Day 18 – My unfinished story

In 2008, I sat down and started writing a story. My story. Bits and pieces of my childhood, my struggle through adolescence and my college years, my adoption and reunion. It’s one those projects that nags at me. It bothers me that I haven’t finished it. But it’s also one of those projects that I can only handle in small chunks.

There’s something about delving back into some of the worst moments of your life that really drains you. And even now, this far removed, with a whole lot more perspective and distance and wisdom, I prefer to take it slowly, wading back into the memories like a tepid pool.

But the reality is, it’s been 11 years since this project started, and it just might be time to kick it into a higher gear and actually try to finish it.

Plus, I’ve apparently got some readers who are finishing their edits. Nothing like a little accountability to light a fire under you, am I right?

Life in pieces

As I try to get back into the writing groove with my memoir, I’m finding that the hardest thing is figuring out where to start. I have a pretty decent draft, but there are a lot of holes, a lot of moments and details that need to be fleshed out and incorporated into the story.

Each time I sit down and try to begin, I get overwhelmed and have a hard time figuring out where to start. Bits and pieces of my life begin flashing and get all jumbled, making it hard to pull them apart and hone in on one moment.

So, I made a list–I condensed all of the moments I wanted to capture and stories I wanted to tell into short one or two-word descriptions, and then jotted each of them into little slips of paper that I folded up and set aside.

And I gotta say, it’s a little strange to look at your life in pieces–all those big, powerful, defining, unforgettable moments reduced to little bits of paper strewn across a tabletop.

Once I had my little pile of topics, I put them all in a little bag and resigned to draw one each day to use as my starting point.

So far, so good, but there is still a long way to go.

Wish me luck.

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Operation Fitness

Growing up, I was a very active child. I spent more time outside than inside when I wasn’t in school or sleeping. And summer vacations were either spent at the local swimming pool, or cruising around town on my bike or rollerblades. I played softball, basketball, volleyball. I went out for track (but stuck to high jump, long jump, and discus because I hated running). I walked to school, unless it was freezing or pouring rain, right up until I got my driver’s license my junior year of high school.

But even if I was fit and relatively healthy for much of my life, somewhere along the line, it all just went off the rails. It’s something I’ll explore much more in depth in my memoir project, but sometime during middle and high school, I developed a very deep and inexplicable loathing for what I saw when I looked in the mirror. During high school and college, that manifested as an eating disorder and some seriously self-destructive behavior. Looking back, I can only thank my friends and family, my team of therapists, and God for bringing me back from the brink of it. Left to my own devices, the end results would certainly not have been so pretty.

For years afterward, I shied very far away from any sort of dieting or fitness crazes. I had to. Once you’ve gone down the rabbit hole of anorexia and self-loathing, I don’t think you ever leave it behind, not completely. Instead, you have to stay vigilant, checking in on it now and then and making sure you’re doing what’s necessary to keep it dormant. But now, 14 years and 2 kids later, I’m a good 30 pounds heavier than I have ever been, and it’s really starting to get old.

I’m not looking to make any drastic changes. Those never seem to last anyway. But what I can do is get my butt in gear and incorporate some more exercise into my daily routine (which I started tonight with a little strength training and yoga), and to start making a few healthier choices throughout the day. I mean, it’s not like I’m constantly eating total garbage, but I do need to cut the cereal and ice cream habit that has carried over since my pregnancy cravings with Henry.

And just because I’m a goal-oriented person, here’s my awful “before” photo to give me a little motivation.

Let’s get this party started.

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In a Sea of Strangers

It sometimes bothers me how long this memoir project is taking. I’ve been working on it now for more than nine years, on again off again, like one of those annoyingly tumultuous relationship storylines on General Hospital or Days of Our Lives. Yet part of me knows that it’s not exactly healthy to completely immerse myself in this particular project. It’s not easy to dive head first back into the worst days of your life, to dig down and dredge up all the pain and the uncertainty and the shit that you worked so hard to overcome and deal with and leave behind.

So, for nine years, i’ve been easing myself into it, working my way through the manuscript and the memories bit by bit, piece by piece, dissecting my life and the moments that have defined me with a surgeon’s precision, and bring it all up under the lights–the good stuff, the ugly stuff, and all the stuff that fell somewhere in between.

It’s interesting what you find when you go back through your life with a magnifying glass and a fine tooth comb. And the longer I work on this project and give shape to the story, the more I think about all the important moments–both good and bad–that ultimately define me.

But the one thing I never do is play the “what if” game, or look upon any of it with regret, because without those moments–all of those moments–I wouldn’t be here now with my hubby and my hound and my babies tucked snugly in their beds.

So, I am thankful for all of it–the shit and the sunshine–because it’s raw and it’s real and it’s mine. And I’m ready to dive back in again and keeping writing, keep writing, keep writing to fill in the rest of the holes and finally share my story.

In the meantime, if you’d like to follow along on the journey as I complete the project, you can find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/InASeaOfStrangers

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New Year. New Start. New Project

Right now, millions of people are hugging and kissing and popping bottles of champagne as they ring in yet another new year. I’m sitting in my living room, my hubby and hound dog beside me, my babies sleeping soundly upstairs as I listen to fireworks popping off in the distance.

And I’ll tell you the truth, folks, there is no place I would rather be.

I mean, I get why people get so crazy as they count down the seconds and watch that big ol’ ball dropping in Times Square. It’s a new year, a brand new beginning…even if it is really just another day, another tick tocking past midnight, another series of moments that might pass as quickly and unceremoniously as the rest. It’s really nothing more than a symbol, a man made tradition to mark the passing of time and the turning of another calendar page. But what it gives us is hope, and hope is really the most important thing we have to hold onto.

I’ve never gotten really crazy about celebrating on New Year’s Eve. When I was a kid, it was an excuse to stay up past midnight. In my teens, I often spent the night babysitting kids in my neighborhood while their parents went out to party. During my years in college and living in New York, I hung out with friends and rang in the New Year cheering on my hubby (then boyfriend/fiance) as he tried to bring home the coveted beer pong championship belt and drinking champagne on the roof of Romoser Hall.

And as for resolutions…I’m not really a big believer in them. Most people don’t even manage to make it out of January with their resolutions in place because, let’s face it, anything you think you’re resolute about when the clock strikes midnight and you’re shit-faced and singing and feeling rather invincible tends to get quickly forgotten or modified when you wake up the next morning with a wicked hangover and a whole long list of the same old responsibilities. So no, I don’t really go for New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I tend to start each year with a couple challenges for myself, or a few goals I’d like to reach in the next year, and as long as I keep making strides in the right direction, I consider it a personal victory.

A year ago, I challenged myself to reach two goals: 1) Figure out how to make NY-style pizza and 2) Finish my memoir. I crossed the NY-style pizza off my list a couple months ago (and I have to admit, I’m pretty damn proud of myself for that one). As for the memoir…well, that’s still a work in progress, so I’ll roll that one right over to 2016.

So, here’s what I’ll be working on in 2016:

1. My memoir – I’m still in draft stage, and need to dive back in and really commit to the project. With so many other things happening in my life (my job, my family, a new baby, travel, housework, sleep), it has gotten way too easy for me to just put the project aside. So my goal this year is to work on two chapters a month, and to post at least once a week on the project’s Facebook page. If you’d like to follow along on Facebook, you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/InASeaOfStrangers

2. My writing – Outside of the memoir work, I really need to start writing regularly again, whether it is just journaling, freelancing, writing letters to friends/family, or blogging. To help keep myself motivated (and keep writing, keep writing, keep writing), I’m committing to another 365 Project here on my blog in 2016. I’m going to post something every day. It might not always be the most interesting read or the best photo, but it will be something that captured my attention and that I want to share, even if it’s just one word or one photo. And it starts right now.

3. My body – After two babies and a whole lot of slacking on even the most basic fitness, I’m seriously out of shape and hating it. Finding balance when it comes to my body image and self-esteem has always been a huge challenge for me, and I know I need to be mindful about making healthy choices to achieve my weight loss and fitness goals. So, to help ease myself into it, I’m jumping on the fitness tracker craze. I’m sure there will be more to come, so stay tuned.

4. My connections – There is really nothing more important to me than the people I love, but sometimes with all the other plans and obligations and distractions of daily life, I feel like I fall short in showing these people just how much they mean to me. So, this year, I’m also challenging myself to be a better wife, a better mother, a better sister, a better friend…hell, I’m challenging myself to be a better person. I’m challenging myself to be more present, to connect and reconnect whether it is through a face-to-face conversation, a text, an email, a handwritten note, or even a smile and a quick hello to the people I pass on the street.

It’s been one helluva year. All in all, I’d have to rank 2015 as one of the best so far. It certainly wasn’t without its hardships. There were plenty of those, believe me. But maybe I’m a little older, a little wiser, a little less concerned with the penny ante bullshit and a lot more focused on the things that really matter, because all those difficult things just sort of faded away and made all the really great things that much more amazing. And as I sit here in my cozy living room, listening to the fireworks, surrounded by the people I love the most in the whole, wide world, I am so very thankful and excited to see what 2016 has in store for me.

Bring it.

And here’s a little hound dog selfie to help ring in the new year…

Hound dog selfie

Well, Hello 2015

Stevie and I have pretty much accepted the fact that our lives are always going to include a certain level of chaos.

It’s okay. We’re learning to embrace it.

Because somehow, things always have a way of working out. Things might not always go according to plan (in fact, they rarely do). And sometimes the end result is quite opposite of what we originally intended, but still, there always seems to be some order in the disorder. And sometimes the things we never knew we wanted turn out to be exactly what we needed.

Funny how things work out.

For us, 2014 was a year of self-discovery. New jobs, old jobs, new opportunities, new life. In the last few weeks alone we found out that we have a new baby on the way, decided to sell our house, accepted an offer, celebrated Christmas, rang in the new year, and decided to put an offer in on a new house.

It’s been one helluva ride since Thanksgiving.

We’re rolling into 2015 on a wave of possibilities, and we’re excited to see what comes next.

Stevie and I aren’t really big on New Year’s resolutions, but I have two personal goals that I plan to accomplish this year, in the midst of all the other happenings.

1. Finish my memoir. It’s been sitting around in this “draft” stage for long enough and, come hell or high water, it’s time to move forward. I already started a Facebook page for the project, and I need to get back in the habit of writing regularly (and hopefully blogging regularly) to finally get it done. If you want to follow the project, you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/InASeaOfStrangers

2. Make NY-style pizza. Stevie and I are tired of the lack of true NY-style pizza here in Nebraska. So, I’ve been researching some recipes and dough-making methods and I’m determined to master making NY-style pizza before the year is out. With my mother-in-law’s sauce, some freshly grated mozzarella, and the right dough, it’s going to be epic, and I’m determined to do it.

How about you? What are your plans for 2015?

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