2020 Blew Chunks

2020 blew big ass chunks. And it’s over. And today is the official first day of 2021. Despite the fact that we all now have PTSD from COVID-19, political and racial tension, and staying home with our kids for almost a full year, and helping to virtual school, some good things came out of this year for me and my family. I also learned a bunch of things about myself, which I guess is stellar considering I’ve had 40+ years to figure these things out. Who knew we needed a global pandemic to gain some perspective? Here’s the Top 10 of 2020.

  1. We moved. We love our new city. Charlotte is fucking ah-mazing! And it will be even better once we can see more of it. We love our neighborhood. We love our friends. I have never felt more welcome moving anywhere in my life. I don’t know if it was the circumstances of the pandemic, but we made friends easily, and we are so thankful that they were able to be stand-in family as we moved away from those we loved.
  2. I figured out that I am a pretty good cook. I can follow a recipe with the best of them. Things my kids liked: chicken stir fry, broccoli chicken casserole, the rice in pork chop casserole (although there was way too much of it for us to eat). Things my kids did not like: almost everything else I made.
  3. I can bake with the best of them. Mostly cookies. Because cookies are the best fucking dessert, and if you don’t think so you can fight me. Chocolate chip, Gingerbread, Sugar. Bring it on.
  4. I am still really lousy at keeping a clean house. And it is really hard to do when four other people are living at home all the time. Well, really three other people, because the oldest child basically lives with another family at this point. Random Side Thought: Trying to make a teenager understand that pandemics can spread is so hard. They think they are invincible, and they are so into their friends at this age. Being with family all the time, not for them. I do love seeing the person he is becoming, and I don’t agree with the general sentiment that teenagers suck. I think they’re dealing with a lot, just like us, and need to be given the benefit of the doubt. Just as long as they keep wearing their masks.
  5. When gifted a lot of time in my life, what did I do with it? Write? Read? No, I binge watched Netflix and almost every other streaming service in the world (and there are a shit ton of them–I mean really, how many do we actually need?). Normal People, y’all. So good. NSFW and NSFK (Kids, is that even an acronym?) Why do we talk in acronyms now. The Queen’s Gambit. All 12 seasons of the Big Bang Series. The Middle with my middle child. Sex and the City. I finally watched both Deadpools. Slightly disturbing and bloody, but so funny. And Ryan Reynolds–man, I need you in my life (sorry R!). Really, now you know why I’m lousy at cleaning.
  6. I really like my husband. Like really like him. I mean, yes, there have been some ups and downs over the last few months. We moved for his job, and basically he is still working from home. So cray-cray. And we share a home office. And he walks and talks on the phone, and he often does that right behind me while.I’m.trying.to.work. And sometimes he eats lunch at his desk, and let me tell you, he chews so loud. (I’m sure I do too, but I can’t hear me). But he’s nice and funny. And he makes me laugh. And he’s not-as-lousy at cleaning. And he cooks. And he’s a pretty good dad. And he tries. And he understands that I need alone time, and that sometimes I’m depressed and want to lie in bed all day or take a bath with candles and be left alone. He puts up with a lot of my shit. But really, he is my best friend. And it possibly took a global pandemic for me to figure this out. For those of you who know me and my husband, you know we have had a lot of ups and downs over the year. But we all good. There’s no one I’d rather spend a pandemic with, R.
  7. My sister and I bonded over Animal Crossing. We play a lot. It’s fun, and our characters have the best clothes. We talk on the phone and play. So much fun. We did a lot of playing over the summer, and then she had to teach, and I didn’t realize how much I’d miss our daily chats and play. But I did miss them.
  8. My family is the best. We Zoom once a week. I miss my mom and dad a lot. We went from living 5 miles away from them to about 400 miles. That sucks balls.
  9. My dogs get me. They are my emotional comfort animals for sure. Jazz got throw up sick and I thought she was going to die. She didn’t–thank God. But it made me realize how much comfort they gave me. Also, my dog looks really freaking cute in pajamas. I may have bought more dog clothes this year than I bought human clothes.
  10. The biggest thing I learned was to not take friends and family for granted. Before March 13, 2020, we were all going in different directions. R working, me working, kids at school, activities. Life felt so stressful. I felt pulled in a million different directions all the time. Overwhelmed, strung out. We took a big pause. Everything changed drastically and suddenly. That part sucked so much. But in the end, I realized how much these people in my life mean to me. And we were able to slow down and really reconnect. Will we have that chance again once this is over? Who knows. I love my friends and family so much.
Jazz in PJs — the best of 2020!

Lastly, as we move into 2021, COVID has not mysteriously disappeared. It is getting worse all over the U.S. Hospitals and ICUs are overwhelmed. The vaccinations are taking longer to distribute than was originally anticipated. Even once we’re vaccinated, we need to stay vigilant. My family has been so lucky in that we have not lost anyone to the pandemic. We have been careful. And there is hope. But many of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue. We want life to go back to normal, and we think if we just pretend there isn’t a pandemic it will go away. Well, this is not true. That’s why so many people are getting COVID right now and why so many people are needlessly dying. All those people who traveled for Thanksgiving thought, it will never happen to me. Well that type of thinking can almost guarantee it will happen to you! We as humans have this tendency to think we can escape travesty. We have this ability to look at statistics and think they only apply to other people. Perhaps this is a survival mechanism, a gift curse to us from our cavemen days. Pretending something won’t happen never means that it won’t happen. It just means you’ve closed your eyes to the possibility of it happening, so when it inevitably happens you act blindsided. So act as responsible as you can. We are all so tired. We all want this virus to end. But what we need to want more than all of that is for our loved ones to be safe and healthy. And we can only do that by continuing to social distance, to mask up, and to make the right decisions every day for ourselves and those we care about.

So be careful, stay safe, have hope, and GET VACCINATED in 2021 as soon as it’s available to you.

Now I’m going to try to write a book again. Take that 2020–on to the next year, the next goal, the next step.

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Resolutions for 2016

There’s a cold front sailing into Montgomery encapsulated in three-six inches of rain, and unfortunately the storm seems to be raging in my head. I’ve had a headache for two days now, and no amount of nasal spray, Allegra D, Sudafed, Tylenol, or Advil seems to be helping it.

It seems fitting to wake up on New Year’s Eve with a headache. Starting a new year is like a fresh start. Oh the possibilities. But sometimes the only way to get to where you want in life is to suffer pain and heartache (or in this case, a terrible headache). This headache is a little reminder to me this morning of how far I came this year in my own life.

I’m a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I know they say only 30% of people achieve those resolutions, but for the last few years I’ve been in that 30%. The hint to achieving your resolutions is to set small, measurable, attainable goals.

For instance, instead of saying: I’m going to lose weight. Say: I’m going to lose 15 lbs. Or instead of saying: I’m giving up all sugar forever and ever, say: I’m going to give up drinking soda. Instead of saying: I’m going to become the next great author this year, say: my goal is to publish one book. Seriously, measurable and realistic.

So what’s my resolution? I have one main resolution, and I’m sure I’ll add goals as the year goes on.

  • Finish revising Little Birdhouses and start querying.

That’s it. I’ve been sitting on it and not doing what I need to do with it, and it’s starting to annoy me. So I know I need to finish. I’ll query it, and if that doesn’t go my way then maybe I’ll submit it to Booktrope. They published my book, The Devil Within, which has been moderately successful.

I have a couple of things I’d like to achieve this year as well, which aren’t really resolutions but just items on my list to check off.

  • Run a Half-Marathon – this is a biggie and scares the crap out of me, but is also really exciting.
  • Finish working on The Cape and start revisions.

That’s it folks. What are your resolutions this year?


 

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Forgiveness

Maybe I’m just sappy and sentimental, but I’ve been thinking a lot about my life this past week or two and how much I’ve grown this year as a person. My life has not always been easy, and I’m sure those of you who know me personally know how much I’ve struggled in the past few years. I’ve struggled to find myself. I’ve struggled in my marriage. I’ve struggled in my relationships. I’ve struggled with the ugly “D” word: depression.

Today as I drove to work I felt happy and fulfilled as I reflected back on my year. And I realized the reason I felt happy was because I intentionally chose happiness.  As I lay in bed last night, talking to my husband, I said, “I love myself so much. And if you can’t love yourself then you can can’t love anyone else, right?” “Right,” he said. He’s not much of a talker. But I’m sure his mind was thinking something like, here she goes “self-philosophizing Lauren again.” But it’s true. It takes self-love in order to make yourself happy and in order to be able to give back to others.

A couple of days ago I posted on a few boards I’m a member of asking people to state the theme of their year. The answers were insightful, interesting, painful, sad, tragic, funny, happy—all rolled into one. And it made me think about how all of those adjectives describe life and are what make it worth living.

My theme of the year was forgiveness. First I forgave myself.  Then I forgave my husband, my parents, my siblings, my friends, and anyone who I have ever perceived as doing me wrong. But it started with ME. I forgave myself for all my faults. I forgave myself for feelings of love I can’t control. I forgave myself for living in the past too often. I forgave myself for yelling at the kids, having a short fuse, not saying no enough, being too busy, not reaching my goals when I wrote, and for failing to clean my bathroom often enough. I forgave myself all those little strings of self-hate that build up inside of us and make us unhappy with ourselves. And it was hard. Self-doubt crept in. Guilt crept in. Sadness lay sickly sweet right below the surface of my skin.  It was a process—much like grieving and moving on. I back slid. I fell into depression, but I realized where the depression came from, worked through it, and didn’t let it trap me.

I wrote with a vengeance for the first time in years. I soaked up everything I’ve learned in my meager 36 years and put it on paper. I made new friends. I lost a few friends. I missed old friends. I reconnected with old friends. I grieved relationships whose seasons had expired but found happiness in the temporariness of those relationships as well.  And through it all, I realized forgiveness is key. Letting go of the need to control. Losing expectations of others while maintaining expectations of yourself. Making yourself happy and choosing to live in a way that’s giving to other people without feeling the need for reciprocation. Telling myself that I’m doing the best I can and loving myself for it. That was my lesson for 2015.

What is forgiveness you may ask?

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.

I don’t want to be a victim of myself anymore. I don’t want to blame others for the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t want to not pursue my dreams because pursuing them is hard. I want to be able to let go of the negativity and stop living in a permanent state of self-hatred. I want to love myself for who I am and realize that flaws are what make us beautiful as humans. I want to love other people, all of their flaws and scars and human-stuff and realize the only person I can control is myself and be okay with that.

This year, I decided to stop feeling guilty for my own feelings. Instead of embracing guilt, hate, and anger this year I chose to embrace love and it changed my whole perspective on life.

If you can’t forgive yourself then you can’t forgive others. We all have baggage. We have all been hurt by the people we’re closest to. We can use hate, guilt, and ugliness to drive stakes into our own hearts, our marriages, the lives of our children, or we can turn it around and be compassionate, loving, and we can give to others even when it’s so hard to do. This is forgiveness.

Live your life with love and you’ll be rewarded with love. Live your life with hate and all you’ll get back is hate.


 

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