome to the neighborhood” meet & greet, and it sort of was. But it was a little more than that, he wanted to personally invite us to his church. Sure thing, I’ll give it a go. But I warned him, “Mr President, I want you to know I am Catholic.”

“Nicole, denominations don’t really matter. It is about our love for God.”

His church is a Baptist church. And if you know my past experience with Baptist churches, you will know they were never very positive. Very anti-Catholic. But he assured me his church was different. I thought, “Well, if this guy can make peace in the middle east, then surely it can’t be that bad.”

So we went.

And I really, really liked it. Outside of the several layers of Secret Service security you have to go through (which I have since learned is common around here. Most of us even know the SS by name.) Then we were given assigned seats. Yep. Guess which aisle they put us on? HIS and Rosalyn’s. Very cool, BUT… everyone visiting kept staring at our pew. And of course, us, probably wondering who in the world we were.

Guys… I have a little thing called Panic Disorder. I sometimes get super anxious and begin to have a panic attack. Guess what happened? Yep. Mind you, you would never know, I just coughed a little more than usual (trying to get a deep breath.) Even with all of this attention and my need to feel invisible when I am not in a comfortable space, I persevered and we did return. A few times. I was even considering joining, but in my typical commitment-phobe self and the fact that I felt like I did not want to officially leave the Catholic Church, I bowed out.

It was very public. *sigh*

Imagine this: We are standing in a circle holding hands at the night time service. Maybe 30 people, the Carters being 2 of those people. Suddenly, the preacher asks if anyone would like to join the church, to speak now. I was just smiling and watching and suddenly….

JC: Nicole?

Me: Yes sir?

JC: Well?

Me: Um… we really like it here. But.. um.. we are just visiting.

I look at Tim panicking. 

JC: We would really like you to join.

Me: That’s really sweet of you guys. Thank you, but not at this time.

Y’ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I freaking told one of the most powerful men in the world NO. I felt like such a putz.

I felt that strongly about it.

Needless to say, I did not return. I felt too humiliated.

So we visited the Methodist Church in Plains.

And we really, really loved it.

I made friends there and there was plenty to get involved with. The pastor is very intelligent (I think he would make an excellent priest,) and his wife, as it turns out, is now one of my friends down here. So when I tell you the rest of this story, you will understand why the decision I made was a hard one.

We went for probably 8 months. Fairly often, even started going to Sunday School.

But something was missing.

I also found myself pleading with Tim to wake up and go to church on Sunday. His kids were totally not in favor of going.

Then I joined a bible study and my hope was I would find fulfillment and bond with the other parishioners. What it did was make me question what I really needed in my life. I started reading the Bible again and remembering all of the things I had sort of forgotten. This was a good thing.

Then we took a hiatus.

But I was missing something. With all of the issues going on with his family and me being away from my own, I needed that spiritual connection. So I bit the bullet and tried one. more. church.

St. Teresa’s in Albany.

73051274_10157555337744929_2188849113682935808_o

I loved it. It is definitely not home (home being St. Joseph’s in Macon or Prince of Peace in Birmingham,) but there was something about the space. I felt God’s presence. I fell into a familiar rhythm.

I had a long talk with Tim about church. As it turns out, I was making all of these compromises for him and the girls and really, it wasn’t as important to them.

But it was for me.

I decided on a church. Finally. Back to the old ways – my way. Back to what fulfills me. With Tim by my side (and sometimes the girls,) I will get what I need.

I think at the end of the day, I need to remember that it is not necessary for me to compromise what I believe and need in life. 3 1/2 years living down here and it took us this long to figure it out.

But we did. And that is what is important.

*for those of you not understanding the title, it is the old saying for how to make the sign of the cross. Forehead, abs, side to side. (Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet & Watch.) 

fb43f22d75956dbfe1464a7422f716ca

There never was space Part 2

Baby Mama Drama.

 

56336b6b87567999fa5623fc6e21a0d2

Sound familiar? Yep, apparently none of us are immune to it, even when you have zero jealously on your part.

I could understand if I felt insecure about my relationship with my husband, or if I felt like I was somehow not as pulled together as the ex, but folks… that is not the case.

Let’s travel back in time, shall we?

When I first came on the scene, everything was hunky-dory with the future in-laws, as well as with (and again, I hate this term,) the Baby Mama. (Babies include: two biological children, 1 ex-step daughter, and a glam daughter aka grand (non bio.)) In the beginning, she was a little smothering and showed up at the big events. At that time, I was simply being nice and trying to have somewhat of a relationship with her. I thought, “Why not?! It doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Maybe she will like me and I will prove that I am the worthy candidate as a bonus mom.”

Oh how little did I understand.

In classic ENFP style, I go in all smiles and hugs. Positive comments via social media and happy small talk in person. What I didn’t realize was the snake that was just beneath the surface. My husband had warned me that she did not play nice with his second wife and unfortunately, his second wife had snakes in her head. (Southern term for being a little nuts.) Mix the two together and you end up with an explosive situation. That was short-lived and everything since had gotten back to normal.

What I didn’t realize is normal meant the ex was embedded with the family. When I say embedded, I mean she is at most family functions, chats on the phone with all of them frequently, and was still receiving financial support from his mom.

*sigh*

But I let it go. No family is perfect and lord knows, I am not one to judge. I tried to tell myself, “Maybe this is normal. Maybe this is how it is.

You see, I never had kids. Most of my friends did not have children – we chose careers instead. I had heard a few dramatic tales, but for the most part, if one of my friends had a kid, they had one early and the father was not really all that involved, so there was very little of this drama. Of course, I saw things on television and in movies, but never expected it to happen to me.

Well… it did.

Reason #2 I have a private FB page and I am isolating myself lately:The Ex aka Baby Mama Drama. 

I could very easily share with you, dear reader, all of the nasty tid-bits about her. It’s fairly common knowledge about her extra-marital affairs and other dalliances, but that should not matter. That would be character assignation and I am not trying to say she shouldn’t be in her children’s life. (Though…. ) What I want to share is this loyalty thing with the family that I do not understand.

First of all, my MIL still has a relationship with the ex, which totally makes sense. Sometimes the kids need to be shuffled here and there (but let’s remember, they are now 25, 18, and 17 and all have cars.) There is a little less of this needed, but for whatever reason, they still communicate. When you speak with the MIL, she typically trashes the ex. At first, I thought that we all felt the same, but were faking things for the sake of the kids. We all agreed that she had loose morals and was not exactly the role model young girls needed. Everyone in the family did this, so… I thought we were in the clear.

THEN things started to shift when the ex’s oldest daughter (non-bio kid,) moved in with my MIL. She brought with her a baby and her husband. Mind you, both have full-time jobs, but they felt they could save money by living with my MIL. (And save money they do! She foots the bill for most things.)

This shifted the power a little. Now the ex has a reason to visit more often, her daughter and grand daughter live under the same roof as my MIL. Sticky sitch if you get my drift. 

Slowly but surely, as the bio mom/ex starts sifting through partners (oh there are many swinging d*cks coming to the family dinner table. But again… I’m trying not to be petty…)

While this is happening and her life unravels before our eyes, my sweet guy and I are going strong. We got married, built the house, and I continued to succeed at work. We created a stable home life for the girls and followed all of the rules. Not that it mattered.

The ex kept showing up at Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas morning… and of course we have to share birthdays (or do we?!) She and her flavor of the month would even head to the beach house (alone,) for romantic weekends. Personally, I thought this was the most disrespectful thing his mother could have allowed. There are other bits that involve others, but really, what is the point writing it out? It is what it is.

And folks… it is never going to change. 

Recently, there was an opportunity for our family to attend an event at Robins Air Force Base. I was super excited because it is something my family did often while growing up. My dad is an Air Force vet and his love of the Thunderbirds and all things Air Force is something I really admired growing up. My dad has been battling Prostate Cancer and I wanted to meet up with him and we enjoy this – create a lasting memory for ourselves. I asked Tim if we could bring the girls with us. I wanted to share something with them, something that would bond them with my family. A bonding that has been MIL blocked since Tim & I got together. They have never in the five years we have been together been to their home. Of course, the youngest chose to hang out with her cousin and not go with us and the oldest chose to hang with us. I figured this would be how it would end up. It was the 18-year-old’s birthday and we had a blast, but due to a series of unfortunate events, we missed the wrong shuttle to our parking space, then ended up going the wrong way back home – back home to get to her birthday party the ex was putting together at a restaurant. Needless to say, everyone was mad at us for causing an hour or so delay. I tried to be the bigger person and apologize for the stuff happening and the ex basically tried to put me in my place.

Now folks… I am very confrontational and it took everything I had not to rip her a new one. Little did I know, the whole fam was backing her and speaking negatively about us at the restaurant while we were not there.

I was done. Five years of putting up with this mess and I was D-O-N-E. Post debacle, I learned so many things about this family’s dynamics. I learned that they often speak ill of me and find me to be “snobby” or act as if I am better than them. They said other things about me, however, I am not aware of the specifics… and maybe that is best. (I know this because the kids told us.)

The principle of the matter with this situation is the fact that they sided with the ex (and you guys KNOW she was just WAITING for me to slip up and react,) and left Tim and I standing there with egg on our face.

Obviously there is so much more to this… and there are tons of holes, but let’s just say I’ll keep some of that to myself. The best thing that came out of this is: I now know where I stand with the MIL and the non-bio daughter and ex. They are thick as thieves and do not have my best interest at heart. They have never desired a healthy relationship with me, and based on their personalities, would rather swim and play with drama.

That is not my style. 

I cut the toxic out.

But remember, I still have to co-parent with this witch. So how do I do it and not claw her eyes out?

I found an article on Paired Life titled: Baby Mama Drama & Dealing With Your Man, His Ex, & Their Child

Some of the advise they gave is pretty good. I don’t know if you are going through some of this or if you know of someone else that is. But here is a little insight in what we are up against:

The article goes on to say-

  • Oftentimes the baby mama has no boundaries. She does this on purpose, to make you uncomfortable. (Check!)
  • She is nosy. She may even get way too personal with her questions and start asking you things that make you feel uncomfortable. (All. The. Time.)
  • She says negative things about you to others: Instead of talking to you directly, she goes behind your back and tries to turn others against you. She focuses on negative things or just makes things up to make you look bad in front of her children. (Double check.)
  • She gets too close & too personal with your man. Which this one does – she constantly tries to stay in contact with him. (Poor Tim, he roles his eyes and refuses to play into it, but boy oh boy does she push. )
  • She always brings up the past: When you are around her, she always talks about her time with your man. She does this out of jealousy and to make you feel insecure about your relationship with her ex. (In my case, she does it with the family and me around. Constantly proving how tight they were.)
  • She blames you for her problems. (Yep!)

All of these things hit home. But what can you do about it?

They recommend a few basics:

  • Be respectful (even when it is easier to slide down to her level)
  • Understand your role. I am not responsible for the children in the same way that he and the other woman are. I must understand my role to play in all of this and respect the boundaries established by the baby mama. Don’t try to be a second mother to the child. Instead, just try to build a solid relationship with the kid. (Which I believe I am good with and have tried to do.) Who knows what it looks like to outsiders.
  • Finally, they recommend making your feelings clear. Which I have. Agreed upon boundaries have been set (With Tim & I when it comes to her.)

Basically, I won’t be at something she is going to be at, because she does not have my best interest at heart. I will go to graduations and other big things, but we do not have to sit with her (like we have in the past.) We will not attend holidays that she will be attending at his mother’s house. We will not allow the petty drama into our home. Her name is off limits when the kids are around. We will just do us and remember that we really only have 1 & 1/2 more years to get through. Child support will be over in June 2021 and the kids will be off and enjoying life.

As for the the MIL’s house and the ex-step living there… well, that’s another piece of the puzzle. I will continue to set healthy boundaries and not get caught up in their gossip, drama, and petty conclusions.

Man oh man has this transition been a tough one down here. At the end of the day, I have a difficult and strained relationship with the MIL, a non-trusting relationship with the ex-step kid, and a hands off relationship with the baby mama. As for the rest of the his family, we are all “fine.” Neutral. No bad blood, but no real bonds yet. Five years in.

Thank goodness my guy is super supportive and a good man!

Until next time…