The Swamp

West of New Orleans and South of just about everything else in America sits an oddly beautiful place, the Atchafayala Basin (I quadruple-checked how to spell it). Visiting the South is something I choose to do exclusively in the Fall and Winter months. When you’re married to someone from South Louisiana I don’t think its too much to ask to be taken on a Swamp tour and so my spouse and his family joined me for everyone’s first-ever Swamp tour. 

Google tells me that the Atchafayala Basin is the largest wetlands and swamp in the United States. A swamp tour in Louisiana is an amazing adventure. We rode in a flat bottom, tin-looking boat out on water that spanned for miles and miles. Our guide spoke English, but his accent was so thick I understood very little of what he said. We saw alligators, birds and I’m pretty sure I ate 1,000 calories in bugs.

What I didn’t expect was the peacefulness of this place. The Spanish moss covered trees that sparsely dotted the water were eerily beautiful. The water seemed to never end, which is one thing when you’re in a boat on the ocean but such a different feeling, view and experience on fresh water. Apart from the people and the food, this serene, scenic tour is one of my favorite things about the South and the pictures, although gorgeous, definitively do not do it justice.

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Me Too…Said Everyone


To the surprise of some, a high-powered man in Hollywood was accused of sexually harassing and abusing women. Perhaps a little more shocking was the sheer number of women coming forward. The accusations of his crimes date back decades and the amount of women he injured is astounding. All of this time he happily continued an extremely successful career wielding so much power that his deeds went not only unpunished but unreported.

On Sunday an actress encouraged people to make their status on social media two simple words — Me too. Her purpose, to show the magnitude of the serious problem of sexual harassment and abuse. If you have experienced either of these, change your status and show the world the proof of this disgusting issue.

First, there is absolutely nothing wrong with shedding light on these actions and its noble to bring people who feel victimized together and show the importance of an issue. Shine a light in the darkness. I’m on board.

I remember the first time a man commented on my physical appearance. It was in 8th grade, my first day at a new school. I was wearing a white polo, blue and white checked shorts, and white Keds, no socks. The guy, while walking behind me, told me I had a nice bottom (only he didn’t use the word bottom). I cried in the bathroom stall and never said anything. How disgusting! Who do you even tell? How embarrassing!

Over the years, I’ve lost count of the comments regarding my physical appearance (I’m average-looking) and the things that guys would do with my body given the chance. Being in public or having a job meant sexual harassment. You stop thinking about it as actual harassment and it becomes part of your regular life.

It happens at the grocery store, on the street, at school, at your office. It has come from peers, mentors, strangers and subordinates. People voice their opinion on your appearance and oftentimes in an extremely crude and detailed manner. What’s the appropriate response when you’re grocery shopping and someone describes how they’d like to bend you over and what they would do from there? Call the police? The FBI? Or perhaps we could just fall back on the old adage of ‘boys will be boys.’

As my Facebook feed fills with the echoing of ‘Me too’s’, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a woman out there who hasn’t experienced sexual harassment or abuse in some form. Are there still women out there who haven’t been on the receiving end of an unwanted advance? Woman who haven’t heard comments about their physical appearance? Women who haven’t been the recipient and an inappropriate touch a time or two or twenty? I hope so, but I doubt it.

And so, women everywhere can either change their status or simply hear the echo of those words in their own head ….. me too… knowing that tomorrow or next week or next month they’ll experience the same harassment. Knowing that most (if not all) women wouldn’t have to think too hard to come up with more then a dozen examples, some more heinous than I can imagine. Some so benign you almost wouldn’t consider the actions harassment.

Type it in your status or think it in your head….. you’ve experienced it …. Me too.

Passion

Passion.jpeg

Do what you’re passsionate about and you’ll never work a day in your life. A sharp shift in the American ideal has changed what used to be a 9 to 5 society that punched in and out of work on a time clock to a country of travel bloggers making a living our of their upscale RV complete with WiFi and a slick WordPress site. I’m not upset. I’m befuddled…confused.

Being in a sales industry, I belong to multiple Facebook groups and click on way too many webinar links that fill my Facebook feed with online classes for the entreprenerial beginner filled with excitement and short on cash. Recently, I watched just such a video of a couple in their mid-20’s. Throughout the video, the couple promoted their online training series which would give you the tools to make money doing what you love. His and her trendy flannels, stunning good looks, and the rural residential setting illustrated their happiness and freedom from societal norms. Their work was their passion which led to wealth and a lifestyle completely of their choosing. Okay. Sure.

Me being me, I googled the lovely couple. The only information I could find out about them was that they help people discover their passion, build wealth and live a life without limits. Great. Is that a job? Do you have to accomplish anything prior to launching this career? Apparently not. Deep breath. I am not bitter. I’m so happy that they can make a living by talking about making an extraordinary living.

Passionate people are fantastic. My friend who wakes up four times a week before 5 a.m. to run and train for her race of the month. Musicians, artists, and dancers who have the dedication built by practicing their craft everyday of their entire lives. This list could go on – social workers, app developers, lawyers and others who are “on fire” for their work. But what about everyone else who is doing something  mundane?

Thank goodness for the nurse at my doctor’s office who never looks thrilled. I appreciate that someone works at my bank and the gas station and the grocery store. These are all services and goods that I need. I don’t think the cashier at my grocery store feels like he’s living out his life’s passion and reason but I don’t know what I would do without him. Here I sit, raised by parents who punched a clock looking at a younger generation creating vlogs on YouTube and feeling confused.

My reality lies somewhere between the classic desk job and a fashion vlogger on YouTube. As someone who’s done accounting for small companies, been an analyst, an event planner, managed a team and been an assistant, my career has afforded me opportunity and pays the bills but I’m not out on a yacht live-streaming my wild parties. I’m typical? Maybe normal is a better word. My work is my work, not my passion.

I see the non-fiction books littering the shelves that will teach you how to make money living out your passion and how to only work 4 hours a week. That sounds great. What if your work isn’t your passion? Or you don’t really have a passion? I kind of work out, take nature walks now and again, enjoy the library and like to read. Can someone pay me to read books at the library in my fleece sweatpants? If so, sign me up!!!! I’m passionate about those sweatpants (you would be too if you tried them on).

All that being said, I’m trying to enjoy where I am right now. I’m not hanging up my dreams (or my mysterious, nameless passion) and resigning myself to my life. My life is great. I have a loving family, resources to live a comfortable lifestyle including a vacation or two here or there, and I dabble in the enjoyment of occasional photography and writing and excessive reading.

I’m finding enjoyment in the here and now (don’t roll your eyes at that). In community, conversation and yes, some comfort. My job affords me the ability to provide for my family and throw in a few extra “treats” or “luxury” items here and there. Schedule flexibility is available to me when I need it and my boss understands that family comes first and believes it. My career choices have given me countless opportunities to meet people who have become dear friends and whom I’ve helped achieve their goals. Everyday I help people through a difficult process/transaction with as much knowledge, grace, expertise and kindness as I can and sometimes they’re even grateful.

Yes I’d love to be a millionaire who works 4 hours a week (although most of the reallly successful people I know work a lot more hours then that). For now, I’m going to put down the passion books and know that appreciating the present is important. Being grateful for the now is crucial. Perhaps my passion will dramatically reveal itself or I’ll go on a quest in search of it, but today I’m going to be extra nice to the cashier at my grocery store.

Start with Something Small.

Silverware Drawer

Last weekend, in a bout of misguided organizational zeal, I decide to deep clean my entire kitchen. It started when I lifted a stainless steel pot to make some soup to go along with the dropping temperatures and found a pile of gunk. Gunk that turned out to be a hair band, some bread crumbs, a post-it and a tiny Elsa figurine.

Am I really this disgusting? No I am not. So I made the decision to scrub and scour every corner of my kitchen. To wash every spoon and wipe down every appliance. To clean the spilt cinnamon and oregano and cayenne pepper out of the bottom of my spice cabinet. To wrestle the drawers out of my fridge (I think they come out….at least I think 2 of them do) and place them to soak in some hot soapy water. To restore order to the heart of my home.

Alas, I now know why there’s garbage in my cabinets. Interruptions have a mysterious way of turning my plans and goals swiftly into fantasies. Most of the time when starting a project, interruptions get in my way. If I’m honest, interruptions are much more of a reality and less of a surprise (I knew my spouse and children would want lunch…it was inevitable). At the heart of my gunk problem is a giant case of unrealistic expectations. Too often, I pretend that 15 minutes is enough time for me to get from pajamas to completely dressed with makeup on and 4 lunches and 2 backpacks packed and coffee and a smoothie made and in hand.

Life has a way of overwhelming even the most ambitious of people (or perhaps the ambitious have it worse off). Before I spiraled into the depths of despair and tore apart my entire kitchen while giving my hungry family a piece of my mind…. I leveled with myself. Is Saturday at lunchtime the best time to clean the kitchen? Do I really have time today to clean my entire kitchen top to bottom? Do I really want to do all of this work on one of our few family days?

And the final doozie of a question — What can I actually (realistically) accomplish today?

By now I’m sure you’re quivering with anxiety at my answers to myself, so I’ll tell you. I cleaned the silverware drawer. I hand washed all the silverware, wiped down the drawer, and sent the compartments that hold each piece for a nice, hot, bubbly soak. It wasn’t revolutionary, but I feel better. Instead of being paralyzed by my inability to accomplish my entire project in one “sitting”, I did 1 portion and the next day I cleaned the spice cabinet. And the next day, I cleaned the pots and pans.

So, dig on in. Pick something small. Start.

The Monotony of Life.


Fall is a season of physical and tangible change. In Colorado, the Rockies will often be covered with a light layer of crisp white snow, while the surrounding trees transition into fiery reds, oranges, and gold. It’s breathtaking and locals flock to the mountain to bask in nature’s glory and the change in scenery. The change is natural, predictable and consistent. Why were the trees given this ability, yet I struggle to make any change at all?

Recently, I heard a wonderful TED talk during which the speaker continually encouraged listeners to FORCE themselves to change. The more she said FORCE the more I cringed at the visceral sound of the word. Who wants to FORCE themselves to do or be anything? And when you think about it, what are the other options? To naturally make changes in our lives? To discover change that requires no effort?

During this talk, the speaker outlines how we work towards the stability of adulthood. Once we arrive, we find ourselves doing the same things day in and day out. Driving the same routes. Eating the same foods. Watching the same television shows. And one day, we wake up to find ourselves bored and unsatisfied. Thinking about this, I can see the patterns; whether healthy, unhealthy or just needed, of my own life and the monotony that weighs upon me. I’ve already see that show on Netflix. I don’t want to clean the bathroom. I don’t want to send another email or add another appointment to the calendar. The monotony of autopilot can easily rob a person of their joy….if we allow it.

So, tonight I will take a walk, spend time reading with my children, carve out some precious time for myself, and set my alarm just a little bit earlier. I’ll probably still clean a bathroom or kitchen or pick up some room in my house but I’m hoping that carving out just thirty minutes of enjoyable time during which I don’t revert to autopilot. A mere half hour or so of choices that will not add to the monotony.

Author’s Note: After publishing this, I realized the kids have extracurrilcar activities tonight and my husband is out of town and I’m watching my friend’s children. Maybe I’ll try for 15-20 minutes but dang it, they’ll be the most fabulous 15-20 minutes of my day.