My Dad was J-Bird (and he was awesome!)

My Dad was J-Bird. He was quite a large personality in the small town in which we lived. J-Bird was the fire chief, an ambulance driver, a county commissioner, and unwavering public servant. As one of 17 children, he learned from necessity how to provide for himself and others. (Yes, 17 children from one mom and dad!) I love my father very much and miss him daily. He lost his battle with diabetes twelve years ago today.

I credit my Dad with helping me to become the woman I am today. As we head into Father’s Day and I honor the anniversary of his passing, I would like to spend some time sharing with you the example he set for me and some of the best advice he gave to me over the years. A lot of you knew him, but for those that did not have the pleasure of meeting him please allow me to tell you about him.

Ray “J-Bird” Westbrooks grew up in a small town in a poor, very large family and as such, never had the opportunity to go to school. His time was spent working to provide for himself and family. He never told me anything first-hand about the difficulties he faced growing up. Complaining about it wasn’t his style. I saw the person he became though. He was a man with ambition and strong work ethic. He seemed to have unlimited energy and a great passion for serving others. Over the years, I have been amazed at the number of stories I’ve heard about ways that my dad helped others. Somehow, he had time for almost everyone and the willingness to help. He loved to have fun too. I have fond memories from my childhood of time spent at the softball park as he played, Sunday afternoons at the lake water skiing, and the numerous fish fries he loved to have for our large extended family or for the city employees and their families. He enjoyed fishing and sharing his catch with pretty much anyone that would eat what he cooked. His food was good, but his company was better. He was a fantastic story teller, funny, and quick-witted.

As my Dad, he was strict and ruled with an iron fist. I tested his patience many times with the strong-willed personality I inherited from him. But, he was also my safe place and my supporter. I always knew I could count on him. If work allowed, he was always there while I cheered or played softball. He would drive us to cheer camp and happily load and offload all our stuff. He had nicknames for all my friends and I think he got a kick out of our antics. My dad was always there when I needed to talk. I valued his advice and level-headed thinking more than he knew. He always shot me straight and helped me to face the world with a pragmatic view. Dad was not an educated person but was one the smartest men I’ve ever known.

J-Bird was infamous for his quotes. Truth be told, he had quite a potty mouth and I won’t share most of his sayings with you as good as they are! There are a few though that are my favorites and I reflect back to on a regular basis. These nuggets of advice have helped me more than I can articulate and continue to help me as I face struggles or obstacles in life. I can’t call my Dad anymore but I can still hear him clearly telling me the following:

“You didn’t think they’d just give it to you, did you?”  My Dad asked me this so many times over the years. It was usually his way of bringing me out of a pity party because things were difficult or weren’t going my way. It was his way of reminding me that I needed to get over myself and get back to work at achieving my goals.

“Time is all you have.”  This was so simple, but so profound. I tend to over commit myself and then get frazzled at what I perceive as my lack of time management skills. I’d call my Dad to give some excuse for missing a family event, not performing to my expectations, etc… and talk about how busy I was. He’d shoot back to me that time is all I have. This would trigger me to stop complaining about my busyness because I chose it. It would also help me to prioritize my commitments. At the heart of this is that we have a limited amount of time each day, each year, and in our lives. We must choose wisely how we use it. We all have time, it is the one thing we all have. What we do with it is up to us.

“It’s like a fart. The more you fan it the worse it smells.” This is seriously my favorite piece of advice from my Dad! The world is full of drama, insecurities, and competitive situations. I’ve had my share of being the target of the mean girls, the mean moms, the work cliques, and politics. I’ve also been on the other side when I’ve been urged to take sides, gossip, leave others out, or tempted to stir the proverbial pot. As I talked to my Dad about whatever was happening at the time, he’d tell me, “It’s like a fart. The more you fan it the worse it smells.” Bahahaha! Instinctively I laughed but it is so true. There are so many situations that we should just walk away from and not engage. If we do, we make the situation worse. The older I get, it is easier to take this advice.

Twelve years ago today, the last thing my Dad communicated with me was a thumbs-up. He wasn’t perfect, but he was extraordinary. He had lived a thumbs-up life. He still inspires me and motivates me. I am grateful for the example he set in persistence, how to overcome, and the importance of serving others while never losing his ability to have fun. He made me the woman I am proud to be. I still hear his voice and feel his strength. Thank you, J-Bird. Love and miss you!

 

 

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I took the day off work on Friday. It’s rare that I get time away from work that I can use for just me. My husband was at work and my daughter was at school, so it was ME time. Of course, I went to the spa. I got a fantastic facial, but the conversation was amazing, thought-provoking, and downright life changing. My aesthetician is one of the most insightful women I’ve ever met. She and I talked about my downsizing journey and what I am trying to accomplish. She nailed a few things that I haven’t had the courage to write about yet. Most importantly, she pointed out some things I haven’t thought of in my search for happiness. I know that true happiness must come from within. I know that I am the only one that can decide if I am going to be happy or not.  What I didn’t realize is how little I am actually doing for myself. I believe that when a person decides to become a parent that the child’s needs should come before your own. I have lived that way since the wonderful day 8 eight years ago that my daughter was born. I spend practically every spare moment I have with her.

Before I became a mom, I was a fit triathlete and business owner. I owned a bicycle shop and was fortunate enough to get to ride my bike as part of my job. In fact, I road my road bike until I was eight months pregnant and my OB-GYN said, “STOP!” As my own my boss, I had the liberty to take plenty of me time. Although most people don’t believe me, I truly am an introvert and I value my alone time. Alone time energizes me. After our daughter was born, things changed. I put my bike away and kept saying, “She will only be little once and my bike will be there forever.” Any time that I am not working, I spend with her. I felt guilty if I did anything for me that required paying a babysitter. I thought I was doing her and me a favor. I have spent the past 8 years with this mentality. It was so evident on Friday. There I was at the spa, but the only reason I was there is because I took a vacation day from work. As I was getting my facial, I was complaining about how terrible my skin looked. My astute aesthetician asked if I have a nightly routine for cleaning my skin. Well, of course I don’t! I crash at bedtime and yes, I sleep in my make up all of the time! She didn’t berate me for this. Instead, she went for the jugular. This is what she said, “Your daughter will take care of her skin because you tell her to, but not because she saw you do it. Your daughter will learn her habits from you.” Ouch. That has resonated non-stop in my head ever since she said it. Holy smokes! What are my habits?? Does it really matter if I sleep in my makeup?! Man, it’s time for a dose of reality. I do not take time for me – ever. I don’t take the time to be healthy, either mentally or physically. I come home every night and have a glass of wine to wind down. I am on my phone constantly. What in the world am I teaching her???? Now, I have a lot of positive habits too so I’m not beating myself up terribly, but I am taking note of something very important. I haven’t been taking the time to take care of myself. I have been too guilt ridden to do so, but now I realize I’m doing her a terrible disservice. In the Monkey See, Monkey Do world of parenthood, I have not taught my daughter to value herself and to spend time on herself.  That’s going to stop. I don’t expect that she will like or appreciate this very much. She complains I’m not with her enough as it is. But thanks to a facial on Friday and some great conversation, I now see that it is necessary. I picked her up from school on Friday and we immediately went to the nail salon. A couple of manicures and pedicures later, I’m hoping to improve what my Monkey sees and does.

As I view parenting from the Monkey See, Monkey Do lense, I have a new appreciation for my mother. A lot of the good habits I have, I attribute to her. She worked sun up to sun down to make sure that our family had everything we needed. My mom used to cook breakfast for our family every morning. Not just any breakfast either. She made buttermilk biscuits from scratch every day! She worked all day, then came home and made us a home cooked meal every night. Now, don’t go assuming I cook biscuits every day because I don’t! I do work sun up to sun down to make sure my family has everything it needs. As I look back, I now realize my mom never took any time for herself. Thank you for that, but I’m sorry too. I’ll correct that for our next generation.

My downsizing journey and blog have become so much more than I expected. I am astonished at how my decision to get rid of “stuff” has turned more internal than material. I love everything I’m learning and plan to get my bike back out!

The Big Black Pot

I grew up in a small town of about 4,500 people. I went to school K-12 with the same ~90 people. In my hometown, everyone knew everyone. It was a fantastic way to grow up. Of course, I was bursting at the seams to get out. I always thought I would move to a big city in another state. It’s funny how things never work out like you think they will.  I now live an hour from my hometown in a moderately large town. My life is nothing like I imagined all those years ago. I have always been ambitious and in-turn discontent in my present setting. It’s the entrepreneur gene in me. I constantly look for things to grow or change because I thrive on the challenge. I defined success in the stereotypical ways – the size of my home, car type, brand names of clothes… Now I realize, those things don’t make me successful at all. They are good performance measures, but not true signs of success.  No one told me that after you achieve all of this, it takes a great deal of time, money and energy to maintain it. I’m tired of maintaining it. I find myself longing for the more simple life I had in my hometown. It’s amazing how things have come full circle.  The life I so wanted desperately to leave as a teenager is the life I want back. I don’t regret any of my life or career choices. I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished. I want to continue to thrive as a successful, professional. I just want to be able to go home at the end of the day to a more simple life. I refuse to believe those things cannot co-exist.

I’ve been trying to decide what I truly mean by the simple life. Looking back through memories of my childhood, I think I have figured out part of it. While I was growing up, my dad had a huge black cast iron pot. He used to cook in this pot in our back yard. He had a homemade steel propane burner. We had a really big yard and I can remember playing out back while he would fry up something for dinner. In those days, we fried everything. I think I could fry water if I had to! He used to cook fried chicken, okra, French fries, hush-puppies, and lots of fish. He used to love to entertain and cook for people. I’m quite sure I inherited my love of cooking and entertaining from him. He would host huge fish fries. He cooked for family quite a bit (and we had a HUGE extended family). What I most remember though is the big fish fry he used to host for what seemed like everyone in our town. My dad was the fire chief. At least once a year, he would move the firetrucks out of the building and would open it up to host a fish fry for the firemen, volunteer firemen, city employees, elected officials, their families, and many others in our community. We would set up tables and make lemonade. He would spend all day frying in that black pot, cranking out pounds and pounds of fish, fries, and hush-puppies. We would play, eat, fellowship, and have the best times. Those fish fries are some of my fondest memories growing up. It’s only recently that I have realized that the sense of family and community I felt at those fish fries is what I long for most as I strive for happiness. I still have my family and a great community, but it seems I am not taking the time to truly enjoy them. Life is busy. I live in a world of controlled chaos. My downsizing journey is about reducing chaos in whatever areas I can. I now know that part of the definition of simplicity for me is having time to fellowship in a meaningful way that celebrates friends and family.

Dad always left a good deal of grease in the pot and used it over and over. He would clean it out when the grease was old and add new grease. It was never empty. My dad died a little over 10 years ago. I brought his black pot home with me and put it away in the garage. I have walked past this pot numerous times over the last 10 years. I would look at it and sometimes have pleasant memories, other times I would really miss my dad. This pot has been sitting for 10 years with the same grease. You can imagine that it had gotten pretty nasty. A couple of months ago, I finally summoned the strength to try to clean and restore that pot. I have soaked, scraped, and worked for weeks hoping deep inside that I had not let it sit for too long to ruin. Last weekend, I finished! My husband helped me get the last bit of rust out of it and we have begun the process of seasoning it. Seeing that pot back in working order made me cry both tears of sadness and happiness.

This black cast iron pot symbolizes so much for me. After my dad died, something inside of me changed. I’m sure that happens to everyone as we lose a parent. Whatever changed caused me to shut down a part of myself. There is a part of me that I have let sit, the same way I let the pot sit. I restored the pot and now it’s time to restore me. That pot had collected a lot of dirt and rust that had to be scraped out. I feel as though I have collected the same sort of contaminating things in my life. Downsizing is my first step in restoring myself. My dad was my source of strength and encouragement. Who knew he would be able to speak to me again ten years later in the form of his old black pot? That pot was never empty and fed countless people as long as it was kept in working order. It was down and out for 10 years but is back and better than ever. I want to never be empty and to feed thousands as well. I have been out of commission in this area for the past 10 years, but I feel like I’m back and better than ever too. It’s going to take a bit to get the pot and myself seasoned just right, but oh what we will produce when it’s done!

Thanks, Dad, for the lesson and the big black pot!

Motivated Mondays

I am super productive on Monday mornings. I wake up ready to attack the week head on. Most Mondays I do not struggle to get out of bed at all. I throw back my coffee and exercise with zeal. I knock out all of my morning chores and do it while smiling. I go through Mondays feeling great with lots of energy and usually in a great mood. I do laundry on Monday nights. I choose to do this because I refuse to dread my weekends based upon the pile of laundry I have facing me. I’d rather have a long Monday than a chore-filled weekend. Around 8:00 pm on Mondays, I fade. My energy is depleted, smile is gone, and I’m desperate to get in bed. Tuesday mornings do not go as well as Monday morning. I don’t have trouble getting up (I’m a terrible sleeper anyway!), but my energy to exercise and knock out my morning duties is waning.  I don’t even have to tell you what Wednesday-Friday mornings are like! Let’s suffice it to say that I rarely get in a workout on Friday! I’m trying to figure out why I’m gung-ho on Mondays and so-low on Fridays. My best theory is that on Mondays I’m rested and reinvigorated from the weekends. I have time on Saturday and Sunday to think more about my journey. I also have time most weekends to accomplish some tasks needed to move my downsizing project forward. I make plans on Sundays for how to attack the week. I start every week with a promise to take care of myself, to exercise, to eat well, and on and on…. On Mondays I’m excited to get started on making me the best me I can be! (That sounds like a Dr. Seuss line! I can amuse myself on Monday mornings too!) I listen to a motivation podcast every morning while getting ready for work called “Every day is Saturday”. This has made me think a lot about the difference in my days of the week. My Mondays are better than my Saturdays, so I’m trying to figure out how to make every day like Monday. How do I keep the energy and level of motivation I have on Mondays? They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over. I have been doing the same Monday for a really long time. I’m in need of change for my well-being, both mentally and physically. I want to be as productive on Friday as I am on Monday. Honestly, I have no idea how to do this yet. I’m still counting on the fact that simplifying my life will free up some of my resources, such as my energy and time. If I feel great on Monday because I have replenished my reserves on the weekend but terrible on Friday because they are empty, then I must find a better way. I’m frustrated at my weight and lack of fitness but can’t find the energy to be consistent in doing anything about it. I’m frustrated that I don’t celebrate Fridays! That used to be my favorite day of the week. Once again, I am open to any and all advice! Please chime in if you have a magic formula!

I want to bottle my Motivated Mondays and drink from this bottle every day!

I’m Back!!

Finally! I have some time alone to sit and write. It has been almost 2 weeks so I’m about to burst. My schedule has been a bit hectic and finding time for me has been impossible. It’s not a bad thing as I’ve spent a lot of time with family and friends. In fact, it has been quite refreshing. Fall is a busy time in a college town if you love football and your team is the best in the nation! RTR!

The last time I posted I told you we were close to deciding where we might like to move. We talked with someone about building on a lot in a neighborhood we really like. I think we have decided against that. It was way more money than I want to spend and I can’t imagine ever getting a good return on that investment. Soooo…. we are still looking. We are super close to being ready to list our current house for sell. We have a person doing some touch up painting, etc… right now. I have cleaned out all of the closets (insert wide-eyed emoji here!) and bagged up everything we want to donate. I have separated out some great things to sell later, perhaps in a moving sale. I’m ready to do this!! In the meantime, I threw our house up for sale by owner. Help me spread the word that I’m ready to make a deal! My impatience got the best of me!

I continue to do a great deal of self-introspection and realize I have tons to sort out concerning my future and my happiness. As I do this, the list I’m making of things important to me changes. I haven’t shared it with you because it is a very telling list. It’s not that I have things to hide, but it is because it changes. The things I thought were important when I started this journey seem to be more superficial and I keep diving deeper.  For example, when I began making my list it included features I want in a house. Seriously. That’s embarrassing as I realize that is the least of what makes people happy! I’m really glad I didn’t share the list with you from the beginning because you’d think I’m crazier than you do now. The changes in the list are the result of my journey. When I do get to a final list, I will share the iterations with you because they tell a fascinating story.

As the past couple of weeks have passed, I’ve made notes about various thoughts for future blogs, so stay tuned. I plan to share thoughts about maintaining discipline, motivation, my health, and relationships. My schedule over the next couple of weeks is less busy so I know I’ll have time to write. Go enjoy this beautiful fall Sunday!!

You can fake caring, but you can’t fake showing up

I had an interesting interaction over the weekend and I realize I need to reassure you all that I’m really okay. If you read my last post, you know that last week was tough. I saw a friend on Friday night that had obviously read my blog (which is fantastic, btw!). She hugged me, which I appreciate, but I could see a look of worry in her eyes. I had not anticipated any one worrying about me, because I suppose I’m not worried about me. I could be completely wrong, and if I am, please keep worrying about me, but I feel like I have my head on straighter than I ever have. I feel in control of my life and my destiny. I have taken a step back to truly assess my life in order to make decisions that can help to enhance my and my family’s happiness. I have been brutally honest with myself while assessing my situation. I have a very keen awareness of my environment and the people surrounding me. While I’d love to look at the world with rose colored glasses, I’m really very pragmatic. Everyone has gifts and I feel fortunate that mine is discernment. I believe I got it from my dad. He had the ability to size up people and situations very quickly and he was always right. I don’t propose that I’m always right, but I’m pretty good at it too. That being said, don’t worry about me, but thank you if you did!

 

Enough about that! Let’s move on and talk about my downsizing efforts! I’ve learned some great things already. One of the benefits of my busy schedule is that I cannot rush through this process. I simply don’t have the spare time at home to finish this quickly. This is good for me because I’ve never been a patient person. I like to make decisions and act on them immediately, then move on to my next project. In doing that, I fail to spend enough time in the present moment to appreciate all that I have and be grateful. I find that in my head, I’m usually living two steps ahead. That’s a great mindset at work, but at home it isn’t so great. I want to savor every moment with my family and friends. I am making a concerted effort to do that. This weekend is a great example. I finally had a weekend at home without work obligations and the Alabama football game was out of town. This would have been a great time to clean out closets and get rid of stuff. However, we were invited to two weddings, a birthday party, and a christening. I’m not going to lie to you all about the true me and I will tell you that in the past, this would have been a complete nuisance to me. I would’ve been annoyed that I couldn’t do exactly what I wanted and work towards my goal of downsizing. It’s rare for me to have a whole weekend free so to have to everyone fill it up with their events that I feel obligated to attend would’ve made me grumpy. It’s not that I don’t care about them because I’m happy for them. Truth is, I could be pretty selfish sometimes. As I work to live more in the present and appreciate my family and friends, I made a clear decision to attend as many of these events as I can and to not worry in the least that I’m accomplishing nothing towards my downsizing goal. I’m so glad I did this! Yesterday’s birthday party was so fun and I grew closer to family. Last night’s wedding was beautiful and a blast! We were able to spend time with some important friends in our life that we haven’t seen in several years. Today will be more time with family and I’m looking forward to it! I’m not stressed at all that I have done absolutely nothing at home and it looks like a storm blew through! This week I heard a great phrase that I promise to internalize and do my best to live by – “You can fake caring, but you can’t fake showing up.” Who knew that downsizing would teach me this?! Love it!

Riding a Roller Coaster

This blog is about downsizing, but it is also about learning about myself and the things that affect my happiness. As I look back over my life, I have experienced many good and bad times. It has been quite a roller coaster. This week has been a roller coaster too, and I’m really glad that it is Friday afternoon. I’m ready for this week to be over. Work hasn’t gone as well as I want this week, which is stressful. Today is the anniversary of our second daughter’s death. She has been gone six years today. It would be very easy to be all ‘woe is me’ right now, but that wouldn’t accomplish anything except for making me and those around me miserable. In the past, I have gone through some tough times and I allowed myself to be consumed by the situation. I’ve truly been in some dark places in my life and never want to do that again. I’m smart enough now to recognize when the dark times are approaching and do everything I can to reverse it. This is one of the main reasons I am downsizing. I can feel the overwhelming feelings becoming too much to handle. Just like this week, there are always going to be moments of adversity. Thank goodness they don’t happen all of the time! I have learned to acknowledge the bad times, learn from them, and move on. I want to spend my time thinking about the good things that have happened this week. One of the great things is that at work, we were able to celebrate one of our team members successfully beating cancer! Talk about a victory!!! He taught me a lot about how to face hard situations as he faced his fight with grace and courage. I never heard him complain. There are some fantastic people in my life! Speaking of fantastic, another great thing happened when one of my best friends surprised me with a gift honoring our daughter in heaven. I’m amazed and humbled that other people remember her Heaven Day.  This weekend we get to celebrate with family and friends at two weddings and a christening (sounds like a movie title! Ha!). All around me life is good, and I am going to make a conscious effort to focus on that. I get to decide if I enjoy riding roller coasters, and the truth is – I do!

My downsizing efforts are moving forward! I am a planner. I like to look at the big picture and then make a strategic plan for how to get there. In order to do this, I have to clearly know what I want the end result to be. If I know that, I can take the necessary steps to get there. I cannot fly by the seat of my pants and hope for the best. I’d go nuts!! Sooo…. I have to know where I will be moving to before I can decide to sell our house and begin to sell furniture. My husband and I have been doing quite a bit of looking and we think we have settled on something. It’s not final, so I’m scared to put it out there! I’ll tell you all next week hopefully! This will be a huge step. It frightens me and excites me all at the same time! There are moments when I am devastated and get teary to be leaving my back yard, but I know happiness can be achieved anywhere – it’s totally up to me to will it to happen.

I’m anxious to get my weekend started, so I’ll wrap it up for today. Have a great Friday night! I know I will! I love roller coasters!

 

Challenge Accepted

September 14, 2015

The only thing constant is change. I was born with an entrepreneurial mind that thrives off change. I evaluate situations and look for ways to make things more efficient, productive, and to solve problems. A couple of the things I am best at in the business world is cutting costs and doing more with less to increase the bottom line. I love doing this at work and in my professional life. I find it very ironic that making the decision to do this in my personal life has caused me unbelievable anxiety! Last night we took some time to look at houses. Of course the houses are much smaller than the one we are in now. Downsizing is what I want to do, but as I stood inside a home with much less space than mine I felt claustrophobic. This process is going to be more difficult than I imagined. We had discussions last night about how to start to trash, donate, and sell things in our existing home. A good friend said, “Get rid of it all!” I know he’s right so I’m not sure why I almost threw up. After we came home, had dinner, and put our daughter to bed I became overwhelmed with anxiety and emotions. I felt angry and sad.  I downed a glass of wine and headed to bed to escape my feelings. Who wants to feel all of that?! This morning I see things more clearly and I realize that I am going through the grieving process. I am grieving the loss of my expectations of what life would be like. The reason I almost threw up is that all of the possessions we have stand for a piece of my expectations. At work, I know that one of the keys to being successful is to manage others’ expectations. Somehow, I neglected to manage my own. Last night, I found myself sliding back into the blame game in my head and being angry over the things I felt others should be doing to help fulfill my expectations. Then, I got lost in the anger of feeling alone. These are all very toxic thoughts and feelings that I impose upon myself. No one else makes me feel this way. No one else can fix my feelings either. As I travel this path of downsizing, I see that I need to grow and heal in a variety of ways. It’s interesting to say that downsizing will make me grow, but I believe it will, at least internally. I believe it will heal my soul too. Last night revealed to me that this is not going to be as easy as cleaning out our house and moving to a smaller one. This is going to require cleaning out my mind and heart as well. Everyone that knows me knows I love a challenge. Challenge accepted…

I have been overwhelmed at the number of messages of support, empathy, and stories of battles from all of you. We all have so much to learn from each other but for some reason we keep things inside and fight battles alone. I’m not sure what the solution is to build a community that is supportive but I’m thinking about it. I promise to answer all of your messages as I have time. Please keep them coming!we-fear-change

 

Miserable is a Strong Word

September 12, 2016tiana_motivational_by_discordantprincess-d60b6lt

Miserable is a strong word. I don’t use it lightly. Yes, I am miserable and have been for several years. I’ve spent a lot of energy blaming others and trying to explain away my unhappiness at the expense of everyone else. If so and so would do this or not do that… blah, blah, blah… I always came up with an excuse for my misery that revolved around others’ actions. My poor husband has been the target more than once and I hate I’ve put him through the blame game. I misdiagnosed my misery for a long time thinking it was grief. We lost a daughter six years ago and it was the most horrific thing a family can experience. I still grieve her loss and will as long as I live but I now know that my grief is not the cause of my misery. It has taken me quite some time to diagnose the root of my misery, but I’ve figured it out. The cause of my misery is me. Rationally, I’ve known this but accepting it is easier said than done.

I’ve been in an internal struggle for several years now. I had expectations of what life should be like. I thought that if I worked hard, I’d be successful and I expect everyone around me to adhere to that philosophy. Tiana is my favorite Disney princess because she knew you had to work hard to fulfill your dreams (plus she makes great gumbo!). I have worked hard and for the most part, I’ve been pretty successful. Now, let’s define successful. Hmmm… is it having a great family? (check, got that!), is it having great friends? (check, got that too!), is it having a big house in the right part of town? (check again), is it having a career that others perceive as important? (checkmate). Lots of people define success in these ways and so did I. In fact, I expect these things because I’ve worked hard for them. I expected those things to make me and everyone around me very happy. I’ve spent the last 6 years turning myself inside out to achieve and retain “success”. Once you have acquired the house, the job, the cars, it takes more work to keep them up – a ton more work!! So much work that the other components of a successful life begin to suffer – the spouse, the family, and the friends. I don’t care what anyone says – it is impossible to have time for everything. There is no such thing as the perfect work life balance. I’ve tried for years! My expectation of what my life should be versus what is feasible is the cause of my misery. I’ve decided it is time to appreciate everything I have rather than lament over my expectations. I love my house, I love my possessions, and I love my neighborhood. It will be hard to let them go but I know it will be freeing. I want less yard! I want less dust! I want to use my time at home with my family to enjoy them! My definition of success is changing.

Please understand that I don’t judge anyone for their definition of success. It can and should be different for everyone. I know that to be happy I have to articulate my definition of success and focus on it.  If I were independently wealthy, this might not be so hard! HA! All joking aside, the first step of my journey is to identify the things that are truly important to me – the things I can’t live without. I’ve asked my husband and daughter to do the same so we are working on our lists this week.  After we determine what is truly important to us, we will make a plan to purge the rest. Downsizing here we come! I do have to tell you that this whole concept has scared our daughter! I think she thought we were going to become desolate. I explained to her that downsizing does not mean you can’t have nice things. It just means you have less of them. That has eased her mind!

I’m a big believer in giving those that choose to spend time with you a concrete take away that makes the time they spend with you valuable. As I share my journey and you spend your time with me reading my posts, I’d like to give you all some thought provoking questions. They are the ones I am trying to answer for myself. The questions for today:

  • Do your expectations of what your life should be get in the way of you enjoying what you truly have?
  • Is your definition of success feasible?
  • What is truly important to you?

I can’t wait to share our lists with you! I’d love to hear your answers to the above questions too! Let’s make this a conversation!

My Birthday Present to Myself

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I’m stressed out. I’m tired. I’m guilt ridden. Heck, I’m downright miserable. I keep telling myself to be positive, to be grateful. After all, in the grand scheme of things, I have a great life. I have a handsome, smart, caring husband and we are coming up on our 18th wedding anniversary. We have a clever, gorgeous daughter that attends one of the best private schools in the state. We live in a huge house with a pool in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in our city. We have nice cars and we are members of the country club. We get to vacation at least twice per year, usually more. All of this and very small debt. I have a high profile job as the CEO of our local tourism agency and I get paid very well. From the outside looking in, it would appear that I have the perfect life. This is a great life but truth is, it is not the life I want. Yesterday was my 44th birthday. I made a promise to myself. I am going to make the changes needed to be happy by my 45th birthday.

I’ve decided to write this blog to chronicle my journey. Not everyone will understand me or what makes me happy and that is OK. It takes a lot of different types of people to make the world go around. I want to tell this story for a few reasons. First, is that I want to keep a record of what happens over the next 12 months. When our daughter is older, I want her to be able to read this and understand how to achieve happiness, however she defines happiness. I also want her to know that her destiny is up to her, just as mine is, and that if we want something to change, we must change it ourselves. Action is key.  Second, I want to hold myself accountable. I expect that as I make changes in my life, I will face some difficult times.  I do not like to give up or fail, but like everyone, there have been times when I did. I am less likely to give up if I know someone is out there watching my journey. Finally, I hope that by sharing my journey, I can inspire someone to take the same trip. No one’s will look exactly like mine but maybe there will be some nuggets of inspiration and hope that will encourage someone needing to make a change.

Let’s get this journey started.