10.02.16the space to figure it out

This past weekend, I was presented with an opportunity to attend one of my favorite local events totally alone. No schedules, control over my own time, the opportunity to make my own decisions, no conversation – just me and my thoughts left alone with some of my favorite things – art and music. I jumped at the chance to dig into this afternoon because I hoped it would remind me of who I am, because lately I haven’t been able to find her.


As luck would have it, it seems as though my mid-life crisis has decided to coincide with the pretty bleak state of the world that we currently find ourselves in. I know that people will say that I’m not technically mid-life. That I’m too young for a crisis. But I disagree. I can do math (sorta kinda). 37 + 37 = 74. And I’m fairly certain that’s right around the average life expectancy.

I also know that people will roll their eyes and tell me that the world isn’t that bleak. That we’ve been here before; we’ve dealt with all of these things (racism, insane politics, terrorism, inequality) before. That this isn’t anything new or worse, we just hear about it more. Maybe. But, I wasn’t here before. This is new to me. And it seems pretty darn bad (to put it very mildly).

And I suppose to some that I will come across as a privileged, whiny, white woman in her 30’s who has it all and doesn’t know how lucky I am. I’m not saying I disagree. But I think that even I get to have feelings, as long as I am mindful of the space that I occupy.


Life changes. That’s the beauty of it, right? That it adapts, grows, morphs. Each chapter is new and different, a chance to grow, and to learn. We journey on, accepting this and welcoming the change. But this time, the change seems to have me stuck in the mud. I find myself in this holding place, unsure of who I am, where I’m going, what I want, and what is next. My senses are alert, more aware than ever of mortality, of time, of purpose. I can’t seem to shake it and just let the change flow over me like I think I should. It seems that I’ve tasked myself with staying in this space and figuring it all out first.

Which, in a word, is frustrating. I yearn to be a go with the flow, throw caution to the wind, and keep the compartments of my life out of boxes sort of girl, but I have to accept that I am just not her.  So here I sit, unable to focus on virtually anything, while I obsess over what is making me feel so…unsure…so that I can accept it and move on to the next chapter without any baggage, but with lessons learned.

So I wandered the Wide Open Bluegrass festival in Raleigh on Saturday with a smile on my face, my until recently tossed aside camera in my hand, and a head full of thoughts to sort out. And here’s what I came out with…


I’m feeling like I have no real purpose lately. Or at least that it’s changing and I don’t know what the next one is. And the worst part is that I know I’ll feel this way a few more times in my life, it’s not like once and done. My son is starting to really grow up, and we are entering a space where he needs me less and less. To that end, I find myself with a lot more free time. Free time to write, to create, to bake, to garden, to volunteer; this is what I’ve been waiting for…but instead I think that I’m just in mourning that the time exists at all, and I waste my newfound freedom on hours and hours of Netflix. I wonder when I’ll get off my ass and stop wallowing. I want to, but if I wanted it badly enough I know I’d just do it. Maybe I’m not there yet, and I think I need to be a little kinder to myself about that.

My job is amazing. Like crazy, wish for this life, amazing. Sure it can be exhausting, but it fulfills me, and sustains my family, and most days it leaves me really inspired. But when friends visit who are basically nomads, or weekend trips that spill out over four days find me in quiet, beautiful spaces, or when traffic is just so bad, every single day, I cannot push that voice out of my head any longer. You know the one. She asks the loaded, evil, thought-provoking question. Is this it? Is this life? Ugh. Half of me wants to shove her off of the mountaintop she beckons me to, and tell her to stop sabotaging a good thing. The other half of me is drawn in by her wiles to that tempting imaginary dreamscape, where I have every crazy wish I ever wanted because I took a giant risk. I think I’ll be fighting her off for the rest of my life, but that’s just a premonition. Or maybe I’ll accept her golden ticket someday. I just don’t know. Maybe the dream of her is the actual dream. Hmm. I’m going to sit with that one for a minute.


And then there’s the world. What in the hell is going on?! I’m a pretty empathetic person, and often feel burdened by the weight of it all. The sadness, the grief, the disbelief, the hate. It’s just too much. It makes me want to run. It makes me want to scoop up my family and say let’s go – and run away and be with nature and breathe in the air and just love. Let’s escape it all. But the reality is that you can’t, it’s not feasible (maybe this is connected to my last thought), it won’t help anything. The world will still exist, the hate will still be there. I need to find a way to concentrate on the love, and let it shine through me so that I can pass it on to others. I want to find a way to stay and help fix this mess. I’m just not sure how yet, or what part I will play.


I left that wonderful afternoon seeing these thoughts with a little more clarity. I can see the obstacles now, and even though it’s not as clear as I’d like it to be, I can see the pathway to the next big thing. I think maybe, learning to be ok with not knowing exactly who I am, or why I’m here, or what’s next, is an important step for me to take. And maybe the lessons learned are disguised as baggage, and perhaps they can come along for the ride.

07.29.16How to: Plants vs. Zombies Party

Every year, my son has the incredible knack of asking for a party theme that does not exist at any party store, or online, at all. He’s good like that. And when I tell him this, he turns to me and says, “Well, Mom, I know you’ll think of something.” And I sigh and complain and stress about how I’ll never figure it out. And then I do. Because I always will. Mostly because I love to make things, but partly because I have grown sort of fond of the kid too. Birthdays are meant to be celebrated, however we want them to be, I believe. So this particular year, I found myself searching Pinterest for “Plants vs. Zombies birthday party.”

To which I didn’t find too much. There are some great ideas out there, sure, but not as many as I expected. Which is why we find ourselves here today. So that I can share my experiments with you, and then you can throw your child (or app addicted husband or self) a rad birthday party if you so choose.

How to create a (rad) Plants vs. Zombies Birthday Party

Jake0s birthday invite.jpglt

I’m pretty handy at graphic design, if I do say so myself, so I made his invitations in Photoshop and had them printed super affordably at MPIX.



I started off by making the games. My first idea was to create six life-size (to the kids) zombies, and place them around the house for the kids to shoot at to their hearts content. My son happens to have as many nerf guns as kids invited to his party (it’s an addiction), so weaponry wasn’t an issue. To make the zombies, I found high-res photos that I wanted to use online, and uploaded them to a website called Block Posters. Once they were made, I printed out the puzzle pieces, cut them out, and glued them with mod podge to mat board (that I got at the Scrap Exchange in Durham – 6 giant pieces for under $5 – if you’re local, go check them out). Then I stapled wooden stakes to the back of them and my husband hammered them into the ground. Time consuming, but very easy and the kids were so excited about them. You’d think I would have taken more photos, but you get the idea. I predict that the scuba guy is going to live in my garage forever.


Once the kids were sweaty, hot, and tired from their nerf war, I let them come inside (It was over 100 degrees out. I’m not a monster. I allowed it for a few minutes). They enjoyed playing pin the eye on the zombie. And by enjoyed playing, I mean enjoyed totally cheating. Cheaters. I had this poster printed at Office Max before I knew about the Block Posters website. I won’t ever do that again, it’s insanely expensive for a large piece of paper. I printed the eyeballs on my home printer and made my son cut them out. Because I was tired, and hey, it’s his party!


Then I sent them outside again. But even in the heat, I’m pretty sure they’d agree that it was worth it, because this pinata was full to the brim with candy. My son had asked for a zombie head pinata, but my expertise isn’t in creating zombie heads out of paper mache, so I took the easy way out and purchased a chili pepper pinata on Amazon for $15, cut out the face using leftover mat board, and slapped it on there with some duct tape. Looks pretty good, huh? This was the party favorite, especially since my husband had to hold it after the tie wrap broke off and the kids (and by kids I mean adults) kept giggling that the bat “might hit him somewhere funny.”

IMG_1835 IMG_1823

Finally, I basically littered the house in zombies. Anything I could find on google images got printed out and used in its appropriate place.

Other stuff you might want to know:

  • I bought the cake at the grocery store. Gone are my days of making a grand cake, shaped like whatever theme he chose this year. It makes me a very foul person. That’s not good for anyone. I know my limits. They were happy to print a photo of a zombie on an edible icing sheet and slap it on a cookie cake for me. And I was happy to pay them $10 to do it.
  • The favor bags had stuffed plants and zombies in them, from China. I’m not proud of it, but those suckers are so expensive here! They were only $1 each where I got them online. Part of my soul is dead now.
  • I carefully counted out organic crackers into sandwich bags for the kids to snack on during the day. They ate the bowl of potato chips that was out for the adults. Damn kids.


Happy kids = happy Mom.

There you have it! You can do it too. Honestly, compared with past years, this one was pretty easy. But I’m sure that just means next year will be impossible. Wish me luck!



You arrived with a dramatic flair,

Already then, certain, independent, sure of self

A preview of what was to come


Those first years filled with life,

all that comes with it. The highs and lows,

tantrums, snuggles, catching monsters and “push me, mommy, one more time.”


Years passed quickly, yet ever so slow. Funny how that goes.

Time after time, you showed us who you were, taught us who to be.

Never passing up an adventure, dreaming big but staying cautiously close.


You embraced our family, when small was what it turned out to be,

with a smile and a hug you cheered me up when I was down,

you brought me back when I was lost. You reminded me, this was all I need.


Always wiser than your years, except when you weren’t.

Mistakes are important, decisions are meant to be wrong sometimes.

You learned as you grew, you cried. We were here.


We always will be.


So much is changing and so little too.

You fit in my shoes, but still hold tightly on to things of memory.

And so much is yet to be.


Ten years have passed, the happy moments overflow.

What is to come, we wonder, we wait patiently with eager eyes.

Who will you be? What will you do?


Today, still just a boy. Growing, embracing each day.

Tomorrow? The future. Yours. Ours.

An endless possibility.

06.28.16night wonderings


It’s in that space when the last bit of light from the tired sun has dropped from view, and the moon has yet to stretch into its overnight position that my thoughts catch up with me. Not the minuscule ones of the day, those pesky reminders of insignificant tasks and worries, but the grandiose wonders of life that make me whole, that add up to the sum of me.

I lay in my bed, wrapped up in a warm quilt that is oh so colorful in the day, but in the darkness of my room is enveloped in everything else. I feel familiar aches and pains, my body’s way of reminding me that it’s there too, present, listening. There’s a small twinge of guilt, for the hour is a bit too early to sleep, but I push it away, and allow the calm of my night to wash over.

What is life? What is my life? What is next for my life? Will I die young, unexpectedly, missing the next chapters, or live until every last strand of hair on my head is glittery white, and my great-grandchildren call my name while running down the hall? I let these questions hang in the air above me, waiting for answers I know I will not get. When they get to be too much to bear, I repeat to myself that it is not for me to know the answer, and I move on to questions I believe I can answer, thoughts I can at least tackle.

What do I want from this life? What can I do? To be better, to be really alive every day, to open my heart, and my arms, and my mind, and do something? Be something…more? What does that look like? Who do I want to be? Is this it? Or is there more?

I pause. I breathe. I let the words soak into my body. I feel the rise and fall of my chest, calming myself before I get caught in the trap of thoughts that don’t belong, the ones that brew to tell me that I’m not enough, that I’m not doing or being…enough. They have no place here, in the sacred night. I do not let them in. I breathe.

My husband sleeps to my left, finally peaceful after a stressful day, his breath letting out an almost inaudible sound. I’m centered by this noise, pulled back to happy wonders, to the beauty of life, of my life. The unbelievable and sometimes perplexing love that fills our home. The dreams, the wishes granted. The laughter that has filled years, buckets of memories. My soul is warm, full. I breathe that in, steadying my breath to match his.

My thoughts, questions, wonderings, begin to fade. Until they are fuzzy and distant, and I cannot reach them any longer. They will wait for me there, until the time when tomorrow’s light falls from the sky, if I choose to pick them up again. And I know that I will.

For it is in this magical place each night, where I remember to be, and not just exist.